Full-time RV living: Is it right for me?

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Ask a Lender
October 3, 2017 | Updated October 9, 2017

Key Points

How to live in an RV full time

  • Identify if RV life is right for your family and finances.
  • Choose the best vehicle for your lifestyle and budget.
  • Find and compare RV lenders that work with full-timers.
  • Budget for ongoing maintenance, fuel and parking costs.

For many, retiring into a recreational vehicle is the culminating chapter of the American dream. With modern careers often conducive to working remotely, younger people are increasingly adopting the nomadic lifestyle as well.

The flexibility and independence of being a “full-timer” — that is, considering your RV as your primary residence — can seem enchanting. While many enjoy a fulfilling lifestyle on the road, it’s not for everyone. Before selling all your worldly possessions and investing in an RV, carefully consider whether you — and your family — are cut out for the full-timer life.

Is the full-timer lifestyle right for me?

Life will continue on the road, with all its attendant ups and downs. It is important to take a clear look at how a mobile lifestyle will impact you and your family.

  • Less room. From books to clothes to appliances, “nice-to-have” items have no place on the road.
  • Less privacy. Discuss whether your family is comfortable living in close quarters — particularly older children, if you have them. Don’t forget about Fido.
  • Isolation. While peace and quiet are a draw for many full-timers, long hours driving on the highway or holed up in remote campsites can get lonely. You may not always be close to medical care, either.
  • Fewer conveniences. You have to put a lot more thought into arranging for basic amenities such as utilities, laundry and internet connection.
  • Work environment. Unless you are retired or living off of investments, you will probably need to work while traveling. Consider what technology and time is required for your job and how it fits into your rolling home.

What kind of RV should I live in?

Your RV should reflect the lifestyle you and your family envision on the road, without breaking the bank.

While a young couple might find the confined yet nimble characteristics of a teardrop trailer a romantic way to explore, retirees may prefer a practical yet comfortable Class B motor home. If you just sold off an app to investors, perhaps you are in the market for a luxury Class A motor home. While more spacious and well-appointed, larger, more expensive RVs depreciate in value faster, are more difficult to maneuver, and can wrack up more maintenance costs than smaller vehicles.

How do I finance an RV for full-time living?

Unless you purchase your RV in cash, you will likely require an RV loan. Getting financing for an RV designated as a primary residence is more challenging than one for recreational use, however. As with a home mortgage or auto loan, the asset — in this case, the RV — acts as collateral to secure the loan. If you default on the loan, it is much harder for lenders to repossess an RV that is a mobile, primary residence.

Moreover, the 2001 Patriot Act established laws that require borrowers to have a verifiable, physical address and not simply a P.O. box — problematic for full-timers without a house. While you are legally allowed to use the address of designated next of kin, speak with lenders to understand their requirements.

Despite the added complexity of designating an RV as a primary residence, there are tax benefits to full-time RV life. The IRS defines any RV with sleeping, cooking and toilet facilities as a residence. This means you can make both homeowner tax deductions on the RV and mortgage interest deductions on the loan.

Can I afford the other costs of full-time RV living?

Even if you buy your RV in cash, there are many ongoing costs associated with living in an RV, including but not limited to:

  • Vehicle maintenance costs for the RV (and secondary or towing vehicle, if applicable)
  • Parking or campground memberships
  • Fuel
  • RV insurance (and auto insurance for a secondary or towing vehicle, if applicable)
  • Internet and phone services
  • Mail service in a domicile state for functions such as vehicle registration, licensing and voting

Remember that full-time RV living is not a permanent vacation. Be realistic about your family’s lifestyle and finances so you can forge an exciting — and sustainable — path ahead as a full-timer.

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