The Hidden Cost of Boondocking

It’s often believed that boondocking is free. Well it is—and it isn’t. There are some things to consider and budget for when planning to go on an extended boondocking trip. And we are going to list those off below. Enter your text here...

1. Vehicle Expenses

There are a lot of expenses of owning any vehicle. And those expenses go up significantly when you’re living in it full-time or for an extended period. Here are a few things to keep in mind when budgeting for your van travels.

Insurance: Depends on Your Driving Record

Your van insurance might go up due to the increased number of miles driven. If you choose to reclassify your vehicle as an RV, that could change your costs too.

Fuel: $150-200 a Month

If you are living out of your van, you will drive a lot more miles than you think. This is your entire home and your primary vehicle, and you’ll quickly realize how freeing it is to just keep on moving. You don’t have to back track—and that feeling is intoxicating. 

A lot of great boondocking sites are found miles from the towns you might work in. Plus, choosing an electrical system with a DC to DC charger will make you want to drive more to keep your batteries topped off.

Maintenance: $25 a Month

You’ll incur more expenses for maintenance too. Tires, oil changes, brakes, etc. are all going to increase. Don’t let this scare you because traditional RVs are very expensive to maintain. Most people who have traveled in both say, “van repairs are less than half the cost of RV repairs.”

2. Food Costs: $400 a Month

This is something you have complete control over. If you want to pinch pennies, a large pack of Ramen can go a long way. But a lot of van lifers tend to balance quick eats, cooking in the van, and enjoying a night out from time to time. If you choose to use coffee shops as your source of internet, your cost will go up even further.

3. Laundry: $45 a Month

Oh my goodness! Laundromats are super expensive—but campgrounds often have reasonably-priced washers and dryers you can use. To do a load of laundry, it isn’t uncommon to spend $10-$15. And you might pay extra just for hot water. 

This is definitely something a lot of van lifers don’t calculate well. But it is worth adding into your budget because you won’t be taking a lot of clothes—which means you’ll be doing laundry more often. 

There are some great ways to cut back on this, though. Consider making your own laundry soap. You could make a year’s worth of laundry soap for just $25. You could also wash your clothes in your van sink—especially your socks and underwear. Also, purchase wool socks because they tend not to stink as fast, and a simple rinse makes the stink go away. 

Finally, don’t assume all laundromats charge the same. It is common for one laundromat to charge a lot for dryers and another to overcharge for the washing machine. If you can find a cheap washing machine, you could always hang dry your clothes.

4. Lodging: $200 a Month

There is a lie a lot of people believe about vanlifers. That lie is: van lifers don’t ever stay in campgrounds or other lodging accommodations. It’s actually quite common for van dwellers to stay at a campground. It allows them to get hot showers, do laundry, top off batteries, dump tanks, and even get fresh water. This is a great way to stay out on the road longer. If you do this once a week, you’ll feel great!

How to Save Money!

Another way to save money is by having a Boondockers Welcome Membership. Boondockers Welcome Memberships give you access to 3,000+ private resident locations across North America, and 70% of these have RV hookups. It could save you some serious cash over the course of a year. 

5. Life-Specific Costs

There are obviously a lot of other expenses to life, but they are very specific to your desires. We didn’t feel the need to talk about cell phone bills, revisiting the internet conversion, or talking about health insurance. Only things you might not have thought about yourself. Hopefully that helps you prepare for your adventures on the road!