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For many RV owners, the idea of setting up on a prime piece of land sounds like a dream. Maybe your vision is of living by a lake, the mountains, or the desert for an indefinite amount of time. Or perhaps you are looking to save some money on housing. Does 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 taking with you the correct steps to set up an RV for permanent location use.
You can set up your RV for permanent location use in seven basic steps:
- 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 you can read 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 thinking of renting a seasonal or year-round campsite, we’ve got you covered. In this article, we’ll take you through the steps to setting up a permanent RV for living.
How to Set Up a Permanent RV
Choose an Ideal RV Location
Choosing the right location for your permanent RV setup is essential; after all, you’re going to be spending a lot of time there, and 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 wifi 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 wifi did not reach and the cell service was spotty.
However, we did enjoy the pool, mini-golf, and small arcade that was 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 is more expensive if this is within your budget.
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 you will be permanently set up you will need to deliver your RV to the site. If you have a motorhome or tow your own trailer this will be straightforward. Otherwise, you will need to hire a contractor to move your RV and deliver it.
In some areas, such as in 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 get the camper level 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 space is too uneven, it will be too much of a headache to get it even by yourself.
There are several reasons why leveling your RV is essential. Your systems may not work correctly.
For starters, it can affect your sleep because sleeping at a tilt will make you feel like you’re constantly falling out of the bed and can be very uncomfortable. Additionally, the sink and toilets could have trouble draining which could lead to clogging. The refrigerator could malfunction due to coolant lines clogging up. Not to mention your food could cook unevenly.
You should bring 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 check and place the level in the doorway of the RV. Whichever side is lower will be the side that you will prepare to raise.
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 this tongue jack at the front of the RV travel trailer 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 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 use raise or lower the jack to make sure the trailer is level front to back.
Have someone place a lever in the center or threshold to your RV and have someone 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 vehicle with stabilizing jacks. The purpose of stabilizing jacks is to prevent the RV from rocking from side to side and to prevent the camper from tilting onto the tongue jack. This will keep you from bearing so much of the burden.
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
Connecting to the power and water hookups correctly is important for your safety and long-term comfort. If your site has power, ensure you are connected to the correct plug-in. (See our full article about everything you need to know about RV plugs) to have the right plug-ins. Since this is your new home, protect the camper’s wiring with a surge protector between the shore power and your plug.
Next, hook up the water supply with a drinking water-rated hose and pressure regulator. If you are living in a cold area, you 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 you will need to have your belongings organized and available for everyday use. The challenge is that you have 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 for full-timing, you will be taking only what you need. And then you will likely need to pare down a couple more times. Once you are in place you will need to do regular clean-outs to make sure you don’t collect too many belongings.
Your kitchen is an 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 draw shore power. I love my insta-pot, electric skillet, and water kettle.
Cleaning will also change when you are living permanently in an RV. The small space will get dirty quickly but 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 yard. Many people take advantage of this space by setting up structures for their comfort.
Some of the easiest steps are to place an outdoor mat out in front and set up nice camping or patio chairs. A good folding table and some storage bins will help too.
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 setting up a permanent RV.
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.
It’s also a good idea to cover your tires when you’re parked. Covering your tires will protect them from the elements sun and extend the life span (source).
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 (source).
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 batteries and 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 “Will my RV run on Battery”
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 feel 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 more homelike colors. Hang up some family pictures or your favorite artwork using wall putty.
Stay organized by hanging hooks for keys and pet leashes and using storage bins to store personal items.
Make the outside welcoming by rolling out mats and a doormat and setting up a table and chairs for seating and dining. Add some lighting with light strands and solar yard lights. It’s also a good idea to determine where your outdoor firepit will be before setting up your outdoor firepit with extra rocks and nice 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.
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 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 stability that is also affordable for a long-term location for your RV.
Many of the newer, Lego-shaped blocks on the market have a design that allows them to snap together to bring up to your desired height, and you can create a ramp for your RV’s tires. They will also be 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 choice is to set up a PO box in a nearby town to where you were staying. 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 wifi can be one of the biggest challenges to 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 wifi. 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.
Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever. We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug! We travel with kids and extended family. I take the kids by myself sometimes because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.
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