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RVing on Social Security? Here’s How To Do It (Actual Numbers)

In RV living by Christopher Schopf

Many people dream of spending their retirement Rving.  This is perfect for people who have saved up a lot of cash but what about those who are living on social security?

Can a person living on social security go RVing?
It is possible for people living on social security payments to spend all of their time Rving.  In fact, it may actually be beneficial for someone living on social security to spend their time Rving.

We’ll take a deeper look at why and how it can be done by looking at the costs associated with RVing as well as the income generated through social security.

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Average Social Security Income

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According to the Social Security Administration, the average monthly social security payout is currently $1,461.00 or $17,532.00 per year.  This is significantly less than the median income per person in the United States which is $3,250.00 or $39,000.00 a year.

However, people who are not working do not have as many expenses as people who are.  

A person living on social security may not have to spend money on commuting, eating out, or work clothes.

Also, a person living on social security is not restricted to having to live near a job.  This means that this person can choose to live in an area with a lower cost of living.

In fact, an RVer could choose to live somewhere that doesn’t have any rental costs at all.  For example, many RVers living on the west coast of the country choose to live on BLM land full time.  These people get to live on this land rent-free with the understanding that they must switch locations every 14 days.

Another thought to consider is that $1,461.00 is the average monthly social security payout.  This means that some people will get paid much less and some people will get paid much more.

The minimum social security payout right now is $848.80 per month or $10,185.60 per year.  The maximum social security payout right now is $2,861.00 a month or $34,332.00.

As you can see, the amount you receive can greatly impact the amount of money you’ll have to spend each month.  If you aren’t receiving benefits now, you may want to check to see what the financial impact will be for deferring payments a few years after your official retirement date.  

Each year you defer taking payments can earn you up to an additional 16%.  This being said, even the Social Security Administration admits that it may not have enough money to make full payments in the future so that is something to consider as well.

Initial Costs of RVing

One thought to keep in mind is that many older RVers on social security tend to own their RVs outright.   This cuts down on their monthly costs as they do not have to spend money on monthly home payments.

With an RV purchase comes appliances, furniture, and almost everything else you might need to live the RV lifestyle.  This means that the RVer won’t have to worry about buying new items for the house.

Maintenance will need to be done on the RV but this cost will generally be less expensive than doing maintenance on a more traditional home.

On the other hand, not everyone owns an RV prior to going on social security.  A new motorhome can cost well over $100,000.00 to buy. With a 15 year loan, a person might expect to pay about $765.00 a month on a $100,000.00 motorhome without putting any money down.  

This would be about half a person’s social security check and a bank may not even finance them for a loan this large with only social security checks to satisfy the loan.

Of course, just because you’re RVing full time, it doesn’t mean you need to buy a brand new motorhome to do it in.  A $50,000.00 motorhome with a 15-year loan might only cost the owner $382.50 a month. This would be less than 25% of the person’s social security income which is much more feasible.  

Direct Costs of RVing

There are many fixed costs an RVer on social security should think about before deciding to go full time.  Some of these include RV payments, rent, RV maintenance, utilities, and insurance. Here are some example costs to consider.

RV Payments:  As we discussed earlier, RV payments can range from $0.00 to much much more.  

Here is the breakdown of RV payments for a few different loan amounts. For illustrative purposes, we’ll assume each loan is at a rate of 4.5%.

Loan Amount Monthly Payment
$100,000.00 $765.00
$90,000.00 $688.00
$80,000.00 $611.00
$70,000.00 $534.00
$60,000.00 $459.00
$50,000.00 $383.00
$40,000.00 $306.00
$30,000.00 $230.00
$20,000.00 $153.00
$10,000.00 $77.00

Rent can also vary greatly per person, per location, and even per day.  

Some people might want to opt for free locations such as BLM land or Wal-mart parking lots while others might want to do daily stays at resort-style campgrounds. 

A lot of different factors can change your rental rates.

Here are some example costs:

Location Amenities Length of Stay Price
French Creek State Park (Pennsylvania) Full Hookup (50 amp), Hot Showers, Swimming, Boating, Pet-Friendly 1 Day $45.00 a day
French Creek State Park Full Hookup (50 amp), Hot Showers, Swimming, Boating, Pet-Friendly 1 Week $40.00 a day
French Creek State Park Electric Only (50 Amp), Hot Showers, Swimming, Boating 1 Day $30.00 a day
French Creek State Park Non-electric, Hot Showers, Swimming, Boating 1 Day $23.00 a day
Boy’d Key West Campground (Florida) Full Hookup, (50 amp, 30 amp), Cable 2 Days $99.00 a day
Leo’s Key West Campground (Florida) Full Hookup, Bathhouses, Laundry Facilities (High Season) 1 day $90.00 a day
Leo’s Key West Campground (Florida) Full Hookup, Bathhouses, Laundry Facilities (High Season) 1 Month $2,350.00 a month
Leo’s Key West Campground (Florida) Full Hookup, Bathhouses, Laundry Facilities Off Season) 1 day $67.00 a day
Leo’s Key West Campground (Florida) Full Hookup, Bathhouses, Laundry Facilities Off Season) 1 Month $1,400 a month

As you can see from the first four examples, state park prices can vary dramatically based on what type of site you decide to stay in.

They can also vary depending on the length of your stay.  Weekly rates will almost always be less than daily rates.

Next, I put examples of different campgrounds in the same area and you can see that one is 10% more per night than the next one.  Even within the same campground, the rates can vary based on daily or monthly stays and even the time of year you’re staying.

If you want to save even more money at a resort-style campground, you can always find one away from major tourist attractions that offer seasonal rates.

In this case, you’ll probably find that the rates are much less expensive than an apartment would be.

RV maintenance will vary based on a few different factors.  The age of your RV, the type of RV you’re traveling in, how many miles you travel each year, the weather, and how much of the work you’re willing and able to do.

Typically, people recommend that homeowners put aside 1% of the value of their home away for yearly maintenance expenditures.  With an older RV, you should put aside twice this amount.

This is especially true if you have a motorhome since you’ll have to maintain living quarters as well as the vehicle components of the motorhome.

The cost of utilities will also vary wildly as well.  A person boondocking might end up having to run a generator at all hours of the day while a person living in daily rental spots might have full electric hookups included in their lot rent.

Insurance will also vary depending on what type of insurance plan you have on your RV.  People who self insure towable campers might never have to pay anything while folks financing expensive motorhomes might pay over a thousand dollars a year.

For more information on RV insurance see this post titled, “What Does RV Insurance Cover“.

Indirect Costs While RVing

In addition to the direct costs associated with RVing, there are also many indirect costs you’ll want to consider as well.  Your social security benefits will need to pay for the RV lifestyle as well as food, clothing, medical expenses, and entertainment expenses.

The cost of food might go down if you end up cooking more or they could go up if you end up eating out more while on the road.  

Clothing costs will probably go down since you won’t have enough space to bring a large wardrobe on the road with you but entertainment costs may go up as you take in the sites at different locations.

Since you’re on social security, you’re probably taking advantage of Medicare as well.  The only cost issue you may have is that you may have trouble getting your medications mailed to you which many people do to save money on prescriptions.

In Summary

It is certainly possible to go RVing while living on social security but you’ll have to access your own financial situation before determining whether or not it is feasible for you.  

Some people receive more than others and some people spend more than others so you won’t know until you do the actual numbers.

A good rule of thumb, however, is that the more benefits you receive and the less you spend, the more likely it is that you’ll be able to live life as an RVer while on social security.

Sources:
https://www.ssa.gov/news/press/factsheets/basicfact-alt.pdf