Upon deciding we were going to build our own off-grid home, the question that immediately followed was “Where will we live while we’re building our home?” We thought about our different options including living in an apartment, living in a travel trailer, and weighed the pros and cons of each. Ultimately, we decided to buy an RV.
We’ve put together an 11-minute video explaining why we chose to go with a travel trailer vs. renting an apartment. We will also show you what the trailer looks like and how we found it. If you are not a video person, that’s fine, just continue reading the post!
Where to Live While Building a House: Why We Chose a Travel Trailer
Living in a Travel Trailer on Your Own Land?
Costs of Travel Trailer
Finding a Travel Trailer to Buy
Moving Into Travel Trailer
One Year Update: How Is It Going?
Books on Travel Trailer Living
Where to Live While Building a House: Why We Chose a RV
Since there is a bit of work to be done on the land before we are even able to put up some type of temporary dwelling, we realized that we needed a comfortable place to live the meantime. Even though it wouldn’t be sexy, we really wanted to live on our land for multiple reasons such as:
- Wanted to live rent-free: As we will already have a land payment, we didn’t wish to spend more money on renting an apartment when we would never recover the costs. If we spent $500/month for six months, that would be $3,000 down the drain, never to be seen again. As we are investors, we wanted to find a more sustainable solution.
- Wanted to live on our land: While living in a nice apartment would provide a lot of luxuries such as unlimited water, air conditioning, heat, endless electricity, internet, etc. we really wanted to live on our land because that would give us more time to observe before making any building decisions.
- Didn’t want to deal with renting: One of the reasons we even want our own land is because we don’t want to live by someone else’s rules. While renting rules exist for a reason (and good reason, at that), we didn’t want to give 30 days notice prior to move out, didn’t want to pay move-in deposits, etc.
- We didn’t know how smooth the transition would go: As there are a lot of moving parts to transitioning to our land in Idaho, we didn’t know how smooth things would go. We figured that if we had a truck and a trailer we were fairly self-sustainable and mobile. If we needed to camp we could, if we needed to crash on family’s land for a couple weeks we could, where renting an apartment wouldn’t give us much freedom.
- Our basic needs would be met: Living in a trailer, our basic needs would be met. We would have water for showering and cooking, electricity (although we will need a generator but in the future we will get set up with solar power), the ability to use an indoor bathroom, a place to cook, and protection from the elements. Although it would be cramped, our basic needs would be met.
- A quick solution: While we looked at going straight to a temporary dwelling such as a yurt or even building a small apartment, this would take time and we really just need to get to our land with a roof over our heads, then we can plan something more long-term while we build our house.
Living in a Travel Trailer on Your Own Land: Is It Illegal?
Is living in a travel trailer on your own land allowed? This is a huge question that’s being raised right now and I think the answer is “it depends”. Rather, I’m not sure if it’s illegal or not, but there are certainly CC&Rs for various neighborhoods and lots, even within certain city limits or counties, where you’re not allowed to have a trailer on your land or live in it permanently, especially as your primary dwelling.
I think the best advice I could give on this one is before you consider this an option of living, be sure that it’s okay for the lot of interest in the city and county of interest. For us, it’s perfectly legal and against no code of any sort to live in a trailer on our land. We bought land where we did for this reason – because we could live in what we wanted how we wanted.
The Financial Ramifications of Living in a Travel Trailer
Another reason we chose to go with a travel trailer is that it makes a lot of sense financially. While we would never get back the money we would spend renting an apartment for 6 months or so, we could recover our investment on a RV.
The RV we ended up buying was $2,500. This is equivalent to about 5-months of rent. However, there is a high likelihood that we can sell it again for what we bought it for, if not substantially more. Essentially, this means we will be living rent-free on our property and we will only have our land payment to deal with.
How We Found Our Travel Trailer
We started our search on Craigslist (this is how we find many great things for low prices!). We searched for a week or so to look at the different options and weren’t impressed with what we found.
In the $1,500 – $5,000 range, we didn’t find any real gems. While we are practicing living with less, these trailers just weren’t up to par with our standards. Many of them were extremely old, laid out poorly, looked like they were falling apart, had atrocious interior design, looked dingy, and we weren’t stoked about living in any of them.
There were nicer trailers in the $5,000 to $10,000 range but that just seemed like an ungodly amount of money to spend on a trailer we were going to live in for 6 months. If we had to spend that much money just to find a suitable trailer, we would rather rent an apartment!
Just as we were giving up on the idea of living in a RV, Jesse did one final search and found a trailer just 3o miles north of us. It was posted just a couple hours prior to him finding it. We dropped what we were doing to go look at it immediately as we know things of quality at a good price on Craigslist go fast!
This trailer was perfect for our needs. It is a 2006 Fun Finder, only 19′ long, but is laid out in a way that makes it feel spacious. It is extremely modern-looking on the inside which makes us both extremely happy… it makes us feel like we are living in a small apartment rather than in a travel trailer. Best of all, it was right in our price range at $2,500.
The trailer has some dry rot on the front but it isn’t noticeable from the inside of the trailer and we plan to immediately build a roof or enclosure for the trailer so that it doesn’t get wet. We will obviously have a short time frame to get this done as fall and winter is quickly approaching, but that’s okay.
Here are some pictures pre-move in. I hope we can maintain the clean look with all of our stuff!
What’s Next: Packing and Moving
At the time of writing this blog post, we should be closing on the land within the next day or two… and then we hit the road to our property. Our closing documents have been sent overnight to us. We plan to get out of dodge within the next week or so but still have a lot of loose ends to tie up such as selling our furniture, selling Jesse’s business (kinda a big deal… we’ve been running around like crazy trying to get things in order!), donating belongings, and packing up whatever is going with us.
We will do another post and tour of our trailer post-move in to show you what we’ve done to keep it clean, tidy and minimal. Things are halfway packed, and it still looks amazingly awesome on the inside!
We sold our bed so we’ve already been sleeping in the trailer and I’m happy to report that it is extremely comfortable, although a little to warm to spend time in during the day as we have 90+ degree temperatures right now.
One Year Update: How Is It Going?
Well, we’ve officially passed the one year mark of living in our travel trailer! To read a short update of how things are going including pros and cons, and overall how travel trailer living is working for us, click one of the buttons below!
So far, I’d say living in a travel trailer as an interim living solution has been working out extremely well. We thought we’d only live in a trailer for six months or so, but now it’s looking like we’ll be living in our trailer for a total of maybe two years, if not three. Reality hit us and reminded us that building a house CASH is no easy feat, and it’s simply going to take time.
That said, I’d say living in a travel trailer has exceeded our expectations. We surprisingly aren’t anxious to move out of it as we’re quite content. We even survived a full winter in the RV and passed with flying colors because we put the trailer in an RV garage and built a cabin on to the end of it. We were able to heat this entire structure with a wood stove to keep things from freezing, and it also gave us a little bit of protected storage space.
We feel fine on space for the most part (much to our surprise) but the only time things get a little cozy is when we’re working online for weeks on end… then things feel a little cramped. A trailer certainly isn’t the best place to set up a work station as it encourages really, really poor posture. We understand this is a temporary part of our life so we’re making it work.
Since writing this initial post, we’ve also built a deck and a hot tub which gives us a place to retreat to which is perfect for a change of scenery. When we’re really feeling like we have trailer or cabin fever, we have one more option of a place to relax.
Financially, this situation has been a real winner for us. As we suspected, we’re extremely happy that we aren’t renting an apartment and that our only living expense is our minimal land payment. We haven’t lost any value on the trailer, so essentially we are continuing to live both rent and mortgage free.
Here’s to a good year two in our travel trailer!
Books on Living in a Travel Trailer
If you stumbled upon this page because you’re thinking of living in an rv or travel trailer full-time, then it’s likely you’re trying to get all of the information you can to decide whether or not this is something you want to do!
Here’s some books that look like excellent reading material if you’re considering living in a travel trailer.
RV Living: Call Me Gypsy- CherryTree RV living Guide and HacksThis book written by Jacob Adams is a best-seller in the RV-living category. The author tries to guide you through everything you need to know to get started living in an RV, including avoiding costly mistakes. He’s a firm believer that living in an RV is a great way to simplify your life, reduce expenses, reduce household chores, strengthen relationships and have all of the million-dollar scenic views you could ever want. Even if you’re not preparing to live in a motorhome, I believe a lot of the information will be similar such as taking care of your power, water and septic needs.
Trailersteading: How to Find, Buy, Retrofit, and Live Large in a Mobile HomeUnlike other books on this page, this one is specifically about living in a trailer of some sorts as a means to a bigger end… which is exactly what we’re doing! We don’t want to permanently live in a travel trailer, but we’ll do it as long as we have to so that we can build a home cash and in the end, come out way ahead. This book is said to have lots of practical information on small living and not only making it comfortable but thriving in it.
Complete Guide to Full-Time RVing: Life on the Open RoadWhile this book is also heavily about living in an RV while traveling, I believe there is a lot of crossover information to living in a stationary travel trailer… unless you are wanting to be mobile, then it’s perfect! There are LOTS of books on this subject but the reviews on this one state that it’s one of the best, and it’s a book people won’t part with because the information is gold. Give it a look.
Join the conversation!
What are your thoughts on living in a travel trailer? We’ve noticed that the idea has a very negative stigma. While everyone sees trailers and RVs as luxurious for camping compared to a tent, as soon as the idea of living fulltime in a camping trailer comes up (even when the living situation is temporary), many folks get uncomfortable and think of it as what poor people do. Or they think of the idea as being way too hippie for their likings.
We understand why people feel this way, on the other hand it like anything else can be used as a stepping stone to achieve greater things. In any case, there’s no going back now! We’re going to give it our best effort.
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