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Retired Military Finances 101: The Unexpected Costs of the RV Lifestyle Thumbnail

Retired Military Finances 101: The Unexpected Costs of the RV Lifestyle

Retirement Funding Managing Your Finances

I've run into more than one Active Duty Servicemember or retiree who wants to spend at least a portion of their retirement travelling and living in a recreational vehicle (RV). Whether your retirement plan includes exploring the US during retirement, an extended road trip, or you just want to learn more about the costs associated with the RV lifestyle, we want to help break down the costs of hitting the road full-time.

RV Park Reservations

The expense of RV park reservations can add up, especially if you are only staying a few days. A full-time RVer at Finance Buzz shared that you could save money by joining an RV club. You'll get heavily discounted monthly park reservation rates by joining, but if you're planning on just passing through, it may be worth just paying for your stay out of pocket.1

Nightly can be $100+ per night depending on where you stay. For example, a one-night stay during peak season at the Mission Bay RV Resort in San Diego, CA, will cost you at least $145 on the weekend—and that's not even for a beachfront spot.2 Of course you might be able to save money by staying on base/post but make sure you've budgeted for these expenses before you hit the road. 


Part of the allure of RV life is being more remote and not always connected to technology, but there will be times when you need internet access on the road. Because you're always traveling, you'll need cellular data or a hotspot to get online, especially in remote areas. Most full-time RVers invest in mobile hotspots, upgraded data plans, and signal-boosting devices.

Even if you do stop at a campground with an internet connection, the connection might not always be stable. It's good to have a backup internet and data option, especially in case of emergencies.


The fact that you will have to pay for gas when traveling around the country in an RV shouldn't come as a surprise. What might come as a surprise is how few miles per gallon RVs get. Depending on your rig, you might only get about 10 mpg. That, coupled with increasing gas prices, makes gas a major expense for RVers. In addition, some popular destinations charge a premium for their fuel because they might be the only option in the area. At the time of writing, gas was over $9 a gallon at a gas station near Death Valley, a popular RV spot. Higher gas prices are becoming more common in more isolated areas.3 While the isolated scenery might be beautiful, the ever-rising numbers on the gas board aren't.

RV Maintenance

RV maintenance and repair can be one of the largest costs of the RV lifestyle. It's challenging to determine how much RV maintenance will cost you while on the road, because it depends on the age of your vehicle, how well it's maintained, where you're going, and how long you'll be on the road. Repairs are often an unexpected expense, but you can plan for them by having an emergency savings fund in case your RV breaks down.

There's something magical about hitting the road in a van or RV and not knowing what kinds of adventures you'll have, but with this freedom comes some expenses. Planning for these expenses ahead of time will help save you stress on the road.

Military Finances are Different

The fact that you've earned a pension at relatively young age gives you the option for the RV life at a younger age than most Americans. That's not the only thing about your finances that is different from your civilian friends. That is why we think you should work with a financial planner or advisor that works with active and retired senior military officers and NCOs. If you're interested in how we do things, schedule a free initial consultation by using the button below.

If you found this article useful, you might like the following blog posts:

Retired Military Finances 101: 4 Things to Consider Before You Move Closer to the Kids

Military Retirement 101: 5 Tips to Prep for a Cruise Ship Retirement

How to Simplify Your Financial Life Before Your Ultimate Retirement

  1. https://financebuzz.com/save-at-rv-parks
  2. https://www.missionbayrvresort.com/san-diego-rv-resort/best-rv-rates/
  3. https://www.fastcompany.com/90706552/esg-investing-continued-to-soar-in-2021-the-government-could-boost-it-even-more

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