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Living in an RV has become more appealing due to this lifestyle’s freedom. While it sounds adventurous, RV living comes with some unexpected costs. So if you’re debating whether to live in an RV or an apartment, you might wonder which is less expensive.
Living in an RV is, in most cases, cheaper than living in an apartment, especially in locations with a high cost of living. Apartment rentals can range from $800 to $4,000, while RV parking or campsites can range from $0 to $1,600 monthly.
If you want to learn more about living in an RV versus an apartment, keep reading. I’ll discuss the pros and cons of each and important costs to consider.
Living in an RV vs. an Apartment: Costs To Consider
Finances are one of the most significant factors to consider regarding housing.
RV living is certainly appealing if you want a more flexible, adventurous lifestyle. On the other hand, apartment living provides more stability and space.
But what about the overall costs for both lifestyles?
As you can see, there are several financial aspects to consider. Also, things like food and entertainment aren’t included on this table. It’s essential to think about these extra costs when determining your budget.
When choosing a rental apartment, you can be as cheap or as extravagant as you’d like. For example, a tiny apartment in a run-down part of town will be much cheaper than a penthouse in a luxurious highrise.
Additionally, each state and country has a different cost of living. Rentals in smaller, rural areas will likely cost less than in larger cities.
Electricity is a huge financial factor in any living situation, whether you’re RVing or renting an apartment in a big city.
You might be wondering how much campgrounds charge for electricity if you choose to live in an RV. Well, don’t worry, I have another article about it that you can have a look at here.
Each location charges different electricity rates. States like Hawaii have much higher electric bills than places like Idaho. Additionally, individual power usage, including how often you use lights and heavy appliances, factors into your monthly costs.
When renting, it’s essential to have renters insurance. This insurance covers you in situations like the following:
- Stolen property
- Water damage
- Natural disasters
- Bodily injury caused on the property
Renters insurance is a tenant’s version of home insurance. Having renters insurance keeps you covered should something terrible occur on the property or significant damage happen.
You’ll likely have to pay an extra monthly fee if you have pets. Typically, you’ll only have to pay an additional $40-$50 per month, but this can add up over time.
You’ll typically also have to pay a larger rental deposit if you have pets. You’ll get this back when you move out, assuming your animals haven’t caused any damage. However, you can have your pets in an RV without all the fees.
Some apartments come with laundry machines, saving you time and money.
However, smaller rentals don’t always have a washer and dryer. Even if your apartment building does have these machines, they’ll likely be coin-operated.
In most cases, you’ll have to factor in the price of doing laundry at the laundromat. While laundromats are inexpensive, the cost can add up, especially if you have a lot of clothing and bedding to wash.
Calculate Exactly How Much Apartment Life Costs For You
Primary Costs of RV Living
RV living has become increasingly popular and is even glamorized in the travel world. But is it worth all the hype?
How expensive is it to live in an RV full-time, and what sort of costs will you have to worry about?
Below is a table depicting the most common monthly RV costs.
|RV Living Monthly Expenses||Average Monthly Cost|
|Pick-Up Truck Payment||$0-$400|
|Gas and Propane||$100-$500|
|Total Monthly Expenses||$400-$3,800|
As you can see from this evaluation, RV living can be either pricey or relatively cheap. Ultimately, how much it costs to live in an RV full-time will depend on your travel desires.
My wife and I spend approximately $1,000-$1,500 USD per month with everything included even food and internet when we are more stationary and boondocking and don’t encounter any bigger expenses but some other months we could spend upwards $2,500 USD even while boondocking.
The best thing about living in an RV is the flexibility to move wherever you want on a whim. You can always move if you prefer to lower costs by finding cheaper accommodations and utilities.
Campground or space rental is one of the highest costs when living in an RV.
Depending on the RV park, you can rent a space temporarily or long-term. Generally, you’ll get a better deal on longer-term rentals than shorter ones.
Many RV parks offer perks like extra facilities or a prime location. Fort Wilderness is a fun RV park in a Disney Resort, so you can take full advantage of the nearby theme park. It has sewage, water, and electricity at almost all sites; learn more about the facilities in my other article, “Does Fort Wilderness Have Full Hookups?“.
Know that staying at a premium campsite like Fort Wilderness will make for an expensive lifestyle as the sites cost $68-$220 USD per night but more on the prices at Fort Wilderness here.
However, there are some ways to avoid high campsite or parking costs.
Boondocking, or staying in remote locations, is common for RV travelers. However, boondocking requires solar panels and sizable water tanks if you want electricity and running water. So you will have to weigh the initial setup cost for off-the-grid RV living.
Finding affordable campsites or even free “campsites” will significantly reduce your monthly expenses and will be one of the highest costs you can cut down on significantly.
In many places here in Europe, it’s getting more and more common to find free RV parking/campsites that the town has put in place to increase tourism from RVers. Sometimes it has free drinking water and a place to empty the blackwater/cassette toilet and the gray water. Sometimes, they can also charge a dollar or two for those services.
Plus, if you join campsite memberships, you’ll get special deals for staying with them. You can earn points to lower your stay costs, which can be helpful when traveling around certain regions.
An RV’s utility can be significantly cheaper, depending on your location.
For example, some areas have much more reasonable power costs, while others are much more expensive. Utilities in an RV include things like:
These are all essential utilities for living comfortably in an RV. While some RV parks include utilities in their stay costs, others charge you per kWh used. But more on how much campgrounds can charge for electricity in this article.
As I previously stated, where you are RVing does matter since energy charges vary significantly in different areas. Within the states, Louisiana charges about 9 cents per kWh, while Hawaii charges 32. In Europe, England charges 23 cents (19.6 pence) while Spain charges 34 cents (.34 euros).
These numbers are drastically different and will significantly increase or decrease your monthly utility expenses.
If you want to save money on electricity, consider investing in solar panels. The initial costs may be high, but solar panels pay off over the long run.
Pick-Up Truck Payment
You will likely need a solid truck to pull your rig if you’re traveling by fifth wheel, trailer, or caravan on top of your RV. The type of truck you purchase will significantly affect your cost of living.
Hauling trucks are often more expensive, especially if you need a gooseneck trailer installation. Buying a truck outright is an excellent way to go if you want to lower your monthly costs and avoid interest.
Also, finding a good deal on a truck and acquiring a loan with lower interest rates will help minimize your monthly cost of living. Researching truck brands is also essential since some manufacturers and models last longer and encounter fewer problems than others.
You will also have to pay for vehicle insurance. You’ll need full coverage insurance if you have a loan on your RV or truck.
With all the traveling you will be doing, accident insurance is also a good idea, especially when hauling a heavy load.
Gas and Propane
Another cost to consider is gas and propane. Gas can cost as much or as little as you want, depending on the distance you travel. However, gas prices have been relatively high recently, so you should budget accordingly.
If you plan on staying in one place for a month, your gas bill will be smaller that month. If you plan to do a lot of driving, your gas bill will likely be through the roof. Also, where you get fuel matters as some places have a much cheaper charge for gasoline than others.
During the winter months, propane will cost you quite a bit to heat up your RV if you choose to use this as your main heat source. Last winter, when I stayed in Norway, I spent around $300/month just on propane but learn more exactly how much it will cost for you depending on what temperature you will have here.
As far as interest, RV loans are more expensive than traditional home loans.
RV loans charge a much higher interest because RVs are considered a depreciating asset, and if you don’t make your payments, they can’t recoup their losses by reselling the rig. Plus, the rates of these loans have only increased in recent years.
However, you can still shop around and see if different RV loan companies will give you a better rate. The lower the rate, the cheaper your monthly payments will be. Also, having good credit will significantly benefit you since it usually helps lower your interest rate.
Additionally, purchasing used is a great way to drop the overall price of the RV since they depreciate the moment they leave the lot.
Similar to small apartment rentals, RVs rarely come with a washer and dryer. If your RV park doesn’t have laundry machines, you’ll have to drive to a laundromat. While washing clothes isn’t a huge cost, it does add up and should be factored into the total cost of living.
Calculate Exactly How Much RV Life Will Cost For You
Apartment or RV: Which Is Financially Better Overall?
So when it comes down to the overall numbers, which is better? Ultimately, both lifestyles have some flexibility to be as expensive or inexpensive as you want. However, living in an RV has more financial flexibility since you can move locations when prices are high and even live entirely off the grid if prepared.
Ultimately, living in an RV is better if you want to save money, provided you don’t mind the small space and like traveling. Plus, RV living offers a unique life experience because you can save money while still getting to see the world. However, RV life isn’t for everyone since it isn’t as stable or predictable as apartment living.
It’s generally cheaper to live in an RV. However, your monthly costs will depend on how extravagantly you live, regardless of whether you are in an RV or an apartment.
You should consider all the costs, including utilities, gas, loans, and insurance. The cheaper you can purchase items for RV life, the lower your cost of living will be.