I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.
RV utility costs are always a question mark for people who are thinking of moving into motor homes or trailers on a full time basis.
People naturally assume that because a recreational vehicle is smaller than a house, the fees for using its utilities will be less. In many cases this is true, but not always.
Much depends on your location, how many amenities your coach has, its size and how carefully you use your water, electric and sewer.
These services can be more than you might think, so it pays to learn what you can about them before you decide to move into a motor home or camper on a permanent basis.
How Much Will Your Full Time RV Living Utilities Cost?
If you assume that moving into a motor home or camper will automatically save you money over and above the amount you might pay for utilities when living in a house, you might be mistaken because many things factor into these expenses.
How carefully you use your services as well as your home’s size, location and level of energy efficiency all play a part in determining its utility rates. The same can be said of recreational vehicles. Because of this, it would be possible for a person who owns a small home in an area that charges very little for electricity to pay less than one who owns a fully decked out motor home located where those same fees are high.
Prices Can Vary Significantly from One Location To Another
Most people do not realize that there can be a vast difference in them. For example, basic electric use in Central Florida runs about $70 per 1000 KWH, whereas in Northwestern Nevada people pay approximately $124. (These prices exclude other fees.) You should always take these difference in pricing into consideration when deciding where to locate your unit if one of your goals is to live for less.
The good news is that since you will be on wheels, you can choose to move to areas that are more "fee friendly" if you become unhappy in your current spot.
Water and Sewer
An important expense for homeowners is what they pay for water and sewer. As with electric costs, these prices can vary significantly from one place to another.
If you own a home in Central Florida, the average you will pay for combined water and sewer is around $87 per month. In Northwestern Nevada, you will pay approximately the same.
However, if you are living in an RV these services are included in your lot rent. This helps you to budget because the camping fee is usually the same from month to month in any given year.
When you live in a campground, your main utility charge will be for electricity because unlike overnight camping, regular spots for full timers are metered. How much you pay obviously will depend on your location, the size of your unit, its amenities and how you use them.
A 45-foot-long luxury motor home with three air conditioners and four slide rooms that is located in Southern Arizona is going to be much more to run than a 30-foot pull trailer with no slides and only one air conditioner that is located in a milder climate.
No matter your situation, however, you can still save money by avoiding wasteful habits and using energy efficient appliances, vent covers and protective materials that cover or seal air leaks on windows and doors.
In a reasonably sized unit that is well located and whose owner practices energy efficient behaviors, electric should run less than $100 per month. In the opposite situation, it could be as high a $300.
8 Tips for Lowering Propane Expenses
All recreational vehicles have propane tanks. These are used to fuel furnaces, refrigerators, ovens, cook tops and sometimes generators.
Propane used to be cheap, but that is no longer the case. These days you will pay the same or more for it as you do for gasoline. This is why it is prudent for you to find ways to use the least amount possible.
You can do this in several ways.
- If you keep two small, electric cube heaters on board, you will never have to use your furnace.
- If your RV is equipped with an inverter use it whenever possible instead of using your Propane generator.
- Learn how to cook without using your stovetop or oven. I have a good article about this called "How Hard Is It To Cook In An RV?" that can help you. One way is to use a portable electric stove top burner.
- Check your Propane tank and it's accompanying plumbing to make sure there are no leaks.
- Do continual "sniff tests" for gas.
- Keep your stovetop flame off unless you need to use it.
- Make sure your propane gas detector works.
You can actually pay nothing for services if you are willing to move often from place to place because
- when you stay in campgrounds, your fee covers everything you use
- when you stay in a free campground, your utilities are also free
- and/or when you volunteer or work in a park, these charges are often covered.
What You Pay Is Up to You
As I have discussed many times, the RV lifestyle is undoubtedly the most flexible way of living anybody could ever desire. This flexibility extends to utility charges because what you pay is up to you.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: Do you need to have renter's insurance for items inside a fifth wheel?
Answer: Check with your insurance company on this one because you are not a renter in this case; you are an owner. Since most of the items in an RV come attached to it, the only items that might need to be insured would be your personal belongings, which may or may not be worth insuring.
Question: Is $600.00 a fair price for long-term RV spot, including utilities? The other option is $450.00 + electric. I have a 50 amp 5th wheel.
Answer: That depends on where the park is located. Generally, $600 per month will not include utilities.
© 2013 Sondra Rochelle
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 23, 2013:
Writer Fox: You are spot on with this comment. People CAN do some things to lower bills such as installing solar systems, wrapping hot water heaters with insulation, etc, but those things cost money too. Sometimes less is more, and that was never so true as it is for those who live in RVs. Nice to see you again!
Writer Fox from the wadi near the little river on July 23, 2013:
I wish there were a way to lower electricity costs for everyone, not just those who live in an RV. Seriously, people are endangering their health going without heat and air conditioning because they simply cannot afford the costs. You've got some great ideas and I hope they will be helpful for RV-dwellers.
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 18, 2013:
RedSirenJulie: I just realized that you and Stuart are a couple! I'm glad the articles are helping you and I really appreciate the fact that you are spreading the word about my hubs. Again, let me know if you have questions!
Julie Ritchie from East Sussex, UK on July 18, 2013:
Yes they are REALLY helpful! I am going to keep reading and you may even get the odd question.
I will also pin and share them as I read.
Thanks so much for the great info!
Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on July 17, 2013:
RedSirenJulie: Well...you obviously are reading my RV hubs...I wrote them just for people like you and sincerely hope they will make life even more wonderful for you.
Julie Ritchie from East Sussex, UK on July 17, 2013:
Thank you. Voted up and useful! :-)