Living in an RV full-time is no easy undertaking, and you do need to make some initial preparations.
However, no matter what your reasons for taking your life on the road, it can be a satisfying undertaking.
There are millions of full-time RVers, and there are many more who take extended trips on the road for months at a time.
You may be thinking it is the ideal way to join the tiny house movement, or you want to take advantage and travel around the USA rather than being tied to a mortgage.
- Can You Live in an RV Legally?
- Choosing a Domicile State and Mail Forwarding
- Is it Good to Live in an RV?
- Is Living in an RV Cheaper Than a House?
- How Much Does it Cost to Live in an RV Park Per Month?
- Tips for Living in a Camper Trailer or RV
- Making Money in an RV
Living in an RV full time can be the one way to live the dream and join the rest of the families who have made the break from regular life.
Our in-depth guide shows how you can find the best RV to live in full time, how you can carry on working on the road, and all the other bits of useful information you need to know before you step on the gas and head off into the unknown.
Can You Live in an RV Legally?
It is legally possible to live in your RV full time as long as you don’t assume you can just park up anywhere.
There are many options available, and you will find some states are more RV friendly than others. South Dakota, Texas, and Florida are all RV friendly.
Some of the stipulations come when people wish to live from their RV, while on their own land. However, if you are on the road, this is very different.
To cover all angles, here are the options of how an RV is seen as a dwelling unit in some areas:
- A place where you can park your RV permanently. This means your RV will be registered in a state as a “recreational vehicle.”
- Places where your RV is classed as an “accessory dwelling unit.” The RV in question will be registered as such and not as a recreational vehicle.
- Parking in designated areas, campgrounds, trailer parks, and mobile home parks. It will be the traditional route for living out of your RV while you travel around.
You will find the majority of states have restrictions against using an RV as a dwelling inside certain zones. Hence, you can’t just park anywhere.
One of the things you will need to check beforehand, or at least before you decide to pull over, is zoning laws in any given area. While some places have strict zoning laws such as San Francisco or San Diego, if you head to mid-America, there are counties in Kentucky that have no zoning laws as such.
Once you are on the road, you need to search for any of the following. Any can allow you to pull over for a specified period or an extended stay in your RV.
- Vacation parks: There are often some restrictions and rules on how often you can stay and how many days you are allowed to reside in these locations in one go.
- Residential Parks: These are designed for the intended purpose of full time living
- Campgrounds: You can find campgrounds that allow extended stays
- RV Parks: Some RV parks allow extended stays, although depending on the area of the park, there can be a cost. You will find these costs vary wildly depending on the type of park and location.
- BLM Land: Boondockers can camp on BLM areas for up to 14-days at a time.
Choosing a Domicile State and Mail Forwarding
One of the most challenging sides to full time RV living can be the legal aspects. There are plenty of small details that can be complicated when you don’t have a permanent address in one state.
Simple things such as getting your mail and renewing your driver’s license along with voting and if you need to deposit checks. If living on the road, the one way to do this is by selecting a “domicile state.”
While doing this is beneficial, there are certain things to consider for these domicile states and why it matters.
Two terms you will see are “place of abode,” and this is your permanent address before RVliving. A domicile is a legal and permanent address you intend to return to after an extended absence.
It is this which will tie you to any given state. You will also find you can have multiple residences, yet it is only possible to possess one domicile.
A domicile covers legal areas because every US citizen has to pay taxes, vote, open bank accounts, and any other things which come with being a legal citizen.
Once you take up the RV lifestyle, you can use a domicile to your advantage. Income tax levels may be lower in some areas, as can your auto insurance, vehicle registration, and healthcare, among other things.
It is possible to select any state you wish, although the likes of the ones we saw of Texas, Florida, and South Dakota all being “domicile” friendly.
You can easily find a mail forwarding service, and there is no state income tax.
Once you begin looking at other states, some require you to be there for 183 days, and to live in a physical building.
Once you decide to begin living in an RV, you will need to sever your ties with your current state as much as possible.
Some states try to hang onto you for census and tax purposes, and if you no longer have a physical home, then they turn to driver’s license, vehicle registration, voter’s cards, or employment.
Registration and Driver’s License: Your license will need to be issued from your domicile state. While some allow you to get your new license online and to renew vehicle registration, some require you to turn up in person.
You can also find that the kind of RV you are driving can impact the type of license you need. Check out the individual states for the requirements on Class A motorhomes and Class B noncommercial vehicle licenses.
Fees and Taxes: Emissions fees, registration taxes, and safety inspections all need consideration. If you need annual emissions testing, then you will need to return there each year.
Auto insurance: This can be higher in some domicile states than others. Florida is higher than South Dakota because of the numbers of motorists and more natural disasters.
Banking: With the new legislation, banking institutions are required by law to have a residential address for each account holder.
Unfortunately, this will exclude and forwarding address you have for your mail. It is possible to use a family address, although some banks ask for proof via utility bills. Check before you head off on your RV lifestyle.
Health Insurance: Insurance for your health can be one of the hardest things to arrange. If you are zigzagging across state lines, then some policies may not cover you sufficiently.
If you can get any subsidy from the Affordable Care Act, then you may face limitations against any nationwide plans. This can take more research than most other areas.
You can find sites such as RVerInsurance who are pros in this field. Additionally, if you opt for private insurance, you can deduct health premiums and expenses from taxes.
Other domicile questions are:
- Which domicile sate is good for business owners or start-ups. Also, what are your tax liabilities for your business?
- How will your chosen domicile state deal with inheritance issues and taxes if a family member dies?
- Can you opt-out of jury duty if elected?
- If you have children, how does your domicile deal with homeschooling?
While some RV parks allow you to use their address, you may find you are not there long enough to take advantage of this.
One of the best options is to check the services of Escapees based in Texas. They are the number one mail forwarding company for RVers.
There is a charge for this, yet they do deliver great service to the many travelers on the road. They can also help set up domicile, yet they can’t offer any legal advice.
Is it Good to Live in an RV?
Living in an RV isn’t for everyone, yet for those who chose the life and embrace it, it can be a great release away from work, the need to own a house, and much more that bears down on you.
Here are a few things that can make this kind of living the one for you just like Heath and Alyssa, who started the RV Entrepreneur podcast on the back of this kind of living and how to travel America.
Check it out, but you will have the usual affiliate disclaimer and possible affiliate links along the way on their site. It is, however, full of useful info.
- You can visit anywhere you wish, and every day is like a vacation
- You get to see views that would otherwise cost a fortune in a home
- You learn how not to take things for granted and not to rely on Netflix in the evening and enjoy s’mores and talking.
- You can be mortgage-free
- RVing leads to more time outdoors rather than sitting inside
- Your RV can pay for itself through other savings
- You are free from most utility bills (hookups not included)
- You meet lots of new people along the way
- You learn how to be clean and tidy
- You can work, camp and still run a business while living in an RV
- You learn how to eat healthier and do more outdoor activities
- You become resourceful and learn how to fix all manner of things
- You learn more about relationships instead of being materialistic
Is Living in an RV Cheaper Than a House?
It can be hard to answer this question in a yes or no fashion because no one has the same situation or circumstances as another person. In the same breath, you can choose a Winnebago, or living in a camper trailer.
There are too many variables, and you find many individuals who save money and pay off debt or mortgages as much as the ones who run businesses and are just traveling around in this manner and don’t have a set budget.
There are many who save money. Yet you tend to find your bills and expenses arrive in a different direction, such as gasoline rather than plumbing and roof repairs on the house.
If you travel around and make full use of the cheaper alternatives for things as you travel, in comparison, you can save nearly $5,000 per year up to $15,000 per year against your home budget.
The primary difference being your stick house doesn’t offer the same experiences or views compared to life on the road.
How Much Does it Cost to Live in an RV Park Per Month?
Because you are looking to live in an RV one day at a time, you may not look to be staying in an RV park for a month at a go.
As a quick guide, you can be looking at the range of $30 – $65 per night with amenities and hookups.
This does depend on the location and time of year, on occasions, you may get discounts for spending more extended periods if out of season.
However, you can go through your entire budgeting to see any cost comparisons to stick houses, or deciding if it is worth using an RV park every month yet in different locations.
Here is a rough guide to living an RV lifestyle on the road. You can then make a comparison if it is cheaper than your current house.
RV Camping Budget
Looking at the above, this is one area where you can make the most savings. Instead of sticking to an RV Park all the time. You can use many options, depending on your budget and how much you wish to discover while camping on wheels.
- RV Parks: $900 – $2,000 per month. You do get amenities, showers, filling up water, and dumping your tanks at no extra cost.
- State Park Camping Grounds: Prices vary depending on if you have hookups or not. Without hookups costs around $360 per month, and with hookups, you can pay around $600 per month. Places to dump tanks vary, and some offer partial water and electricity.
- BLM or Boondocking: Zero cost. BLM land is on offer in certain areas without hookups and a 14-day stay limit.
- Host Websites: You can find websites where you subscribe, these offer chances to stay in members’ locations. Harvest Hosts and Boondockers Welcome being two examples. You can pay a couple of dollars per month for website registration, which can pay for itself after a few nights of free parking.
This can be another area where you save, or you spend a lot during the month. A motorhome can travel around 10mpg, so the further you travel, the more it will cost.
Additionally, if you are living in a travel trailer, then you can use more gas than this depending on the size of the trailer. It may be you only reach around 6mpg while towing. A reasonable estimate will be $300 to $500 per month on fuel.
Many full-time RVers recommend bumping up your insurance if possible. Adding roadside assistance is also a bonus for those times you are in the middle of nowhere and need help. You can spend in the region of $100 per month, yet this can vary on towing cars or the size of the trailer.
This again will vary depending on a person by person basis. It can run you between $150 – $250 per month for coverage per person.
Years ago it may have been possible to do without the internet, yet nowadays, it is impossible to do without. You can do without a TV because most of what you may wish to watch can be found online one way or another.
The internet is also one of the communication methods you may require to carry on working while on the road away from your home state. You may access a job board for casual work, or you run online businesses.
Cell phones are also another communication means and are often the way you will have your internet. Costs can range from $70 to $230 per month, depending on how many options you have out of the three.
RV Registration Costs: This is more of an annual cost than a month and can be up to $115 per year if you tow a car for local driving around.
RV Maintenance: You may not spend each month on maintaining your RV or trailer camper, yet you do have to be sure to budget for this.
Some costs may be off-set with insurance or roadside assistance, yet the following can come to all lifetime RVers throughout their journeys.
- Oil changes and engine maintenance
- Brakes and tire changes
These and many more are to keep you on the road. With these, you don’t include the things that come with the living portion of your RV.
Window caulking, plumbing issues, or waste tank breakages can all happen at some stage, no matter what rig you drive on your adventure. Monthly budgeting should be around $150 per month.
Mail Services: $25 to $50 per month
Propane: Cooking and heating cost can rise and fall because of the sites you may stay at that have electrical hookups or the number of nights you go boondocking.
The primary usage of propane in an RV comes from keeping the refrigerator cool. Or for heating if you travel to colder climates. It can cost anywhere from $15 to $50 per month on average.
Depending on your initial budget, it is possible to incorporate solar power into your RV living, yet these can come with a substantial cost in the first place.
All of the above can be what you would pay if you were in a stick home, although they come from a different area.
All these are just to keep you on the road as if you were paying rent, and you can’t get away from these too far.
The following set of expenses is more personal, and you have some control over these in comparison to the above.
The other thing is these won’t vary that much no matter where you are in the country because everything is roughly the same.
Food: If you are the outdoorsy type, you may find eating healthier meals a better option. It can be nice to make friendships and try restaurants in the new places you visit, yet you can hike up your monthly food bill doing so.
Many an RVer mix and match, so you can allocate around $400 for regular groceries and $250 approximately for dining out.
Personal Care: Haircuts and personal grooming can come to all of us no matter where we live, be it in the city or the woods. This cost is variable, depending on your personal needs.
Laundry: It may not be possible to carry out any laundry duties while RVing. There isn’t generally enough space for a washer, and doing it by hand can be a drain on water resources. Some full-timers will tell you they can wash their clothes at some RV parks, although not all offer this.
Clothes washing can be something left for the weekends, but you will need to use the dryer due to a lack of space in RVs. Costs can range anywhere between $40 and $60 per month.
Toad Payments: If you are towing another vehicle, you may find other costs. You can find this in the range of $200 to $600, depending on what you are towing.
Entertainment & Hobbies: You can encounter all manner of activities in this section. You can spend time with your family, with neighbors, or spend time with your kids.
If you are on a campsite, it may be quieter, yet there is always something to do without spending, or you can visit the local movie theater.
If you take every chance to go hiking, mountain biking, or kayaking, then your costs can vary, though, for a lot of younger RVers, these are limited and mostly carried out by ones in retirement.
Once you total all the above, you can have cheap RV living, or you can go to the other end of the budget. The main thing is no matter what your budget, you do have the freedom.
Tips for Living in a Camper Trailer or RV
In this beginner’s guide, there is lots of information. Much relates to what you need to pay for, and what you need to do before you set off. A beginner’s guide must offer some tips as a summary, so here is ours.
Make a checklist: There are places for everything once you are on the road if anything is out of places as you begin driving, or you go out, and something is left turned on. Everything needs securing; your generator needs turning off.
Communication: You may think it is easy to communicate when living in a small area; however, it is even more important. The last thing any people want to experience in such a small space is arguments on a trip.
Be prepared for the unexpected: Put plans in place for when the worst happens
Be sure to have fun: It can be a one in a million chance to travel where you like, be it Los Angeles, Miami, or to Orlando. There are countless opportunities for every age to benefit from this kind of living.
Making Money in an RV
Not everyone has the luxury of heading off to live on the road in retirement, and they do need jobs to make money.
Luckily, there are many ways you can make some cash on the road, unlike years ago, when you would be limited in your opportunities.
Here are a few jobs where you can make some money:
Amazon: Amazon always hires for its fulfillment centers at busy times of the year. These can last a couple of months at a time, yet it may be just enough to build up your fund for the next stint of your travels.
Crop harvesters: People of all ages can take part in harvesting crops. Toward the end of September, there is an influx of positions in firms such as The American Crystal Sugar Company.
Online Teaching: if you have skills, there is always the opportunity to carry out online Teaching. This can be one to one or sites such as Udemy, where you can create online courses.
YouTube: Many individuals make a living and a good one creating a YouTube Channel. Exploits of your RV trek can be sufficient to bring in the subscribers. Many of which can earn a six-figure income.
Work from Home: The list is endless, from writers, consultants to designers or programmers. Many firms now seek individuals who are keen to have a home office rather than work in their headquarters or regional offices daily.
Once you live the life of an RVer, it may be hard to go back. However, you do need to do all your homework first, so hopefully, this guide has shown you a thing or three to get you started.
Heading off on the road can be one of the most significant challenges you can face, yet looking back is something very few RVers tend to do.