Living in an RV full-time in a park: A how-to guide

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Thanks to the rise of work from home and online education, there has never been a better time to live full-time in an RV. No longer do you need to be in a city to work, learn, or play. Cellular data infrastructure has significantly improved with increasing swaths of the American landscape covered by 4G LTE networks, allowing you to set up a hotspot almost anywhere you go. 

On top of the improved feasibility of living in an RV full-time, living in your own traditional house or apartment is also becoming less accessible. House prices in many parts of the country have soared, and rent prices are rising to meet them. This has left many people looking for housing further and further from where they want to live, paying more than they want to, and needing roommates just to make monthly payments. 

If all this is leading you to consider living in your RV full-time in a park, here is a quick how-to guide to cover the basics.

Setting Expectations

While living full-time in an RV can be an adventurous, freeing experience, it is important to know that it won’t be the same as vacationing in an RV. Even with the biggest, nicest RVs, you will have to embrace a life of minimalism to some extent or another.


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Finding Your Park

Different states and municipalities can have different rules about living full-time in an RV. Oftentimes, even if you own land, you must live in a stationary house, and many RV parks only offer rentals for a limited period of time. You need to research the RV parks in the area where you want to live and make sure that they allow year-round, permanent residency. Once you’ve got a list of the places you are interested in living in, contact them to ask about availability. Parks will often have limited spaces with annual rentals since they can charge higher rates on short term rentals. If needed, you can have month to month rentals or season to season, but you can expect to pay a premium if you aren’t on an annual contract.

When looking for a park to move to full-time, there are three main services that you want to look for: electrical hookup, water hookup, and sewage hookup. If you were just looking for a weekend stay in a park, you might not need these amenities, but living full-time without these would be quite the challenge.


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Know your electrical options

Your RV likely has a deep cycle battery, so you might think that you are set for your electrical needs with that. But the battery is only meant to power small, essential electronics like the water pumps, ventilation fans, and lights. If you want to live full-time in your RV, you’ll need to use your refrigerator, microwave, air-conditioning, and electronic devices like computers and televisions. You might be able to provide all this electricity in the short term with a generator, or long-term with a robust solar power system. 

But practically speaking, gasoline costs would add up quickly and a solar system that large would be costly to buy and maintain. You’re going to need a park with a 30-amp/50-amp electrical hookup. Your manual will tell you which amperage you need, as should a safety warning sticker next to the power cable. 

Hooking up to shore power

To connect to shore power, find the power cable on your RV, open the compartment, and extend the cable to the appropriate power source. It might be wise to keep a generator as a backup or some solar panels for supplementary energy if you have them, but the electrical hookup is what will keep the lights on long term.

Know your internet options

While not as absolutely essential as the other three, you should know about the internet availability where you plan to live, especially if you want to work from home. An RV park might offer this service, but if not you will have to make sure that you have good access to a cellular network allowing you to set up a hotspot.

Using city water

Your RV’s water tank might be big, but it is still limited in its capacity. Most trailers will only hold around 50 gallons of water, give or take. A typical shower uses about 2 gallons per minute, so even ignoring handwashing, flushing, cooking, and cleaning, you will run out of water fairly quickly. Even with the water capacity of a large Class A motorhome, you’ll want a water hookup if you want to live full-time in your RV.

Hooking up your water

To connect to the water supply, find your RV’s city water connection valve; it should look similar to a garden hose fitting. You might want to attach a water filter to your water intake as well. Then, look for the water fitting from the park. It might be wise to first run the water a little bit to make sure there is no gunk or buildup on the faucet, then turn it off. 

From there, connect a drinking-water-safe RV water hose (NOT a garden hose) to the fitting. Again, you might want to run a little bit of water through it to make sure it’s clear, then turn the water off. Now, connect the hose to either the filter or directly into the fitting of your RV’s water system. Now, you can turn the freshwater pump off in your RV and the park’s water connection will come through.

Using a sewage hookup

Like the freshwater, your RV only has a limited capacity for grey water and black water. 

If you don’t know yet, grey water is the waste that comes from the drains of the showers and sinks— water that is too dirty to drink, but not necessarily a biohazard. Some locations allow you to dump greywater straight onto the ground since it shouldn’t be too harmful, but some places don’t allow this since they don’t want soap or chemicals leaching into the groundwater. All federally managed lands require proper disposal of grey water. You should definitely check with your park to see their policy on grey water disposal, but as a rule of thumb, you should expect that you always have to dispose of it through a sewage line.

Black water is the drainage from the toilet. It is highly unsanitary and must be disposed of properly in the sewage. The more people you have living in our RV, the more often you will need to clear out the black water container. This is why it is ideal to have a sewage hookup at your own space, and not just communal sewage lines that require you to move your RV any time it fills up.


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Emptying the blackwater tank

To empty your black water and grey water, you first need to find your sewage valve and make sure that it is closed. Once you’re sure, you can unscrew the cap at the end of the sewage release. In its place, screw in your sewer hose. Most sewage connections will have an open pipe, so just snake the tube as deep into the pipe as it will go. Then, you can very slowly release the sewage valve, checking for any leaks until the process is over. You should really only do this process when the black water tank is getting close to full.

Join your community

Those who choose to live in an RV may come from different backgrounds and be there for different reasons, but you’ve all ended up at the same place. Now it’s up to you to embrace each other as a big community of free-spirited individuals.

The friends you make may move on and live elsewhere soon, but that’s a part of life, and you get to form relationships while you’re together and have memories when you’re apart. And who knows, you might end up finding a new place to live someday yourself and be reunited with old acquaintances. 

As noted author and RV full-timer Bob Wells said in the movie Nomadland, “One of the things I love most about this life is that there's no final goodbye. You know, I've met hundreds of people out here and I don't ever say a final goodbye. I always just say, ‘I'll see you down the road.’ And I do. And whether it's a month, or a year, or sometimes years, I see them again.”

So go on and embrace the life and the freedom of living in your RV full-time. And when your rental is up, see if you want to go back to more conventional housing, renew and stay in your community, or start the next step of your adventure.

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