The Surprising Secret Costs of Full-Time RV Living

Full-time RV living is a tempting lifestyle, but it’s not just a non-stop vacation. RV life costs money, sometimes as much as life in a sticks and bricks house or more. Sneaky charges can add up and break the budget of those who want to live on the road without going broke.

Taking the address with you

A white RV parked next to a bright blue mountain lake
Remote RV site | EyesWideOpen via Getty Images

According to Consumer Reports, RV sales have been on the rise for over a year, many of those buyers hoping to travel full-time. Unfortunately, full-time RVers often overlook a critical detail when planning for their life on the road. Maintaining a permanent address is a requirement for many services. However, full-time travelers have a secret workaround to take an address on the road.

Mail forwarding and domiciling services make it possible to maintain a permanent address, obtain state identification with that information, and received regular mail at any location. Of course, getting signed up and establishing a domicile address takes work, but the benefits make it worthwhile.

The first step is to choose a service and pay membership dues. Then, an address will be issued that can be used for vehicle registration and identifications. Memberships vary from $200-$500 a year. Next, travelers will need to visit the local DMV closest to their domicile address to obtain IDs and register vehicles under the new address.

It’s important to remember that RV taxes and insurance rates will be tied to a domicile address zip code. RVers should carefully consider these vehicle-related expenses when choosing which state and service to seek a domicile address in.

Full-time RV living means winterization in motion

Leaving an RV parked for the winter is much different than living in it safely through the season. Winterizing a rig for cold-weather occupation requires an investment. RV water systems are typically comprised of thin tubing and pipes. These must be insulated to avoid freezing snd keep waterlines usable through freezing temperatures.

A source of drinking water is a requirement for a habitable RV. To keep those holding tanks from freezing, many RVers chose heated tank wraps and water pumps. Chemicals can be used to treat black and grey water to keep tanks from freezing and potentially cracking.

Skirting can save a substantial amount in heating an RV. Cold drafts can pass under a rig and into the living space. A weatherproof, insulated, secure solution is often pricey. Many RVers may find the cost of heating more than they ever imagined it would be. It’s not uncommon for large rigs running electrical and propane heat to cost around $400 a month in winter.

Little details that make a big difference

A dedicated GPS that’s fine-tuned for vehicles the size of RVs is invaluable. Solutions range from apps around $10 a month to stand-alone systems that cost hundreds of dollars. These systems include clearance information, routes selected for rig weight, turn-offs, rest areas, and even parking advisories.

Tolls aren’t as straightforward in an RV as they are in a passenger car. Some may charge by axel or weight, which can quickly add up. Full-timers towing cars can expect to pay $80 and up for some bridges and tunnels. Many states offer toll passes that can save money in regularly visited areas.

Full-time RVers can expect to pay between $500 and $1,000 in annual maintenance. Life on the road can be hard on RVs of any quality. Being prepared for routine maintenance expenses can set full-time travelers up for success. Consider the nickel and dime expenses of life on the road before embarking.

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