Can you really live in an RV year-round? (A decision guide)
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Intro: Can you live in an RV year-round?
You can live permanently in an RV year-round as long as you’ve established and maintained a domicile address with the associated taxes and legal requirements. But, beyond the legality of it, there are many things to consider if it’s truly the right thing for you.
There are many people on social media that share their adventures and they are living in an RV full-time. My husband and I did it part-time in 2022 as we relocated from Minnesota to Texas. It was a great option for us at the time. Trying it on a shorter-term basis before fully committing to it as a lifestyle is smart!
Let’s jump in to review some of the considerations and things you maybe hadn’t thought of when deciding if you could live in an RV year-round.
Living in an RV Year Round
Living in an RV year-round is a unique experience that offers freedom and challenges. It’s a lifestyle that appeals to those who crave adventure, minimalism, and flexibility. But before you make the decision to turn your life into a mobile one, it’s important to understand what living in an RV entails.
There are benefits and challenges of living in an RV year-round. For starters, you get to travel anywhere you want without worrying about hotel reservations or flight schedules. You can wake up to stunning views every day and change your backyard on a whim. Plus, living in an RV means you have fewer belongings and less clutter – perfect for those who want to simplify their lives.
There are also some challenges that come with this lifestyle. One major challenge is space; living quarters are much smaller than in traditional homes which means storage can be difficult and you have to be creative. It’s very important to remain tidy in a smaller space so it feels less cramped. Let’s review some of the pros and cons of living in an RV year-round in more detail.
Pros and Cons of Living in an RV Year-Round
Are you considering the RV lifestyle as a full-time living option? Well, if you are, then it’s important to weigh the advantages and disadvantages before taking the plunge. Here are some things to consider:
Living in an RV means having the freedom to move whenever and wherever you want. You can easily change your location depending on your mood or work requirements. You are free to make changes really on a whim if you want to.
2. Cost Savings
Compared to traditional housing options, living in an RV is much cheaper. You don’t have to worry about mortgage payments or rent; utility bills like electricity and water are usually lower. Unless you decide to dry camp, usually the cost of an electric hookup and water at an RV park can be very cost-effective. Some with many more nice amenities can be more expensive.
3. Minimalist Lifestyle
Living in small space forces you to simplify your life and adopt a minimalist approach. This can be incredibly freeing for those who crave simplicity. Limited space will force you not to be as much of a consumer and to focus on experiences and being in nature more than tangible items.
4. Travel Opportunities
With an RV, travel becomes part of your daily life. It’s exciting to explore new places without having to spend money on hotels. You can also travel a lot slower if you can bring your life, work, and belongings with you. It’s an easier way to travel for an extensive period of time.
1. Limited Space
The biggest downside of living in an RV is limited space. Unless you’re willing to invest in a larger model, storage will always be an issue. A larger RV comes with a lot of considerations though. If it’s heavier you’ll need a larger truck. Also, longer models will reduce the number of places you can go. There are several state parks (and National Parks) that have length restrictions on certain roads.
2. Maintenance Costs
Maintaining an RV requires regular upkeep with cleaning and repairs being necessary more frequently than with stationary homes due to wear and tear caused by travel over long distances.
Tips for Living in an RV Year-Round
Choosing the Right RV
Are you thinking about hitting the road in an RV? That’s awesome! It’s a great way to see the country and experience all of the adventures that come with it. But, before you start planning your route, you need to choose the right RV for you.
Don’t worry, we’ve got some tips to help make that decision easier. First things first, determine what type of RV is best for your needs. There are three main types: motorized (Class A or Class C), towable (travel trailer or 5th wheel), and camper vans. Motorized RVs are ideal if you want a home on wheels that is easy to drive and set up once you reach your destination.
Towable RVs require a vehicle capable of towing them but offer more flexibility as they can be disconnected from the tow vehicle at any time. This is the route we went. It’s just less time setting things up and tearing them down. Plus, it made sense as our dog was traveling with us. Having our truck to go on daily adventures was great! Read more about our in-depth research and the process of choosing our RV/travel trailer.
Finding a Suitable Location to Park Your RV
Are you planning your next adventure on the road but unsure about where to park your trusty home-on-wheels? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered with some tips on how to pick the perfect spot for your RV stay.
First and foremost, it’s important to consider the location. Do you want to be immersed in nature or would you prefer a more urban setting? Perhaps a combination of both? Think about what kind of activities and attractions are nearby and make sure they align with your interests. If you’re all about hiking and outdoor adventures, look for campsites near National Parks or forests.
For those who enjoy city life, check out RV parks located within or close to urban areas.
Next up is amenities – this can vary greatly depending on the type of camping experience you’re looking for. Some RVers want a nice laundry facility at the campground or a pool, some even have great restaurants and events onsite.
You may even want to boondock or dry camp. There are resources for that as well through search tools such as Hip Camp. Another popular one is Harvest Hosts.
Personally, we needed electricity to work remotely and stability to stay in one location for 5-7 days so dry camping really wasn’t as convenient. Speaking of remote work, there are several ways you can equip your RV with the internet as though it was a residential home. KOA campgrounds are very reliable and usually always nice.
Making the Most Out of Your Space
Living in an RV full-time can be a liberating and adventurous experience. However, it also requires some smart choices when it comes to organizing and utilizing your space. Here are some tips on how to make the most out of your RV living situation.
One of the secrets to maximizing space in an RV is keeping things simple and clutter-free. Everything should have its own designated place, and anything that you’re not using regularly should be either donated or stored away somewhere else.
Invest in multi-functional furniture
Furniture pieces that serve multiple purposes are ideal for small spaces like an RV. For example, a sofa bed can double as a sleeping area at night and seating during the day. A foldable dining table can also save precious floor space when not needed.
Use storage solutions
Think vertically when it comes to storing items. Anywhere you can place a bin or command hook that will keep things out of the way but functional, do it!
When packing your RV, be realistic about what you truly need and what you might not need. I know personally I wayyyyy overpacked on clothes.
Another thing to consider, is before setting out you’ll want to weigh your trailer with everything in it to ensure you’re within legal limits for your specific trailer. If you were to get into an accident or something happened you want to ensure you didn’t have your RV loaded down to an unsafe limit.
RV Lifestyle: What to Expect
Living in an RV full-time will require some lifestyle changes and flexibility. Let me dive in a little deeper to talk about the RV community, dealing with weather, and differences in an RV bathroom.
Social life on the road
There is definitely a very deep-rooted community of those who are full-time RVers. As we traveled across the western portion of the USA from Minnesota to eventually relocating to Texas, we met people from all over the United States. You will constantly meet new people.
Many were similarly remote workers or entrepreneurs seeking flexibility and wanting to see more of the country. We also encountered a lot of families who stayed in RV parks longer term as one of the spouses had a job in the area. Common jobs were pipeline workers, oil field workers, construction workers, or electrical linemen.
Navigating weather can be a whole new ballgame while living in an RV full time. From driving when it’s intensely windy to actually weathering winter storms and strong winds. Living in a camper in the winter isn’t for the faint of heart!
Staying just outside of Glacier National Park, in June of 2022 we experienced the ramifications of a winter storm in the mountains and very windy weather as a result of that. Understanding what types of weather your trailer can withstand. Be sure to know exactly where you are located and having a backup plan for safety if you need to go elsewhere is very important!
Be sure to have flashlights or headlamps, a weather radio, and appropriate clothing if you need to go out into the weather to seek different shelter. Ensuring your weather radio is set to alert you to tornadoes, severe thunderstorms, or flash floods.
One of the biggest downfalls is dealing with an RV bathroom. Showering, getting ready, and using the facilities definitely aren’t the same. For one, showering you typically have to rinse off, turn off the water, apply shampoo or soap, then turn the water back on. Unless you have a HUGE holding tank, you won’t want to let the water run continuously.
After over 4 months of full-time living in an RV, my hair due to the inconsistency of the water was wrecked. Having my master bathroom in our new house definitely was one aspect I was really excited about!
Another consideration is the toilet (and holding tank.) You will want to for sure use the special RV toilet paper. Also, be sure to after flushing, seal the smell off by filling the water back up into the toilet bowl using the foot pedal. Because the RV toilets rely on gravity, you’ll want to ensure the water is in there for the next person as well.
In conclusion, it’s great to have a bathroom in the RV but it’s definitely different. Falling somewhere between a residential bathroom and a primitive bathroom. As long as you’re prepared and know this upfront you should be good to go!
Financial Considerations When Living in an RV Full Time
Budgeting for your expenses
Just because you’re living in an RV, doesn’t mean your expenses will be a lot lower than a typical residential dwelling. They certainly can be. But, there will be different costs you will have to consider. There’s no magic number of how much it cost to live in an RV full-time.
Higher gas/fuel costs, the cost of RV parks (if you choose to stay in one!), RV equipment and maintenance, vehicle maintenance (oil changes more frequently.) Higher cost of internet. (Some Rv parks have free WiFi, but it can be unreliable and spotty.) If you need reliable internet, setting it up in your RV is a little more costly than residential internet, but worth it! The RV internet solution we chose worked like a charm!
Much like a regular budget, track expenses on a spreadsheet or use an app. Whatever works best for your family. The key is, to track them and know what your set expenses are or will be so there aren’t any surprises.
Earning money while on the road
Unless you’re a trust fund baby and have unlimited free-flowing cash, you likely will have to earn money somehow.
My husband and I worked both of our fully remote corporate jobs out of the trailer! (Which is why it was so important to have reliable internet!) There was only one spot, where we stayed near Port Angeles, WA where the internet went in and out and we weren’t able to be on camera for Zoom or Teams meetings. Other than that it worked awesome!
A remote job is one of the best ways to have the flexibility to go when and where you want. You could consider seasonal positions where you have specific locations you’d like to be for a period of time. But, there definitely are options! The full time RVing lifestyle isn’t just for retirees and people without jobs.
Health and Safety Concerns When Living in an RV Full Time
Maintaining proper hygiene
The bathroom situation definitely isn’t the same as in a residential home. When we were in an RV park where there were nicer shower facilities, typically I would use them. Especially after hiking so much and being in the heat you really want to feel like you’re clean.
Staying safe while traveling
Staying safe by securing your belongings, driving safely, and acting in a safe manner while in an RV park or wherever you’re traveling is always important. But, when your home is literally on wheels and it could completely derail your plans and your life for a while that brings it into a larger perspective. Drive cautiously to avoid potential accidents on the road.
One of the biggest dangers of living in an RV is not being as familiar with the area you’re currently in. Always know where the nearest ER (emergency room) or hospital is. Carry a First Aid kit and an Epi-pen if anyone has one.
Routine Medical Care
Luckily, while we lived out of our travel trailer we didn’t need to seek medical or dental care. But, if you choose to live in an RV full time that’s definitely a consideration. What type of health insurance do you have? Will it cover many providers across the nation or will you need to travel back to a home base every 6 months for dental checkups or yearly for a primary care physician visit. (I’m not offering medical advice here, seek the advice of a medical professional as to how often you schedule visits and what’s right for you.)
Do your Research
There are so many people online that talk about living in an RV full-time. And in all honesty, it’s not for everyone! So, don’t make the decision lightly. Understand why you want to live in an RV full time and truly if it’s realistic based on your lifestyle and expectations. Don’t get sucked into the romanticism of “Van life”.
We rented a camper van once for a long weekend and I HATED it! I knew van life wasn’t something I could personally ever do. But, living in an RV full-time for a short period of time definitely met my needs better. I grew up camping long weekends with family so it definitely was something I was more familiar with and comfortable with as well.
Before diving into full-time RV living for beginners, I’d suggest renting an RV or at least going on a short-term “test run”. There are many things you will learn and understand about this lifestyle by just trying it out. Camper life is a change of pace for many!
What to know before living in an RV full time
Living in an RV full-time is a dream for many people. It can be a great way to travel the country, save money on rent or mortgage payments, and simplify your life. However, before you hit the road and start living in your RV full-time, there are some things you need to know.
First of all, it’s important to choose the right RV for your needs. There are many different types of RVs available, from small camper vans to large motorhomes. Consider how much space you need, how often you’ll be traveling, and what amenities are important to you. Camper living isn’t for everyone!
Another thing to consider is where you’ll park your RV. Many campgrounds and RV parks have restrictions on the size of vehicles they allow, so do your research ahead of time. You may also want to look into boondocking options (camping off the grid.) If you’re planning on boondocking, you may need additional equipment such as a generator.
FAQs (Frequently Asked Questions):
How long does an RV last?
The short answer is that the average lifespan of an RV is around 20 years or 200,000 miles, whichever comes first. RV’s aren’t meant to last a really long time like a residential home. If you’re living in it full-time, you will definitely want a new RV more often than if you use it sporadically.
What RV is best for full-time living?
There is no one size fits all RV that’s the best for everyone. It depends on your situation, your family, and if you already have a tow vehicle. Plus, it’s important to consider what amenities you want your RV to have. All of these will determine what RV is best for you.
Is fulltime RV living worth it?
It depends on what your motivators are for living in an RV full-time. For some, it’s a full-time lifestyle they really enjoy. While for others it is a limited-time lifestyle that serves a purpose. It’s a great way to be on the move and to see a lot of the country.
What states allow full-time RV living?
Each state within the United States has its own RV living laws. It depends on how you’re planning on living in your RV. Getting a plot of land and living in an RV full time there is a lot different than moving around while living in an RV full time.
Is full-time RV living cheaper?
There are several aspects that are cheaper such as utilities and other costs that go along with home maintenance. However, you will have a high cost of gas to tow your rig and sometimes higher grocery costs if you’re limited or in more remote locations. Overall, living in an RV full-time can be cheaper than a residential home.
What is a good budget for full-time RV living?
If you’re staying at an RV park nightly sites can range from $20-over $100 per night. If you’re boondocking, it could be less. Sometimes RV parks offer discounts for weekly or monthly stays. Account for your average grocery spend, eating out, cost of gas, RV maintenance, and activities. You can live in an RV very luxuriously or on a budget.
Is full-time RV living illegal?
It depends on how you’re living in your RV. If you’re living in your RV full-time on a plot of land and you do not abide by zoning laws, then it can be illegal and you could be fined for doing so. If you’re planning on doing this, be sure to look up the laws in your local area.
How do you have an address when living in an RV full-time?
When living in an RV full-time, you will need to have a domicile address. This will legally establish you as a resident of that state. You will be required to pay taxes and have vehicles and your RV registered in that state. The easiest thing to do is to use a family members address.
Does living in your RV full-time void the warranty?
Unfortunately, to a certain extent yes. RVs aren’t meant for full-time living so things will deteriorate faster than you would expect. Knowing this in advance will set your expectations if you have to replace or repair anything in your RV. However, you could purchase an extended warranty policy. Just be sure to read the fine print!
How hard is full-time RV living?
It can be difficult. You will have limited space and comforts in some cases. It really depends on what your motivation is for living in an RV full-time. In terms of difficulty, it’s quite easy to get into a rhythm of life in an RV full-time. People really enjoy it so it can be worth the hard parts.
What do you need for full-time RV living?
An RV, all of the essential RV hookup gear, and a lot of patience! Over the course of 4 months, there were many issues and things that popped up with the RV. Luckily my husband is a handy guy and usually could fix or figure out what was going on.
How hard is full-time RV living?
It can be hard at times. You’re living in close quarters and not having the amenities you’re used to in a residential home. Dealing w an RV bathroom vs a residential bathroom was the hardest for me. But the hard balances the amount of traveling and things you can see in a condensed amount of time.
Can you live in an RV in the winter?
It is possible to live in an RV during the winter. Most RVs are set up with propane for heat and to use the stove. Some RVs are better insulated than others so keeping it warm and cozy in some frigid temps could be difficult. Sticking to milder temp locations in the winter is a good idea.
Best places to live in an RV year round?
The best places to live in an RV year-round are ones with mild temperatures. However, the beauty of living out of an RV you can move to a warmer location on a whim if you choose to! The best locations are more remote immersed in nature to hike and enjoy solitude.
Conclusion: Can you live in an RV year-round?
Yes, it is definitely possible to live in an RV year-round. However, we reviewed several considerations when deciding to do so. It’s not for everyone but it can be a very unique opportunity. It will allow you to travel to different places and experience a lot of diverse landscapes while immersing yourself in nature and bringing your home along for the ride!
It’s up to you to determine if living in an RV full-time is something you’d like to do or whether you’re more of a short-time RV or travel trailer traveler. Living in an RV year-round has its advantages but also comes with some challenges that need careful consideration before making such a big decision that affects your life. Hope this helped you to decide if living in an RV year-round is right for you!