Can you live in an RV?

Interior Accessories

Living in an RV is a great way to see more of the country on a budget, but don’t underestimate the cost of gas, since RVs are extremely fuel-hungry.

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RV living essentials

Whether you’re looking for the freedom of life on the road or a way to save money, you might be wondering if you can live in an RV. While you can’t simply park your RV anywhere and stay there indefinitely, there are ways to legally live in your RV full-time. 

Transitioning to life in an RV is a big adjustment if you’re used to living in a house or apartment, so it’s important to think carefully before you commit to this new lifestyle. If you’re well-prepared, however, it can be a comfortable and exciting way to live.

Can you legally live in an RV?

The simple answer is yes, but not just anywhere. Zoning laws in residential areas generally prohibit the use of RVs as a full-time dwelling, so if you were thinking of parking up on a friend or family member’s driveway or backyard and staying there, it’s unlikely to be legal. It’s also illegal to simply park at the side of the road or on public land and live there. If you own land outside of an area that’s governed by an incorporated city or town, zoning laws and ordinances are more relaxed, so you should be able to get away with living in your RV, but you will need to think about practicalities such as access to water, electricity and sewers or a septic tank. 

Alternatively, you can stay in RV parks, residential trailer parks, and campgrounds that allow RVs on either a temporary or permanent basis, depending on your needs and the site rules. These sites give you power and water hookups and a place to empty your gray and black tanks of waste, which solves some logistical issues. For those who want to move around, you can also find some more wild camping areas without these facilities, such as state or national parks, or even on vineyards and farms via the Harvest Hosts program. It might not always be simple, but you have plenty of options for living legally in an RV.

Transitioning to an RV

Downsizing

Kindle Paperwhite

The biggest task when moving into an RV is downsizing and getting rid of belongings that you don’t need and don’t have space for. Since RVs have built-in furnishings, it’s safe to say you’ll need to get rid of most (if not all) of your furniture. If you have a large collection of books, vinyl records or DVDs, it’s probably time to switch to an e-book reader or a media streaming service. This might not feel good, but you will need to make sacrifices to fit your whole life into an RV. It’s nice to keep a few decorative items to make your RV feel more like home, but don’t overdo it or the place can look cluttered. If you’re into fashion and have a lot of clothes, now’s the time to pair down to a capsule wardrobe. 

Moving around or staying put

You’ll need to decide whether you want to move around or stay in the same place. If you intend to live in an RV simply because it’s cheaper than a house or apartment, you may still like the idea of having a stable home base near friends and family, in which case it makes sense to look for a residential park or other spot where you can live full-time. If you want to live in an RV for a more adventurous life, then you’ll probably want to move around and see the country.

Considering your income

Living in an RV might be a relatively affordable way to live, but it still costs money. You can expect to pay around $35 a night for an average RV park or campground (though this is more in some areas and less in others), plus you have the costs of fuel, food and other living expenses to contend with. As such, you’ll need to think carefully about where your income will come from. If you intend to stay in one place, finding work is much easier, but if you want to travel around in your RV, you’ll need freelance work, an employer who doesn’t mind you working remotely or temp jobs wherever you park. 

RV living practicalities

Getting internet access

NETGEAR Nighthawk M1

If you need to get online for work, it’s important you have internet access. While some RV parks offer WiFi, it’s usually painfully slow and there may be a charge to use it. Instead, kit yourself out with a mobile hotspot, such as the NETGEAR Nighthawk M1. You may also be able to use your smartphone as a mobile hotspot, though it can cost more in the long run, unless you have an unlimited data plan.

Cooking

Instant Pot 9-in-1 Duo Plus 6 qt. Programmable Electric Pressure Cooker

Although not all RVs have kitchens, we’d highly recommend having your own kitchen if you’ll be living in your RV. Some have just a hob, while others have full ovens. These are usually powered by tanks of propane gas, though it’s useful to have power outlets in the kitchen to run microwaves and other handy cooking appliances like Instant Pots. It can also be useful to have a portable grill, such as the Cuisinart Petit Gourmet, for outdoor cooking.

Bathroom business

Mrs. Meyer's Clean Day Moisturizing Body Wash for Women and Men

RVs are kitted out with bathrooms, which can be anywhere from bare bones to luxurious. They have freshwater tanks for showering, bathing and flushing and collect toilet waste in black water tanks and dirty water from the shower and sink in gray water tanks, which you’ll need to empty at a campground, into a septic tank or into the sewers. It’s best to use eco-friendly shower products as they’re septic tank-friendly.

Power

Champion 3400-Watt Dual Fuel RV Ready Portable Inverter Generator

When you’re at an RV park or campground, you’ll usually have access to a power hookup. At other times, you’ll need to use a generator. It may be fitted in your RV or you can use a portable model.

Laundry

Honey-Can-Do Heavy Duty Gullwing Drying Rack

High-end RVs can have washers and dryers; otherwise, you’ll need to head to a laundromat or wash clothing by hand. There are often laundry facilities in RV parks. When washing clothes by hand, a drying rack is good to have. 

What you need to buy for RV living

Honda 2200-Watt Recoil Start Gasoline Powered Inverter Generator

Honda 2200-Watt Recoil Start Gasoline Powered Inverter Generator

This gasoline-powered generator is perfect for use in spots where you don’t have a power hookup. It’s quiet, reliable and compact enough that it won’t take up too much precious space in your RV.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

Garmin RV 890 GPS Navigator

Garmin RV 890 GPS Navigator

Specifically designed for driving RVs, this GPS system warns you about sharp turns, weight limits, steep grades and other factors you need to be aware of when driving an RV. It’s especially handy for inexperienced RV drivers.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

FORUP Folding Utility Table

FORUP Folding Utility Table

A compact, height-adjustable, foldable table that will come in handy more times than you can imagine, whether for eating meals outside, use as a laptop desk, doing crafts with your kids or any one of a thousand other uses.

Where to buy: Sold by Amazon

 

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Lauren Corona writes for BestReviews. BestReviews has helped millions of consumers simplify their purchasing decisions, saving them time and money.

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