Tuesday, August 11, 2015

RV Corps of Discovery

Dear Dr. R.V. Shrink:
We found your articles while surfing the web. We are thinking about buying an RV and traveling like so many others. Our biggest question seems to be how much money it costs to live on the road. Can you give us some idea of the expenses we might encounter? Is there a rule of thumb, like the 4% rule of making a retirement nest egg last and not outliving your money? Any input would be greatly appreciated. --Bean Counter in Bend

Dear Bean Counter:
One size does not fit all. You can’t lump everyone’s RV cost of living budgets into one figure, anymore than you can lump together the sedentary lifestyle cost of living budgets.

Wherever you weigh-in on the financial scale you can find a niche in the RV lifestyle. Put pen to paper and create a road budget. It is so easy to find regional costs online for fuel, camping, maintenance, food and services.

You should be able to calculate your capabilities into a travel scenario that fits the ideas you have. From the type of rig you plan to travel with, to the type of camping you plan to do, will make a huge difference in your cost of living. You may not get it right the first time, but experience will reveal to you the possibilities of a nomadic lifestyle that fits your interests, needs and means.

So many people never get out of the driveway because of the unknown. The adventure is the unknown. The steeper the learning curve the more fun it is. Once you get it all figured out it becomes less exciting.

There are many sayings that originated with the flintlock rifle. They are all well suited to beginning a life on the road in an RV. “Going off half-cocked, ” “Flash in the pan,” “Straight as a ramrod,” Lock stock and barrel,” and “Keep your powder dry.”

These come to mind because we met a couple just beginning their own RV lifestyle at Fort Clatsop, the winter encampment for the Corps of Discovery. It was their first volunteer job and they were doing reenactments. All those sayings were part of their program.

I thought how ironic, Lewis and Clark, two of the first North American explorers, are being historically represented by modern day North American explorers.

So do your homework and come join the rest of us in the Corps of Discovery.
--Keep Smilin’, Dr. R.V. Shrink


Merikay MacKenna said...

I think people who know how to live within their means in a sticks and bricks with a regular job, will be able to live within their means on the road. If you are one who is always in debt and can't manage your money, RVing is not a way out. You have to be realistic, have a plan, and have a buffer for unexpected. Luck has nothing to do with it.

jkoenig24 said...

When talking with RV "newbies" or "hope to bees" I always recommend they find and attend an RV Boot Camp. Escapees RV Club run a great boot camp, usually over a weekend (Friday afternoon through Sunday noon). Other groups offer boot camps too. Another benefit of attending a boot camp is that attendees get to meet many other RVers and see many different types of RVs. For folks who do not yet have an RV, there are always motels or cabins on site or nearby. As mistakes with RVs are often expensive and, sometimes dangerous, the time and money spent attending n RV Boot Camp is VERY well spent.

Lorane said...

For anyone thinking about RV full timing, there is an invaluable website:

Howard and Linda Payne provide their financials, along with a journal of their travels.

Jerry X Shea said...

Gas is gas and mpg of your RV will help on that cost. Food is food, eating out a lot (which defeats the purpose of a RV kitchen) or cooking in will be no different from home. Your big question mark is "cost of parks." If you intend to live full time, as my wife and I have done for 9 years, you must "front load" your camping costs by joining Coast to Coast ($10-15 per night) Resorts of Distinction ROD (free parking), Passport America (50% off), RPI (discount) - and staying in their membership parks. Free BLM helps also. "Front loading" means you pay up front to join and then yearly dues, but over time it well pay for itself. Example: we did a 2 year tour of the east & southern states, 2012-2013 - our cost per day to park our 40' motorhome was $18.36 per day. We stayed at one park that was a ROD and the daily rate was $125, we paid "0" for 7 days. Talk to others, but spend the money up front.

havanadan said...

For the best answer available go to rv-dreams.com and look at Howard and Linda's financial pages detailing full-timing costs, budgets and actual expenditures.

Ellen said...

I agree with all commenters -- and the RV Shrink :) But would add a note of caution about those "front-loaded" options Jerry mentions. BEFORE you invest in any of those memberships, make sure they cover areas/campgrounds/RV parks you're likely to visit. And the more expensive they are, the more you'll need to justify the expense. We know of people who've spent thousands of dollars in high-end RV club memberships -- "We can stay for FREE" they say -- but they can only stay for X number of days, in X places, etc. We've also met many people trying to re-sell memberships nobody else wants. Good Sam, Escapees, and Passport America are pretty good bets. KOA -- maybe.

I'd also add that in our six years of full-timing, we've downsized our rig because we wanted to be more flexible in how we travel and where we stay. Some people go bigger. So assume your first RV will NOT be your last. Budget accordingly :)

We've spent anywhere from $1200 in a month to $4000, depending on where gas prices were (we've seen them fluctuate $2/gallon or more in our six years), how much we were spending on overnight stays, etc.

Don't assume you'll need wifi, an iPhone, and high-end, expensive tech gadgets. Many full-timers have them and love them; many of us manage just fine without them (lots of free cable TV and wifi around).

I'd also add that -- in our case -- keeping track of every nickel and dime has helped us see where our biggest expenses are and how the money is flowing. A big plus our first year or two!