Pros and Cons of Retiring in an RV


retiring in an RV lg

Traveling in an RV seems like a great way to spend your “golden years”, right? So for those ready to retire and enjoy life, let’s explore the pros and cons of retiring in an RV.

Here’s what I know from extensive travel in mine:

The pros of retiring in an RV include:

  • Exploring many different places, climates, and scenery
  • Being able to move seasonally to more habitable climates
  • Inconsistent access to medical providers
  • Meeting new people
  • Simplifying one’s life

The cons of retiring in an RV include: 

  • Not being consistently close to kids and grandkids
  • Low-quality or inconsistent internet
  • Not having a dedicated place to call home
  • Having to sell or store most of what you own
  • Having to receive and pay bills online

So, is it smart to sell your possessions or put them in storage and hit the road? We’ll explore the question in some depth.

Let’s get into it.

How much does it cost to retire and live in an RV?

On average, most retired couples living in an RV spend $2,100 per month. But it varies based on the location, the type and condition of the RV, as well as overall lifestyle choices. A range between $1200 to $3000 per month is realistic for most.

You get to decide what you’d be spending depending on the kind of life you’re looking forward to in your retirement.

Through the choices you make you can spend a lot or a little. Let’s look at some of the major costs. 

1. The Cost of the RV – Ranges from $36,000-$150,000

If you pay cash for your rig, you won’t have a monthly payment, right?

That’s one way to go. And if you take out a loan, the payment depends on the kind of RV. And new or used makes a big difference too.

But here are the averages for a late model (2 years old), medium-sized, low mileage RV by type:

  • Travel Trailer – $36,950
  • Fifth Wheel – $39,500
  • Class B RV – $142,350
  • Class C RV – $79,050
  • Class A RV – $100,800

(source)

2. Rent for the Campground – $9,000 per year on average.

The rent depends on the location, how long you plan to stay, facilities available, and even the time of the year. It could be as low as $25 per day to something like $60 to $100 per day for an upscale location.

The good news is almost all campgrounds offer weekly and monthly rates. Some even offer yearly rates. And the longer you lock-in, the cheaper per day.

Annual rates can be as high as $20,000 per year for a luxury RV resort or as low as $5,000 for a more basic (probably 30-amp) campground.

3. RV Insurance – $1,400 per year on average

RV insurance, of course, varies based on whether it’s a trailer or a motorhome. The age and size also factor in. But you can expect to pay, on average, about $1,400 per year.

4. Gas – $1,061 per year

(assuming travel every 7 days at approximately 400 miles, and 7 mpg)

If you’re going to be traveling a lot, gas could end up being your biggest expense.

Why? RVs guzzle gas. That’s the honest truth. So, you may need to budget hundreds of dollars each month if you’d be checking out a lot of places.

But, if you’d only travel now and then, then, it’s no big deal.

5. Groceries & Eating Out – $8,400 per year

This is also under your control.

Depending on where and how much you eat, your food costs could range from, say, $400 to $1000 each month.

6. Utilities – $2,500 per year

You’ll need to fill up your propane tank every 2-3 months depending on how much you use it – at about $19 each time, depending on the size of your tank.

If you’re staying at a campsite, the cost of electricity and internet access is usually a part of the rent. And there’s your phone which could be about $100 per person.

7. Repairs, Annual Registration, and Maintenance – $1,400 per year

Just like living in a sticks-and-bricks home, there are repairs and maintenance costs.

It may be frequent, depending on how good your rig is. $100 per month is a good figure to budget. Annual registration varies from state to state and based on the size and weight of your RV. But somewhere around $200 per year is a good figure to use.

And we haven’t even touched on if you have a car in addition to an RV. But luckily, you already know the costs involved with that.

Is it cheaper to retire in an RV compared to renting or owning a home?

On average, retiring in an RV is 41% cheaper than owning a home. However, be aware that RVs depreciate in value, whereas homes generally appreciate in value.

But it also depends on what you make it.

It can be incredibly cheap, and it can be as expensive as living in your own home. Why? It’s because you can choose to live a very luxurious lifestyle even though you’re retired in an RV, or you may opt for a cheaper lifestyle.

Saving money is the draw for a lot of retirees, that’s in addition to the adventures. A magazine estimates that one could save up to $1000 a month. That’s not money I’d sneeze at.

One of the best ways to save money is to stay at a campground that you pay for monthly or yearly and not travel too much.

And, of course, to proactively manage your finances.

You may want to get started doing that before you get your rig. If you’re not already managing your finances, you may simply continue a similar lifestyle even when you’re RVing.

If you’re already keeping accurate records of your expenses, it’d be a lot easier to compare with your expenses when you move into your rig when you retire.

Fuel and the cost of the RV itself are the most expensive costs in RVing. Both would depend on the kind of RV you’d like and how often you want to be on the road.

There’s more flexibility when you’re RVing, so you can tweak many variables. This is the main reason it’s cheaper. If you’ve already paid $600,000 for a home, it’s not so easy to tweak a lot.

Does RVing save you money?

When does it make sense to sell everything and hit the road? To find out more, check out a recent article of mine where I took a deep dive into the issue.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What are the negatives of living in an RV?

Some of the negatives of living in an RV are:

  • Having to sell most of your belongings or rent a storage unit
  • Having to be outside the RV to get time to yourself
  • Inconsistent and slow Wi-Fi 
  • Being away from friends 
  • RV depreciation
  • Having to move seasonally to avoid inclement weather

1. RVs depreciate 30% over the 1st 3 years

Your finances are a key issue you should be on top of as you begin to enjoy your golden years.

Even though it’s cheaper to live in an RV than a house, the former depreciates at a faster rate than a home. Generally, a new RV will have gone down by about 30% in the 1st 3 years.

Of course, the brand and type of RV will affect that. A luxury Newmar Dutch Star will likely depreciate less than a much lower-quality Thor RV.

But over a decade, even that Dutch Star will have gone down in value by 50%.

Its resale value could even be less than what you owe when it’s time to trade it in. This is because it’s essentially a vehicle and not a home.

But your cost of living can be dramatically reduced if you retire in an RV.

2. You’ll have to adjust to a smaller space

You’re probably living in a really lovely home right now. Spacious and beautiful.

You’ve decorated it to your taste, and you often buy a lot of groceries in bulk. I am afraid that’s not so easy to do in an RV because it’s a small space.

Even the big RVs are small compared to a home. 

If you’re someone who loves having a lot of space to relax in and for storage, you’d need to adjust. You can. Many have.

But you may find it a tad constricting at first.

3. The Temperature is a Key Issue

RVs are not as well insulated as a home.

So, how to keep warm during winter can be a huge challenge. Conversely, keeping the heat out during summer can be an issue, too.

Most RVs are made of aluminum and fiberglass. The insulation is better in those made with fiberglass but not as good as that in your home.

Other negatives come with retiring in an RV.

But is there any facet of life that’s free of some drawbacks? We simply devise ways to cope with them. Take the temperature issue, it’s not a deal-breaker because you can simply drive to a place where the temp is warmer.

And to combat the heat during summer, you could have a more powerful AC installed. You can also have an awning in front of your rig, pull out a few chairs, and simply chill out with your partner and friends.

But what about ALL the pros and cons of RV living?

To help you make an informed decision, a recent article of mine explores 25 crucial pros and cons of living in an RV full time. It’s a deep dive.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What is the best RV for a retired couple?

The best RV for a retired couple is an Airstream Sport trailer or a 36-foot Redwood fifth-wheel. Towable RVs are perfect for just 2 people, and being towed makes it easy to run errands in the truck without having to move the RV.

But it boils down to your preferences and, consequently, the features of the RV.

And, of course, your budget. For example, do you want a motor home? That’s an RV that you would simply drive around or a trailer that you would have to tow behind another vehicle that you own.

Unless one knows what you would like in specific terms, it’s hard to talk about the best RV for a retired couple. Let’s look at some of the factors you should bear in mind if you’re getting a rig you’d retire in.

You don’t need something huge. 

Get something you can easily maneuver. If it’s huge (say 40 feet), it could be a challenge getting it into some campsites. 28 to 30 feet is more like it.

Get a rig that’s well-insulated to protect both of you adequately when it’s winter. Of course, you can always become snowbirds. What you need is a rig built for all seasons.

I suggest a trailer such as an Airstream or a Fifth-wheel if you would rather get something more luxurious.

It’s not for you if you’d rather go minimal. Depending on your age, it may also be a tad intimidating to drive. But you can take lessons.

You can’t go wrong with an Airstream Sport if you decide trailers are the way to go. It’s compact, lightweight, loaded with features, and it’s made by a company that’s probably the best in the industry.

Then, there are motorhomes.

These are motorized RVs, so you don’t have to tow anything.

There are 3 types: A, B, and C. C is the one that has a nice-sized bed over the driving area. A is the largest and most comfy, while Bs are like vans.

You can check the different types of RVs available.

So, you need to discuss with your partner to agree on what would be ideal, after studying the features and prices of the different rigs by the best brands.

To help you make the right decision see a recent article of mine where I offered the ultimate guide to buying an RV you’d live in.

I revealed the best RV to live in all year- round and whether you should buy new or used. I even shared the cheapest state to buy an RV in.

Just click the link to read it on my site.

What is the cheapest state to buy an RV in?

Montana is the cheapest states to buy an RV in because there is no sales tax which can add 5-10% to the cost of an RV. And unlike other states with no sales tax, Montana does not require buyers to be a resident which is how buyers avoid paying tax in their home state.

RV pricing, like other products, is affected by demand and supply. The time of year you buy also impacts the price and how much dealers might be willing to negotiate.

Buying in early Spring right before RV season? 

Expect to pay a premium! Buying as we head into the holiday season? That’s a much better time to buy, especially with a lot of inventory.

Just like with cars, they want to clear out last year’s inventory, so they have room for the new stuff coming.

Sales that have no sales tax are the ideal places where you should buy your rig. As of the time of writing, 5 states do not have sales tax. But you need to be a resident.

They are:

  • Alaska
  • Oregon
  • New Hampshire 
  • Delaware

You can save a lot of money if you buy from any of these states.

Conclusion

In the article, we looked at how much it costs to retire in an RV and if it’s cheaper to live in an RV relative to owning or renting a house.

But we also explored some of the negative effects of living in an RV. Then, we considered the best RV for a retired couple.

Lastly, we wrapped things up by checking out the cheapest state to buy an RV in.


Photos that require attribution:

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell travels on and off with his 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. He writes extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

Top Related Posts