Small House Big World


How Much Will it Cost to Start Living Full-Time in an RV?

Anna Edgren • March 19, 2015

One of the most important questions we needed to answer before switching over to full-time life in an RV was: Can we afford it? Can we buy the type of RV we’d like with cash or will we need to get a loan? How much will it cost to move all our stuff from Chicago to Michigan and then into the RV? What will we need to buy for the RV up front before we can get going?  Do we have enough saved up to pull this off and get on the road?  (Of course, there is also the question of what it takes to STAY on the road, which we address here.)

We did a lot of research on different types of RVs and options to see what we wanted and what we could afford that we documented here:

Hitting the Dealerships
Some Rigs We’ve Seen
Getting Closer to Finding the One
Finding the One: Top 5 and Price Tiers

We discovered that we MIGHT be able to get the type of RV we wanted for around 10K if we were lucky. (Let’s be real – what we WANTED would probably cost more like 50K. But we decided we could comfortably live in something that cost around 10K.) We saw a lot of crappy looking RVs for sale at 10K, but we also saw a handful of good candidates. We knew we would have to be a little careful about what we got and that it may be older and need work, which can also be a hidden expense. We considered getting something newer and nicer and getting a loan to do it, but neither of us were thrilled with the idea. We decided we would prefer to pay cash and not have to worry about future payments. Plus, since this is our first experience in living full time in an RV, we didn’t want to tie ourselves to a lifestyle we weren’t even sure if we would like. We figured we could start with a cheaper RV around 10K and upgrade at some point if a) the RV craps out on us, b) we magically come into more money or c) we decide we don’t like the lifestyle and want to settle down somewhere.  Lucky for us, we managed to find something we loved for $6,500, which saved us some cash. 

So, what did we end up having to spend to transition from life in Chicago to life in the RV? 

Below is an explanation of our start-up costs.

Up Front Costs Paid Before Trip Cost Detail
The RV $6,500.00 Price confirmed – Paid
Insurance – RV and Car $883.00 Price confirmed – Paid
Vehicle Registration in IL $200.00 Price approximate – Paid
Towing Equipment $2,000.00 Price unconfirmed – Need to research this more to get better estimate
New Tires $1,200.00 Price confirmed – Unpaid
New Alternator Belt $100.00 Price approximate
Oil Change $60.00 Price approximate
Uhaul from Chicago to MI $500.00 Price approximate – based on online quote
National Park Pass $80.00 Price confirmed
Other RV passes $100.00 Price confirmed – Passport America and Harvest Hosts
Mobile Booster $100.00 Price approximate – Based on online research
Vehicle Registration in IL $200.00 Price approximate – Paid
Goodbye Time $200.00 We can’t help but eat at our favorite restaurants one more time, go out to dinner with friends, and have some fun before heading out!
Full Tank of Gas! $150.00 Price approximate
Total $12,273.00  
budgetcost of rvingrv budget

Anna Edgren • March 19, 2015

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  2. Jeff June 21, 2015 - 2:29 am Reply

    Hi Anna and Kelly,
    I am really enjoying your blog so far. My wife has become recently enamored with the RV life and has referred me here as a start. Me…I’ve become fascinated with mountains and I must know where your website logo photo was taken. Thanks for the motivation and we look forward to your ongoing travels!

    Jeff and Beth

    • Anna Edgren June 21, 2015 - 10:37 pm Reply

      Hi Jeff! Thanks for the note. So glad to hear you are enjoying the blog. The photo unfortunately isn’t ours, but it is from Yosemite. We haven’t made it there yet, hoping to later this year! Mountains have always called to me as well… We are really looking forward to hitting Glacier National Park in a month or so.

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