All the receipts have been counted. The final numbers are in. I won’t leave you in suspense. How much does it cost to RV around North America for one year?
The first and biggest thing that stands out to me about this number is this: I TOTALLY ROCK!! I mean really, $1,100 under budget??? How good am I at budgeting? Woop woop!!
For a bit of background you might want to check out these posts about our trip plan:
ANNOUNCEMENT: I am changing my life
Introducing Big Baby Blue (our new truck)
6 weeks to go and a brand new 5th wheel
How much does all this cost anyway? (3 month budget report)
The cost of our new lives 6 months in (6 month budget report)
9 months of nomadic life and the meaning of time (9 month budget report)
In short, our plan was to sell our house in Victoria, BC, close our businesses, buy an RV and travel around North American for one year with the goal of experiencing and photographing as many national parks and other beautiful places as possible. Our agenda consisted of simply “clockwise” starting from Vancouver Island on the west coast of Canada and heading east.
Here is the route we took going clockwise.
We went across the continent fairly quickly because it was summer and we were trying to outrun the heat wave and we wanted to spend the summer months in the maritime provinces in Canada. In the fall we followed the changing colours down the east coast of the United States. We spent December and January in Florida, a little longer than expected, but we kept moving more and more slowly because the weather wasn’t very nice outside of Florida. Then in February we followed the gulf coast along all the way to Texas. We spent the spring in the desert: Texas, New Mexico, Arizona and Utah. After Utah we headed over to the coast of California before turning north to head home.
Here is the original budget plan compared to how it all worked out in the end.
The pre-trip expenses are things like buying a year’s worth of all necessary medication for us and the dogs, travel medical insurance, RV and truck insurance, paying for storage for the stuff we kept, winterizing my boat, and buying everything we needed for the RV like generators, batteries, an inverter, storage boxes, a new brake controller, an ipad, a ramp for the old dog etc.
Ongoing expenses are the monthly expenses while we are on the road.
Vehicle expenses is the cost of the truck and RV for the year (originally it assumed we would sell them on return, but now that we are keeping them it shows depreciation) plus the money we spent on repairs and upgrades to the truck when we first bought it and subtracting money I got from selling my existing truck.
I also took into account investment interest I from the money I received from the sale of the house since I wouldn’t have that money if we didn’t go on the trip.
As I have said before a trip like this can be done with a smaller or a bigger budget. The point is only to give you some real numbers to work with and a glimpse into our lifestyle to help you if you are planning a similar trip in your future.
Now let’s see how the ongoing expenses added up:
Of course the estimates were not perfect in each category but my technique of generally rounding up each estimate seems to have worked. There is always a category that is going to blow out the budget and you never know which one it is going to be when you are at the planning stage.
I was pretty much on target for fuel costs. We drove 46,000 kilometers (abut 28,500 miles) on the truck. It’s hard to say how much of that was towing because of course we disconnected and used the truck for day trips. I would guess about half of the milage was towing.
The camping expenses were also pretty close to the budget. I was surprised by the huge difference in camping fees as we travelled. We budgeted an average of $25 per night knowing that some places with no hook-ups would be less and other places more. New Orleans during Mardi Gras and the Florida Keys at Christmas were obviously going to be more exprensive. The one place that absolutely stunned me was the KOA in Bar Harbour, Maine, (Baa-Haa-Baa) where we camped in a puddle for $55 and if we wanted out of the puddle it was going to be $80. Outrageous!
It seemed if we went anywhere that was within half a days driving distance from a big city it was very expensive and that was certainly the case in the north eastern portion of the USA.
We were way under budget on food for both us and the dogs. Food is about half the price in the USA as it is in Canada.
Internet and cell phone costs ended up being more than planned because we had to buy new phones for Canada, then we bought a phone for the USA, then we bought a sprint mifi, then a wifi antenna, then a verizon mifi (thanks to the guy that let me borrow his USA address because verizon wouldn’t sell me a mifi without a zip code!).
Activities … well we were in national parks all the time and once we bought the passes for the national parks in Canada and in the USA there was not much need to spend money on activities. What is in this category is tickets to Michael Jackson’s Immortal World Tour (Cirque du Soleil) in New Orleans, kayak rentals, some tours and the bicycles and snorkel masks we purchased.
The ferry trips getting on an off Vancouver Island were slightly under budget since we got a good fare leaving during a weekday and then returning via Port Angeles turned out to be less expensive than if we went to Vancouver.
The miscellaneous category is where all the veterinarian bills ended up. I took my old beagle Oscar to the vet 9 times during the trip! The first 3 times were the result of a carpet eating incident. Then he got geriatric vestibular disease when we were in Florida. It is kind of like a stroke except dogs can recover from it in a few weeks. The other 5 vet visits were because of continual coughing which turned to be related to his heart disease. We finally got that figured out when the geriatric vestibular disease came back. He kept having these episodes that were like strokes. We got back to the pacific coast, he smelled that sea air and walked on the beach, and then, one week before we got home, he gave me the look and asked me to let him go. Saying goodbye to Oscar is the hardest thing I have ever done. He was almost 16. I am so glad that he got to see and smell so many places in his last year.
Please click the image to view a larger version.
Ok, back to the budget…
Lastly we were over budget in Truck and RV maintenance. We bought an older truck and got a killer deal on it so we had a fair sized budget to maintain it in the first place. But we weren’t expecting to have to rebuild the transmission a couple of months into the trip. If it wasn’t for that we would have been within budget. Then we had a cracked exhaust manifold and finally we bought new trailer tires at the end of the trip.
A few trip stats:
Miles we drove: 46,000 kilometers (abut 28,500 miles)
Number of campsites: 105
Average daily cost for the year: $70 per day each
After the year was up we were going to sell the truck and RV and buy a house in Campbell River, a smaller city on Vancouver Island, British Columbia, and start up our businesses again.
However we quickly realized that we love the nomadic lifestyle and didn’t miss a thing about home ownership (ok, I miss my lazyboy recliner, but that’s it). I certainly don’t miss the gardening (which in Victoria is weeding, weeding, weeding) or the leaky basement or the mortgage payment.
So our plans for the future have changed. We decided to become snowbirds from now on and continue living in our RV full time.
If you are planning an RV trip in the future, please feel free to ask me any questions you want in the comments. I’ll try to help if I can.
I’m going off the grid now for week while I travel to a remote area of Vancouver Island, British Columbia, where there is definitely no internet access.
When I return I will have a post about what you can achieve by by taking risks, jumping in with both feet, and focussing all of your efforts on doing things that you love.