RV, camper, caravan, travel trailer, 5th wheel…no matter what you call it, there are definitely both pro’s and con’s of living in one. It’s not ALL tiny home bliss.
I like to think that the pro’s knock the con’s out of the park, but it’s good to know both sides of the story before starting the RV lifestyle.
Here is my situation:
For six months of the year I live in a stationary RV (Jayco travel trailer) in British Columbia, Canada with my husband. The other half of the year we travel the world.
A few years ago we bought a small piece of land that we could park the RV on and have never looked back since.
I LOVE living in a RV, even if it’s only for half the year. If I didn’t always get the itch to travel so much, I would have no problem being a year-rounder.
I realize that some people reading this might want to get into the RV lifestyle in order to be nomadic and drive their camper around, so please know these pro’s/con’s aren’t just for stationary situations. They apply to anyone!
Pro’s of Living in an RV
It’s Cheap AF
Living in an RV, especially in our situation, is incredibly CHEAP.
We have our RV parked on a small piece of land that we bought years ago. We get our water from the lake, we use a combo of electricity and propane for heating and lights, and have the ability to grow our own food on the land.Our cost of living is a fraction of what it used to be. I know that everyone’s situation will look completely different, but here is more about how much it costs us personally to live in our RV.
Almost everyone we have spoken to says they also save money each month by living the RV lifestyle. I believe it’s one of the reasons that everyone from millennials to retirees have been attracted to it lately, especially as life in North America continues to become less and less affordable.
We Buy Less Stuff
It’s kind of like the saying “If you build it, they will come.”
If you have the storage space available, you will shop to fill it up with STUFF.
Not having extra cupboards and spaces to fill up with junk means I save a whole lot of money by not mindlessly shopping. If I want to buy a new shirt, I had best give one away because I only have a limited amount of closet space. No longer do we enter a store like Costco or Bed Bath and Beyond and come out with a shopping cart full of stuff we never knew we needed.
We only buy the essentials and it feels so good. We save money, we save energy and we save our sanity by not putting our value on things that we own. It’s a wonderful, light and minimalistic experience.
Being Out in Nature
9 times out of 10, if you are living in an RV it’s probably out in nature with a beautiful view of either a lake, the mountains, or the forest. We are lucky enough to have all three where we have our camper parked.
Do you know how hard it is to be stressed out while situated in the middle of nature? It’s almost impossible. I have the deepest sleeps and the most relaxed moments while we are living in the RV.
One of the biggest pros of the RV lifestyle is getting reconnected with nature at a deeper level.
Each morning I take a walk through the woods before having morning coffee and looking out at the lake. During the day we spend time outside, watching fish jump out of the water and eagles dive to catch their prey. In the evening we get the most beautiful colored sunsets, the sound of crickets chirping and deer walking through our yard. We have fruit trees, gardens of vegetables and beautiful flowers that give us food and joy throughout the season. It’s quiet, it’s serene and it’s peaceful.
So Easy To Clean
I think it takes about 30 minutes to clean the RV top to bottom. First off it’s a super small space, but everything from the floors to the walls are easy clean surfaces that are a breeze to wash!
A few years ago I had a house that was 2500+ Sq Ft and that thing was a monster to try and keep clean. Now that I live in under 400 Sq Ft, I find it so easy and stress-free.
It’s so easy to clean one pot and pan when you only have ONE pot and pan.
The less time I spend cleaning and scrubbing, the more time I have to do other things. Whenever we stay in a rental abroad now we have to get a cleaner because that amount of housework is just beyond what we are willing to take on now. Being free from household chores is SUCH a bonus of the RV lifestyle.
It’s Super Cozy
I have never been inside ANYTHING as comfy as our RV. Not any hotel, chalet, Air BNB or cabin has ever felt as warm and cozy as the inside of our home.
Even though brown interiors/cupboard are ‘out’ right now in terms of décor, I actually LOVE how cozy it makes me feel when I’m snuggled up on the couch.
We have a stone fireplace, dark chocolate cupboards, brown walls, and lighter furniture that just makes me feel so calm and safe when I am inside. It’s a hard thing to try and explain, but nothing feels as good as having a cup of coffee by the fireplace, wrapped up in a blanket, looking out on the lake. It’s hard to feel any kind of stress when I am in the RV and it’s just a soothing and therapeutic experience for me.
When we are off traveling I always miss that cozy, safe, ‘Christmas morning’ kind of vibe I get from the RV.
Fun – It Almost Feels Like Camping
Even though we spend anywhere from 4-6 months straight in the RV each year, it still feels kind of like camping. A different kind of mindset seems to take over when we are here – one that is more relaxed, curious, and fun-loving.
Like I mentioned above, it’s really hard to be stressed out when I am out here. It’s a different pace of life that is easier going and forgiving. We are reminded of this each time we have guests, which is almost every weekend in the summer. They come out and smile from ear to ear when they see the lake and the trails and then they let out a big audible sigh while they let the pressure from the week melt off their shoulders. Their personality changes from work mode into fun mode and it absolutely rubs off on us.
It’s like living in a constant state of play, which can be difficult to balance when we have lots of work to do, but it’s a great problem to have.
You Can Move It Anytime
If you bought a house on a cute cul-de-sac and then one day you woke up and wanted to move it… good luck to you. I mean, I guess anything is possible, but it’s really not realistic to take your home and move it to a new location of your choice. Unless your home is on wheels already!
For people that drive their RV’s around on a regular basis, they already know and love the fact they can move their entire home on a whim. Don’t like the neighbors? Buh-bye! Need a change of scenery? Let’s hit the road!
For us, even though we have our travel trailer sitting on a piece of land with no intentions to move it, we still COULD if we needed to. What if we decided to live in a different province or city? What if there was a horrible natural disaster that compromised the land we live on? What if there was a law that stopped us from seasonally living in our RV and we were forced to relocate? Well, we CAN if we needed to. We could simply hook the trailer up to our truck and drive away.
Having that kind of freedom is something we will never take for granted.
Sticking It To The Man
Who doesn’t love sticking it to the man?
I think anyone that has the urge to live in an RV has a little bit of anti-establishment tendencies about them.
Who says there is only one way to live and that we should all fall in line without question? Alternative living is just one way to escape big brother and live a life based upon individual design. We don’t all love being told what to do. What color our house has to be, what our yard needs to look like, and especially what size or cost of home will define us as “worthy”. Some of us just want to escape the rat race, keeping up with the Jones’s and live our lives according to our own set of values.
My Other Personal PROS Of RV Living:
- I like being off the map and hard to find. Our RV is kind of in the middle of nowhere and I love the mystery of it all.
- It’s perfect for an introvert like me. There are times when being around people takes its toll on me, so I like my exclusive hide-away.
- No clutter, no distractions. Since I don’t have many material possessions I find my mind is free and clear to create more things.
- Great for travellers like us. RV’s are easy to winterize and just LEAVE for months at a time. Homes need so much more maintenance and still have bills coming all the time.
- It’s just so EASY. I save money, make less complicated decisions and have more time to enjoy life. What is not to like about that!?
Con’s of Living in an RV
Hot Water Problems
Women with long hair beware – living in an RV means you have to become a master at the 4-minute shower. If you love a long steamy shower with lots of water pressure and space to shave your legs… well you’re out of luck.
The water tank on our Jayco is not the smallest one out there, but it’s certainly not the biggest. If I have on high water pressure I can get about 4 minutes of hot water before I am greeted by a cascade of ice. Because of this, I’ve had to become a master at working around a tiny hot water tank by changing the way I shower. After rinsing out shampoo I now turn the water to the tiniest trickle, little just a drop or two flowing out, and I condition, exfoliate, shave, etc with basically no water at all. Then for the last 45 seconds I turn the tap back on full and do a speedy final rinse.
Do Iike turning the water off for 10 minutes of my shower? No. In fact I hate it. But it’s the price I have to pay in order to live this amazing freedom-based lifestyle.
However, when my travels bring me to a hotel with an amazing shower, I swear I stay in there for 45 minutes straight.
Shakes All The Time
Every step my husband takes inside our travel trailer feels like a small earthquake. I am usually sitting at my desk writing blogs like this one, and suddenly I am shaking and swaying all over the place. Constantly shaking and bouncing around is probably my least favorite thing about living in an RV. He is a pacer and heavy footed and sometimes I feel like I am getting motion sickness from him going back and forth throughout our home.
Yes we have the stabilizers out and the whole nine yards, but there is always a level of moving and swaying that just can’t be fixed without removing wheels and lifting it up on its frame.
It seems like such a small thing, but over time it really starts to get under my skin.
Most people that transition into the RV lifestyle are usually coming from living in a house, which can also mean decades of STUFF they had been collecting and storing in that bigger space. For many, adjusting to the tiny amount of storage in an RV or camper is the biggest wake up call. While RV’s have really smart and efficient storage spaces, they usually only allow 5% of what people are used to having with their old house, garage, basement, and attic.
When we transitioned into our travel trailer we literally sold everything we owned. If it didn’t fit inside the trailer, it didn’t come with us. That meant kitchen appliances, extra linens, home décor, furniture, artwork and mirrors, even some books. We cut down our personal belongings by 90% at the very least.
Now I can confidentially say we are loving the minimalist lifestyle, but that doesn’t mean we don’t miss the ability to store things. Since we don’t have a ‘home’ or even a storage unit, we are simply unable to collect and store things beyond the space that we have in the RV. That can be both a pro and a con.
No Year-Round Living?
Depending on what city, state or country you live in, there might actually be laws that restrict or prohibit you from living in an RV, camper, 5th wheel, or travel trailer.
Forgive me while I dramatically roll my eyes.
Location and bi-law’s aside, there are even insurance companies that won’t insure your RV if you live in it full time, or more than what they might consider a ‘leisurely’ amount.
This is definitely a con for someone who wants the full time RV lifestyle. Unrealistic laws and regulations can make things very difficult and stressful to set up and sustain.
I get some of the laws. I get that if entire cities all moved into vans, buses, RV’s and motorhomes that the entire economy and way of life as we know it would collapse. But I don’t understand making RV living for people who are obediently following the rules almost impossible in some places. Not everyone wants to live in a traditional house and that shouldn’t be such a problem, especially considering that the majority of the population WILL continue to live ‘normal’ lives.
Until the stigma of RV living dissolves further and the laws become more realistic, full-time living in an RV isn’t always possible for some people.
Climate Control is a Struggle
Travel trailers, 5th wheels and RV’s are not known for having world-class insulation. Their first objective is to be light and cheap, so something’s gotta give – and that is usually the insulation rating.
We only live in our camper during the warmer season in Canada, but it seems that we feel all four seasons each morning and evening. It’s not unheard of for summer nights to drop to 8 degrees Celsius, which makes for an absolute frigid bedroom in the morning! Then on the same day, we might reach a high of 38 degrees Celsius which makes the RV an absolute sauna. I am bundled up and shivering in the morning and sweltering by mid-afternoon.
I try my best to be as energy efficient as possible, but there are many days I have to run heat in the morning and AC in the evenings.
For RV’ers that like to live in the southern states, they feel this even more! Sometimes the single air conditioning unit inside their rig won’t even cool it down enough and they are forced to install an additional unit.
Campers are not easy to keep warm or keep cool. Period. They either can’t keep the warm inside on a cold day or they can’t keep the heat outside on a hot day.
Mini sized everything! In some ways it’s great because having smaller versions of everything means more space inside the RV, but at times it can be frustrating.
We would love to have a king-sized bed like we used to in our condo, but a queen is the absolute largest we are getting inside this RV, and we have to be grateful for even that.
The kitchen sink is smaller, the fridge is smaller, the closet is smaller -even the freezer is microscopic compared to what we were used to. We can’t stock up on food or supplies like we used to, which means running to the store more frequently.
To be honest, I have really gotten used to having tiny versions of everything around me, but I know many people struggle with this aspect of travel trailer living.
There is no easy way to say this… if you are living in an RV you are always thinking about poop. Your whole world starts to revolve around poop. The storage of your poop, the emptying of your poop, and everything in between.
Unlike living in a normal sticks and bricks house where you just ‘flush and forget’, living in an RV means always thinking about emptying the black and grey tanks.
Since we are stationary, we are lucky that we’ve actually hooked our sewer hose up to a septic system, but we still have to keep the black tank closed and empty it every few days. We are always checking levels and then we have to put the slide in each time we want to empty the tank. It’s a process every 3 days or so.
For people who are on the road, it’s a little harder. You have to find places to dump the tanks every few days and it’s not the most pleasant job in the world.
Con’s For NON-Stationary RV’ers
Even though we are stationary, a lot of our friends move around with their RV’s. We asked them what con’s came with that lifestyle and got some great points back:
- Not being able to find cheap enough RV sites during peak season
- Having decision fatigue with where to travel to/stay next
- Having to be super mindful of tank levels when dry-camping
- Being subject to fluctuating prices of fuel
- Driving through busy cities with a big rig
- Dealing with repairs and maintenance issues on the road
My Other Personal CONS Of RV Living:
- Not being able to have my own space. I share a very small ‘home’ with another human being, my husband, and we both live and work from inside the unit. While we do happen to get along famously, sometimes I wish I had my own space.
- Not having mail service. Not a huge biggie, but it would be fun to get deliveries at home again. Instead, we have a PO BOX about an hour drive away that we visit every few weeks.
Do The Pro’s Outweigh The Con’s?
Without a doubt I think the pro’s of living in an RV outweigh ANY and ALL the con’s. Most of the con’s of this lifestyle come from being in a privileged and consumer based society, so it’s mostly about re-wiring our expectations and values.
There may come a day when I crave a sticks and bricks house again, but for now, I’ll take my RV over any home!