Creating Your RVing Budget: Managing the Costs of RV Ownership and Travel

RV Family Travel Atlas

Creating Your RVing Budget: Managing the Costs of RV Ownership and Travel

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Creating Your RVing Budget: Managing the Costs of RV Ownership and Travel

The Cost of RV ownership is one of the biggest concerns for folks thinking about buying an RV. And rightfully so.

Let’s face it, RV ownership is a luxury, so the cost should fit into our household discretionary budget. If we stretch our spending too much, something that is supposed to be fun will become stressful. Life has enough worries, so let’s not add RV travel to the list!

Lucky for all of us, it is really easy to control the cost of RV ownership. One of the best things about RV travel is that there are options for every single budget. You are in control of so many price points including the type of camper you purchase, how far you travel, and what campgrounds you visit. The trick is to make decisions that fit with your personal family budget.

If you are the kind of person who likes to crunch the numbers (sometimes we do and sometimes we don’t), here are the things you should take into consideration when budgeting for the cost of RV ownership.

The Cost of the RV

With new RVs costing anywhere from $6,000 to $300,000, this is the most important place to manage the cost of RV ownership. If you are financing, divide your total yearly payment by how many nights you plan on traveling. In our opinion this number should be far lower than what you would spend on a hotel room or vacation home. However, some people are willing to spend more because of all the benefits of having a home on wheels. Seriously, how much is that kitchen or bathroom worth???

You could also replace a discretionary household bill with an RV payment. Some folks cancel their cable service. Some stop buying their daily Starbucks fix and replace it with a much better habit–RVing. Either way, we strongly recommend not busting the budget on a rig. We had as much fun in our pop up camper as we do in our toy hauler. We’re just a bit more comfortable.

The Cost of Maintenance

There are definitely annual maintenance costs for your RV, and it is important to be comfortable with them before you commit to a purchase. Price out winterizing, along with any other basic service prices at your dealer. Get a quote on insurance from your broker. Research storage if you will need that service.

Again, divide the total cost by the number of nights you plan on camping to get a fair RV vacation cost. Remember that the cost of maintaining a motorized unit versus a towable one will vary greatly so do your research!

The Cost of a Campground

This is a truly amazing way to manage the cost of RV ownership. National and State Park campgrounds can be reserved for a little as $20 in many parts of the country. The best resort campgrounds might charge as much as $100 for waterfront, full-hook up sites. The average private campground with basic amenities will cost you around $50. What do you want to spend? You can find a place to fit that price point.

We like to start off with a budget for a trip and then plan our campground stays accordingly. We enjoy mixing it up by splurging on a few nights at resort campgrounds and then skimping on some state park stays. Our average works out to about $60/night, and that’s far below the price of a budget hotel room for a family of five.

The Cost of Driving

The price of gas is a significant factor in the cost of RV ownership. Your gas bill will be higher if you are towing a travel trailer or driving a motorhome. If gas prices are a significant concern for you, pay close attention to the weight of the rig you are purchasing. Also think twice about that tow vehicle that you are drooling over.

Make sure to consider distance in your vacation planning. If the budget is tight, don’t drive very far. Staying close to home will significantly reduce the gas bill. 

The Cost of Food

Spending on food is our very favorite way to manage the cost of RV ownership while traveling in the family rig. It’s so easy to stick to your normal grocery budget with an RV kitchen, and not spend a dime more than you would at home.

However we also like to experience local food culture, so we usually eat out for a lunch and dinner at each vacation stop. Meal plan ahead of time, pick a few special splurges, and you can easily track your spending on food.

You have infinitely more control over how much you spend when traveling by RV than with any other form of travel. Once you figure out a budget for each of the above categories, you can get on to the really fun part…planning those trips.

If you ask us, an RV vacation is worth every single penny. 

And if you plan ahead for the cost of RV ownership, hopefully you’ll feel the same way!

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