Many people believe that RV travel is cheaper than staying in hotels. Indeed, RVing has become a popular way to go for weekend road trips. When you are vacationing as a family, it allows you to visit parks and campsites while enjoying incredible sights along the way. But is RV travel the less expensive option?
RV travel is cheaper than hotels if you are going on a long trip, need more than one room, and want to save on accommodation and meals. However, the final cost will depend on gas prices, whether you are renting or buying the RV, and your itinerary.
Keep reading to find out how RV travel can be more affordable than hotels and whether it’s better to buy or rent your RV. You will also find information on the type of hotels to stay at and places to park your RV while in transit.
Buying vs Renting an RV
The first thing you need to consider is whether you will be buying or renting your RV. You also need to decide on what type of RV you need and whether it will be new or gently used.
Buying an RV
While buying a new RV provides you with the opportunity to customize it to suit your needs, it can set you back $100,000 or more.
On the other hand, a used RV is cheaper, and you can upgrade or customize it to your liking. However, you’ll have no warranty, plus you might spend a lot on repairs. If you choose this route, buy your RV from a dealer rather than a private owner.
There are many RV types, but truck and pop-up campers or small travel trailers are the best ones to start with. Still, if you need more room, you can opt to invest in a large travel trailer or fifth wheel RV.
Note that if you go for a towable like a travel trailer, you will also need to buy a towing vehicle (truck or SUV) if you don’t own one. This can be as pricey as purchasing a motorhome. Ultimately, your choice will depend on the size of the RV you need.
Unfortunately, that’s only one half of the story if you decide to buy. This is because there are additional expenses, such as:
- RV camping fees and meals on the road
- Fuel, maintenance, and repair costs
- Insurance and registration
Renting an RV
So, given the hefty investment of acquiring a new RV, you may want to try renting one for sometime before committing to a lease or purchasing one. To rent a small RV would cost you about $205 per day.
Fortunately, dealers sometimes offer time-limited deals you could take advantage of if going on a short weekend trip. This way, you get to try out an RV without spending much.
Another way to rent an RV on the cheap is by partnering with Transfercar. This company connects vehicles that need to relocate to a specific location with travelers who are willing to move them at a minimal fee – about $5. So, if a driver is needed on your route, you can get yourself a good deal.
Note, however, that this offer covers one way- unless you are lucky to get the opportunity to drive another vehicle back home. Therefore, you need to consider the costs of returning home and fuel, if not provided.
Alternatively, you can go for a personal rental like Outdoorsy, where owners rent out their RVs. This offer typically includes kitchen equipment, a TV, insurance, and roadside assistance.
Hence, getting started on RVing might get pretty expensive if you decide to buy a new one. However, since this is a long-term investment, you might want to consider buying a used one and save up on the buying costs and future vacations.
The Type of Hotel You Choose Matters
When vacationing with your RV but opt to sleep in hotels, you need to look at budget-friendly options if you are looking to minimize costs. This is more so when you travel with your kids and need two rooms since hotel rooms tend to be pricey. Besides, if you require more than one room, the costs can add up when you include meals.
Therefore, look for a hostel, Airbnb, or mid-range hotel. The exact hotel costs will depend on the season, the number of rooms and the number of meals taken at the hotel restaurant. However, on average, a hotel room goes for around $121 per night, while eating out costs about $60 per day. Thus, your average daily cost would be about $181 per person.
Note that if you choose to eat elsewhere rather than at the hotel, you might incur cab fees if the restaurant you pick is at a distance.
What if You Already Have a Truck?
If you already have a truck or SUV, a used travel trailer might turn out to be the most cost-effective option for you. This is because travel trailers are much cheaper than motorhomes since you won’t be buying an engine per se.
As mentioned earlier, buying a tow-truck or SUV is almost as pricey as buying a motorhome. But, if you own one, you’ll make enough savings on your RV purchase to afford a used travel trailer.
The great thing about travel trailers is that they have some of the most expansive, well-laid-out living floor plans available. You will have nothing to worry about when it comes to living space.
Where Will You Park Your RV While Traveling?
Many people think that you can park your RV wherever you want – for free. Unfortunately, this is not so because in most cases you need to pay camping fees. These fees depend on where you park your RV.
For instance, if you park at an RV resort, you will pay hefty rates since they are high-end and boast unique, high-quality amenities such as:
- Spacious RV parks
- Full utility hookups
- Outdoor kitchens, private showers, and hot tubs
Note that most RV resorts don’t rent their spaces on a daily basis. Instead, they sell them for several hundred thousand dollars and even more, depending on their level of luxury. Fortunately, you can still find some RV resorts renting out their spaces from between $100 to $500 daily though you need to book in advance. Summer and winter are the priciest at RV resorts.
Standard RV parks or campgrounds charge around $45 a night, but you can find low-cost RV parking here:
- Discount RV clubs like Passport America
- The core of Engineer campsites
- Town/city parks and fairgrounds
- Campgrounds, state, and national parks offering non-hookup sites at low nightly fees
Free RV camping is available in:
- Restaurants or hotel parking lots – for overnight parking
- National/State parks and forests, or public land under the Bureau of Land Management, BLM
- Boondocking sites like WalMarts, casinos, or truck stops where you park your RV for a night without connecting to power, water, or sewer (hookups)
So, is RV travel cheaper than staying in a hotel? As we have seen, this depends on several factors, but ultimately, it all boils down to your lifestyle, circumstances, personal preference, and your pocket.
Nevertheless, if you have a big family, an RV will afford you more money-saving opportunities, more so with lengthy trips. Plus, RVing accords you with an incredible lifestyle where you can share many joyous moments traveling with your family. That is if they don’t mind cooking for themselves and cleaning up the RV.
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Erick is a freelance writer and outdoor enthusiast. Growing up in Nairobi Kenya and now calling Glasgow, United Kingdom home. Sipping on homemade spiced swahili tea and enjoying a good book is his idea of bliss.