Friday, September 10, 2010

The cost of life on the road.

After getting a ton of questions over the years concerning the costs of living this lifestyle, I am hoping I can shed some light with this post. Of course, the money involved is going to vary widely based on your particular rolling home and the way you travel, so keep that in mind as I share our experience with this topic.

First, there are the regularly scheduled expenses that we all face. For us, insurance is currently at $57 a month and yearly registration is $112.

Other expenses that are a little more varied, but not by a significant amount are our LP costs (propane) and tank dumping fees.

When we are utilizing our LP for the fridge while boondocking, hot water for showers, the furnace at night and the stove during the day on a fairly regular basis, we seem to fill it about once every 10 days at around $12-$14. So we can add about $40 a month on average for that expense.

Dumping the tanks for us most of the time isn't an expense in that we are usually able to locate a free dump station. For the times we have had to pay, it has never been more than $10 and usually is more like $3 to $5. This is a minor task that we take care of about once a week. It would be a very safe guess to say $20 a month for this in our case. We generally make sure the fresh water is topped off at around the same interval and have never had any expense to do it.

The most significant impact on the cost of living this lifestyle is really based on the pace we choose to travel at. Fuel, of course, is the main factor. Continuous travel is obviously pretty expensive and honestly just not that much fun if the pace is too quick.

Taj does fairly well on fuel, always staying above 15 MPG. I don't let her 35 gallon tank go below 1/4 on the gauge which means, at current prices, it requires about $75 to top off her tank and allows around 400 to 450 miles of driving. If we keep a mellow pace and enjoy an area for a little while before moving on, fuel costs can be pretty reasonable, even with a bit of local exploring. Destination driving is just more expensive so we usually try to avoid it.

For the most part, Heidi and I don't spend a lot of time in RV parks. Usually, we are able to locate a decent boondocking location or other form of free parking so, for us, this isn't a normal expense. There have been times we do enjoy staying at an RV park, but it is rare and usually due to a specific rally like the one we are currently attending this weekend.

Maintenance is a cost that must be considered and budgeted for. I keep up on Taj's service pretty well and do enough monitoring and preventative work that, other than regular interval type service, we really don't end up dealing with many unexpected repairs. $100 a month is more than our maintenence expenses, but I would say that is a fair amount to log if all of it were averaged over a year. That would be enough to cover general service easily.

We do laundry on a weekly basis at a typical laundromat. It is usually only 1 load and to wash and dry averages about $3 total so another $12 a month on the tally.

Another possible expense associated with life on the road is for a mail forwarding service. The services I checked into averaged $10-$20 per month. We don't generally get a lot of mail since we try to handle most stuff online. The few things we do get go to my Dads house where he can forward them if we need.

Expenses like food, clothing, entertainment, etc are really not too specific to this lifestyle so there isn't much point in calculating them for this post. I didn't include our Verizon 3G expense either since many just use Wifi where they find it and it isn't a requirement, though really nice to have.

So to sum things up a bit:

$57 for insurance
$10 for license fees averaged over a year.
$40 for LP(propane)
$20 for tank dumping
$300 for fuel if we top off once a week
$100 for maintenance averaged
$20 for mail forwarding
$12 for laundry
$554 total per month. This is actually a bit higher than our usual expenses, but it should give a decent starting point for a budget. Hopefully this will be helpful to those who are curious. Please feel free to ask any questions you may have.


  1. You do pretty well.
    But I can't imagine doing only one load of wash a week.
    for most people their biggest expense is their housing, so you make it look attractive to be a Vantramp!

  2. Thanks for sharing this information with us. You guys do really good and seem to have a lot of fun.
    Take care and travel safe.
    Mike & Gerri

  3. Thanks, Mike. This is very helpful. Gives me a better idea of where I need to be financially after I get Glorie B where she needs to be and get ready to go.

    I'm wondering, have you found Taj to be very stealth?


  4. Well it seems as if I have been fairly accurate in m,y guesstimates/planning. I had figured about $750/ month for myself including food/phone/net.

  5. Thanks for the comments everyone!

    Merikay, one load a week is easy, just don't play in the mud too much :)

    Mike & Gerri, Are you ready to trade that big class A for a B yet? I bet you would be surprised how decent and roomy some of them are now. Heidi and I spent the weekend at a "B Social" get together with 19 other B's and saw some really impressive rigs.

    Kris, Taj is quite stealthy if you ask us, we have never been rousted in it. We have had no trouble at all parking on street or anywhere else that would be considered "stealth". Of course she is de-badged which makes her look less like an RV so that may help. If you missed it, I wrote a blog on it a while back. It is here:

    Hope that helps :)

    Darryl, Sounds like a pretty fair estimate for one person. I went pretty safe with my examples, really, we don't often use that much LP and especially not now with the large inverter and decent battery capacity.
    Also, we really do rarely have to pay for dump stations, there are plenty of free ones out there at least where we have been. For example, the local fairgrounds in Mora MN, close to my Sister's place. Lots of them out there!


  6. Thanks for being so open and honest about your monthly expenses, it really makes it seem like a possibility when you know what the actual expenses are for someone that is out there and doing it.


  7. You are welcome Larry! Thanks for your comment! I hope you find it to be very possible if it's what you choose to do as well! I of course highly recommend it :)