It’s always a big question. Probably one of our top questions. So we took the time to break it down and calculate what does living in an RV Full Time cost. It should be noted that this was our expenses for the year. Many people ask if this is a less expensive way to live. I believe it can be. However, for our first year, that was not the case.
Being honest here… It cost a lot more in our first year than we anticipated. And a lot more than we budgeted for. As we go through some of the categories, we can go over why this happened.
Right now, at the time this article is being written, the average price for a gallon of diesel is $5.32 in the USA. There were places it was cheaper. Certainly places it was more expensive. And we did our traveling over the course of 2022, not just today. But for the purposes of this article, let’s use $5.32. We drive about 250 miles per travel day. We like to drive no more than once a week. When towing we average 9 miles per gallon. Then about 1 more tank (30 gallons) for exploring the week that we’re in that location
250 miles divided by 9 miles per gallon equals 27.8 gallons for travel. Another 30 gallons for exploring. We’re at just about 58 gallons of diesel at $5.32 a gallon. Total is $308.56 per week. Or $16,045.12 per year.
When we budgeted and planned for this adventure, diesel was about $2.20 nation wide. Shame on us for not recalculating the budget. But we were anticipating about $6,635.20 with the same amount of travel. We probably could have cut down the fuel cost if we’d stayed places longer. But we wanted to see more things!
Campground costs have had an average of $42 per night. Lowest being free stays while boondocking or moochdocking. Highest has been $125 per night in New Orleans. There price was worth it with 8′ high concrete walls topped with razor wire, gated entry, and security on duty 24/7. But extremely costly. Thankfully we were only there for 4 nights.
Again, poor planning, or unrealistic expectations… We anticipated doing more boondocking. It should be noted, we didn’t do poorly, which helped. Over the course of 2022 we camped for free 105 days. I don’t even want to imagine what the cost would have been if we had only stayed in campgrounds.
365 days in a year minus 105 nights free equals 260. 260 days times $42 per night equals $10,920
We have 2 – 40 lb. tanks for the RV and 1 – 25 lb. tank for outdoor cooking. Warmer months we only had to fill 1 of the 40 lb. tanks per month. And the smaller 25 lb. tank twice a month. Now that we are stationary in the winter, in NJ, we are averaging 1 – 40 lb. tank every 10 days due to the heat running. Propane is 3.40 p/gal average. The 40 lb. tank hold 9.4 gallons. And the 25 lb tank holds 4.6 gallons. We aren’t using the 25 lb. tank now, as neither of us wants to stand outside to cook. Plus cooking inside the camper helps to heat it up! Thankfully, we were in warm weather from February through October. And only in the cold for January, November, and now December.
Warmer months we used 18.6 gallons (90 lbs.) of propane per month. That total is $63.24. Colder months we used 28.2 gallons (120 lbs.) of propane. Total there is $95.88. Three months of cold was $288. And 9 months of warm was $570. Grand total of $858 for the year.
Being in the cold was never really part of the plan. And just like the price of diesel, propane has gone up too. In 2020 the average was $1.98. Overall though the cost of the propane isn’t what has broke the budget.
RV Full Time Cost of Gasoline
We use a solar system which charges the batteries enough to last about 10 hours overnight when boondocking. However, we still require the use of a generator if we want the AC unit on. And for about 2 hours in the morning before the solar panels really start charging. And that’s when boondocking in fair weather with optimal sun exposure.
There have been plenty of times that the generator runs for 12 hours during the day because we’re in a wooded area. We are averaging about 3 gallons of gas per 11 hours of run time. The average price of gasoline is $3.91 per gallon. This isn’t a daily expense, but like I said before, we did boondock for 105 days this year. The generator has 803 hours of run time on it. It was purchased new for the camper.
Because or little gas can is 3 gallons. Let’s take the 803 and divide by 11. That’s 73 times we filled the gas can. $3.91 time 3 gallons is $11.73 per gas fill. $11.73 times 73 is $856.29 for the year.
This is an expense whether you live in an RV or not. However, when factoring in your budget, it isn’t something you want to forget about either. When we first hit the road, we were eager to do All Of The Things. Including eating out a LOT. This brought our grocery cost down a little bit. But significantly increased our entertainment expenses. Since reigning that in quite a bit. Our average grocery costs are $250 per week. This includes all cleaning products, toiletries, household items, and actual food for the 2 of us, plus Lagertha.
$250 per week times 52 weeks. That’s $13,000 for a year to eat and clean yourself and your RV.
Like I just said, this has been something that we have had to reign in. We don’t have unlimited funds. Plus when living the Full Time RV Life, you need to continually remind yourself that YOU CAN ALWAYS COME BACK!! And… THIS ISN’T A PERMINENT VACATION. So do a few things on this trip, and plan to come back to the area again and do a few more things.
We were seriously out of control when we started off. Our entertainment expenses were exceeding $500 per week between stopping at bars, eating out, and then doing museum tours, airboat rides, snorkeling, the Kentucky Derby, and anything else we wanted to do. Now, that budget is below $100 per week. We had about 3 months at that ridiculous $500 a week cost.
12 weeks at $500 is $6,000. 40 weeks at $100 is $4,000. Plus $5,000 for our tickets to the Kentucky Derby. Total spent on entertainment for 2022 is $15,000. This was just dumb. Like really dumb… You Only Live Once Though, right????
RV Full Time Cost of Laundry
What an ever fluctuating expense! We’ve paid as little as $1 per load to wash. And as much as $4 per wash. However, we average $8 to wash everything. And about $6 to dry everything. We do laundry once a week.
$14 times 52 weeks in the year is $728 total for 1 year of laundry.
This is something that we honestly forgot to even plan for. We had a washing machine and a dryer in our house. We knew we weren’t going to have one in the RV. But it was still overlooked when planning our budget. Maybe we thought we’d use a scrub board down by the river. I don’t know.
Incidentals and Repairs
Thankfully Doug can literally fix anything. And if he doesn’t know how to fix it, he’s quick to jump on YouTube to watch a video and learn. I am not gifted with the skill of mechanics. I’ll cook you a 5 star meal with wicked flavor combinations. But fixing things is not really in my wheelhouse.
The leaf spring on the truck was our most expensive repair at $1000 for the parts and Doug doing the work with the help of our Boondockers Welcome Hosts shop in Illinois. But we’ve had countless slide cables break, a leaking refrigerator, an unbalanced worn tire, poor electrical connections, and several other minor things.
Total repairs and incidental costs have far exceeded our expectations at $5000 for the year. And that was without the cost of labor.
We factored in about $1500 in yearly repair cost. For most, this is a low number. But we knew that Doug would be doing any and all work, so we wouldn’t have labor costs. Kind of blew that budget, and none of it was controllable.
Time To Tally RV Full Time Cost
We are currently stationary. This has negated the cost of gasoline. And has reduced our expenses in diesel, campgrounds, entertainment, and with any luck repairs. If we were boondocking, we could reduce the campground expense. But we are stationary, so the monthly rate is lower than the average nightly rate.
Diesel – $16,045.12
Campgrounds – $10,920
Propane – $858
Gasoline – $856.29
Groceries – $13,000
Entertainment – $15,000
Laundry – $728
Incidentals and Repairs – $5,000
Grand Total of – – – $62,407.41
Where did we go wrong? Entertainment for starters! Never should we have ever spent that much money on entertaining ourselves. Yes! We were taking this time to enjoy life while we are still young and able. And we’ve certainly checked off a few bucket list items, like the Kentucky Derby. But we had no business dropping $15,000 over the course of the year. We also didn’t adjust the budget for the increase in fuel cost. Diesel is the big one. The propane and gasoline prices, although high, are not what broke us.
The need to establish a budget when starting this lifestyle is the upmost importance. But even more important than establishing a budget is STICKING TO THE BUDGET! We are currently stationary and recouping some of the money we’ve over spent. Hopefully reading this will help you in preparing your budget and learning by our mistakes to stick to it when you take on this epic adventure yourself.