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Moving out of your home and into an RV means a complete change of pace in one’s daily lifestyle and there are many things to consider before making the leap.

If you dream of living your life traveling in an RV it can feel like every day spent cooped up inside your home is a wasted potential adventure. Contrastingly, actually selling all your extra stuff and moving away from home in a little box might seem nerve-wracking.

Before you sell your house and make the leap to RV life you should consider if using the RV temporarily is a viable option. While rewarding, RV life changes the pace and style of your life significantly and is not a decision to jump into blindly.

Unfortunately, it is not possible to truly answer this question for anyone but yourself. Buying and living in an RV can be done by anybody, but the way to make it to that goal will always be unique to every situation. Below I will go over what I consider to be the most essential knowledge to help you make this choice.

It took two years of planning just for my wife and me to decide what size and style of RV would be best for us, and several more years of making small adjustments towards making the change before we were even ready to buy the RV. One year later we were moving into a 26ft chevy vintage A-Class. Here is a list of what I would consider the most important things to learn before making the switch to RV life



Essential Things to Know Before Living in an RV

RV Taxes Vs Regular Home Taxes

I know taxes are far from a fun place to start, but it is important to know that an RV is categorized differently than a traditional home for tax and insurance purposes. Depending on the cost you may be able to write off sales tax for the RV during the next tax season.

RVs can be registered as a primary residence according to the IRS making it viable to live parked or traveling in your RV full time, but you should research your local zoning codes if you plan on staying parked at a single residence most of the year. Many cities have laws in place that make it difficult to RV dwell within them even on private property.

Are RVs a Hobby or a Lifestyle

You may have heard the phrase “If you are looking for a full-time hobby try buying an RV”. This is because the lowest amount of maintenance required on even a minimally used RV can still be significant.

An RV that gets taken on one annual family trip year will still need to be inspected and maintained when not in use, and be prepared for use and for storage each time.

Still, it is possible to buy and enjoy an RV without moving into it full-time. The rise in full-time RV in full-time van and RV dwellings is related to the accessibility of remote work, communication, and travel assistance the internet provides.

How Do RV Appliances Differ From Home Appliances

The amenities in an RV sometimes operate differently and most are not constructed like their household counterparts. You may find yourself learning how a propane fridge operates or shopping for strange fittings you are not familiar with.

Unique appliances mean shopping for uncommon parts you may not recognize. Early on into my RV restoration project, I returned to the store three times in a single day looking for an adapter to fit my new sink (household connections) onto my RV water lines (PEX connections).

RV Learning Curve

I’m sure you are aware that learning to drive an RV is a difficult learning curve, but there are a lot of other everyday tasks as well that will take some getting used to.

For example, most RVs have propane water heaters with pilot lights accessed from outside the RV. This means before using any hot water after arriving at a campsite you’ll have to go outside to reignite the heater, and before driving the RV you’ll need to extinguish the pilot light as well.

RV Maintenance Costs

Remember the maintenance costs I mentioned? They never go away and at times can become significant. When the time to replace tires or reseal the roof comes around the cost can add up quickly. Keeping up with regular, cheaper maintenance will help prevent costly repairs.

Storage Needs

Downsizing into an RV means finding long-term storage or getting rid of all the excessive clutter houses can hold. Choosing a safe place to store valuables or delicate collectibles usually proves to either be stressful and unideal or expensive if stored professionally.

Most RV goers either downsize and keep some other things with family members or in rented storage space. It is possible to downsize from large furniture and keep all your other belongings, but you will have to shop for an RV with extra storage.

Some RV goers choose to renovate a tour bus because of the massive amount of outdoor storage across the bottom, but most people will not need this much storage space.

What Size of RV to Buy

The size of the vehicle you choose is very important. Living out of a camper van is nothing like committing to a 40ft long luxury RV, but the van could be right for a solo traveler who doesn't want to spend a lot of money or worry about managing and maintaining a larger vehicle.

A smaller B-class camper van can be lived in, driven, and parked in most regular spaces. Otherwise, it is generally a good idea to either have an RV large enough to pull a regular vehicle or a small trailer to pull with a regular vehicle.

What RVs Can Fit Families

Many RVs are designed with a family vacation in mind so they must accommodate a family comfortably, right? Well, kind of. RVs usually only feature one master bedroom area and other bunks are converted from the couch or stored during the day.

Squeezing your family into a studio apartment worth of space works great for one vacation planned with a lot of outdoor activities, but if you plan on living full time in your RV you will need to consider how much space each family member needs.

Children don’t often do well without a space of their own and privacy, and sharing one bathroom (often connected to the master bedroom) between everyone isn’t ideal. Some families absolutely make it work in RVs, but only the largest sized bus conversions, 5th wheels, or super-sized diesel pusher tour buses even begin to offer enough room.

What Weather are RVs Comfortable In

Consider the year-round climate of the state or states you plan on staying in, or the costs of traveling all year to follow good weather. Either or both of these are an important part of living in an RV depending on how you plan on using it. Winter specifically can be harsh and difficult when it comes to RV life.

Some RVs fare best in dry and warm weather, while others are outfitted for sub-zero temperatures and harsh climates. Many RVs are designed to be well-rounded in any climate; an RV with  good insulation, a large air conditioner, and a powerful propane furnace will do just as well in Florida’s summers as it would in Colorado’s snowy winters.

If you know that you only want to live in above average heat or snow, consider an RV specialized for those environments specifically. The cold along with snow and ice usually take more preparation than dealing with heat, be sure your RV has adequate heating capabilities and traction before taking it out in winter.

Cramped Space

Even the largest RVs offer less living space than an apartment most of the time. There is a limit to how large any road worthy vehicle can be made, and the closer to the limit an RV is the less access it has to drive on anything but the interstate and designated stops.

RVs might feature slide out sections to help add space when parked. A 40ft 5th wheel style RV home with four or more slide outs may have an interior space similar to a manufactured or trailer home. Still, no matter the size of the RV downsizing into a smaller living space is something almost all RV and van lifers go through.

Close Neighbors campgrounds

If you plan to stay at campgrounds it is important to know that usually campsites are parked close together, which means sharing your outdoor living space with close neighbors.

Some RV parks offer more secluded spots, but generally speaking, parking five to ten feet away from another RV is a common occurrence.

Most people mind their own business while camping and the close quarters are but a side effect of the amount of space a campground has available. However, other than boondocking or dry camping in a less established, more wild area, it is highly likely your temporary neighbors will be staying close by.

Are RVs Cheaper Monthly Than a Home

Unless you paid in full for your RV you probably have a monthly payment just like a home or apartment.Combine that with gas prices and the cost of staying at campgrounds and you can easily spend as much as a mortgage payment each month.

Typically, RVs do end up being cheaper than a traditional home and even on months they’re not they still offer flexibility and freedom. If one of the reasons you are looking into an RV is to save  money you will want to keep that goel in mind during the planning phases to keep it viable.

Where To Stay If Your RV needs Repaired

Even if you choose an RV that can tow a pull behind vehicle you may find yourself stranded. Oil and tire changes are best done yourself, but major repairs or damage from a collision can leave your RV sitting at a specialized repair shop all month.

This is a huge reason most people retain some form of living space outside of their mobile home. Hotel stays are expensive and add up quickly even just for a few days. In the event of an emergency loading everyone into a vehicle and driving home can be an invaluable option.

Do Pets Adjust To RVs Well

Whether your pet is adjusting to living in an RV will depend on their personality. Cats and dogs are the most common pets in home and RVS both. Many RV goers find that pets enjoy outdoor adventures just as much as we all do.

Time spent in a driving vehicle will be the biggest adjustments for most household pets. Animals that may be less affected by driving such as tank-dwelling lizards may have other issues like power requirements for heat lamps and finding space for their enclosure.

Is It Possible To Travel Year Round in an RV

While some RV goers spend the majority or all of the year traveling, for most the endeavor may be too stressful and expensive. Most people that find success in full-time RV life have somewhere they can stay the majority of the year or over the winter months.

Traveling year-round is expensive in maintenance and fuel costs and planning your route ahead of time is time-consuming and a lot of work. While a lot of van and RV dwellers are up for the challenge, the lifestyle is a lot more than taking aesthetically pleasing pictures of campgrounds and wilderness.

Do RVs Retain Value

It is usually possible to resell or trade in an RV, but the value does not inflate as quickly as the equity of a traditional house. Some RVs hold up well to wear and tear and can have a high resale value, while many of them are used until they are ready for the junkyard.