How To Live in an RV Full-Time to Save on City Living

Contributor

Kirsten & Devin

Favorite Trip

Moab. It was the first time we boondocked and it was really peaceful and beautiful.

Home Base

Nashville, TN

Favorite RV

2020 Riverstone 391FSK

About Contributor

My name is Kirsten and my husband’s name is Devin. We were both born and raised in Dover, De. Devin is a touring musician. I have been in the medical field for almost 10 years and occasionally travel with Devin for his shows. We have been together 10 years, married for 7, and we have been fifth wheel living for almost 5 years. We both enjoy traveling, spending time with family and friends but most of all – we love spending time with our pups and having home movie nights in our fifth wheel in our living room or using our outdoor tv with a fire going.

Hello! I’m Kirsten from @fifth_wheel_living. I’ve been living in an RV full-time with my husband, Devin, and our dogs since January 2018. We are beating the cost of living in Nashville, Tennessee because of our RV lifestyle. I’m going to share how we do it and how you can too.

Deciding to Move to a Large City

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Photo by Kirsten & Devin @fifth_wheel_living

One night in 2017, while I was waiting for Devin to get home from work, I had a thought – ‘We needed to move to Nashville, Tennessee.’ It was a very random thought because Devin and I had never talked about moving to Nashville before. We were living in Dover, Delaware at the time. I thought it was odd, and I was actually a little overwhelmed thinking about it. Then, in that exact moment, Devin called. He said that he had just finished listening to a podcast and that he felt like we needed to move to Nashville, Tennessee. I told him about how I just had the exact same thought, and that I was all in.

So, we told our families the next day. They thought we were being rash and “a little crazy”, but that didn’t deter us. We decided to continue to pursue moving to Nashville. But, after looking at the housing market options for both purchasing and renting a home, we felt like maybe we were being “a little crazy.” Both options were so expensive! We started to doubt if we should even go anymore. But, despite our uncertainties, we continued to feel pulled to Nashville. We had faith that God would provide a way for us. Soon, Devin discovered RV living.

Our RV Journey Begins

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Photo by Kirsten & Devin @fifth_wheel_living

Devin found Kevin and Mandy from @188sqft on Instagram. He told me about how they were traveling America while living in a renovated fifth wheel full-time. He asked me if living in an RV was something that I would want to do. At first, honestly, I was skeptical and a little hesitant. I basically assumed that all RVs were small and didn’t have kitchens or bathrooms. But Devin showed me their photos and story, and I saw how they were saving money, paying off debt, and experiencing new, beautiful, amazing things.

Watch Kevin and Mandy of 188sqft Renovate a New RV Into Their New Home

Their RV renovations made me realize that RVs are basically the same as tiny homes but more affordable. Once I saw the possibilities of what an RV could become as a home, I was able to imagine how I could make our own RV feel like home.  I became very excited and anxious to start our own RV journey after seeing all that RV living could provide as a full-time home. We continued to find different RV influencers and travelers online for inspiration, and more information on RV living. We took as many notes as we could. Then, we started to shop for our first RV.

Choosing Our First RV

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Photo by Kirsten & Devin @fifth_wheel_living

We picked our first RV based on what was the comfiest and most practical for our situation at the time. We looked online and at our local RV dealerships. I had a list of requirements for our RV that needed to be met, and we found that in a used fifth wheel. Our requirements were mainly based on our personal preferences and included some of the following:

Browse used RVs near you.

  1. A slide out big enough for a king-sized mattress
  2. Onboard washer and dryer hook ups.
  3. An open concept in the main living area (to feel more spacious),
  4. Large slide outs (again, to make the RV feel more spacious),
  5. A bathroom that did not separate the toilet and the shower (to help it feel more like a regular bathroom)
  6. A lot of windows (for natural lighting, better airflow, and outside scenery).

After we bought it, we started to remodel it to fit our preferences and style, making it feel more like a home.

Remodeling Our Fifth Wheel

Even though our fifth wheel was used, it was in good condition. We found a little water damage during our remodel, but it wasn’t anything extreme. We were fortunate enough to have a friend that helped us remodel. We mainly removed old, outdated parts of the RV, painted, added peel-and-stick wall coverings, and replaced the flooring. After just two months, we were finished and ready to move. We hooked up our fifth wheel, and we left the next morning. We haven’t looked back since.

Making Any RV a Home

We lived in our first RV for over 2 years before we sold it to upgrade to our second RV. After learning from our first RV experience, I knew exactly how to make our new RV a home on a budget. We mainly painted and added wood accents and other decor. Afterward, it looked like a completely different RV. It felt like home.

Try these Unique Ways to Make Your RV Feel Like Home or find inspiration and ideas with these 7 Interior Design Styles and How to Do Them in Your RV.

Finding a Place to Park an RV

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Photo by Kirsten & Devin @fifth_wheel_living

Throughout the years, we’ve found that Google and Craigslist have been the most helpful resources for finding places to park an RV. We used Google to search for different campgrounds, and we used Craigslist to look for private property listings. We called all of the places we were interested in and asked if full-time RVers could stay. I asked about the cost of renting and what was included (lot fee, utilities, internet, etc.) as well as if there were extra accommodations on site. This helped us choose what place would best meet our wants and needs.

You can also search the Good Sam Campground network for vetted and rated campgrounds. Invest in a yearly Good Sam Membership and save 10% off the nightly rate at Good Sam Campgrounds, in addition to other camping and travel savings. Browse campgrounds and find your next destination.

Tips From Our RV Experiences

Photo by Kirsten & Devin @fifth_wheel_living

My advice to anyone that is considering an RV lifestyle is to just have fun and don’t rush.

  • Make a decision. Once you’ve decided you want to have an RV lifestyle, go for it! It’s not as scary as it may seem.
  • Take your time finding your RV. It’s important to know how much you can afford as well as what RV model will best fit your circumstances.
  • Make a budget. Find out the approximate total costs for things like
    • The costs of where you will be staying (lot rent, electric, water, trash, internet, etc.),
    • Payments on the RV (loan, insurance)
    • Allowance for remodeling and/or decor. Learn How to Create a Budget for RV Life.
  • Choose the best RV for your circumstances. First, ensure the price of the RV you choose fits your budget. After that, consider that it’s going to be your home! So, make sure you find a layout that you’re going to really enjoy! Make a list of things that are essential and stick to it as much as possible.
  • Use your imagination. Do not feel “stuck” in a layout. The possibilities are almost endless. You have the ability to add or take away most of the things in an RV to accommodate your lifestyle and to make it feel like a home that fits your needs.
  • Get your RV inspected. Whether the RV is brand new or used, always get your RV inspected.

RV Living Tips to Help Save Money

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Photo by Kirsten & Devin @fifth_wheel_living
  • Spend wisely. Make sure you check pricing for everything. Shop around. So, do your research to set yourself up for success. Always try to negotiate.
  • Buy used. I always recommend buying used RVs because they are more affordable than a brand new RV.
  • Paint goes a long way. You would be amazed by how much paint can transform a space.
  • Remodel smarter, not harder. Remember to use your imagination. Besides painting, other budget-friendly remodeling options include stenciling, wallpapering, and thrifting.
  • Find people that inspire you. Whether you are in love with the style and decor in an RV or you need answers to RV-related questions, find people that provide you with the inspiration and help you need to start your RV journey.

Saving on Urban and City Living

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Photo by Kirsten & Devin @fifth_wheel_living

When we first started looking for places to live in Nashville, every apartment or home we found had fees for owning dogs. Additionally, the average rent payment in 2017 for small apartments was anywhere from $2,000 to $3,000, which didn’t include utilities. After we chose to live in an RV full-time and move to Nashville, all of our bills combined were less than what we would have paid for rent alone.

Financial Freedom in an RV

Man and women in RV cuddling
Photo by Kirsten & Devin @fifth_wheel_living

Devin and I didn’t always plan on living in an RV full-time. In fact, it was supposed to be temporary. But, the entire reason we started our RV journey is also the reason why we are still on it –We wanted financial freedom! We didn’t want to work to live. We gained that through living in an RV full-time, and we don’t want to give that up. We are saving more money monthly, and we have more free time to enjoy the city and go on vacations.

After our first year living in an RV full-time, we decided that we were going to continue this lifestyle as long as we were both happy. I’m so glad we did. There have been a few situations over the years that we would not have been able to handle financially if we were living in a standard house. RV living has blessed us more than either of us could have ever imagined. We will forever be grateful for this lifestyle and all the freedom it gives us.


Are you considering living in an RV full-time? What are your thoughts or concerns? Tell us in the comments below.

  • Comment (7)
  • Mark says:

    Wonderful article. I’m looking at doing this for my two cats and me.

  • Adrienne Michelle Collins says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation. This is a preview; your comment will be visible after it has been approved.
    I am new to the idea of living in an RV full time and soon making my first RV purchase. I know I’d like to purchase “used” opposed to something new. For a novice RV-er, what size camper do you recommend, or when would I be ready for driving with a fifth wheeler…? Is there a special driver’s license needed to pull the fifth wheeler camper…? I’m also concerned about the travels on the road, finding safe, clean RV parks to reside in, long /short-term. Is there a highly recommended RV Park guide/handbook that’s available…?
  • Cindy says:

    I love your story!! My husband and I have been married for 43 years, we have been toying with the idea of full timing in our RV,, scares the you know what out of me. Did y’all keep your house in Dover, in case you want to move back?

  • Mike Terpstra says:
    Your comment is awaiting moderation. This is a preview; your comment will be visible after it has been approved.
    So you bought an rv and saved money. It would have been better if you could have been forthcoming about actual expenses. I mean, what did it really cost for you to live in your rv? Do you stay at rv parks? What’s this cost? Do you boondock in Nashville? If so, how do you do it? The article would have been better if you would have added some details.
  • RJ says:

    We have been living in our RV fulltime for 8 years and love it. There are many things to recommend this lifestyle, but I would never claim saving money to be one of them. You may be an exception, in the short term. But when you say that “all your bills combined” are less than what you would pay on rent, did you factor in the money you would have saved by living in an apartment (initial purchase/interest payments, remodeling costs, maintenance and repair)? More importantly, young people should consider the long-term costs. If you invest your funds in a down payment rather than an apartment or RV, higher monthly costs are offset by tax deductions, appreciation, and a mortgage payment that would never increase like rent does (in our experience, RV parks cost 50% more today than in 2014). After 5 years of homeownership, we were paying less to own than to rent (including appreciation, we paid less from Year 1). After 20 years, we no longer had a mortgage. Our savings were invested in retirement accounts that have grown to $4 million, and we netted $2.2 million selling our house (what’s a 20-year-old RV worth?). We had middle-class jobs, but retired in our 50s and are set for life, due in large part to homeownership. There’s a reason they are called “recreational” vehicles. Buy one, absolutely! Trade it in for larger, nicer ones as your family and income allow. Retire in one! But they aren’t meant to be long-term substitutes for homeownership.

    • Julian says:

      Youre failing to understand the extensive gap currently with wage and living expenses. I live in naples and the wages I make being a first responder is around 56k a year (with overtime). The average rent is 2100-2300 a month for a 800 sqft apartment where you own nothing. A mortgage in the ghetto would be around 3200 a month with todays interest rate and with the cheapest house you could find being 400k. Its also probably inhabitable at that price range as well. An RV or travel trailer would allow almost 1200/1400 in savings if you paid for a 22 percent loan at 15 years at 500 a month including the rv insurance. And thats for a brand spanking new travel trailer. That money could be saved for a house in the future where you could jump into something with at least 20 percent down to avoid the PMI. Its impossible to save pay check to pay check. Its all interest and debt ect. Thats the main reason why everyones doing it now.

  • Hi there! I believe these folks have a Heartland Big Country fifth wheel. But I’d reach out to them @fifth_wheel_living on Instagram to confirm and ask any other questions about their RV journey!

  • emination says:

    Out of curiosity, what was your make and model? Ik interested in a fifth wheel related to a look like yours.

  • Great to hear it Mark!

    Do you have any RV make/models you’re specifically interested in for full-time living?

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