The biggest question most people have is: is it cheaper to live in an RV than a house? The answer may surprise you – it’s not cheaper to live in an RV.
There are many benefits to living in an RV full time, the best of being the freedom and adventure that comes with it. Full-time RVing can offer you the life you’ve always dreamed of.
Is it Cheaper to Live in an RV than a House?
Living in an RV vs House – Initial Cost
Let’s start with the initial costs, on average a new house will cost you on average is $287,148, the average RV will set you back between $15,000 to $300,000 depending on the type.
Unless you have the cash to buy outright, you will have to finance a house or an RV. For a house, you’ll likely get a mortgage, but for an RV you’ll have to get an RV loan. These loans will have higher interest than a mortgage or a car loan, so will end up costing you more.
Depending on the type of house or RV you buy, an RV is going to be cheaper than a house for the upfront cost, even including the high interest loan.
However, buying a house can be seen as an investment because if you wait long enough it will go up in value. On the other hand, RVs depreciate really quickly and are definitely not an investment you will get a lot less than what you paid for it when you come to sell it.
Living in an RV vs House – Additional Vehicle
Whether living in a house or an RV, you are probably going to need a vehicle.
If you live in a house, you will have a wider range of vehicles to pick from and so can get the best one to suit your needs, or the cheapest one.
If you are living in an RV you will need a vehicle to either tow the RV or to tow behind it, it’s not practical to unhook your RV and drive it to the shops for bread and milk or to go sightseeing.
Because of this you will have a more limited choice of vehicles, you will need one that can be towed easily. Or if you have a travel trailer you will need a truck or SUV that can tow the weight of your trailer. You will also need to purchase all the towing equipment.
Living in an RV vs House – Rent/Camping Fees
If you own your own home then you won’t be paying rent, you’ll just be paying down your mortgage. So in that sense, it’s cheaper than an RV because you don’t have the initial cost plus a rental fee.
The average rent in the US is $1,098 per month, for a one-bedroom apartment. Obviously, this will vary a lot depending on the size of the house or apartment and the location. Typically you can say that prices range from anything between $700 and $2,500.
If you are living in an RV you will have to pay camping fees, these should include electric, water, and sewer hookups. Campground fees can range between $30 to $50 but some are over $100 per night. You can usually get a discount if you are a member of an RV club or are staying for a long time.
You can always go free camping, however, it’s not a good long-term solution as you’ll have no access to water or electricity.
This makes on average campground fees more expensive than renting a house. The average rent is $1,098 and the average camping fee for a month is $1,200.
Living in an RV vs House – Insurance
Insuring a house will cost on average $1,312 per year.
RV insurance will vary a lot depending on the type, travel trailers are cheaper to insure than motorhomes because they are not as complex. If you are living in your RV then the insurance can be double at around $2,000 or more per year.
You will also need to ensure the extra vehicle, and as you will have no set address it will be more expensive for RVers.
Living in an RV vs House – Utilities
The average American pays about $2,060 per year on utility bills.
Utilities for an RV will usually be included in the camping fees, but there will be fuel to pay for. The fuel consumption is dependent on your situation and how much you travel.
Usually, fuel is one of the most expensive aspects to RV living because the fuel economy of an RV is terrible. Even when towing your RV the fuel consumption is just as bad.
You will also have to buy propane gas for your heating and cooking aboard the RV, propane isn’t too expensive and tanks can be filled up at the gas station.
Living in an RV vs House – Maintenance
On average you will spend around $2,040 per year on repairs and maintenance for your house. Luckily because they are stationary not too much can go wrong.
On the other hand, RVs are complex and a lot can go wrong, repairs can be expensive so it’s important that you maintain the RV. On average RV maintenance will cost you about $1,000 per year so it’s still cheaper than a house.
Living in an RV vs House – Other Costs
We’ve covered most of the big costs for living in an RV vs a house, but there are some others to consider for living in an RV.
- Storage – You might have to put your belongings into storage if you are downsizing to an RV. Paying for storage cost is $160 per month.
- Spending – You will buy less things living in an RV, there’s simply no room to put anything more than what you need. This could save you quite a bit per month.
- Vacations – You probably won’t be going on vacation if you in an RV, because you’ll be constantly travelling.
- Mail Forwarding – You will have to pay for a mail forwarding service if you are living in an RV, this isn’t too expensive but it will add about $25 to your monthly costs.
Living in an RV vs House – Overview
|RVHouseInitial CostCheaper, but will lose valueExpensive, but value will increase over timeAdditional VehicleExpensive, might need to spend more on a vehicle that can tow a trailer.||Cheaper, can choose any vehicle or not.|
|Rent||Expensive, average of $1,200 per month||Cheaper, average of $1,098 per month|
|Insurance||Expensive, almost double the cost of house insurance||Cheaper|
|Utilities||Cheaper, just pay for fuel||Expensive|
|Maintenance||Cheaper, but you need to keep on top of it.||Expensive|
Is it Cheaper to Live in an RV than a House? Final Thoughts
Obviously these costs will be unique to your situation and the house and RV that you are comparing. My advice is to run through the table above and fill in the costs for each.
If you are considering living in an RV to save money, then you are probably better off getting a cheaper house. A low cost house like a mobile home will be much cheaper than living in an RV.
If you are more interested in the life than living in an RV will bring than any cost savings then it’s well worth it for the experience.