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Earlier this year, I shared a reader question on Facebook about ow to save money on RV travel. Little did any of us know that with increasing travel restrictions and limitations coming, this question might become even more relevant! If you decide to purchase an RV, you’re able to travel at your own pace and can control much more of your expenses. But in order for it to be worth it, it’s smart to consider associated costs and how you can actually save money when you’re traveling. Here are the most helpful responses from our amazing Southern Savers readers!
Reader Question: How Can I Save Money on RV Travel?
Most of the comments were related to specific ways to save money, many of which were extremely helpful!
Money Saving Tips
Yvonne W.: “If you are in SC (unsure about other states), if it has a full bathroom and kitchen, you can claim it as a second home and it will lower your taxes some. Also check to make sure the appraisal value they have listed is what you paid. They had ours a couple thousand over what we paid. I took in the bill of sale and it also lowered the taxes significantly.”
Adrienne W.: “We have a travel trailer and love it! We are a family of 5, so we would need at least a 2 bedroom condo or home for vacation. We just booked a week in Gulf Shores for less than $400 for our summer beach trip. We also grocery shop before and plan a menu, and that helps save a ton of money. I highly recommend looking into state parks because they will help will save you a good bit, too.”
Rachel R.: “You can definitely save money on vacation with an RV. We always picked cheaper campgrounds such as the state parks. $30.00 a night is way cheaper than a hotel. Mom always made our lunches which were usually sandwiches while dad drove. And most nights we have dinner in the RV, too. If you and you hubby can make the repairs yourself it definitely helps with the cost of repairs. RV repair shops are really expensive, especially like engine work, etc. In our family’s first camper when I was a kid, my dad even rebuilt the floor once. If you would need someone else to do mechanical repairs I would pull a camper instead.”
Donna H.: “If you happen to be military you can stay on most military bases really cheap. Great campsites and there is usually a commissary close by. Always look for places to boondock. There are several good websites that list them by location. Be sure you have the gas buddy app so you can find the cheapest gas. You will want a plug in toaster oven to use instead of firing up the gas one. An infrared space heater will heat it nicely and use the electricity you have already paid for instead of using your propane.”
Nancy P.: “Try to get one only 5 years old. And get a small one just for now. So you can.learn and see what works for you. Also, with shorter feet. You will fit into more national parks that don’t accommodate 40 footers.”
Nancy M.: “Get an extended warranty. Things are going to break and repairs are expensive.”
Barb P.: “Join a camper FB page for helpful information.”
Maggie C.: “Buy used from an individual and take your time looking. People buy campers all the time and then just want out! Try renting a style you like and plan a trip first to try it at RV Share. Once you own it, there are tons of ways to save money. We typically ONLY vacation in our camper. Tons of savings by not eating out, having crock pot meals ready, etc. For SC (and I’m sure others), you can buy $50 gift cards for $35 on Black Friday special. Good luck shopping for a camper! Camping is so great for families!
Lisa B.: “RV upkeep can get expensive, but if you use it and enjoy it a lot it can be worth it. Do It Yourself RV has a lot of tips and tutorials.”
Sarah J.: “Buy used, and buy a bumper pull (tow behind). If your RV breaks down, you often lose your accommodations.”
Sabrina F.: “Park it under cover and get the seals checked every year. Insurance will deny your claim in a heartbeat if proper maintenance is not done.”
Laura K.: “If you don’t mind working, a lot of state campgrounds have camphost positions and other positions where a campsite is provided for free.”
Toni G.: “Buy a used rental RV. Many upgrades, well maintained, made for heavy use.”
Carla C.: “If you stay in state parks and cook at camp it can certainly be cheaper than hotels but make sure you factor in extra fuel money when traveling. Biggest advice is if you buy it, USE IT! We don’t use ours nearly enough.”
Hannah S.: “Rent or borrow one first to ensure you really enjoy and would use enough to justify the purchase and upkeep costs.”
Andrea H.: We do RV share and our travel trailer pays for itself (and then some!) Doesn’t cost us a dime.”
Kathy W.: “State parks and COE parks are generally cheaper than privately owned campgrounds.”
Leonora C.: “Be careful and understand the generator charges…you can considerably increase the cost of rental if they also charge for generator hours.”
Things to Consider
Along with money saving tips and people touting the benefits of RV travel, many people shared helpful comments about why this may not be the best way to save money on travel.
Melissa T.: “Unless you’re going to be traveling an awful lot, they aren’t worth it. They depreciate really fast! You can rent one for a week or two for whatever you’re planning to do much much cheaper than owning one.”
Amy R.: “We have been down this buying road two times. There is no real way to save money because of the gas and wear/tear on the truck. We found it was cheaper to stay at a hotel many times when we broke the trips down.”
Hannah K.: “Don’t buy new! They depreciate so fast! We learned our lesson with our first and aren’t making that mistake again. Don’t forget to include insurance in your calculations of the cost of buying. You’ll have your initial investment of the RV, yearly insurance, and yearly maintenance. Will you have to pay to store it somewhere? All those added together may not make it any cheaper than other vacations.”
Hannah B.: “Do the math. If you are going to retire in an RV and travel for years, get an RV. If you are going to travel a week or two here and there don’t buy an RV; rent a hotel. RVs depreciate worse than a car and you will lose more in depreciation than you will from renting a hotel. Heavy use of an RV would justify the cost of an RV; otherwise, don’t do it. RVs cost waaaaaay more than hotels for the average person due to depreciation. And don’t forget the fact you have to store it when not in use!”
Kayla F.: “Travel and RV don’t go with saving! That being said we love our trailer and are out as often as we can be.”
Angel C.: “Renting makes much more sense if you only plan to use it a few times a year. In the off season in Jacksonville, the rental price plus campground fees are comparable to a good family hotel. You’ll have to plan a deposit into your expenses, but that will… that will be returned with no damages. There’s also camper van rentals to consider. If you have a smaller family or can bring tents to help accommodate everyone at night, a van is easier to drive and cheaper to fuel.”
Boni H.: “Don’t do it ! We bought one, lived in it, hated it and then bought a house. It’s a lot of work and honestly things are flimsy in RVs. We had to repair quite a few things in it before we sold it! Thankfully we knew someone who could help us with repairs because we had no idea what we were doing.”
Esther W.: “I have two separate close friends/family that purchased and each couple quickly decided it was not worth the money. Unless you are planning to travel for long periods of time, many ways of vacationing are much cheaper.”
Candi C.: “We found it a lot cheaper and more economical to buy a truck with heavy towing capability and a travel trailer. There are 6 of us and we occasionally take a couple of our kids friends as well.”
Allison D.: “Another consideration is that the seats in the RV (other than the front seat) are usually not crash tested or safe for car seats (and actually are often not even approved seat belts for adult travelers).”
Kristina F.: “Rent one when needed and save all the upkeep and taxes and insurance fees.”
Why People Love RVs
The final category of comments did include some tips, but also had people sharing why they really love RV travel. Maybe it will inspire you to give it a try even if it’s only renting.
Tammy B.: “We have a dog that we love to take with us when we travel. The motorhome is a way we can always bring her with us. We sleep in our own beds and don’t have to worry about cleanliness of hotel rooms. We try to use our motorhome at least one weekend each month.”
Penny W.: “The travel is not usually cheaper but the style is different. RVing can be great fun and very relaxing. Just depends on what you want.”
Peggy F.: “We have a travel trailer and love it. I do not like hotels/ motels. I want to sleep in my own bed.”
Nikki L.: “Definitely buy used! We are a family of 5 and use ours usually 4 full weeks a year, and I don’t know how many weekends. State parks are a great option to keep the costs of sites down, and most usually have free programs and activities during the week. We are able to spend a week at the beach for hundreds less than if we stayed in a hotel or condo. We usually plan to eat out for dinner once or twice and then cook the rest, which again saves so much. Also, because you can bring things from home, it’s even cheaper because you aren’t having to buy it all when you get there like you do with a condo or room with a kitchen (stuff like condiments and pantry staples). The winter is a great time to buy because there is a ton of inventory and not as many buyers—people don’t want to camp in the snow!”
Barbara D.: “We bought ours back in ’08 and it was the best investment we’ve ever made. We bought a quality used coach, for a great price, after a lot of searching. We attended trade shows to find out what we really needed vs. what we wanted before we started looking. Ended up with everything. Our coach is now 20 years old and is still in great condition because we take care of it. No, we have NEVER been turned away from a campground because we do not stay in the high-end parks. We don’t spend a lot of time just laying around and we prefer to explore. Tennessee has really low registration..$29…so that is not an issue and we can store our rig at our home. We travel every summer for four to five months and mostly dry camping, state and federal campgrounds…seldom use private unless they are part of our discount plan with Passport America. We seldom eat out as we have found we like our cooking much better and it is healthier. We only eat out when in a special area as we did in The Maritimes (Canada) this past summer. Our biggest saver is fuel…we search for best prices (almost always a mile or two into town and save big dollars) and found the sweet spot for our diesel…62 mph, in the right lane. We spent three months in Canada and spent around $6,000…fuel, campgrounds, food, souvenirs, etc. My husband does the majority of maintenance and winterizes/de-winterizes each year…that saves us a bundle.”
Do you travel in an RV? Let us know how you save money in the comments!