RV Living – Complete Guide To Getting Started

| Last Updated: April 19, 2022

So, you’ve been thinking about full-time RV living and you have questions, undoubtedly, of course, because there are so many ways to live this lifestyle and to make it work for you. There is not a one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to full-time RV living.

However, with the right know-how, I believe you can find the perfect, full-time RV lifestyle that works for you.

In this article, we’ll go over some common RV living questions, concepts, terminology, types of motorhomes for full-time RV living, and more. So, buckle your proverbial seatbelts and let’s get started.

What Is RV Living? 

So, you’ve been thinking about full-time RV living and you have questions, undoubtedly, of course, because there are so many ways to live this lifestyle and to make it work for you. There is not a one-size-fits-all mentality when it comes to full-time RV living.

However, with the right know-how, I believe you can find the perfect, full-time RV lifestyle that works for you. In this article, we’ll go over some common RV living questions, concepts, terminology, types of motorhomes for full-time RV living, and more.  

To begin, RV Living is as simple as that: living in an RV. You’d be giving up your brick and mortar home for the chance of a lifetime - a full-time RV living experience.

Of course, as I’ve mentioned above, these experiences vary depending on your lifestyle. However, the hope is that by the end of this article you have a firmer grasp on what you want and how to live full-time in an RV. 

So, buckle your proverbial seatbelts and let’s get started.

RV Living | Terminology | Common Concepts

When deciding to live in an RV full-time you need to have an idea of what you are looking to gain from this lifestyle. There are many different kinds of “full-timers” (people who live in an RV year-long):

  • Some who are in this lifestyle for the adventure, IE: full-time nomads 

  • Some who are in this lifestyle for retirement and slow exploration 

  • Some who are living full-time RV life to cut down on modern living expenses

  • Some who just don’t want to be tethered to one place (it is very cool to be able to bring your house everywhere)

There are also common concepts and terminology that you’ll need to know such as:

  • “Boondocking” - Staying off grid

  • "Moochdocking” - Staying in a friends driveway or on their land

  • "Dump Station” - This is where you can dump your black/grey tanks

  • “Fill Station” - This is where you can fill up on potable water

  • “Camp Host” - A job that provides you a free place to camp in exchange for you “hosting” the campground, watering grass, talking to campers, etc. 

  • "Work Stay” - A job where you work on a plot of land or a farm in exchange for a place to park your home

  • "Full Hook-Ups” - A campsite that provides you with hookups to electricity, water, and a dump site right at your campsite

  • “Full-Timers” - Full time RV Living

  • "Part-Timers” - Part time RV living

And much more, you can look up some common RV terminology here.  

Regardless of what kind of full-time RV lifestyle you are pursuing, you’re going to need a bit of knowledge about RV living; from what kind of rig you might want to reside in, to the pros and cons of living a full-time RV lifestyle.  

Though RV life may always look like sunshine and rainbows, there’s a lot that goes into being able to live a full-time RV lifestyle.

Types of RVs for Full Time Living 

So, let’s dive right in and discuss what type of RV you may want to live in full-time.

Class A Motorhome

Class A Motorhomes resemble a bus roughly 30-40 feet in length, with a vertical front windshield and large windows. These are very popular for the wealthier full-timers with amenities like residential-style appliances (from refrigerators and microwaves to washer and dryers), master bathrooms, high-quality electronics, and designer furniture – they also have slide-outs for extra space and plenty of storage.

Class B Motorhome

Class B Motorhomes are essentially camper vans; these are the ultimate off-road adventure vehicles. They are small and they drive like a normal vehicle making them perfect for off-roading, adventuring, and going pretty much anywhere with ease. These are what you see called “van-life” rigs.

Class C Motorhome

Class C Motorhomes are usually built on a truck chassis and they offer some of the same amenities as a Class A but on a smaller scale. The smaller build also means you can go more places with ease. These are the perfect exploration and camping vehicles. I own a Class C vehicle and I love it to bits.

Travel Trailers

Travel trailers are just that, trailers that you can tow and travel with. These are very popular because you can pick em’ up and drop em’ off. They also have slide-outs and larger living areas. These amenities make travel trailers a favorite amongst many full-timers.

Fifth Wheel Trailers

Fifth wheels are like travel trailers but much larger. They are usually pulled by a large pick-up truck. They are one of the most spacious vehicles with extended length. They detach from your secondary vehicle so you can travel all day and come home to your rig at night.

Pros of Full-time RV Living

Here are some pros of living full-time in an RV:

Taking Your Home Wherever You Are

Probably the best part of living in an RV is being able to take your home everywhere with you. Traveling from place to place, opening your doors to some of the most beautiful destinations in the world, and never having to leave home is quite the experience. You can see so many different places and do so many different things all from the comfort of your home.


I’d be remiss if I didn’t mention that you don’t have to pay rent! Or, payments on your RV if you buy it flat-out – it’s an affordable, adventurous way to live. Your bills are cut down substantially, especially if you are making sure to live on a budget.


Lastly, community! There’s a massive full-time RV & van life community out there just waiting to meet you. You’ll be surprised by how many awesome people welcome you into a vast and wide-ranging, diverse community of people.

Cons of Full-time RV Living

It has some drawbacks too:


The most notable con, for me, is that there is constant upkeep when you live in an RV. Remember, most motorhomes are not built for a full-time living so the maintenance is pretty constant. There’s resealing your corner molding on your roof, making sure your roof seams are all well maintained, and always doing your best to prevent leaks. You also have to make sure your engine and vehicle are well maintained. I carry everything for engine maintenance and vehicle (inside and out) with me wherever we go.

Grey & Black Tanks

Another con would be emptying the black and grey tanks, those are the tanks that hold your human waste and your greywater. It’s a pretty gross task. However, you can avoid this by investing in a composting toilet – but you’ll still have to handle human feces and urine because you have to empty your composting toilet relatively often to empty the “pee jug” – the container for your feces is a bit less frequent, but still a chore.

Costly Repairs

Lastly, when there are damages, they can either be very expensive to repair or very time-consuming.

I prefer to do everything myself instead of taking my RV to a mechanic or RV technician, this means sometimes spending weeks on resealing the roof or doing some other project around the “house”.

Photo credit: rvblogger.com

RV Living | The Basics

When deciding to pursue full-time RV living there are a few basic things that you need to know. From how to run your electrical system to heating, ventilation, and air conditioning; RV living isn’t something that comes naturally to everyone and every RV system is different. Here we’ll cover some basic rules for full-time RV living success.


Your electrical system can run in many different ways; the most common electrical systems are Shore Power, a Generator, and Solar Power. What you use will 100% depend on the kind of lifestyle you plan to live. For example, if you plan to stay in fancy campgrounds and RV parks, you’ll most likely rely on Shore Power and a Generator. However, if you plan to “boondock” (aka stay off-grid) you’ll need an off-grid system.

Shore Power

Shore Power is simply when you plug your RV into an outlet at a campground or RV park. Your RV runs like any standard appliance, it’s a “plug and play” system. Every RV comes standard with Shore Power. When you plug your RV in everything works; your outlets; appliances; lights; air conditioning; and fan system. Shore Power is how many people live in RV parks and fancy campgrounds, many campgrounds supply power at an extra cost.


Your RV will also most likely come with a generator. Your generator will either run off of the same fuel system as your engine or a separate fuel system that runs off of gasoline or diesel. A generator is how many part-timers use their fans and heating systems when boondocking. However, if you plan to boondock full-time and live a more adventurous lifestyle, your best bet is to install solar power into your RV.


Installing solar into your RV is the most popular way to live a full-time nomadic lifestyle. 

Photo credit: explorist.life

To install enough solar to suit your lifestyle you will need to calculate your average electrical usage. Do you need to charge a few phones and a computer or do you plan to run an Insta-Pot, appliances, and other high wattage items?

Depending on your lifestyle you will either need more or less solar power, however, installing this system means that you can go anywhere and have a self-contained home.


Within your RV you will have a water pump and water system. There are two ways in which you can use this system, filling your water tank and using the pump system (for when you’re traveling) or hooking up your RV to potable water at RV parks and campgrounds.

The difference is that you’ll be using your water tank when traveling and boondocking or, if you plan to live large, you’ll simply hook your RV up to the water system at a campground or RV park.

Again, this fully depends on your lifestyle, if you plan to be adventurous, travel, be nomadic, and boondock, you will almost always be using your water tank and pump. Your water pump is wired into your electrical system so it is as easy as flipping a switch and having running water.

Waste Management

Ah, waste management, everybody’s the least favorite part of RV living. There are two ways you can handle your human waste, your built-in waste management system (your black tank) or you can invest in a composting toilet. Many full-timers who choose to boondock and live nomadically invest in a composting toilet.

Your Built-In System

In your RV you have a black tank and a grey tank, as mentioned above, your black tank is your waste-management system and your grey tank is where your greywater is stored for disposal (water from your dishes, showers, and non-human waste).

In the control center of your RV (this is where you check your battery levels, water levels, and grey & black tank levels) you can see how full your tanks are. When they are full, you must empty them at an RV dump station. You can find these at many travel stations, camp stores, campgrounds, and RV parks.

Photo credit: thecampingnerd.com

Composting Toilet

A composting toilet is a wonderful alternative to the black tank in your RV. You can purchase one or build one yourself if you are handy. The way that a composting toilet works are that solid waste and liquid waste are separated into two different compartments. Your solid waste is composted and needs to be emptied about every 2-3 months depending on how many people live in your RV; by the time you empty your solid waste there is no odor and it is essentially dirt.

However, your liquid waste must be emptied far more often, about every 2 days depending on how often you hydrate and how many people live in your RV. Though composting toilets are rather expensive they are a great alternative to having to deal with raw sewage regularly.

Heating, Ventilation, and Air Conditioning

Your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems vary according to what model RV you have. However, the most common setup is a rooftop air conditioner/fan combo and a propane-fueled furnace. Your RV will also come with a small vent-fan above your restroom area as well as vents throughout the RV that open to circulate fresh air.

Many full-timers travel with the weather so that they rarely have to use their heating and air conditioning unit. However, if you do decide to winter in your RV or spend time in extreme weather, your heating, ventilation, and air conditioning systems are very self-explanatory.

Everything Else

Many of your RV appliances run off of propane including your refrigerator (this can run off of gas and electricity), your stove, and your furnace. These systems operate, again, in a plug-and-play fashion. If you depend on Shore Power you can set your refrigerator to run off of electricity, if you are boondocking you switch to propane. Your furnace and stove will, more often than not, run off of propane alone. Remember, your setup will depend on the kind of RV you decide to live in as well as the lifestyle you decide to pursue.

Photo credit: generalrv.com

RV Living Checklist

In this section, let’s review some must-haves for your full-time RV lifestyle. We’ll go over accessories, storage, organization, and other items that will come in handy when you decide to live as a full-timer. You can also view this article for some RV living must-haves and tips.


A GPS is important but many of us have these built into our phones. I don’t find it necessary to plug one into the dash because of the easy accessibility of Google Maps & my handy-dandy cellular phone.

Back-Up Camera

Yes, you want a back-up camera – these come handier than I could ever explain here. Check out our write-up on parts and accessories here.

Cell Phone Signal Boosters

Tried and true, weBoost is the most trusted cell-signal booster for full-timers. We use ours all the time and it comes in handy more than we can count. I recommend weBoost for all of your cell signal needs.

Solar Kits

As mentioned above, a solar kit is a must for any boondocking adventurous people. You can find many different solar kits that will hook right into your RV (with a little bit of elbow grease) and they will change your life.

Space Heaters

If you have and plan to use your propane furnace, a space heater may not be necessary. However, if you do get particularly cold, the Buddy Heater is your best friend. You can check out Buddy Heaters, here.

Travel Maintenance Kits

On my travels I carry an immense amount of tools, this is because I prefer to fix everything myself. However, if you are looking for self-contained maintenance kits, check out Camping World for all of your RV needs.

Comfort Items

Lastly, and probably most importantly, comfort items. Make your RV your home – don’t simply live in 30 shades of beige. Renovate it, create a space that you love, and make sure that your RV is uniquely yours.

RV Storage & Living Ideas

When living in an RV you want to maximize all of the space you have with unique RV storage ideas. You can check out this article for our top 10 best rv storage ideas. However, we’ll add some extras in here, too: 

  • A shower curtain with built-in pockets to hold all of  your toiletries

  • A pouf, which you can store extra towels, linens, and blankets in

  • Utilize your “basement” storage and your “under seat” storage - these are the compartments underneath your RV

  • Downsize, the key to storage is honestly having less, make sure to downsize to what you truly need

  • Build boxes, shelves, and hooks for quick and easy storage

  • Use mason jar storage in your kitchen to unpack things from large boxes and store bulk items

  • Buy tupperware and storage items that fold down for quick access and easy space-saving storage

There are so many options to save space in your RV, check out this quick-link to 100+ RV storage ideas

Photo Credit: GeneralRV.com

Cost of Full-time RV Living

I hate to break it to you but again, this 100% depends on you and your lifestyle. I, for example, bought a vintage RV, renovated it, and prefer to do everything myself vs. ever calling on professionals for help. I cut my budget each month by $4000 by moving into my RV. It is 100% possible if that is the lifestyle you want to live. However, depending on your comfort level, your rig, and how you live, that could very well change. So, let’s get into it a little bit.

Photo Credit: WereTheRussos.com

Living in a home means spending a lot of money, rent, mortgage, car payments, internet, electricity, water, and more – moving into an RV means cutting those down to almost zero. However, there is the added expense of home maintenance, and if you live nomadically as I do, the added expense of gas. So, let’s run the numbers for different types of full-timers.

How Do Young People Afford RV Living?

Many of us “young people” afford RV living by necessity; the growing prices of rent in major cities, the constant fluctuation of our “new world” and, in general, the price of living, sometimes pushes us to live a lifestyle that is much freer and much less expensive. We often cut costs by eating mainly vegan and vegetarian diets, staying for free at campsites (boondocking), and forming valuable communities that help us along the way.

Photo Credit: TheGapDecaders.net

How to Live in an RV With Kids

Many people live in RVs with children, it’s an incredible way to raise a family and to teach them about the world. Families often build out their rig so that their children have playrooms, bedrooms, and more. Plus, with telecommunication and homeschool, children can easily learn from the road. There is an adjustment period but more and more families are picking up and living in RV-life full-time!

Photo credit: godownsize.com

How to Make Money Living in an RV

There are many ways to make money on the road. Many people have remote jobs, some do freelance work via websites like Upwork and Fiverr, and others are full-time digital content creators. As long as you have the drive to find work you can find it. There are also work-stays at farms and other agriculture ventures. Bonus, with the amount you are saving by living in an RV, you don’t need to make nearly as much as before.

How to Retire in an RV

This is another one of those topics that depend on your lifestyle. Many people choose to retire and live as full-timers because they want a sense of adventure. However, there are costs involved (as mentioned above). Some costs you want to keep in mind are:

  • Cost of your RV model - RV’s can cost anywhere from $1000 to $100,000, so it all depends on your budget and what you’re willing to live with. My vintage rig cost $4000 and I remodeled it for an additional $7000. You can view my before/after here on Apartment Therapy, here.

    There are so many different kinds of RV’s that you truly have to do the research on what you want to live with. You can find a full cost breakdown here, however, this doesn’t account for used RVs or do it yourself RVs. There are so many ways to save money when buying an RV.

  • Best RV Model: As mentioned above, this will vary for everybody - you truly need to look at your lifestyle and what will work for you. The above links should be guidelines but nobody can choose what kind of life for you to live. 

  • Best city/state for full-timers- North Dakota and Florida are very popular for full-timers, however, Lakeshore RV will argue that the best state is Texas! Many full-timers travel with the seasons and depend on websites like Free Campsites to find places to camp.

  • RV parks for retirees, you can find these all over the United States, some places are specifically built for you to retire in, like these 5 sites.

  • Your budget & style of living – these vary per person

You must also keep in mind that you must prepare to retire in an RV by selling your home, putting things in storage, and more. This topic could fill an entire page on its own, so be sure to check out this link for a handy checklist on eight things you need to know before deciding to retire and live in an RV full-time.

Top Aspects to Keep in Mind When Choosing RV Parks and Sites

You can check out some of the best RV parks in America, here, organized by state. However, this is just an overview. You can find incredible free spots, campgrounds, and full RV parks via many different apps specifically built for full-timers. Apps such as:

  • iOverlander

  • The Dyrt

  • Boondockers Welcome

  • Harvest Hosts

  • The Van Life App

And many more – the possibilities are endless and what kind of area you want to stay in depends on you. Do you want full hook-ups or would you rather boondock and stay in the middle of nowhere (my favorite)? Do you want to travel to national parks or stay near big cities? All of these are questions you need to ask yourself before deciding where and how to stay in your RV.


As a full-timer myself, I love this lifestyle. Though there are pros and cons, the idea that you can take your house anywhere with you and explore from anywhere on the road is a wonderful experience. I recommend it to anybody who is seeking more adventure and more freedom. Of course, there may be other questions that you may want to ask such as:

  • Is it dangerous to live in an RV?

  • Can you live forever in an RV?

  • Is it legal to live in an RV?

And, once again, these answers depend on you and your lifestyle. One thing I can say is that I have never felt in danger, I have lived in my RV full-time for over a year, and yes, it is legal.

Happy travels!