What’s not to love about the RV lifestyle? Campfires every night, Mt. Rushmore in the morning and the Florida Keys in the evening, falling asleep to the Milky Way and waking up to the sweet smell of maple syrup pancakes with fresh-cut strawberries.
Or something like that.
We love the RV life, but it has a few … misconceptions. A few myths. Some good, some bad. Let’s break down 11 myths about living life on four wheels.
11 MYTHS ABOUT FULL-TIME RV TRAVEL
1) Full-Time RVing Is Lonely
If you think living in an RV is lonely, you haven’t been to an Xscapers Bash!
In fact, you may find that life on the road nurtures stronger friendships than a traditional rooted existence. There’s always a friendly campfire somewhere in camp. There’s always the next RV rally, the next rave, the next aunt/uncle/cousin/brother/parent in the next state, the next impromptu friendship at a workamping gig.
There are a bajillion RV social clubs and special interest groups, such as
- Tin Can Tourists
- Full-Time Families
Be careful! If you join too many groups, you’ll never have a moment to yourself!
You can read a full list of RV social clubs here. Or you can search RV clubs by state here.
2) Living in an RV Is Cheap
We’ve all considered it: Giving the finger to the boss, selling the Xbox, and lighting out for the open road, living off McDonalds and Pop Tarts.
Unfortunately, the nomadic life isn’t that simple. Or that cheap.
While living in an RV can be an affordable lifestyle, it’s not as cheap as, say, bumming off a friend, sharing an apartment, or moving into your parent’s basement.
There’s fuel costs, RV repair, RV insurance, campground fees, mobile internet subscription, and the RV loan itself!
Sure, you don’t pay property taxes, but replacing your tires can cost $2,000!
Full-time RVers report that living in an RV costs between $1,400 and $3,500 a month. While that’s a lot less than rent in San Francisco, it’s a lot more expensive than the guy who lives in his Dodge van at the Walmart down the street.
3) Living in an RV Is Crazy Expensive
On the other side of the coin, some people assume everyone who lives in an RV is a trust fund baby or dot-com benefactor.
The truth is that living in an RV can cost anywhere from $1,400 to $3,500 a month. By purchasing discount programs, such as Good Sam, Thousand Trails or Escapees, you can save thousands of dollars a month in campground fees!
Living in an RV is not necessarily any more expensive than a sticks n’ bricks life. Plus, there are lots of ways to make a living on the road!
4) Kids Can’t Go Full-Time RVing
Let us begin with some perspective:
In August 2021, Harvey Sutton thru-hiked the 2,190-mile Appalachian trail when he was five.
So yes, kids can absolutely live in an RV full-time. Thousands of members have joined groups like Wild + Free Roadschoolers and Full-Time Families Roadschool. “Roadschool” is a form of homeschooling while on the road, and many families successfully raise their kids this way.
There are challenges, of course. It’s not so easy to join a soccer league. Or a ballet troupe. But rather than just reading about the Civil War, your child can walk through the plastered walls of Fort Sumter. Rather than joining the wrestling team, your child can ski, run, and mountain bike year-round.
It’s not a lifestyle suitable for all families. But don’t deem it “impossible” without reading stories from others who have gone before!
5) You Don’t Need a Plan When You Go RVing
Perhaps the biggest misconception about the RV lifestyle is the notion of absolute freedom: no responsibilities, no plans, no deadlines.
The truth is that living the RV lifestyle requires more planning than usual! You don’t have a huge fridge with two weeks’ worth of groceries. You don’t have a bed in the same spot every night. You don’t “run out” of electricity at your house!
It’s not campfires and smores every night. There are still dishes to wash, cars to fix, bills to be paid. In many cases, you have to plan your stops for weeks – campgrounds are booked for months!
Yes, traveling in an RV gives you an incredible amount of mobility. But don’t confuse freedom with imprudence.
Thankfully, there are many apps and websites to help you plan out your route, your supply stops, and your destinations! Some of our favorites are:
- All Stays
- ToGo RV/RV Life
- Harvest Hosts
- Roadside America
6) Bigger Is Better
The secret to happy RVing is making the Goldilocks choice: Picking an RV large enough to house your stuff, but small enough to go wherever you want.
Bigger RVs cannot navigate certain mountain roads like the Going-to-the-Sun Road or the Pikes Peak Highway. Larger rigs are more difficult to park, reverse, and deploy.
- Travel trailer: 32 feet or less
- 5th wheel: 6 feet or less
- Motorhome: 38 feet or less
If you’re planning an epic National Park road trip, stay within 25-30 feet (22-25 feet is even better for those steep, scenic mountain passes!)
There’s nothing wrong with a 4-wheeled McMansion (aka Class A coach), but understand that your navigation choices will be restricted.
7) You Need a License to Drive an RV
With few exceptions, no, you don’t need a special license to drive or tow an RV! According to Changing Gears,
“According to current laws across all 50 states, if your motorhome weighs less than 26,000 pounds or your trailer weighs less than 10,000 lbs, you do not need a special license to operate your RV.”
So except for the largest of Class A coaches and 5th wheel toy haulers, you can drive an RV anywhere to your heart’s content!
8) RVs Are Only For Retired People
Let me drop some knowledge on ya.
- 1 out of 11 American households own an RV
- 22 percent of RV owners are between 18 and 34
- Roughly half of all RVers are under the age of 55
There are entire social clubs dedicated to younger travelers and families, such as FCRV, NAFCA, Xscapers, and Loners on Wheels.
Why wait to retire to enjoy the inspiring natural beauty, rich history and pockets of homegrown culture around the country?
9) RVs Are Only for Poor People
Most of us might imagine that RVs are only for the rich and retired, but some people have the opposite idea – that RVs are only for itinerants like ski bums and dirtbags.
First of all, there’s nothing wrong with the dirtbag lifestyle! Ask Alex Honnold, one of the world’s greatest rock climbers, star of Free Solo, who has lived out of his conversion van for decades.
Secondly, RVs can be adapted to all sorts of lifestyles. Sure, some RV dwellers find a new campground every night. Others follow the good weather. Some only move once or twice a year, from Michigan in the summer to Florida in the winter.
Thirdly, many RVers work remotely. Some are employed and telecommuting; some run their own businesses. There are dozens of options for making money on the road!
10) The Warranty Will Cover All Repairs (Hakuna Matata)
No. Just no.
If you’re accustomed to tip-to-tail, top-to-bottom automotive warranties, you’ll be sorely disappointed with the typical RV warranty, which covers only workmanship and materials of the RV structure.
And many RV manufacturers adopt a split warranty system like a 3+1 for 3-year structural, 1-year workmanship warranty. Most aren’t comprehensive.
Third-party appliances, like fans and air conditioners, are covered by their own warranties. You’ll have to contact each company individually.
RV manufacturers aren’t exactly well-known for paying out quickly, either. This can significantly delay service for your RV. Or you’ll be asked to pay a “diagnostics” fee, even if the repair itself is covered.
Be prepared to become your own handyman when you buy an RV!
11) RV Parks Don’t Allow Kids/Dogs/Old RVs
There’s a grain of truth to this misconception:
- Yes, some RV resorts and parks don’t allow pets, or at least no pets outside the RV.
- Some are exclusively 55-and-older.
- Some don’t allow generators, at all, any time, ever.
- Some restrict RVs to 10 years old or fewer.
But you’ll find that most RV campgrounds cater to all peoples, all breeds, all ages.
Most will post regulations and rules on their websites. If in doubt, call ahead! If you think they could make an exception for your awesomely well-behaved felines, canines or consanguineans, by all means, call and ask.
Andy Herrick is a blogging nerd, #8 Enneagram, wannabe bread baker, INTJ, RV industry professional, and small business entrepreneur. He can be found hanging out with his lovely wife and family, skiing, cycling, climbing, hiking, and convincing anyone who will listen why dogs aren’t really that great of pets. Also, he runs this website.