What does it cost to live full time in our truck camper? We get asked this question a lot! This past January at the Truck Camper Adventure Rally in Quartzsite, Arizona, we were even on a panel during a workshop about full-time living.
Steve and I are pretty open about our costs, which may be a little on the higher end. But while sharing our costs, we want to help you look at your own needs in order to create your own realistic budget. If you’re thinking about going full-time, then hopefully our numbers will give you a good starting point.
There’s no Right Answer to the cost to live full-time
If you don’t take away anything else today, just know that there’s not a right or wrong answer to your own full time RV living costs. Not everyone has the same earning capacity or savings. And not everyone wants to travel all over.
Some people would rather go to one destination and stay for months. So your budget will depend greatly upon your own plans, needs and desires. Just like ours does.
What’s our setup?
In 2020, we paid cash for our 2005 Dodge Ram 3500 DRW truck and 2020 Arctic Fox 990 truck camper, Cupcake. We used money from selling our Dodge Pleasure Way Camper Van, a little inheritance from my Dad’s passing and some savings.
You may or may not be able to pay cash for your RV, so a loan payment is definitely a consideration when figuring your cost to live full-time in an RV.
Upfront costs of RV Ownership
The RV you select will make a difference in your projected costs. Newer RVs have higher upfront costs, but potentially lower maintenance fees. While older RVs are obviously cheaper to purchase, but the maintenance costs may be higher than you plan for.
We don’t tow a vehicle, but a lot of people (even in truck campers) do. So you’ll need to decide if you’re using a car you already own or if you’re buying a little car to tow. These are the biggest expenses in setting up for a full time RV lifestyle.
Costs for inside your RV
There are also some costs involved for setting up your own rig, just the way you want it. But for the most part, you’ll probably already have everything you really need for inside. These are things like:
- Pots and pans
You may need to purchase a few items that you don’t already have duplicates of. Things like:
- Organization baskets and supplies
- Cooking spices
- Decorative items
- Velcro tape, double-sided sticky tape for hanging pictures & sticking things down
- Command hooks
Once you have all the basics covered for your RV, then it’s just the normal costs of living left to cover. Whether that’s as a full time RVer or as a weekend camper or as someone who takes a few-months-long trip at one time.
Does it Cost Less to live in an RV than in a House?
No, it does not cost less to live in an RV than it does in a house. That’s the simple answer. But, also it’s true that it could cost less to live in an RV than in a house. So how can both be true?
It’s simple, as it really boils down to what is important to you. A used RV parked in one location for an extended period of time will obviously cost less than a newer RV and traveling around the country.
Maybe you like to boondock in free BLM areas and stay for the entire allowed time period. That’s much cheaper than traveling to luxury RV resorts with swimming pools and lots of activities. So honestly, you can live very cheaply. Or you can spend as much money living in an RV as you do living in a sticks and bricks home.
Like I said, there’s no right or wrong way to RV. It’s really all about what works for you. In the hiking world, we say Hike Your Own Hike (HYOH). Well, that’s true in the RV world too. You do you and don’t let anyone tell you it’s wrong.
What about all that Tiny Living Hooplah?
I know there are people who choose to live tiny in order to reduce their footprint and their cost of living. That isn’t necessarily us, however I do think it’s possible to live more simply. And that’s what full time RV living is more about for us. Living simply and exploring life through activities and places, rather than through obtaining more things.
Steve and I pay cash for everything we buy. And for me, that’s the best way to capitalize on tiny living. Now what I mean by paying cash may not be what you mean. Because actually, we use a credit card for every purchase we can. This allows us to gain airline miles and hotel reward points.
HOWEVER and this is the main point: We pay it off in full every month and we don’t buy anything we can’t afford to actually use cash dollars for.
Living tiny in an RV allows many people to pay off credit card and other debt and to that I say, more power to you. Park where you can live cheaply and get yourself out of debt. That’s awesome and I congratulate your determination. Keep reading to see what our realistic living costs are.
Let’s take a look at our 2021 Costs
Steve and I have been full time RVers since July, 2020 and we don’t really have plans to change our lifestyle anytime soon. The biggest dictator of our choice though is money. We’re both starting to do some freelance work, which will help supplement our savings. We also earn a little income from YouTube and from Patreon. But we’re also still both looking for something a little more dependable.
Here are our expenses for 2021:
Specific Truck Camper Related Costs
Specific truck and camper expenses (rounded to the nearest dollar) include:
- Diesel $9,310
- Propane $459
- Truck Maintenance $3,266
- Camper Maintenance $612
- Registration and Insurance $693
- Campground Fees $3,220
- Total Truck Camper Costs = $17,560
So you can see that for us, simply owning and operating our truck camper in the way that we do costs about $1,463 per month.
Regular Living Expenses
Our remaining expenses are those that you would have as a full time RVer or as a regular sticks and bricks dweller. You probably have some differing expenses, but for us, these are things like groceries, eating out, visiting tourist sites, health care, renters & life insurance, connectivity and website fees.
We like to eat out, so you can see from percentages below that restaurants are about 13.5% of our budget. Since food is important, some of our grocery expenses may be higher than yours. I love, love, love good cheeses and fancy little crackers. Long before the popularity of charcuterie boards, I was happily paying for quality cheeses.
Maybe you’re good with spending less of your budget on food and restaurants. And that’s okay. But for us, it’s what we like to do when exploring new areas. We enjoy hiking, exploring and trying local cuisines.
Total 2021 Cost to Live Full time in our Truck Camper
Our total expenses in 2021 were $50,942. Yours might be higher or lower. But you can see from the percentage breakdown above where our own priorities lie.
Although it isn’t explicitly broken down, laundry costs about $40/month on average.
Steve and I belong to the KOA Rewards program, but that’s the only campground program we’re part of. A kind viewer of our YouTube channel, Cupcake Chronicles, gifted us a Boondockers Welcome annual pass. But so far, we’ve not had the opportunity to use it.
Both it and Harvest Hosts offer platforms for private people and businesses to offer overnight RV stays at no charge, in agreement that the stay-ee purchase something from the business. These are great programs, we’ve just not yet taken advantage of them.
Our KOA Rewards pass costs $33 per year and it gains us 10% off individual stays. We may try a different program next year, but for now, this one works for us.
how do you decide if you can afford full time living costs?
Creating a good budget is the first step you can take to decide if you can afford the cost to live full time in an RV. There are lots of great budget planners out there, so I’m just going to suggest that you Google it. But I will encourage you to be honest with yourself when filling your plan out.
How much savings do you have? What income will you continue bringing in? Then take a look at healthcare costs, which can be huge. We currently have insurance through Oregon state, which we obtained through the insurance marketplace. But we actually pay out of pocket for doctor visits and prescriptions. Your own healthcare costs will likely play a large part in your decision to go full time. Lots of things are great about our country, but unfortunately healthcare costs are not one of them. :/
I hope I’ve given you some food for thought and that you can take your own planning to the next step. Feel free to drop a comment if you have specific questions and I’ll try to give you a clear and helpful answer!