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The cost of RV living is one of the main questions people have before deciding whether to take the plunge. The truth is that the cost is different for everyone depending on what style of rig and travelling they want to do. The main takeaway of what does RV living cost is that it can virtually be adapted to any size budget.
Main Contributors To The Cost of RV Living
- Cellular Data & Internet
There is no way to get around the fact that fuel is going to be a major part of the cost of RV living. Especially if you fall into the RV traveler style versus the campground living style. The more you drive the more it will impact your monthly budget but the more exploring you get to do.
Fuel economy averages for the 3 main RV styles are as follows:
A bus style Class A 8-13mpg or 18-29L/100km
A truck front style Class C 10-15mpg or 16-23L/100km
A van style Class B 15-25 mpg or 11-13L/100km
These are averages and much will depend on other conditions like hills and headwinds but you can clearly see driving more will cost you more. Decide on your weekly or monthly travel route and use google maps to calculate the distance. Once you know the distance and your fuel economy you calculate the amount of fuel your route will require.
Use these formulas to find you approximate fuel costs
(L/100km of your rig x km’s you plan to travel)/100 x price of fuel per litre
Our 25’ diesel class A gets 19L/100km therefore: (500 kilometers x 19L/100km)/100 x $1.35/L = $128.25
It will cost us $128.25 to travel 500 kilometers.
(miles you plan to travel / mpg of your rig) x price of fuel per gallon
Our 25’ diesel class A gets 12mpg therefore: 500 miles / 12mpg x $3.23/g = 134.58
It will cost us $134.58 to travel 500 miles.
As traveling RVers we tend to drive a lot so our monthly fuel cost averages $1200 but if you stay in the same places for longer you will end up spending much less.
Accommodation is another large cost of RV living but there are many ways to mitigate the cost if you are willing to give up amenities. The average campground or RV park costs $30-$50/night which will add up quickly over the month. Many parks offer a discounted monthly rate if you plan to be in the same location for that long.
Boondocking is a great way to reduce the cost if you can go without power or water hook ups for a few days. We try to alternate 2-3 days boondocking for every 1 day at rv parks. We’ve only had to resort to box store parking lots 4 nights over our last 4 months on the road which is how we like it.
If you plan on staying in different RV parks all the time expect to budget $1000-$1200/month. By taking advantage of boondocking sites, our cost is down under $600/month.
Utilities are a fairly low cost of RV living if you separate out the accommodation portion. The cost of electricity and water are included in RV park fees but individual sites are often priced depending on the amenities available.
Propane is the main utility cost of RV living and will vary depending on use but overall isn’t expensive. In our rig the stove top, the fridge (when we’re not plugged in), the hot water tank, the generator and the furnace all run on propane. The stove is our heaviest usage and the fridge second. We never use the generator because we have installed a solar system on the roof of our rig.
We only have to fill our tank once every few months making the monthly cost around $10. If you run your generator daily you may be looking closer to $25/month.
Maintenance is a necessary evil in the cost of RV living. With a motorized vehicle you will need to consider the cost of regular maintenance like oil changes and also the surprise costs of breakdowns. These costs will very depending on the amount you drive and the age of your rig. If you are a handy person you can fix the minor issues yourself.
I always suggest making a habit of getting to know all the systems of your RV even if you don’t plan to fix them yourself. Many failures are common issues and can be diagnosed through a quick google search. Blown fuses, loose screws and lightbulbs can be cured for pennies compared to RV mechanic hourly rates of $150/Hr.
The big expenses will come in the form of tire blowouts and appliance break downs. On our RV which we bought used we’ve replaced the 2 house batteries for $230 and 6 tires costing $2000. The costs can be substantial so be sure to allocate a portion of your budget to maintenance.
Our budget is $300/month for maintenance. This should easily cover most scenarios outside an engine or transmission failure. Most of the non engine related jobs we do ourselves and haven’t had an issue staying within our budget.
Insuring your rig and belongings is a cost of RV living you want to spend some time investigating. The highest insurance related claims are due to awning damage and theft of the contents. Most people travel with cameras, laptops, bicycles and other high priced items. Be sure to ask what is and isn’t covered when getting insurance and calculate the value of your possessions. If you travel with high cost sports equipment getting special coverage on those items could prove valuable.
By having renters insurance (content insurance) at a friend or family member’s home you can often find cheaper insurance and just top up specific coverage you require. RV membership groups also offer discounts on insurance so be sure to check them out.
As usual with any insurance, driving history and other personal situations will all add variation to the cost of RV insurance.
We don’t have a tow vehicle nor have we included life or medical insurance in this topic because they vary too greatly per individual. Assume coverage on a middle of the road RV to fall between $80-$120/month.
Some larger Class A’s have laundry facilities but most of us will be allocating a small laundry budget to our cost of RV living. The laundry needs of your family won’t change much on the road from your current requirements.
The laundry facilities we’ve used on the road average about $5-$6/load costing $25/month for the two of us when accounting for the detergent. If you are travelling as a larger family you should budget $50/month.
Cellular Data and Internet
Cellular data plans vary between providers but without home wifi you’ll be much more dependent on our cell phone for internet while RV living. Our usage is mostly geared to podcast listening, blog posting and the occasional webinar. We considered getting a projector for Netflix but never did and haven’t had time to watch TV anyway. On occasion we find wifi at cafe’s and campgrounds but it’s usually too slow to upload and we end up spending more money on coffee than the data is worth.
We use AT&T prepaid plans giving us 8 gigs each usable in the US, Canada and Mexico. There’s rarely signal in the large national parks or in remote mountain areas but otherwise we have been getting by without issues.
For our two AT&T pre paid cellular plans we spend $90/month including taxes.
As you can see there are too many variables to give a specific answer to the question of what does it cost to live in an RV so we use a different strategy. We created a budget of $100/day before we started traveling and so far have been able to stick to it. This works out to $3,042/month or $36,500/year keeping in mind that there are only 2 of us and we own our RV free and clear.
By entering all of our expenses into a budgeting app as they occur, we get a real time picture of how much we’re spending each day. From that we average out our spending over the week to allow for bigger days and smaller days. When nearing our weekly limit we tend to lay low for a few days and get some extra work done, sit on the beach, take a hike or read a book. Check out some of our boondocking and low cost RV travels by clicking here
It’s not hard to make the cost of living in an RV fit almost any budget because the majority of your major expenses are under your control. Download your free copy of our eBook about saving loads of money on RV travel. The balance of having fun while sticking to your budget is the key to enjoying your long term RV travels.