Full-time RV living has become a popular lifestyle. We often see pictures of campers with beautiful ocean views and stunning mountain backdrops. When people think of RV life, they think of freedom, minimalism, and adventure. But, what does living in an RV full-time really entail?
This guide to full-time life on the road dives into all the details. From what RV life actually means, to the reasons people choose this lifestyle, and the pros vs cons, we’ll take a look at all of it. And, of course, let’s not forget about the cost of living in a camper and how people earn money on the road.
What is RV life?
RV living, or ‘full-timing,’ is an alternative way of life. The idea is that you live more minimally and your ‘American Dream’ looks different than that of many others.
Instead of living in a house, your home is an RV. Some people choose to park their RV in one spot long-term, while others travel around to different campsites and parking spaces. RV life can look different for different people and that’s one of the best parts!
Reasons to choose the RV life
The main reason people choose living in a camper full time is the freedom it can bring. When your home is on wheels, you inevitably feel less tied down than when living in a stationary home.
Another big reason is that, if done right, you can save money. While camper and camping costs can be steep, they can be more affordable than buying a home. And, RVs maintain their value well making it easy to sell when/if you transition.
Cost of RV living
When it comes to the cost of full-time RV life, there are many things to consider.
- Size and style of your rig (and the monthly payment)
- Cost of insurance
- How much you travel
- Where you’re parking
- How much you spend on food and activities
- What utilities you’re using and how much
With that said, an RV itself can cost from about $30,000 to $300,000. Just like with a standard car, your monthly payment will vary depending on the interest rate, loan term, and down payment. Insurance is usually a couple of hundred dollars per month, give or take.
If you’re living on a budget, you probably want to travel less so that you’re not overspending on gas. As you can imagine, it takes more fuel to fill up a camper than your standard vehicle. For example, a class C camper (mid-size option) can take $60 to $220 to fill up and last for 250-550 miles. A smaller camper may be less, while a larger camper could be more.
When it comes to parking, there are free options. Mostly in western US states, you can park on Bureau of Land Management (BLM) land at no cost. Also, sites like freecampsites.net share free parking options. Free parking isn’t an option you want to rely on. Long-term campsites or purchasing land to park on are other options. The longer you stay in one place, the more budget-friendly.
As with living in a house, living costs also depend on food, fun, and utilities. The good thing about RV living is that you often have more of an option to spend your days outdoors and be in nice weather. This helps full-timers use less electricity with lighting, heating, and cooling systems.
Best RVs for full-timing
Let’s quickly break down the types of campers for full-time RV living.
- Class A: largest drivable RV; has kitchen, bathroom, living area
- Class B: smallest drivable RV; also known as a campervan; very minimal space
- Class C: medium-sized drivable RV; often has kitchen, bathroom, living space
- Travel Trailer: towable camper; often have kitchen, bathroom, living area
- Fifth wheel: camper that’s towed behind a truck specifically; has an overhang that sits above the bed of a truck; usually has ample storage and living space
When it comes to the best RV for full-time living, you’ll want to consider how much space you need, how many people are living in it, and your budget. Here are a few of our favorite options.
Grand Design Solitude Fifth Wheel
If you’re looking for space, this RV has just that. There are various sizes and floor plans to choose from. It’s got a bedroom, bathroom, and living spaces – perfect for a family. A new one usually ranges from $80,000 – $110,000.
Forest River Salem Hemisphere Travel Trailer
For something a little smaller but still spacious, this travel trailer comes in a few different floor plans. They’re known for their smooth ride and have pass-thru storage. Prices vary, but there are plenty of used options for ~$45,000.
Winnebago Outlook Class C
It’s easy for most to get comfortable living in this medium-sized RV. Featured slideouts expand the living space and there’s ample storage. The costs run from about $50,00 to $100,000.
How to earn income on the road
The biggest questions about RV living full-time might just be, ‘but, how do you make money on the road?’ Before we dive into jobs for full-timers to earn an income while living in a camper full time, let’s touch on the internet.
Many jobs will require the internet which is actually easier to acquire on the road than many realize. First of all, cafes with WiFi are just about everywhere. You can also hotspot from your phone if you have cell service and if you don’t have cell service, there are booster options to help with this.
- Campground host: Many campgrounds offer free or discounted stays to campground hosts.
- National Park employee: National Parks are often looking for staff to work in their gift shop, restaurant, entrance gate, and more.
- Business owner: There are many different businesses you could start living in an RV. Options include selling digital products, handmade products at markets, and photography. The opportunities are endless!
- Remote employee: Especially in recent times since living through a pandemic, many companies are offering remote jobs that you can do on your computer from wherever you are. The job you have now may even allow you to take it remote if you propose the idea.
- Freelance work: Freelancers can find work with various clients. Freelance tasks include writing, graphic design, virtual assisting, and social media management.
- Traditional job: If your RV is parked in one place year-round or even for a season, you can find a ‘traditional’ gig just as you would if you were living in a house.
How to prepare for RV life
Transitioning to full-time RV living is no small task. It’s important to understand how much work goes into it, but that the outcome is rewarding. Here are some steps to help you get ready.
- Determine your budget for your rig and what size/style is best for you and whoever is joining you.
- Look at a variety of options and be open.
- Get insurance for your camper.
- Learn mechanic basics such as checking fluids, appliances, etc.
- Start getting rid of things by selling or donating and go through this process at least a couple of times.
- Reserve a storage unit if needed.
- Decide where you want to go and start looking into where you can stay.
- Make a plan for how you’ll earn an income.
- Come up with a budget for RV life.
- Create a homeschool plan if you have children.
- Determine an internet solution.
- Figure out where you want your mail sent (PO Box, campground if staying long term, a family member’s home, etc.).
- Decide what you need/want to bring with you and what you have room for.
- Get your RV serviced before you take off.
- Do a test run (or a few) of RV camping.
- Spend time with family and friends.
Pros of RV living
There is an abundance of pros for living in an RV full time.
- Ease of exploring: When your home is on wheels, you can more easily explore various places. Spend your time taking hikes, skiing, swimming in the ocean, and so much more. Nice weather year-round: When you live in an RV, you can move with the weather.
- New friendships: The community of RVers is typically known as a very friendly one and making new friends is fairly easy if you make the effort.
- Unplugging: There’s something about living on the road that makes it easy to unplug. With more opportunities to get outdoors, screen-time lessens for most full-timers.
- Making unique memories: Full-time RV living offers more experiences than living in your average house working an average job.
- Saving money: This isn’t always the case, but there are many ways to save money in an RV. Tips for saving money include long-term camp spots, slow travel, and buying only what you need (which is easier in a small space).
- Fewer chores: When you live in a smaller space like a camper, you naturally have fewer chores. More time to rest and explore!
- Pets can join: A lot of times when we travel, our pets can’t come. When you’re camping, your pets are always welcomed.
- Beautiful views: Imagine being able to wake up to mountain views, then having dinner at your lakeside camp spot that evening.
Cons of RV living
It’s important to consider the cons of living in an RV when you’re deciding if it’s the right choice for you.
- Missing loved ones: If you leave family and friends behind to hit the road, you’ll naturally start to miss them. Many full-timers miss a sense of community. Make sure to plan visits and keep in mind that there are many opportunities to meet new people on the road.
- Challenging chores: While we did mention you have fewer chores, some essential ones are more challenging. Unless you fork out excess cash for a washer and dryer in your RV, you’ll be visiting a laundromat to wash clothes. Getting rid of trash also takes more effort and you definitely want to keep up with considering the smell that can linger in your tiny home.
- Maintenance: Just like when owning a home, an RV requires maintenance upkeep. The issue is if you have a drivable RV and your home and vehicle are one and the same. You must figure out other accommodations if your RV has to stay in a mechanic’s shop overnight.
- No more baths: If you enjoy a warm bubble bath after a long day, you don’t get these anymore once you become a full-timer.
- Travel burnout: When your home is on wheels, you often feel like you need to keep traveling. If you don’t slow down, you can quickly become drained. Keep in mind that a big draw to RV life is leaving a fast-paced lifestyle.
- Less living space: If you’re living with other people, you may find that it’s hard to get away. You also don’t have as much space for storage.
RV living resources
A part of the simpler lifestyle that full-time RV life can bring includes using some of the abundance of RV living resources available for full-timers.
For where to spend the night:
- Freecampsites.net: a free-to-use map-based search engine for free public camping with campsite reviews
- Campendium.com: another free-to-use tool to search for free camping by state with reviews and pictures of campsite
- iOverlander: free app to find paid and free camping and other amenities for full-timers such as showers, dump stations, and water
- Boondockers Welcome: a paid membership group where RVers welcome other RVers to camp on their property
- Thousand Trails: another paid membership RV club which offers free stays at campsites within their network for 14 days at a time
Free apps for traveling information:
- iExit: tells you what’s ahead on the road including the most affordable gas station, the closest restroom, and where you can access internet
- Gas Buddy: for finding the most budget-friendly gas in your area
- Roadtrippers: gives suggestions for where to stop on a road trip and excellent for finding hidden gems
- Wake: provides GPS navigation, traffic updates, and road alerts
For jobs on the road:
- Workamper News: website to connect with companies who employ those who live the RV life
- Happy Vagabonds: site used for finding seasonal and long-term camp host jobs by state in exchange for stay
- FlexJobs: subscription-based service for finding various remote online jobs
Full-time RV living can be such a rewarding experience. Understanding RV costs of living and the best RV for full-time living can help make the transition run smoother. It’s also helpful to know the pros and cons and use the many resources available for full-timers. Most importantly, enjoy your journey!
About the author: Jessica Baker has been full-time RVing since 2018. She has traveled extensively throughout the U.S. and Canada in her fifth-wheel RV turned tiny home on wheels with her husband, two kids, and three cats. You can find out more about her travels at BoundlessBakers.com and follow along on her adventures on Instagram.