The Cost of Living in an RV

1001 Petals asked this question:

I’m curious how the cost of living in an RV, with all the changes you have to keep making, compare to living in an average apartment. I imagine it’s not much different, but you do have the freedom of movement at the cost of space(?)

First of all, it has to be made clear that I don’t have to keep making changes. I know people who would have moved into Miranda as-is and be done with it. I’ve been on a bit of an organizing and minimizing tear for a few years now and I like to nest.

That said, the only major changes I’ve made to Miranda to make her more livable are the study and the wardrobe. Cost for all that? 250$ for the study, 35$ for the wardrobe. Add to that the blinds I’m looking to put in and I’ll have a comfortable, cozy home for less than 500$ in cosmetic changes. You try to set up a house for that cost!

In my case, daily life in an RV isn’t any cheaper than living in a house or apartment. I think I would see a big difference if I didn’t have an RV payment to make, but financing made sense for my situation. I think that the only way it would be cheaper for me to live in Miranda would be to be in a warm climate where I wouldn’t have to heat in the winter.

Because I didn’t have to pay for electricity at the last place I stayed and because I was on the road for a quarter of the time I’ve been living in Miranda, I still don’t know exactly what it costs, on average, for a month of living in her, but I’ve been getting by on about 1,500$ per month, which is less than I was living on back in my stable existence. That said, this amount doesn’t cover RRSP contributions and I presently don’t have health coverage, so 3,000$ per month would definitely be the minimum I’d need to do this on a long term basis.

There are ways in which this life is much cheaper than was my old one: no manicures, no daily coffee with the gals (miss ya!), no recreational shopping at lunch with the gals (miss ya so much!), no changing out the furniture every few months, etc. But there are ways in which this life, which is real life, never forget that, still has the same expenses. I still have a house payment and house maintenance to do. It’s just that my house is now portable.

It’s this portability which will make Miranda cheaper for me to live in over time. My dad used to say that I have ‘itchy feet.’ I do. I get somewhere, fall in love with it, then get bored and move on. I have moved seven times in ten years. Moving and setting up a new house is extraordinarily expensive and there is a hidden cost. I’m proof that the theory that seven moves equals going through a fire is true. When I think of all the money I’ve spent on stuff that I wound up not bringing with me, or the stuff I’ve had to replace because I got rid of it during a move, I get quite depressed!

Before committing to this crazy plan of mine for a year, I sat down with my financial planner. He’s the one who gave me the final green light for the project by asking me to guesstimate just how many more times I’m planning to move in the next few years. At the time I was still thinking of relocating to Winnipeg for a few years, so I was looking at a cross country move, then several apartment hops until I knew if I wanted to buy a house there. Living in an RV meant that my moves would only cost me fuel, and I’d also be saved all the time and energy spent in moving house.

Also, I love to travel (no, really? 🙂 ) and had begun taking off for two or three week-long stretches. While I was paying for accommodation and food on the road, I was still maintaining a home back in Gatineau. RVing cuts down this dual expense.

I’ve spoken to RVers who live on less than 1,000$ a month and some for whom 5,000$ wouldn’t be enough. Full-time RVing is real life, with all the expenses, priorities, and dreams that real life throws at you. On a day to day basis, I don’t find it a particularly economical way of living, but I know that over time it’s going to save me a bundle.

As for the cost of space, I’ve known for years that a smaller houseprint is better suited to my personality than a big one. The last place I was in had about 1,000 square feet, not counting the unfinished basement, and it was way too big. The house before that, which I owned, had 750 square feet, which would be the maximum I’d ever want to live in again. I very much believe in the Not So Big House philosophy, preferring quality of space over quantity. I also find that there is a threshold that can be reached in houseprint where maintenance and upkeep becomes an all-consuming and never ending endeavour. I like having a house that I can completely spruce up in an hour! I do dream of having a bus conversion one day, but that dream is of a 35′ model, not a 40′ one, and the dream is about sturdiness and long-term durability more than having extra cupboard space.

When I emailed my mother yesterday about the wardrobe, she assumed that my issue was space, not the type of space, because she’s only known me as a packrat. She joked that I was going to need a shed on wheels! Not at all, I replied. I have plenty of free space in Miranda, it’s just not always the right kind of space, which is why I spend so much time rearranging things.

In conclusion, life in an RV might not be right for everyone, but for me, it’s the best thing I’ve ever done.

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  • Here is a site that gives me inspiration. I think you might like it also.

  • I’ve been looking for this site forever! It’s here that I got the inspiration to install the Allure flooring in Miranda! Thanks!

  • It does seem expensive, like with the pipe(s?) you’ve had to buy and all that besides the cosmetic changes, which I understand cost relatively little. Its very interesting to me! I also prefer smaller spaces, for about the same reasons. Though with a baby I’ve started to wonder about larger spaces, just cause I have to be so quiet when she naps and her going through so many clothes and toys does demand a lot of storage space. That’s another issue entirely though 🙂

    I do see it is well worth it to you, and am glad you’re thriving 🙂 Thanks for answering my question as to the comparable cost of an apartment, was curious how it all added up.

  • Oh, and what I meant by “changes” was not just the cosmetic and storage things, but dehumudifier, space heaters, water pipes, etc. It reminds me of a person owning a house and needing to get a lawn mower, then the roof needs to be replaced, then paving, etc. etc. It seems that an RV might be ready ‘as-is’, but so do most homes. . but then the thing is they do end up needing a lot of maintenance.

  • The most expensive thing I’ve had to do so far is buy a few space heaters, all but one of which wound up conking out on me in the past few weeks. We’re looking at about 125$ there of which 50$ went into the garbage this week (I can forgive that since the heaters weren’t meant to run 24/7!). The PVC pipe I had to get for the sewer hose was 10$. Foam insulation for the attic vents was 30$. Foil backed bubble wrap for the cab windows was 20$. The repair job on the water intake that melted will probably be about 20-50$. It’s really not that bad. It sounds expensive, but it’s a lot easier (and cheaper!) to maintain a small home than a large one. Miranda’s in fantastic shape, so I really do just have maintenance to do, not major repairs. It really hasn’t been that expensive when I add it all up and compare it to the cost of keeping my mobile house together!

  • We miss you also… coffee just isn’t the same!!! And can you believe it… Rosey has given up shopping for the hell of shopping as her new year resolution…. take care…


  • Thank you for this post, I have been trying to gather as much info as i can on the monthly/yearly cost of living in an RV.. I’m currently a home owner in Ottawa and have been looking into the dream of living and working from the RD. Love to get more info from you about the upsides and downsides that you have encounter along your wonderful journey!

  • Brian, I honestly think that a working age full-timer needs just about the same amount of money to RV as they needed in a housebound life, only the expenses shift to other categories. I’ve still got the same monthly budget, only some of my expenses are now seasonal rather than monthly (eg. gas for the motorhome).

    The biggest downside I’ve encountered so far is that you technically need to spend six months of the year in the same province for healthcare reasons and if you choose to not do that you shouldn’t advertise it.

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