RVing full time is a dream for many but the biggest problem is typically the financial situation.
It sure can be expensive to live on the road as an RVer! Especially when you are just starting out.
Here are our very best tips for saving money while RVing.
1) Stay Longer Each Place
Most resorts, campgrounds, and state parks will give you a discount for staying longer. In fact, sometimes you can save up to $5.00 a day just by staying for a week rather than a weekend.
This might not sound like much but over the course of a week, you end up saving $35.00 a week. Multiply this out over the course of a year of full-timing and you can see how you can save a lot of money just by staying in one place a little longer.
2) Travel Shorter Distances
Moving from place to place can be costly.
Not only do you have to spend money on fuel but you have to spend money on tolls as well.
On top of this, you’re more likely to eat out and make impulse purchases while traveling. Reduce the number of miles you drive between destinations and you’ll spend less money on tolls and gas. Also, your trip will be shorter so you’ll be less likely to eat out.
3) Stop Off at Friend’s Houses
Only the worst of friends would charge you money to park in their driveway for a few days. Stop off at the homes of family members and friends and you’ll have a free place to park for a little while.
On top of this, you’ll have the added benefit of being able to see your friends and family members more often. If you decide to stay longer than a few days, you can always do some yard work or help around the house to offset any inconvenience you may cause them.
4) Join a Membership Club
Membership clubs like Sam’s Club and Thousand Trails can often offer steep discounts on camping. Choose a membership club that has campgrounds in the areas you’ll be traveling through and you could end up saving thousands of dollars.
Also, membership clubs don’t have to be restricted to campgrounds. Become a member of a grocery store like BJ’s and you could end up saving a lot of money on food while traveling.
5) Get a Gas Card
Gas cards are another great way to save money while traveling. In fact, some credit card companies will offer you up to 5% cash back just for buying gas with their card.
Spend $3,000.00 on gas and you could end up saving $150.00 at the gas pump.
On top of this, all of your gas purchases will be on one card so you’ll be able to monitor your fuel usage more accurately.
6) Travel Out of Season
Another great way to save money is to go to places when others aren’t.
Going to summer destinations in the winter and to winter destinations in the summer is sure to save you on campground fees as well as entrance fees.
On top of this, you’ll be driving in the opposite direction of traffic so you’ll end up saving money on fuel as well. Some great places to visit out of season are Maine in the fall and Florida in the summer.
7) Learn to Cook
One of the largest expenses that people incur while traveling is the expense of eating out. However, an RVer can go anywhere and never have to eat out.
Buy food that you love and learn how to cook it.
You’ll save a lot of money, you’ll learn a new hobby, and you’ll probably end up eating healthier too.
By cooking all of your meals at home you could easily save $30.00 to $50.00 more than if you had gotten your meals at a restaurant or take-out place.
8) Go Solar
Solar power may cost money up front but it can save you a lot of money in the long run.
A good solar power system can eliminate your need to run a generator or to buy propane for your RV.
This means that you can actually save money in more ways than one. For starters, you won’t have to buy fuel for your generator or your propane tanks. On top of this, you won’t have to even bring your generator so your RV will end up having less weight in it. This will ultimately save you money on fuel costs while traveling.
9) Boondock On Public Land
You can boondock on public land and sometimes you can even boondock on private land. Places like Walmart and Cracker Barrel will often let you stay for free in their parking lots.
Even if you can’t stay in Walmarts and Cracker Barrels, you can often find BLM land to camp on for free.
Park for free and you can end up saving anywhere from $25.00 to $125.00 a night in some areas.
10) Get Triple A
If you travel often enough, you’re sure to break down. Towing fees are expensive and can quickly destroy a traveler’s budget.
Avoid these fees by getting a membership to triple A.
The three As will provide emergency roadside assistance and will tow you to the nearest service station free of charge. One incident like this will easily pay for several years of membership.
11) Do Your Own Maintenance
RVs need much more maintenance than people realize. However, this maintenance doesn’t always have to be expensive.
Learn to do your own RV maintenance and repairs and you will save yourself a lot of money. For example, seal coat your own roof and you can save thousands of dollars while preventing your RV’s roof from leaking.
12) Wash Your Own RV
Getting a large RV professionally cleaned can cost well over a hundred dollars. Here is a guide we did with average detailing prices for RVs.
On top of this, the people that wash your RV probably won’t even inspect it for you while they do.
Wash your RV yourself and all you’ll have to pay for is some soap and water. Also, you can inspect the RV as you wash it which could lead you to spot an issue before it becomes an expensive one.
13) Plan Your Route Well
A poorly planned route can lead to lots of money lost in gas and tolls. It can also lead to you staying in more expensive campgrounds.
Plan your route so that you are traveling in the most efficient way possible and you’ll spend less time driving.
This will save you on both time and money and your trip will be much better for it.
14) Take a Bike Instead of a Tow Car
Bringing a tow car with you on your travels can be useful but what if you could leave it behind or get rid of it instead. Without a tow car, you would save money on insurance, maintenance, and registration fees.
Consider getting a bike, a motorcycle or a golf cart and you won’t have to worry about any of these costs.
Not only this, but you’ll also save money on fuel costs as well.
15) Drive Slower
The slower you drive, the more money you’ll save on fuel. This is especially true when you normally drive above 55 miles per hour.
The reason for this is that the wind resistance picks up drastically after this speed and this can cause your miles per gallon to go way down.
Not only this, but speeding tickets are expensive. Bring your speed down and you’ll eliminate the risk of getting a speeding ticket while out on the road.
16) Reduce Your Weight
The more weight you have in your motorhome or camper, the worse your fuel economy will be. Consider bringing along lightweight alternatives whenever possible and leave behind anything you don’t need.
For example, you could switch from wood storage bins to plastic storage bins and save several pounds on each bin.
Once you’ve shed some of your items, you’ll get better gas mileage. Shed enough items and you may even find that you can get by with a smaller RV. Towing a smaller RV will save you even more money on fuel costs.
17) Get a Bank Without ATM Fees
When you’re out on the road you’ll end up using ATMs more often. Unfortunately, ATM fees can be expensive and many banks will not reimburse you for these fees.
Move some of your money into a bank that does not charge ATM fees. Doing this can save you a few dollars each and every time you take cash out of your bank account. Over the course of a year, you could end up saving over $100.00.
18) Don’t Drive During Rush Hour
Driving during rush hour is just a waste of fuel. This is because sitting in traffic for long periods of time burns more fuel than driving at a consistent speed.
On top of this, driving during rush hour increases the chances that you’ll be in an accident.
Accidents are as expensive as they are dangerous. Even with good insurance, you may still spend hundreds or even thousands of dollars repairing your vehicle and your RV.
19) Buy Paper Goods in Bulk
Paper goods are lightweight and they can be stored in basement storage.
On top of this, they never go bad so you know you’ll eventually use them at some point.
Buy these items in bulk and you’ll save yourself some time and money. If you need someplace to start, consider toilet paper and paper towels. You’ll always need them so it just makes sense to buy them in bulk.
20) Shop In States With Lower Taxes
Every state has a different tax rate. This includes generic sales tax rates as well as the tax rates of particular goods.
For example, some states charge a sales tax on food and clothing while others do not. When shopping for food and clothing, do so in a state that does not charge for it and you’ll save money.
When shopping for other expensive goods like RV appliances and televisions, do so in a state that doesn’t charge sales tax at all.
21) Don’t Always Use Full Hookups
A campsite with access to the sewer can cost up to 25% more than a campsite that has water and electric, but no sewer. Over the course of a few days, you could end up spending over a $100.00 more just to have a sewer connection.
Eliminate this extra cost by staying at sites that do not have full hookups.
Do this every once in a while and use a dump station or dump your waste the next time you do rent a site with full hookups.
22) Fish in Salt Water
Does your RV trip consist of a lot of fishing?
If so, you’re probably spending a lot of money on fishing licenses. Each state has its own license and fishing for a few days in just a few states can cost you over $100.00 in licensing fees.
Get rid of these licensing fees by fishing in states that do not require licenses for salt water. This will save you money and you’ll get to go to the beach more.
23) Take Care of Your Batteries
Batteries require attention and maintenance. If you don’t provide this maintenance, you’ll end up killing your battery several years before it was meant to die.
Consider that a good battery can cost over $200.00 and you can see how properly maintaining your batteries can save you a lot of money.
24) Get a Water Filter
Some campgrounds have potable water that simply does not taste very good. Not only this but sometimes it is hard to trust that the water is even safe to drink.
For this reason, many of us turn to bottled water.
However, a good water filter takes up less space and costs less money. Consider getting a high-quality water filter and you’ll save money, have more space, and you’ll even get to help the environment.
25) Pack a Coffee Maker
Coffee from a gas station will typically cost 12 times as much as coffee brewed at home.
In fact, coffee from a coffee shop often costs over 20 times as much as coffee brewed at home.
Bring a drip coffee maker and you will save at least a few dollars each day. Not only this, but you’ll have access to the country’s favorite drink without ever having to go to the store to get it.
26) Don’t Window Shop
If you’re anything like me, you probably have a tendency to buy things you don’t really need.
You don’t do this to be wasteful, you just do it out of impulse.
For example, you visit a store and you see a nice shirt at a really low price. You don’t actually need a new shirt but you just can’t help yourself. If you had never gone to the store in the first place you would have never been tempted to buy the shirt.
27) Work Camp Works Great
Did you know that some campgrounds will let you stay for free? Well, of course, nothing is ever really free but they will offer you the opportunity to stay without paying money.
Instead, you’ll do some work around the campground and in exchange, you won’t have to pay a campsite fee. This can save you hundreds of dollars a month and you may even learn some new skills and meet some new friends along the way.
28) Learn to Negotiate Well
When you’re traveling, you’ll end up spending money on a wide variety of things. For example, instead of paying one rental payment or mortgage payment, you may end up paying a different campsite fee every few days.
Learn to negotiate well and you could end up saving money at every single campground you visit. Even if most people won’t negotiate, you could still save thousands of dollars a year by effectively doing so with the ones who will.
29) Take Advantage of Discounts
There are a wide variety of discounts that you can take advantage of just by asking for them. If you’re a senior, ask for the senior discount. If you’re a military veteran, ask for a military discount. If you’re not sure what the place has to offer, simply ask them if they have any discounts that they can offer you.
30) Cook Outside When You Can
When you cook inside, you create heat and condensation.
The extra heat causes your AC to run harder and the extra condensation causes your fans to run more often. Cook outside and you won’t have to worry about these issues.
31) Use a Wood Cook Stove
Most RVs use either propane or electricity to cook food. This costs money that could be used elsewhere.
Consider getting a wood cook stove that you can put outside and you’ll be able to cook your food for free. On top of this, you’ll be less reliant on the power grid and better equipped to deal with emergencies.
32) Get a Good Antenna
Want to save money on movie rentals and subscription fees? Consider getting a nice antenna to take with you on the road.
In addition to saving money on subscription fees, you’ll also get to see the local news. This is a great way to get to know the local area you’re currently staying in.
33) Don’t Drive in High Winds
Driving in high winds is difficult and dangerous. Not only this, but it makes your engine work a lot harder.
You can easily use up to 35% more fuel by driving at highway speeds in high wind conditions.
34) Use Freecycle
Websites like Freecycle and Craigslist always have a lot of items that are available free of charge.
Many people don’t take advantage of them because they don’t want to travel and they don’t want people to know where they live.
Since you’re already traveling and our home is always moving, you won’t have either of these problems.
35) Avoid Tolls
Toll fees can add up quickly. Even a short weekend trip can easily add an additional $50.00 to $100.00 to your trip. This is especially true in states like New York and Pennsylvania.
However, you can often avoid many of these tolls just by driving a little further.
In this case, you get to explore a new travel route and you save money while doing it.
36) Get a Portable Washing Machine & Line Dry Your Clothes
Laundry fees add up quickly. In fact, you might end up spending several dollars just to do a week’s worth of laundry. On top of this, going to the laundromat is tedious and time-consuming.
Why not avoid this hassle and expense by buying a portable washing machine to take with you on the road?
Bring a few ropes and you can line dry the clothes afterward.
37) Park in The Shade
Running the air conditioner can be quite expensive. This is especially true when you’re running a large generator to do so.
Instead of cooling your RV down with an air conditioner, consider doing it naturally. You can do this simply by parking in the shade.
38) Park in The Sun
Sometimes your RV might be cold rather than hot.
Again, you can use nature to help you regulate the temperature of your RV. Instead of turning on the heat, park it in the sun and let it warm you up naturally.
If your campsite has a lot of trees, consider asking to move to a campsite that does not. You’ll end up with free heat and you won’t have birds perched above your RV.
39) Buy Items You Find Yourself Renting On a Regular Basis
Do you find yourself renting a kayak at every state park you visit? Maybe not. Maybe you find yourself renting a bike in every city you visit instead.
A kayak might cost over $100.00 to rent for the day and a bike might cost over $20.00 an hour. The cost of buying a kayak might only cost $300.00 while the cost of buying a bike might be less than $100.00
Whatever item you do find yourself renting on a regular basis, consider buying it. In this way, you’ll reduce your expenses and you’ll reduce your reliance on others. Within a few uses, the item will pay for itself and you can always resell it should you find yourself not using it anymore.
40) Fix Things Right Away
A small roof leak can be an easy and inexpensive fix. Let this roof leak go for a while and it could become a difficult and costly fix.
Avoid this problem by fixing issues as soon as you find them. In fact, inspect your RV regularly so that problems never have a way to hide from you.
41) Change Your Oil, Air and Fuel Filters Often
Dirty oil, air, and fuel filters reduce gas mileage and put more strain on the other systems in your vehicle.
Change these items often and you’ll save more money on fuel and you’ll reduce the wear and tear on your vehicle.
42) Insulate Your RV
One of the best ways to reduce heating and cooling costs is to insulate your RV. Insulation does not cost much and it can last a lifetime.
Consider getting a spray foam insulation and you will ensure that all areas of your RV are insulated.
If you want to avoid using spray foam, go with a high-density foam board insulation with a high R-value.
Also, remember that the ceiling is the best place to insulate for cold weather and the floor is the best place to insulate for hot weather so pay close attention to these areas of your RV whenever you insulate.
43) Pack a Sweatshirt
Want to stay warm without paying for heat or extra insulation? Pack a sweatshirt and put it on when you get cold. This method for keeping warm is free and you can easily take it anywhere.
Follow the link to find a list of clothes you might want to take RVing with you. https://www.godownsize.com/clothes-full-time-rving/
44) Take Care of Your Health
Healthcare is expensive but not as expensive as having bad health. Save yourself money on prescriptions and doctor’s visits by staying as healthy as possible.
Do this by working out, eating healthy, and getting regular checkups. Not only will you save money doing this, but you’ll feel better as well.
45) Declare Your Home State in One That is Financially Favorable to You
Some states have income taxes while others do not. Some states charge high registration fees for RVs while others do not. You’ll even find that some states offer less expensive healthcare and vehicle insurance than other states.
If you’re full-time RVing, you get to choose where you want your permanent address to be. In this case, it is best to choose a state that will save you money.
46) Split Expenses with Others
The best way to cut your expenses in half is to bring a partner with you on your travels. Not only does this save you money on campsite fees and fuel fees, but it makes the trip more memorable and more fun.
Your traveling companion can do some of the driving for you and expose you to places and people that you may have otherwise skipped over. Also, he or she can keep you company on those boring rainy days.
We covered a lot of things you can do to save money while RVing. However, these aren’t the only things you can do to save money.
Get creative and you may find that RVing is much cheaper than you originally thought it would be.
When you do find a new trick to save money, pass it along to others. You may find that they reward you by telling you their favorite tips for saving money while RVing and you both end up benefitting.
Morten is the founder of GoDownsize. He has filmed and interviewed people living in tiny houses and RVs since 2011. He grew up on the coast where his dad took him boating from a young age. He has completely rebuilt two RVs in which he travels with his family for months at the time. Read more about Morten here.