How to Live in an RV

by Felicia Greene

Recreational vehicle living has become an appealing option for diverse groups of people. At many RV parks, you'll meet retirees who travel the country, visiting family and touring scenic landmarks. Other RVers follow the seasons, spending winters in warmer climates and escaping the southern heat by traveling north. Still others put down roots in a park, hold down jobs and enjoy a community of like-minded residents. Before jumping into the RV lifestyle, however, learn what accommodations you can expect and the typical expenses that you'll incur and do some careful soul-searching before you commit to this new lifestyle.

Working With the Space

Your RV experience will vary according to your vehicle's configuration and amenities. If you plan to take weekend or weeklong trips, your needs will be different from those of a seasonal traveler. If your RV will be your full-time home, you'll likely desire a higher level of comfort.

Regardless of size, your climate-controlled RV should include a living area containing a sofa, chair and table (or multiples of them). Your kitchen should include a stove, sink and refrigerator. In the bathroom, expect a toilet, sink and shower. Your minimum bedroom furnishings should include a bed with a mattress, although the bed's size may vary, plus cabinets and/or shelves for clothing and accessories. The bedroom's available space and the RV's fit and finish level will dictate additional amenities.

Generally speaking, your living space might compare to that of a studio apartment. Even a larger RV provides a compact environment, with some furnishings serving multiple purposes. For example, your dining table might double as a food prep area or a computer desk. Your small bathroom might consist of an all-in-one compartment with a shower, sink and toilet. Expect less storage space as well.

Even a larger-size RV typically features a one-bedroom layout that maximizes space and makes the living area appear larger. The inviting common area provides an ideal setting for relaxing and socializing. For personal privacy, retreat to your separate bedroom or bathroom.

Taking Along a Car

While you live and/or travel in your RV, towing your car will provide you three distinct advantages. If you want to go sightseeing or run errands, your car will get much better gas mileage than your inefficient RV and be much easier to navigate through crowded streets or on narrow roads. Finally, if you're having RV maintenance work done, you won't be trapped in the service center.

Calculating Living Expenses

Living in an RV entails two types of costs. Begin your RV lifestyle budget by listing normal household expenses that you'd incur anywhere. These will include groceries and staples, dining and entertainment, installment payments and health insurance. Include Internet and mobile phone plan fees, along with Skype service if applicable. If you travel with a car, add insurance, gas, auto club and maintenance outlays.

Next, tackle your RV-specific costs. Whether you travel or remain stationary, you'll incur some expense for gas, insurance, propane and maintenance. While you're parked in an RV campground, tack on campground/dump fees and electric hookup costs.

Making Money

If you must earn income to pay your bills or you'd like to pad the bank account, consider working while you enjoy RV life. If you're based in a specific area for several months, look for seasonal employment that coincides with your departure date.

If you plan to stay on the move, find RV parks with Internet access. With a reliable connection and a quality laptop computer, you can be productive regardless of your location. Investigate freelance writing, online publishing, data entry, and transcription work, among other occupations.

Living in the RV Permanently

If you're considering a change to RV fulltiming, address several important issues before taking the plunge. First, decide if you can do without certain conveniences, such as long showers and substantial storage space. You must become more self-reliant, able to perform general RV maintenance along with repairs to interior systems that malfunction. Finally, ensure that your partner and/or family is equally committed to this lifestyle change.

Establishing a Domicile

If your RV lifestyle change could take you to another state, you must address the legal residency, or domicile, issue. Simply put, decide where you'll establish your legal base camp. Your decision could have income and estate tax implications and affect your mailing and voting address, state-issued driver's license and vehicle registration, bank accounts, credit card and loan billing statements.

You won't find a defined formula for establishing domicile. Tax offices and legal entities will consider how much time you spend in each state, along with the address you've provided on key legal and financial documents. To make an informed decision, consult with your legal and financial adviser.

About the Author

Based in North Carolina, Felicia Greene has written professionally since 1986. Greene edited sailing-related newsletters and designed marketing programs for the New Bern, N.C. "Sun Journal" and New Bern Habitat ReStore. She earned a Bachelor of Science in business administration from the University of Baltimore.