The Hidden Costs of RV Ownership


If you are considering purchasing an RV, welcome to our club! It’s such a rewarding way to see and experience the world.

That said, if you are looking forward to a super low cost of living, it’s not always that simple. Don’t get me wrong, it CAN be. But there are some real expenses worth considering before diving in.

Let’s get right into it.

Summary of Top RV Ownership Expenses

Here’s a quick recap of my top points to drill home here.

RV Ownership Costs Average Prices to Expect
Initial Purchase Cost $10,000 – $300,000 (Depends on the type and condition of the RV)
Maintenance and Repair Costs $1000 – $2000 annually
Insurance $1000 – $2000 annually
Depreciation Varies (New RVs depreciate faster than used ones)
Fuel Costs $200 – $400 per month (Depends on mileage and fuel efficiency)
Campground/RV Park Fees $25 – $80 per night
Storage Costs $30 – $100 per month
Cost of Accessories and Modifications Varies (Depends on personal preferences and requirements)

The Big Ones

Picture it: the open road, endless possibilities, and your very own recreational vehicle (RV) to take you wherever you want. It’s the dream, right? But before you leap into that dream, it’s essential to consider the hidden costs of RV ownership.

Depreciation: Just like cars, RVs depreciate the minute they roll off the lot. The amount varies, but you can expect your new rig’s value to drop by around 20% in its first year alone.

Insurance: RV insurance isn’t the same as standard car insurance. It’s often more expensive, especially if you plan to live in your RV full-time.

Tip: Shop around for the best insurance rates, and don’t forget to ask about discounts for things like safe driving or bundling with your home insurance.

Storage: Unless you’re hitting the road 365 days a year, you’ll need a place to store your RV. This could be a spot in your driveway, a rented storage space, or even a specialized RV park. These costs add up quickly.


A bit More About RV Storage..

Have you considered where you’re going to park that gargantuan beauty when it’s not in use? Ah yes, storage: a sneaky, often overlooked cost that can sneak up on unsuspecting RV owners.

Let’s break it down like this.

The size of your RV determines the kind of storage space you’ll need. You can’t exactly stash a 35-foot beast in your average garage. And believe me, your neighbors won’t be thrilled if you take up the entire street!

  • Outdoor Storage: The most cost-effective option, it could run you anywhere from $30 to over $100 per month, depending on your location and the security level.
  • Covered Outdoor Storage: Offers a bit more protection from the elements, this could set you back between $50 and $125 a month.
  • Indoor Storage: The premium choice for those snowy winters or scorching summers, it can cost $50 to $200 monthly, or even higher for climate-controlled spaces.

Now, these costs can add up. But don’t let them deter you. The trick is to factor them into your budget ahead of time. Think of it as a small price to pay for big adventures.

Remember: The open road is priceless, but the parking space isn’t!

Also, keep in mind that the costs can vary based on location, size, and amenities. Some facilities offer perks like 24-hour access, security cameras, and even RV washing stations. Because who wouldn’t want a sparkling clean RV for their next trip?

Furnishing an RV

Depending on what built-ins come standard with your RV, there may be some things that are not necessarily obvious to purchase first.

Top expense lines include:

  • Bedding (even mattresses sometimes)
  • Kitchen Supplies
  • Coolers and additional storage

Maintenance and Repairs

RVs require regular maintenance to keep them in top shape. This includes everything from oil changes to tire rotations and can be costly. Unexpected repairs can also take a toll on your wallet, especially for older models.

  • Fluid Levels: One of the most common RV maintenance issues that owners come across is checking and maintaining the fluid levels in the vehicle. Its important to keep track of the oil, coolant, and transmission fluid levels in order to ensure that all components of your RV are running smoothly.
  • Battery Maintenance: With an RV, there are MANY ways to drain a battery! Checking and even full on battery replacement might be more frequent than your standard automoble. Another related issue is keeping the battery properly charged. This can be done through a variety of methods such as hooking up to an external power source or driving the RV around to recharge the battery.
  • Brakes: RV brakes tend to go a bit more quickly compared to a normal car. Its important to check the brake fluid level and inspect the brakes for signs of wear and tear. If any worn parts are detected, its important to replace as soon as possible. Also, brakes should be tested regularly to ensure that they are working properly.
  • Exterior Maintenance: Regular washing and waxing of the RV will help preserve the paint job and protect the vehicle from damage caused by the elements. Its also a good idea to regularly inspect the seals and windows to make sure theyre all functioning properly. This will help avoid any unnecessary air leaks. This is definitely an area I spend more time maintaining compared to a regular vehicle.
  • Winterizing Maintenance Cost: This involves draining and flushing all tanks, hoses, and other components as well as inspecting and repairing any degradation in these areas. This is especially important in areas with cold winters to prevent costly repairs and breakdowns due to seasonal changes in weather. Don’t forget the cost of de-winterizing in Spring! 

RV Fuel Costs

RVs are not known for their fuel efficiency. Depending on the size and type of your RV, you could be looking at hefty gas bills during your travels.

The average fuel cost for RV owners per mile is approximately $0.35/mile, but it can vary up to $0.40-0.45/mile. This of course depends on the CLASS of RV and the specific mileage specs. Also – during spikes in fuel costs (often during the Summer), costs can rise quickly.

Here’s a high level view for how I’d budget fuel costs by RV class:

RV Class Average Fuel Cost Per Mile
Class A $0.60 – $1.00
Class B $0.35 – $0.65
Class C $0.45 – $0.75
Class B+ $0.40 – $0.70
Travel Trailer $0.15 – $0.25
Fifth Wheel $0.20 – $0.30
Pop-up Camper $0.10 – $0.20

Please note that these costs are estimates and can vary based on factors such as fuel type (diesel or gasoline), RV age, maintenance, and driving style. These costs also assume that the RV is towing a small vehicle in the case of Class A, Class B+, and Fifth Wheels.

Campground Fees

Unless you’re always boondocking or dry camping (camping without hookups), you’ll have to pay for campgrounds. Prices vary, but the average nightly cost is around $25-$80.

Remember, owning an RV isn’t just about the initial purchase price. These hidden costs can significantly impact your budget, so it’s crucial to factor them in before making a decision.

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