There has never been a better time for RV travel. With renewed emphasis on health and safety, people are coming to realize that an RV is the way to go. You can pay at the pump when you need gas, cook your own food, use your own bathroom, and even social distance around the campfire with others.
However, all this can only happen if you properly prepare for the true costs of RV ownership. So many people interested in RV travel with their friends and family only think about the cost of the RV, but there is so much more to it. The last thing you want to do is purchase an expensive RV and not have enough left in the budget to actually use it. Hopefully this article will give you an idea of how to budget for your RV adventures!
The RV Purchase
Obviously the first thing you’ll need is the RV or recreational vehicle. When I talk about RVs, I’m including fifth wheels, travel trailers, motorhomes, Class C’s, and vans. That is a huge range of vehicle type, which means there will be a huge range of prices. You can download our FREE 8-page RV purchasing guide to see an overview of each type and the associated price ranges.
The answer to the question, How much do RVs cost? is actually another question: How much do you want to spend? That is because you might be looking at a $10,000 travel trailer or a $300,000 diesel pusher motorhome. Regardless of which type, it is not an insignificant investment. Before you even start looking at RVs, take a good honest look at your budget. A realistic budget will help you narrow down your search. After all, there’s no point in wasting your time looking at rigs you can’t afford.
As we’ve already pointed out, RVs are not cheap. You’ll definitely want to protect your investment. Unfortunately I can’t tell you how much insurance for your RV will cost. That is because RV insurance, just like automobile insurance, varies by state.
When we first purchased a fifth wheel RV, we were living in Maryland. When we moved to Florida, the insurance on our vehicles, including the RV, increased dramatically because it is based on risk. And we all know that Florida is plagued by those pesky hurricanes, which increases the risk.
Our best advice is to call 1-888-514-1116 for a quote from the Good Sam Insurance Agency. They issue policies through several different insurance companies and can help you choose the right one for them.
RV extended warranties are great because they can be used for a whole range of repairs after the manufacturer’s warranty has expired. If you purchase an RV at a dealership, they will always try to sell you an extended warranty. You should know that you don’t have to buy it through them. You can purchase one through a separate broker and it may even save you money.
Companies like Wholesale Warranties provide fully customizable extended warranties for both new & used RVs. This means you can choose what best suits your needs from comprehensive to listed component and powertrain coverage. Call 1-800-939-2806 for a quote from Wholesale Warranties.
RV insurance and warranties cover accidents and breakdowns, but you are responsible for the day-to-day servicing of your RV. In fact, you must have your vehicle serviced according to the manufacturer’s requirements to qualify for insurance and warranty claims.
Common components that require regular maintenance include:
- Tires, Bearings, and Brakes
- Water Heater
- Air Conditioner
If you can do the work yourself, you’ll save some money, but will still need to pay for supplies like oil filters, oil, anode rods for your water heater, and tools. If you want to pay a service center, be aware that the average hourly labor cost nationwide is $140 an hour.
A note about RV tires. I’m sure you’re planning to enjoy many miles on your RV. You will need new tires, maybe as often as every three years. This can be pricey, particularly if you have a large diesel motorhome. Be sure to start putting a little money away for this each month so you are not surprised or sidelined by this major expense.
Some states and municipalities charge property tax on recreational vehicles, rather than a flat fee for tags. Find out BEFORE you purchase an RV if this is the case and how much it is. In some states it can run approximately $4.50-$5.00 per $100 of assessed valuation. That can really add up especially when you consider some counties also have their own personal property tax to add on top of it.
If you have an HOA that prohibits parking your RV at your home, or if you live somewhere that doesn’t have room for it then RV storage is a consideration. Again, this varies depending on where you live. Many storage facilities charge based on the length of your RV. When we lived in Northern Virginia, we paid $150 per month for RV storage. In Florida, it was $65.00 per month.
Fuel for the Road Trips
Obviously you want to take your RV out on vacation. That’s the whole reason you got it, right? Unless you plan to do driveway camping, you’re going to need to budget for fuel. And RVs aren’t known for good gas mileage. A 28’ gas motorhome gets about 8 miles per gallon on average. If you have a towable, most trucks don’t get great gas mileage when towing. Our diesel truck gets about 11 miles per gallon when we’re towing our 30’ fifth wheel.
Now figure out how much gas or diesel fuel will cost for the miles you want to travel on your next trip. Please don’t forget that just because it may be inexpensive near where you live, means it is inexpensive everywhere. We just about went into shock when we were traveling in California last year. You can use the Gas Buddy app or website to check on prices in different cities. The fuel line item can be one of your biggest. In fact, we wrote an entire article dedicated to how to save money on RV fuel costs.
The last major budget item for RV ownership is campgrounds and RV resorts. Once again if you’re wondering how much campgrounds cost, we’ll have to reply it depends. There is a huge difference in price between a state park campground with no frills and an RV resort on the beach with all the amenities.
We have dry camped for free (also known as boondocking), paid $20 a night at a state park, spent more than $100 a night at Disney’s Fort Wilderness Campground, and everything in between.
Creating Your RV Budget
As you can see, there are many variables involved in owning a recreational vehicle. Since they will vary by location and preferences, the important thing is that you do your research BEFORE buying an RV.
Here’s why that is important: You head down to your local RV dealership and the first thing the salesman asks is, “How much do you want to spend a month?” He’s talking about the payment if you finance an RV. So let’s say, you have $500 per month available for an RV. You don’t want a $500 or you’ll never be able to go anywhere. If you have to pay $40 a month for storage and $60 a month for insurance, that only leaves you $400. Now consider how often you plan to travel, how many nights you plan to stay in campgrounds, how many miles you’ll travel to calculate fuel costs, and you’re monthly allowance has been further reduced.
Hopefully, by going through this list and doing a little planning in advance, you’ll be able to purchase the RV that you can afford to own and operate!