Top 10 Downsides of RV Life - After 3+ Years
In 2019 I convinced my Husband to sell everything we owned to move into a 300 sqft RV (with our 80lb dog) to go on our own adventure. We became full-time RV’ers for 3 1/2 years.
I’m so glad we did, but I’m also really relieved that it’s over.
It’s pretty well documented that we’re a generation obsessed with experiences and travel. Mix that with the ever-increasing flexibility of work and school to be done online (Starlink is making the internet accessible even in the middle of the ocean now) and it’s no wonder so many of us are interested in becoming Digitial Nomads of some kind. That number has BLOWN UP since the Pandemic confined us to our houses for years and helped us start putting our lives into perspective.
People are done waiting for retirement to get out there and live their dreams!
RV’s have become a really popular way to do that here in the US without having to worry about overseas visas, taxes etc. that you’d run into if you wanted to pop around Europe, for example. At the beginning of the pandemic, it was difficult to even get your hands on an RV, with some manufacturers having wait times of up to a year after ordering.
Although I’ve written tons of articles on the benefits of RV life (I’ve even made the argument that it could be the perfect starter home for our generation), I wanted to share the downsides for everyone looking into it so that you can go in with your eyes wide open and make the best decision for you and your family (yes, tons of people do this with a whole FLOCK of kids!).
After 3+ years of full-time living (and seeing thousands of other similar complaints from the Full-time RV groups I’m in online), here’s what I believe are the top 10 problems with RV life.
1. Isolation and Loneliness
RV life can be isolating, especially when you’re traveling alone or for extended periods of time.
You generally buy an RV to check out new places. However, because you’re in new places all the time it can be damn near impossible to make new friends and find social activities there. If you’re moving all the time, why would you even try? For many people, you’re out there for the adventure, not necessarily the relationships.
Hitting the road also involves leaving behind friends and family. While it’s true that we have technology and most people are only a phone (or video) call away, not having the people that you care about readily available for months or years on end can really take a toll on your social life and your mental health. You’re basically signing up for a ton of long-distance relationships.
Although some people do caravans and meetups, this isn’t really the norm for most people (despite what youtube might have you believe). Most people depend solely on whoever lives in their RV with them and online groups of other RV’ers for socializing.
More times than not, we found ourselves fairly isolated. For the short-term, we were ok with this. But be aware of it going in.
Make routines around calling your favorite people. When possible, make plans to visit them, or have them come stay with you. We LOVED getting to see friends and family from different parts of the country when we were in their neck of the woods.
One of the most common questions we consistently got over the years was how we got internet while traveling. Spoiler: It took a lot of research and some planned redundancy (But it’s gotten a lot easier recently than when we started). While technology has made it easier to stay connected on the road, you’ll probably struggle with connectivity issues. Many RV parks and campgrounds have limited or no Wi-Fi and cellular service, making it challenging to work or stay connected.
We called this being “internet insecure”, and it could get pretty stressful when our signal would drop in the middle of a workday. There were a few times when we had to pack up the car and head over to Starbucks to use their internet until work was out.
That said, there would have been MANY more days like that if checking internet speeds hadn’t been on my checklist for picking future locations. I found a google doc where people regularly crowdsourced internet speeds at different parks, and this is how I chose our next spots.
However, It also meant that there were tons of really cool locations I would have loved to visit, that I knew were off the table for us. Oh well.
RV’ers keep blogs, (we always use and suggest others check out mobile internet resource center) that help people keep up on the latest hacks to get the best internet. One of the most promising ones that people are using as I write this is Starlink. Even cruise ships are starting to try it out for getting good internet to people in the middle of the ocean. WILD.
3. Financial Cost
We moved into our RV because we wanted to travel, and surprisingly to us, ended up with a lifestyle that was MUCH more affordable than living in an expensive apartment near the office (where we barely ever got to do anything or see each other because of commuting). This affordability was a huge part of how we paid off our debt and traveled full-time while doing it.
How We Paid off $126,500 of Debt in 15 Months While Traveling Full-Time Throwing 80% of our income at debt & we’re finally free.themakingofamillionaire.com
That’s not the case for everyone.
I have seen hundreds of people share stories about how their cost of living went up drastically by moving into an RV, and they can’t for the life of them figure out how anyone thinks it’s a cheaper lifestyle (spoiler: it takes some planning and some concessions just like it would in a normal house to cut costs).
Depending on what you buy, how you travel etc., RV life can be expensive, especially if you’re constantly on the move. Fuel costs, maintenance expenses, and campground fees can add up quickly. The cost will DRASTICALLY differ depending on what RV you buy, how you travel etc.
Let’s also not forget about the upfront costs! If you don’t already have an RV, you’ll need that (depending on which setup you want, that might entail an expensive truck to pull it too). You’ll need tons of non-negotiable accessories to get you started (hoses, leveling systems, surge protectors etc.). We spent a few thousand on all of that once it was over.
You can check out all of our top recommended RV essentials here.
The cost will DRASTICALLY differ depending on your lifestyle while you’re doing it, just like it does when you live in a house.
Don’t just assume that moving into an RV will save you money. Look into some of the camping memberships (we got one that brought rent & utilities down to just $575 A YEAR after the initial purchase that was well worth it for us), have an emergency fund saved up, buy used to avoid depreciation (3–5 years is the best range), be honest about how often you can travel because longer stays generally mean cheaper lot rent.
4. Maintenance and repairs
I mentioned how the cost of this can add up, just like with a house or a car. But honestly, that’s not what I want to focus on here. I want to focus on the sheer inconvenience of needing to do these things while you’re living in it.
When you live in a house and go camping in your RV every once in a while, it’s easy enough to get maintenance and repairs done. You can take care of some of it yourself, or if it’s more involved you’ll probably drop it off at a service center. When your RV IS your home, it can be a straight-up NIGHTMARE.
First off, the service center for most RV dealerships is built around the idea that you do in fact have a house. So you’re expected to drop it off for MONTHS at a time for major issues. Depending on the issue, sometimes you can also have a service person come to you, but that can be more expensive and who knows what state your home will be in until it’s taken care of.
Let me tell you two personal stories to show you what I mean. (feel free to skip to tips for this section)
Waterless in Pennsylvania
We were hooking up the RV to leave Hershey Pennsylvania (my favorite park we’ve been to), to head up to the Poconos right as Fall was turning to winter (read: it was getting colder and darker every day). As we pulled out, TONS of water came gushing out of the bottom, which had a sealed underbelly to help protect it from the cold (also meaning, we had no way of being able to get underneath to see what the problem was, and we needed to get on the road if we didn’t want to be driving in the dark up the mountains…which we did not).
We were stressed the entire way there. When we finally got into our new spot, we contacted a few mobile RV repair people, but they were booked out for MONTHS. They all advised us not to use our water until we could determine the issue, because we could very well destroy the RV (our home). Meaning, we spent the next month using the Public bathhouse down the road for everything from showering (in the unheated building), to doing dishes. I peed in a jar every night and emptied it in the morning to avoid trekking through the dark in 20 degree temperatures at night (it even snowed quite a bit while we were there towards the end of the month). Every night, we also carried a bin of our pots and pans to the sink to get them clean. It was absolutely awful.
When we did eventually find someone that had an opening, we had to pack everything up, take PTO for the day