How Much Does It Really Cost to Live in a RV?

Living in an RV fulltime allows you to see the world and experience true freedom—but it's not free. Find out how much cash you need to be a full-time RVer.

Living in an RV may seem like a dream—and for some, it’s a reality. Living in an RV lets you see the country or world while living in your own portable home. However, is it cheaper than living in a brick and mortar home? These full-time RVers shed light on how much it really costs to live in an RV.

Your new home: Up to $300,000

The cost of a motorhome or travel trailer is by far the biggest investment of an RV lifestyle. RVs and travel trailers can cost between $10,000 and $300,000—depending on the style and features. “Unless you have cash upfront, you will need to finance your RV,” Regina Caligiuri, a full-time RVer. “Since it’s a recreational vehicle, the interest rates are usually higher than an average car loan.”

Additional vehicle: $40,000++

truck RV ChuckSchugPhotography/Getty ImagesThere’s also the cost of owning a separate vehicle to either tow the RV or to tow behind it. Towing vehicles are typically heavier duty, such as a full-size truck or SUV. If you need to invest in a new one, the average cost of a full-size truck is around $30,000 to $40,000. Motorhome owners often tow a smaller vehicle as well so you need to factor in the cost of a sedan (or similar) vehicle. According to Kelley Blue Book, the average cost of a sedan in 019 was around $20,000. “You also need to connect the RV and vehicle with a towing and braking system,” says Kerensa Durr, a fulltime RVer. These cost in the neighborhood of $1,000. In addition to the cost of the vehicles, there’s insurance for the motorhome, travel trailer, and towing vehicle and cost of repairs. Here are 10 signs you’re shortening the life of your RV.

Speaking of insurance, insurance for your RV is not like car insurance, rather it’s similar to homeowner’s insurance and it requires a separate policy. RV insurance is fairly reasonable, about $350 per year or more depending on if you are covering a motorhome or a travel trailer. There are also ad valorem taxes for RVs in some states. “Insurance runs about $300 per year and registering the truck and trailer is also about $300 per year,” says Robyn Robledo, a full-time RVer.

Camping fees: Up to $50/night

Not every place will let you park your RV for free. Campgrounds and RV resorts have different costs based on location, time of year, and length of stay. Average costs for many resorts or campgrounds are around $30 and $50 per night but you can usually get a discount by the month or week. The fees typically cover water, electricity, cable, WIFI, sewage, and use of facilities such as bath, shower, and laundry. The more amenities the resort has, the more money it will cost per night.

Of course, there are some options for camping for free, but be prepared to “dry camp.” This means there will be no access to water, sewage, or electricity. You will need to haul out your own waste—there are typically no dump stations in these areas. Many of these “free campgrounds” are located on public lands run by the Forest Service Land, Bureau of Land Management, or Wildlife Management Areas. If you are looking for a place to camp out overnight, there are several retailers that will allow you to park overnight for free such as Cabelas, Camping World, Cracker Barrel, Walmart, rest stops, and truck stops, but do not provide any type of hookups or amenities.

Fuel: Varies

Rv fuel gas moodboard/Getty ImagesFuel is possibly the most expensive aspect of RV life. The fuel economy of an RV can range from 8 to 20 miles per gallon, depending on if you are towing a travel trailer or driving a motorhome. If you’re towing it, be prepared for lower gas mileage in your vehicle. “My truck gets about seven miles per gallon while towing the RV,” says Caligiuri. Diesel engines are more fuel-efficient, but they will cost you more upfront. The price of fuel fluctuates, depending on the region and season. Other fuel costs include propane (used to heat and cook.) Propane costs vary as well, depending on the time of year. Many RV resorts and camping retailers offer propane tank refills, which is more economical than swapping out tanks.

Real-life costs for RVers

Other costs for full-time RV living aren’t much different than living in a home. There’s food, cell phone, medical insurance, and other wants and needs that will make you more comfortable on the road. Here’s how much a few real, full-time RVers spend on their to live in their RVs:

  • “My overall costs are roughly $2,000 per month: $200 for insurance, $400 for gas and maintenance, $800 for food, $80 for a gym membership, $80 for phone, and $500 for miscellaneous. However, in the summer when I travel much more, these costs can easily reach $3,000 or more per month.” —Sam Kemmis, travel rewards expert at NerdWallet
  • “The RV Park we stay at is $1,085 a month plus $159 for an extra car. Insurance runs about $300 per year and registering the truck and trailer is also about $300 per year. Obviously we also have regular living expenses like food, gas, clothes, and health care but those would be the same for us in a house as they are in an RV.” —Robyn Robledo, Blogger at Nomads With A Purpose
  • “Our annual spend is under £30,000 (about $39,046.50) per year for two people, four dogs, two cross-channel return journeys (from England to the European continent), and six months skiing. We could spend considerably less if we did not have these luxuries.” —JackieLambert, Blogger at World Wide Walkies

Find out what it’s really like to live in an RV year-round.

Debbie Wolfe
Debbie Wolfe is an author and freelance writer specializing in home, garden, DIY, and lifestyle topics. She covers lifestyle, culture, and craft content for Reader's Digest and contributes regularly to HGTV, The Home Depot, Walmart, Family Handyman, Realtor, Bob Vila, and more. Her book, Do-It-Yourself Garden Projects and Crafts (Skyhorse Publishing), features a variety of practical DIY projects to beautify your garden and home. Debbie holds a degree in Creative Writing and Earth Science from Northland College.