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7 Things You Need to Know About Living in an RV

I've lived full-time in various RVs over the years and have loved every minute of "living the life." Learn if doing the same is for you.

Living the mobile life in a coach or RV can be a life-changing experience, but it does come with some drawbacks. Find out if RV living is right for you.

Living the mobile life in a coach or RV can be a life-changing experience, but it does come with some drawbacks. Find out if RV living is right for you.

Do Your Research Before You Make the Switch

Thinking of moving into an RV? If so, there are several basic things you need to know before you make the leap from standard living to motorhome or camper living. You are going to need to do a great deal of research to determine whether transitioning to the mobile lifestyle will be beneficial to you. For some people, moving into an RV or camper is a great decision, while for others, it can be a costly mistake.

You may be dreaming of living year-round in a recreational vehicle, but before you make this commitment, you need to understand that doing so will change your life in many ways, some of which may not be as pleasant as others. This is why you doing plenty of research before making your move is so important.

This article will provide the basic information you will need to help you figure out whether trading in your brick-and-mortar home for a live-in automobile or trailer is the right choice for you.

What to Consider Before Moving Into an RV

  1. You'll have to store or discard most of your possessions.
  2. You must choose an RV that meets your needs.
  3. You'll probably want to set up a home base.
  4. RV living is not ideal for families with children.
  5. Living with pets in an RV is difficult.
  6. A mail-forwarding service is usually necessary.
  7. You'll need to get the right insurance.

1. You'll Have to Store or Discard Most of Your Possessions

Before choosing the RV lifestyle, you must decide which is more important to you—your possessions or your desire to live a simpler, less burdensome life. Most people who become full-timers sell their homes and all but one of their vehicles (the one that either tows their travel unit or is towed by it).

They also shed themselves of furniture, artwork, and anything else that takes up a lot of space. Think about all of your hobby materials, holiday decorations, boxes of family photos, books, magazines, collectibles, pets, bulky electronics, excess clothing, duplicate household goods (e.g. second sets of dishes and silverware), decor items, heavy cleaning equipment (e.g. full-sized vacuum cleaners), duplicate tools, and recreational equipment (e.g. kayaks, skis, and clunky sports equipment). These are all things you will not have room to bring with you in your new mobile dwelling.

Some people find it difficult to make the transition all at once, so they put their belongings in storage units they can rent by the month. Those who are lucky enough to be able to place their belongings at the homes of family members or good friends usually buy storage sheds. In the long run, sheds are usually less expensive than renting a unit and are often more secure. A one-time purchase of a shed will pay for itself in a year or so, and it can be sold later in the event that you decide to return to living in a house or choose to sell off your remaining belongings because you feel your new lifestyle works for you.

Storing items makes people feel more secure and gives them an "out" if they change their minds about RV living. It also allows them to keep their most valued possessions without wasting space in their vehicle.

2. You Must Choose an RV That Meets Your Needs

When your living space is limited, comfort and privacy are important. You must make sure that the unit you select for full-time living is large enough to serve your purposes and has everything you will need to keep yourself comfortable. Otherwise, you will be miserable.

Coaches are rated for living and traveling in various types of weather. It is best to choose an all-weather unit to ensure that it will hold up to temperature differences and be comfortable no matter its location.

If you join RV Consumer Group, you will be able to access books and magazines that provide temperature ratings and other important information for almost every make, model, and year of motor home or camper. It costs a good bit to do this, but it can save you money and help you avoid problems in the long run.

3. You'll Probably Want to Set Up a Home Base

Many people set up home bases by

  • renting campsites on a long-term basis,
  • purchasing a deeded RV lot, or
  • purchasing and developing properly zoned land.

Doing this gives them a permanent address and provides a sense of security they might not otherwise be able to have. However, having a home base is not always necessary.

Some folks just rent as they go. In this situation, you generally pay nothing but a nightly, weekly, or monthly fee. Although this sounds simple, it can get pricey because campgrounds always charge more for short-term visits than they do for more extended stays.

On the other hand, people who choose not to set up a home base can often camp inexpensively or even for free at a number of locations. Before assuming you will be able to do this, be sure to do your research and find out how much it costs to park at any campgrounds you plan to visit and how long visitors are allowed to stay.

Most RV parks are geared toward adults, so children don't normally do well in them.

Most RV parks are geared toward adults, so children don't normally do well in them.

4. RV Living Is Not Ideal for Families With Children

It is probably not a good idea to live full-time with children in a motor home because RV parks are not usually the safest places for them, and they rarely offer child-friendly amenities.

Additionally, too many bodies make for major discomfort, and more than two people living in even the largest unit can definitely create problems. Children living in your coach also means you'll need to store more clothes, medications, special foods, equipment, and toys in your living space

People do RV full-time with youngsters on board, but it is not the most enjoyable way to live. Traveling with children is one thing, but day-to-day mobile living with them is far more complicated.

5. Living With Pets in an RV Is Difficult

Many people enjoy keeping animals with them in their coaches, but the truth is that this can create a variety of problems. Pets require special equipment, toys, medications, and food—all of these things take up valuable space. Some parks do not allow animals or require residents who own them to camp in special areas and pay extra fees. There are usually pet size and type restrictions as well, so additional research is necessary when deciding where to stay.

Furthermore, pets can wreak havoc on an RV. They create odors and messes, damage upholstery and cabinetry, and leave hair, ticks, and fleas everywhere. If they annoy other campers in any way or their masters do not pick up their waste matter, most parks will terminate the lot rental, eject the perpetrators, and refuse to give refunds.

The most successful pet situations I have seen are those where people keep very small dogs, wash and groom them regularly, and take them out only to do their business. People who travel with multiple animals, large dogs, pigs (yes, pigs!), and horses cannot possibly hope to do well with full-timing.

While some people do successfully live full-time with small, docile dogs, in nine cases out of ten, pets are not congruent with RV living.

While some people do successfully live full-time with small, docile dogs, in nine cases out of ten, pets are not congruent with RV living.

6. A Mail-Forwarding Service Is Usually Necessary

Keeping in touch with the outside world for personal and business matters is important. Luckily, staying connected is an easier feat than it used to be—one only needs a cell phone, a laptop with wireless capabilities, and a mail forwarding service.

Mail forwarding services are inexpensive (as little as $10 per month plus postage), safe, and convenient. When you use them, you automatically become a legal resident of the state where the service is located. Therefore, it is important to choose one such as Florida or Texas where fees and taxes are much less costly than places like New York or California.

Signing up is very easy:

  1. Choose the service you wish to use.
  2. Submit a formal change-of-address request to your local post office.

Once you're set up with a mail-forwarding service, the post office will send all of your incoming mail to the service instead of to your old address. The forwarding service will keep your mail until you call to tell them where to send it.

Mail forwarding services can generally be started or stopped as needed, but each company has its own rules, so it is wise to find out what they are prior to signing up. The best and most reasonable one I know of is offered by the Good Sam Club.

There is always a delay when using this method, and it costs a bit to do because you must pay postage fees in addition to the monthly cost. However, if you have no home base or have not made arrangements with someone you trust to handle your post for you, it is the safest and most reliable way to access your mail.

7. You'll Need to Get the Right Insurance

Arranging for insurance coverage is much the same for full-timers as it is for everybody else. However, people without home bases must make sure that they carry health insurance policies that will cover them completely no matter their location. HMOs and other limited service-area policies will not provide coverage unless you happen to be in the same state as your mail forwarding service.

For those who travel a great deal, it is a good idea to purchase emergency coverage that will not pay medical costs but will, under the appropriate circumstances, provide regional medical referrals and oversight as well as a means of getting you and your vehicle back to your home base at no cost. Good Sam Club sells one that costs around $110 per year and covers all travelers. Auto insurance policies generally cover travel units, but not all do, so ask before you buy.

Full-Time RVers: Unstoppable!

Making a Major Lifestyle Change Can Be Difficult

Not everybody adapts well to living in a travel unit because, just like anything else, the RV lifestyle has both advantages and drawbacks. For some full-timers, the negatives of the motor home lifestyle begin to outweigh the positives and they chose to stop living full-time in their RVs.

Once you've examined how all of the considerations on this page apply to your situation, you will have the information necessary to make an informed decision about whether or not to look into RV living.

Good Luck!

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: We have been talking about full time RVing for almost 2 years. However, we are in our 60s but we don't care. The only thing I wonder is will it cost more than living in a 2400 sq. ft. home in Arkansas? We were thinking of selling it (or renting it out). Truth is we would not be able to afford more than our present expenses. If we move, say, 52x per year, would it cost more to live in a good sized motorhome?

Answer: That's a tough question to answer because much depends on the choices you make which will depend on how and where you want to live. I have numerous articles about full timing that you can access by clicking on my pen name at the top of the article and then clicking on "profile" in the popup menu at the lower left side of your screen. You'll find many of the answers you seek in some of the articles that are listed there, and I suggest you take the time to read them. If you have never lived or traveled in an RV before, changing from home ownership to RVing can be quite complicated. Also, you're not going to want to "move" every week because doing so will exhaust you. The bottom line is that this probably would work for you if you take the time to do some homework and figure out what you can really afford.

Question: Could you elaborate on the children safety statement? I am planning on doing this soon, and have two children.

Answer: The point I made was that children are much safer when protected by seat belts. This is much easier to do when you keep them in a tow vehicle. When in an RV, there is a tendency to allow them to play in the open areas, etc., but this is extremely dangerous because if they are not safely held in place and a collision occurs, they can become flying missiles that can kill them as well as any other people they may strike. A vehicle traveling at 60 mph may stop suddenly, but anything that is "loose" within that vehicle, continues forward at that rate of speed, including children. For this reason, traveling by a pull trailer or fifth wheel that you are towing behind a car or truck is the safest way to travel with children, as long as you keep them in seat belts while you are moving.

Question: Can I legally rent a space in a park to live in it at eighteen?

Answer: If eighteen is considered the legal age in your state, you probably can. However, it would be up to the campground manager to decide this because you will have to have a criminal background check AND be able to prove that you have enough income to pay for your site.

Question: Do city ordinances prohibit you from living in your RV or Travel Trailer when it is in a storage location?

Answer: I believe they would due to sanitation and safety issues. Check with your local authorities to make sure, but storage facilities are just that..they are generally zoned for storage and not living.

Question: We are looking at RV living. One problem is that my health care provider forces us to use a mail-order pharmacy for maintenance medicines or face monetary punishment. They have up to 21 days to deliver orders. My retirement health care was prepaid during my working years, so I can't just change providers. The mail-order pharmacy demand limits our opportunity for travel. Is it legal? How have other people worked around such rules?

Answer: You signed a contract with them, which makes their demands legal. However, if you order 90-day supplies of the medications you need, and do so far in advance of any trip you take, there should be no problems. Your only other option would be to simply pay for your medications yourself for any amount of time beyond the 90-day supply you would carry with you.

Question: Can you defecate and urinate in the toilet of a camper?

Answer: Yes

© 2012 Sondra Rochelle


Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on February 26, 2020:

Yes, of course.

Lorraine A Corso on February 26, 2020:

Is it ok to keep your house while doing the RV thing?

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on June 01, 2019:

You can do this if you are careful. You need to read more of my articles because many address the very issues you want to know about. I suggest you take the time to do that and then continue commenting so that I can respond to any questions you have.

Sandra W Young on June 01, 2019:

Ive been seriously thinking about doing this and believe that I can.I was just thinking about what to do with my stuff.I when in the military lived on a ship,someone out there know how much space we had,lol.I feel like I could save money.I'm not rushing,looking at my options

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on May 03, 2019:

Where is the campground manager when all of this is going on? If you're in a park that is tolerating this type of behavior, it's time to move. Doesn't sound like a typical park. On the other hand, people who keep barking dogs in campers should not be living where there are such close quarters. There is such a thing as common courtesy on all sides, but if this isn't the case, then it really is time to find another park.

Bbybmr717 on May 03, 2019:

I live in a fifth wheel currently in a campground and let me tell you...there are a lot of guys living in campers now because they have to travel for work...they crowd the campgrounds and have no patience with barking dogs...I overheard a couple planning to poison a barker if it woke them up one more time....and I had one next to me actually chop firewood to flavor his gas grill at 6am on a sunday morning...you get all kinds...a pet is fine for companionship but keep a mussel on them..for their own safety.

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on April 11, 2019:

Situations like yours point out one of the main benefits of full timing...flexibility. You obviously have done your homework and have planned well, so things should go well for you. You should really read my articles about free campgrounds with hookups...no need to deprive yourself to save money! Check out my profile to find them. Good luck.

Karoline Moore on April 10, 2019:

I can see where people just do not anticipate needs and wants before jumping the gun. We chose to give it a try. That means we are giving up the duplex we are renting, putting our "stuff" into storage, we bought a used 5th wheel and a 2 year old truck. We now have a truck payment - the trailer is ours and no other debt. We live of my hubby's military retirement and VA disability payment. We do have health insurance that works anywhere in the country through the military, but we are saving to maybe buy another house one day and we always tell people that we will going full time until we grow tired of it or we have take care of the parents. We have years of experience in living all in places all over the world and moving every 2 years or so by being a military family for over 27 years. I think, a lot of this is attitude. If you need your stuff, your family and friends around to be happy this will not be for you. We never have had that. I love to hike and explore new places and my hubby loves to be in nature. We also both love to visit museums, exploring new towns etc. The plan is to move every week or so for now and mostly use federal rv parks like COE, BLM or National Forests (we have an access pass from the national Park system for half price camping in a lot of places) to save on cost. We will be saving on fuel cost this was since we plan on moving no more then 300 miles at a time. I think, the willingness to adapt is very important: adapt, adjust and overcome (sounds like the Army, lol). We just found out that my hubby needs another shoulder replacement. That means about 6 month of recovery/ physical therapy in one area after the surgery (it will be free since our insurance and the VA will pay for it). We have to go stationary (stay in one RV park for the time) during that time. Thankfully the surgeon is in San Antonio (he was in the Army, but is a civilian now and did my hubby's other shoulder last year) now. We spend the last few years about 150 miles north of San Antonio and visited a few times, but there is still plenty to explore. Plus the winters are fairly mild. So we have decided to wait until October with the surgery and spend the winter in mild San Antonio (no snow for us!!!). My hubby was kind of disappointed, but I convinced him that I do not mind waiting for a while before we get to go to Arizona or Florida for the winter. But first we will take the summer and take the grand kids to the family reunion in Washington state and spend the rest of the summer in his home state of Colorado (our kids live in my hubby's home town of Colorado Springs), but we are planning on visiting south western Colorado and be both have only been there once..... so I think, if you are flexible you will do fine, but if you need everything a certain way: you will be miserable.... I have learned that while stationed in Japan for 3 years - I can not count how many of the other wife's were missing things like wal-mart and other things they had "back home". My attitude was I am a guest here for a limited time and I will enjoy everything I can -thankfully there was always mail order and the amazing Japanese 100 yen stores. We used skype to stay in contact with the family for those 3 years and traveled all over Asia during our vacations. I was not going to do that 12 hour time change more then oncejust to spend vacation time in the states, plus how soon would we get another chance to see Malaysia, Thailand, Singapore, the Philippines, Bali and Tokyo??? ... plus we have always been happy as long as we are together (year long deployments were not fun, but we adapted and overcame that too more then once). In reality to us material goods have never been important - when we bought the new truck my old truck got retired after almost 23 years (it was still running fine, but it could not tow the 5th wheel), what has been important was each others company (after the kids left, before it was the family), financial security, providing for the kids, doing things together and this finally will be my hubby's chance to see more of the country he defended/fought for from 1988 until 2018..... but we know, that if it does not work out we have a plan B.....

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on October 11, 2017:

Elease Iriarte: You are smart to do as much research as possible before you make the move. I have another article about what you need to do to prepare to live in an RV full time that you will find helpful. You'll see it listed on my profile page. Just click on my pen name at the top of the page.

Elease Iriarte on October 10, 2017:

My husband and i have been thinking about living full time in an RV for almost a year and your article helped a lot , we can't wait to start the process of owning and living in an RV !

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on December 12, 2016:

SGBrown: I've done it both ways and know that it takes a special mind set to be able to live full time in an RV. I loved it during the years that I did it, but I was much younger then and thus more flexible. Thanks for stopping by and commenting...nice to see you again!

Sheila Brown from Southern Oklahoma on December 12, 2016:

You seem to have covered everything so well! We have a large motor home, but neither of us want to live in it full time. Way too many problems and I have too much "stuff" I would never want to store or part with! Great article! :)

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on September 06, 2016:

hairyleggedjebjeb: Come back and talk to me about it when you've been doing it for more than 50 years (as I have). RVing can be a terrific lifestyle, but to think that it does not involve sacrifice is dreaming. There's plenty of that, and the longer you live this life, the more you will see that this is true. Far too many people jump into it thinking it will be all fun and freedom only to find that, just like anything else, it has its problems. The disappointment this brings often causes people to give it up, so to protect them a bit, I wanted them to see the realities.

hairyleggedjebjeb on September 06, 2016:

This article, specifically regarding pets, is a pretty exaggerated, ascetic view on something that actually makes life a lot more flexible and convenient. I'd suggest that anyone who views tiny living as involving sacrifice probably isn't the best candidate for it.

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on June 05, 2014:

patty: You do not have to give up pets, but traveling with them creates a slew of problems, some of which can damage your RV or even keep you out of certain campgrounds. Many people travel with small pets, but they pay a price for doing so.

patty on June 05, 2014:

why would you have to give up pets???

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on May 16, 2014:

Kaelee This is a very big questioned that you just asked because each person's situation varies so much. At the very least I suggest reading everything you can about living and/or traveling in an RV (especially my own articles here, of course lol). Find some RV forums, read, and ask questions. Visit RV dealerships and look at many, many RVs to see which type would work best to suit your needs, finances and goals. Talk to lots of RV mechanics to learn about the inner workings of RVs. Take a professional driving course. If, after doing all of this, you still want to give it a go, have at it! Most importantly, do not try to "fly blind" on this one. Knowledge is power. Good luck and happy trails.

Kaelee on May 15, 2014:

I been thinking about Rving full time solo and was wondering where do i start!! There so many things that i need to do what is the most important and how can i organize myself?

Sondra Rochelle (author) from USA on March 29, 2012:

Hi Karen: Since so many people have an interest in full timing, I thought it would be a good idea to give them further details. I always tell people that if they can afford it, just close up the house and give full timing a try. If it doesn't work out, they will still have everything waiting for them back home. Most find that RVing is so great that the thought of going back to the house, the expenses, the work, etc is a drag. But others are happy they didn't just jump in with both feet. It's a big decision, that's for sure!

Karen Hellier from Georgia on March 28, 2012:

Sounds great. Thanks for sharing these tips. I am not sure I could do this full time. One year sounds about right to me. I am glad you explained about the mail. I have often wondered how a person that wanted to travel cross country for a year or 2 would be able to get their mail.

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