What does it cost to RV? What to say

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Isaac-1

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I would like to know what do you tell people when they ask you this question? I am asking because I don't have a really good answer, we have owned a motorhome since 2016, and I still don't know how to properly answer this. Do you talk about cost of purchase, cost of ownership (insurance, storage, maintenance), cost of travel, fuel, campground cost. How about all those costs that tend to not be mentioned, the cost to set up a car for flat towing, or the cost of provisioning an RV with BBQ grill, camp chairs, kitchen goods, etc.

Just look at the line item of campground / travel costs, we spent more on a 9 day thousand mile roundtrip to Texas for the solar eclipse a couple of weeks ago, than we did for a 3,000 mile 3+ week loop trip to the Badlands of SD last May, though a lot of that was the $250 per night 3 night minimum eclipse centerline campground cost, compared to free boondocking, and a mix of sub $25 per night mostly Passport America or public parks we stayed at on the Badlands trip, only paying over $40 per night for 3 nights on that entire trip.

I am asking this as I have been asked this question in one form or another a number of times by people locally in the last few weeks.
 
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I would like to know what do you tell people when they ask you this question? I am asking because I don't have a really good answer, we have owned a motorhome since 2016, and I still don't know how to properly answer this. Do you talk about cost of purchase, cost of ownership (insurance, storage, maintenance), cost of travel, fuel, campground cost. How about all those costs that tend to not be mentioned, the cost to set up a car for flat towing, or the cost of provisioning an RV with BBQ grill, camp chairs, kitchen goods, etc.

Just look at the line item of campground / travel costs, we spent more on a 9 day thousand mile roundtrip to Texas for the solar eclipse a couple of weeks ago, than we did for a 3,000 mile 3+ week loop trip to the Badlands of SD last May, though a lot of that was the $250 per night 3 night minimum eclipse centerline campground cost, compared to free boondocking, and a mix of sub $25 per night mostly Passport America or public parks we stayed at on the Badlands trip, only paying over $40 per night for 3 nights on that entire trip.

I am asking this as I have been asked this question in one form or another a number of times by people locally in the last few weeks.
That's because no "good answer" exists, IMO.

I would say "if you need to ask, you probably cannot afford it!". And it makes little difference if it's an old RV or a new one, since the older one usually will have more expenses.

-Don- Reno, NV
 
When I get that question, I tell them there’s no one nor easy answer. That there’s nearly limitless ways to “RV”. I then try to get them to define how they imagine they would “RV”. As they start to describe what their idea of “RVing” is, I have to interrupt to describe the differences between commercial and BLM and COE and state and county and municipal sites , in addition to full hookup vs no hookup (and various combinations between)… About that time, their eyes have glazed over and they’re sorry they asked.
 
That's because no "good answer" exists, IMO.
I'd say that there's no ONE "good answer," but there are a LOT of good answers, all depending on how you approach RVing. And few, if any, of these answers are simple, since there are almost as many variables as there are people RVing.

So to my mind, the "cost" can range from a few thousand dollars to hundreds of thousands of dollars, or even into the millions (think Prevost and the like), depending on what you want and what budget you have, but if you set a figure for your needs it will probably wind up being short of the actual cost.

As a result, you'll probably have to separate it into the cost of getting started and the cost of continuing, and, if you're not careful, you can wind up with:

...their eyes have glazed over and they’re sorry they asked.
 
It’s near impossible to say since you probably wouldn’t know the spending habits of the person asking. Some of us only stay at State or National Parks or other government owned facilities. Some stay at RV resorts that cost hundreds of dollars a night. Some of us are happy with a less expensive unit without all the bells and whistles while others aren’t happy unless they are traveling in the most expensive rigs. Some folks don’t think it’s a vacation if they have to cook meals whereas many of us think cooking and eating in the outdoors enhances our experiences. So what might cost us hundreds of dollars a week might cost someone else thousands of dollars per week.
 
Many good "non-answers" here. The question is similar to "What's your annual cost of living?", where the answer depends on one's lifestyle and location. Too many variables to have a single answer, or even a few answers.
 
I think most adults with the ability to pay bills can reasonably estimate costs. What they might not know about is the maintenance and upkeep required, "level of effort" behind the sport/lifestyle. A good answer might be, "as much as you're willing to spend". But in reality, it needs a percentage of your heart and soul to really come together.
 
Most people can related to "normal" vacations of schlepping their kids and luggage via car or plane, hotels, attractions, eating out and such. So I relate that the costs per day are nominally the same, just that you spend it on different things and can go different places. The key differences are the timeline isn't as rigid and there's no hauling your stuff in and out of the car, packing and unpacking it. You can go places there aren't hotels, which is the primary goal for me. I get to take all my junk, sleep in a nice bed, have a flush toilet and a kitchen to places of utter scenic beauty far away from crowds and urban chaos. The cost of the RV is a separate discussion, that's something one justifies on the value of "making memories" and ones' financial position in life. I consider my RV expenses pretty thrifty relatively speaking, having bought a mostly depreciated unit and doing all work on it myself. What I don't spend in money I do spend in time underneath, but that's my value rationale of making memories.

Mark B.
Albuquerque, NM
 
Mark, I certainly know about that spending time under the RV vs money topic, I think I spent at least 2-4 hours per day, at least 4 days per week for the month of March under mine this year installing new: exhaust donuts, master cylinder, upgraded hydrobooster, power steering hose, brake caliper, brake pads, front wheel bearings, TPMS system, ... Close to $1,000 in parts, another $200 in new tools (swivel head ratcheting box wrenches, etc) and I have no clue what the labor rate would have been to have a shop do the work.
 
Let me give a little more context to a couple of these encounters:

1, While loading up the coach in the driveway at our house for our recent trip, it normally lives in a storage shed, and is only at our house a few days before / after trips. One of our neighbors who I casually know was walking by and started asking about RV's saying his wife wanted one, he asked how big it was, where we were going, etc.

2, I was at a community group lunch last week with my wife, this was a communal dining shared table sort of event, one of our table mates was a woman my wife has known for years professionally, and she apparently follows my wife on facebook, I don't know that I had ever met her before. She started asking about things my wife had posted online from our recent Solar Eclipse trip, which lead to talking about some of our past RV trips, that lead to her asking about RV ownership as her husband is retiring in a few months.
 
IMO while once apon a time RVing was an economical way to see the country, with the increasing cost of fuel and RV campgrounds it's harder to justify owning an RV today on economic grounds. I like RVing, but if I'm planning a trip it's often more economical to fly and/or rent a 30 MPG car than driving an 8 MPG RV. Decent motels don't cost much more than what RV parks are charging now. And this doesn't include the RV's initial cost of purchase, depreciation, insurance, repairs etc.

So RVing is more of a lifestyle choice, not a way to save money while traveling.
 
Lou, I tend to agree, my wife and I took a circa 1,500 mile non rv road trip last September staying mostly in mid range hotels. My wife was recovering from a broken leg at the time, and had 2 work conferences to attend, trip was paid for mostly by her work, which would not have paid for RV travel, prices ranged from $85 per night (no name motels), to $185 per night at Home2 Suites by Hilton near one of the conference sites in a mid sized city, the ones in between were a couple of Holiday Inn Express and a Courtyard ($140ish). We drove my wife's Jeep Cherokee so fuel economy was about 26 mpg highway, of course the big added expense was dining out every day, which tended to add at least another $50 per person per day expense to the trip. On our RV trips we tend to average under $50 per night at RV parks on most trips, with fuel cost somewhere in the 30 cent per mile ballpark (we do a lot of our traveling in states with lower gas cost), an online fuel calculator suggests we saved about $500 by taking my wife's car vs the RV. In the end the same trip would have been cheaper by RV, assuming we saved an average of at least $50 per night by staying at RV parks (12 night total trip), not counting food cost savings eating meals in the RV even part of the time.

Of course all of the above math assumes you already have an RV that would be sitting around otherwise. If you add in purchase cost of an RV, and ongoing cost of ownership (insurance, maintenance, etc.) that math gets very lopsided.
 
When we travel by car we carry a cooler and pack lunch stuff, sandwiches, fruit, chips, etc. we look for hotels that offer hot breakfasts and evening cocktails with heavy hors d’oevres. Sometimes we’ll stop at a Subway and we get a foot long that suffices for both lunch and dinner. We bring wine and snacks to have in the room.
 
Isaac-1,

Everything you listed in your original post on this thread needs to be considered in actual "cost" of RVing. Everything.

"cost of purchase, cost of ownership (insurance, storage, maintenance), cost of travel, fuel, campground cost. How about all those costs that tend to not be mentioned, the cost to set up a car for flat towing, or the cost of provisioning an RV with BBQ grill, camp chairs, kitchen goods, etc. Just look at the line item of campground / travel costs, "

Yes, you are absolutely correct in bringing to attention all of these items as they are ALL "costs" that "they" (or you are me) would not have if we did not have an RV at all.

And I agree with everyone too, the "cost" depends upon the lifestyle of the individual. Those costs do include the original price of the RV plus interest being paid if financing it, title, tags, insurance too. Those are "costs" most people do not think about.

We've financed all of our campers (we've had 5 different ones over our married lifetime). I'll give you an example here.

The actual cost of our current Montana High Country Fifth Wheel was around $80,000. We traded our previous camper that still had a loan on it, and we got an extra $10,000 out of it that went toward the $80,000. So there is the first $10,000.

Then we financed the rest and paid interest for 2 and 1/2 years and paid the entire trailer off. I imagine over that 2 and 1/2 years, we paid $3,000 in interest. So, now our "cost" for the actual camper (just the purchase), was $83,000.

But! We paid it off in 2 and 1/2 years. Doesn't matter. We've had the camper for over 5 years now. $83,000 divided by 5 years equals $16,600 a year.

If we own the camper for 10 years, the cost of the actual purchase is now $8,300 a year.

(However, if you, or anyone) is not able to pay for the camper up front or pay it off quickly, you'll be paying interest for years. THAT is also part of the cost.

Folks just don't think about that. All they can see, an RV is "cheap". Um ... actually, no. That is not the case at all. It's a myth and YOU are in a great position to wake people up and help them realize what they are getting into BEFORE they learn the hard way that it's something they really cannot not afford.

Now add on all the other costs? I feel pretty certain, on an average, for all the different repairs and upgrades we've done to our current camper, we've invested $5000 a a YEAR into our camper. This includes broken axles, broken slides, installing washer and dryer, broken ceiling fans, tires, repacking bearings, awning replacement, and the list goes on and on. So, for just the cost of purchase and the cost of maintenance and upkeep, the annual "cost" for the 5 years, is now $21,600.

Add everything else .... And watch your friends eyes pop open. BUT they need to know the TRUE COST! Which includes EVERYTHING!

Don't give them any actual $$$ amounts. Give them the list you put together above. If they are truly serious about RV ownership and usage, then they'll need to discover for themselves what each line items will cost THEM. Otherwise, they are just being nosey and not really serious.

But, always end the discussion by saying, these 2 things:

First, RVing is a lifestyle. It a lifestyle choice. It's more than just a part time "hobby". Regardless if you use your camper only 1 day a year, or if you live in it full time, it's a lifestyle choice. It's going to cost and cost dearly. The more you use it, the more you'll feel justified in the expense it costs you.

and Second: There cannot be a dollar value set on the enjoyment you (or me) receive from RV ownership. That enjoyment not only includes the travel, but the enjoyment also includes when the camper is parked at home, and even when doing repairs on it. Think of it in terms of a "hobby" that's turned into a lifestyle. There is no price that can be placed on that, any more than the price one can put how much they engage in sport events, music, dance, or any other "hobby" that consumes one's time and money. RVing is "priceless".

Yes, it costs. And yes everyone need to be sure they can successfully afford to do it. But, just like living in a house or an apartment, or in Grandman's basement, we all adjust our lifestyles to what our personal finances can afford.
 
I look at it as "how much do I spend full timing? " not counting larger individual expenditures. Since we are on a cash basis (no financing) that pretty much captures all costs. Over the ten plus years we full timed on the road (say 2010 to 2020) we went from about $50K to $70K actually spent.
We probably could have comfortably varied that by $10K either way with some effort (up would have been much easier). The other expenditures would fall in the category of Splurging.

Basically it's what you feel comfortable with,

Ernie
 
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