How much does it cost to live full-time in an RV? A full-time RV budget can vary by travel style and family priorities. However, an RV lifestyle budget is more flexible than a typical sticks-and-bricks home.
Kaylee Techau has been traveling full-time in an RV with her family since 2019. She shares the expenses every traveler should consider for their full-time RV budget. She also shares average costs from her own full-time RV family budget.
Ready to plan a budget for full-time RV living? Download our full-time RV budget worksheet at the end of this article.
A version of this article originally appeared in the November/December 2021 issue of Rootless Living magazine.
Making a Budget For Full-Time RV Living
When the initial excitement of deciding you want to travel full-time subsides and you move into the planning phase, you’ll quickly realize you need to have a full-time RV budget. Few people enjoy making a budget, let alone following one, but it is critical to determine when, how, and if you can sustain this lifestyle.
The way you travel significantly impacts your budget. For instance, will you be moving weekly or monthly? Will you partake in costly tourist activities? Will you boondock or stay at campgrounds?
Building a full-time RV budget is a bit different than a typical household budget. There are many more varied expenses, but as always, the goal of creating a budget is to make it work for you and keep it simple. Below are recommended items to include, but feel free to adjust the categories as necessary to match your lifestyle.
Full-Time RV Budget: Income
Calculate your after-tax income and know how frequently you are paid. Remember other sources of income, like child support, interest, side gigs, and rental income. If your pay varies, use an average.
Full-Time RV Budget: Expenses
Categorizing expenses is helpful to make sure you overlook nothing. It also makes tracking costs easier. The major categories we use are Home & Utility, Transportation & Fuel, and Living Expenses.
RV Lifestyle Budget Expenses Category: Home & Utility
This category includes the significant costs to run an RV household, including rent, utilities, internet, TV streaming, and laundry.
Full-Time RV Campground Costs (Rent)
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $300-$3,000
Campgrounds are one of the largest expenses in a full-time RV budget. It is also the expense with the most considerable variance, as it depends on your camping style. There is a significant price difference between state parks, campgrounds, and RV Resorts.
Costs range from $10 a night for campsites with only electricity and water to $100 a night or more for full hookups at an RV Resort. Boondocking (camping without hookups) is an excellent option for reduced or free campsites but sometimes requires pricey upfront upgrades to your rig. Our family budgets $600/month.
Memberships, such as Thousand Trails, Good Sam, Resort Parks International, and Harvest Hosts, may help with campground costs. Frequently moving increases costs as there is often a discount for extended stays. Location and season also play a role in the cost of the rent.
Full-Time RV Utilities Expenses
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $50
RVers pay for two major utilities. You will use propane for heat and cooking in the rig. Reduce propane use by following warmer weather or using electric space heaters. On average, we budget $50/month for propane.
You may have to budget for electricity depending on location and duration. For example, most campgrounds charge for the electricity used when staying a month or longer. Campgrounds in hot locations, like Texas, may charge for electricity during the summer months. We have not paid for electricity usage in the past two years.
RV Internet & TV Streaming Expenses
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $100
Staying connected is a big deal, especially for digital nomads. Almost all RV parks have Wi-Fi available; however, it is not usually sufficient for streaming. You will be at the mercy of the park’s signal and the number of people on it. Therefore, most full-time RVers pay for a hotspot with a data plan or satellite Internet.
A bit of research is needed in this category to find the best deal for your needs. Prices vary greatly depending on the amount of data required. We currently pay $110/month for 200GB. Some working RVers pay for multiple mobile Internet solutions.
Remember to include any entertainment streaming services you plan to use, such as Netflix, into your full-time RV budget.
RV Laundry Expenses
If you plan to use a laundromat or the laundry facilities at a campground, plan on $10 per person per month to start.
RV Lifestyle Budget Expenses Category: Transportation & Fuel
The type of RV you choose and how frequently you travel to new locations impact your transportation and fuel budget. This category includes vehicle payments, insurance, repairs, maintenance, fuel, and fees for tags and registration.
Vehicle & RV Payments Expenses
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $200
If you have vehicle and/or RV payments, these payments can add a lot to a monthly budget. Many full-time travelers can reduce expenses by paying off loans quickly or buying with cash.
RV Insurance Costs
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $100
You will need both vehicle and RV-specific insurance. Shop around for the best deals and appropriate full-time travel coverage.
RV Repairs and Maintenance Costs
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $150
Traveling more frequently may expedite the maintenance schedule for a truck and/or RV. Maintenance includes quarterly costs like oil changes and tire rotations.
Just like a home, there will be things that break and need replacement in an RV. If you are handy, you can save money by fixing issues on your own. You may also want to purchase roadside assistance that accommodates your type of RV.
In our first six months of traveling, we had two flat tires and ripped off the rear stabilizer jacks twice. We upgraded the truck tires and replaced all four tires on our rig within the first year.
Full-Time RV Fuel Expenses
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $500
How frequently you move locations greatly impacts fuel costs. The more you drive, of course, the more fuel is needed. Have a general idea of whether you will be traveling 400 miles or 2,000 miles in a month to help determine your fuel costs.
We average $650 for diesel, traveling an average of 1,800 miles a month.
RV Tags and Registration Expenses
These costs vary by state. Know when these fees are due and include them in your full-time RV budget.
RV Lifestyle Budget Expenses Category: Living Expenses
These are your costs for day-to-day living. This full-time RV budget category includes Groceries and Dining Out, Cell Phones, Health Insurance, Personal Care, Household, Entertainment, and Miscellaneous.
Costs of Groceries and Dining Out For Full-Time RV
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $300-$800
Grocery costs will vary by location and diet. For initial budgeting purposes, start with the amount you currently spend. Adjust as necessary as you travel.
Cell Phone Expense For Full-Time RV
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $50- 200
Connectivity while traveling is important. We have access to multiple carriers to ensure we don’t encounter connection issues. This cost can be a big expense depending on your specific needs.
Health Insurance Costs For Full-Time RV
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $125-$250
These expenses include medical, dental, vision, and health savings accounts.
RV Budget Personal Care Costs
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $75-$100
This category includes expenses like makeup, haircuts, supplements, and clothing. Remember, you won’t have as much space for a wardrobe in an RV!
Full-Time RV Household Costs
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $25-$75
You will need paper products, cleaning supplies, sewer products, etc.
Entertainment Budget For Full-Time RV
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $50-$100
Traveling full-time is different than going on a vacation. We learned this lesson the hard way. It’s easy to think you have to partake in every activity a location offers, but those expenses can add up quickly.
Remember, there are tons of free things to do everywhere you go. A personal favorite is visiting national parks and monuments. If you have a 4th grader, they can get a free National Park Pass for a year. We average $100/month for entertainment.
Miscellaneous RV Lifestyle Budget Expenses
This category will depend on your family and priorities. Miscellaneous costs may include pet care, kids’ schooling or curriculum, souvenirs, and gifts.
RV Lifestyle Budget Expenses Category: Savings, Investing, Giving, and Debt Reduction
Full-Time RV Saving Account
Ballpark Monthly Cost: Minimum $1000
A savings account is essential. I recommend having a minimum $1,000 emergency fund to help you deal with unexpected situations. Additional savings to cover a few months of expenses is also a great goal.
Reducing Debt as a Full-Time RVer
Ballpark Monthly Cost: $500-$6,000
Debt reduction is a big draw for many who travel full-time, but it requires living this lifestyle in a way that reduces your overall costs. Some full-timers spend well over $6,000 per month, and others spend less than $2,500 per month. There is so much flexibility in this lifestyle that impacts a full-time RV budget. Almost any kind of budget can be met.
Budgeting Investing & Giving
Ballpark Monthly Cost: up to you
If you make regular investments or charitable donations, don’t forget to add those items to your full-time RV budget.
Download This Free Full-Time RV Budget Worksheet
There are many templates and apps available to create and track your budget. We use Mint.com to track and categorize everything. It is free to use and completely customizable.
To start, download this free full-time RV budget worksheet:
Free Full-Time RV Budget Worksheet
A Full-Time RV Budget is Important
Creating a full-time RV budget helps open your eyes to a realistic view of what full-time travel can look like. Consistently reviewing your budget will help you identify areas of improvement and allow for tweaks that can get you closer to your goals.
If you’re preparing to move full-time into an RV, you should subscribe to Rootless Living magazine. Every issue includes guides and inspiration for full-time RV travel. Also check out our other RV magazine, RV Today, for even more helpful articles and tips.
About the Author: Full-Time RVer Kaylee Techau
Kaylee is a Colorado native and has been traveling the US full time with her husband, two kids, and dog since 2019. She is a mechanical engineer, homeschooling mama, and master planner.
They share their adventures, tips and tricks for tiny living, and monthly budgets on their Instagram and Facebook @exploringoutsidethe303. Find budgeting templates on their website, exploringoutsidethe303.com.