There are RV expenses in various categories while owning & traveling in a motor home and I’ll list the most obvious ones here. However, it’s almost impossible to give you a good indication of the costs in each category, since every motorhome or RV is different, and every individual has differences in their comfort level when it comes to overnight camping.
Depending on your lifestyle, your rv expenses can be relatively low or they may cost you a small fortune. There is no such thing as a “typical” budget - everyone’s rv budget is going to be different, and yours will depend on how you use your motor home. However, based on my experience as a full-timer, I can give you some guidelines and an idea of the various categories of expenses.
Artists' Drive in Death Valley National Park
I drive between 55-60 mph most of the time in Mehitabel, a 27’ Winnebago Sightseer, and I tow a Toyota Corolla. I believe Shell gasoline gives me somewhat better mileage, but that could be wrong. On the last, very windy long haul, I was getting 9.25 – 9.75 mpg. The less weight you carry, the better you will do, so empty those holding tanks, and limit the amount of fresh water you carry. I like to have about ¼ tank of fresh water, so I can handle an unexpected overnight if needed. Obviously, if you tend to stay in one place for long periods of time, you will save a lot on fuel costs.
When Robert was with me in Mehitabel, we split most costs for gas, lodging, propane, etc., but he didn't keep track of what he spent on rv expenses when we were staying put, so I can’t give you good annual figures for those items. The summer of 2009 we took a long trip through northeastern US, New Brunswick, Prince Edward Island, Nova Scotia, Cape Breton Island, then down the East Coast to NC. We interspersed Wal-Mart overnights with stays at RV Parks, and averaged $15.15/night.
Death Valley National Park
In 2010 we traveled almost 6,000 miles, north and northwest, then down the Pacific coast and, eventually, back to Tucson. We used my RPI membership and stayed at a quite a few parks in that system. The average overnight camping cost was $15.82.
RV costs if you stay in rv parks will run between $20-$75/night. If you pay by the month, you’ll save money, but most of them will charge for electric on top of that monthly rate. Electric is already factored into the daily rates.
Saguaro Skeleton in Picacho Peak State Park, AZ
State Parks and National Parks are a good deal, especially if you are over 62 or handicapped. In those cases you qualify for Golden Age passes, so entrance fees into National Monuments and Parks are waived, and you pay one half the daily rate for a camping spot. Some parks have 30 or 50 amp electric hookup at some of the sites, and there is usually fresh water and a dump site available in the park. Other parks, you just have to dry-camp, or boondock, although there is usually fresh water and a dump station nearby.
I am not including one-time rv expenses you might incur such as a down payment or outright purchase of an RV and/or car, land or time-sharing memberships.
One of the big costs you'll have every few years is replacing the tires. RV tires are not designed to wear out from mileage - it is recommended that you replace them every 3-5 years. It's pretty costly to replace 4-6 tires at once, so make sure you budget for it.
Here’s a list of recurring items you need to factor into the budget for your rv lifestyle (the clickable categories will lead you to additional information):
License & Registration fees
Doctors, Dentists, Prescriptions
Insurance – Medical
Outfitting the RV
Utilities (propane, electric)
Miscellaneous (you always need this category!)
RV Clubs, Publications
Telephone/cell phone/Internet service
I think free camping is the absolute best and many parks have "dispersed" camping available. A lot of us work hard to keep RV expenses down and there are several ways to do that. You can volunteer your services in return for free hookups, and you can do a lot of boondocking. Those are my two favorite ways of reducing the cost of overnight lodging.
Do you have any questions? Any comments? This is your chance to let me know what you're thinking, so please do. I really enjoy hearing from you.
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