You’ve been so inspired lately by the tales of downsizing and going on the road. Living in an RV full time is such a dream for many people, but the process of making the transition seems complicated. Whether you’re exploring the possibility or you’ve decided this is your dream, there are a few things to consider before you make the leap.
Before you hand the keys to your house to the new owner, sit down, and think through what it really means to live in an RV full time. Here’s an excellent way to start the process and ensure you’re ready when the time comes.
Before You Make the Decision
Living in an RV sounds really romantic and adventurous, but before you decide that the lifestyle is right for you, arrange a few life experiments to see if you’re ready.
Give Full-Time RV Life a Practice Run
Before you even consider downsizing your home, you should make a few practice runs to see how you might adjust to life. There’s no way to replicate the experience of losing your home base entirely, but you might find that traveling isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.
Renting an RV and going on the road temporarily gives you the chance to test out different rigs and find out whether you even enjoy being away from your house. These trial runs can also give you an idea of what kind of RV life you’d want. Would you rather something secluded or the community of large commercial sites? Are you happier on the road or happier with extended stays?
These experiments are vital to provide clues for your new life and to allow you to prepare adequately for your leap into RV life. You’ll get a better idea of how to plan, what expectations you have, and how to ensure that you’re getting what you wanted from this significant life change.
Brush Up On Mechanics
You don’t have to be an expert mechanic to have a great RV experience, but some of the small issues that crop on along the way could go a lot smoother if you know your way around your RV. There are courses you can take online, videos to watch, and maybe most importantly, read the manual for your chosen RV.
Building basic mechanic skills not only helps you fix problems but provides a path for you to avoid making trouble in the first place. RVs are complex. Besides the engine, you’ll need to have a basic understanding of water and power, the septic system, and other aspects of your RV’s systems.
You’ll need a routine to make sure that basic maintenance tasks are done regularly and that nothing falls through the cracks. If you don’t have an RV right now, you can begin learning about these things with your own home. Brush up on those skills so that you might be able to transfer them to your RV.
If you find that the maintenance of your house is too much for you, this could be a sign that full-time RV living isn’t for you. It could, however, give you a head start on thinking like a true RV’er.
Brush Up on Budgeting
It’s not free to live in an RV despite what you might think. Even if you have unlimited amounts of cash, living on the road requires a unique money mindset. A lot of your money will go towards things like maintenance and gas, so get started now on budgeting.
Rethinking how you spend your money is an excellent way to test out if living in an RV is for you. You may not have cable or reliable internet connection, so experiment by cutting those cords. Sure, you can check your email at your local coffee shop, but is that what you want? Try it out for a few months to get a feel for how it will be in real life.
Give Minimalism a Try
One of the best things you can do to prepare yourself for living in an RV is to downsize your current belongings. You won’t be able to take anything close to what you currently have in your home, so start downsizing now.
You could try the Marie Kondo method or the four-box method. Cut down mercilessly on your things and begin to see what it’s like to live with significantly less.
The best place to start is your clothing, but you’ll have to examine everything. All of your belongings will have to be multipurpose and compact to fit into the storage of the RV. While you’re at it, do some research on the average cost of storage fees just in case you’re thinking about renting a storage building.
You’ve taken a few test trips and downsized all your things. There’s work to be done now to put this plan into motion. Here are some next steps to take to make sure you’re able to realize your dream.
Choose the Right RV
There are so many RV types out there. Hopefully, you tested a few out with your life experiments in the previous section, and now you have a better idea of what you’re looking for. Let’s take a look at a few different types of RVs to decide their pros and cons.
Class A Motorhomes
Motorhomes have the living space and the motor all in the same vehicle. Class A motorhomes are what you imagine music stars traveling in and are the largest of the three types of motorhomes. They usually offer the square footage and the amenities for full out, full time living.
- They offer lots of space – think full-sized bathrooms, queen beds, bunk beds, refrigerators, couches, and tables.
- They also offer the most storage – many have large storage compartments underneath.
- They provide quite a few amenities like full-sized showers, gourmet kitchens, and other choices.
- They’re the most expensive of the pack.
- You may have a difficult time getting them into out of the way spaces – stick to commercial RV parks.
- You may need a special license to drive legally.
Class C’s are typically built on a van or truck chassis and have a piece that overhangs over the driver and passenger (it’s usually a guest bed). A Class C can still hold a great deal of things and offer smaller but still functional bedrooms, kitchens, and living areas. They’re easier to get in and out of smaller spaces and don’t require a special license to drive.
- They have a smaller, more manageable footprint.
- They provide easier hookups to more types of RV parks with just 30 amps of power.
- They’re more affordable than full Class A.
- There are lots more used options available than a Class A.
- They don’t have quite as much space for families.
- They can still be quite expensive when new.
- Layouts may be more varied and confusing.
Class B motorhomes are typically the smallest of the bunch. They look like more traditional vans on the exterior and provide a more straightforward way to travel. They still offer a bedroom, bathroom, kitchen area, and living area, but in a very condensed area. They’ve got the smallest footprint, but they may not be as affordable as you think.
- It offers the smallest footprint and is the most maneuverable.
- They are not as noticeable as Class A or C motorhomes.
- They could be suitable for single travelers or couples.
- They offer the least amount of space and storage
- They would require a huge mindset change to downsize from a house.
- They don’t offer quite as much savings as you’d think for the downsizing.
Fifth Wheel Travel Trailer
Instead of a motorhome, you could choose something called a travel trailer. These use your existing truck to tow your home behind, keeping the motor separate from the living space. One of the biggest and most common types is the fifth wheel. Do your research to figure out what kind of truck you’d need to tow your desired trailer, but they are convenient if you find yourself parking the trailer and using the truck to ride around in town.
- You can use your truck as a vehicle to scoot around town without towing another vehicle behind you.
- They offer just as much space as many Class A motorhomes.
- They’re slightly more maneuverable than motorhomes with the same amount of space.
- If you don’t have a truck already, you may end up investing in both.
- You’ll have to do your research to ensure the truck you do have is compatible.
- They must be attached to trucks.
A teardrop trailer is the most straightforward option of the entire list. They don’t usually have bathrooms, but there’s a small kitchen accessible from the outside, and the bed takes up the whole interior. IF you don’t mind hauling your (very) few belongings in your SUV or truck, this could be a good option.
- They’re the smallest option.
- A variety of vehicles can tow them.
- They’re easy to maneuver.
- They don’t have a full living space.
- They’re only suitable for two or three seasons or calm weather areas.
- There’s not enough room for families (not really).
Popup Trailers offer lightweight yet usable space that folds in and out to travel or to stay. They’re suitable for fair weather areas, but their insulation is more akin to a tent than a real home. They’re towable by a variety of vehicles.
- They’re very lightweight and easily towable.
- They expand to offer more living space when not driving.
- They don’t require as much maintenance as a full-sized RV home.
- The insulation isn’t suitable for full time living except in the most narrow circumstances.
- They still don’t offer much storage.
- The collapsible features require a learning curve.
In addition to Class B motorhomes, Supervans offer another way to travel more easily using a van with some extra features. These aren’t going to save you money, but if you plan to drive through a variety of conditions, they could provide a way to have both the home for RV sites and the chance to scoot around in the city. In some campsites, you may even be able to get away with just paying tent site prices.
- They’re operable like a van but offer many features.
- Suitable for a variety of environments.
- It could be cheaper to operate during your time out on the road.
- They offer very little space.
- They can be very expensive to build and will require a new vehicle.
- There are very few used options available.
Preparing to Make the Leap
Once you’ve decided on your RV and you’ve taken the leap to full-time living, there are some things you need to wrap up before you start driving off into the sunset. Without tying up these details, you may not be in compliance and could make your life a lot more complicated than it has to be.
Declare Your Domicile
Yes, you’ve gotten rid of your home, and you’re on the road, but the government still wants you to pick a place to call “home officially.” You don’t have to stay there, but it determines where your RV is registered, your income taxes and other applicable taxes, and your insurance.
Declaring your domicile allows you to get all your documents in order and remain compliant. It’s essential to do the research to decide which state has the best options for your situation; some are friendlier to full-time RV’ers than others.
Once you’re full time, your regular vehicle insurance isn’t going to cover things. You must make sure that you have insurance to cover full-time RVing and that it covers all the things you need. Without the right insurance, you could find yourself a lot more liable than you imagined and a lot less covered than you thought.
Figure Out Your Mail
You won’t be able to leave your mail behind. Figure out where your mail will go and arrange to have as much as possible reach you online. If you haven’t already, set up bills and other essential paperwork for e-billing and e-notifications. The thought of trying to get your essential bills forwarded to whatever address you’re at is a nightmare.
You can, however, forward less time-essential mail to your current place. That way, if people want to send you correspondences or there’s a magazine you just don’t want to read on the iPad, you’re covered.
Purge Your Possessions for Real
Hopefully, you’ve been working on minimizing up to this point, but if you haven’t, now’s the time to go for it. You don’t need to buy all new things for your RV, and in fact, most “RV” things are just a gimmick. You will, however, need to get acquainted with the concept of multipurpose.
Regardless of the RV you chose, there isn’t enough space for everything that’s in your house right now. You’ll need to make some serious decisions about what you’re keeping and what you aren’t.
We mentioned a few purging methods above, but let’s take a closer look.
- The KonMari Method – A style made famous by Marie Kondo; this option focuses on decluttering like things in a very specific order. Instead of focusing on what to get rid of, you focus on what you want to keep by holding each item to see which one “sparks joy.” This method is fast and happens all at once.
- Minimalist Game – This one has a massive following on social media. Ryan Nicodemus and Joshua Fields Millburn created this stress-free game. At the beginning of the month, you start by getting rid of just one item. The next day two and the next three, and so on until you’ve reached the end of the month and the entire thing starts over. After a month, you’ll be down about 500 items.
- Four box Method – This one should be pretty familiar. Sort all items into one of four boxes – put away, give away, throw away, undecided. It allows for some flexibility, but you’ll have to exercise some willpower not just to throw everything into the undecided box.
- The One Method – This option has quite a bit of flexibility as well. You decide to give away one of something every day for a period of time that you determine. Whether it’s one item, one bag, or one of something else, you’re creating a habit of always thinking to declutter.
- The Packing Method – This one is the most extreme. Pack every one of your items up as if you’re moving. Then, when you move throughout your day, you take out items that you need. At the end of three months, everything that didn’t come out of the box goes to the donation bin. This one is also a solution from the minimalists.
Regardless of the decluttering method you choose, this step is a necessary one for finally making a move into your RV full time.
How Much Does RV Life Cost?
This is a question with a varying answer. Here are a few common bills that come with living in an RV.
- RV Payment – If you’re able to pay for an RV outright, that will cut your expenses down even further. However, considering the cost of most RV’s, you may be making some payments.
- Car Payment – If your current vehicle doesn’t tow your fifth wheel or you don’t have a small car you can tow behind your motorhome, you may have to purchase the right vehicle for your situation. There could be payments here too.
- Insurance – You’ll need RV insurance for traveling full time, plus any vehicle insurance for other things you drive or use to tow your fifth-wheel trailer. The cost will vary depending on things like your driving record, your vehicles, and even the insurance company.
- Parks and Campground Site Fees – These can also vary depending on your needs. Small trailers or supervans may be able to get away with tent sites, but Class A RV sites have a lot of requirements. You can also find a lot of resources on where to stay for free and how to conserve resources to cut down on costs.
- Maintenance/Repairs/Emergencies – You’ll need an emergency fund to make sure you always have cash on hand to deal with what comes up. Building and keeping this fund will be a monthly cost that varies depending on the circumstances.
- Propane – In larger RV systems, propane is what keeps your RV in power when it isn’t hooked up to facilities.
- Gas – This could be a significant variable expense depending on how much you travel.
- Other Utilities – If you work from home, having reliable internet could be a must. Other types of expenses on the same line could be better cell phone plans for that kind of connectivity or equipment and subscription services for television and movies.
- Food – Many RV goers find they eat out a lot more than they would when living in a standard house. The kitchens in some RVs aren’t very convenient, but if you have one that makes cooking more manageable, you may be able to cut down on restaurants. You should have some kind of refrigerator but in a smaller size.
- Other entertainment – You’ll be traveling full time, so save some space to see what’s around in each new city you come to. If you tend to follow festivals or you want to taste the local cuisine, all that costs money.
- Expenses from your previous life – If you’ve still got debts or other payments you’re making, those won’t disappear with the RV. You’ll have to add in all those with your RV bills.
- Other personal expenses – In your unique situation, you may have other things you pay for each month. You’ll have to decide if any of them are potentially temporary or unimportant to keep paying, but don’t forget to add those extras into your monthly budget.
Making Money on the Road
Many people in the full-time RV lifestyle change to full-time remote work to help keep up with expenses and offer complete freedom. Whether you own your own business or you want to negotiate a fully remote position with your current employer.
Luckily with the internet around, there are lots of ways you can make money on the road and keep up with your current position. You’ll need to invest in the things you’ll need to make that happen, but you can definitely make it work.
The best thing to do is to shift to remote work while you’re still living in your regular house. You can get a feel for what works and what kind of equipment you’ll need before you head out. That way, once you’ve made the leap into full-time RV living, you’ll already have your employment sorted out.
People Also Ask
- Is living in an RV cheaper than an apartment? There’s no right way to compare these two things, but many people do find that careful RV living is less costly than living in a house or an apartment if you’re coming from a large city. These expenses will depend a lot on your individual circumstances, however.
- Where can you park your RV for free? You may not always be able to get to a campsite, but there are places where you could stop for free for the night. Many Walmart parking lots or Cabelas will allow you to park overnight, for example. Rest stops and Cracker Barrels are other choices too. The best thing to do is look on the internet for up to date lists.
- Is it illegal to live in an RV? It isn’t illegal, but you’ll need to make sure you’re registered and in compliance. You won’t be able to live full time in a Walmart parking lot, and if you don’t have the capability for things like running water, your local city may consider you to be homeless.
- Can you claim an RV as a primary residence? While laws often change and you’ll need to consult with a tax professional, the government does allow you to claim an RV or boat as a primary residence at this time.
Transitioning to Living in an RV Full Time
Hopefully, you’ve done your homework and taken on your living experiments to find out what kind of RV goer you are. Making the leap is much easier and more cost-effective with a lot of preparation, both mental and physical.
If you’ve got your affairs in order and your RV chosen, begin to take steps to sever your connection with your “sticks and bricks” or home. Take care of your bills and forward your mail. By the time you hand your keys over to the new owners and take off in your RV, you’ll be as prepared as you could ever hope to be.