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For many RV owners, the idea of setting up on a prime piece of land sounds like a dream. Maybe you’ve envisioned living by a lake, in the mountains, or the desert for an indefinite amount of time. Or perhaps you are looking to save some money on housing. Do any of these sound familiar? I can help you.
I spent time living in our travel trailer with 5 kids and a dog in a seasonal RV campsite in Massachusetts. I learned so much and I’m happy to share everything with you.
Whatever your reason, the minimalist lifestyle can be closer than you can imagine by planning accordingly and learning the correct steps to set up an RV for permanent location use.
Turning an RV into a Permanent Home in Five Basic Steps:
If you’re asking yourself, “Can I use my RV as a permanent home to live in?” the answer is yes. You can use your camper as a permanent home. However, you need to know what you’re getting into before packing up and searching for your own homestead.
Keep reading to learn exactly how to turn this dream into a reality.
- Pick your location
- Deliver and Level your RV
- Place Blocks Next to Wheels
- Drive Your Trailer Onto the Blocks
- Place Wheel Chocks Around Tires
- Lower the Tongue Jack
- Install Stabilizing Jacks
- Connect the Hookups
- Organize Inside the Camper for Living
- Set Up Your Outdoor Space
Before we proceed, here are some resources to read more about setting up your RV.
- Choosing the Perfect Campsite Every time
- RV Rental Delivery and Setup at Your Campsite (Cost, FAQs, Examples)
- Rent an RV for a Month (10 Examples Plus Cost)
If you’re an RV owner and have been playing with the idea of renting a seasonal or year-round campsite, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll take you through the steps to set up a permanent RV for living in.
How to Set Up a Permanent RV
Now that we’ve briefly discussed the five main steps of how to set up a travel trailer permanently, I will dive into each step to provide you with specific details and information.
Choose an Ideal RV Location
Choosing the right location for your permanent RV setup is essential. After all, if you want to make an RV into a permanent home, you’ll want to put some thought into it.
Ask yourself whether having amenities are essential to you or if you’re more interested in living entirely off the grid or “boondocking.” Many RV campgrounds and campsites offer long-term residency for RV campers.
Many people in the Northeast states rent seasonal or permanent RV sites and return year after year.
I can say from experience, living off-grid with no hookups, no Wi-Fi, and no cell service may be fine for a weekend away – but it gets old quickly.
We lived in a seasonal RV spot with water and electricity. Dump service came weekly for the blackwater and we had the option to connect to graywater disposal for a leach field. The Wi-Fi did not reach and the cell service was spotty.
However, we did enjoy the pool, mini-golf, and small arcade that were onsite.
If you prefer more amenities, it might make sense to you to look into privately-owned RV parks, luxury parks, or KOA campgrounds. One thing to note is that some of these campgrounds charge extra for additional people, so a family with kids may be more expensive.
If RV parks aren’t your thing and if you’re not looking to be remote, another option is to consider buying or leasing RV-deeded land to set up. Several online resources feature land for sale or lease.
Deliver Your RV to the Site
Once you have picked the location that your motorhome will be permanently set up on, you will need to deliver your RV to the site. If you have a motorhome or tow your own trailer this will be easy. Otherwise, you will need to hire a contractor to move and deliver your RV.
In some areas – such as New England – this is quite common, and you can find a contractor by an internet search.
The benefit of hiring a contractor is that they will help you level the camper and may even be able to connect the hookups.
When we moved our RV from Colorado to Massachusetts, we found a contractor on Facebook who came highly recommended.
Level Your RV
Even if you’re staying in an RV park with paved slots, you will need to level out your RV. To start, you should pick a spot that is already reasonably level and clear any debris out of the way. If the space is too uneven, it may be a headache to get it level by yourself.
There are several reasons why leveling your RV is essential.
First, some of your systems may not work correctly. The sink and toilets may have trouble draining, which can lead to clogging. The refrigerator could malfunction due to coolant lines clogging up. Even your food could cook unevenly.
Also, an unleveled camper can affect your sleep. Sleeping at a tilt will make you feel like you’re constantly falling out of the bed and can be very uncomfortable.
You should have an RV level with you whenever you go out on the road. RVs are generally made with level indicators on the rig. However, if yours is missing or broken, you can place a level like this in the doorway of the RV. Additionally, you can find many types of affordable stick-on levels on Amazon which work just as well.
Once you’ve parked your RV at a fixed location, a device like the LevelMate Pro is another great option to aid in leveling your travel trailer. This system mounts directly to the vehicle and measures the amount it’s off-level. It will tell you how much height should be added or subtracted from each side to make the rig level.
Place Leveling Blocks Next to Wheels
Proper leveling blocks are worth the investment if you plan to park your RV in a location long-term. Another alternative is pressure-treated lumber, but make sure the wood is in good condition and there isn’t any rot. Ensure the blocks are wide enough for your wheels since this can cause damage if they aren’t the correct size.
Carefully place the blocks at the front of the tires on the side to be raised.
Drive Your Trailer RV Tires Onto the Blocks
With the help of someone else, carefully drive the RV up onto the blocks. Make sure the person guiding you has experience with the correct hand motions.
Try not to overcorrect and go easy on the gas. If you don’t get it right the first time, readjust, and try again. If the tire is hanging off by just a little bit, it can cause significant damage, resulting in a flat at a later – likely inconvenient -time.
Place Wheel Chocks Around Tires
Again, since we’re thinking long-term for our location, wheel chocks will be necessary once you are in the correct spot. It’s a good idea to invest in a quality pair from a hardware or camping store.
Place the wheel chocks behind the tires that will be bearing the weight of the slope. If this is unclear, you can place wheel chocks on either side of the tires.
Lower the Tongue Jack on a Trailer
You can find the tongue jack at the front of the RV travel trailer. This is used to raise the trailer off the hitch of the tow vehicle. In preparation, you may want to lay down a couple of pieces of wood or a metal plate to provide sound footing, and so it won’t sink into the soft ground quickly.
Carefully lower the jack and make sure the wood planks are well centered. When the tongue is above the ball of the hitch, drive the vehicle away from the trailer. Now, raise or lower the jack to make sure the trailer is level front to back.
Have someone place a lever inside the center or threshold of your RV, and have them keep an eye on it to ensure you’re staying level as the jack is lowered.
If you are in a fifth wheel, you will simply disconnect the fifth wheel hitch. You will not have a tongue jack but can use a tripod stabilizer on the front.
Install Stabilizing Jacks
If you plan to park your RV in a permanent location for an indefinite amount of time, it’s a good idea to secure the four corners of your rig with stabilizing jacks. The stabilizing jacks prevent the RV from rocking side-to-side or from tilting onto the tongue jack.
Pro tip: Stabilizing jacks are not meant to bear the weight of the camper or be used for leveling. So make sure to get it level with the blocks and tongue jack.
Most RV’s will come with either electric or manual stabilizing jacks. If yours doesn’t, you can purchase these online or in any camping store.
Connect the Hookups
When planning on turning an RV into a permanent home, correctly hooking up to power and water is important for your safety and long-term comfort. If your site has power, ensure you are connected to the correct plug-in. Since this is your new home, protect the camper’s wiring with a surge protector between the shore power and your plug.
Next, you will need to set up your permanent RV water hookup. Use a drinking water-rated hose and pressure regulator to hook up your RV to the water supply. If you are living in a cold area, you’ll also need to check with the campground about their procedure for preventing the lines from freezing. Many year-round hookups have heat tracing and insulation.
Don’t forget to hook up the gray and blackwater sewer connections. A good quality hose and hose level will be important here.
If you do not have a sewer hookup you will want to have the blackwater tank pumped weekly. This was part of the deal when I lived in a seasonal spot at a campground. In other places or on private land you can contact the local portable sewer service and ask for dump service.
Organize Inside the Camper for Living
Since you will be living in your RV or travel trailer, you will need to have your belongings organized and available for everyday use. The main challenge is going to be the limited space inside. Plus you will want to be careful to save the propane for necessary tasks.
Many people love Ikea and the dollar store for organizing an RV. There are so many unique ways to use the different boxes, tubs, and shelves available.
When first moving in to your RV, only bring what you need. You may soon realize that you need to pare down a couple more times. Once you are in your permanent spot, you will need to clear out unnecessary items regularly so you don’t collect too much stuff.
Your kitchen is a good area to focus on staying organized and learning to use the space and power efficiency. You will have to bring in propane bottles, so many full-timers use electric appliances that run on shore power. I love my Insta-pot, electric skillet, and water kettle.
Your cleaning regimen will also change when you are living permanently in an RV. The small space will get dirty quickly – but it will clean up quickly as well. Our cleaning checklist will help you pack just the right amount of cleaning supplies.
Set Up Your Outside Space
Permanent living in an RV is not like camping for the weekend. Your campsite will be your patio, driveway, and your front and back yards. Many people take advantage of this space by setting up structures for their comfort.
Storage will be one of your biggest challenges. You will likely have extra gear, toys, and tools that need to be organized and stored. You can get plastic bins and take advantage of the room under your camper to keep everything tidy.
Some people build semi-permanent (or even permanent structures) like a storage shed or deck at their campsite. Check the rules at the location that you have picked and plan for adding amenities that will make the space feel like home.
4 Tips You Need To Know Setting Up A Permanent RV
Now that you know the steps to set up and stabilize your RV, below are a few expert tips on how to set up a travel trailer to live in.
Check on and Care for Your Tires
You already know to check your tires on the road, but it’s also essential to check them when you set up your RV for the long term. Tires can lose air pressure quickly if they are older.
Check Your Fuel and Engine Oil
It’s critical to check your fuel levels, engine oil, and filters – even if you’re stationary. Your water heater will probably need propane to keep running, and you should run your generator and engine frequently if you are living in a motorhome. Run the engine weekly to check for issues. Starting the engine will help maintain your battery life and circulate the fluids. If your engine oil is dirty, it could corrode your engine.
Many people add an extra-large propane tank and even have propane delivered to their campsite.
Check Your Batteries
Even if you’re on the electric grid, it’s vital to check the health of your RV batteries frequently. Know what kind of batteries your RV needs and how they work. You don’t want to be unprepared if a power outage occurs.
If you have questions about the batteries and what will work without being plugged in, we have an article all about it: “Do You Need the RV Battery When Plugged In?”
Make Your RV Feel Like Home
Here is the fun part! Since you’ll be making your RV home for a while, you should make it feel that way too.
Make the inside of your motorhome cozy with soft mattresses, bedding, cozy rugs, throw pillows, and soft towels for the bathroom. Many people choose to lose the brown RV colors in favor of painting the inside fun or brighter colors. Hang up some family pictures or your favorite artwork using wall putty or Command strips.
Make the outside welcoming by rolling out mats and a fun doormat, and set up a table and chairs for seating and dining. Add some lighting with light strands and solar yard lights. Get a nice propane outdoor firepit, or line a dug-out firepit with nice rocks and surround it with comfortable chairs.
What To Use To Act As Your RV Foundation
We briefly touched on the RV foundation at the beginning of this article, but it’s worth mentioning again. Many experts have weighed in on the best foundation ideas.
If you’re not going to be setting up on the pavement, there are some other options. However, depending on the soil, you will need more than just the jack stands on bare ground.
Some experienced RVers have recommended a reinforced concrete pad over a base rock as the most permanent solution for your RV location. The downside to this is that it’s expensive to install and remove if you change your mind later. Depending on the soil, it may not be the best choice.
Should I Put My RV on Blocks?
Good quality leveling blocks are your best option for affordable, long-term stabilization at your permanent RV location.
Many newer, Lego-shaped blocks have a design that allows them to snap together to bring your camper up to the desired height. You can also use them to create a ramp for your RV’s tires and ensure that they are the correct width for your tires.
Depending on the soil you may need to lay down a better foundation under the plastic leveling blocks such as rocks, pavers, boards, or metal plates.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs)
How Do I Get Mail as a Permanent RV Resident?
Mail is something we may take for granted, but when you set up your RV as your permanent home, it’s something you need to consider.
One popular way to receive mail when living in an RV is to set up a PO box in a nearby town. However, you may not be able to ship all packages to a PO box (like new camp chairs from Amazon) so you might need an alternate location for large packages.
Some people use a friend or family member’s address. It is a good choice if you’re not staying in a campground or if the campground doesn’t accept mail.
There are also several professional RV mail forwarding services that are good options for permanent RVers. These services will scan your mail and send you photos of the documents so you can be remote if you need to be.
How Can I Ensure I Have Good Wi-Fi?
If you plan on working from your RV or if you need to pay bills online, you must have a strong Wi-Fi connection. Trust me, not having Wi-Fi can be one of the biggest challenges to modern daily life. (I had to walk two blocks to the front of our campground and sit outside the office for a long time before we got this solved.)
Since campground Wi-Fi can often be spotty, you’ll want to ensure that you have a reliable cell phone with a good data plan and set up a mobile hotspot. The most reliable, but most expensive option, is to use satellite Wi-Fi. I have used this in very remote locations and the only thing that had a lag was FaceTime (Zoom worked if we were patient).
Final Thoughts About Setting Up an RV for Permanent Use
Setting up camp for a season or even for a year is a delight on its own. You get to experience a new landscape and community that you can bond and grow with.
For some, it can be overwhelming, but if you know the basic steps then you should be good to go. After all, experiencing it will teach you the ways of living in an RV.
I also have a ton of other helpful blog posts that cover every aspect of RVing, from troubleshooting your RV air conditioner to preventing mice. Take a minute to browse through my posts, or check out these quick reads:
Regardless of how long you’ll be staying in your camper, you can find a lot of useful planners and checklists in my Etsy Store to keep you organized and relaxed in your RV.
Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever. We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug! I take the kids by myself because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.
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