Life on the Road: Monthly Budget for Living in a Camper


Living in an RV is not only a fun adventure but it will also save you money. Obviously, living in an RV won’t require you to pay a fortune for a mortgage, property taxes, and the like. However, while it easily seems cheaper to be living in a tiny home than in a city apartment or a house in the suburbs, the RV life can also be a burden in terms of budgeting and money in general if you aren’t responsible enough to learn the basic whats and hows of living on the road.

Monthly Cost Overview: What Every RVer Should Know

Again, the budget for living in an RV full time is highly dependent on you. You can survive the RV life for as low as $800 or even lower up to $3,000 and higher. Yes, this is still a relatively lower price than living in an actual house somewhere in the city or the countryside. 

Some Factors Affecting Your Monthly Budget: The 101

Of course, there are plenty of factors that usually affect your monthly budget while you are on the road. Keeping these factors in mind will help you stay on budget.

Lifestyle: The Main Factor that You Need to Keep in Mind

This is one of the first things you should assess mainly because most of your expenses greatly depend on how you live your everyday life. Think about how you used to live even before considering the camper life. I understand that you have probably done quite a lot of research regarding the whole RV thing, but before finally committing to an entirely different way of life, make sure you consider how you want to spend it. Think about the changes you are going to make, including the sacrifices and even consequences you will have to face. 

For example, you might want to shift to a completely minimalist lifestyle since you can’t take everything you used to have in a tiny space. You also might have to cancel that weekly hangout you used to have with your neighbors and change your purchasing habits since it won’t be the same when you are always on the road. 

For sure there will be so many more changes. These are just a few that you can ponder on when thinking about coming up with your RV budget plan.  

Financial Capacity: Know Your Source of Income and Plan It Well

How much you regularly earn is a huge factor especially if you are alone or you are your main or only source of income. Living on the road for good is not something you dive into just because you have some money at present. Consider how much you consistently earn regularly, whether it’s monthly or weekly. 

There are some things that you need to keep in mind to better gauge your financial capacity before you start living on the road. You need to think about whether you can keep a stable job such as working remotely or running your business in your RV while enjoying what the great outdoors have to offer. You also need to think about the debts and loans that you are paying and whether there is someone else that you are supporting financially.

Purpose: Think About Your Main Goal in Committing in RV Living

Another important thing is to think about your main goal or objective in committing to this RV life. This is essential when coming up with a budget plan. If your purpose is to travel often, transfer from one place to another, and drive extremely long distances, you must get ready to allot a huge amount for fuel expenses. If you plan to stay in one place for longer days, consider the price of various camp parks you may want to stay in or available public parks and lands you can camp on for free. 

Personal Interests: Also Includes Your Hobbies

Image Source: “Campervan delightfulness” by Christian Haugen is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

In connection with your purpose, also consider your hobbies and interests. For one, you might be wanting to live on the road full-time to practice your profession as a photographer, or a professional surfer, or you might just want to hike or bike different terrains, states, or countries. You might be wondering why this might affect your budget. It is because all these activities also require special allotment. Just think about the upgrades, the maintenance, and possible repairs. 

Number of People: Remember, More People, More Budget

Image Source: “Inside the RV” by Orin Zebest is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

The last major thing to consider is the total number of people who will live with you. I guess this no longer needs quite an explanation. Basically, having more people will require more budget. However, it is not a problem when you have someone else helping you pay for your expenses.

If it’s a pet/s who will live with you, consider all the financial obligations it entails. You will be spending on food, grooming, and medication on the way. Having a cute fur ball as a company is always worth it, though!

Prioritize Your Fixed Expenses: The Key to Budgeting

The Rig Itself: Takes a Huge Chunk of Your Budget

The RV itself could be the biggest chunk of your RV budget. Contrary to most people’s knowledge, there are several types of motorhomes despite usually just calling it all RV. Here are the most common kinds of RV and their average cost according to gorollick.com:

Class As are preferred by full-time RVers, and they are up to 45 feet long, they are the largest and most expensive RV you will find. Class A homes are on average around $200,000.

Class Bs are more like vans and are essentially just basic travel campers. Class B homes average around $120,000.

Class Cs are mid-sized RVs that range from 20 to about 35 feet and are typically built on top of a van or large truck. Class C homes average around $100,000.

There are also less expensive choices because they are Towable RVs like the Travel Trailer and 5th Wheel Trailer. It is relatively cheaper because you will have a separate vehicle to use for driving. The price ranges from as low as $10,000 to $50,000.

The question here is how you plan to purchase your motorhome. Most RVers recommend paying all-in with cash, if available so that it can lessen the expenses they have to spend monthly. Second-hand trailers and RVs are way cheaper and are much easier to purchase. However, others may prefer to pay in an installment system and that is okay too. Depending on the motorhome type and term of payment, it may cost you around $2,000 monthly for around three years.

If you want to know more about the total cost of building an RV, here is an article that I have written for you.

Insurance: Range Cost of $20 to $150 

Another fixed expense that you need to have a budget for is your insurance. I couldn’t emphasize more how important having insurance is. You wouldn’t want to pay thousands of dollars for emergency towing and repairs just because you didn’t want to spend a few dollars on insurance!

There are literally hundreds of insurance providers that offer good insurance premiums for RVers. Of course, there are some considerations for this too like your motorhome type. Class A, B, and C insurance cost about $500 to $1000 per year, while trailer insurance costs around $250. 

Other factors insurance providers consider in coming up with your plan include your location, driving experience, and types of coverage.

Vehicle Registration: Costs $20 

You shouldn’t also forget to register your vehicle, whatever RV type you have. This is a fixed expense usually paid annually. Registration costs can also vary depending on the state you are in since they could have different state registration laws and the like. The average cost per month should be approximately $20.

Internet, Phone, and Mail: Cost of $100 to $150

These are on the list of fixed expenses mainly because you are most likely to get a plan, especially when you will be working remotely. You should have a steady and reliable internet connection almost all the time so this can cost you pretty much as well. 

What most RVers do is invest in a phone subscription with an unlimited data add-on. They usually use their phones as a hotspot to be able to connect to the internet using their laptop. Major cellular carriers offer good phone-internet plans. However, there are places where cellular signal is so poor so think about investing in signal boosters and repeaters as well!

As for mail service, this is completely optional, depending on your need. But most mail services range from around $8 to $12 on average. 

Monthly Expenses that Depend on You and Your Activities

When you are on the road, there are plenty of places where you can rest and stay for a couple of days or overnight. Aside from that, you would need to think about the upkeep of utilities for your rig. In this section, you would also include campground stays, station dump fees, gas fees, and so much more.

Campground Rent: Cost of $0 to $300

Image Source: “Madison Campground” by YellowstoneNPS is marked with CC PDM 1.0 

If you are going to travel often, you have to have a plan on where you will be staying most of the time. You have a couple of options to choose from!

If you feel like going on an adventure with nature, you may try boondocking, where you will stay at public parks, BLMs, and even state forests. You should know beforehand though, that hookups won’t be available. What’s amazing about this option aside from the fact that you will enjoy some peace and privacy is that it is free! 

Another option you have is what some call mooch docking. This simply means boondocking in someone else’s private land for a smaller fee compared to camp resorts. There are some RV groups and memberships that you can explore. They offer mooch docking in their private spaces for a discounted amount. One group is called the Boondockers Welcome only requires around $50 annually for you to be able to access their lands. 

Lastly, if you wish to experience staying in camp parks and resorts, you will have to pay certain fees. The entrance fees vary depending on the season, location, and the available hookups you can use. The average fee is around $35 to $50 per night, this is for the more common parks. If you wish to experience a luxurious environment like having a private beach or some sports areas, be ready to pay about $80 or higher per night. 

I understand that you might want to experience this all, so if you are maybe doing boondocking most of the time with some nights spent on an average RV park and maybe even a night in a more fancy RV park, you can allot around $150 monthly for this. 

Utilities (Dump Fees, Propane, Generator, etc): Cost of $30

Image Source: amazon.com

When you are boondocking or staying on private lands, you will most likely have to pay dump fees in RV dump areas. This will only cost you $5 or maybe even less. Some RV parks will have this included in your rental cost along with other utilities like electricity, water for laundry, and wifi. 

Other regular utilities you need to include in your budget are your propane refills. You will probably use propane for your water heater, cooking, and central heating. A 20-pound propane tank usually costs around $20 and for most RVers, this covers an entire month or even more. 

Fuel: Cost of Up to $250

Image Source: “fuel pump” by Sean MacEntee is licensed under CC BY 2.0 

First off, identify the fuel for your motorhome, whether you will be running on gas or diesel. Your fuel consumption budget highly depends on how big your rig is, how often you want to drive, and how far you are going to travel. 

To properly budget your expenses in terms of fuel, you can use the GasBuddy RV App to help you calculate the approximate amount you will need depending on your chosen destination. This will also show you some real-time changes in fuel prices across different states and locations. 

If you’re planning to travel a little and also stay in a place for maybe a week or two, you may allot $250 per month, depending on the current fuel price and the results in your GasBuddy RV App calculations.

Repairs and Maintenance: Cost of $100 

Image Source: “Water damage repair” by simonov is licensed under CC BY-SA 2.0 

I understand that you think you won’t need to repair anything in a month, but it is best to always set aside around $100 for maintenance purposes. This is because you’ll always never know what can happen. You might be covered by insurance but there are some minor repairs here and there that you will need to fix quickly.

Also, having a budget for this will not cause you any burden in the future. Just as the cliche goes, better safe than sorry!

Laundry: Cost of $0 to $40

This can easily be overlooked but is something you need to think about. If you have a built-in dryer and washer on your rig, then you will need $0 for laundry. But most RVs do not usually have this built unless customized, so you are most likely to need laundromat services on the way.

This usually costs around $40 covering both the wash and dry service. Some parks though may offer this option for free. Or you also have the option to do manual washing and hang your clothes dry especially when boondocking. 

Being on the road full-time comes with different adventures. Now, these adventures may come with a cost, especially when you are visiting different attractions in different locations. The following will talk about the different expenses you need to think about when it comes to your leisure time.

Hobbies that You May Have: Cost of $0 to $50

As I have previously mentioned, if you are living on the road full time because of your hobbies or interests like photography, biking, or hiking, allotting a budget for this monthly is necessary. You will have to consider the expenses like upgrades and maintenance for your gears and stuff.

Fun and Adventure: Cost of $50 to $100

Living in an RV or not, we always spend on some entertainment and adventure. I mean, what’s life without some fun right. For RVers, it can also be a little monotonous to always just do the same things. It’s great to travel often and see jaw-dropping scenery but we can’t miss the fact that there will be some instances where you will have to pay a fee to enjoy other recreational activities. 

Visiting new places will make you also want to try their food so sometimes it is just okay to eat out and treat yourself. Some tourist activities are place-specific so might not want to miss out on that, as well. A few movie dates and museum trips every now and then aren’t so bad as well. Around $50 – $100 a month will work.

Other Personal Expenses: $0 to $50

Also in connection with your fun expenses, are your interest expenses. The budget for this covers shopping for some clothes, going to a salon for your regular manicure/pedicure and haircut, etc.

If you have pets with you, you will spend some money on their food, grooming, and regular veterinary visits! Don’t forget that you also pay for things like these.

Last for your “personal” expenses, think about the monthly online subscriptions that you have to pay for such as Netflix, Spotify, Youtube Premium, etc. You might also have memberships where you are required to pay some monthly dues. Always include them in your budgeting as well!

Other Normal Living Expenses to Consider

The following are expenses that you have even when you’re not living in an RV. I included them here just so you can have an overview of what your total and complete budget is.

Food and Groceries: Cost of $200 – $400

This is a non-negotiable for sure. You will most likely spend much on food but less if you prefer to buy at local markets for fresh produce and cook meals in your RV. This also covers your other essentials such as your hygiene items like soaps, facial cleansers, and the like. This is heavily dependent on how many of you are living together in your RV.

It is also good to consider the amount you spend on your health. This mostly your vitamins, emergency medications, and other supplements. Your regular dental and medical checkups also fall in this category.

Emergency Fund: Cost of $100

Having an emergency fund is important. No explanations are needed for this because again, you’ll never know. 

Conclusion

Whatever reason you have for finally deciding to live in a camper full time, always consider the financial aspect of it. This doesn’t refer only to the money you will need to purchase your rig, but the everyday expenses that come with it! This will help you avoid any unwanted surprises while on the road, especially when it comes to your budget. So before you get on that camper and have the time of your life with no regrets, make sure you have an expected budget in mind, this would surely make your adventure worthwhile!

Ash

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