If you're financing your RV, determine how much you can afford to spend every month on this payment. There will be interest added on to your monthly payment, so include this in the amount. Check your credit score before you start RV shopping, as this will give you a better indication of what your interest rate may be. The lower the credit score the higher the interest is likely to be. Also think about what extras or upgrades you want to add on to an RV, such as a hitch, entertainment center, awnings, extended warranties, etc. Have a target number in mind so that you don't go over it with add-ons and upgrades.
Registering your RV costs money. Most states require a one-time registration fee for towable RVs and a yearly renewal fee for motorhomes. Research the requirements in your state of residence to help you determine how much you'll need to budget for your RV registration. Insurance is a must for an RV because your vehicle insurance doesn't cover your RV. Examine your RV insurance plan to determine whether it covers the entire value of your RV in the event you total it or will it just replace it? Just like vehicles, RVs depreciate in value and, especially if you have a loan, you will want to make sure they're going to cover the full amount you owe and replace it and not just pay the NADA value of it. If the insurance isn't going to cover that, or it's just too expensive to do it this way through your insurance company, you will want to consider purchasing GAP insurance to cover the amount that your insurance will not cover. You don't want to find yourself paying on an RV that you aren't even enjoying anymore because you totaled it.
You may know the MPG of your vehicle, but as soon as you hook up your RV to it it's going to go way down! Towing an RV requires your vehicle's engine to work much harder and use a lot more fuel than it normally uses. Plan out your routes ahead of time so you can figure out about how much gas you'll use so you can budget for it. If you're not sure what your new MPG will be with your RV in tow, take a few small trips with it and keep a log of your gas mileage.
Just like any vehicle or home, your RV will require some standard and routine maintenance. For travel trailers and motorhomes, you will need to consider things like brakes, tires, filters, roof and slide out maintenance, awning repairs, and more. If you travel in a motorhome you'll also have to pay attention to fluids, transmission flushes, and oil changes. Set money aside for unscheduled repairs so that you don't find yourself having to put off repairs when they're needed. Life happens, and you want to be prepared when it does!
Not all campsites offer free water or dumping stations, and there may not be any when you're boondocking or dry camping. You may have to pay per fill up or dump at some campgrounds. Find out if the campgrounds you're going to be at have full hook ups, water, or sanitation stations for use and if there are costs for using them. To find a dumping station check out SaniDumps either on their website or take the information with you on their mobile app on Google Play or iTunes. This will direct you to the nearest dumping station.
Set aside money for your campground costs. You will have to pay a fee to reserve a campsite. Sometimes hookups, cable, and Wi-Fi are included in the nightly fee, but sometimes they're not, so find this out ahead of time. Some campgrounds graciously offer free hot showers, while others are coin operated. If you're boondocking you won't have those costs, but you will not only need to ensure you have your water tanks ready to go but you will need to get your propane tanks filled, have a full charge on your batteries, and have gas for the generator. If you're planning an extended trip or if you're a full-time RVer, think about the costs of laundry. Many campsites offer laundry facilities, but the machines are typically coin operated like in a Laundromat. To save money on keeping your clothes clean, consider making yourself a hillbilly washing machine and hanging out a clothesline. This old-school way of washing clothes is cost effective and delivers clean, fresh clothes that smell like the great outdoors.
If you want to be able to kick back in the RV and watch TV or surf the Internet, you may need to have a system installed, such as a satellite service, cell service, or even your own mobile Wi-Fi hot spot. There are some ways to improve the Wi-Fi signal at the campground so you can surf the net or stream shows and movies through Netflix. If this isn't a top priority for you, you can rely on what the campground provides.
Some avid RVers take advantage of memberships like the Escapees RV Club. With memberships like this you will get travel guides and magazines, have access to discussion forums, be able to find jobs to make money while full-time RVing, and much more. These memberships have a yearly cost, so if this is something you want to take advantage of, plan to budget for it.
If you're going to be full-time RVing, or on the road for a long period of time, you will need to also budget for a mail service. Your options include a PO Box, a box at the UPS Store, relying on family or friends to collect it and send it your way, or have your mail forwarded to you by services such as Earth Mail who will scan and email your mail you!
Now that you have a good idea of where you'll be spending your money when you're RVing, you will want to make an actual budget. Excel has some great budget templates where all you have to do is plug in your numbers and it does all the math for you. Check it out so you can get on track to the RV lifestyle of your dreams.