What it costs to live in an RV in the San Francisco Bay Area

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Money is a touchy subject. People don’t like to talk about what they make, or how much they spend. But I think there is very valuable information to be had, so I’m only going to hold a few things back.

I work for a private company, in a very, very specialized type of work. So how much I make is not relevant, because it’s unlikely that anyone will be doing what I do. Additionally, I’m not sure it really matters how much you make–it’s more about what you do with the money. I’ve heard of people living off $600 per month in other states. Other RVers have said they think someone needs to make at least $50,000 per year to live comfortably in an RV and be able to travel and have fun as well. In this part of the country, I might tend to agree with that. But it would also depend upon what other expenses and responsibilities someone has. Variables such as family size, debt, food preferences and other spending habits all make a difference.

I’m also not going to talk about things like insurance, as that’s also very individualized. Full-time RV insurance is dependent upon the year, make and model of RV you own. If you have a car then that’s another vehicle to insure. Healthcare costs will vary. We have bicycle insurance for our electric bikes, but that isn’t something everyone will need or want.

Also, things like wireless service and internet access have too much variability to cover as well. If you are looking for guidance on selecting a wireless and/or internet service provider while traveling, along with any other gear and technology you might need to make it work, I recommend visiting www.rvmobileinternet.com. I have used this website extensively to gather information.

What I will talk about are things like rent, groceries, fuel, propane and utilities. How much it costs to eat out. How much it costs to entertain yourself. How much it costs to do laundry or have maintenance done on your RV. I’m going to start off with the month of May (I’ve just reviewed our budget), when we were still living in Marin. From now on, I plan to try to give you an overview each month of our expenses, and where we spent them.

Rent

As I said in my review of the RV park we lived in (found here), We were paying $850 per month in rent. In May, we actually paid 2 months’ worth of electric bills, because we had our April meter reading, which was included with our rent due on May 1st, and our May meter reading, because we were leaving the park. The total was $97 for both months. May was definitely hotter than April; we paid $38.76 in April and $58.14 in May, as we ran the air conditioner more often. Total: $947

Groceries

Most of the time, we eat in and do all our own cooking. The majority of our money goes to fresh fruits and vegetables. I buy some specialty ingredients and Ryan buys vegan meat substitutes. We buy dry beans and rice in bulk and cook them at home. Our total grocery expenditure was $586 for May. This also includes items like toilet paper, paper towels and trash bags. Total: $586.

Gas

Our Prius has a 10-gallon tank. Mileage was 40+ to the gallon, and we didn’t do much driving in May, so we spent about $54. At the end of the month we put half a tank of gas into the motorhome to bring it to full on our way to Redding–about 25 gallons for $71. Total: $125.

Propane

We use propane for our oven, stove and hot water heater. It’s also needed for the heater, but we don’t use our heater (we use space heaters, and not very often). Propane runs $2.59-$2.99 per gallon from the place we usually went in Greenbrae. We spent about $30 while stationary in May to fill up a smaller tank, then did a big fill-up of our on-board propane when we filled up on gas for $67. Total: $97

Dining Out

Before we left Marin, we had a meal with family that we paid for. It was 4 adults and 2 kids for $81. Not bad by Marin standards. Too bad the service wasn’t better. Ryan also got some fro-yo from our favorite place, Tutti Melon in Novato, as a farewell. I had some dairy-free gelato. The total was about $13.

The night we arrived in town, Ryan was hungry and didn’t want to cook, so we had some decent Mexican food for just under $16. That was May 30th, so I’m including it. Total: $110.

Total Expenditure on Food, Utilities, Fuel and Rent for May living in Marin County: $1865.

If you check rental listings in Marin County, you’d be hard-pressed to find even a studio apartment for that much.

 

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