What Everyone Wants to Know about Full Time RV Living: Top 23 Questions We Get Asked
June 2, 2021
Since we started traveling in our RV full time, we meet new people at campgrounds, retail stores, gas pumps, and everywhere in between. We noticed a trend when people find out we live in our motorhome, Pippi. They have several questions about full time RV travel. Based on their experience with RVs, the questions vary in complexity. However, we hear many of the same questions over and over so we decided to share the answers with our readers.
Here are the top questions and answers we get asked about our full time RV life by category:
Do you drink the water from your RV holding tanks?
How do you get water and toilet service when you are not in a campground?
What is your favorite RV upgrade?
Common Questions about our Full Time RV Life & Our Personal Journey
Most people we meet do not know anyone else who travels full time in an RV so their initial confusion manifests into many questions. They want to know more about us, why we chose this non-traditional path and how we’re able to live this lifestyle.
Why did you decide to move into an RV?
We don’t have a concise answer to this question but I’ll try.
Kevin grew up moving and never lived in the same place for more than a few years. He is fairly easygoing and enjoys adventure. He also spent many summers in his younger years traveling the country, some in an RV.
I spent the first 18 years of my life, planning my escape from small-town NC life. Even though I had a very happy childhood I always wanted more. I was born with a serious case of wanderlust.
After college, we moved to Atlanta and immediately started planning for early retirement. We were both blessed with well-paying corporate jobs. However, we knew we didn’t want to work until we were too old to enjoy life. We made sacrifices for the next couple decades so we could quit full time work by the age of 40.
Originally, we thought we wanted to live on a tropical island. But hurricanes and unstable governments were serious concerns. For now, that is on the back burner.
We wondered if maybe we should explore our own country before moving away. Kevin discovered a couple who called themselves RV Dreams.
They are accountants who had quit full time work in their early 40s to travel in their RV. On their website, they published personal financials which provided us additional insight into full time RV living.
The full time RV idea was planted but we had a lot of questions. After extensive research, we decided RV travel was a great way to experience North America.
How is traveling full time?
There are more good days than bad days. We rarely have days bad enough to question the decision to travel full time in our RV but they do occasionally happen.
Honestly, things break all the time, plans don’t work out and life gets frustrating. But that was also true when we were living in a house and working full-time jobs.
The only difference between living in a house and an RV full time is now we get to see beautiful new locations every few days. We spend a lot more time outdoors hiking and biking than we ever have. I am in the best shape of my life and haven’t stepped foot in a gym in over 2 years.
We have more control over our surroundings. If we like a location, we stay a little longer. If we don’t like a place, we keep driving.
When in our house, we didn’t get to choose our neighbors. In full time RV life, we love to make new friends and plan future meet-ups along our route. The full time RV community has been very welcoming to us.
Everyday errands like getting mail or a haircut are a much bigger hassle than when we were stationary. Read the tips and tricks we’ve learned for getting mail on the road here.
We have to research every service in each new location. It is much more time consuming than just calling your hometown hairstylist, mechanic, or veterinarian to make your next appointment. Honestly, it can be exhausting.
Have you ever owned a house?
Before moving into our RV full time, we were homeowners. When we bought our RV, we actually owned two homes. We were both working long days in corporate accounting roles, commuting several hours a day, and living the American dream. Many of our weekends were spent doing house projects.
Do you miss a house?
Yes and no. We do miss certain aspects of living in a house but we love the freedom provided by our mobile life.
Kevin misses his outdoor kitchen and ceramic smoker. We currently travel with three grills and he finds a lot of joy in smoking meats. However, he is not content with our setup and is continually researching a way to fit a ceramic smoker in the motorhome.
I (Kara) miss the conveniences of living in a house. When in a house, I never really considered water or power usage. This is part of everyday when living in an RV full time.
Our RV is spacious but doesn’t have room for everything. Top things missed: dishwasher and bath tub. Nothing is quite the same as ending a cold long day soaking in a hot tub with a good book.
Do you work? What kind of job do you do?
We are both accountants and maintain our Certified Public Accountant licenses.
After 17 years climbing the corporate ladder, I (Kara) quit working full time in 2019. Now I spend my time writing and sharing our experiences on Trying to Unwind. I also research and plan all of our travel routes.
Kevin still works part time in a non-profit finance role. He has been performing this job remotely since 2015. He also does all of our driving and most of our maintenance. Thankfully he is very mechanically minded and quite handy.
Where is all of your stuff?
Almost everything we own is in our coach.
When we sold our house, we sold all of our furniture and appliances. After several rounds of purging, selling and donating we narrowed down our personal possessions to a very minimal collection. Finally, we moved all of our kitchen ware and clothing into our motorhome. Downsizing and living with less was so freeing. It felt like a weight was lifted off our shoulders that we didn’t even know was there.
A few things we didn’t want to get rid are at family member’s homes. We have a few boxes of books and photos in a NC family member’s basement. Kevin’s wood working tools and our sporting goods are with family in FL. At some point, we’ll likely purge more of these items but for now they are being kept for free by family members.
Don’t you get tired of each other?
In short, sometimes. Living in a tiny space and spending every day together can be challenging to even the strongest relationships. Occasionally, we take time apart to recharge and enjoy individual interests.
Normally, we utilize nature to expand our living space. I enjoy reading in my hammock in nice weather. Poor weather and several days indoors together can amplify the slightest annoyance.
Finally, we rarely stay home for multiple days without an outing so there isn’t much time to feel trapped.
Is it cheap to travel in an RV? How much does it cost to live in an RV full time?
Full time RV travel can be very cheap if that is your goal.
If you want to save money, there is an abundance of free campsites in the Western United States. We’ve also found free dump stations and water in many locations. Therefore, your only discretionary costs would be fuel, food and maintenance. Fuel costs can be controlled by moving less. Food costs can be easily controlled with planning and preparation.
In 2020, our discretionary costs (fuel, food, connectivity, insurance, and activities) living in our RV full time were around $30k. Disclaimer: Everyone spends differently and your experience will vary.
We aren’t on a super strict budget but are generally frugal. We enjoy treating ourselves at local restaurants and breweries but cook most of our meals at home. Local farmer’s markets and butchers are usually part of our grocery shopping. Obviously, these higher quality products can be more expensive than big box stores.
We do like to save money so we utilize free campsites and dumps when possible. In our first year of travel, we spent an average of $6.10 per night camping. 42% of our nights were spent dry camping without any hookups. We also work camped at a state park for several months in exchange for a free campsite.
People are specifically interested in our fuel costs for the motorhome. We spent $1,808 in diesel fuel and traveled 6,202 miles during our first year of travel.
Not included in our discretionary costs total above is our most expensive spending category: RV and car modifications and maintenance. All RV owners know that repairs and maintenance are a necessity. Many of our upgrades are optional.
Our motorhome was made in 2000 so she’s an old girl. During our first 9 years of owning Pippi, our maintenance and repair costs averaged $445 per month. This included routine maintenance performed by us as well as professionals, a few optional upgrades, and several expensive chassis and generator repairs.
If needed in the future, our spending could definitely be reduced.
Common Questions about Our Rig
We drive a 37′ foot American Tradition diesel pusher motorhome. She is lovingly named Pippi. Go here to learn how she got her name.
Pippi tows our daily driver, a Ford Fusion Energi sedan. Together they are quite a sight pulling into a gas station or shopping center. Most of our questions about Pippi and our tow car are asked at retail gas pumps especially once they find out we are full time RV travelers.
How much does it cost to fill up the fuel tanks? How big are the fuel tanks?
Pippi has a 125 gallon diesel tank and costs depend heavily on the price of diesel. Therefore, we shop for the lowest diesel prices along our route and can plan well in advance. We’ve paid as low as $1.79 per gallon and as high as $3.89 per gallon. We rarely get below a quarter of a tank so we don’t usually pump more than 100 gallons at one time. But 100 gallons is still a painful bill.
We use a few methods to find the cheapest diesel. When we get close to half a tank, we start looking at diesel options along our route. Our two primary resources for finding the least expensive diesel fuel are the free gasbuddy app and a Fleet Discount program for RVers.
What kind of gas mileage does your Class A diesel pusher RV get?
Our 37’ class A diesel pusher motorhome’s fuel economy varies based on slopes and wind. On average our RV gets about 7-8 miles per gallon. During our first year traveling full time, we drove the RV 6,202 miles.
Towing a car behind our motorhome does not impact our fuel economy. Our tow car is a plug-in hybrid electric (PHEV) Ford Fusion Energi. With the assistance of electricity on short trips, we’ve gotten as much as 90 miles per gallon in it. On a regular basis, we get around 50 miles per gallon.
Does towing a car behind the motorhome put miles on the odometer?
We chose our tow car based on its ability to be safely flat towed with four wheels down. There are a limited number of automatic transmission vehicles that can be flat towed with four wheels down without significant modifications or permanent damage.
Our Ford Fusion Hybrid has a Neutral Tow mode that disengages the transmission for towing. It is a setting in our dashboard menu and can easily be switched with the press of a button.
Towing our car does not put miles on the odometer. It does incur wear on the tires but otherwise doesn’t impact the life of the car.
How long does it take to hook up your tow car?
We are both very familiar with our Demco tow bar setup. If working together, we can connect the car within minutes. Individually, it takes about 5 minutes to completely hook up our tow car to the motorhome.
Our first tow car was a GMC Envoy with an older towbar and Brake Buddy. The process to connect it was more laborious and time consuming.
When we purchased our new car, we chose to pay a little extra for the convenience of upgraded systems. We got a built-in air braking system to reduce the connect and disconnect time for towing.
Does towing the car hurt your gas mileage?
Our tow car is a Ford Fusion Hybrid sedan. It weighs over 4,000 pounds. Towing the car behind our motorhome has no significant impact on the RV’s fuel economy. We get around 7-8 miles per gallon regardless of whether we have the car in tow or not.
Do you have to do anything special to tow the car?
We most often hear this question at gas stations from other RVers who have been looking for a car to tow behind their RV. To be able to flat tow a car with four wheels down, it must have the ability to disconnect the transmission.
Only the Hybrid and PHEV version of the Ford Fusion has the neutral tow mode allowing it to be easily towed four down. During our car buying search, we wanted an automatic transmission so our options were very limited. Based on prices and personal preferences, we narrowed it down to a few Ford options or a Jeep Wrangler.
Some manufacturers include transmission disconnect functionality on one model year but not the next. Be sure to confirm the ability to flat-tow before making a purchase decision.
How does the coach drive?
Kevin does the majority of our driving. He enjoys driving and has been driving our 37’ diesel pusher since 2013. Curvy tight roads don’t give him anxiety because he’s very comfortable with Pippi’s handling and size. Despite his comfort, he still takes it slow and easy. Pippi rides on airbags so it is a soft comfortable ride but she’s big.
We pre-scout our routes on Google satellite view to avoid areas where we won’t fit or can’t turn around. When towing the car, we can’t back up so taking the right route is key to avoid headaches.
Since I don’t drive regularly, Pippi gives me angst. I am licensed to drive her and do occasionally take the wheel to keep my skills fresh. But it’s not a relaxing drive by any stretch.
Common Questions about our RV Full Time Travel
Fellow wanderlusters skip questions about our story and want to know about our full time RV travel destinations. They want to know where we have been, where we are going and what we loved.
How long have you been traveling?
We purchased Pippi, our 37’ class A diesel pusher in 2013. During the first few years, we used her for weekend trips and tailgating at East Carolina University football games.
In 2015, my job moved us to the United Kingdom. We sold our house and most of our possessions. While we were in England, Pippi served as our stateside home. When we visited the US, we had the comforts of home with us.
In 2018, we moved back to the US and moved into Pippi full time. I was tied to a Dallas-based office job until 2019. While in Dallas, it was our base for regional RV trips on weekends and vacation time. Once I stopped working full time and no longer had the obligation to stay in one place, we started traveling.
How long do you plan to travel?
We plan to take Pippi to all of the lower 48 contiguous United States, Alaska, Canada, and Mexico however we don’t have a specific deadline to complete our travels. In short, we plan to travel in our motorhome until we don’t want to anymore.
Where is your favorite place you have visited?
Favorites are a funny concept. It’s difficult to choose one favorite from all of the amazing places we visited. We usually find something awesome at each stop. A few of our favorites are:
The questions we get about RV functionality in full time travel are most commonly from other RVers. They are familiar with campground camping with full hookups. But they don’t fully understand how we function without power, water and sewer connections. We love to boondock for free on public lands in our RV so we love to spread the word.
Can you go overnight without plugging in?
If we have sunny weather, we do not need to ever plug in our coach. We installed solar and lithium batteries to decrease our dependence on campground connections. Our system provides enough power to run our life off grid.
If we have cloudy or snowy weather that prevents solar production, we can use our generator for immediate power needs and to recharge our batteries.
Pippi, our motorhome, has large holding tanks compared to many RVs.
She can store 85 gallons of fresh water. By actively conserving water, we can stretch this to last nearly 2 weeks. We normally run out of fresh water before we fill our waste water holding tanks. To lengthen our boondocking time, we have two 6-gallon jugs that can be filled when in town and then poured into the coach tank.
Our wastewater tanks are 48 gallons each. Our grey (shower and sink wastewater) always fills before our black (toilet). We have achieved an advanced level of water conservation and tank management skills. Expect a future blog post covering our environmentally friendly tank conservation tips and tricks.
Do you drink the water from your RV holding tanks?
Yes. Our RV freshwater tanks provide for all of our water needs including drinking, bathing and dishwashing. Water is our primary beverage of choice and we did not want to manage drinking water separately.
Therefore, we installed multiple layers of water treatment since our water source changes every time we move. First, our water treatment process includes multiple filters to remove minerals, particles and unwanted taste or odors. Second, we have a UV treatment device to kill any bacteria.
How do you get water and toilet service when you are not in a campground?
We use public RV dumps to empty our wastewater tanks and refill our water. In our travels, we found many free RV dumps but have seen them as expensive as $30 as well. Our RV is built for full functionality without campground connections.
Most RVs have factory-installed water pumps which pressurize water from the freshwater storage tanks for the regular sink, shower and toilet functionality. The only limitation is the capacity of the RV’s holding tank. The pump will continue to provide water as long as the freshwater holding tank still contains water.
When connected to city water in a campground we do not need the water pump. We just connect to the water spigot for pressurized service.
There are many varieties of RV toilets. Ours is a gravity unit and has a foot pedal that adds water to the toilet bowl and opens to the black water waste tank directly below it. It is a fairly simple process.
We do buy septic friendly toilet paper and don’t flush anything else to reduce the potential for blockages. The downside of this system is we do have 48 gallons of human waste under our floors. We use a natural tank treatment called Happy Camper which keeps odors to minimum and promotes a healthy tank.
There are tons of horror stories of black tank fails. If you have a strong stomach and enjoy poop humor, there are even YouTube videos.
What is your favorite RV upgrade?
I love the beauty of our hardwood floors and the functionality of our solar and electrical upgrades.
But without hesitation, my favorite RV upgrade is our Truma tankless water heater. We have unlimited on-demand hot water. When hooked up in a campground, I can take long showers with no worries of running out of hot water.
Summary Full Time RV Living Questions
I hope this Q&A helped quench some of your curiosity about full time RV travel. Comment below if you have questions about full time RV life you’d like answered in a future post.