How expensive is RV Life and what does “true” RV Living Cost? We traveled over 6,000 miles summer of 2021. And kept track of all of our costs/expenses including fuel, campgrounds and more. I’ve gotten pretty good at trying to keep things inexpensive so towards the end of this post I will also have some tips on ways to save money on fuel, campgrounds and activities.
RV Travel Vs. RV Living
We love RV life and more specifically RV travel. Part of the compelling reason to have a home on wheels is the ability to be able to move from place to place and see different areas of the country. Another one of the benefits is also being able to move on. If for some reason things don’t feel right in the campground you’re in. You can pull in the slides, pull up the levelers and move on to a different campground. Our top video (of all time) was about a situation where we had to move campgrounds. And the reason why was pretty unbelievable, so if you want to watch that you can find it on our YouTube channel here.
Many people ask us how we afford RV life and think this lifestyle is expensive. And then others feel that moving into an RV and living the travel life is cheaper than sticks and bricks and living. So what does RV Living really cost?
So Who is Right? Expensive or Cheap?
We’re going to share with you our experience and after you see our REAL world numbers maybe you can let us know in the comments below if you think this lifestyle is expensive or if it’s cheaper than “traditional” sticks and bricks living.
Why We RV Travel – Experiences Over Things
Now we do NOT live this lifestyle to save money on expenses. We live this lifestyle to have experiences, see new places and faces, and explore. And we prioritize our financial resources to focus on these goals. Because our goals experiences RV Living cost for us might be different than for someone who is stationary.
For example during the holidays or birthdays, we have a very small budget for gifts for our children and we forgo giving gifts to each other. Last year we did 4 days at Disney with our kids for their Christmas present. (FYI – Don’t every do 4 days at Disney IN A ROW. Just a word of wisdom from experience – spread it out a little)!
Experiences cost money. So as we share with your our 2021 numbers, we have a column on our budgeting and planning sheet we use to track these “excursion” type expenses.
SHAMELESS PLUG – I love me a good spread sheet and so I have made the google/excel format budgeting and trip planning sheet that I created available as a FREE download. (Note: You can download our budgeting sheet for FREE here).
(Not) RV Living Cost
It’s important to note some costs we are NOT going to include in the over all expense report. And that is because these are not really “RV Living” related expenses rather these are costs that you will have regardless of Full Time RV Living OR living in a sticks/bricks home.
Some of these “life” expenses are:
- Groceries. You are going to grocery shop whether you are on the road or not. Your grocery budget will not necessarily change just because of a change of lifestyle with RVing. Whatever you spend on groceries now, you can pretty much expect to spend on the road. Unless you are visiting a very expensive area like maybe Southern California or New York City. The cost of groceries in some areas can be higher.
- Eating Out. This is a personal habit and lifestyle choice. This habit doesn’t necessarily change as you jump in the RV, Bus or Van. So if you realize you are spending too much on eating out currently, realize it’s a personal habit to work on. How often you choose to eat out is really unrelated to a Nomadic Lifestyle.
- Insurances. You will need insurance for your car, RV, life insurance (unless you are “self insured” via personal wealth) and health insurance. These are “life” expenses.
- Cell Phone/mobile internet. Now this expense is a “gray area” because you might need a better travel plan for mobile internet. We do have a video where we have shared those expenses along with our mobile internet and cell phone set up. It’s not elaborate and it works. We have signed up to be on the wait list for Starlink when it becomes more widely available.
The “Real” RV Living Cost
Ok now that we have laid aside “life” costs vs. RV Living Costs, let’s talk about the true cost of an RV Lifestyle. These expenses can be really be broken down into 3 categories. And we are going to share our numbers from our most recent large haul this past summer of 2021.
3 Main Expenses for RV Living
- Excursions/sight seeing
As we dive into our numbers there are a few facts that are important to know: We traveled 6881 miles in our RV and about 1,000 miles of driving on our Jeep. We were on the road (away from our home base) for 76 days (or about 2.5 months).
- Fuel – total cost $3148.79
- Total Miles Traveled in Our RV – 6881 miles.
- This included fuel for both our Jeep and RV
- We used our Generator on the RV from time to time which shares diesel fuel with the RV fuel tank. We used the generator often as this summer was FREAKING HOT! And during travel days we wanted to keep every one cool – especially the pets. We had one day in particular when we visited Theodore Rosevelt National Park in North Dakota where is was over 100 degrees. Running the generator while parked was a perfect was to keep all of us comfortable while eating lunch.
- How we save on fuel. Our TSD Logistics card saved us approximately $400 in fuel costs! The average price we paid for Diesel Fuel was around $2.90/gallon. There were some ares where there were not fuel stations that participated in the program. If you are a TSD member you can use the open roads app to check for fuel station locations and price. We did use this app frequently to find the best deals on Diesel fuel. We do not have an affiliate relationship in anyway with TSD Logistics but we truly love the savings to be had with their program. Another way to save on fuel is Good Sam members save .05/gallon for gasoline and .08/gallon on diesel fuel at Flying J and Pilot locations.
- Campground Costs – you will have to have a place to stay!
- Our total cost was $2167.14 It averages out to just under $29/night for the duration of our trip
- We did “moochdock” for almost a month in Colorado. However we did give our family member $100 for the added utility costs and have included this in our numbers. During this “moochdocking” stay, we were hooked up to only a household 110 outlet. However, we could run 1 a/c and still run our washer/dryer, etc. This is in part because of Soft Start RV. We did make a video about how Soft Start RV works when we installed them in our RV which gives more information on how they work.
- How we saved on campground costs. We did 5 nights of “lotdocking” in parking lots and 1 more night of “moochdocking” at another family member’s house. We LOVE Cracker Barrel overnight parking when we can find it. This is in part because we love having a great breakfast before jumping on the road!
- Another way we saved on campground was finding city run and county run campgrounds that were $30/night or less.
Doing All The Things
- $887.00 was our total during this summer 2021 trip.
- Went to a St. Louis Cardinals Game
- Visited City Museum in St. Louis
- Visited a State Park in Colorado with our inflatable Kayaks
- Kayak Trip in the Apostle Islands in WI
- Ferry to Mackinac and rented bikes
- Savings TIP! We do a lot of free things like hiking or using our own kayaks on local lakes.
- We had a 4th Grade National Park pass so all of the National Parks we visited were FREE!
Now these are just the costs of our large summer trip for 2021. We take many other trips throughout the year away from our home base. For example we’ve recently been to Venice, FL and visited the Miami area. (We highly recommend Biscayne National Park)!
We purposely moved our home base to Central Florida. This was so we can be in closer proximity to areas that we can visit during an extended weekend, etc.
Results Can Vary
Now your costs for RV Life might be different. We’ve seen other videos of people sharing their costs for RV Living that are less and we’ve seen other’s sharing with higher costs. Your goal in living RV Life will make a difference in costs. The less you travel, the lower the costs. The more you travel and the more you do the higher the costs.
Our goal is to have experiences. So our costs will be higher than others with a goal of RV Living to save money.
Costs can vary but we hope we’ve given you a rough idea of what to maybe plan for. Let us know in the comments more about what your goals are for RV Life!
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