Simply put, living in an RV is not as complicated as you might think. Nerve-wracking yes, complicated, not exactly. I look back at all the mistakes we made as beginners and wish I would have a checklist, a guide, or even an article such as this to make the transition a whole lot smoother.
I can’t imagine the money I would have saved, the time I wish I could have back or even the knowledge that could have been gained. But then again, I really think that since I attended the school of “hard knocks” it is really the only way for me.
That being said, I have come up with the top ten questions that looking back, I wish I could have asked the veteran full-time RV lifer from day one. The following is a compilation, in no certain order of those exact questions.
Whether you have been pondering this for quite some time or the thought just came to you yesterday, this is the article for you. Some may think these questions are simple but if you have been down the road as we have one is just as important as the next. As the rule of questioning goes, there are no stupid questions. Let’s get started.
Some of my favorite moments have been sitting by the fire watching the stars
1. What is a full-time RV living?
Many books have been written about the “how to” of RV living, very few addresses the “what.” To be very honest, the “what” is why most of you are here right now questioning the life you are living at this very moment. RV living brings a lot into perspective when it comes to the rut we live in now and what we can do to make it better. Stress is what I sought to avoid, and I really think I have found it living full-time in an RV.
When living full-time in an RV we have a daily “bucket list” not a schedule.
Though we do seem to wake up and get started at the same time every day it’s not because we had to it’s because we wanted to. Like the song goes, we live like we were dying.
Asking someone on their deathbed what is it that you regret and it usually is the places they wish they would have gone, the things they wish they would have done and the people they wish they could have met. Full-time RVers live this life every day.
2. What is RV living like?
Full-time RV living is like heaven on earth. We do what we dream. We cherish every day and the new scenery it provides.
I have yet to see two oceans, mountains, streams, forests or sunrises that look the same. It’s the ability to enjoy the great outdoors and the new experiences along the way. I used to think bird watching was for dorks, now that I have joined them, I too can appreciate them.
Full-timers wake up every day refreshed, relaxed and are comfortable wearing old clothes. We avoid time-clocks, lunch periods and yelling yabba-dabba-doo at the five o’clock whistle. There is no rush hour as well, those really do take up too much of our time.
Once you have fully committed to living this life it is like a ton of bricks has been lifted off of your shoulders. Why? Because we no longer have to “feed the beast.” That voracious animal that has forced you to live paycheck to paycheck. People are literally living to work to pay a bill that comes every month without even knowing they are feeding the beast that will keep them confined for the next forty years if they don’t make changes.
The list of responsibilities attached to feeding the beast just keeps growing and growing. It’s a system we get locked into and literally think there is no way out. Then when it comes time to go on Vacation, after 340 days of thinking about it we stress over having enough money to spend. Suddenly this holiday is either put on the credit card or turns into the dreaded “staycation.”
All the while the beast just eats and grows and shows no remorse.
3. What does it cost?
Full timers can operate on a budget of $1200-$1500 a month. Crazy as it sounds it is possible. Especially if you have eliminated the bulk of your payments.
There just aren’t that many necessities we need. Food, insurance, and fuel are our three largest expenses. This is easy to budget and as you will see later, easy to earn.
Food is always a challenge. Just think about it, if you can find a way to spend $10 less a day that’s $300 a month.
With more time on our hands, we always find a way to use coupons and buy at a discount.
The biggest hurdle is storage, there just isn’t enough room to have a lot of food on hand. That alone keeps us from saving by buying food in bulk. Excessive weight from can goods and avoiding waste from perishables is also considered. This is why we grocery shop consistently every three to four days.
I will never forget the day we sold the house to purchase our truck and travel trailer. The step forward that we achieved was short after realizing that we had to sell all of the junk we had accumulated. It takes a little wind out of your sail when you sell something still “new in the box” for a fraction of what you paid for it.
That day we made the decision to become minimalist, its all about want vs need. When we want something we have a tendency to buy it when we need something it is up for discussion. Remember, pulling a home on wheels is all about weight, we only load what we need.
Most RV’s have a dry weight at the beginning and a gross weight at the end. This normally equates to 1500-2000 pounds of fluids and cargo that you can add. Budgeting, planning, and preparing are easy, bring what you need as long as it isn’t too heavy.
4. Is an RV life safe?
Safety is an illusion. Just about the time you think you have it all figured out you come home and the TV is gone. The alarm went off and didn’t scare them away and the phone call from the monitoring station took too long.
It happens every day in every kind of neighborhood. Camping areas do not attract crime, there are simply too many alert people watching out for each other. Neighborhoods, on the other hand, have people who have never even met the people next door that have lived there for years. But the timers you set to turn the lights on and off at different hours to make people think you were home worked fine.
Your neighbor just knocked on the door wondering why you did not answer when all the light were on. If you think about it how many times a year does someone actually knock on your door? It happens daily in camping areas. There are a lot of people helping people.
We have spent many hours under the awning talking with people we just met sharing great ideas. Can’t really ever remember talking about how safe we feel. I can remember one conversation about how I would rather die to fall off of my mountain bike as compared to being shot in a robbery though.
5. Where do I begin?
You start today! You start here and now. Start with your exit strategy. Once you are fully committed your mind works wonders on making it work. Do not waste your days trying to prolong this with all of the what-ifs that turn into shoulda, woulda, coulda, its time. Time to live with less junk and more journey. Just think about the places you’ll go, people, you’ll meet and the things you’ll do on your way. Yes, there are fears of breakdowns, towing challenges, and something going wrong that we didn’t think of but do not worry, Good Sam is on the way. This is just one of the many memberships made for just this type of disaster. Every beginner makes mistakes, most do not even know the first thing about how RV’s work. Just make sure you pay close attention during orientation and if not be advised, there is a video out now that can answer any question.
6. Is RV Living Legal?
Well, of course, it is legal. That is as long as you pay your taxes!
Recently HUD, The Department of Housing and Urban Development did try to pass legislation against “Tiny Homes.” This dealt mainly with people living on their own land in dwellings under 400 square feet. In 2017 the bill did carry a lot of momentum.
The bill was put together to recoup lost revenues from building and zoning code permits and to put a stop to the people that did not pay property taxes on small dwellings. When it got to the point of adding mobile to the mix the ten million RV owners stepped in and almost crushed it. The proposal received a lot of negative press. It became an issue to prove what full-time actually is.
The insurance company’s claim that six months of living in your RV is full-time and charge a premium for this. Again I ask, how would you know how many nights we slept in our Coach? The challenge to ever seeing this proposal come to fruition is proving that full-time RV life enthusiasts are actually doing just that, living full time in an RV.
7. What is my address?
Your address is located in the State in which you “Establish your Domicile.” This can be a post office box in the town you most recently lived in, the State you frequent often or anything that ties you to that State. Your driver’s license is issued from the State where you establish your domicile. This is also where you would file your tax return by marking it as home. As you roam around the country be aware that most campgrounds require an address when registering for an extended stay.
I have found the States that are the most cooperative with full-time RVers establishing domicile are:
* South Dakota
I did write an article on this subject in a recent article.
8. What is Boondocking?
When staying in an established campground there are hook-ups for electricity, water, and a dump station. Imagine staying in a remote area without any hook-ups. This is boon-docking. Whether remotely or locally in a Walmart or Cabelas parking lot you have to set up your RV to provide hook-ups to amenities.
Water, propane, and waste can be stored for a short period of time. Electricity will run out in a matter of hours. Other than being set-up for solar or by using a portable generator for electricity there is no power in these locations.
To be on the safe side make prior arrangements for fresh water, power, propane, restroom needs, and entertainment before considering boon-docking. Most full-time RVers create a written checklist for this Being fully aware of what you need is crucial.
On a side note, Cabelas has a special deal you may want to check out. With a certain dollar amount purchase, some stores offer electric and water hook-ups for overnight stays. This is not something I have done, just something I learned sitting under the awning one evening.
“Mooch-docking” is the term given to those who park in the driveway of a friend or family member. In most occasions, electricity and fresh water can be piped into your RV from the house.
At times, with permission, the mooch docker can run inside to shower and use the bathroom facilities to avoid filling the gray and black water tanks. Good friends like this is an added bonus.
9. What Class of RV should I buy?
The choice is yours, which class will you choose? We started with a Travel Trailer
There two categories of RV’s, motorized and pull behind. One has the motor in it the other in front of it.
Outside of the categories, we have six classes:
1. Class A
2. Class B
3. Class C
4. Fifth wheel
5. Travel trailer
6. All others
The majority of Full-time RVers have years of experience before going full-time. The rest usually start with a truck and a travel trailer. I like this idea. Living in a travel trailer gives you many benefits.
* The unit that pulls the travel trailer gives you the freedom to make a run into town when needed.
* With a truck, you have more room to store stuff in the bed.
* Most trucks can be purchased equipped with a tow package and hitch.
* Travel trailers offer many of the creature comforts of home.
* The overall experience of daily living in it gives you the opportunity to know if you want to change classes.
Other than the experience I feel the best bit of advice to give to a “newbie” is to have good checklists. Written checklists are crucial, the mental checklist is forgotten. Looking at checklists gets the creative mind working to things you didn’t realize you needed and the ability to come up with a few ideas of your own.
Keep in mind that the most important aspect of going over the road is weight. You must stay within the weight limits of the truck, trailer, cargo and fluids as suggested by the manufacturer. A good checklist might also include what things weigh to help you arrive at gross weight. As a general rule, most coaches can handle between 1500-2500 pounds of cargo and fluids. There are several examples of checklists available on this site.
10. Where should I go?
On your first adventure, I would suggest heading out to see a friend or family member you haven’t been around in a while. Not only will this kindle a good relationship it also offers some security in knowing you are among people that can help you if you have trouble. It also creates a great story for your friends to tell and a lasting memory of the first place you went. Besides they may just have that monkey wrench or roll of duct tape you forgot and have no access too.
Next, I would spend some quality time planning out an adventure to a low budget State park, National Park or large public campground where you can get involved in a community of people that are doing exactly what you are. All RV’s should have an awning. Enjoying an afternoon or evening talking with people you have never met is the biggest joy of going full-time. Sitting under the awning waving at the people passing by is just the type of invitation you need to get the ball rolling to new relationships.
Lastly, I would go in the direction of some scenery. Mountains, streams, forests, lakes and tourist attractions should be somewhere in the mix. The reason we began with friends and family and then to a low budget area is to give you a sense of what this actually might cost. Budgeting for the next big adventure is a necessity when hitting the open road. There is just so much to see and do. Being of a member of one of the major travels clubs gives you a book of places that would literally take a lifetime to see.
11. How will I make money?
Making money while living in an RV is not as complicated as one might think. There are many opportunities to earn while on the road. Some require specific skills, most are simple. Without getting into the details of each one here are a few ideas I have come across:
1. Work part-time in State and National Parks
2. Start a website blog
3. Create your own You-tube channel
4. Dog-walking, there are a couple of apps for this
5. Uber & Lyft
6. Amazon Associate or Bookstore through FBA
7. Esty, selling your own arts and crafts
8. Red Bubble, digital art
9. Upwork, using your existing skills
10. Workamper program
11. Selling items on Craigslist or Ebay
12. Flea markets sales
13. Working the harvest, depending on the season and region
Always remember, with this lifestyle the majority of your money does not go to debt. You are not working daily to make a payment, living paycheck to paycheck. The full-time RV life offers more access to things most people can’t find. So go out and get creative, live stress-free!
So there you have the answers to our top 10 questions that we have been asked after years of living full-time in an RV.