Is it possible to save money by living in an RV? Maybe, but it depends on your lifestyle! That’s the question we hope to answer for you today.
YES, living in an RV can help you save money on housing, but we’re going to cover all expenses here because some people are expecting a free life when that’s simply not the case.
Living in an RV to save money seems like a great plan at first, but you need to consider all of your expenses and the type of lifestyle and RVing you want to do before you make the leap. Nobody wants to be surprised by unexpected expenses, and it’s hard to know what you don’t know before you’ve begun.
It’s absolutely possible to live in an RV for cheap especially if you find free or cheap camping, and again your biggest potential savings is on your HOUSING expenses – since you can boondock, find free camping, or stay in parks that are cheaper than rent – but you also need to keep in mind repairs, variable park fees unless you’re boondocking, and other unexpected expenses.
We all know it’s possible based on RVers like Bob Wells CheapRvLiving on YouTube, who is the king of affordable, cheap, long term fulltime RVing. I’m sure if you’re already researching this topic you’ve seen his channel. But what’s the reality? Let’s break down the best case scenario for living in an RV very cheaply.
Now, keep in mind, everybody’s expenses vary. So what we’ve tried to do here is create a guide for the most basic expenses, which you can modify to suit your own needs.
Best Case Scenario for Cheap RV Living
Upfront cost: 10-20k for an RV
RV upgrades: 5k for solar if you’re boondocking
$600-1500 for RV Insurance
$1000-2000 for RV maintenance
Food budget: $200-400
Gas budget: $100-200
Misc: $100-200 (Phone, entertainment, etc.)
Camping budget (unless you’re boondocking): $500-900
Healthcare budget: ???
This means the cheapest scenario, if you buy a $10,000 RV, install solar for $5000, and have the lower end expenses with NO camping fees since you’re camping for free by boondocking:
$15,000 to start + 2000/mo + your healthcare costs and any other fees not listed here.
If you’re using campgrounds, your startup costs could instead be $10,000 with $2,500/mo in expenses (again, plus your healthcare fees and any other costs not listed here.)
Can RV living be even more affordable?
YES! I know of RVers who got steals on their RVs as low as $5,000, did small solar installations themselves at a lower cost, are thrifty with their other expenses, and don’t travel often. You could also finance your RV, have a small monthly payment, and save a LOT of money compared to typical rent options particularly if you’re a young couple with successful careers. On a fixed senior income, the amount you can spend each month while still saving money might be different.
That’s why I’ve included a range of “affordable” options here since nobody should go into RV living surprised, and yet everybody has different definitions of “affordable.”
Compared to rent in a large city, you can absolutely save money by living in an RV, especially if you do it over time. However compared to rent in a smaller town, your expenses may even out unless you commit to RVing for a few years.
Also keep in mind RVing can really be as expensive (and even more expensive) than living in a house depending on your lifestyle. If you have the means, you may like to go out to eat a lot, explore a lot of national parks or theme parks, and immerse yourself in the local sights and flavors. This is another perfectly acceptable way to RV – but it isn’t cheap! If you’re living as if you’re on vacation all the time, you’re simply not going to save money, whether you’re paying rent or not.
How to Save on Taxes, Healthcare, and Insurance while RVing
One benefit of living in an RV is that you can also domicile in whichever state you prefer, which is another way to help you save money.
For example, if you’re currently a California resident, you can move into an RV and move to a state without income taxes and immediately gain back that portion of your income.
You can also shop around for the best insurance rates and healthcare plans among the states that you’re planning to domicile in. This can amount to savings of hundreds of dollars per year. That may not sound like much, but for some people it really adds up.
Tips for saving money while living in your RV:
- Plan ahead for RV maintenance and save for it. You WILL have unexpected repairs especially if you’re buying an older cheaper rig, so do not go into RV life thinking you will skip this expense.
- Also consider signing up for a service such as AAA (make sure to upgrade to their RV coverage) or Good Sam in case of roadside emergencies, as this will save you money.
- If you enjoy national parks, buy an annual pass at the cost of $80 total instead of paying each entrance fee, which can add up quickly.
- If you don’t want to move around too much in the winter, consider staying at an LTVA (long term visitors area) managed by the Bureau of Land Management. You will likely save gas costs by doing so because you can boondock in one general location for much longer.
Mistakes to Avoid
Buying a new RV since they depreciate quickly.
Living as if you’re on vacation.
Spending too much on expenses like healthcare and income tax by remaining a resident of the wrong state.
Paying for expensive RV parks – if you’ll be enjoying park life, shop around for rates and ask for monthly discounts.