Have you been bitten by the wander-bug? Are you anxious to explore America’s many lush forests, sun-kissed canyons, quaint towns, vibrant cities, or tranquil beaches?
If so, RV travel can be a great option. While the unknowns and costs may seem intimidating, with research and planning, RV travel can be within your reach.
But how? Aren’t there a lot of extra expenses that come with RV travel? We’ll explore what you can expect to spend when you hit the road in an RV. You may find that it’s not impossible after all.
How Much Does It Cost to Travel in an RV?
The truth is, the cost of RV travel varies greatly because it depends on an individual’s needs and spending habits.
For example, do you enjoy dining out? Or are you happy staying in and cooking a simple meal? Your spending habits at home are a good indication of what you could end up spending while traveling in your RV.
With that said, we’re going to provide general expenses you can use as a guide. Like many things, RV travel can be as frugal or luxurious as you wish, but some costs are mandatory. Here’s what your wallet can expect while you’re on the road.
This may seem obvious, but the first step to RV travel is securing a motorhome. You can decide to rent or buy. Whatever option you choose, there are a few things to consider.
First, know that there are two main types of RVs - motorhomes and towables. Towables are those you can tow behind your car, like campers. Just like cars, there are RVs for all different budgets.
If you decide to buy, you’ll need to secure a loan if you don’t have the cash up front. When you’re looking for financing, you’ll want to be clear about what you’ll use the RV for, as some financial institutions, including PSECU, don’t finance RV purchases intended to become the borrower's primary residence.
Although an RV might seem pricey, if you have one, there are several travel costs that could be eliminated each time you hit the road, such as costs associated with a rental car, plane tickets, and lodging.
If you finance your motorhome or camper, you’ll make a down payment and then make monthly payments. If you don’t want to take on a loan, another strategy is to save up and purchase an RV outright with all cash, which will save you on interest.
No matter what size or type of RV you choose, make sure you have room in your budget for its upkeep and maintenance before making a purchase.
The cost of gas will depend on how often you wish to travel, the size of your rig, and where you plan to go.
For example, do you want to drive from Pennsylvania to see the Grand Canyon? Gas will add up. Want to camp out in the Catskill Mountains instead? Obviously, it will take less gas to drive from Pennsylvania to New York than from Pennsylvania to Arizona. Or you can travel right down the road to a local RV camping site if you’d like and spend almost nothing on gas. The choice is yours.
No matter how far you travel, remember that motorhomes use more gas than cars, which can add up. Make sure to consider how many miles you plan to drive when determining your budget for an RV trip.
When you travel in an RV, you need to be able to park it somewhere. Like other items on this list, you can choose to park your RV at a higher-priced campsite, such as one with an ocean view for example, or you can set up camp somewhere a little less luxurious.
Camping costs at national parks typically cost around $35 a day.
You might consider getting a campground membership for discounts at participating campgrounds or volunteering at campgrounds to save on costs if you plan to travel frequently.
Your RV grocery bill will be similar to your grocery bill at home. What do you spend on groceries per week? How often do you like to dine out? Just remember - in an RV, you’ll likely have less cabinet space than at home, so you’ll need to consider that when buying groceries for a trip.
Also, part of traveling for some people includes dining out often and trying new foods. For example, you could allot a larger portion of your budget to groceries and entertainment, but spending much less is possible if you limit dining out and buy fresh food from farmers' markets.
If you love trying new restaurants wherever you go, factor that expense into your RV budget. However, if you’d rather whip up meals at home, you could save a lot by cooking in the comfort of your RV.
Just like with anything valuable you own, there are insurance costs to consider with an RV. Insurance helps protect you and your property and could potentially save you thousands of dollars. It also gives you peace of mind so you can enjoy your travels to the fullest.
So, how much does RV insurance cost? Well, you can opt for the lowest insurance possible or make sure every nook and cranny is covered - again, it’s up to you. Also, some states have higher or lower insurance costs than others, so it depends on which state you claim as your domicile. Other factors like your driving record and RV age will also affect insurance costs.
If you can bundle your RV insurance with a car or other existing insurance policies you have, this could also help save you some premium costs. You may want to consider adding roadside assistance to your monthly insurance bill. As an adventure-seeker, you’ll come across all types of road and weather conditions, so you’ll want to be prepared.
Phone and Internet
Internet service may not be a necessity for all RV travelers, but for many people, it is. You’ll likely always want a way to contact others, especially if you’re traveling to new and unfamiliar places.
If you need a reliable connection, you may want to obtain a mobile Wi-Fi hotspot or use your cell phone’s hotspot for Wi-Fi, as RV campground Wi-Fi could be unreliable or insecure. Use a quality service you can depend on anywhere in the country and one that will protect your information.
Maintenance is an area you don’t want to overlook. We understand it’s no fun to contemplate fixing a flat tire on your way to the Rocky Mountains, but these things happen. It’s always best to be prepared so you can move on with your journey in less time and with fewer worries.
Some people don’t set up a fund for maintenance at all. While this may reduce costs immediately, it doesn’t save you money in the long run. Like any motor vehicle, regular maintenance ensures a long lifespan and keeps your RV in tip-top shape. From oil changes to new tires, you’ll want to ensure you have money set aside to meet your maintenance needs.
Anything can happen at any time. As an adventurer, you never know what you’ll encounter. Handle surprises like a champ by setting up a special maintenance fund.
Propane is likely what you’ll use to fuel your oven, heater, and your refrigerator in your RV. Propane prices vary per gallon but have averaged around $2.89 a gallon over the last decade, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration (EIA).
If you have a larger Class A motorhome, you might have around an 80 to 100-pound tank. Smaller Class C motorhomes may have a 20- or 40-pound tank. A 30-pound propane tank is equal to about seven gallons of propane.
Your propane costs will vary depending on how much you use, what appliances in your RV run on propane, and where and when you camp. For example, if you want to save on heating costs, you might opt to head south for the winter instead of camping out in Minnesota. Also, you can use a portable propane heater to help keep you warm on chilly nights instead of heating the entire RV.
Unfortunately, laundry doesn’t go away when you hit the road. The more clothes you pack, the less you’ll need to wash your clothes; however, more space will be taken up in your RV. But like most aspects of travel, you decide how often you do laundry and where.
So how do RVers do it? Is there a secret laundry code you must follow? Many RV campsites have laundry facilities campers can use. If not, you’ll have to track down a laundromat.
Laundry costs depend on how much you wash and how often. If you wash and dry two loads of laundry in a week, for example, you’ll spend around $8, not including the cost of detergent. Multiply that by the number of weeks you plan to be on the road.
For most short trips, you can put your mail on hold with the postal service and collect it when you get home. However, if you’re planning on an extended trip and are anticipating needing to receive mail, you’ll need to do some additional planning. You won’t have a hotel address to send items to, so you may want to look into mail service providers. Monthly fees range from $5 up to $20.
We covered the must-have expenses, but there are plenty of extras to consider adding to your budget when traveling. Your personal needs and preferences will determine how much these cost.
Some other expenses may include:
Personal hygiene and beauty products
Pet boarding or travel expenses
Although RV travel is not necessarily cheap, you’re getting what you pay for - the freedom to travel wherever you want for a price you choose. An RV may save you money depending on your travel preferences and destinations.
Ready to Hit the Road?
Long stretches of open road, a backdrop of snow-capped mountains - what do you envision when you dream of RV travel? If the idea of RV travel excites you, but you still feel uncertain about costs, know there are many ways to afford the motorhome of your dreams.
At PSECU, we offer flexible financing options so you can finance the RV you’ve always wanted, whether it’s new or used.
We’re excited to help you explore the beauty this country has to offer, and we can help you get started with one of our loans. We offer financing up to 90% of RV retail value on RVs priced at $3,000 or more. Getting started on our simple, fast process just takes a few steps:
Find your dream RV
Fill out a loan application online
Once the loan is approved, sign off on the terms
Enjoy a low APR and terms of up to 120 months
Why wait to get the RV of your dreams? If you’re not already a member, join us! We’re perfect for life on the road. Our mobile app lets you deposit checks, pay people with your phone (even if they aren’t members!), pay bills, and more anywhere, anytime. Plus, you have access to thousands of surcharge-free ATMs across the country.
The content provided in this publication is for informational purposes only. Nothing stated is to be construed as financial or legal advice. Some products not offered by PSECU. PSECU does not endorse any third parties, including, but not limited to, referenced individuals, companies, organizations, products, blogs, or websites. PSECU does not warrant any advice provided by third parties. PSECU does not guarantee the accuracy or completeness of the information provided by third parties. PSECU recommends that you seek the advice of a qualified financial, tax, legal, or other professional if you have questions.