Our original travel trailer RV in the Guadalupe Mountains

Boondocking in the Guadalupe Mountains National Park. This was our first time ever boondocking and it was a real learning experience. It was well worth it though!

Becoming a full time RV dweller is easier than you might think, and it doesn’t require you traveling the countryside. There are a good number of full time RV dwellers that have a semi-permanent home base. That is the case with us. We live in Austin, TX about 75% of the year. We only hook up and travel during the Summer, aside from short week long and weekend trips throughout the year.

Your first thought might be, wow I could never afford that. Truthfully, if you aren’t traveling full time it’s WAY cheaper than living in an apartment or home. Especially if you live in an expensive market like Austin. Even being full time on the road is often cheaper than living in a stick and bricks home.

Our all-in monthly “rent” expense is never more than $950. And that covers our RV site, utilities, and RV payment. Try finding a one bedroom apartment for that price! During the winter and spring months we are only spending around $850. I will go more into expenses later in the post.

The biggest barrier to going full time in an RV is YOURSELF! You just have to decide to do it. Once you decide you are going to make the leap, your first step is to start downsizing. Craigslist is going to be your best friend here. We got rid of almost all our worldly possessions just through Craigslist and Facebook. And the best part is, we made enough money to pay cash for our first RV and truck.

We purchased a used Ford F-250 for about $8,000 and our RV was $7,000. Looking back on it I was pretty blown away we came up with that kind of money, but we sold our paid off Subaru Outback for $9,000 and our road bikes for about $2,750. So that was a good chunk of the change we needed to buy our home on wheels and the truck to tow it with. I have to be honest, selling the bikes was rough one me, but it was a sacrifice we were willing to make to live the full time RV life.

Once we sold all our stuff, bought our RV and truck all that as left was moving in, and donating whatever we didn’t sell to Goodwill. We did move a small amount of stuff into storage at my office, things like keepsakes and family heirlooms. Then we hit the road! To get started we stayed two weeks in an RV park near Bee Caves, which was closer to my office, but further from town. After those two weeks were up we found a more permanent spot before hitting the road for three months. And upon returning we found the RV Park we are still currently living in.

We have loved the opportunities living in an RV have provided. We have spent two entire summers in the mountains, had mini family vacations just because we could. We love living minimally and having very little possession, and it’s great having a home that can be cleaned from top to bottom in an about an hour tops.

Choosing an RV or Motorhome

RV’s also known as travel trailers or fifth wheels, are towable vehicles that require a truck with a tow capacity rating that fits with whatever rig you purchased. The advantage of an towable RV is lower cost, and if your engine on the vehicle has issues your home doesn’t have to go into the shop. Repairs on the RV are also easily done on-site in most cases, and you can usually find a mobile repair person to come to your home on wheels. The main downside to a travel trailer is the learning curve involved with towing, and backing up a long vehicle.

A motorhome will likely be easier to learn to drive, but downsides are higher cost, and engine repairs mean leaving your home in the shop for an extended period of time. You also have to take your home to the shop for oil changes and simple repairs, unless you are handy (which I am not). Plus sides are you can tow your drivable vehicle behind you, and are often roomier than travel trailers. But, another downside for people with kids is floor layouts are usually for empty nesters. I have yet to see a layout with a bunk room for kids that wasn’t right next to the main bedroom.

New Fifth Wheel RV

Our first RV, Thistle, was a travel trailer, but our new RV is a Fifth Wheel. The fifth wheel, while heavier is easier to tow.

Traveling vs Full Time RV Spots

If you are wanting to “ease into the full time RV life” then finding an RV park in your current home town and staying there full time is going to be your best option. Usually you can rent a spot in parks for $500-$800 per month. This allows you to experience the joys of minimalist living while still being in your hometown. This might be a great option for somebody with a full-time desk job that hasn’t made the leap into location independent work.

When traveling full time you are best staying in spots for at least a week at a time because there is usually a price break involved. Even better, book a full month and pay half the normal nightly rate. Not all RV parks have a monthly option, but most of them usually reserve a few spots for long term stays.

We prefer staying in one spot for longer periods of time so we can experience the culture. We have recently purchased a solar setup that allows us to camp off grid. We haven’t used it a lot yet, but in the near future we will be spending a lot of time in public lands, which a lot of the times are completely free.

Another secret of the full time RVer is Cabela’s, Bass Pro Shop and WalMart Parking lots. Most Cabela’s have actual designated spots for RV’s, the other two are hit or miss on whether or not they allow overnight stays for RV’s. It’s always best to call ahead and be sure. The Cabela’s lots usually have dump stations as well, so you can empty your black and gray tank. Most charge you $5 to do this.

So, aside from the extra gas money, you can actually make your monthly “rent” expense very similar or cheaper than what it would cost to live in an apartment or home.

Insurance

I won’t pretend to know everything about this, but I do know the basics. A good starting point is Good Sam, and they have insurance brokers that help full-time RVers find insurance. Most traditional insurance companies won’t understand the needs of a full time RV dweller.

We have two policies. One covers repairs on the RV such as the fridge going out, leaks, plumbing issues, etc. The other policy covers us if we get into an accident, and also provides a few nights of hotel stay in the event we can’t stay in the RV.

In addition to the insurance I recommend purchasing a Good Sam Roadside Assistance program. This has saved our neck already. We had locked our keys in the truck while it was running and within an hour we had somebody come out and unlock the door. It’s also great for changing tires and other roadside issues.

Our RV and truck policy are bundled and run us about $130 per month. The policy that covers things going run with the RV itself runs about $130 per quarter, and the roadside assistance runs $150 per year.

What to Expect. Setting Up and Packing Up

I grew up going camping an in RV with my family, so none of this was really that new to me. It had been YEARS since I had camped in an RV, and I was so young I was never really that involved in the set up and pack up process. But having some knowledge certainly helped.

There are YouTube videos galore on these topics! Not sure about how to connect your black tank hose and drain it? Confused about how to hook up your RV and connect the sway controller? Want to know what things you need to secure inside your RV? YouTube it!!!  YouTube and blog articles were how we refreshed on all these topics, especially how to back in an RV.

My best advice though would be have patience. Take it slow, especially during your first few trips. Also, if you are purchasing the RV from a dealer they will take you through all the steps of what you need to do when setting up and taking down to travel. If you happen to be buying the rig used from an individual, ask them to give you a walk through and let them know you are new to RV life.

emptying the RV black tank

Emptying the black tank. It’s a dirty job, but I’ve got to do it! 🙂

The Financial Details

Below is a basic breakdown of our monthly expenses on the road, vs when staying parked.

Basic Budget Items (monthly basis)

RV Lot – $500
RV Payment – $300
RV & Truck Insurance – $130
RV Only Insurance (repairs) – $43
Roadside Assistance – $13
Repairs (budget for these) – $150
Total: $1,136

Monthly Expenses When Traveling

RV Parks – $1,000 (this cost can be much lower if you boondock in public lands or stay in sites monthly)
Gas – $300 (about 1,000 miles at 9 miles per gallon…so this number will vary)
RV Payment – $300
RV & Truck Insurance – $130
RV Only Insurance (repairs) – $43
Roadside Assistance – $13
Repairs (budget for these) – $50
Total: $1,936

The rest of our monthly budget really doesn’t change. Since our home is on wheels we go grocery shopping just like we typically would, so we don’t eat out a whole lot. This is one reason why living on the road can be so affordable.

While traveling full time in an RV requires you a flexible job, merely living in an RV full time does not. We are kind of in the middle of the two. Owning my own company allows me to take extended periods of time off to travel, but most of the time we are parked in Austin at an RV park. I would say one of the things we love most about living in the RV full time is we spend a lot more time outdoors! Living in a tiny space is great, but it does force you outside, which is perfect for our family.

Hammock time outside! Rv life forces you outside to enjoy nature.

Living in an RV full time forces us to get outside more!

 

 

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