Updated: Sep 12
RV or tiny house; which is the more financially viable option for families of different sizes. Read on to learn more.
Is it cheaper to live in an RV than to rent or buy a small house? That is a question plaguing the minds of a lot of people these days, especially millennials. In a day and age when buying starter houses is becoming increasingly difficult and expensive, RVing full-time seems like a good second option. But does RV living really save you money? and is this lifestyle suitable for just anyone? Read on as we dive into the details of RV vs. small house.
RV vs. Small House: Breakdown of Costs and Benefits
Let's take a look at the breakdown of costs between living in an RV vs living in a starter home. Bear in mind that a lot of these costs depend on the individual choices you make. For example, homes in certain states cost less than others and RV prices may also vary depending on where and how you are buying them. then
Initial Cost of Buying/Renting
The initial cost of buying or renting an RV will depend on the model, condition, and type of RV you choose.
A single-room trailer can cost up to $15000 (less if your buy used) (the loan payments would be about $300 per month) and larger Class As can cost up to a million dollars.
The median price of buying a starter home in the US is around $233,400. (the mortgage payments would be around $1000 per month)
The cost of renting an apartment or a house in the US can call for upwards of $5000.
Taxes and Insurance
RV insurance and fees
Land and state taxes, mortgage insurance, second car insurance, home content insurance
No extra fees for natural gas, electric, sewage, trash, or cable (all fees included in campsite rent)
natural gas, electric, sewage, trash, cable, and more.
No extra parking costs unless you live in an apartment that doesn't have dedicated parking and you own a car.
Maintenance costs depend on the type and condition of the RV. If you have a trailer or a fifth-wheel then you would need to factor in separate maintenance costs for your car.
According to an estimate, homeowners spend 1-4% of their home value on maintenance. Factor in the maintenance cost of all large appliances plus your car/s as well.
Renting a storage unit can cost anywhere from $100 to $500 a month.
No need to pay for extra storage.
Less space means less wastage of food. On average food for two people can cost $440 per month.
An RV tank can cost anywhere from $60 to $600 to fill up. How frequently you will need these fill-ups depends on how often and far you travel in your rig.
The cost of gasoline would depend on whether you own a car/s and how much you drive. Typically, the average cost will be less than what you spend on an RV.
Total Monthly Costs
The total monthly cost of living in an RV can average around $1400 to $3000.
The total monthly cost of living in a starter home can average around $5000.
Does Living in an RV Save Money?
Now that you've gone through a breakdown of all the costs associated with RV and small house living, the next big question is whether living in an RV really saves you money? The short answer is Yes, living in an RV full-time does have a cost advantage over living in a home.
The long answer is a little more complicated though. If you're living in a brand new Class A RV equipped with all the major appliances and are parked at a lux camping ground that costs over $80 per night, then you would most certainly be spending more than if you were living in a modest starter home. Another important thing to consider is the value of comfort, space, privacy, and storage that comes with house-living. You can't really put a price tag on those, just like you can't really calculate the value of the freedom that comes with living on the road. Basically, there is no right or wrong here.
Tips to Save Money While Living in an RV
RV living can become an expensive affair if you're not careful about where and how you are spending your money. Here are some tips to help you save money while living in an RV full-time.
Buy Used and Comparison Shop Insurance
You can save a lot of money buying a used RV than a new one. Lived-in RVs are also great if you're looking for certain customizations or additions in RVs but don't want to spend a lot of money doing them yourself. Just make sure to check all aspects of the RV when buying second-hand. You can also save money on RV insurance by comparison shopping. Some insurance providers have special discounts and packages for RV owners, check out a number of different insurance providers before making your decision.
Budget Your Expenses
Much like living in a house, living in an RV full-time also requires you to set a budget for all your expenses. Budgeting is all about setting your priorities and spending money only on what is absolutely required. Don't spend a lot on filling your RV with big-ticket items like washing machines for example, because they take up a lot of space and you will need to be plugged into an RV park to use them efficiently.
Your total expenditure will also depend on the kind of RV lifestyle you choose. For example, if you're going to be parked in a campground for months, it is a good idea to invest in some garden furniture, RV rugs, window sunshades, windshield covers, and awning accessories since you will be spending a lot of time inside and outside your parked RV.
Consider keeping some money set aside for extra expenses such as renting extra storage spaces, mail forwarding, and rainy days.
Consider Seasonal Campsite Parking
A lot of campgrounds offer seasonal parking spots for 3-5 months at discounted rates. If you're planning on parking your RV for the season, it is a good idea to get one of these spots and save hundreds of dollars in parking fees. You can also consider joining RV clubs like Passport America to save money on parking fees at select campgrounds across the US. Workamping is also a good option to save some money, basically, you can offer to work around the campground in exchange for parking privileges.
If you've chosen RV living for the freedom and the travel then you can save real money by going off-the-grid. You can try boondocking to save money on parking and utilities. You can opt for a smaller camper or a fifth-wheel situation where you can park your trailer in a park and have the freedom of traveling in your car as you explore. There are many places in the US that allow for free RV parking, you can use those options while on your way to your destination to save money.
Learn Basic RV Maintenance
You can save a lot of money and hassle if you learn how to perform basic maintenance on your RV. Learning how to change motor oil, rotate the tires on your rig, sanitize holding tanks, and maintain slideouts will go a long way in saving you money on repairs and maintenance. It is also a good idea to carry road safety gear and accessories with you so that you are always prepared for all kinds of situations.
Cook Your Food
Always eating out can be a great burden on your expenses. It is a good idea to cook your food yourself. This will help you save a lot of money and give you the freedom to travel to and park at off-the-grid places. If you can't cook on a campfire, an air fryer or instant pot can be your best friend.
The Last Word
Living in an RV can be cheaper than living in a house, but keep in mind that this lifestyle isn't for everyone. A lot of people buy houses as an investment but that isn't something you can do with RVs (their value only depreciates over time). If you're new to the RV lifestyle, we recommend renting an RV and trying it out first before you make the life-altering decision to RV full-time.