How Do People Afford To Live In An RV Full Time? 31 Tips For Cheap RV Living

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Is Cheap RV Living Possible?

Thinking about RV living and wondering how do people afford to live in an RV Full Time? Or if cheap RV living is really even possible?

I know those were our family’s biggest questions before we hit the road to start full time RVing in 2015. You are in the right article!

After 9 years RV living on the road, we have learned many tricks to afford the full time RV lifestyle. In this post, we will share 31 tips for how to save money and enjoy RV living on less.

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RV camping on the beach and girl taking photos - Cheap RV Living

Can It Really Be Cheap To Live In An RV?

When it comes to the cost of living, RV living is often seen as more economical compared to other housing options. Not only that, but you get priceless experiences from your journey that money can’t buy!

Is living as a full time RVer really cheaper or a cheap lifestyle? The answer to this is determined by the way that you choose to travel.

Stationary Costs Versus Traveling In An RV

Someone RV living full-time in one campground stationary will spend much less than another RV living camper life by criss-crossing the entire country.

How much does it cost to live at a campground year-round? While this varies a lot depending on location, RV parks under $500 a month do still exist.

I recently did some research to look for long term RV parks near me or RV parks under $500 a month near me and I found a great park in Ocala, FL right across the street from Silver Springs State Park.

I have found that there isn’t an easy fast way to find cheap long term RV parks. The best way is to start calling campgrounds in the area you wish to stay.

An important consideration when trying to figure out how much does it cost to live in an RV park is utilities. Short term weekly stays usually include electricity, but monthly stays are extra for utilities.

Traveling In An RV Within A Smaller Area

Living in an RV full-time and traveling in one general region or state will save money versus heading from Alaska to Florida or from the West Coast to the East Coast.

Choosing RVing full time in free BLM boondocking areas will offer huge savings over those that pick to stay in RV resorts or private campgrounds.

Cost Of Activities

It’s the same type of vast range for activities that RVers enjoy. Costs vary depending on the type of recreation you choose during your travels.

Activities and sightseeing can make or break an RV living budget. Museums, amusement parks, ticketed sporting events, or other paid activities can get pricey!

RVers that enjoy outdoor recreation often find cheap or free activities to enjoy during their travels. Activities like hiking, paddling, nature centers, and other outdoor adventures are often cheap or free.

Now you see what I mean by the cost of full-time RVing being wildly different depending on how an RVer likes to travel.

So when people ask us, is it cheaper to live in an RV, the answer really depends on if you travel and how.

No worries though! We have plenty of tips for how to get the most out of living in a camper full time on the cheap to help you afford the RV lifestyle.

RV Camping In A State Park - Cheap RV Living

Hacks For Cheap RV Living

There are plenty of tricks to keep RV living full time in your budget. It’s not necessarily a cheap lifestyle, but there are many ways to save money while full-time RV living.

Tips To Save Money On Campgrounds For Budget RV Living

The most expensive budget item in RV living is often campground costs.

Full-time RVers need to find a place to stay in their home on wheels each night, and this can end up being as much as a house payment if you aren’t careful.

No worries though! Over our years on the road, we have learned quite a few tricks to help you save more on RV parking to afford RV living.

1) Boondock For Free Places To Park Camper

By far, the best way to RV cheap is to camp for free! Luckily the US has many free camping areas located on federally owned land.

Common places to find free camping locations are national forests and on Bureau Of Land Management (BLM) land.

Use free camping apps like Campendium or The Dyrt to find great free boondocking locations.

Make sure to check out the regulations and rules for each camping location. Most locations are free but may require a permit. The cheapest way to camp is boondocking!

The rules for each location will also let you know how long you can stay in that area. Most locations allow you to stay 2 weeks. However, some spots specify how often you can stay and limit stays per season.

Another name for boondocking is dry camping because, normally, there are no RV facilities or hookups available for RV campers. You need to bring your own water and power source along.

Free camping is just one of the many benefits of boondocking. Many RVers love the extra space to spread out, fewer rules and regulations to follow, and the views found in most boondocking locations.

Boondocking is a great way to maximize your RV living budget!

2) Find Free Overnight RV Parking

Did you know that you can park your RV overnight for free in some business parking lots? When you need a free quick overnight stop, this can offer big savings for full time RVers.

Check out these businesses that sometimes allow RV overnight parking: casinos, rest stops, Cabellas, some tourist information centers, Cracker Barrel, and Walmart.

Check out free apps like Campendium and RV Parky to find allowed overnight RV parking locations. Ask for permission from the manager and look for signs in the parking lot to know if staying is allowed.

Some business locations allow free overnight parking, but others don’t. It’s important to do your homework and check things out, so you don’t get a knock on your door in the middle of the night.

Overnight free parking lot stays are a common RVer camping cheap hack on the way to the next location.

Girl Looking Out Over Water Voyageurs Least Visited National Park Ideas To Avoid Crowds

3) Stay At Each Campground Longer

Most campgrounds offer cheaper rates for longer stays that can offer significant savings over their nightly rate. This is a great hack for frugal camping.

Always contact a campground directly to find out if they offer a monthly or weekly rate. We commonly also see buy 6 nights and get a night free.

Monthly stays are usually the cheapest possible campground rate, but monthly stays are often also charged metered electricity usage.

Monthly campground rates, even with electric charges, are still the best deal compared to shorter-term stays. Even though campgrounds have gotten more expensive, there are still some great reasonable monthly RV campgrounds.

4) Cheap RV Living With Campground Discount Programs

Full time RVers commonly save money on campground fees by using campground discount programs.

These programs are inexpensive cards purchased annually that offer big savings on RV camping at participating locations.

Campground discount programs are a great trick for finding and booking cheap RV campsites.

Passport America

The no-brainer campground savings program for any full-time RVer is Passport America.

Passport America is a program to save 50% off of privately owned campground campsites and some chain campgrounds.

It is a cheap $44 annual program that every RVer can benefit from.

For many RV travelers, the savings of using the card for just one camping stay more than covers the cost of the program.

We have used our Passport America card all over the country to find cheap RV camping locations.

Harvest Hosts

A very popular and somewhat newer option to save on camping locations is the Harvest Hosts camping membership program.

Harvest Host members get overnight included accommodations at wineries, farms, golf courses, and breweries.

Most Harvest Host locations are no hookups dry camping, but some locations do offer electric hookups.

As part of the membership, you are encouraged to buy something to help support the business as part of your stay on their property.

Harvest Hosts RV camping is perfect for overnight stays en route to your next location. This can be a scenic and educational alternative to free parking lot camping overnight.

As a bonus, many Harvest Host locations have tours, tastings, or a great view to enjoy during your stay. Just a few nights of using this program usually covers the program cost.

KOA or Good Sam Discount Programs

KOA and Good Sam memberships are additional campground savings options. Both programs save RVers 10% off camping at KOA campgrounds or Good Sam RV parks.

If you often stay at these brands of campgrounds, then it makes sense to get their membership programs. Each program is inexpensive and good for a year.

Man and Girl Flying Kite On The Beach Tips Living In An RV Full Time

5) Cheap RVing With Campground Memberships

As much as you can save money by boondocking, not everyone wants to dry camp all the time! Sometimes it can be lovely to have full hookups or amenities like swimming pools.

For huge savings on campgrounds that also offer RV hookups, consider a campground membership program to stay in cheap RV campgrounds.

Lifetime campground memberships are similar to a timeshare but for campgrounds instead of condos. You have a higher upfront buy-in cost and maintenance fees yearly to continue the membership.

You own the membership for life and can sell it or transfer it to a family member if you are no longer using it.

Memberships include campgrounds all over the country that you can stay at for free or very cheap as part of your program. Each membership has different terms on how long you can stay per location and how often.

Popular campground memberships for full time RVing include Thousand Trails, Coast To Coast, and RPI (Resort Parks International).

Is Thousand Trails RV Membership WORTH It?

Hacks To Save Money On Activities Living In An RV

When RV traveling, it’s very tempting to want to see and do as much as possible in every location you visit. In our first year on the road, I had a huge list and wanted to do ALL THE THINGS at each stop in our adventure.

Not only was that tiring, but it also cost a fortune. You can save money and still have an amazing time while RV traveling by cutting back on this area of your travel budget.

6) Pick Cheap Or Free Outdoor Activities

Going outside in nature is not only an excellent way to explore and experience the destination, but it’s also a great way to save money on activities!

With such a wide selection of cheap or free outdoor opportunities available, you can find something that fits your budget.

Our family absolutely adores hiking, and we find it to be the perfect free activity for our vacations. Most places have amazing trails nearby that are ideal for a nature-filled exploration!

Paddling is something we can’t get enough of. Usually, renting a canoe or kayak isn’t expensive at all.

For those who really fall in love with the sport, investing in their own paddling equipment might be worth it too!

We always have a blast with our oversized inflatable kayak and paddleboards, making it effortless to get out on the lake or ocean, no matter where we’re camping. Plus, it’s free!

Nature centers are an inexpensive and memorable way to explore the outdoors with your family. With simple trails, interactive indoor exhibits, and often free admission, it’s a great adventure for everyone!

Nothing beats a lovely day spent at the lake or beach, especially when it’s entirely free or affordable! Pack yourself a picnic and dive into an adventure filled with swimming and relaxation. It promises to be both fun and peaceful.

There are many free or cheap outdoor activities for you to enjoy while RV traveling!

RV campsites in a Florida state park - cheap RV living

7) Search For Free Days Or Free Acitivies In Your Location

Have you heard that certain museums or other attractions offer free admission at least once per month? We learned of a few places even offering it weekly!

Exploring the city through free walking tours is a perfect way to get your family acquainted with its history and culture. Not only are these fun, but they’re also readily available in most areas!

When you arrive at your destination, a simple search can give you loads of free activity ideas to enjoy hours of fun!

8) Purchase A Reciprocal Zoo Or Museum Membership

Like to visit zoos, museums, or botanical gardens in your travels? Paying the full admission prices for each place you visit can get expensive.

Many museums, gardens, and zoos participate in reciprocal admission programs. If you buy an inexpensive membership to one location in the program, you can get in free or cheap at other locations across the country that also participate.

Usually, admission at other locations is either free or 1/2 off, depending on the arrangement. Some locations fall into multiple categories, like zoos and museums. Buying a pass at one of those locations gets you into the most programs.

Examples of reciprocal membership programs include AZA (Association Of Zoos And Aquariums), ASTC (Association of Science-Technology Centers), NARM (North American Reciprocal Museum Association), and ACM (Association Of Children’s Museums).

One of the most popular reciprocal locations to buy an annual membership to is the Boonshoft Museum. This museum offers reciprocal benefits through the AZA, ASTC, and ACM.

We love to visit zoos and museums in our travels, but they can get pricey. Having a reciprocal membership is a great way to save!

9) Camp In National Parks And State Parks With Included Activities

National parks and state parks offer so many included outdoor programs and activities. By camping in the park, your park admission is included along with the activities.

Our family loves to participate in Junior Ranger programs and free Ranger-led programs or activities when we are visiting a park. These free programs are phenomenal for learning more about nature and history.

Camping in the park is often much cheaper than camping in a privately owned campground nearby. Plus, we love to stay in nature close to the action. There is always so much to see and do!

State And National Park Reservations

It can be tough to get camping reservations in state and national park campgrounds. It helps to make reservations as far in advance as possible.

Be sure to grab our FREE GUIDE with all of our tips and tricks for getting the toughest, always sold-out campsite reservations in state and national parks.

Did you know that there is a new campground reservation service that both FINDS campsite cancellations and BOOKS the reservation for you?

Arvie is a game changer for getting sold-out campsites in state park and national park campgrounds!

No more need to have fast fingers to book campground cancellations when a notification goes off.

The best part is that there are no booking fees when using Arvie. You pay the same price as if you would have booked directly on the campground website.

Girl Walking In Death Valley Warmest National Parks To Visit In Winter

10) Buy A National Park Pass

Many RV travelers wish to visit and explore national parks as part of their adventure. Our family has an RV living goal to visit all of the main national parks in the lower 48. So far, we have been to 38 national parks!

National park entrance fees are expensive. If you plan to go to even a few national parks each year, then it is worth it to get a national park annual pass.

A national park annual pass covers park entrance fees for all national parks and every other national recreation site.

It includes national seashores, national monuments, national recreation areas, national forests, and BLM lands that have entrance fees.

The pass also gives you access to any programs or other included outdoor activities in the park.

If you plan to stay in one state for a longer period of time, also check into state park annual pass programs that can offer savings.

Affordable RV Life By Saving Money On Gas

Gas is a huge expense in full time camper living. In the last couple of years, gas prices have really made budgeting carefully much more necessary.

For RVers with diesel trucks or RVs, diesel is even more of a sting to the budget than regular gas. Prices have been rough!

Gas prices don’t have to ruin the party though. There are ways to keep costs lower on gas while full time RVing. Read on for ideas on how to save money on your gas bill!

11) Cheap RVing By Staying In Each Spot Longer

It’s not a surprise that the farther you travel and the faster you travel, the more you will spend on gas RVing each month.

RVs are gas hogs, and towing an RV also gives you decreased gas mileage. Limiting the number of travel days per month can help you to save money on gas.

When we began living in an RV full time, we made a typical new RV living mistake. We traveled like it was a race to see as much as possible as fast as possible.

We tried to cram in so many states and national parks in that first year on the road that it was exhausting and expensive.

Slow Down To Save

It was clear pretty quickly that we needed to slow things down to make time for daily living in our travels.

Regardless of where or how you are traveling, there will still be bills to pay, laundry to do, groceries to buy, and the need to just chill out and rest along the way.

Once you have been on the road for a while, you will find a pace of travel that works the best with both your budget and daily living.

It took us a couple of years of full time RVing to find our pace. Now we enjoy spending a minimum of 2 weeks in each spot before moving on.

This pace provides plenty of time to enjoy exploring an area while also having time for daily living without getting burnt out or exhausted.

This slower pace of staying in each location for 2 weeks also gives us only 2 travel days every month. This schedule helps to keep our monthly gas expenses within the budget.

Another idea is to slow down if you need to save money for a time period or to cover extra expenses that come your way. Being flexible and slowing down can offer some savings for times you need it the most.

Man and girl RV camping on the ocean at a Florida State Park

12) Go Shorter Distances For Budget RV Travel

Once we took to the roads with our RV, it became clear that each location had way more activities and sights than could ever be totally explored in one visit.

I usually make a list of things I want to see before I go somewhere, but I rarely get to everything on the list.

Sometimes I only get to half of the things on my list, or even less. We always seem to run out of time in every stop!

By just traveling a couple of hundred miles per travel day, there will be plenty of new things to see and explore. Long trips are not needed to enjoy new experiences.

When you limit your travel miles, your gas bill will stay much lower without missing out on any of the amazing travel experiences. You also won’t be exhausted from long travel days.

The perfect RV trip distance for us is 150-200 miles per day towing the RV. We have had very long travel days before, over 360 miles, but it was just too exhausting for our family.

Keeping our RV travel to 2 shorter days per month is better for both our sanity and our budget! Once you hit the road, you will discover what RV travel day distance is the best for you and your crew.

13) Use Gas Price Apps To Find A Cheaper Price

Paying less for gas, to begin with, is a best full time RV living tip for gas savings. Searching for gas stations with lower prices is worth the time to reap the savings.

Have a Costco or Sam’s Club card? Getting gas at a wholesale store can offer large savings for members. We have even seen diesel at various Costco locations.

Using an app like Gas Buddy can help you search for the lowest gas prices near your location before hitting the pump.

I wouldn’t necessarily drive out of the way though, to visit a gas station with lower prices based on an app. There are times when the app prices aren’t updated or accurate.

RV camping in state park - how do people afford to live in an RV full time

14) Find Cheap RV Gas With Gas Discount Programs

There are gas discount programs available just for RVers! If you often travel in your RV, the gas savings from these programs can be significant over time.

A discount program that is popular for both gas and campgrounds is the camping club discount Good Sam Membership card.

This camping club card is very inexpensive and gives you a 10% discount on camping at Good Sam campgrounds. It also provides a store discount when shopping at both Overton’s and Camping World. 

The gas discount for members of Good Sam Club is 5 cents off per gallon of gas and 8 cents off per gallon of diesel at participating Pilot Flying J truck stops. 

Another great option for RVers that use diesel for their RV, truck, or vehicle is the TSD program. The TSD Open Roads fuel discount card for RVers offers various discounts on diesel, which is perfect for RVing full time. 

You can save as much money as 30 or 40 cents per gallon of diesel using the TSD card at Loves and Travel Centers Of America truck stop locations. There is no charge to join this program!

15) Is Your RV Over Weight?

Having too much weight in your RV is both a safety issue and can decrease your gas mileage. 

It’s really easy for those traveling in an RV full time to end up having way too much weight in their rig. 

When you downsize into RV living, it can be a challenge not to bring too much along for the adventure. 

Besides possessions, one way that RVers end up overweight is by driving with full RV tanks. It helps to dump tanks before RV travel days and fill fresh tanks when you arrive to help keep tank weight down. 

We struggle to keep our RV weight down as full time RVers. As homeschoolers, we have way too many books, more clothes than we need, and tons of tools to fix things that constantly break around our RV. 

As hard as it is to keep RV weight down when RV fulltime living, heavier RVs get worse gas mileage.

16) Keep Your Speed Down

Have a lead foot? Sadly driving fast and RVing doesn’t go well together. Everyone wants to get to their destination faster, but in an RV, speed can cause some big problems.

You can improve your gas mileage and safety while towing by driving slower. We drive around 60 while towing our fifth wheel.

Driving slower not only helps to save on gas but can also help prevent RV tire blowouts. Blowouts are not just a safety issue, but they often cause a lot of damage to your RV.

Slow and steady may not be that exciting, but it helps to get you there with fewer issues.

Girl Standing On Rocky Beach In Florida

17) Limit Mountain Travel Days

Not only is traveling through the mountains or on steep road grades in your RV a bit nerve-wracking, but it is also terrible for gas mileage.

Mountain towing can’t always be avoided, but if you can choose a different route, it can be easier on your nerves and your gas consumption.

18) Check Your Tire Pressure

Having the right tire inflation on your vehicle and RV is important for both safety and gas mileage. Keeping tires at the recommended pressure is important.

Checking and adjusting tire pressure is part of our RV travel day checklist. Having the right tire pressure can also help to prevent tire blowouts.

To make staying up on the tires a bit easier, we travel with an air compressor in our RV storage. This makes it quick and easy to check and top off the tires for frequent travel days.

19) Stay Within One Region A Season

Keeping travel distances shorter is a great way to save money on gas.

A more specific way to further this idea is to stay within one general region or area during each travel season to help save.

One way our family does this is to limit winter travels to the state of Florida. There is so much to see and do in Florida that you can never get bored, plus it helps us save money in the winter months on gas.

Many summers, we travel much farther distances with increased travel costs. We can use the slower winter months in one area to both catch up on our daily living tasks and to catch up with our budget.

Hacks For Food Savings While RV Living Full-Time

Food is an expense that you just can’t get around when RV living. No matter where you live, you have to eat, and food is one of the largest expense categories of full time RV living.

Food costs over the last couple of years have really increased, which makes this category more important than ever to find ways to save.

To be honest, it takes more discipline on the road to keep food costs low. Why? When you are out exploring all day, tired from traveling, or just curious about local food, it’s more tempting to want to eat out more often.

In our first year on the road, we traveled way too fast and found ourselves grabbing convenience foods all the time.

We quickly realized that we were way over our food budget for our full-time RV living monthly costs and needed to make some changes.

Keep reading to learn ways to save on your RV food budget!

RV camping in a state park - how people afford full time RV living

20) Pack Lunches And Eat At Home More

Bringing along food, drinks, snacks, and picnics to enjoy while out and about can offer huge savings for RV traveling. Eating at home more can also help to stretch your budget.

We quickly got used to eating our own food and found out that having picnics in places we visited was a blast. We have had the most amazing lunches in scenic settings.

Eating at home at our campsite, grilling, or even cooking over a fire are also very enjoyable ways to save money on food.

The biggest food budget spoiler is eating out. Our budget is much happier when we limit restaurants while RV traveling.

21) Shop For Groceries At Discount Stores

It’s crazy how much food prices vary in different locations across the US. This was something we never knew until we began traveling in our RV.

We also found that the discount stores that we enjoy shopping at to save money on groceries are not available in many areas.

The food budget you have living in your house will not be the same out on the road living in an RV!

When you are near discount grocery stores, it helps to stock up as much as possible, especially on the most expensive items.

Consider buying some items in bulk when you are near a Costco, Sam’s Club, BJ’s, Aldi’s, or Trader Joe’s.

22) Avoid Rural Area Grocery Shopping

Rural areas can be rough for grocery prices. Not only are most discount shopping stores not located in rural areas, but the rural grocery stores are often pretty pricey.

Staying in scenic remote areas is both one of the pros and cons of RV living!

To get around this, we stock up on groceries at discount stores when we are near big cities, so we don’t need to shop much for food when we are camping in rural locations.

If we need additional food items in rural areas, we often buy groceries at Walmart to save money.

23) Consider Adding An Electric Cooler Or Mini Fridge To Increase RV Fridge Space

By now, you may be wondering how you will have enough room living in an RV to be able to stock up on food.

One of the biggest considerations when shopping for an RV to live in is food storage space. Look at the refrigerator size, pantry space, or dry food storage cabinet, and if there is a second fridge outside or outdoor kitchen space.

If you don’t have a big enough RV fridge or an outdoor kitchen, you still have options to add more food storage.

If you have an outdoor storage bay, think about adding an electric cooler or mini fridge to that space.

Electric coolers have options to be used as a refrigerator, freezer, or both depending on the model. This can be really handy to maximize food storage.

Having the ability to stock up on food is a great tip to increase your grocery savings. Saving money on food is worth the additional RV space!

RV camping in state park - cheap RV living

Tips To Save On Laundry To RV Cheap

Just when you thought that laundry piles up quickly in a house, it is a never-ending dirty clothes battle when you live in an RV.

One expense that really surprised us in camper life was the price of public laundry machines when on the road.

Laundry doesn’t seem like it would be a big part of the budget, but it really adds up quickly. Read on for ideas to save!

24) Skip Doing Laundry At Campgrounds

I know it is much more convenient to do laundry right in the campground, but when RVing on a budget, the prices are often much higher for campground machines.

Many times in our travels, we have found that the prices are lower at local laundromats versus campground machines. These savings to keep RV living cost lower, can be worth taking your clothes elsewhere.

It’s also often a time saver to have more machines or larger capacity machines to be able to do everything at once. We often go to local laundromats to wash blankets or bedding.

State park campgrounds are the exception. When state campgrounds have onsite laundry facilities, they are often really cheap to use. The highest laundry prices are usually found in private campgrounds.

25) Consider On Board RV Laundry

I bet you are thinking that it is expensive to purchase an RV washer and dryer!

RV washing machines are expensive, but if you plan to keep RV full time living for many years, you can save money by owning your own machine over time.

We own a Splendide washing machine in our RV that makes doing laundry very convenient as we travel.

This is a washer and dryer combo machine that sits in our RV closet. There is a vented or non-vented option. We love it!

Since laundry is so expensive, the savings of doing our own laundry at the RV covered the cost of the machine in the first 2 or 3 years of owning it.

If you plan to be RV living for a longer period of time, it may be worth having your own washer for frugal RV living and convenience.

Girl Hiking With Moss Covered Trees Tips Living In An RV Full Time

RV Living Tips To Save Money On Propane

It’s a bit shocking, but we live in our RV full time and only fill our propane tanks usually 2 or 3 times a year!

Propane can get pricey when you live in an RV, but we have some tricks to use less for cheap RVing.

26) Keep Your Hot Water Heater And Fridge On Electric

Whenever possible, keep your RV refrigerator and hot water heater on electric to RV on a budget.

For our RV, unless we have an extremely long travel day or the weather is in the upper 80s or warmer, our fridge and freezer stay cold enough without running the fridge on propane while we are on the road.

Every RV fridge is different, and food safety is very important, so only do this if you know your RV refrigerator well. Shorter RV travel days also help with keeping your food cold for longer.

An RV hack to get faster hot water for showers is to turn on both the electric and propane switches for the hot water heater.

As long as you turn on the electric hot water heater a bit before you need to shower, you won’t need to use propane unless you want this boost.

27) Cook Using Electricity Versus Propane

Consider using electric appliances for cooking versus your propane oven or stovetop.

We use an electric hot plate for cooking instead of our stove. This allows us to also plug it in outside for cooking in our campsite.

For almost all of our daily cooking, we use a Ninja Foodi all-in-one cooker. It is an air frier, pressure cooker, and skillet all in one pot.

We even bake in it. Plus, we can use it outside to keep the heat down inside if we like. It’s fast and easy to clean up while also saving on propane.

Some RVs also have a convection oven microwave combo that you can use to bake or cook all on electricity.

28) Heat Your RV Using Electricity Instead Of Propane

Many full time RVers chase mild temperatures and spend winter in warmer weather locations. Even in the south, it can still dip down to chilly weather at times.

We winter most seasons in Florida, but it still gets cold enough off and on to need heat. Our RV has an electric fireplace with a blower that puts out quite a bit of heat. 

We also use an electric space heater that keeps our RV pretty toasty and warm. Between using the space heater and electric fireplace, we rarely need to use the propane furnace.

For times when it gets close to freezing, we do need to turn on the RV propane furnace to keep the RV tanks warm and to help prevent the pipes from freezing.

The RV furnace warms up the underbelly to help keep tanks and pipes warm. We don’t need to use it often, but it’s important to prevent damage.

These propane savings add up to cheap RV living full time compared to what we used to spend in heating our Midwest house during the winter. 

RV By Lake And Mountains Tips Living In An RV Full Time

29) Find A Better Price On Propane

When it is time to fill your propane, it can be worth the savings to shop around to find the lowest price in your area.

In our travels, many campgrounds we have visited have had higher propane prices than filling it elsewhere. That’s not always the case, but it often is.

You may find lower prices at Tractor Supply stores and local hardware stores. A quick call to check prices can save some money on propane.

Other Important Budget Considerations For Cheap RV Living

This list focused on hacks to save money for living in an RV full time. Another consideration is to reduce debt before launching into this lifestyle to live more simply.

30) Choose To Travel With One Vehicle Versus Two

When we made the decision to begin full-time RV living, we knew that our budget would be tight. One way that we could keep our travel costs down and live more simply is to travel as a one-car family.

Our RV living setup is a large fifth wheel pulled by a dually long bed truck. Some families with a setup like ours choose to have a second car for convenience.

Having a second car was a sacrifice we made for cheap RV living. As a bonus, we can also fit into campsites easier with just one vehicle.

This won’t work for everyone, but traveling as a one vehicle family can be another way how to live in an RV for cheap. 

31) Launch Into RV Living With Low Debt For Cheap RV Living

To keep costs low and embrace cheap RV living, we knew that we needed to begin camper life with no debt. This may not be possible for every full time RVer, but it is very helpful.

Did we buy our dream RV for full time camper living? Not at all. We looked for RVs for sale that we could pay cash for after selling our house and belongings.

How much is an RV to live in? As much as you want to save money when purchasing an RV, you need one that will stand up to daily use. For a fifth wheel, your cost could range from 40,000 to 80,000 for a quality used model rating for full time use.

Your solution for how to afford an RV may be similar to ours. Consider paying for it by downsizing your other possessions. Living debt free was the only way we could afford full-time RVing.

The way we began RV living isn’t going to work for every traveler, but it can be a way to make this lifestyle possible.

Consider leaving with as little debt as possible for cheap RV living. Remember that the best RV for full time living is the one that you really can afford.

Girl Standing By Mirror Lake Reservations For Entrance To Yosemite National Park

FAQs How Do People Afford To Live In An RV Full Time

Where Can I Park My RV To Live For Free?

They only place where you can park or stay long term in your RV to live for free is Slab City on the old Camp Dunlap property in Calipatria, California. If you are willing to move around, there are many BLM and other free boondocking locations to park but every location has a stay limit. Most stay limits are 2 weeks.

What is one expense you shouldn’t go cheap on for RV living?

Never go cheap on RV insurance for RV living. How much is RV insurance? You need a policy specific to living in your RV full time and this cost can range from $1,000-$4000 per year depending on the state and the cost of your RV. Towable RV insurance is cheaper than drivable RVs or motorhome insurance.

How do you manage healthcare insurance when living full on road?

An inexpensive health insurance option is going with either a Healthshare Ministry or one of your state’s ACA plans. You just want to be sure that whatever you choose will work with the places you wish to travel as well as cover your medications and other existing needs.

What kind of internet and technology setups work best for cheap RV living?

Internet for RV living can be pricey. It depends on how much you need to use it while traveling. For those that work on the road, you may want to invest in Starlink as well as a backup hotspot. For those that don’t rely on internet, you can likely save money with a regular hotspot plan or T-Mobile Home system.

Is It Financially Smart To Live In An RV?

It is financially smart to live in an RV if you can reduce your debt through cheap RV living. High RV prices with large RV loans to begin RV living can be rough financially due to the depreciation. When looking into how to live in an RV, if you can have less debt through RV living than a traditional home or apartment, it can make financial sense to live in an RV.

Is Living In An RV A Good Way To Save Money?

Depending on how you like to travel, living in an RV can be a good way to save money. Look for an RV for sale that doesn’t result in a large payment. The cheapest RV living is by boondocking or staying in one area can be a great way to save money. Campground memberships, longer stays, and traveling only short distances can also offer savings for full-time RVing.

What To Know Before Living In An RV Full Time?

It helps to know before living in an RV full time that RV living can be a bit of work and isn’t always cheap or easy. There are frequent repairs needed in RV life that drive up RV cost. It’s also a lot of work to plan travels, set up, pack up, and long travel days. Consider a long term RV rental to try out living in a RV full time. It’s all worth it though!

Is A RV Cheaper Than A House?

Living in a RV can be cheaper than a house. If you are living stationary in an RV, campground costs and RV payments are often much cheaper than a house payment. If you are traveling full time in an RV, campground fees and gas can equal a house payment if you stay at RV resorts and travel fast. It depends on how you travel if it is cheaper than a house. The cheapest way to live in an RV is stationary.

Is An RV A Good Investment To Live In?

An RV is a good investment to live in for the travel experiences and quality time spent together. RVs depreciate and may not be viewed as a good financial investment. It helps to look for campers for sale used or at a great price to take less of a depreciation hit. The best RV to live in full time is the one you can truly afford. However, not all investments are financial. RVing is an investment in living!

How Much Are RVs?

How much RVs are depend on the type of RV. When looking at how much do RVs cost, towable RVs such as travel trailers are much cheaper than drivable RVs or motorhomes for sale. A camper van can also be expensive. The cheapest travel trailer on the market right now with a bathroom and kitchen is the Coleman Lantern 17B or 17R. It starts around $13,000 and offers the bare bones basics.

How Much Does It Cost To Live In A Camper?

When looking at how much does it cost to live in an RV, it depends on the type of RV, your family size, where and how fast you travel, and your activities. Most spend from $2,000-$7,500 for living in RV full time while traveling. Our family spends around $7,000 per month. 

What Is The Cheapest Way To Live In An RV?

The cheapest way to live in an RV is to pay cash for a used RV, travel within one small area or state, stay in free boondocking campsites, enjoy free outdoor activities, and cook all of your own food. By avoiding debt, not traveling as far to save on gas, and saving on food, you can still enjoy traveling and RV living on the cheap. 

How Do Full-Time RVers Get Money?

Many full-time RVers get money by working while traveling. Some RVers work online, while others work in-person jobs or seasonal jobs on the road. Workamping at campgrounds is a popular job for RV living. Full time RVing on a budget can help you work less and enjoy your travels more. 

Did This Give You Some New Ideas For How To Afford Full-Time RVing And Cheap RV Living?

It is possible to enjoy all the benefits of traveling and still afford to live in an RV full time. With these simple tips and tricks, you can enjoy cheap RV living without sacrificing any of the experience of the RV lifestyle. We hope to see you around the campfire someday!

RV camping in state park in Florida - Tips For Cheap RVing

Scott and Van Russell

Scott and Van Russell

Scott and Van of The Adventure Detour are travel writers focusing on RV travel, family outdoor travel, national parks travel, and hiking. They have been full-time RV living and traveling across the US since 2015. In 8 years of full-time RVing, they have visited 38 national parks so far with the ultimate goal to see them all. They work as digital nomads while roadschooling their daughter nicknamed Sissy. On the way to all 50 states, they have visited and hiked through 42 states so far. The travel bucket list is forever growing!

Full-Time RV Family In Front Of Mountains


We are so glad you found us. We are Scott, Van & Sissy. We turned our love of travel into a 7 year full-time RV living adventure.

Our goal is to guide you to unique US travel destinations, share RV travel tips, and help you navigate full-time RV living.

Something that makes us different is our unfiltered approach. We choose to share both the benefits and the challenges of traveling and the full-time RVing lifestyle.

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    i have a jeep grand cheerokee and im going to put a roof top tent on it. Would this be called van camper? If i live out of my Jeep?

    • Scott and Van Russell

      Hi Michael!
      This is a great question and I am honestly not sure what this would fall under. It seems like this would fall under tent camping since your vehicle isn’t a van. Some campgrounds have regulations requiring RVs with hookups or a contained unit. Just make sure you check with where you want to stay if you are planning to use privately owned campgrounds. Places that allow tent camping should all be fine. I hope this helps. It sounds like you are about to have an exciting adventure and I hope you enjoy it!

  2. Kelley L Hyde

    Anybody know where I could find used motorhome with bed in back for under $10.000? I live in Escondido CA please and thank you. Kelley

    • Scott and Van Russell

      I would check on the website RV trader and on Craig’s List. The important thing would be to invest in an RV inspection. Just like with buying a home, you want an inspection to avoid hidden problems and surprises. I hope you find a great one!

  3. Dennis

    Excellent informative article. Appreciate your information honesty and candidness. We are guilty of holding back and waiting so long as now rv prices are much higher from covid supply issues and no sales. Hope to get a used c class although really like size of the b+ mini c class models. Comfort and storage space win that battle so a used c class is best. Looking for a lender who may go no downpayment or less than 10%. Figuring rv loan price as a vehicle and home price combined. We had a tiny home and loved it. Stay safe and keep RVing. Awaiting your next articles.

    • Scott and Van Russell

      Hi Dennis!
      Thanks so much for the kind words. It really is tougher to find a good RV deal nowadays. The prices are unreal. I hope you find the perfect Class C for your adventures.
      Take care!


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