Outside of your home (and maybe your truck), an RV might just be the biggest financial commitment of your life. Before you head to your local dealer to sign your name on the dotted line, you need to consider the total cost of RV ownership – and this includes a few hidden costs you may not have thought of.
Once you do the math, you may decide it would be easier and more cost effective to simply hit the road in the family car and stay in a hotel.
Keep in mind that most of these costs will vary greatly depending what you buy – whether it be a $10,000 folding trailer or a $300,000 Class A motorhome.
Monthly Loan Payment
If you are lucky enough to have money on hand to buy your RV outright, monthly payments won’t be a concern for you. But for most of us that is simply not the case. For sake of argument, let’s say you’ve purchased a $50,000 travel trailer with $20,000 down, leaving you with a $30,000 loan. Assuming a 5% interest rate and a five-year term, you’ve got a $566 nut to cover every single month – even while it’s sitting in storage somewhere during the winter months. That’s almost $7,000 per year in just loan payments, though it’s just the beginning of your total costs of ownership.
Speaking of storage, if you happen to live in a colder climate, you’ll want to keep your RV covered and clear of snow during winter months. If you don’t have room to safely store an RV on your property, you need to pay somebody to do that for you. This could cost you $75 or more per month for unheated indoor storage or $150+ per month for heated storage.
You can’t have an RV without insurance and that is another cost to consider. If you bundle your RV with your home and auto insurance, you are looking at something in the neighborhood of $300 annually for a trailer or $600 or so for a motorized motorhome.
When buying a travel trailer or fifth wheel, you need to carefully consider your tow vehicle. You need to make sure your tow vehicle can handle the weight of the trailer and whatever you plan to keep inside of it. If your current truck or SUV can’t handle a 30-foot trailer, you either have to get a smaller trailer or a larger truck. If it’s the latter, that’s a lot of extra cost for what may not amount to more than a few road trips per year. If it’s the former, then you are sacrificing comfort on your family vacation.
I don’t know about you, but I don’t much care for the cost at the pump for my weekly fill-up to support my daily commute. But if you are hauling around a big trailer or fifth wheel, you are going to burn a lot more fuel. And things don’t get any better if you buy a motorhome instead. Drive your motorhome or haul a big trailer through the mountains and you can actually watch your fuel level drop. This may induce visions of dollar signs flying out of your wallet as the university fund for your children starts to shrink. Maybe they’ll be happy in with an online school?
You know how every year lots of little things need fixing in your house? Now imagine what would happen if you hooked your house up to a truck and drove it down the highway at 100 kph, followed by a trip down a bumpy gravel road to a campground. RVs need more maintenance than you probably think. Brakes need fixing, tires need replacing, furry critters like to chew up wiring and using insulation for nests. And because RVs get bumped and jostled around more than a house, walls develop cracks and cupboard doors come loose. And the cost is not just money – it’s time. Your honey-do list will grow exponentially if you own an RV.
Before you ever go on your first road trip with your RV, you need to stock it up. Everything from dishes to kitchen tools to linen to the pantry needs to be considered. And I promise you, you will forget something important the first couple of times you take your RV out. The initial cost is considerable.
Is it Worth It?
With all of these costs in mind, RV ownership may not be for you. When you consider the total cost of RV ownership, you could quite easily spend several weeks every year staying in nice hotels, conveniently located anywhere your travels may take you, and still come out way ahead. That money can be used to eat at great restaurants, buying the nicer bottle of wine at dinner, or going on more interesting adventures. And maybe your kids will still be able to go to the university they want.
Are you ready to plan a vacation instead of a trip to the bank to discuss an RV purchase?