It’s All About the Travel – Cost to Equip a Rig

It would seem to be common sense that one should know there are additional costs beyond just buying a trailer and truck as part of a new full time RV lifestyle. I had not actually written down a specific list of additional equipment costs until now. A long time ago I simply came up with a budget based on how much of our net worth we would be willing to spend on a rig, guessing we might use it for six years. That became the budget.

I had little to no real idea which trailer and truck we wanted and therefore what the true cost would be. Heck, I didn’t learn what the dealerships were referring to as a “price point” until well into my research. Of course, the “budget” should have quickly become more of a limiting and necessary factor as Karen and I began to tour trailers and learned what the anticipated discount off the listed price might be.

I should go ahead and apologize for the sarcasm that you are about to read. It has a point in that it demonstrates how I can become ridiculous in my quest to find a simple trailer and truck.  I’m also not intending to criticize anyone that has the means to purchase whatever rig they want. And hope I don’t loose any readers over this one as I depend upon your comments and suggestions. I am hoping this post helps others in a similar position come closer to selecting their own rig.

Luckily it did not take but a few hours at an RV show to know a big Newmar diesel pusher was not in our future. Internet searches taught me there were specific categories of fifth wheel trailers lumped together within any one manufacturers list of products. In our case this category was the luxury full profile trailers. Simply put, these are the ones that are nearly 13′ tall in the front. Examples being perhaps the Heartland series to include the Big Country, Bighorn and Landmark.  Or the Keystone Montana and Alpine. The choices for a new trailer are overwhelming. Especially if one throws in the idea used trailers from several higher price points might be within a budget. So I kept them on one large list within this blog site thinking I’d eventually know the pros and cons of each trailer.

For some sadistic reason, I also decided to learn about all the nice options one could add to a trailer, pushing the base model into a higher price point.  I had to go out and read a dozen blogs about what others had added to their campers, sometimes a short time after buying the trailer. Such as a MorRyde independent suspension, heavier axles, H rated tires, full body paint jobs and disc brakes. What to do? I guessed just check them all out and see how much the stuff, I mean excellent equipment, costs added at the time of initial purchase. And then dream as if the budget could be increased to a magical level. As if my pension and savings would grow to the necessary level by the time I retired six years early.  Hmm – that seems reasonable…. for about 10 minutes when you think about it.  At least that mindset took less time to flush out of the decision process compared to the “let’s spend more of our savings now on a depreciating asset and buy a shed to live in later.”

Then a voice came out of heaven (actually from a blog follower’s comment). That comment was “it’s all about the travel” and not the trailer. Thanks Ingrid! I have thought about that comment for many months and it truly helped. I should have included the concept from day one when the initial budget was created.  To me “it’s all about the travel” includes a long definition. Among which at the very least might be the trailer and truck get you from point A to point B so you can enjoy the scenery. Intuitively we all know a new car, boat and RV will someday loose its luster and become just another object to get rid of or replace. Just like the homes many of us are now downsizing and selling off.

All this being said, for us we still don’t want to take the fun out of travel by moving into a new home we will not enjoy. Or worst yet, perhaps be the deciding factor why we give up the lifestyle. I’ve owned a popup camper and there is no way that would work for us. Nor do I have any dreams of quickly mastering backing into a spot with a 45’ trailer towed by a Volvo semi truck after avoiding the trees, vehicles and other objects next to the campground roadway.

I was thinking it would someday be nice to go back to a few ideas mentioned in prior blog posts and let the reader know if the idea or plan worked once we had been on the road for a period of time. I think I can attempt that now even without having spent a day in our future fifth wheel. At least when it comes to developing a truck and trailer budget. And I might add I am taking to heart and very much appreciate all the great advice I’ve learned from experienced travelers . There are so many ways to travel in an RV and all methods offer great points of reference.

I think I did it right in September of 2014 when I dusted off the old financial plan for retirement and brought it up to date. Also later when I took an inventory of financial assets at the time and future in the case of investments. I’ve got a fairly good idea of what will be our net worth at the time of retirement. Karen and I have discussed ad nauseam what our expectations will be for purchasing a home once we come off the road and how much cash to hold back for that. It’s not fun for Karen but is amusing to me that some of the conversations include her telling me we already talked about that three times. Someday I’ll be able to tell her “don’t you remember we talked about that three times” should there be a flaw in the plan. I do like it when she suggests we may not need to worry about a new place to live beyond buying a new trailer to continue the journey. I however like plan B’s that allow us to change course 180 degrees if necessary.

I’ll get to the point now.  And that is I should have taken the time to come up with a close list of extra costs to equip a trailer and truck rather than just assuming it would fit in the budget. Because that would have helped narrow the selection of a rig even further. Admittedly, much of these costs would be learned perhaps after finding them on someone’s blog, an article or through my own study. Others appeared to have figured out the real costs rather quickly, having bought their rig in a matter of months.

I’ve been compiling lists on pages in this blog as I learned about equipment others are purchasing for their trucks and trailers over years of travel. I’ll never have those lists complete with every possible item to choose from. In about four hours I wrapped that research up using a large Camping World catalog. And had fun dreaming about all the cool junk, I mean important equipment, one might need that was not already on the list.  I then took 30 minutes to go to my States Department of Motor Vehicles website to get an idea on what the taxes and fees would be to register a new to us rig.

I don’t have this perfectly worked out and don’t intend to even attempt that. But I’m assuming we will spend 5.25% for State and local taxes on the truck and trailer purchase which could be in the neighborhood of $5,400.

For equipping the new truck and the trailer that could start out as low as maybe $2,517 to drive it off the lot and plug it into full hookups at a campsite. This includes a fancy fifth wheel hitch. But more likely we will want to spend about $6,367 on new equipment initially to include more costly items Karen and I have talked about, apparently during at least three individual conversations.

Yup, I did a spreadsheet with all those items listed using the catalog price, my notes or taking an educated guess.  If I’ve linked it correctly you can look at it here: Items to Purchase

I went a step further and ranked each item in order of priority based on what we might purchase at the start and at various increments.  In total that list came out to $25,308 if one was to add all the previous mentioned upgrades, solar, built-in surge protection, a truck bed cover and much less expensive items.  You can look at the list for ideas. I could see us spending up to $9,775 in the first year or two of ownership to equip the trailer and truck on top of the $5,400 to license it. That’s a $15,000 bite out of what we have decided to be our rig budget. That pushes several trailers out of our budget by price point.  To include many if bought used that I’d want to own.

I do want to make one very important point that I learned from those more experienced than myself.  For the most part, we will do our best not to purchase any of these non-essential items until we have lived in our trailer for a period of time. Yes, we did buy an inflatable boat and use it now. Karen has an Instant Pot and uses it now. I guess I must also admit we bought a $15 grill top and a new light on a camping trip. But I did pass on the 50% off Weber Q 1200 grill at Walmart.  Bet I’ll regret that one.

It has been fun researching and dreaming because I had the past three years to do it. Kind of my right now RV fix I suppose. But realistically, deep down it surely must become all about the travel rather than the junk we will someday want to sell off. Especially for most of us who are on a budget. And for those who are not on a budget, it might be safe to assume they already bought their rig and spent the $25,000 for extra stuff. And it’s all been parked in their driveway at home for at least the past six months. For me, I’ve been there, done that and have a motorcycle to sell to prove it.

Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you found this post amusing yet beneficial.


R.I.P Officer Gary Michael of the Clinton Missouri Police. Last call August 6, 2017.

26 thoughts on “It’s All About the Travel – Cost to Equip a Rig

  1. Thanks for the mention. Gosh, you really are thorough. Makes me feel like we just jumped in … well, kind of true 😁 We took a pass on the solar and just use a generator for those times we boondock. The numbers didn’t make sense for us. Last summer we did a fair amount of boondocking but this summer not much.


  2. Ingrid – Good to know how you handled solar because I know you guys go off grid at times. I’ve been thinking extra batteries and a multi stage charger, with a small generator would do the trick if one wanted to maybe think a little longer about solar. I’ve read that some of the chargers that come with a trailer do a good job of quick charging to a point but the last top off of the battery takes a lot longer. A multi stage charger better handles the last percentages of charging. We are planning to start off with probably two batteries and make changes after that after we find out style of travel. Although, if we later added two more batteries (6 volt setup) I’ve read you would want to replace the existing at the same time. Oh, we are also leaning heavy towards a gas/electric fridge rather than a residential. We have been in enough parks with power issues to know it would be nice not to have to worry about having enough juice to run the fridge.

    Thanks again for you view that it’s all about the travel. Kind of helped ground me in terms of going overboard with a trailer.



  3. If you are serious about going off the grid, you NEED a dual refrigerator. If you want to be annoying, boondock without solar. When my solar did not work correctly and I had to use my generator in a Vermont State Campground, another camper came up to me and asked me if I was going to run it all day. I was running it during permissible hours as outlined by the campground. During my first 7 month trip, I did not have to run my generator while off the grid, because my solar did a terrific job.


  4. I hear you Russ. We are figuring off grid would mostly be something like BLM land but could see using it in a parking lot as well. Suppose it would be the state parks with no electric that could be an issue with a generator now that you mention it. I am looking to get a smaller one or two similar to the Hondas. And I could see them being an issue when the AC needs to run and a neighbor gets upset.

    I’m looking forward to seeing your setup when you come to town. Figure we will wait and see what are needs are before deciding.

    I’d like you opinion if we should go with four batteries to start with so as not to have to change them out if we do solar in the first year or two. Or do RV batteries not last much longer than that? Right now we are figuring on two batteries which I’d prefer be the 6 volt type.


    • No need to add batteries if you don’t add solar. If your rig is solar ready, it would be cheap money to get portable solar to keep your battery charged when off the grid, so that you can use your 12v lights, heater, and fridge. I went with 4 – 12v AGM batteries. They removed my lead battery, when they set up my batteries, because it is not wise to mix batteries. If I had it to do over, I would now go with 4 – 6v AGM batteries because they discharge slower, ie. longer usable battery life. Boondocking in organized areas, is similar to camping in a campground. Neighbors are close by and easily annoyed. When we were in Quartzsite and several other locations, it was surprising how many other RVers were camped so closely together in the BLM areas. I am thinking of camping in your area for at least a week so that you can show us the sites and spend as much time as you like examining our solar set-up. See you in the Spring.

      Liked by 1 person

    • I concur w/Russ about the annoyance factor of generators. The only times I used my generator was for short stays in rest stops, truck stops and parking lots, plus occasionally while in motion to ensure my animals stayed cool.
      I’ll also be interested to hear what you learn about battery/solar setup, as my plan with the new rig is to be totally solar, including the ability to run at least one of the two air conditioners.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Karen here. Mark has made comments since the beginning of this blog that attributes attitude and feelings I have about whatever he happens to be writing about at the time. He doesn’t always get it right and I don’t say much about it. I think I will clarify my input on a regular basis and if anyone wants my real opinion/thoughts, please ask. We both have expectations about our journey and sometimes they don’t mesh.
    Marks commented about what to do when we decide we are on to plan B. I did remark that we could buy another RV rather than a stationary home. What he didn’t tell you was that my expectation when we are finished wandering is MY retirement dream. I grew in Michigan have been a sailor since I was a little girl. I have loved lake living all my life and my dream is to have a home on a freshwater lake. My family played and sailed on Lake Huron regularly, my Father always owned a sailboat from a 30 foot sloop to a 24 foot Day Sailor. We vacationed in Northern Michigan on Crystal, lake for years, sailed, skied, paddle boards and one man sailboats were our regular routine. Lake Michigan is my favorite lake in Michigan and I lived within a 30 minute drive for 15 years. It is safe to say that I miss the “Big” water desperately. I think Mark has forgotten that conversation. That said I am fully invested in his dream of living full time in an RV and exploring America together for as long as we decide that is what we want to do.
    I know that I will have to teach him to get off his rigid schedule (he’s type A, if you haven’t noticed). He will have to give up time for just following light and dark and how to stop trying to accomplish things and just sit back and enjoy.
    Thank you for listening! I appreciate comments and questions. As to the Instant Pot… well another time.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I have been thinking about getting an Instant Pot. If I don’t have one by Spring, when we come through your town, you will have to enlighten me. My dream originally was to live on a sailboat and travel the world. As I got older, I got realistic and am now traveling the country in TT. I would love to live on a lake or river when I stop traveling. I’ll probably end up in assisted living. 🙂

      Liked by 1 person

      • Russ, Hold off on the Instant pot, you can try mine when you’re in town to see how you like it.
        I really don’t think you’ll end up in assisted living.
        I always wanted to live on a sailboat. I saw a beautiful 52′ sloop with shiny fixings, 4 sails, teakwood decks… in Frankfort Harbor when I was about 12. They even had a dog on board. They were sailing the great lakes, kind of like RV loving on water. Well, that’s a young mans dream so now if I ever take cruise, it will be sailing cruise where I can be deck hand or a bartender!!. Don’t give up or think you are to old to pursue your dreams, you might not approach them the way you thought but keep your mind open to accomplishing them from behind, or sideways, or however. I also keep the option open for Mark to go without me in case he wants to join the FBI again or go to Afghanistan to train troops there. Peace, out.

        Liked by 1 person

  6. Here’s our list of what we purchased right away:
    2 Honda 2000’s generators vs an on-board generator. He decided on these due to their being light weight and relatively inexpensive, and their proven reliability.
    Considering the money we saved on not purchasing an expensive generator, we invested instead in solar, yes, right away. The opportunity presented itself and we jumped on it and have never regretted it.
    Bill felt it important to have a proper toolbox, so after significant research, he purchased a Brute 5th Wheel toolbox for the back of the truck.
    We also researched and purchased an RV GPS.
    Of course we invested in high-quality sewer hoses, with swivel connectors, quick disconnects for all water hoses, quality fresh water hoses, 50amp to 30amp electric adaptors, as well as extension cords.
    Things a lot of people get right away that we decided to adapt a wait and see were a washer/dryer (we never got to the point of trying to decide which to get), and satellite. Three years later we still do not have these things and we do not regret it.
    Probably the largest “what to get/keep” things we kept was my car. We have not regretted keeping my car. We did leave it in FL for our 2016 trip and may leave it again depending where we decide to go.
    We know lots of people who get all new household items for their rigs, such as dishes, silverwear, small kitchen appliances such as coffee makers, etc. we kept all our items from our house. We did already own Corelle dishes, which are lightweight and don’t chip easily. We saved a lot of money that way.
    That’s all I can think of right now – I’ll comment again if I think of anything else.


    • Thank you so much for your list, it helps confirm a few things. I’d have to go back to your blog to make sure but thought you may have also started with a residential fridge. We met with some part-timers tonight that are going fulltime. Talked about he fridge thing. I could definitely see going with 4 batteries followed by solar ASAP with a residential fridge assuming wants plans on boondocking.

      We have to invest in some Corelle dishes and have been watching some of the local sales for them because sometimes they have them, in good shape, at estate sales. We also plan on taking everything possible from the house that is needed rather than buying new. Just makes a lot of sense.

      I’ll check out that Brute fifth wheel tool box. If you guys did the research I’m sure it must be a good option. Definitely want a regular tool box rather than some loose totes for the truck that would be harder to get in.

      I’m pretty sold on going with the smaller generators. Seems like it would take too long to cool off a longer fifth wheel at rest stops, for example, to be worried about having a whole house generator anyway. I’ve just not decided if going with two compared to a 3000 watt single yet. I could see having the 2000 watt units might be a good way to top of the batteries by running just one, then throw the other on to start up an air conditioner.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Yes – we started with a residential refrigerator – forgot to list it because it came with the rig – which we bought off the lot. Interestingly, it is the one things we probably would not have gotten if we would have ordered it. I can not stress how happy we are to have it! Complete with ice maker and water dispenser! We drink a lot of water with ice, and I would have missed it. I’m not sure if 4 batteries will be enough, you can PM me and discuss with Bill to figure out solar needs. Bill does LOVE his toolbox. He also considered the Honda 3000 gennie, but he decided it would be too heavy to move around. He also felt there are many occasions when you only need one 2000 generator, and to be honest we’ve only used them both at the same time 3 times, saving the gas.


  7. After a couple trips back and forth around North America in my last truck/trailer rig, I had adjustable air bags installed on the rear wheels of my tow vehicle, which improved the ride of both truck and trailer so much I was kicking myself for not doing it sooner (don’t remember price). Thus, something I will do from the onset when I buy my new truck & trailer this time.
    Ditto usefulness for trailer cameras, both side and rear.
    Also no full-timer’s RV should be without:
    – a jar of varying size bungee cords
    – several adjustable curtain rod-like cabinet bars to restrain the small things that like to jump out of a cabinet upon opening after a long trip (a few dollars a rod)
    – a roll of 2″ wide, adhesive-backed Velcro to cut and use as needed
    – several packages of adhesive backed 3M Command Strips and Command Strip-backed hooks for securing items to walls (without destroying the wall)
    – at least one wearable head lamp for each person traveling
    – a dozen road flares
    I also found having a combination battery charger, air compressor, emergency light unit extremely useful (about $40)


    • Thanks for the list and comments Cynthia. I was just talking to a guy about air bags on the truck the other night. He was saying they also help level the truck out when there is a load on it so you tow better. Do you have any experience with the air bag hitches?

      I let Karen know that you responded to her comment!



  8. Great list of gear. One thought, some of the items are not what I’d call outftting gear… Instapot comes to mind. We’d have one either way… S&B or RV so we count such items as normal acquisitions along the way of life. Now sewer hose, 50 amp extension cords, MORryde IS and the like are RV specific and should be counted as “outfitting items”. Should make your list a bit less scary than 25K… LOL. Our list is getting similarly long, approaching 21K. roughly 3/4 is like you… MORryde, Tires, Disc brakes, solar, genny batteries, electronics. There are many “oh we should have that” items… DSLR camera being one that have made it on the list, but really belong in the same category as an Instapot… JMHO.

    We’re going to try to use as much “already on hand” gear as possible, and for sure there will be a weight penalty… dishes are a good example, we know corelle is durable and lightweight, but until we need new stuff, we’ll keep what we have and save the money for other things.

    Something to consider as part of outfitting budget is intangible things, For us we include initial fees for Coachnet, upfront cost for club memberships like Thousand Trails, Passport America etc. setting aside money for them helps defray those checking account “hits” that just happen to pop up because they were overlooked. Just a thought.



    • Excellent comments Brian.

      I was reading last night that when someone adds the MorRyde IS that it adds something like 450 pounds of weight for each axle if you also go with 8,000 pound axle upgrades/disc brakes/H rated tires. But all the weight is below the frame. Does not change the cargo capacity but might play heck with the weight scale in terms of total weight.

      One thing I’m having trouble deciding is do we start with four batteries as that is what I’d want eventually. And if you add any new batteries mixed with old it’s not a good idea. I’d rather not have to change out two existing when we add the other two. Got a friend who is a full timer going to show me his four battery setup in the spring. Really looking forward to that. The practical side of me says start with two batteries and just see how it goes. Any ideas?


  9. Pingback: Trip to Jacksonville Florida | Our Future in an RV

  10. Mark,

    In one of your articles you spoke about two RV manufacturers that paid their employees by the hour; one was Augusta. Who is the second one (I can’t find the specific blog)? Also, Heartland Landmark 365 has a new floor plan – the Louisville. It’s less than 38 feet and looks interesting. I am trying to get more information from them.


    • Lori, the second company is New Horizons in Kansas. I was going to post this on another blog but might as well put it out here. I read an interesting article where Forest River is hiring hourly workers to build the Puma travel trailer. Is this the start of a shift from paid by the piece were speed is valued over quality of work?

      We did not like the pantry location in the Louisville which is across from the kitchen. Admittedly we have not seen it in person yet. The master bedroom storage and the fact it comes with a longer shower, rather than a corner shower is attractive. We toured the Oshkosh which is still on our list but that 38′ length in the Louisville is nice. Once you get under around 38′ we have had to also watch out for narrow theater seating.

      The other day I finished evaluating the Redwood, which in the price point (with full paint). I thought I had to consider it when looking at the Landmark. The 340RL (3401RL if residential fridge) is one of our favorite layouts. We toured it this year at a local dealership. However, I’m concerned if the Redwood is going to survive now that Keystone bought Crossroads/Redwood.

      Thor bought DRV and it is now part of Heartland, which I found to interesting.

      Really interested in any trailers you guys look at that might compare to the Landmark. Unfortunately in the past three years Augusta seems like they have raised their pricing considerably, which is the right thing to do for that trailer. I’m not sure what discount they will actually give being factory direct. Personally I think it should be more than 30%. If my research is correct, many manufacturers sell to dealerships at closer to a 50% discount for the expensive luxury fifth wheels. Although I would not expect Augusta to do this given the materials they are building with. In other words, some of that savings is built into a better built trailer. When we get closer to buying I’m going to hammer down Augusta on a real price which may still be out of our budget. Can’t find any used ones out there.


      • Thanks for responding so quickly. I agree with you on the price point of Augusta; it does seem to be climbing in price but I guess until we are ready to actually “purchase” we may not know their bottom line. Their quality is definitely top-notch which is probably why you don’t see many used ones (owners must really be happy with them). We also like the Oshkosh but are interested in the Louisville because of the shorter length and the dinette set-up that makes into a bed; it seems like a good use of space but we may feel differently once we actually see one. Pantry location doesn’t bother me so much. We hope to tour the RV Factory next month but most of their inventory will be at the RV show in Hershey while we are there so I’m not sure we will see a completed Ambition. We may tour Heartland to look at the Louisville since they don’t have any shipping to Florida when they roll out in September/October. Will keep you updated. thanks again!

        Liked by 1 person

  11. My last post got pretty off topic and re-reading Mark’s blog and reading all of your comments got me thinking. A list of what you need is practical and fun. Shopping and buying new things is something people enjoy doing, but to back track a little. Getting rid of your stuff has to come first. For many, it’s tough and thinking about it has been hard on and off. My solution has been my mindset. Getting rid of clothes was relatively easy. My wardrobe was mostly suits. And shoes and bags (purses). Many of the things were easy to leave behind. I did have second thoughts about the bags, but ended up selling them in stages. I still have a few (6) left that need to go. My secret to let stuff go is twofold.
    I first reminisced about my early 20’s. I didn’t have much and the most valuable things to me were my dog and my car. The freedom of that time of my life without stuff was good. I use that feeling when I’m deciding what to keep or sell or donate . It ends up we have a lot of trash.
    The second secret is to detach. I started in my kitchen. I took all my cooking utensils and put them in a box. After three months, anything I didn’t use, I got rid of, including duplicates, knives (I always used the same ones) and pretty stuff. After that it has become easy I treat everything we own as temporary. Kind of like renting a furnished cottage. I can look at my things and admire them for what they are, not that they are mine. With practice it becomes easier and I find that I’m getting rid of stuff now, before it is necessary. When my sister visits and thinks something is cool, I hand it over and say, it’s yours. When I give someone flowers they keep the vase. I’m always happy to make someone happy. The result is less stuff, there hasn’t been anything I miss or wish I had. We started years ago to stop buying stuff and no one in my family exchanges gifts anymore, everyone has what they want or need. Of course, kids and grandparents are exempt from this.
    Like I said it gets easier and it feel Good.
    It’s all about your mindset.
    I hope that someone appreciates my ‘mindset’ and finds it valuable.

    Liked by 1 person

    • The planning process has been fun but mostly helps with getting my “rv dream fix” until then. Really looking forward to getting that rig a little early for extended vacations. Debbie – thanks for all the advise and comments you have provided the past nearly 3 years. Also good to hear your Montana is holding up. Also seems like every time I look at a Ram 3500 dually Laramie I think about you guys going with the Bighorn model and the cost/benefit of that savings. Like anything else, I’ll bet after a few months on the road it will not matter.



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