The allure of the open road has always been a strong one for many people. But in the last few decades, it’s become more possible than ever thanks to the advent of RVs and other ways to live on the go. This is especially true over the past few years, as the COVID-19 pandemic created millions of new remote workers with the desire to get out and explore. But not everyone understands RV living – with all its advantages and drawbacks – before taking the plunge. Read on as we break down everything new potential RVers need to know about the exciting but sometimes complicated RV lifestyle.
What is the RV Lifestyle?
The “RV Lifestyle” means a lot of different things to a lot of different people. For some, it may mean embracing the nomadic lifestyle by selling their home or giving up their apartment, moving into their rig, and traveling the country as a full-time RV’er. For others, it might simply manifest in a few vacations or weekend trips a year, swapping the hotel or cabin for the comforts of your very own RV. Still more RV owners might find themselves somewhere in the middle, spending part of the year on the road or in their RV and the other part living a more traditional lifestyle. However, all RVers tend to share their appreciation for certain parts of the lifestyle, including the love of nature, the desire to explore, and often the bonding with fellow RVers and travelers in the RV community.
What are the Different Types of RVs?
At the broadest level, there are two types of RVs – those that need to be towed by another vehicle and those that can be driven on their own. Within these two categories are several other important distinctions that can help you find the perfect rig for you and any fellow travelers.
RVs that need to be towed include typical travel trailers (which can range from compact and basic to large and feature-heavy) and fifth wheels, which differ in their method of towing and tend to be bigger than trailers. On the opposite end of the spectrum, pop-up campers can also be considered towable RVs, though they also share some characteristics with tents. While not strictly “towed,” this category also includes truck campers, which need to be set up in a truck bed to move from place to place.
Drivable RVs (also known as motorhomes) can be split up into Classes A, B, and C. Class A RVs are what many people think of when they think of a motorhome, generally large in size and with a bus-like appearance and driving style. These bigger rigs are most common among frequent or full-time RVers who need the extra living space and features. The next most common style of motorhomes is Class C. These tend to be slightly smaller than many Class As and can be distinguished by their more truck-like driving area set lower to the road. Class Cs can range from modest-sized models for occasional weekend use to large luxury models that rival any Class A.
Class Bs are significantly different than either As or Cs. This class covers converted vans and other van-like RVs which can be driven on their own but are considerably smaller than other motorhomes. Class Bs have the smallest living area and fewest features, sometimes not even including a bathroom. Many spaces have multiple uses, like tables that fold down to allow access to a sleeping area. While all RVing requires a bit of lifestyle adjustment, Class Bs are typically only used by weekend campers, those traveling between destinations, or dedicated “van lifers” willing to deal with the sacrifices in exchange for the freedom and low cost.
Pros of RV Living
The biggest pro of RV living should be pretty obvious – the freedom it provides! Feel like checking out a national park across the country? RV travel is easy and you can just pick up and go. Tired of the weather, or the scenery, or your nosy neighbors? You can change all that in just hours or days with the RVing lifestyle while “sticks and bricks” homeowners are stuck grumbling to their friends. The ability to see and do all sorts of incredible things without the cost of expensive hotels and meals out is one of the top draws for new RV lifers.
In some cases, RV life can also be cheaper than traditional home or apartment living. This is especially true for those willing to boondock or avoid amenity-heavy RV “resorts.” Depending on whether you have an RV payment or not, you may be able to find places to set up your RV that end up costing only a few hundred dollars a month.
Cons of RV Living
Despite the many advantages and perks of RV life, living in a rig isn’t all sunshine and rainbows – at least for most. For many, the first and most apparent con to RV living is the need to significantly downsize. Even the largest RVs are just a fraction of the size of a typical house, and most have roughly the storage space of a large studio apartment. For those living in their rig full-time without another home, this will mean either getting rid of many of their possessions or paying for a storage unit monthly. You’ll have to more carefully consider any new purchases and even shift your habits in things like going to the grocery store, as you’ll have less space to store food.
There are other drawbacks as well. Lots of the things most folks take for granted in their regular homes require extra effort in RVs, from getting water and power to disposing of your waste. You’ll also need to contend with high gas prices these days, which can make RV living a much less attractive lifestyle financially.
Is RV Life for Me?
To be sure, RV life isn’t for everyone. Whether you’re talking about full-time life on the road or even just an occasional week or so traveling and camping, staying in an RV will require some sacrifices compared to “normal life.” But it also provides opportunity, fun, and freedom that can’t be found any other way.
You’ll need to weigh the pros and cons of RV living listed above and determine which are most important to you and those you may be traveling with. Some may conclude that they can’t deal with the tight quarters, less-than-luxury bathrooms and kitchens, expensive fuel costs, and other hassles. But others might find they can’t live without the ability to pick up and go nearly anywhere, bringing many of the comforts of home along with them. If you’re unsure, there may be only one way to truly find out – give it a try!
Tips for Living in an RV Full-Time
If you’re setting your sights on living in an RV full-time, the best advice is to start the planning and preparation process early. This allows you to downsize your life slowly, making more deliberate decisions about your things rather than facing a mad dash to get rid of stuff. It also gives you a chance to take some practice trips, giving you a sense of what life might be like with this small space as your permanent home. An early start on planning also gives you a jump on researching your travels, which can be vital to snagging a spot in top RV parks that have been more crowded than ever since COVID-19 emerged.
There are also crucial things to remember while out on the road, like observing the 2/2/2 or 3/3/3 rule. These rules suggest limiting your drive to 200 (or 300, for 3/3/3) miles per day, stopping every two (or three) hours, and staying at your destination for two (or three) nights. Guidelines like these can be extremely helpful in ensuring your trip stays safe and fun by not overtaxing yourself on travel days. Variations may also recommend arriving at your destination by two or three in the afternoon to give you time to set up camp before dark.
Finally, one of the most valuable tips for full-time RV living is to shift your mindset from vacation to everyday life. While on vacation, it may be ok to splurge on nicer meals, one-of-a-kind experiences, and expensive souvenirs. Plenty of people are tempted to keep this lifestyle in their early days of RV life, thanks to the novelty of it all. But in many cases, this isn’t financially sustainable for the long term. Sure, you’ll still want to enjoy your destinations. However, for most RVers without unlimited funds supporting them, you’ll need to be mindful of your budget and try to find a way to merge the excitement of travel with the reality of daily life.
Power Your RV with AM Solar
One of the most significant changes for those new to RV life is having to think about where you’ll be getting your utilities like water and power. These days, many RVers are ditching the noisy, polluting generators for green, efficient solar panels. Solar panels can help keep your lights on no matter where you’re staying, as long as you have access to the sun. That means no need for hookups or trips to the gas station for fuel! You’ll also be doing your part to help the environment by eliminating one source of potential pollution.
But getting started with solar power for your RV can feel a little overwhelming. Let the experts at AM Solar help design the perfect system for you. We’ll ensure you have all the best components and size your solar system for your needs. Reach out to us today to learn more.