I am an RV enthusiast with more than 50 years of experience owning, driving, traveling and living in recreational vehicles.
Pros and Cons of RV Parks vs. Private Property
One of the biggest decisions for people who want to live year round in their recreational vehicles is whether to travel, live in a campground or reside on their own land.
Each choice has merits, but each also has caveats, so it’s important to learn about the good as well as the bad points of each before making your decision.
RV Park Living Pros
Since the choice to live in a campground does not have to be a permanent one, it’s a good idea to try this type of lifestyle before deciding what you want to do.
Benefits include but are not limited to:
- having the flexibility to move from one space to another or even one park to another if problems arise or plans change,
- being able to access amenities such as clubhouses and swimming pools,
- avoiding chores such as mowing lawns and raking leaves,
- enjoying group activities such as morning coffees and parties,
- having an unending supply of new people to meet,
- having the security of knowing there is a park manager to oversee people’s behavior,
- eliminating certain utilities costs such as those for water and sewer and
- possibly having access to free WiFi.
RV Park Living Cons
The Truth About Year Round RV Park Living will give you an overview of this type of lifestyle, so I won't repeat all of the details here.
However, it's important for you to know that while many people do well living this way, it's not for everybody, and here's why:
- Electric bills can often cost more per KWH than they do in homes or apartments.
- What you pay for electricity depends on the size of your unit, the climate of the area where you live and how a given park sets its fees for electric service.
- You generally live in very close quarters with other people, some of whom may smoke, have yapping dogs, argue constantly, overstep their space limitations, drink too much or keep you from sleeping well at night.
- Site prices can increase significantly. Last year one park I know of doubled it's year round fees from $600 per month to $1200 per month!
- Park managers may not do a good job of maintaining the grounds.
- Bathrooms and laundry rooms may not be kept neat and clean.
- The area around your coach may be uneven or dirt and weeds instead of grass, which makes it difficult to keep your unit clean.
- Parks may not spray for bugs.
- Cliques often form that exclude you for one reason or another.
The Pros of Private Property RV Living
Obviously you can avoid many of the problems involved in RV park living by purchasing a piece of properly zoned land, putting in utilities and setting your recreational vehicle on it.
There are many good points of doing this, which include
- more space for living,
- room to build sheds and other types of storage buildings,
- plenty of privacy,
- no group living rules,
- the chance to create hookups for friends with RVs who may want to come and visit and
- being able to plant your own gardens.
These are the same benefits you generally would have with standard home ownership, but without some of the same costs. For example, you won’t have to pay real estate taxes on your coach unless you tie it down to the land.
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While this sounds good, there is, of course, a “down side” to living in an RV on your own property.
The Cons of Private Property RV Living
Can I Live in My RV on My Own Property? provides a good deal of information about this topic, so I won’t repeat all of it here.
However, there are a few things you should know about living on your own land.
Many towns and cities will not permit you to live in an RV on your own land. This means that you have to find one that will. Usually these are located in the outer edges of urban areas, which can make them less convenient.
Buying properly zoned land and prepping it for RV living can be tricky and expensive, especially if the property does not have access to public water supplies or sewer connections.
Because you are somewhat isolated when living in the outskirts of an area, you are not as safe as you would be if you lived close to neighbors. Going shopping for an afternoon could result in vandalism and theft that could leave your RV in shambles and many of your possessions gone.
There are no “freebies” as with campground living. You won’t have a pool or WiFi unless you pay to set up these things yourself, neighbors could be far and few between and it's unlikely that you'd have access to a clubhouse or planned activities.
So while the freedom involved in living on your own land may be great, you should seriously take the social, labor, cost and safety issues into account before deciding to live in your RV on your own property.
Living in a Resident-Owned RV Park
Another option is to buy a deeded RV lot in a resident-owned park. This is similar to living in a campground, but in this situation, every person living there owns his own property, pays taxes on it and, within reason, can do as he wishes.
Owners usually pay a monthly maintenance fee, but do not pay rent. However they pay for all of their own utilities (unless the cost is included in the maintenance fee) and usually have a homeowners association that “vets” people before they permit them to buy a lot in that park.
Most of the lots in these parks are spacious and well groomed, too. You can see an example of one in the attached video.
For some people, owning a deeded site provides more protections than just living in an RV park because owners are much more likely to protect and maintain their properties and hold costs down than would park managers.
The Best and Worst Points of Buying an RV Lot provides more details about this lifestyle, so you may want to take a minute and read it.
Living On the Go
If you still want to full time but don’t like any of the options discussed here, the good news is that you do have another one. You can just live as you go and just travel from one place to another renting campsites along the way. Many people do this and find it very satisfying.
People who do this are adventurous. They call themselves “nomads” because they rarely settle for long in one spot. Since it can cost a great deal to live this way, some supplement their finances either by doing volunteer work or work camping.
I once met a single woman who spent her summers working in the fish canneries in Alaska and her winters volunteering at a state park in California. The money she earned in the summer months supported her all year because by volunteering, she paid nothing for rent or utilities.
There are many people who do similar things, and love living this way!
The Bottom Line
The truth is that there is no one perfect answer for people who want to live year round in their campers, travel trailers or motor homes.
What works for one person, may not work for another, which is why it is very important for owners to do their homework before deciding which option is best for them.
Will it be an RV park, living on your own property, a deeded campsite or nomading?
Only you can decide!
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.
© 2017 Sondra Rochelle