RV or Apartment: Which Offers a Cheaper Lifestyle?

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The cost of living is rising and constantly grows faster than wages. The slice of income required to cover living expenses increases with every year that passes. It feels like there is only one possibility, to give up the dream of a spacious home and opt for something smaller or less desirable. Or you could consider what is becoming a growing trend and live in an RV. Before you make the decision, is it cheaper to live in an RV or an apartment?

If money is the only consideration, then full-time RV living is significantly more affordable than an apartment. The average household pays 33.1% of its income on housing costs. $1,326 on rent, increasing to approximately $1,730 with all bills and food included. Living in an RV can be as little as $1,000.

cost to live in rv full time

Looking at average monthly costs, it seems an obvious answer. But is it that easy? To help you further, we’ve put together some comparisons and tips to help you save money, and for each type of home, see if there’s a specific time when it’s better to choose between them. 

Average Cost of Renting an Apartment in The US

Homeownership across the US will modestly decline over the next 15yrs. Predictions show the decline to slow only because of an aging population. Older people are more likely to own their own homes, creating a modest increase in ownership amongst this age group. However, other age group ownership rates have declined.

The young adult population ownership rate has fallen by 10%. It means young adults are more likely to rent.

The US is, in many areas, creating more jobs than they are building homes. The decline in the building rate is compounded by a materials shortage, driving up prices and creating a further reduction in house building. All this is terrible news for those wishing to rent. Rental demand is climbing, fueling price rises.

According to World Population Review, every state in the US is experiencing rental increases. Except for just four states, rent has increased by at least 10%, with Florida seeing a rise of 28%.

Some states are cheaper than others, but the average renter pays $1,326 monthly.

The most expensive states in the mainland US are Washington DC and California, where the averages are about $1,600.

The cheaper states to rent include West Virginia, Arkansas, and South Dakota, with average prices between $730 to $760.

Is Owning an RV Cost Effective?

RV living offers a cost-effective and alternative lifestyle to an apartment. However, as with anything, it comes with its challenges.

The total monthly cost for RV life is invariably cheaper than apartment living, although each has slightly different costs. These living costs will vary depending on how you live in your RV. Do you have a job requiring stationary RV life where you stay full-time at one RV park, or are you free to travel to many RV resorts? 

Monthly rent on an apartment is a cost that produces no residual monetary value. Although an RV will depreciate, you will still have an asset once settling the loans.

Cost Comparison of Buying an RV vs Renting Apartment

One of the easiest ways to compare the two is in a chart. However, many of the fees don’t always apply to both options. They are just the best match.

Living ExpensesApartment Rental ExpensesRV Living Expenses
Rental application fee$40 to $100 (one-off fee)0
Rent$1326 (national average)0 to $800 (campground fee)
Moving in Fee0 to $800 (one-off fee)0
Security deposit$1326 (one-month rent and one-off fee)0
Utilities$230 (average price for all)$50 (propane many others included in campground fee)
Insurance$15$100 to $150
Internet$30 to $1000 to $50 ( sometimes included in campground fee)
Food$300 to $400$300 to $400
Fuel$50$50 to $150
RV loan cost00 to $150 (very variable)
Totals (lowest figures)$1,981$1,350 (including campground fees)

Comparing the above chart, it is worth noting that rental expenses are far more reliable as more data is available therefore giving more accurate figures.

RV living costs include many variables, as many sites include most utilities. Loan costs are also a bit of guesswork in this scenario. Unless you have the money to cover the initial investment of the RV and the lifestyle. Also, your gas and campground fees vary widely depending on where you stay. You might prefer basic RV parks, luxury campgrounds, or no campgrounds altogether.

However, It is still possible to see the huge difference between the two sets of typical costs.

Check Out Rv vs. Apartment // Savings!!:

How To Save Money When Renting an Apartment?

Leaving the family home is daunting and can make you wonder how you will pay all the monthly payments. Here are some tips to help keep your rent cost down.

  • The most significant and easiest way is to share. Two or more people will bring in more money. It may mean renting a more expensive two-bedroom apartment, but with the cost split, it will be less money each overall.
  • Start your house search in winter. The summer months have more competition and therefore cost more. 
  • A great way of saving on rent is to negotiate a longer lease. An annual lease or longer will be a better value. Landlords prefer the stability of an occupied property instead of frequently looking for a new tenant. 
  • Some landlords will offer discounts if you pay upfront. The security for a landlord can be worth the lower price. Ideal if you can afford it.
  • Look for a private landlord. They will have less stringent rules than corporations and may negotiate for the right tenant.
  • Find an apartment without a parking space if you don’t have a car. Apartments with parking often come at a premium.
  • Look for an apartment with less space. Extra space generally costs more money. After all, RVs are small, so why not live in a small apartment?
  • If you can, offer to do some maintenance for the landlord. It will save the landlord money. It is convenient for them as well as you.
  • Look for a cheaper city or location within the city. Also, major cities cost more.
  • Ask the landlord for a referral fee if you have friends looking for a new apartment.

Learn How To Budget

Learn how to budget and only spend what you need. You don’t need to live like a hermit. Just be careful. After all, the whole idea of this article is to look at how to live on less.

Many people living in an RV permanently are cautious with their finances because they need to cut costs, so they already possess an advantage, they know how to budget. Some budgeting tips include:

  • Don’t use credit cards to pay bills. Charges may apply, and interest payments can be steep unless you always pay the balance in full.
  • Shop around for your cable and tech contracts. The savings can be surprising.
  • Adjust thermostats for both cooling and heating. One or two degrees, either way, can make a significant saving in utility costs.
  • Cover or repair drafts. There is no sense in heating outside.
  • Cook at home. It can be a good night in, and it will save money.

How To Save Money When Living in an RV?

Although living in an RV is cost-effective in the first place, it is still possible to cut costs further.

RV full-time living can sometimes be considered a stop gap for a few years while you save enough to get on the housing ladder. Although true in some cases, for others, living in an RV is their primary residence because they prefer it or because it is cheaper than living in a traditional house.

Ways to make your RV lifestyle cheaper include

Campground Fees

  • Find a campground that will allow permanent living in an RV. These sites will often have favorable rates for extended-term contracts.
  • Many campgrounds will include utilities in the price, such as water, trash collection, black and grey waste dumping, and WIFI. Some will even include electricity.
  • If you don’t want to stay all year in one place, campgrounds offering off-season pricing are great for some full-time RVers.


  • Use a fifth wheel or travel trailer to live in, then have a small car for your everyday vehicle. It will have better fuel economy and cheaper insurance.
  • Choose a campground close to work.

Don’t use campgrounds


  • Buy a small washer for your RV. They are more economical than launderettes.

Solar panels

Pro Tip: If you decide not to use a campground, it could have some added difficulties, such as limiting working possibilities unless you can work from your RV.

When Should You Rent an Apartment Instead of RV Living?

If you live in an RV because it is the cheapest option, you can save money and then get on the property ladder. Sometimes, living in an RV is not the most convenient, and it’s about more than saving money.

Depending on where you live, you may feel uncomfortable staying in your RV because it is either too hot or too cold. Nearby campgrounds can also be fully booked and expensive during the holiday season.

Work prevents you from relocating for the season.

You might find that RV life is not worth the discomfort, and a short-lease apartment is worth the cost.

The modern world revolves around living in a house or apartment. Therefore everything around this type of living is set up to make finding work and getting to work easier.

Living in an RV might make finding work more difficult, ultimately affecting your earning potential. Therefore removing some of the financial advantages of living in an RV in the first place.

Related Questions

Is It Financially Smart To Live in an RV?

Yes, is the simple answer: living in an RV full-time is cheaper. But full-time RVing does come with its costs. That could limit your job opportunities if a campground is not close enough to work. However, if it is, you will save a lot of money for a new house or upgrade to a new RV.

What Is the Cheapest Way To Live in an RV?

Out of other costs possible to reduce, campground and gas costs are the most expensive part of living in an RV. So to live cheaper, avoid paying campgrounds unless necessary.

Find a location with no fee to pay and stay for as long as allowed, reducing gas usage.

Are Studio Apartments Cheaper?

Renting a studio apartment is generally cheaper to live in than other apartments. However, looking at the cost per square foot can make them appear not so budget-friendly. As a studio is usually the smallest apartment, heating and cooling will be cheaper, as well as furnishing costs.

Where Is the Cheapest Place To Buy an RV?

Five states in the US have no sales tax; however, in three, you must pay local taxes, effectively removing any advantage. 

Montana and Oregon stand out with no sales or local taxes to pay. Great if you live there, but if you still need to, it is possible to set up an LLC which registers the RV as a business. Oregon will then charge an LLC business tax. 

Montana stands out as the cheapest place to buy a new RV.

Bottom Line

It is only natural to want to find the most economical way to live, especially when the only thing you see are prices rising. But is it all it appears?

Apartment living can cost less if you budget correctly. Turn down the heat, look out for offers, and don’t hesitate to negotiate.

Living in an RV may look appealing on paper, but most RVs are smaller than the typical apartment. Renting a smaller apartment will bring down the cost.

Renting an apartment comes with the security of a lease. If you stick to the rules, you are safe in your home.

RV life could be less predictable if you move around. Campgrounds don’t offer the same security as rental agreements, as you can get moved on anytime.

Although RV living does win in terms of cost, in the financial sense, it could have significant social costs. Your job prospects may be limited.

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Written by William Perry
William was born and raised in the United States and currently lives in Utah. A retired police officer, he is the father of three and grandfather of six. Along with writing, he enjoys traveling, the outdoors, reading and spending time with his grandchildren.
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