Life on the Road: The Complete Guide to RV Living

A couple enjoying RV living in the US

This RV living guide provides all the information needed to make the transition and start enjoying the freedom of life on the road.

For some, staying put just isn’t an option. There’s a unique, indescribable feeling that comes with living in an RV. Visiting places you couldn’t imagine before and engaging with new people from various backgrounds and cultures—these are life-changing experiences (mostly for the better).

But living in an RV comes with significant responsibilities. From preparing for the journey to making sure your RV is running and living as comfortably as possible, there are a lot of expenses you need to plan for. And if you’re used to the amenities of everyday life, you’ll have to adjust and get out of your comfort zone.

To help you prepare, here’s a comprehensive guide to RV living and traveling, including what to expect, advantages and disadvantages, and essential tips.

What Nobody Tells You About Living on the Road

When you think about living in an RV or campervan, you probably imagine the open road and the sense of freedom that comes with it. And on social media, the hashtag “#VanLife” is popular among those who want to share their lifestyle content with the world. Over 14 million tags on Instagram and billions of TikTok views show that it’s a popular trend.

But the reality of RV living is often different than what you see online. It takes courage and emotional stability to live in such close quarters, adjust to changing environments quickly, and stay organized with all your possessions. Plus, depending on where you go, there could be weather-related issues or other challenges.

The Pros of Living Life on the Road

Of course, there are plenty of benefits to this lifestyle. Those who embrace the journey often speak of how rewarding it is to see new places and explore different cultures. It’s also a great way to save money on rent, as there are plenty of low-cost RV parks you can stay in for months at a time. Plus, you don’t have to worry about pesky neighbors or noisy cars passing by late at night.

1. High Degree of Flexibility

RV living increases your flexibility, as you can easily move to different locations while still being able to work or study. It’s also a great way to be one with nature and get away from the hustle and bustle of city life. And if you don’t have a lot of possessions, packing up and moving is easy.

Hypothetically, you could decide to drive somewhere new in the middle of the week and arrive just in time for the weekend. It’s a great way to spontaneously explore different areas and whisk yourself away from the same four walls you’ve been staring at for months on end.

2. Low Cost of Living

Especially if you come from an expensive area like California or New York City—where the average rent price is $2,295 and $3,908 per month, respectively—living in an RV can significantly reduce your overall costs.

Factoring in the cost of fuel and campsite fees, you could live comfortably for around $2,000 a month or less, depending on where you travel to. Right off the bat, saving money on rent equates to thousands of dollars per month back into your pocket.

Plenty of people build online businesses while traveling or working remotely for an existing company. Others are happy with limited income and just want to enjoy a minimalist lifestyle. Either way, saving money on rent is one of the best ways to build wealth later in life. For those who love new experiences, living on the road could be the perfect way to do it.

3. Great Way to Connect with Nature

Living in an RV allows you to experience nature on a much deeper level. You can easily disconnect from the digital world and unwind through activities like hiking, fishing, bird watching, or stargazing.

Plus, there are plenty of national parks across the US that offer incredible views and exciting outdoor activities. For those who want to explore the wilderness, it’s a great way to get active and appreciate life in the outdoors.

4. Explore Areas You’d Never Otherwise See

Those who have a home base are limited to exploring their city and the surrounding area. Every now and then, they can buy flights, travel to new locations, and enjoy the experience for a week or two.

But even if they work remotely, traveling full-time while renting or paying a mortgage isn’t feasible. And considering major cities and airports are often far away from some of the world’s best offerings, many of the most beautiful places to visit are expensive to actually get to.

As someone who lives life in an RV or campervan, this is no issue at all—you can move to different areas, drive off the beaten path, and explore all of Mother Nature’s hidden gems.

5. Meet Interesting People

Traveling in an RV gives you a chance to meet other people who live similar lifestyles. You can exchange stories, share advice, and find new friends along the way.

For those who feel as though they were made for a nomadic lifestyle, this means that they can meet like-minded people and form relationships with them even if they don’t stay in a certain area for too long.

Plus, it’s a great opportunity to take part in activities that are specific to your town or state. For example, if you’re visiting Arizona, you can go camping in the Grand Canyon or participate in local festivals and events. And that’s what makes this lifestyle so intriguing—you don’t just get to see new places, you get to immerse yourself in their culture as well.

6. Minimalist Lifestyle

Many can’t stand the hustle and bustle of the city, having too many possessions, or being tied down to one place. For those who find regular life to be overwhelming, living in an RV can be the perfect way to live a minimalist lifestyle.

With limited space, you’re forced to only keep items that are necessary and meaningful—meaning that you can have more time and energy for other things. Plus, this makes it easier to pack up and leave if you decide to move on again.

The Cons of an RV Lifestyle

Enjoy the sunset everywhere with a cheap campervan rental

Of course, living in an RV isn’t all perfect. There are definitely some drawbacks that you should be aware of before choosing this lifestyle.

1. Limited Space and Amenities

The biggest downside to living in an RV is the limited space. If you’re used to having a closet, desk, and other amenities in your home, you’ll definitely have to adjust to life in a campervan or trailer. And if you like to have many different outfits, furniture, or décor, you may find that it’s difficult to bring those items with you.

Plus, if you’re living on the road full-time, you won’t always have access to certain amenities such as laundry machines, Wi-Fi networks, and hot showers. Sometimes, it might be difficult finding places to stay if you don’t have a reliable campsite or RV park.

2. Maintenance Costs

Another thing to consider when living in an RV is the maintenance costs. Although it’s definitely cheaper than renting or buying a house, there are still significant expenses that come with owning an RV, such as repairs, insurance, and other upkeep like treating the roof or replacing the tires.

The average cost of repairing an RV is between $1,000 and $2,000 per year, and that includes basic maintenance as well as fixing any major damages. These types of expenses can add up quickly over time, so it’s important to be prepared for that before diving into this lifestyle. Especially since you will be driving it frequently and over long distances, breakdowns, and routine maintenance will both be more common than if you were just living in a stationary home.

3. Other Costs

Motorhome rental under the stars

In addition to maintenance costs, many new RV owners are unaware that their insurance rates and campsite fees will increase once they hit the road. Insurance rates can vary from state to state, so it’s important to research these costs in advance if you plan on traveling around.

And campsite fees can range anywhere from free (at some national parks or forests) to upwards of $50 per night, depending on where you stay. So, it’s important to factor these costs in when budgeting for your RV lifestyle.

If you are moving out of an existing home or apartment, you’ll also need to pay for moving costs, storage unit fees (if you plan on keeping any of your items), and the cost of closing out your previous residence.

4. Routing Can be Challenging

Google Maps is great for traditional routing—it always shows you the fastest available route based on real-time data. But most Google Maps users are car, SUV, or pickup truck drivers. If you’re driving an RV, there are some roads with height limitations or low-clearance bridges that you won’t be able to take.

And if you’re traveling with a larger RV, it can be challenging to find routes that are suitable for your vehicle. Whether it’s a windy mountain path, harsh weather conditions, or tricky detours, it’s important to plan your routes ahead of time and make sure that you’re prepared for any unexpected challenges along the way.

5. Unfamiliarity with Local Laws and Regulations

Finally, it’s important to be aware of the local laws and regulations in any area that you’re visiting.

RVs are subject to different parking rules, noise ordinances, and other restrictions depending on where you are—so it’s important to do your research before setting up camp.

For example, some places might ban overnight parking in certain areas, while others may require you to have permission before camping on private land. In some states, RVs are even subject to additional taxes or registration fees that must be paid.

6. Travel Length Limitations

Cheap campers are available everywhere!

You can’t (and shouldn’t) travel as far in one day with an RV or campervan as you would in a car. Of course, this depends on the type of van you drive, but the general rule of thumb is that you should only drive around 200 miles per day.

Keeping vigilant watch on your environment, perseveringly enduring gusts of wind, complying with weight and altitude regulations, as well as adhering to the narrowness of your roadway’s lane are all par for the course. Not to mention dodging other drivers who make a consistent effort at overtaking you.

This means that it will take you much longer to reach your destination if you’re driving an RV, so it’s important to plan ahead and factor in additional time for travel when calculating the length of your trip.

Tips for RV Travelers

VW van, a classic for your campervan trip

If you decide that the nomadic lifestyle is right for you, there are a few tips to keep in mind that will make your travels easier and more enjoyable.

Budget for gas and plan stops ahead of time.

Gas will require more planning than with a car, as some RV’s can only fill up at truck stops, and these are not always close together. Gas doesn’t just power your RV, either; it also powers your generator and other appliances, so it’s important to budget for gas accordingly.

One of the best things you can do to save gas is to purchase a solar generator for RV. This will allow you to draw power from the sun, meaning fewer trips to the gas station.

Stay safe and plan for emergencies.

Living in an RV can be dangerous at times, so it’s important to always have a plan if something goes wrong. Make sure that you are familiar with your RV’s emergency shut-off system and understand what to do in the event of a fire or other emergency.

It’s also important to have a plan for when bad weather strikes, as RVers are especially vulnerable when severe storms move through. Checking the weather forecast ahead of time will help you stay one step ahead of Mother Nature.

Research the area you’re visiting ahead of time.

If you’re planning to stay for any length of time, having a good understanding of the area you’re visiting will make your travels easier. Researching campgrounds, RV parks, and restaurants ahead of time can help ensure that you have an enjoyable visit. Beyond that, understanding different traffic laws in the area will help you avoid expensive tickets and other problems.

Learn to cook in your RV oven and microwave.

Contrary to what many people believe, cooking in your RV isn’t exactly the same as what you’d do in a regular kitchen. Space and power are both limited, so it’s essential to be mindful of how much energy each appliance consumes.

You’ll also have to get used to smaller ovens that take less time to preheat – this may result in burning food until you adjust accordingly. Plus, some RVs come equipped with only convection microwaves—if you’re hoping for more traditional baking, you may be disappointed. 

Make sure to enjoy yourself.

Living and traveling in an RV is an incredible experience that not everyone gets to have. Make sure to take the time to appreciate all of the experiences you’ll have while on the road – from seeing amazing sights to making new friends.

Endnote

Traveling in an RV can be a fun, affordable way to see the world. With a little preparation and forethought, you’ll have no trouble hitting the open road and living your best life on the go. The most important things to remember are to plan ahead, prepare for the unexpected costs of living in an RV (in this article we shared a breakdown of all our expenses in a 4-week trip through Northern Spain), and enjoy the journey.