Full Time RV Living Average Cost and Expenses

The cost of living in an RV full-time will vary with the type of recreational vehicle you happen to own. Obviously, the cost or monthly expense required for full-time RV living in a 40' motorhome or a large luxury 5th wheel travel trailer will generally be higher than that of a 20’ camper or other smaller RV.

I lived full time in my Jayco 5th wheel camper for a a little over a year. Some of my basic utility costs like: RV Satellite TV and satellite internet service haven’t increased over what I was paying in my previous stick built home. But, other utility costs like propane and electric have increased a bit.


In spite of slightly higher utility costs, “upgrading” from a high mortgage or high rent payment single family home; to a full time RV’ing status has been a change for the better. Not having to make outrageous monthly mortgage or rent payments is not only extremely liberating, but it can also help to positively change your financial life in a relatively short period of time.

My Full Time RV Living Setup

I guess at this point I need to provide a more detailed description of my RV living arrangement so that you have a better understanding of what factors play into my average living expenses and also my increased monthly electric and propane costs.

First, I’m not living out on the road, in an RV park, or at a campground. No, my fifth wheel travel trailer is situated on a concrete patio in the back yard of my parents’ home. It’s working out great for me, and since they are older; I think we all feel a little more at ease that there are extra bodies around to watch after one another.

Second, in addition to my 5th wheel RV living space, I also utilize a 13’ x 20’ wooden shed as my home office. I insulated the shed, hung paneling, and had DishTV satellite television installed. The extra work transformed this basic storage shed into a really nice office space. I still need to put drywall or something on the ceiling, but it’s working out well at this point.

On a side note, my home office shed is where I do all the “behind the scenes” work for the Camper Parts and Supplies website, and the Full Time RV Living Blog as well. I’ve setup a small home recording studio with a Logitech C920 Webcam, a Heil Microphone, and a Behringer Xenyx 802 Mixer. It’s all working out great! I spend a lot of time and have “a lot of fun” here in my office shed.

So, now it’s time to get into the nitty gritty of how my Jayco fifth wheel recreational vehicle and my home office are equipped, and what RV Appliances and other equipment conspires to raise my electric bills.

Electrical and RV Appliances in My 5th Wheel

In addition to running the standard electrical devices my recreational vehicle was originally equipped with like: over the stove microwave, an RV refrigerator, standard RV lighting, and a rooftop RV Air Conditioner unit, I also run the following small appliances in my travel trailer.

  • 16 quart Solare Dehumidifier – Runs 24/7 on 55% humidity setting.
  • Convection Toaster Oven – Used maybe 7 or 8 times a month.
  • 32 Inch Flat Screen TV – Average daily use of 3-4 hours.
  • Single Burner Portable Convection Cooktop – Used several times monthly.
  • Thermal Wave Portable Infrared Heater – Daily use during winter months with thermostat set at 68-70 degrees.
  • Audio/Video Equipment – Includes: DVR, satellite receiver, DVD, and stereo components. DVR and Dish Network satellite receiver are the only components used on a daily basis.

My Fifth Wheel RV Propane Tanks and Usage

My Jayco fifth wheel camper is equipped with two LP RV propane tanks. Each seven gallon propane tank cost’s about $15 dollars to fill, and in the winter they each typically last about two weeks.

On average, I keep my RV furnace thermostat set between 68-70 degrees. Other of my camper appliances that run on propane are: Atwood RV Range including the oven and 3 burner stove, Atwood Hot Water Heater, and my Norcold RV Refrigerator in the event of a power outage.

Below will give you an idea of how I use propane for full time RV living in my recreational vehicle.

  • Atwood RV Range/Stove/Oven – Used once or twice monthly on a heavy month.
  • RV Hot Water Heater – Used daily for two showers and dish washing.
  • RV Furnace – Used daily during winter months. Thermostat set between 68 and 70 degrees.
  • Note: I recently replaced my RV hot water heater unit with a new LP gas and electric Atwood hot water heater. Prior to installing the new water heater, I used propane gas exclusively to provide hot water for showers and dishwashing. The good news is that the new Atwood (model #) can use both electric and propane to heat up the water. The figures above regarding propane usage are based on my old hot water heater. It could only use propane as the electrical capabilities were burned out.

Home Office Shed Electricity Usage

My “Shoffice,” (lookie there, I made a new word), is equipped with a window unit air conditioner, a portable quartz heater, a 32” flat screen TV, various computer and office equipment, and standard lighting with fluorescent bulbs.

During the winter months I leave the portable heater set to 54 degrees when I’m not in the shed, and when I am working; it’s usually set to around 60 degrees. During summer months the air conditioner is set to around 78 degrees when vacant and about 70 degrees when I’m working in the shed.

On average, I’m in the shed for about 20 hours a week. During these times the TV is often running in the background, 6 lights are on, and either the air conditioner or heater is running on the temperatures above.

Electricity Costs of Full Time RV Living

As stated earlier, since moving into my RV full time, I have definitely noticed an increase in my electric bill as compared to my previous “stick built’ rental home. I didn’t use propane previous to my move, so that bill increased too. The increase is partly due to the fact that recreational vehicles have thinner walls and are not as well insulated as most single family homes.

Neither my RV nor the shed are on separate electric meters so arriving at an “exact” figure for electricity usage is not possible. Instead, we split the electric bill with my parents and reference previous year’s bills to ensure that mom and dad aren’t getting the short end of the stick on electricity charges.

Yes, I know this isn’t an exact science, but it works for us. And, based on prior year bill comparison, it’s pretty accurate; all things considered.

How Much I Pay For Electricity and Propane

  • RV Propane Cost – Use 2 seven gallon tanks per month on average. The cost to fill the tanks is $30 monthly at the local Tractor Supply Store.
  • Electricity Costs (July 2012 – January 2013)
    • July 2012 - $62.00
    • August 2012 – $130.00 (due to crappy portable air conditioner)
    • September 2012 - $69.00
    • October 2012 – $105.50
    • November 2012 - $150.00
    • December 2012 – $149.00
    • January 2013 - $215.00
    • Total for 7 months is $880

So, why was the electric bill so high in January? The first factor is that it’s been quite cold here in Eastern North Carolina this January. Another factor is that I used the infrared heater more than the propane to see if it was as efficient as they say. It seems that that may not be the case. I think the portable radiator heaters are the most efficient.

In all fairness to the portable infrared heater, I also had the portable quartz heater set to 58 degrees when not in the shed. I think that had a greater impact on the bill than I thought it would because it came on more frequently than I wanted it to.

Summary of Full Time RV Living Expenses
Comparing the two electric bills, I’m paying $40 more over the same period of time for my RV than I was in a regular house. Of course the house had an electric heat pump so my heating and cooling costs were all rolled into the electric bill. By the way, when I was in the rental home my average monthly electric bill was $120. The total over seven months is $840.

If I factor in the additional $210 for propane costs, I’m at $250 more for heating and cooling expenses in the RV. But the savings on rent have been pretty awesome. My full time RV living costs for rent, electricity and propane over a 7 month period are $1090. Rent and electric in the rental home would have been $7,840. That’s a $6,750 savings! “I Ain’t Mad!”

Well, there you have it! That’s my experience with full time RV living. It’s been a great experience. It has helped me to save a little money, and has also inspire me to build my RV Replacement Parts website at CamperPartsandSupplies.com

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