20 Indispensable Tips for Full Time RV Living
After many years, or even a lifetime, of living in a stationary home, moving into an RV can take an adjustment period.
At first, the differences in lifestyle are glaringly obvious, but after you get into the rhythm of RV living, you’ll come to find you’re as comfortable as you’ve ever been, but with the added freedom that only RV life can provide.
Well-adapted to the mobile lifestyle after several years, I’ve developed a list of 20 indispensable tips for full time RV living to help you be as prepared, safe, comfortable, and cost-effective as possible.
You Must Know These 20 Full Time RV Living Tips
The following tips will make your life in an RV much easier. Save yourself the headache of learning all of these the hard way!
The last few tips will apply strictly to those who live in their RVs off grid, but a majority of these tips apply to anyone who lives in an RV.
1. Prioritize Tire Care and Maintenance
If you pay attention, you’ll notice that RVs with burst tires on the side of the road are a pretty common site.
You don’t want that to be your RV!
When it comes to tires, a little maintenance goes a long way. You can start by always checking your tire pressure before a long drive and filling up to the right pressure.
To that end, it’s a great idea to carry a portable inflator like this one that can inflate your tires whenever you need.
While you’re at it, be sure to pick up a can of fix-a-flat so you can get back on the road quickly if you get a small puncture. One can of fix-a-flat and some air from your inflator should get you to the nearest tire shop in most situations.
2. Always Keep a Ladder in Tow
There’s a lot happening on the roof of your RV, but it’s a difficult place to reach.
At a minimum, you’ll have a roof vent or fan, potentially several. You’ve probably also got an air conditioning unit, perhaps even some antennas and other devices. If you’re at all set up for off grid living, then you’ve also got a solar array up there.
So, what will you do when there’s some problem with your solar system and you have to troubleshoot your panels and connections? Or if you suddenly realize that there’s a leak somewhere in the roof and the incoming water is starting to cause damage?
Well, if you’re prepared, then you’ll have a way of getting onto the roof to do something about the issue.
- Available in 8.5 or 12.5-foot length
- Folds up to just 2.5 feet long
- Weight capacity of 330 pounds
Some RVs have ladders built onto the rear, and that’s a great option. Another great choice is to carry a telescoping ladder along with you. Since they fold up, they’re quite small but will be a life saver if you have an issue.
Personally, my telescoping ladder has proven to be one of my most useful purchases for my RV, and I use it all the time.
The one I use is very similar to this one on Amazon. It’s lightweight and easily portable, plus, priced very affordably.
3. Dump Sewage at Truck Stops and State Parks
When you’re off grid a majority of the time in your RV, dumping your sewage tanks can be a major hassle. You have to find a place with a suitable RV sewer connection, and often, you’ll have to pay for the use of that connection if it’s in an RV park and you’re not staying there.
You might notice that many truck stops, particularly in rural areas, have RV stations where you can dump for free. Anytime you’re traveling, you should double check at the truck stops you pass and see if you can dump, even if your tank isn’t currently full.
Also, you can stop at almost any state or national park. Even if you’re not staying in the campgrounds, they generally have accessible RV stations where you can dump your gray and black tanks and refill your water tank as well.
4. Never Leave Home Without Repair Tools
If you’ve owned a house before, then you’re aware that repairs are simply part of home ownership. Even as a renter, you’ve probably realized the number of things that go wrong with a home on a very regular basis.
You’ve also likely experienced the same thing with vehicles. If you drive enough, eventually, you’re practically guaranteed to deal with a malfunction.
Well, your RV is your home and your vehicle, so the likelihood of dealing with repair issues is doubled!
As such, it’s vital to always be prepared by bringing a basic set of tools in your RV everywhere you go. You might need to make some minor repair on the engine, or change fluids, or swap out a belt. Likewise, you might need to make a quick repair of something on the house part of your RV, whether inside like fixing a cabinet, or outside like repairing a roof leak.
A set of tools like this one will cover most of your basics, but you’ll also probably want to bring along a drill and whatever other tools you find to be useful. I personally carry tools to cover any situation I might encounter on the road, and I’ve used all of them!
- Compact size packs easily
- Covers all essential tools
- Plastic case for organization
- Contains SAE and metric tools
5. Use Leveling Blocks or Jacks on Uneven Ground
When I was living in a van, if the ground was even moderately even, it seemed perfectly acceptable. But in my converted RV, when the ground is unlevel, it feels like my whole world is out of whack!
Thankfully, it’s a pretty easy problem to fix by using either leveling blocks or jacks. Jacks are ideal if your RV is a trailer, but if yours is more of a motorhome, then I think leveling blocks like these are the quickest, easiest solution.
6. No Food Waste in the Sinks!
During your first year or so in an RV full time while you’re going through the learning curve, you’ll notice that RVs can present some pretty offensive odors.
Surprisingly, the gray tank can often be worse than the black tank!
But just by preventing any food waste from going into the sink, you’ll cut down on those odors in a major way.
7. Use Vinegar to Prevent Gray Tank Odors
Unfortunately, just leaving food particles out of the gray tank probably won’t cure your smell issues completely. So, pour a little vinegar into your sinks whenever they start to stink and the smell should disappear pretty quickly. You can also pour a little vinegar in whenever you first empty them to be preemptive.
8. Protect Your Battery with a Low-Voltage Disconnect
We all know that heart-sinking feeling when you turn the keys in the ignition and nothing happens, or you hear simply a repetitive clicking sound but the engine doesn’t turn over.
Dead batteries are a very common occurrence with cars, and nearly as common in RVs, but they don’t have to be.
If you install a low-voltage disconnect on your RV’s battery, then anytime there’s a drain on the system, such as when the headlights were accidentally left on, the battery will be disconnected from the system entirely before it goes dead.
Then, when you discover the RV won’t start, you simply press the breaker reset and your battery will reconnect to the system, still maintaining plenty of charge to get your vehicle started.
Spartan Power Smart Dual Battery Isolator
- Voltage sensitive relay
- Cuts in at 13.3V and out at 12.8V
- IP65 waterproof protection
- Backed by a 3-year warranty
Honestly, these should come installed on every vehicle. It’s an inexpensive device that can save you hours of headache! I highly recommend installing one on your RV, especially if you spend time parked off grid. This is definitely one of my best tips for full time RV living.
9. Blackout Curtains for Better Sleep
While we’re talking about light better sleep thanks to light filtering, it’s the perfect time to mention blackout curtains.
Now, these won’t be necessary if you primarily park in rural areas, off grid, away from any artificial light sources.
But if you ever boondock in town or you spend time in RV parks, then external artificial light coming through your windows at night can really make it difficult to get good sleep.
You can easily remedy this by adding a few blackout curtains over your windows. Most blackout curtains have the added benefit of also being thermal curtains, so they’ll help keep out the heat of the sun during hot summer months and keep out the frigid chill of winter when you don’t want to freeze!
10. Only Use Hot Water in the Shower
Showering in an RV takes some getting used to compared to showering in any normal home. Switching the shower head on and off to conserve water is one thing, but that blast of freezing water every time you turn it back on is awful!
You can easily avoid this by setting the temperature on your water heater to the exact spot you like for showering. Then, you only have to turn on the hot water and it will be the ideal temperature every time with no blast of ice water each time you turn the shower head back on!
11. Switch to an Instant Water Heater
The built-in water heater on your RV does the job it’s meant to do, but they’re generally not the best tool for the job.
Instant water heaters are extremely efficient, on both propane and water. You don’t have to heat an entire holding tank of water. Instead, the water is heated on demand, only when you need it. And you won’t waste water waiting for it to reach temperature because it’s instant!
This is the one I personally use, and I absolutely love it. A showerhead with an on/off button is included, along with the necessary fittings for most installations.
12. Get AAA Coverage for Emergencies
Since your RV is your home and vehicle together, problems are more common than in a home or car alone, as we’ve already discussed.
You can easily prepare for a majority of unforeseen disasters with AAA coverage, which is even offered for RVs specifically.
You’ll get towing included, along with help for when you get blowouts, locked out, dead batteries, and many more common problems. If something happens, help is swift and you pay nothing out of pocket.
Considering the outrageous cost of getting your RV towed, this policy pays for itself many times over if you use it just one time.
13. Have a Savings Account Just for Emergencies
On the subject of emergencies, it’s a good idea to put some of the money you save by living the RV lifestyle into an account just for emergencies.
While AAA can be a blessing, towing your RV to the nearest shop or safe parking place, you still may need to pay for repairs. Don’t forget lodging while your RV is being fixed!
If you’re skilled, you might be able to do most repairs yourself, but you’ll still have to pay for parts.
Either way, it’s best to be prepared by having an emergency savings account just in case something does go wrong.
14. Use Vent Covers – Especially in Winter
Roof vents and fans are one of the greatest ways to create ventilation in a small space like an RV. Especially when you’re not hooked to shore power to run a large rooftop AC, your roof fans become lifesavers in warm weather.
They’re not without their downsides though!
For one thing, they let in far too much light at night, which isn’t always a problem, but can be if you’re in an RV park or any urban area with lights, or even if the moon is particularly bright.
Worse, in winter, you can feel that cold is coming in through your roof vents. Not because they’re letting in cold air, but because those areas have no insulation.
But you can stick an insulated vent cover into the opening and cure all of these problems in an instant. Vent covers like these are the perfect size and will pressure fit into place snugly, keeping you warmer and providing better sleep by filtering out the light.
15. Stay in One Place for a few Weeks
It’s easy to get carried away with traveling when you live in an RV, especially in the beginning. Watching YouTube channels with people living the RV life can exacerbate the issue by making you want to emulate the lifestyle you think you’re seeing.
But by rushing from place to place, you’re going to miss out on a lot. In addition, you’ll be drastically increasing your expenses, even more so while gas prices are so high!
Staying in one place for a few weeks before heading to a new location can give you a chance to really explore and get to know an area.
Most tourists give each place the weekend treatment, but if you stay for a couple weeks, you can save a ton of money while seeing a completely different side of each place you travel to.
16. Save Every Penny Possible on Gas
Here’s one of my best money-saving tips for full time RV living: use GasBuddy to check ahead on the prices of gas wherever you’re going. When filling up a huge tank like most RVs have, you could save a ton just seeing where along your route is the most affordable place to stop.
Here’s an example. Just a couple weeks ago, I was driving through Globe, Arizona. The price of gas was $3.99, which felt pretty high to me after paying just $3.29 in Tucson not long before.
I checked on GasBuddy what the prices would be like in Phoenix, my destination. I saw that I’d be paying $4.99 per gallon there! Luckily, there was a station along my route in Superior where gas was $3.79, the cheapest gas I’d be passing.
I was able to save a ton by filling up at the cheapest spot in Superior, rather than making the mistake of continuing on to Phoenix and being forced to pay an additional $1.20 per gallon! In my 35-gallon tank, a full fillup would have cost an additional $42 by getting gas at the wrong station.
17. Travel and Live Cheaper by Boondocking
One of the most attractive aspects of the RV lifestyle is its affordability. But you’ll lose much of that advantage if you pay for the places you park your home.
Campgrounds and RV parks are convenient, but they can cost hundreds every month, and even over $1,000 monthly if you’re paying daily rates.
But your RV doesn’t need to be attached to shore power for you to live in it. Rather, you can park off grid and live in your RV just as comfortably. All you need is a small solar system for electricity.
The best part is that living off grid in your RV will save you all of that money you’d be spending on parking.
We’re talking about some pretty substantial savings, from hundreds to well over a thousand dollars that you could save every month, which is why this is one of my absolute favorite full time RV living tips. Just check out this comprehensive cost analysis of full time RV living for a complete picture, where you can see the average cost of RV living and the best ways to reduce that cost.
Tips for Living in an RV Full Time Off Grid
The aforementioned tips apply to anyone living in an RV, whether you live primarily in RV parks and campgrounds or you spend a majority of your time Boondocking.
Our final full time RV living tips, however, apply primarily to those who live off grid in their RV most of the time.
18. Conserve Water by Washing Dishes with Spray Bottles
If you’re living in an RV park, then water conservation won’t be an issue for you. Living off grid in your RV means you’ll need to be very conscientious about your water usage.
Showering takes quite a bit of water, but if you’re washing dishes the way you did when you were in a house connected to public utilities, then you’re probably wasting even more water washing dishes than washing your body!
Luckily, there’s a pretty easy way to conserve water when washing dishes, and that’s by using spray bottles for your water instead of the faucet.
It’s very simple. Put clean water in one spray bottle for rinsing. The other bottle will have water with a bit of dish soap added.
Use the soapy spray bottle to spray your dish, then scrub it with a sponge. After scrubbing, use the spray bottle with clean water to rinse everything down.
19. Conserve Even More by Using Dish Wipes
Not all dishes require a full wash. For example, a plate that you only used for a sandwich isn’t likely very dirty. So, instead of washing it, use a food-safe wipe to simply wipe it down, using no water at all.
These wipes are safe for use on food-touching surfaces and can save you lots of water and time on dishes.
20. Make Your Water Last Longer by Drinking from 5-Gallon Jugs
When we’re talking about off grid full time RV living tips, you’ll notice that water conservation is a recurring theme. That’s because it’s generally the single limiting factor determining how long you can boondock before you need to head to civilization to refill.
Even if you’re near a city, refilling your water tank tends to be pretty difficult, as there aren’t hookups just laying about.
I prefer to go as long as possible between refills, so instead of drinking from my water tank, I use several five-gallon jugs for drinking water, which can be easily and cheaply refilled at any water filling station. They’re often attached to convenience stores and gas stations.
To dispense the water, I rely on an electric dispenser that attaches to the top of the jug. There are also mechanical versions that you manually pump if you prefer to stay away from electronics, but the electric ones are USB rechargeable!
This can be a very rewarding and freeing lifestyle, but it’s different from what most people are used to. Hopefully, these 20 full time RV living tips can help you to live as comfortably and prepared as possible, making this lifestyle all it can be.
If you’d like to make your RV lifestyle dirt-cheap by spending more time off grid, then check out our complete guide to off grid RV camping for beginners so you can get a feel for what’s involved. Start with a couple of trips off grid and see how it suits you!