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How Much Does an RV Cost to Own and Maintain?

It’s no secret that RVing can be expensive. When shopping for an RV, it’s easy to get focused on the cost of the RV and forget about other expenses related to the purchase. You can’t put your credit card away very long before there’s another purchase to cover. Let’s see just how all these costs break down.

rvs with cost prices on windshields

RV Purchase Costs

You’ll need to factor in several costs when purchasing an RV. Here are a few RV costs you may have overlooked in the excitement of choosing a brand and floorplan.

Buying New Versus Used RVs

While buying a new RV is appealing, it may not be the most budget-friendly. RVs lose about 20% of their value the moment you drive them off the lot. However, you might get a better warranty than you would with a used RV. 

Buying a used RV will probably mean a better price, however. Plus, the previous owner may have already addressed issues with the vehicle. When it comes to used versus new, there’s no one correct answer for everyone.

RV Financing

Assuming you won’t be purchasing your RV with cash, you’ll have financing fees. Dealerships will almost always push you to use an in-house finance company because of their partnerships with lenders. 

Therefore, it’s often beneficial to shop around for rates before you even get to the dealership. That way, even if you do end up with financing from the dealership, you’ll know if they give you a decent rate. It’s important to know that due to the quick depreciation of RVs. Otherwise, you’ll quickly find yourself underwater on your loan without a sizable down payment.

Tow Vehicle Costs

Tow vehicles aren’t cheap, but if you’re purchasing a tow-behind RV, they’re necessary. Often, buying a capable tow vehicle can cost more than the RV itself.

While it’s a tough pill to swallow, skimping on your tow vehicle could make you less safe and cost you more in the long run. Keep in mind that a tow vehicle comes with the additional expenses of registration, taxes, and insurance. 

Sales Tax and Insurance

Sales tax and insurance are easy to forget about until you go to sign on the dotted line. Don’t forget that you’ll also need to pay to register your RV in your state.

While dealerships will often allow you to roll these expenses into your loan, you’ll have to pay them eventually.

Repairs and Maintenance

Your RV will need to be repaired and maintained like any of your other vehicles. Like the original purchase price, larger and more luxury RVs generally cost much more to maintain than smaller, more budget-friendly units. Class A motorhomes tend to have the highest cost of repairs and maintenance partially because they add an additional large drivetrain that can only be serviced at specialized mechanics.

The unfortunate reality is that motorhomes and trailers are prone to significant failures. Based on claims data gathered by Wholesale Warranties, three out of every 10 RVs will suffer a major breakdown by just their second year on the road. By year five, that number jumps to 80 percent! By year eight, virtually every RV suffers a major failure.

Top 5 Most Common RV Repairs and Costs

Some components are more likely to break than others, so we’ve compiled a list of some of the most common breakdowns and their typical costs. Here is the breakdown on top 5 breakdowns:

  • Slide-Out Systems: $1,800 – $5,000
  • Leveling Jacks: $2,400 – $5,000
  • Water Pump: $1,250
  • Refrigerator Cooling Unit: $1,000
  • Hot Water Heater*: $750 – $1,500
    • *If Aqua-Hot: $1,000 – $10,000

Some of the most common breakdowns are also among the most expensive. These top five most common repairs impact both motorhomes and towable trailers. A malfunctioning slide-out can pull a sizable chunk of change from your wallet. Additionally, more complex systems, such as an Aqua-Hot water heating system, can be especially pricey to repair or replace outright. Details like this are important to consider when purchasing your RV and managing your budget.

RV Extended Warranties

It’s best to keep an emergency fund for unpredictable costs. Alternatively, you can secure an RV extended warranty. These policies provide coverage in the event of an unexpected breakdown. When a covered component breaks down, your warranty provider will step in to cover the costs of repair, labor, and replacement. If you’re interested in a free quote from our friends at Wholesale Warranties, you can click here to learn more.

RV Lifestyle Costs

Unless your RV remains parked in your driveway, there will be additional RV costs when you use it. Driving around and camping can both mean more costs.

Campsites

Unless you choose to boondock, you’ll have to pay campground fees. They’ll vary based on location, park type, and amenities. Generally, state parks fall on the more budget-friendly side and can cost as little as $10 a night. In contrast, high-end RV parks in highly sought-out locations can cost upwards of $230 a night! 

Utilities

Some parks will require you to cover your campsite utility fees. This may only apply when you stay monthly at a park. Some parks will require it for weekly stays, though. Before booking your campsite, verify if it’s all-inclusive or if there will be additional fees. 

Pro Tip: Find out How Much it Costs to Full Time RV where we share our budget and actual expenses for full-time RV living.

RV Travel Costs

RVing comes with the freedom to explore, but those miles add up quickly. The more frequently you travel, the more regularly you’ll need to fuel up. Plus, most RVs aren’t known for their fuel efficiency.

Downloading apps such as GasBuddy can help you find the best fuel prices while on the road and potentially save you some money. Additionally, fuel discount programs such as Mudflap and Open Roads can save you hundreds or thousands of dollars in the long run.

RV Storage Costs

Between trips, you’ll need to store your RV. If you’re lucky enough to have the option to keep your RV on your property, you’ll have some RV cost savings here. Those who have to store their RV offsite may pay between $50 and $450 a month in RV storage fees based on location and storage type. Many times storage is done by the foot so larger RV’s again will cost more. 

3 Ways to Reduce RV Costs

With all of these extras adding up, it can start to feel like the additional costs will never end. Thankfully, you can do a few things to bring the cost of RVing down a bit. Take a look at these cost-saving options. 

DIY RV Repairs When Possible

When you own an RV, things will break. Even if you get lucky and have very few issues, repairs will eventually happen. Those who can quickly learn to make small (and sometimes even extensive) repairs themselves will save some significant money.

It isn’t uncommon for RV work to cost upwards of $150 an hour. Being even just a little handy can help you spend your money on your adventures instead of at the shop. If you’re not handy, looking into that extended warranty might help you a lot.

Pro Tip: Always keep a tool kit on hand during your travels. Here’s what we keep in ours: 36 Important Tools You Need In Your RV Tool Kit

RV Toolkit -Tools we carry while RV Traveling Full Time

Keep Up On Maintenance

It can be tempting to ignore a problem and hope it will just go away. Ignoring an issue with an RV versus facing it head-on could cost you more in the long run. Additionally, trying to save money by skimping on your maintenance and going longer than you should between tune-ups could come back to bite you. Keeping up on your maintenance can avoid turning your RV into a money pit. 

RV Memberships and Clubs

Those spending considerable time on the road might find it cost-effective to purchase an RV membership to help reduce costs. Campground memberships typically allow campers to pay a yearly fee and receive free or reduced-cost campsites in return. Some popular memberships include Thousand Trails, Passport America, Harvest Host, and Boondockers Welcome

Is Owning an RV Cost-Effective?

If you’re used to paying $400 a night in hotel fees, plus meals and airfare, you may find RV costs nominal in comparison. However, those who travel light and are a bit more thrifty may find RV ownership quite expensive. 

Our RVs can take us to unique locations and keep us comfortable. Sadly, the costs associated with those RVs can prove prohibitive for some people. Luckily, you can control many things when on the road, and we highly recommend thinking about all the costs in this article and putting together a budget.

Do you have any RV cost stories, or have you had any surprise costs? Let us know in the comments!

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Gary Seney

Thursday 15th of February 2024

I have an extended warranty on my used diesel pusher. It was expensive and I financed it in my loan. I have used it several times. I'm not full time but retired. I've owned it for 20 months. The "expensive" warranty has never paid all of my repair expenses. It is always short when paying the "labor" costs. Labor costs have been in the $165 - $200 per hour range.

I do write off the interest expense as a second home.

Wayne

Thursday 15th of February 2024

I had a bad experience with Winnebago. We bought a new Micro Minni. 8 months into the warranty period the slide malfunctioned. The slide was binding extending and retracting. We were on a trip to Canada so we lived with pushing and pulling the slide open and close. Doing that, the tape on the top of the slide was damaged. The last week of our trip the slide would only open 6". That was enough to open fridge. But we lived in a narrow hallway making it difficult. When we returned I took the trailer to the dealer 90 miles from my home as there were no closer Winnebago service available. The first call from the dealer was after 6 weeks stating there was water damage caused by the damaged tape causing one side wall of the slide to bow. Winnebago refused to fix the side wall as they said I didn't maintain the slide. I installed a slide topper prior to the trip to Canada. I lubricated the seals on he slide each stop on the trip. Winnebago still refused to pay for the fix. Now we are in November having dropped off the trailer in August. The trailer needed to be winterized. So I drove by the dealer on my way to visit my Daughters as the dealer wanted $200 for 15 minutes work. While there I looked at the damage the WINNEBAGO was declined to cover under warranty. It was a joke as there is no way water could be coming in to cause the slide end wall to bow. Told the dealer to fix and I would pay the $2600 to fix. When the side wall was removed no water had leaked in. The bow was caused by poor assembly in the factory. There is a stud in the middle of the side wall. When it is assembled, a bead of adhesive is applied to the side wall fiberglass peace. When the end wall is installed, the fiberglass is rolled to adhere to the middle stud. When my side wall was removed the adhesive didn't seal on the stud causing the appearance of water damage. Winnebago still would nit cover the cost say "it was not a manufacturing error". Don't know wht else you could call it! Don't buy Winnebago !

Not So Free

Wednesday 26th of May 2021

re: taxes. Don't forget personal property taxes. They can add up.