In December, Destiny Pauls and Kellan Cousins took out a $48,000 loan on a 2003 Holiday Rambler motor home to live in with their dog.
Before that, the couple had been renting an apartment in Corvallis, Oregon, where Pauls was finishing up her degree at Oregon State University — and where the average rent is nearly $1,800 per month for a one-bedroom, according to the rental site RentCafe. To have the flexibility for seasonal work, which sometimes becomes available at the last minute, the couple wanted to quit renting.
“Being on the go, we wanted to be a little more comfortable and take our home with us, rather than have to keep putting our stuff into storage and paying a lot for rent,” Pauls told Insider.
They spent the winter living in their RV at a ski lodge at Mount Baker, Washington, and stayed this summer at Tyee Wine Cellars, a 256-acre vineyard and orchard in Corvallis, Oregon. The couple plan to continue working seasonally at the two locations for the foreseeable future.
Cousins estimated they were saving $600 a month, compared with rent and utility costs, since they transitioned to RV living. They shared with Insider what costs were involved with RV life and how their lifestyle worked.
They keep the RV parked and don’t use gasoline — most of the time.
“We move it occasionally if we need to, but we don’t actually move the RV itself too much unless we want to take it on a trip to go camping and have a nice vacation in our home,” Cousins said.
They spend about $800 monthly for the RV loan payment and full-coverage insurance. One major way they keep costs down is being off the grid as much as possible.
“We’re not plugged into anything, we’re not using any resources anywhere except what’s on board here — and we’ve been doing that since December,” Pauls said. “We’ve been using primarily propane and diesel.”
This summer, the couple had an agreement with the winery to work partially in exchange for parking and WiFi. The only other utility they pay for is their cellphone service.
In winter, they paid $125 twice monthly to park their van at the lodge, but next winter, their lodging is set to be free with Cousins’ promotion from working at the ski lift and in security to grooming the snowcats. His compensation includes water services such as laundry and lodge showers, as well as some food.
The couple cook mostly in the RV, which has three propane burners, but sometimes treat themselves to takeout.
“For $0 commuting, we’re living in some of the most beautiful places you can imagine,” Pauls said. “I feel super fortunate to be able to have a mobile home. It’s so cool to be able to park your home at your work, save money, and live super simply but be happy with that.”
Choosing the right RV
When they set out to find an RV, they looked for one they could resell.
“It took a lot of noes to find one we were interested in,” Cousins said. “We wanted to find something that had good value in the market.”
Cousins said their market research took into account their goal of owning property in a few years.
“If we’re likely to sell this RV over the next three to five years and take probably less than a 5% loss, that’s a really good equation for us to keep putting money into something,” Cousins said. “We say we don’t ever want to rent again.”
Pauls said they loved the RV they chose, which has a slide-out kitchen area that helps them maximize their interior space, as well as extra storage beneath the vehicle. It also features real tile and other upscale finishes. Recently, they upgraded the hardwood flooring.
Cousins said the only downside to living in the RV was feeling cooped up at times, even though they could go a lot of places and spread their wings. Pauls said RV life was restrictive in terms of family visits — “but I guess the contrast is you’re mobile, so maybe you can head their direction,” she said.
“There’s a 100-gallon tank on board for diesel, and that typically lasts us about a month or so,” Pauls said.
Since the couple can use the employee showers at the ski lodge, they winterize the sink, shower, and toilet in the RV when they have bathroom access.
Cousins said they’re considering upgrading to a larger battery bank soon. The RV has just under 500 ampere-hours, and he’d like to triple or quadruple that.
“A larger battery bank would probably run in the neighborhood of $5,000 to 6,000, but we’ll literally pay that over the course of the time we’re off-grid in about 12 to probably 18 months, so it pays for itself pretty quickly,” Cousins said.
In the future, Pauls said they might be interested in buying an off-grid property to build and park on.
“We like being in the RV, but we also like the idea of an off-grid home somewhere that would work for a small family scenario — but also have an RV to go travel and still get out,” Pauls said.
“These days, there’s a lot of people building out vans, figuring out how to have a smaller footprint, getting rid of their leases, and making a move. It’s interesting to see and be a part of that shift,” Pauls said.
She added: “A lot of homes are expensive, outrageous even, so this is a different way of doing it, and many people are finding a lot of satisfaction doing it.”