All of our reviews are based on exhaustive research, industry experience, and whenever possible, hands-on testing. When you make a purchase using one of our chosen links we’ll get a small percentage of the proceeds. This supports the site and keeps Jeffsetter running. You can read more here.
Given the popularity of RVs nowadays, it makes sense that people often ask the question of whether or not living in an RV is cheaper than renting. Given just how many factors there are to consider when it comes to renting an apartment or a home versus living in an RV, what are all of the things that you should consider?
So, is living in an RV cheaper than renting?
RV living can be cheaper than renting a traditional apartment or house. However, there are also many things in RV living that make it more expensive. The difference between living in an RV versus renting an apartment is the upfront cost of an RV as well as the cost of RV repairs down the line.
In this article, we will give you an insider’s look at all of the things you should consider when answering the question: is living in an RV cheaper than renting? Not only will we go over everything you should consider cost-wise before living in an RV full time, but will even give you some personal opinions on the matter!
Let’s get started!
Living in an RV: Is It Cheaper Than Renting an Apartment?
As of summer 2022, the average rental cost for a one-bedroom apartment in the United States was nearly $1800. While some locations in the US are much more expensive than others, this price point would give anyone pause.
Is it worth paying for a one-bedroom apartment if it costs so much, and how much will you end up spending monthly when you consider utilities and other expenses?
While you will still be paying rent if you choose to stay in an RV park or campground, these prices are typically not as expensive as $1800 per month. In fact, you may be able to stay under this national average, even with an RV payment as well as paying rent and utilities to an RV park.
This may be especially appealing considering the fact that some RVs are as large as the average studio or one-bedroom apartment. Plus, if you own your RV, you can do whatever you want inside without worrying about a landlord’s approval. Besides the RV park or campground rules, you are essentially a homeowner of your very own tiny home!
If you purchase an RV that is capable of boondocking or camping away from hookups, you may be able to save even more money. Most boondocking locations offer you free places to stay, often for as long as you want, depending on the area. If you were already planning on renting a smaller apartment, purchasing an RV may be cheaper in the long run.
Living in an RV: Is It Cheaper Than Renting a House?
Everyone knows that renting a single-family home is much more expensive than renting an apartment, but are single-family homes more expensive than living in an RV? Many sources state that the average monthly rental price for a single-family home in the US is close to $2500.
This is far more than a studio or one-bedroom apartment, and likely much more than your monthly rental costs for an RV space in a park or campground. However, like all things, it will depend on where you live in the United States as to whether or not this statistic rings true for your local area.
For the most part, living in an RV is cheaper than living in a traditional home given the fact that it is much smaller and uses far fewer utilities than a large single-family home. Water, heating, cooling, and most electricity end up being more efficient in an RV compared to a large home, but it will depend on how both of these houses are built.
If you are able to boondock in your RV, it will most definitely be cheaper compared to renting a single-family home. However, there are likely multiple reasons why you might choose to rent a single-family home over an RV, with space being the primary reason. You will have much more room for both your family and your items in a traditional home compared to an RV.
What Makes Living in an RV Cheaper Than Renting?
If you still aren’t sold as to whether or not living in an RV is cheaper than renting, let’s take a look at some of the reasons why so many people choose this lifestyle. For the sake of simplicity, we will be addressing living in an RV that you purchase and own rather than paying rent to live in someone else’s RV.
No Deposits Necessary
Depending on where you live, the upfront cost of renting an apartment can be expensive. Most landlords require a security deposit, the first month’s rent, and the last month’s rent up front, with additional deposits sometimes required if you have pets. Plus, there are typically application fees for every single apartment you apply for, which often adds up.
With an RV, you have already worked out the financials and essentially own your property, which means that you don’t have to worry about paying for so many deposits and other landlord-related things. This can give you peace of mind and help you budget, especially if you are in the middle of moving.
Affordable RV Site Rentals
Depending on where you live as well as your expectations for an RV park, many RV site rentals are more affordable than a traditional apartment or house. The average RV park charges anywhere from $400 to $1000 per month, far lower than the average one-bedroom apartment in the United States.
Keep in mind that, the nicer the RV park, the more you are likely to spend per month. However, most utilities are included in the site rental, and many RV parks offer cable or Wi-Fi services as well.
Plus, you may also be able to find an RV park that offers you a discount should you stay in one location longer, which is appealing to many people that live in their RV full time.
If you are planning on living in an RV so that you can travel and see the beauty of our natural world, some campgrounds offer discounts for long-term stays as well. In addition, the average RV site in a state park costs as little as $30 a night. It all depends on where you want to live and what you want to do, but most locations that offer RV hookups remain fairly affordable.
Not only are your utilities often covered if you choose to stay in an RV park or campground, but you use fewer Utilities in an RV compared to a traditional home or apartment.
Given the small size of the average RV, your utility usage is lower. Your water bill in particular will likely be lower compared to a traditional home, given the size of the average RV hot water heater!
While RVs can be difficult to heat and cool, most furnaces and air conditioners found on board and RV are efficient and don’t use nearly as much energy as a rental home equivalent.
Plus, you likely won’t be living with very many people inside of an RV, keeping your utility costs low overall. You will likely have to be paying for your own propane, but this is a low utility cost comparatively!
Less Space = Fewer Purchases
There are countless statistics claiming that the average American citizen owns too much stuff. While everyone’s lifestyle is different and everyone requires different things in order to feel content and happy in their own home, living in an RV forces you to simply own less. Whether you want to or not, there’s just not enough space to keep all of your porcelain knick-knacks or huge book collection on board.
This video interviews a couple of people, asking them for great downsizing tips, and it’s worth checking out!
Even your grocery bills will likely go down if you live in an RV. You won’t feel the need to store excess food or supplies, and you likely won’t need your Costco membership anymore! Bulk shopping will become a thing of the past and you will simply purchase less because you don’t have the space to keep it.
While this may sound stressful or jarring to those of you who are used to living in this way, RV living can help you save money in the simplest ways. This includes training yourself to buy things when you need them rather than buy them in advance and store them for a rainy day.
Plus, if you go shopping and find something you like but you really don’t need, an RV may help you remember that you probably don’t have the space for something like that!
You Can Always Move!
While this is adjacent to saving money rather than directly related to it, living in an RV means that you can always move if you are dissatisfied with your current living situation. This could come in the form of an annoying neighbor or a property management company that you truly don’t enjoy.
In an apartment or traditional home rental situation, you are often trapped until your lease is up, which may spell misery for those of you who end up in a location that you don’t like. It also means you will have to spend extra deposit money and moving costs once your lease is over. Living in an RV means that it is easy to pack up and move, without any extra expenses or hassle!
Boondocking Is Basically Free
Purchasing a brand new RV that is built for boondocking may appeal to those of you hoping to live cheaply inside of an RV. While you will need a reliable generator and probably some solar panels, boondocking is an essentially free way of living if you plan right.
Also known as dry camping or off-grid camping, boondocking is the act of finding an area to keep your RV, for as long as you want, unplugged from hookups and traditional RV utilities.
Whether you choose to stealth camp in the middle of a giant city or find a remote and isolated location in the woods, boondocking is basically free until you need water or more propane!
No Yard Work
While you won’t have this problem if you choose to live in an apartment, living in an RV means that you won’t be spending any extra money or time on yard work. This can be a huge pain for those of you who live in single-family homes with large yards that need constant maintenance or upkeep.
Even if you rent a single-family home from a landlord, the chances are high that they will ask you to maintain the yard attached to the home. This often means purchasing tools such as a lawn mower, weed wacker, and much more, often costing hundreds of dollars, even used. Plus, if your landlord needs you to keep a lawn or other landscaping alive, you’ll need to consider the cost of watering all of these plants!
If you live in an RV, you won’t have a yard to take care of, even if you live in an RV park or campground. While you should always respect the natural beauty around you, chances are high that your landscaping costs will be taken care of!
Consider Hosting or Volunteering
Did you know that nearly all state parks in the United States offer the chance to live in their parks for free?
If your lifestyle suits this, you can choose to volunteer or host at a number of state and even national parks around the country. In exchange for some park maintenance and hourly commitments, you can get a free place to stay! This is personally how my partner and I live in our travel trailer full time.
Many people who live full-time in their RV choose not to utilize these programs, but it is an easy way to live rent-free in your RV. Plus, you have the chance to live in some of the most beautiful places in the United States as well as take care of them, which may appeal to you. However, keep in mind that some states are incredibly competitive with their hosts and it can be difficult to find a location in need of volunteers.
What Makes Living in an RV More Expensive Than Renting?
Now that you know all the pros, what are some of the cons that come along with RV living that may make it more expensive than renting? Here are just some of the things that you should consider before making the switch!
Up-Front RV Costs
Whether you plan on financing your RV or purchasing it outright, there are always upfront costs to owning an RV. Any dealership will likely need some amount of money down, and you may even find that your RV needs repairs or other things to set you up for success when it comes to full-time living.
For example, if you plan on boondocking in an RV that doesn’t have solar panels or an onboard generator, you’ll need to make accommodations for this. Additional batteries may also help you in this endeavor, but all of these things will likely cost you at least $1,000. This can be expensive, especially if you need to pay a certain amount up front to your RV dealer or previous owner.
Plus, if you want to own your RV outright without financing, this can be a huge amount of money upfront. Even the average used RV costs at least $5,000, with brand new RVs exceeding $80k-$100k, depending on the style and type of RV you are shopping for.
If you want a brand new Class A motorhome with all the bells and whistles, you should expect to pay at least $200k, which may make traditional homeownership more feasible for you!
Are You Financing Your RV?
Depending on your financial situation and the RV you plan on purchasing, financing an RV can be expensive. This is even more true if you plan on purchasing a towable RV and a tow vehicle at the same time. If you end up financing both a truck and an RV, your monthly payments can be well over $1,000, and this will not include your monthly RV site rental cost!
While financing is often the only way to make RV living possible for the average person, it’s important to be realistic about your monthly payments. While RV parks or campgrounds can be affordable and often include utilities in the rental price of a spot, you may not be able to afford both the financing payments and the rental payments, depending on many factors!
Some RV Parks Can Be Expensive
While the average monthly cost of renting an RV site at a campground may seem affordable, some RV parks can be extraordinarily expensive, depending on where you are. depending on the amenities available and park rules or expectations, RV parks can cost upward of $1200 to $2000 a month.
Keep in mind that this is just the cost of renting a space, not the total cost of your expenses should you be financing an RV. Plus, some RV parks may charge a utility surcharge or other monthly fees such as Wi-Fi, landscaping services, park amenities, laundry facilities, and more.
On the whole, most RV parks do not cost this much. However, if you are hoping for a luxurious experience or a location that offers you amenities that are similar to an apartment complex, you may find that your monthly rental costs are much higher than you expect! It may make a one-bedroom apartment seem more affordable and better for your lifestyle overall.
Fuel Is a Factor
No matter the type of RV that you purchase, your fuel expenses are likely going to be a factor. This is especially true if you plan on moving consistently while living in your RV. The more you travel, the more expensive things will be, especially given the fact that the average RV isn’t particularly fuel-efficient!
While you can always save on fuel costs if you park and remain in one location for longer, it is an unavoidable part of having a home on wheels. Plus, even if you choose to boondock, you will likely need fuel to power your onboard generator, so keep this in mind and definitely factor this in if you are trying to calculate your monthly expenses.
Repairs Are Your Responsibility
One of the reasons why renting is appealing to people is the fact that you don’t have to pay for any major repairs that can happen in the average home. However, if you own your RV, all repairs are your own and must be handled by you.
There is no landlord to pay for your RV roof if it starts leaking, and you will need to maintain a strict maintenance schedule for your RV, no matter which type you choose.
Repairs and annual expenses are likely the most expensive part of RV ownership, especially if you purchase a used RV with no warranty options. Taking your RV to a professional service company or repair person can be very expensive, which is why most people choose to maintain their RV all on their own.
This is because the average RV usually needs maintenance or repairs a couple of times a year, with more major repairs possible depending on the type of RV you have as well as what you are putting it through. Just like owning a home, unexpected repairs are common in RV living, and some of these repairs can quickly get out of hand financially!
Other Services Can Get Pricey
Speaking of repairs, other services and daily life requirements can be expensive when living in an RV as opposed to living in a traditional apartment or house. For example, most RVs do not have laundry services on board, which means you will need to budget monthly for a laundromat or other clothes-cleaning service.
Besides this, most national parks have an entrance fee, and you may also want to travel to other places in the nation that have additional fees associated with them. The average RV insurance can be more expensive than renters insurance, so this is something else to keep in mind.
Again, these are only a few of the potential services that you may end up paying for if you choose to live in an RV rather than rent a home or apartment. While they may not seem like much at first, all of these expenses can indeed add up!
So, is living in an RV cheaper than renting?
There are many factors to consider. However, there are many ways to live in an RV that make it more affordable than renting, especially if you are already comfortable with making your own RV repairs. Plus, living in an RV means you never have to worry about a landlord or property management service!
At the end of the day, you may find that living in an RV ends up being the same price as renting an apartment or home, depending on where you live. However, that is why it is important to adequately assess your lifestyle and whether or not living in an RV brings you more opportunity and joy compared to traditional apartment living!