Are you considering going to a full-time RV lifestyle and want to know what it will really cost you to live in an RV park? Whether you plan to stay for a month at a time, or for an entire year, RV parks can run from surprisingly affordable, to downright expensive.
So how can you estimate what it’s going to cost you to stay long-term in an RV park or campground so you can budget your money accordingly?
It’s easy when you read this guide where I break down all the RV park living costs for you! As a full-time RVer, I have first-hand knowledge of:
- Why long-term campground stays are budget-friendly
- What services a park will include with rent
- The benefits of long-term stays
- The difference in seasonal prices
- What parks expect of long-term guests
Keep reading so you can find a way to make your RV housing budget work.
Why Extended Campground Stays Are Cheaper
Unless you have no limit on your cash reserves, making the most of your budget will increase your enjoyment while full-time RVing. The first step to cut costs is to find a park that offers monthly, seasonal, or yearly rates.
All the rates I discuss below will include in the price the cost of sewer and water at your campsite. It will also include whatever free WiFi a park offers its regular guests.
The Difference in Long-Term Park Rates
The longer you stay in a park, the more you will save over the cost of normal daily rates. If you desire to see many areas of the country, choosing to stay in one park a month will stretch your budget while enabling you to explore each area in depth.
For those who wish to escape the extremes of hot or cold weather, a seasonal stay is an even more affordable way to live in an RV park. From three to six months at a time, you can hunker down in one place and also enjoy activities most parks offer for their seasonal guests. A winter seasonal park guest is what is commonly known as a “snowbird.”
Many full-time RVers have full-time jobs, which require them to stay year-round in an RV park or campground. For parks that offer yearly rates, this charge is typically the cheapest overall monthly rate but comes with some caveats that I will discuss further in the yearly-rate section below.
#1 – Monthly Rates
A monthly rate at most campgrounds that offer it is typically about half or third of what it would cost you if you paid a daily rate.
For example, a favorite park I stay at in Florida charges $55 a night for a full hook-up site, which has sewer, water, and electric. That comes out to $1650, before tax, for 30 nights.
The campground offers a monthly rate between September and April for $699. They do charge extra for electric usage. For my RV, that charge comes to around $30 for the month. A large RV may run closer to $100 for electric.
For $729, I can stay near the beach during the lovely warm days of October, without paying the high summer site rates and avoiding the summer tourist crowds as well. A win-win for my wallet and my sanity.
#2 – Seasonal Rates
Most RV parks consider a seasonal rate to be one that incorporates a stay of between three to six months. You should receive a larger discount off your total monthly bill the more months you stay.
Expect to add your electric usage to your bill each month, separate for your site charge. Some parks will also expect you to pay additional for your cable TV if you want it.
For example, I found a beautiful RV park in Arizona that has a large pool and plenty of activities that charges $315 a week but only charges $500 per month if you stay for at least four months. This is $910 cheaper than paying the daily rate and $760 less than if you went by the weekly rate.
#3 – Yearly Rates
If you love an area and want to stay permanently, or you have a job that requires you to stay put, finding a park that offers a yearly or “resident” rate is a must for saving the most on campsite rent.
I did workamping at a park in south Florida that charge $1250 a month for their seasonal guests (a required 4-6 month stay) and $90 for a nightly rate. They did not offer a weekly or single monthly rate at all, but they did allow year-round visits that broke down to $725 a month, which is a steal, considering the location and weather.
Every park that I encounter does expect a resident to pay additional for electric and cable. Many residents will also pay to have internet service put in since RV park internet is notoriously bad.
Yearly guests also need to upkeep their site to park standards, not letting their patio become unsightly with excessive or worn furniture, plants, decorations, or bikes. Some parks will mow and rake around your site, but many will expect you to maintain your site 100 percent since you are getting such a good break on your rental rate.
Do All Parks Offer Special Rates?
Not all parks offer long-term stay rates, due to tenancy laws or just because they are in a trendy area with a high camper demand.
Some RV parks fear the possibility of having to evict a guest if they allow them to stay over the number of days a particular state’s laws will consider a campground guest a tenant.
An RV park that consistently fills their park sites at $65 a night is not going to offer a $500 monthly rate to its guests when they can make $1950 monthly from that site by charging their daily rate.
Do the math; a park can still make more money over the monthly rate if a site sits empty two weeks of each month. Management love having open campsites in their park if they can still make money because it’s easier on park staff. Open spots also make a campground feel more spacious to guests.
Another reason parks shy away from long-term guests is because of an attitude that many residents get once they settle in. They may have to get up early for work each day and will complain to management that kids were laughing at the pool at 9 pm, keeping them awake. It doesn’t matter that those kids at the pool have every right to be there, and their parents paid the full-price nightly rate to stay.
I see this attitude somewhat with seasonal guests, but it’s at its worst with year-round residents. Long-term park guests must remember one thing; you chose to live in a campground! Kids will be running around, families will be having fires, people will be walking pets past your site constantly, and NO you cannot leave your laundry in the washing machine all day then get mad when a guest removes it.
Campground etiquette rules will still apply to any guest, no matter how long or short your stay. Be a good guest!
What About State and National Parks?
Another place that does not offer special rates is state and national parks. While they do offer discounts for senior citizens or military veterans on their annual park passes which extend to campground rates, these parks do not allow a camper to park longer than two weeks at a time.
There’s a trick to extend your stay two more weeks if you are traveling with a spouse or other person, and that is to book spots in each of your names separately for consecutive two week stays at a single park. You will most likely have to move to a new site after the first two weeks. Be careful with this, since some parks stipulate they do not allow this tactic.
Overall, the rates at state and national parks are quite reasonable. With no discount, most stays run between $20-$35 a night. About half of the parks I stay at now offer full hook-up, which is fantastic, since having to empty your waste tanks at the dump station is a hassle.
State and national parks are a fantastic option for those who can afford around $1000 a month for campsite rental in their budget. For those who have a senior or veteran pass, this cost can be less than half.
These campgrounds are in great locations, have a serenity you will not find in most regular RV parks, and let you have enough time to explore nearby attractions. They also do not charge an extra fee for electric usage.
What Makes Full-Time RV Park Stays Even More Affordable?
What many people overlook when budgeting for full-time RVing is how much money you will save by staying in one place. If you own a motorhome, the savings on gas alone is tremendous! When traveling between parks, I can easily spend $60-$100 on fuel alone each day.
Even if you pull your trailer or fifth-wheel, the use of your tow vehicle without pulling your camper is way less expensive, so you can still go shopping for food or sightsee in the area and spend less overall.
You will also have less wear on your camper, which reduces maintenance costs.
Who Should Think Twice Before Considering to Live in an RV Park?
I highly recommend everyone take at least a year off, hit the road in a recreation vehicle, enjoy a simple life and see all that this beautiful country has to offer. But, some people need to take a good hard look at their budget before doing so.
Why? Because there is a vast difference between people being debt and house free while traveling in an RV, and those that have financial commitments they must meet.
If you have an RV payment, adding in site rent for an RV park can be just as much as staying in your “sticks and bricks” (an RVing euphemism for a home.) If you keep your home, even if it’s paid off, you’ll have taxes, insurance, and routine upkeep to pay for that will eat into your monthly budget.
RV Park Price Range for Time of Year & Area of Country
Everyone in an RV wants to spend winter where it is warm and summer where it is cool. When you live in a tin box, this makes sense! Cold and heat penetrate a camper no matter how well you prepare.
Campgrounds and RV resorts know this, and those in the south and southwest price winter rates accordingly, while northern regions hike their rates during the summer months.
So, if you want to spend your winter in Key West or on the beach in Fort Myers, Florida, expect to pay between $2000-$3000 a month. Budget around $1500 a month for a bay view site in San Diego, California between September and May.
In the summer, a relaxing park on the shores of a lake in Michigan will run $970 for a single month, while it drops to $615 if you commit to staying for five months.
If you want to enjoy comfortable weather and are not afraid to go a bit inland, you can find plenty of RV parks all over this country who will charge you between $300-$700 a month to stay at any time of year.
With so many variables to take into consideration, it’s hard to give an exact price on what a campground will charge for you to live there unless you call them directly or search their website.
INSIDER TIPS: Always book any RV trip about a year in advance if you plan to travel to a popular destination during the high season. Most parks will reserve seasonal camper spots on a first-come, first served basis, giving priority to current seasonal guests.
In southern states like North Carolina, South Carolina, Georgia, Florida, Alabama, and Mississippi a perfect time to stay for a month or two is during September (after Labor Day) and October, as well as mid-April to May. The weather is excellent, the oceans are warm, and the crowds are less during these months. This time is the shoulder season between the snowbirds and the summer tourists.
What About Escapees and Thousand Trails Memberships?
There are good and bad aspects to joining an RV membership park like Escapees and Thousand Trails.
In this next section, I will talk about each membership option and what you can expect from each one when it comes to long-term RV park living costs.
#1 – Escapees
Escapees have a loyal group of followers, who pay $39.95 a year for membership. I am a member and enjoy discounts on overnight RV park stays in many parts of the country between my long-term stints.
There are 18 Escapees parks located from Florida to Washington State that offer cheap rates for its members. You also receive anywhere from a 15 to 50 percent discount at more than 800 partner RV parks across the country.
For long-term RV living, Escapees co-op parks are the place to go for amazing deals. I have my membership for this reason alone, so I can snag myself a sweet permanent spot out West where I can live half the year.
For example, as an Escapees member, I can stay at one of their Rainbow parks long-term in Alabama for $360 a month. I can purchase a lot in their Pahrump, Nevada co-op for life for between $8000-$12,000, and pay a yearly maintenance fee of about $800.
The biggest con of Escapees is they do not have many parks, and those they do have are a bit off the beaten path. But, if you can find an Escapees location you love, you can’t beat their prices!
#2 – Thousand Trails
After the initial $6000 one-time investment when you sign up for a new Elite package, expect to pay an additional $580 a year for dues when you go with a Thousand Trails membership. They also offer Zone camping packages for around $500 a year, where you can stay at a set number of campgrounds in one area of the country.
Why so much? Well, if you camp a lot, which you will be doing if you want to live in your RV, the average nightly cost overall will go down the more you use it. Once you buy in, your stay at a Thousand Trails park is free as long as you are current on your monthly dues.
If you plan to full-time RV for many years, this investment can be worth it. One couple I know spends three to six months every year at Thousand Trails and affiliated campgrounds. Outside of their initial buy-in price, they pay just under $800 a year for 90-180 nights of camping. This comes out to $4.50-$8.88 a night!
Thousand Trails has a vast array of upgrades and packages for purchase. You can also resell and transfer your membership when your camping days come to an end, which is another way to recoup your initial investment.
The cons of membership to Thousand Trails is that it’s becoming so popular that getting a reservation at a park you desire is hard to come by. Sales of annual sites are leaving fewer rentable campsites available. Encore Resorts bought out Thousand Trails, and complaints about the rudeness of park staff, the condition of sites, and the enforcement of rules are on the rise.
All the Extra Expenses When Living in an RV Park
Campsite rent is the biggest cost when budgeting RV living expenses, but you also have:
- Gas/maintenance on tow vehicle
My husband and I spend right around $400 on food every month, which includes the occasional restaurant meal. Depending upon how many mouths you have to feed, this number may go higher or lower.
Propane is standard in most RVs to run the water heater, furnace, stove, and the fridge. I would budget around $20 a month for propane to be safe.
Cellphones are a must-have for most of us. I have the cheapest version around and pay $45 a month. My husband and I share the phone since we are together 24/7. Some people have two phones and pay upwards of $300 a month. Whatever the number, make sure you get that into your monthly budget when planning your RV living costs.
The internet is another critical need for most people. Some parks offer free WiFi, but when the park is busy, it’s painfully slow.
My husband and I have to have the internet to work. We used to run a MiFi hotspot with unlimited data that we bought off eBay for $90, then paid $8 a month for service. It was great for three years until a particular phone carrier cut us off.
Oh well, it was great while it lasted!
We did some research and found that many cable companies will hook up a direct internet line to your RV site and charge month to month. We have done this twice at the cost of about $90 for the connection fee and about $50 a month for service.
If you are only checking email once a day, use your phone as a hotspot. Getting a separate MiFi hotspot is pricey if you use a ton of data.
Some parks include cable TV, while others may charge $10-$40 a month.
You are lucky if your RV has a washer and dryer. If not, expect to pay on average $4 a load to wash your clothes and bedding at an RV park laundry. If you can get to a local laundry facility, the prices are lower, plus you won’t have to fight over the machines since there are much more available.
Electric for long-term stays is always going to be extra when you stay in an RV park. Your power pedestal will have a meter on the box and park staff will read your meter every month and multiply that number by the per kilowatt rate. On average, a medium-size camper will run about $65 in electric a month.
Don’t forget about gas and maintenance on your tow vehicle. Expect to shell out more if you have to see every attraction in the 100 miles around your campsite. Spend less by sticking close to the campground and ride your bikes or take a bus to stores and local attractions.
Entertainment can be an entrance fee to a park or zoo, crazy nights out at a dance club, or trying a new restaurant every week. Don’t expect to sit at your RV every day and night and not get a bit restless. Budget some money every month for something fun so you can take advantage of each area you are visiting, which is part of the reason you are RVing, right?
INSIDER TIP: Workamping and full-time RVing go hand-in-hand and is a marvelous way to cover most of your monthly expenses, with a medium to low time commitment.
Inquire at parks you wish to stay at if they hire workampers in exchange for site rent, and offer up your services. You can find resources online to locate parks looking to hire workampers. Many need them most during high season, which is how my husband and I stay at in-demand parks in great locations for next to nothing for months.
Living in an RV park is not necessarily cheap, but when you compare it to the cost of a home or apartment and add in the feeling of adventure and freedom you have while doing so, it is certainly within reach of most people’s budget.
The trick is to either find a place you really enjoy and try to stay for a year, or to bounce between low-cost parks and ones that may cost more, but are near the things you want to experience.
So what does it really cost to live in an RV Park?
I have found throughout five years, that we spend between $400-$1300 a month on all of our RV living expenses. When we workamp our cost is low, which is why we take advantage of it when we can. I think we live well, see all kinds of local attractions, eat well, and enjoy the leisurely pace of life. Most days we can’t remember what the date is and never look at a clock.
If you want to have a year of all-out adventure and see all you can see, I would say a budget of $2500-$3500 a month will cover it. If you have an RV park membership, it may only cost you $500 a month for food and other expenses.
Every case will be different, as this video from another full-time RVer will show. So sit down and analyze what is important for you, what expenses you know you will incur monthly, and what extras you would like to have. See what you can afford, then go for it!
What money-saving ideas have you come up with while living in an RV park? Please share them with your fellow campers so we can all stretch out budgets even further!