Things to Know Before Living in an RV
Whether you’re considering moving into an RV for the freedom, affordability, simplicity, or any other reason, there are a few things about this lifestyle that you should be aware of before you get started.
In addition, there are some logistics you’ll need to have figured out so as not to interrupt your life.
In this article, we’re going to drastically reduce the learning curve associated with RV life by outlining all the things to know before living in an RV, including the logistical aspects you’ll need to figure out before starting life on the road, as well as major differences that separate RV living from a more traditional lifestyle.
What to Know Before Living in an RV
Before moving into an RV full time, there are a few logistics you’ll need to take care of.
Some of these may have been issues prior to living in an RV, but they may require additional consideration now. Other items on this list will be new obstacles for you to overcome if you’ve always lived in a stationary dwelling.
Where Is Your Money Coming From?
No matter where you’ve lived before, you’ve always had to know where your money was coming from. The only difference is that now your place of residence may change, and it could change repeatedly with high frequency.
Naturally, that can lead to issues with standard employment. In most jobs, your employer will expect you to be on premises to complete your shift, which obviously won’t work for someone who has left the region!
If you’re going to live in a single RV park long term, or at least stay in the same general area, then this might not be such an issue as living in an RV under those circumstances isn’t much different than living in an apartment.
When this becomes a major issue that must be taken care of is if you decide you want to travel, which is a major part of the allure that RV living presents.
Before you move into an RV expecting to travel the country, make sure you already know how you’re going to make your money along the way! You don’t want to end up stuck in some state with no one you know and no money left to repair your RV or fill the gas to reach the next destination!
Your Monthly Budget
Knowing where your money is coming from is half the battle, but knowing how much you can afford to spend and what your lifestyle costs is the other half.
Many people turn to RV living because it can be such a cost-effective lifestyle compared to living in an apartment or home. However, if you aren’t aware of your spending habits, your expenses can get out of control very quickly!
Just check out this comprehensive cost analysis of full time RV living to see the spectrum of how affordable or expensive RV living can be, depending on the choices you make.
Where You Plan to Park
When you live in a house or apartment, you never have to give much consideration to where you’re going to park, and you never have to think about where you’ll park your home!
For those who remain in RV parks, this will also not be much of a problem, but you will still have to make reservations and ensure you have an open spot in the park you want.
If you plan on boondocking instead of paying for parking, then figuring out where to call home each night will become a regular stress for you to solve.
There are tons of places where you can park an RV for free, ranging from large businesses, to rest stops, to BLM land, to state trust land, but you have to know where these spots are and plan accordingly. For more information on the best places to park your RV, check out this article.
How to Perform Basic Repairs and Maintenance
If your car has an issue, you take it to a mechanic. When your home needs repair, you call a handyman. But your RV is both your vehicle and your home, making it a bit more difficult to repair.
You can’t take it into a shop, because you’ll be homeless while it’s there, and all of your stuff is inside!
But most handymen don’t work on RVs since they’re so different from stick and brick homes.
The reality is, if you want to live in an RV full time, your best bet is to learn how to perform basic repairs and maintenance yourself.
Your RV will need all the regular maintenance that a car does, including fluid changes, new belts, brakes, and more. Each time you have to take it to the shop for minor work, you’ll be seriously inconveniencing your life.
Some RV mechanics will come to you, so that’s always an option to consider, but now you must figure the cost of paying someone to come out and deliver services every time you need basic maintenance or a simple repair.
How Will You Get Mail?
Even though you’re living in an RV, you’re still going to need a mailing address and a way to receive the mail you’re getting. You don’t want important letters to go unanswered.
If you’ve got family that will let you use their address for mail forwarding, then you can do that, but you’ll still have no way to get those important pieces of mail you need to see yourself.
A great choice is to use an online mail forwarding service. They will give you a legit address to use, receiving all the mail that comes to your address. Once received, they scan your mail and email you a copy, so you’ll actually be able to see each piece of mail.
One site you can use is physicaladdress.com, but there are other options as well.
8 Things to Know Before Living in Your RV
At this point, we’ve discussed what you need to know about living in an RV logistically. Now, it’s time to talk about the parts of RV life that nobody has warned you about yet. These aren’t necessarily bad things, or even things to be wary of, they’re just different than what you’re probably used to.
RV Life Looks Different for Everyone
If you’ve been watching a favorite RV creator on YouTube or following their updates on Instagram, then you’ve likely been mesmerized by the incredible lifestyle they portray.
The truth is, their lifestyle probably looks a lot different from behind the camera when you’re not only seeing those few minutes of recorded time that made it into the video.
Moreover, RV living is a diverse lifestyle, and there are many different ways to live in an RV.
Some people stay in a single RV park year-round. Others hop around between RV parks and campgrounds, traveling the country. Some RV-lifers strictly boondock and never spend a single night in an RV park.
None of these are the right or wrong way to live in an RV. It’s a very personalized lifestyle, and any way that you decide to live in your RV is completely fine. Just make sure it’s what fulfills you. Don’t get caught up comparing your RV lifestyle to that of someone else’s you’ve seen on social media!
You’ll Probably Need to Downsize… a Lot
You likely already realize that RVs have considerably less space than most houses. Clearly, you’ll have to downsize a bit to move into an RV.
RV living is a somewhat minimalist lifestyle as you simply cannot carry loads of superfluous stuff.
Still, you may not realize just how much you’ll have to give up to adopt the RV lifestyle.
If you’re already a minimalist, then there might not be much change. But if you’re used to having a large walk-in closet, a storage shed, a garage, multiple bathrooms, or anything similar, then expect to go through a pretty serious period of adaptation while you become accustomed to the drastically reduced size of your home and storage spaces.
Repairs and Maintenance are a Constant Necessity
We touched on repairs and maintenance in the first section, but it’s such a vital aspect of RV living that you can’t overlook it.
RVs are homes and vehicles rolled into one. As such, they can experience all the same problems that both houses and vehicles have.
Sometimes, it feels like living in an RV is a constant process of dealing with one issue right after the other.
Those issues are pretty insignificant most of the time, but they still become a very regular part of your life when you’re living in an RV.
Even if nothing is need of repair right now, you certainly need to perform continuous maintenance if you want to keep things that way!
It’s Only Cost-Effective if you Don’t Act Like a Tourist
If you’re making moderately economical choices, then living in an RV can be far more cost-effective than other lifestyles.
Even if you’re traveling consistently, you can keep costs low since you have far fewer monthly bills. There’s no rent and no utility bill, but if you act like a tourist in each destination, then your costs will quickly outgrow your budget.
When you live in an RV, there’s no rush. People who go on a one-week vacation have a very limited time to shove as much into their trip as possible.
On the other hand, you have all the time you want. You can stay in a single place for weeks or even months, giving you tons of time to experience everything you want.
So, don’t cram everything in as if your life depends on doing every activity available in a single week. You have plenty of time, so slow down and act like you live here now, because you do!
For more information about the cost of RV living, be sure to read my comprehensive cost analysis of RV life with breakdowns of various RV lifestyles.
Travel Partners Really Matter
Roommates and relationships can always be difficult to navigate, but the issue is multiplied tenfold when you’re living in an RV.
Since RVs are such small spaces, you’re forced in very close proximity with the other people living there. Privacy hardly exists, and there’s almost no such thing as personal space.
This might not be an issue between two very secure, established romantic partners.
However, if you’re traveling with a friend or a new relationship, be aware that RV life can put some serious strain on your relationship.
It takes some adapting and compromise to live in such small confines with another person.
On the flip side, you don’t have to stay in your RV! One of the biggest draws of RV living is that many RV-lifers spend far more time outside doing things than sitting in their RV.
Prevention Trumps Repair
When something breaks on your RV requiring repair, it’s a disaster, pretty much every time.
Repair can be extremely expensive.
You’ll often be left stuck somewhere in a vehicle that’s very costly to tow.
This is certainly a case of an ounce of prevention being worth more than a ton of cure.
Performing regular maintenance on your RV can help to reduce the chances of you experiencing a catastrophic event while on the road, though it won’t eliminate the possibility altogether.
Your best bet is to get affordable AAA RV coverage so you won’t have to pay out of pocket should you happen to need a tow! Towing your RV could easily costs over $1,000 if you have to pay.
You can find other essential tips like this in my article listing the 20 most important tips for full time RV living.
Weather Impacts You More
People living in stick and brick homes are largely unaffected by most weather, even inclement weather. A rainstorm has no real effect on a standard suburban household.
But if you happen to be boondocking in a remote location when a torrential storm rolls in, you’re in a very different situation.
RVs, unlike houses, have the very real possibility of getting stuck. You could easily reach a point where you’re unable to leave the place you’re at due to the weather.
Sometimes, even more unexpected things happen like trees or heavy branches falling on your RV.
It’s always a good idea to keep an eye on weather forecasts when you’re living in an RV, despite the fact that they’re rarely correct! Knowing whether severe weather is expected or not can help you to make safer decisions regarding where to park your rig.
Driving Your RV In Town Can Be a Hassle
RVs are big vehicles. Even if yours is on the smaller side, unless it’s actually a camper van, it’s going to be a hassle to drive in town. This issue is exacerbated several times over for those super-sized RVs!
Once you’re in town, expect that you won’t want to drive your RV around. It’s just too much of a nuisance to drive that monster through tiny downtown streets.
Instead, many RV-lifers tow along another vehicle, but this can easily cause wear and damage to the vehicle you’re towing, not to mention putting extra strain on your RV.
In some places, you can use bikes or e-bikes to get around once you’re in an urban area. Otherwise, you might have to rely on Uber or your own two feet!
RV living can be a very rewarding and freeing lifestyle, but it is a unique way of living that differs significantly from more “typical” living situations involving stationary homes that can’t travel with you.
If you’re considering RV or van life as a long-term housing solution, then make sure you’re prepared with my full list of RV living essentials. You don’t want to be caught without any of these items in your RV!
While you’re at it, you might check out my top tips for RV living that are sure to make your RV life more comfortable and help make the transition into RV living much smoother.