Is It Cheaper to Live in a Home or an RV?

Personal Finance

Life on the road or life in a home? See what option may be best for you.

Homeownership is no longer the only long-term housing solution aside from renting. Many people are now making their lifestyles more mobile by living in RVs, renovated buses, and other homes on wheels. 

The question is: Is RV living really cheaper? And is it a good fit for you?

How Much Does it Cost to Live in an RV?

Like houses, there's a wide range of RV types and costs. In general, the square footage of an RV is just going to be smaller than most apartments, and certainly homes. So it's difficult to compare costs purely by square footage. Instead, you have to consider what types of RVs are available, and what the price range is. Generally, you can find an RV starting at about $35,000 all the way to about $300,000. So, there's something for everyone's budget.

The differences in cost occur based on how new the model is, its size, and what types of features and amenities it has. If you're hoping for something with all the bells and whistles, expect to be paying a bit more.

What are the costs of RV Upkeep and Utilities?

If you choose the RV life, you actually don't have to worry about water, natural gas, electric, trash, sewer, or cable bills. You're mobile, so you're not beholden to the same utility companies that a homeowner or renter may be. Your savings could be a couple of hundred dollars, depending on your prior utility bills.

However, if you're living in an RV, it's important to keep up with your vehicle's regular maintenance schedule. If you're doing a lot of travel too, consider how this can affect your regular car—you may have to do more regular maintenance on that as well. However, homes also require maintenance over the years, and can often be more costly than vehicle repairs.

Other Miscellaneous Costs of RV Living

When you live in an RV, you must also pay for the ability to park it. RV camps, state and national parks, and even boondocking can cost you money. In other words, on top of what you may pay for your RV, you must also pay wherever you happen to be staying. Campsite costs can be between $25 to $80 depending on where you are and what kind of space and amenities you need. That means you should anticipate paying between $750 and $2,400 a month, though you may be unlikely to incur the high end of the spectrum.

The good news is that not all campsites have a cost, and if you plan to live in your RV on land you already own, your monthly cost may be significantly lower than the above estimate.

You may also find that you want to keep some of your belongings, which means paying for a storage unit. The average storage unit costs about $190 per month but can be more or less depending on the size. Fortunately, if you're downsizing to an RV, chances are there are things you don't want to keep. You may have an additional car or other valuables you can sell. Investing the profits may even increase your savings over time.

Is Living in an RV Cheaper than Renting?

Here's a quick rundown of some rental statistics:

  • The average single bedroom apartment is about $1,234 a month
  • An average cost for utilities is about $147

If you want to live in a big city, you can expect costs to be significantly higher than this, and more rural areas can potentially be lower. Utilities are likely to hover at about the average cost, increasing the larger your apartment or the more you use your utilities. If you live in a small apartment, you may even need to pay for a storage unit like you might with an RV.

Because costs can fluctuate so much, it's harder to say if one is cheaper than the other. If you intend to camp your RV at expensive campsites every day and go for the largest, latest model, you might find living in an RV far too expensive. However, fixing up a used RV and living on land you own may end up being incredibly affordable.

Is Living in an RV Cheaper than Owning a Home?

Homeownership depends entirely on your budget. It's possible to find a home under $100,000 with a very affordable mortgage. You can also find a home at virtually any price point above that. If you're pondering the merits of living in an RV over buying a home, you're likely working with a home around the same value of an RV—under $300,000.

So, mortgage aside, you have to consider what you might be paying for besides the mortgage. Property taxes and home insurance, for example, can add a significant cost to homeownership. The average household pays $2,471 in annual property taxes, and an annual premium of $1,312 can insure a home of $250,000. Monthly, this looks like roughly $315 a month, combined. Then, you must consider utilities, upkeep, and even the potential cost of an additional vehicle.

All things considered, the verdict is about the same as renting. It's possible to live a less expensive lifestyle in an RV, depending on your lifestyle. The choices you make have the biggest impact on your costs in any scenario.

What Will You Choose—RV, Renting, or Homeownership?

The results are in, and it's possible to choose any of these options and make them fit your lifestyle and your budget. It's really a matter of lifestyle, and how you want to live your life, that should determine your choice. Here are some questions you can ask yourself, to make the answer clearer:

  • How much domestic travel do you want to do?
  • Do you like roughing it, or going camping?
  • Do you desire more space for things or less?
  • Are you a minimalist?
  • If you have to fix something, do you want to handle things, or have a landlord?

Regardless of your choice, apps like Monorail can help you save for your preferred lifestyle. 

See how Monorail can help you live the life you really want.

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