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How We Are Budgeting for Full-Time Motorhoming

How We Are Budgeting for Full-Time Motorhoming

By on Jun 7, 2013



What does it cost to quit your job and live full-time in a motorhome for a year? The honest answer is that we don’t know exactly. Nonetheless, here is how we made our estimate.

Living full-time in a motorhome is going to be challenging. Doing so without a guaranteed income makes it seem even more daunting. It is easy, at this point, to become overwhelmed and give up. I’m certainly no exception, as I was the one dragging my feet: it was going to be too expensive and we have debt to pay too. How are we ever going to afford it?

Fortunately, over the last few years, we found some people who have inspired us and have since helped us (me) get beyond the costs.

  • First, there are Warren & Betsy Talbot of MarriedWithLuggage.com. They have been publishing the costs of their round the world travels monthly, on RTWExpenses.com. Beyond being a great source of information about day-to-day costs of living on the road, this information has been quite revealing. Through their site, they’ve demonstrated it doesn’t cost a fortune to travel around the world. Yes, you have to make sacrifices (no 5-star hotels, d’oh!), but you also don’t need to deny yourself completely.
  • Second, perhaps unbeknownst to them, Jason and Julie from OurTour.co.uk, have become a great source of inspiration. In 2011, they bought a used motorhome, named Dave, and took their life on the road, with their dog, Charlie, for a year. Six hundred days later, they are still going, because they found the cost of living to be cheaper than they budgeted. Like the Talbots, they’ve also kept track of their expenses and shared them on their site.

Interestingly, although both couples are travelling full-time in different ways, their overall costs are very similar. So with these resources we could easily cross-check our spending assumptions.

Estimating the cost of a motorhome

Estimating costs is pretty straight forward, so long as you accept any estimate will be wrong. According to Warren & Betsy’s book, Dream Save Do: An Action Plan for Dreamers, the point is to make a quick estimate as early as possible and then refine it as you go. For our goal, the scariest bit of the estimate would be the huge initial cost of buying a motorhome.

Since we’d been talking about travelling by motorhome for a while, we went to a motorhome show, in Brussels, early in the winter. It was great to get a sense of the models, sizes, layouts, and prices. This has provided us with some thoughts on what we like and don’t like, but also clarified that we really can’t afford to buy a new one.  Time to look at the used market.

Since neither of us is mechanically inclined, despite my father-in-law’s talents in that area, we are not comfortable looking at anything really old. So something 10-12 years old is our target. I’m sure we’ll still need some expert advice when we are looking to buy, so perhaps our budget needs to include a couple of flights from Canada.

Searching for used motorhomes is a bit overwhelming, due to the choice, so we focused on Hymer as a brand. Our primary reason for this is Dave (Jason & Julie’s motorhome) is a Hymer B544, which is pretty close to the model and size we preferred at the motorhome show. We then narrowed the choices down to sizes small enough to drive on most roads in Europe, meaning less than 3500kg in weight. With these criteria we found most motorhomes were somewhere between €20k and €30k. So, taking the mid-point, we are estimating the cost of a used motorhome to be €25k +/- €5k, depending on options and any extra work we may need to do.

Twenty-five thousand Euros is a big chunk of money, but, considering it will become our home, it is important to get the best we can afford. If we only did a year of travel, a €25k motorhome would be equivalent to €2083.33 per month in rent. But stretch that to two years or more and you can see how the savings build up. Plus we can sell it at the end and recoup some of our investment.

Day-to-Day Living Costs

Having estimated the cost to purchase a used motorhome, we turned to the cost of day-to-day living. One clear benefit of a motorhome is having our own kitchen, so we can prepare a lot of our own meals. However, we also have to pay for gas (both petrol and cooking) and find a place to camp for the night. This is where the spending information posted by Jason & Julie is really helpful.

Looking at their 600 day spending report, Jason & Julie averaged €46.50 per day on their travels so far. In their post, they split up all of their costs into various buckets, such as supermarkets, eating out, diesel, repairs, and more. Likewise, Warren & Betsy have also broken out their costs into categories, allowing us to easily compare the two couples.

Roughly speaking, they both spend about the same amount per month on food and alcohol. Jason & Julie don’t break out alcohol and Warren & Betsy don’t separate costs for eating out. However, putting the categories together you end up with $601 and $670, respectively, on food and alcohol per month.  Knowing our own proclivities for food and drink, we shall assume a slightly higher monthly budget.

Beyond food and alcohol, we’ve decided to use Jason & Julie’s experience as a guideline and we built the rest of our estimates based on that. So here is what we’ve estimated:

Category Monthly Yearly
Food  €      400  €     4,800
Alcohol  €      200  €     2,400
Diesel  €      250  €     3,000
Repairs  €      150  €     1,800
Campsites  €      150  €     1,800
Other Travel  €      100  €     1,200
Phones/internet  €        75  €         900
Tours etc  €        75  €         900
Overnight stops  €        50  €         600
Clothes & Laundry  €        50  €         600
Supplies  €        50  €         600
LPG  €        25  €         300
Cats  €        50  €         600
Tolls  €        15  €         180
Other Miscellaneous  €        10  €         120
Souvenirs  €        10  €         120
Parking  €        10  €         120
Total  €  1,670  €   20,040

As you can see, we’ve used round numbers, but we will have opportunity to refine them as we plan and decide how (and where) we want to travel. Will we drive more or less than Jason & Julie? Will we be able to find as much free camping? Will our motorhome have as many issues as they’ve needed to sort out? Some of these questions we can’t begin to answer until we start on the journey itself.

So at a high level, we now have our budget. To be able to travel for the first year, we need to save approximately €45k plus pay off our existing debt. How are we going to do that? We have some ideas, but that’s the subject of another post.

What do you think? Did we miss something in our estimate? How do you plan out your budget for travel?




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Andrew

Writer, Geek, & Chauffeur at CheeseWeb.eu
Andrew is a technology enthusiast (aka geek) who enjoys coding, history, technology, travel, food, wine, and more. He also creates videos and writes for CheeseWeb.eu, our site about slow travel in Europe and beyond. He loves castles, driving on narrow, twisty mountain roads and relaxing with a glass of peaty Scotch. Follow Andrew on Google+.

    9 Comments

  1. Hi Alison & Andrew, Good luck with your savings plan and dream. I am also aiming to do the same in a couple of years. Ourtour.co.uk has also been a huge inspiration having read Jason and Julies blog end to end it just makes me more determined.

  2. Wow! that’s a big money for maintenance. 🙁

    • Well – we didn’t know how old we’d have to go and what we’d be faced with in repairs! Fortunately we’ve not had much in the way of repair costs so far… *touches wood*

  3. hi good luck with your adventure, we are also looking to go next spring ,just bought new moho,and selling the house, money wise we have £300 a week to live on, so will be very tight for us,but cant wait xx

    • Very exciting, Gail! Good luck with your plans. Your budget sounds very doable, especially once you get the hang of the Aires and free camping (boondocking). It’s a great way to see parts of the continent few other tourists visit, I’m sure you’ll have a great time! Let us know how you get on with your preparations and travels. We have more articles to come about our travels last year, France Passion, and other tools, so stay tuned! 🙂

  4. Hi Andrew ,
    Are you still on the road , if not , how did the adventure go ?

    Mark

    • Hey Mark! Technically, we are still on the road, but the road diverged a bit. In August 2015 we had to put our travels on hold to return back to Canada to support Alison’s parents after her father was diagnosed with mesothelioma. Unfortunately, a year later, her father passed away but we are thankful we had that last year together with him. During this time, we realized getting back to Europe to travel wasn’t going to be possible in the short term. So last spring (2016), we bought a motorhome here in Canada and set about traveling around eastern Canada. We’re currently wintering with Alison’s mother, helping her declutter and weather the season. Our plan is to hit the road again full-time in early May, exploring the national historic sites and parks as part of Canada’s 150th anniversary. I do still have notes from our four months on the road in Europe which I will eventually get online. It was a wonderful experience and we look forward to getting back to it one day in the future! In the meantime, we are excited to explore our own country.

  5. Hi. I’m thinking of traveling and living in a motorhome next year. To travel around Europe “alone”?.I’ve got a small pension and renting my house which should bring me an income of about 1000 a month. Do you think a 1000 will be enough???

    • Hi Jacko,
      What budget is ‘enough’ really depends on so many factors; at the end of the day, you’re the only one who can make this determination. Some factors to consider: what kind of camping will you do, free-camping, campgrounds, Aires and farm stays? What countries will you visit? How far will you travel each day? How much do you typically spend on food? Do you have reoccurring expenses that won’t change whether you travel or not (insurance, bank fees, etc)? Our best advice is to try to plan out your budget as best you can before you leave like we did and put a bit aside for unexpected expenses.

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