How Much Does It Cost To Live On The Road?
This is such a fundamental question as you prepare for life on the road!
The answers online are varied and fraught with inconsistencies for the Middle of the Road Camper we have in mind. My research provided a myriad of different numbers, depending on different lifestyles. I had to research a while to find a reasonable number.
I would like to show you one possible process to use to help answer that question!
Let me put that budget number out there for OUR intended lifestyle, and then explain afterwards.
$49,044 a year, or $4087 per month, on average.
This budget is intended to match the middle of the road campers. A couple 55-75 years old that has worked, has a nest egg, has Social Security income and possibly a pension. The camper who likes air conditioning. The camper who has an instant pot and likes to cook dinner and then have a glass of wine around the fire. The camper who likes Wi-Fi so they can contact their kids, check Facebook and check email. A camper who likes full hookups. A camper who likes to get the football game and NASCAR on their TV’s.
The key is that THIS budget matches THAT camping type. The homework for you is to consider each line item further below and figure out if it is above or below your expected costs. Let me provide our personal example:
OUR PLAN, as it stands: My wife and I are 50 years old and are in good shape. We exercise. (This topic will come up again in subsequent Article) We plan to work until 65 or so, or maybe 62 if that works, and sell the house and buy a Class C. We plan to get a used Thousand Trails Campground and add the Trails Collection and travel the country, staying for free in these campsites (check out the Membership info here). We might stay 5% of the time outside of the Trails system for a fee at a regular campground. We expect a bare bones campground at Thousand Trails, with laundry facilities and bath houses and, hopefully, full hookups and some areas to walk the dog. Those that have amenities like pools or lakes with boats to use will be considered a bonus. Our focus is our rig and ourselves, and our friends. We will walk, read, maybe do local 5k with everyone. We will have reliable Wi-Fi and Satellite TV (check out Satellite and Wi-Fi info here). We plan to cook a lot in our camper and on the grill; and to use the Class C to explore the local area a little during the days and sit by the campfire or chill in the camper at night with the dog and some fellow nomads. There will be a lot of meal planning. I might buy a smoker.
The Financial Plan for this lifestyle flows like this:
- We Calculate Social Security first (they don’t mail statements anymore, go to WWW.SSA.GOV and create a username/password and it will tell you the amounts that YOU can expect, too) . We have Marcia’s and my social security together and an old modest Pension that hung around. That will bring us approximately $4500 a month.
- We will sell our house and won’t be able to fully downsize* at first (the paintings my mom did, etc.) so we will get a Storage Unit. I will add that monthly cost to the budget. The proceeds from the house will pay for the RV and the initial USED Thousand Trails Contract (Approx $4,000-$5,000). We will also set up a $20,000 Emergency Fund. The balance of funds will be invested for the NEST EGG and EXIT STRATEGY (future article).
*For more info on Downsizing see our Downsizing Tips.
So essentially, we are planning to pay upfront for the Used RV and Thousand Trails membership and use our Social Security and the small pension to live on. The rest of the assets we will invest to keep the Nest Egg Growing for our EXIT STRATEGY and our Legacy.
The budget of $49,044 a year, or $4087 per month on average comes from information I have been gathering for the last few years which was documented by a retired couple, Bob and Pearl, who spent 39 months on the road in a Class A. They have a YouTube Channel called Next Exit. Please check it out they channel and purchase items on Amazon through his affiliate link. Every little bit helps.
Bob graciously shares his expense spread sheet with anyone that asks. Here is a copy you can download and there’s a blank tab so you can track or adjust to your own personal situation.
How does that break down monthly? Here’s where the rubber meets the road:
|Diesel||$330||About $.50 a mile.|
|Camping||$257||Membership for TT, TC, etc.|
|Auto Tags/Gas||$196||For tow vehicle.|
|Groceries/Wine/etc||$892||Groceries, cleaning supplies, etc.|
|Dining Out||$245||Remember that? It’ll come back!!|
|Jet Pack/2 cell phones||$225||Includes internet, 2 phones and smart watch.|
|Direct TV||$96||Football, NASCAR, News, Movies, etc.|
|Medicare A,D,G||$521||Healthcare costs.|
|Pet Care||$37||Got to take care of the ‘Fur Babies’!|
|Recreation / Hobbies||$182||Recreation.|
|Computer||$58||Hardware / Software.|
These numbers are AVERAGE numbers for 39 months on the road as documented by others. So how does this Budget compare to Our Plan? Well, we also plan to buy the RV upfront and fund the emergency pool and pay for the Used Thousand Trails upfront. So we are in line there.
Then I compare the monthly budget line by line:
- Diesel- $330 a month- I am not sure how much diesel cost equates to my RV gas cost but I imagine, with a smaller Class C, gas will be cheaper and we will get better gas mileage too. I figure I am under budget there. Check.
- Camping $257 a month. I expect the same costs.
- Maintenance $771- Some major repairs were factored in here. I don’t imagine we will have that monthly average with a Class C. I suspect we will be WAY underbudget here so the excess can just overfund the Emergency pool.
- Auto tags/gas- $196 – This includes a TOAD. Not sure yet if we will add one or not with a 26 Ft Class C. We will keep it in the budget for now just in case.
- RV/car insurance – $206 -This includes Insurance for a Class A and a TOAD. I should be under budget here.
- Groceries- $892 – Not sure but probably a very good budget for now. Check.
- Dining Out- $245 – This may be low, especially the first year when we want to explore more. Underbudget by $100, I would say.
- Jet pack, 2 phones – $225- Good Budget.
- Direct TV-$96 Necessary.
- Medicare A,D,G – $521 – Necessary.
- Pet care – $37 – We love dogs.
- Rec/Hobbies – $182 – Could also be considered entertainment such as going to a museum, local attraction.
- Computer – $58. I believe I would be underbudget for us.
- Mail Service – $59 – Necessary.
- Clothing – $12 – This is probably good, as once we are in the rig we won’t be trying to bring more stuff in constantly. This budget is fine.
So, in review, I took the 39 month average budget ($4088 a month) and matched it to my expectation ($4500 a month) and I think overall I was lower monthly than many line items and expect to be over on ONE item – dining out. I also need to add in the storage unit. I think the budget will fit it in easily. I feel comfortable with this plan. To me this is a HEALTHY budget for OUR intended lifestyle and it matches well with our monthly expectd income from Social Security and the Pension.
I realize that many people do their camping lifestyle for much cheaper and many do it for more. Some people do not like Thousand Trails. It is pretty bare bones. There all different types of setups and campers. This budget is just for one type of camper but the info in the spreadsheet below has good bones and will be a great place to start building your own budget based on how YOU like to camp. The key is to have appropriate expectations when you start.
Each of you will have a different lifestyle and you will only capture your costs by keeping a good journal of your expenditures throughout the first year of expenses. Keep a log to find out what YOUR lifestyle costs out there!
If you are planning on hitting the road in some other way, I do believe we have shown value by helping you to use a process to better understand how to budget before you head out – no matter what your lifestyle.
Whether you use our information or another budget, definitely find someone who has done the lifestyle that most suits you and run through their budget to see how you match up.
My email is firstname.lastname@example.org if you would like to discuss.
Article #2 – How Will I Live Life On The Road?