Pondering The Switch To Full-Time RV Living (Pros & Cons)
I want to make it clear upfront that we are not full-timers. At this point, we don’t plan to. But…
Every time we go out on an extended RV trip, we think about it. Almost every time, we end up having that conversation about the potential.
There’s really nothing stopping us from doing it. My business is completely online so I can run it from anywhere. My wife (Malika) isn’t working anymore and does some work for my business as well as keeps the household humming along. On top of all that, we’re going to begin homeschooling the kids.
Logistically, we have nothing to keep us from full-time traveling. The biggest thing would be friends and family. That isn’t a small matter for us. But, we could come up with solutions for that.
We also have the house – and, of course, all our stuff. The house could be rented out. In terms of our stuff, downsizing wouldn’t be too difficult. We could put some stuff in storage if we wanted… or just get rid of it. In the end, all the important stuff could go with us in the RV. We’ve got a lot of storage and there’s no doubt we don’t need everything.
Let’s first look at the good points about living in the RV – at least for awhile.
- We could switch our location often and travel the country. I mean, this one is the most obvious. Any time we want to switch up the view and see new things, we just start the engine and move on down the road.
- We would enjoy a better work/fun balance. Strangely, I feel like I am more productive business-wise when I am out in the RV because I can mix it up. I can work for several hours, then go out and DO SOMETHING. Something new and in a new location. When I am at home all the time, my productivity begins to drop because I am always home. I mean, I get to a point where I’m almost looking for excuses to get in my car and go somewhere. When RV traveling, I feel like I get more done in less time.
- There’s less to clean. My wife is a big fan of this one. For instance, it can take half an hour to clean the kitchen after dinner at home. In the RV, she’s done in just a few minutes. The space is smaller and we have less stuff, so there’s just inherently less upkeep. Speaking of which…
- Less Maintenance. The house has a lot of upkeep. You’ve got to keep the yard happy, water the grass. You’ve got things getting dusty. We’ve got the big garage full of crap that always gets dirty. There’s also just more to break and it can be expensive. With the RV, things obviously break. But, they’re generally not that big a deal. And while RV equipment can come up a premium, it still isn’t as bad as a house. For instance, we’re close to the point of having to put a new A/C on the house. It’ll run me at least $5,000. I could replace one of the roof A/Cs on the RV for less than $1,000 if it went bad.
- More Amenities. Our house doesn’t have a pool. Most campgrounds we stay in do have one. As I write this very post, I’m sitting in a place which has a great pool, a jacuzzi, a gym, a sauna room and much more. Of course, not all campgrounds are decked out like this one, but the beauty of a home on wheels is you can park where you want.
- Can Live In Superior Weather Year Round. We are based in Florida. Half the year it is quite nice. In the summers, it is freakin’ brutal. If we’re full-timing, we could “live” wherever we want in the country during the year. During the summers, we’d likely stay further north. And during the winter/fall, we’d be in the south.
- Can Have A Home In Otherwise Expensive Places. Buying a waterfront home can cost a pretty penny, yet there are beautiful waterfront campgrounds all over the place. Or, you could park your house in upstate New York in the summer and literally live in the mountains.
- Enforces Minimalism. Most of us have a nasty habit of acquiring too much stuff. There are people in my neighborhood with large garages that they can’t even park their cars in because they’re so jammed packed with crap. When you surround yourself with lots of crap, it can become a kind of trap. You’re spending a lot more time organizing it, moving it around, maintaining it. Or, you get into that mindset where you think you want MORE, so you end up just buying more crap in that search for “new”. It is a weird priority, when you think about it. Living in an RV places more focus on experience and being present than it does on your stuff… because you are simply carrying around less stuff.
- Ease Of Attending More Events Nationally. I used to go to more conferences and travel more for business. Over the last few years, I’ve dialed it way back. Leaving the family is tough. But, if we were fully portable, we could plan our travels around some of these events I would not otherwise bother with. Could be quite interesting, actually. 🙂
- Ability To Travel More Freely Without The Distance. Being based in Florida, we live in the extreme southeast. Much of the nicest areas of this country are out west. To get out there is a LONG drive for us. But, then, since we’re still living in Florida, we end up traveling all the way back to Florida. If we didn’t have the time to see it all (which is very likely), we’d have to drive ALL the way back out west again on a second trip. On the other hand, if we weren’t worried about returning home for quite some time, we could just stay out there and see everything without time pressures to drive cross country again.
- Distance From Family. My wife grew up in a much more loosely connected family so this isn’t a big deal for her. For me, my family has always been close. My mom is half hour drive for our house. My father lives further away but he has a plane and can fly to us in about 40 minutes. My brother is about an hour away. Most of my extended family lives within an hour or less from us. There’s no doubt that full-timing in the RV would mean that we’d be spending more time away in places where it won’t be convenient to get together as often. More on that below…
- Confined Space. Our current rig is pretty large for a gas motorhome. Has 2 slides and is pretty decked out, actually. But, there’s no getting around that it is still small and compact compared to our house. Things cans get a little cluttery. There’s more out in the open. As I sit here and type this post, my “office” is on a desk in the rear of the rig. It gets the job done, but at home I have an entire room dedicated to my business. MUCH more space! Oh, and the SHOWER. At home – BIG SHOWER. In the RV, not so much. We end up taking “cat bath” style showers much of the time or going out and using the campground facilities.
- Around The Family ALL The Time. I love my kids, but I do sometimes get aggravated with them when we’re in the RV because… they’re kids. They make messes and don’t always clean up. They can be pretty high energy and talk alot and that can wear on you when you don’t have anywhere to escape for some quiet time. Just them playing with their toys can be loud. What I do is put on headphones and drown them out with some music. Or, take my laptop out into the common areas and literally leave the motorhome.
- Less Conveniences. While there’s benefit to minimalism, there’s also conveniences with having room for more stuff. For example, our kitchen at home is pretty large and we have several nice appliances. The RV kitchen is significantly smaller and you don’t have room for those conveniences.
- Spotty Utilities. Internet service is pretty important for my business. At home, I have high-speed fiber optic internet and it rocks. While traveling, you just never know. We have Verizon and it usually works fine, but some areas can be more spotty. Campground networks can be hit and miss. At home, we can stream TV all day long without a thought. In the RV, much less often.
- Lack of Permanency. You don’t really notice the benefits of being in one place long-term until you’re not doing it anymore. Something as simple as ordering an item from Amazon becomes a calculation on where to ship it to and when you’ll be there. Getting your mail becomes an issue. Plus, this doesn’t even mention friends and connections you make where you live. When you’re constantly moving, you are constantly meeting new people. That’s good, but can also wear on you because you won’t have time to develop those connections further unless you make a special point to maintain contact. That could be an issue for our kids because they won’t have any close friends.
Could We Do It?
Sure. We’d put the house up for rent so it is paid for and take off.
We both know it wouldn’t be a permanent move. Eventually, we’d want to return back to our house. The only issue would be that if a tenant has a lease, we couldn’t simply come home whenever we want. We’d have to notify them and wait for the lease to expire before returning.
We would also have the issue of how to handle our stuff. Rent the house out furnished? Get a storage facility? Sell it all and start over when we return?
And in terms of my family, there are ways. For one, we would certainly be in the south during the fall/winter so would be close by. I’d also be making a point to return home for holidays. Plus, there’s something to be said for visits being much longer and more meaningful when you do it this way rather than simply getting together for an afternoon. There would even be a good excuse for my parents to come to us and make a destination out of it.
It is all something we could deal with. The question is simply…
Do we want to?. 🙂
What About The Costs?
Interestingly, we don’t think it would change our monthly expenditures very much to RV full-time. In fact, it might even be cheaper.
Not only would we rent out the house, but doing so would likely turn us a profit of at least $400/month. On the flip side, campground fees likely wouldn’t add up to what we pay for our mortgage each month. It all depends on where you choose to stay.
Most likely, we could camp out in a resort with every amenity we’d want and do so for less than what our house costs. When you stay weekly – or even monthly – you almost always get rates which are cheaper.
Then, there’s the issue of driving. One thing I know many families envision when thinking of full-timing is that their life will be one big vacation. Constant sight-seeing.
But, I’m not naive. I know that living in the RV becomes LIVING. It isn’t vacation anymore. I’d need to work. We’d still need to get things done. So, the fact is that we wouldn’t be driving around all the time. Most likely, we’d be staying in campgrounds for a week or more at a time. If it’s a nice place, we’d probably stay a month. This means less driving and less gas charges.
Overall, I think offsetting the cost of our house and making money from it each month would more than make up for the cost of camping, travel and entertainment. The result is that I think our cost of living would be mostly the same.
Part of me was thinking I’d want to upgrade our RV if I were to live in it. I didn’t buy this RV with full-timing in mind. It is perfectly livable, but ideally we’d have some more modern enhancement if we were living in it long term. A better desk setup. A king bed. A superslide for more space. A bathroom which is self-contained rather than a split plan. Perhaps bunks for the kids so we don’t have to tear the living area apart every night.
But, of course, upgrading the RV brings on significant additional costs. There’s also the “starting from scratch” factor with a newer RV. Since I’ve now dealt with many issues with our current rig, I know it quite well. When you get a new RV, you will inevitably have some surprises to deal with.
So, Are We Doing It?
Not right now. But, we haven’t ruled it out.
Right now, we’re perfectly happy being “half-timers”. We spend a fair amount of time RV traveling, but we still have our homebase back in Florida.
There’s no doubt that this costs more. As I write this, we’re out in the RV for 6 weeks. But, the whole time, I’m paying for an empty house back home. And we’re running the A/C, too, because we’ve got a cat in there. And we’ve got the neighbor checking on her every 2 days. Long story. 😉
Next year, we’re planning a trip out west. Likely to be gone 3-4 months. The whole time, I’ll be paying for an empty house in Florida.
So, we continue to ponder it. Not really sure at this point if it will move beyond the pondering stage.