6 Month RV Road Trip Expenses
In the summer of 2022, we went on a 6-month RV adventure around the US as part of our big year of changes. The experience of living out of an RV and seeing all of the lower 48 states with our 2yo and 3yo boys was priceless, but how much did it actually cost? I finally decided to dig up our bills and add it up.
In the fall of 2021, before we decided to flip our lives upside down, I had roughly calculated our annual expenses as $126,000, or $10,500/mo. I will dive into these numbers more when we settle into our new house and I can compare 2021 to 2023, but some of the big expenses were $3,600/mo in mortgage and utility payments, $1,000/mo in health insurance premiums, $1,330/mo for preschool for one kid.
When we left for our RV adventure, we didn’t plan any of the trip or do any sort of estimating costs because our mental energy was spent packing up and selling our home and our business in Seattle. We literally started driving and figured it all out along the way! I had it in my head that without a mortgage, utilities and childcare payments, and with the added cost of gas, lodging, and adventures, we would roughly spend the same per month.
In the end, we traveled for 203 days, stayed at 144 different places, and drove 21,821 miles – and our trip in total cost us $46,351.51, which averages to $83,341.56/yr or $6,945.13/mo. Happy to say we significantly cut our expenses while on the adventure of a lifetime!
Here is a breakdown of our spending in categories:
Gas, Tolls, & Paid Parking: $8,631.15 (average of $42.52/day, or $1,293.26/mo)
Grocery & Personal Items: $8,341.67 (average of $41.09/day, or $1,249.82/mo)
Eating & Drinking Out: $5,024.95 (average of $24.75/day, or $752.81/mo)
Phone, Apps & Streaming: $1,168.23 (average of $5.75/day, or $174.90/mo)
Activities: $1,571.98 (average of $7.74/day, or $235.43/mo)
Gift Shops: $1,455.80 (average of $7.17/day, or $218.09/mo)
Camping: $7,765.65 (average of $38.25/day, or $1,163.44/mo)
RV Maintenance: $3,498.79 (average of $17.24/day, or $524.38/mo)
Insurance & Doctor Visits: $3,132.38 (average of $15.43/day, or $469.33/mo)
PODs and Shipping: $5,760.91 (average of $28.38/day, or $863.23/mo)
Some thoughts and details in each category:
Gas prices were very high in the summer of 2022, especially diesel. At almost 23,000 miles, with an average of about 16 mi/gal, gas was expected to be a huge cost. I couldn’t imagine having one of the huge RV’s that get just 5 mi/gal! Have I told you how much I love our 24ftWinnebago View with a Sprinter chassis?!
Grocery & Personal Items:
I was unable to separate out groceries because we went to a number of big stores like Target and Walmart where we purchased food along with other items.
Our grocery list wasn’t anything fancy, but there are four mouths to feed so it adds up. We also purchased a significant amount of beer because let’s face it, we like to drink beer. I mean we did own a brewery! Most evenings we had a few beers each while sitting in camp chairs outside after putting the kids to bed. Unlike the days of having our own brewery with an endless supply of free cans or kegs to fill up our kegerator, we had to pay for beer drank “at home” for the first time in a decade.
We also purchased a decent amount of personal items along the way. We made some big purchases including nice warm weather jackets, sandals and running shoes for Dave and I, a new bike helmet for me, new tires for Dave’s bike, and a number of sunglasses because they kept getting scratched. The kids both grew significantly and needed new sets of clothes and their feet went up two sizes! We don’t do any electronics with the kids, so I bought a number of car seat & RV friendly toys and activity books for the kids throughout the summer. And anything we realized we needed but didn’t bring was buried in our POD and had to be repurchased.
Eating & Drinking Out:
This came up much higher per day than I expected because most of our meals were made in the RV from our groceries. When I look through these purchases there are three main things that stand out – breweries (17 times), Wendy’s (7 times), and coffee shops (so many). These and the occasional meals eaten out really added up!
Phone, Apps & Streaming:
We used GoogleFI Unlimited Plus plan for our cell phones which cost $55/mo each (that's my referral link). On top of that, we had the paid version of the Marco Polo app we used to share videos with family, New York Times digital subscription, Disney+ which Dave and I occasionally watched in the cab on rainy nights after bedtime, and Spotify for music streaming. All worth it!
We mostly experienced new places for free by riding our bikes around, playing in parks and exploring the beaches. We sometimes paid for transportation to help us explore more by riding buses, trains, subways, trolleys, and chair lifts. Some places we paid for entry like Fort Sumter, Onyx Cave, Trees of Mystery, and of course our National Parks annual pass. And we did a couple of fun activities that were more pricey like Dave’s ATV rental at the Oregon Sand Dunes, going through the underground tunnels to get splashed by Niagara Falls, and riding a fan boat through the Everglades.
This category came out higher than expected, but as I look through the purchases it makes sense. I bought a sticker from almost every place we visited to decorate our future kegerator and purchased a lot of magnets too. We also purchased some new shirts from gift shops.
We hoped to find free camping in national forest land more often than we did. Once we left the “wild west” it was much harder to find. We also reached a point where the RV needed to be plugged to run the air conditioners and get it cool by the kids’ bedtimes. As the trip went on, we started staying at KOAs because of how family friendly they are with fun pools and activity areas. They typically cost a little more than other RV parks, but were worth a few extra dollars to have happy and entertained kids! We did park in the driveway of family and friends we visited along the way so that gave us a number of free nights.
When we hit the South in mid-summer, we needed more AC! The second AC unit cost about $1,300. Throughout the six months we had a few oil changes and basic maintenance. And I can’t remember why we kept going to Home Depot, but I’m sure Dave was finding things to upgrade in the RV throughout the summer. The insurance for the RV and our car was about $100/mo – we were still paying car insurance even though our car was parked at Dave’s parents’ house all summer.
Health Insurance & Doctor Visits:
Because we had a major life event of moving, I was able to get us on a temporary insurance plan and drop our premium from around $1,000/mo to $500/mo through the next open enrollment period. The temporary plan didn’t cover any basic doctor visits and had a really high deductible, but it did have a $50 copay for urgent care accepted almost everywhere in the US. Luckily we all stayed fairly healthy and only had to make one urgent care visit for Colin’s swollen sinuses.
PODs & Shipping:
This is the cost of our “stuff” we left behind! We packed one 16 foot POD and pay a monthly storage fee of around $300, plus over $3,000 to have it transported from Seattle to Tucson. We also mailed some boxes of belongings to family that we weren’t using in the RV, but wanted to keep, in order to free up some space.
Overall, I’m content with how much we spent during our RV adventure. We look forward to doing shorter RV road trips for years to come over school breaks and now I have a good estimate of our costs if we maintain the same “RV lifestyle" and some ideas of how to cut our costs even more!