2016 Full-time RVing Cost of Living & Income Report

2016 Full-time RVing Cost of Living & Income Report 1

Photo credit: Bernhard Suter

Wondering how much it costs to live full-time on the road? You’ll quickly learn when researching this question that the number varies wildly from RVer to RVer. This can be frustrating because it makes it harder to narrow in on how much it’ll cost you. But another way to look at it is this: That huge variance is proof that this lifestyle can be as cheap or expensive as you want it to be. If you’re on a budget you’ll learn that to save money you can travel slower, eat in more, and avoid tourist traps.

Here are my personal numbers for 2016, which I’ve conveniently tacked onto the chart from previous years to show how it has changed over time.

Year

Adjusted Gross Income

Living Costs

2011 (My last year living a stationary life, working as a Vet Tech and sharing a lower-end apartment with a roommate)

$27,732 (I worked an average of 40-45 hours a week, and had two weeks of paid vacation time)

$17,694 (not including the $6,984 spent on the truck purchase, taxes, registration, etc.)

2012 (I quit the vet tech job at the end of January and worked at Best Buy from Feb until Sept. I lived in the Casita starting April 28, and started traveling full-time on Sept. 17). I worked in CamperForce for the holidays)

$18,495 (I worked an average of 30 hours a week at Best Buy, 40-50 hours a week at Amazon, and had about 6 weeks of “vacation” time where I didn’t work and just traveled)

$18,838 (not including the $9,440 RV purchase, taxes, registration, etc. but including other RVing items like leveling blocks, the hitch, water pressure regulator, and a laptop)

2013 (First full year as a full-timer. Worked at Lowe’s from Feb-April. Badlands Natl Park from April-Oct. And Amazon from Oct-Dec.)

$16,070 (Had about 8 weeks of vacation time. This was the first year I started making money from writing but it was less than 5% of income.)

Estimated at $15,300, but I didn’t keep close track. I ended up earning a little more than I spent in 2013.

2014 (Second full year on the road. Volunteered in Florida Jan-Apr, worked at GA renaissance festival Apr-June, Zion Natl Park June-Oct, and Amazon Oct-Dec.)

$15,066 (Acting at the festival was only 2 days a week and less than $600 in earnings, so I essentially had 6 months without seasonal work this year. Writing was 15-20% of income.)

Estimated at just under $16,000, Spent more than I earned this year but fulfilled a longtime dream of performing at a renaissance festival.

2015 (Third full year on the road. Worked at Yellowstone Nat’l Park May-Sept, and Amazon Oct-Dec.)

$20,017 (Had 4.5 months without seasonal work this year, writing was 37% of total income.)

$15, 693 The biggest net gain I’ve had since hitting the road, and this with $4000 in RV and truck maintenance/repair costs.

2016 (Fourth full year on the road. Boondocked out west first 9 months of the year and worked Amazon Oct-Dec.)

$17,970 (Will update with official number from IRS in a month or so. 9 months without a seasonal job this year!)

$18,403 $1,843 fridge replacement plus $3,746 bill for broken-down truck, need I say more? HAVE A REPAIR FUND!

2016 monthly cost of living average: $1,534

2016 monthly income average: $1,498

  • Most expensive month: September ($5,196(!) – truck break-down)
  • Least expensive month: July ($756)
  • Highest earning month: December ($3,234 – Thank you Amazon holiday shoppers and Paypal donators!)
  • Lowest earning month: May ($757)

Wait, why don’t you just list your financial info by month if you keep track of it by month?

Because there is no such thing as an average month, and I list the highest and lowest to illustrate that point. If you hit the road and expect to always keep your income or expenses at the same amount every month you’re going to be in for an unpleasant surprise. Expect that once you hit the road that some months will be cheap and some will be expensive – save up your extra from the cheap ones to afford the expensive ones. You won’t really know what your cost of living looks like until you’ve been on the road a full year and can average out the dips and peaks of 12 months.

I hope this helps those of you dreamers who are thinking of hitting the road some day! If you follow my blog regularly, then you’ll have a feel for the kind of life I live at an average of $1,534 a month. I encourage you to look up the cost of living numbers for other RVers out there (try blogs, forums, Facebook communities, etc.) to get a sense of the bigger picture on how much full-time RVing can cost.

Are you a current or past full-timer? Please feel free to share your own numbers in the comments section (if you feel comfortable doing so), or other wisdom on the cost of RVing – you never know who you might help. Are you a wannabe full-timer? See the links below for more information on this subject, and check the comments for thoughts from other readers.

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