RV travel expenses vs. other travel types

The total expense for my recent Florida-Michigan trip was $3183 for the 22 days.  That is a burn rate of $144/day, which is very cheap by most vacation standards for two people unless you just rented a cabin somewhere and stayed put. 

Typically when we travel to Europe I figure on $500-600 per day all in.  Granted, that is for luxury travel including air, but even here in the States I easily spend about $250-300/day just for reasonable accommodations, food, and gas money.  The only travel that comes even close to RV’ing in terms of affordability is cruising, but even there it would be hard to do much better than $200/day for two once you’ve figured in all of the extras.  All inclusives work out about the same as cruising.  So yeah, RV’ing is a bargain-until you have to sell your toy at a loss.

Let’s just use my own 5’er as an example of what happens when you sell.  I bought it earlier this year.  If I sold it now, I’d probably lose about $2,000 on it.  I’d also have to say that the fifth wheel hitch on my truck was just a waste of money as well, so there goes another $1500.  I also spent about $300 so far for storage, and the insurance has cost me $120. So the total additional expense if I sold right now would be $3920.  And keep in mind, all of those numbers are extraordinarily low by RV standards, both because I got a great deal on the RV (which mitigates the depreciation loss) and because I am a cheapskate on some things.

In any event, factor in the extra $3920, and you have to add (3920/22=178) $178/day to the trip total.  Add that to the $144, and you are well into hotel territory (178+144=322).

By the way, I am not even counting the sale of my oversized pickup truck which I would never have needed had I not been RV’ing.  I’d probably lose about $5000 selling that, which works out to another $227/day, making a European trip seem cheap in comparison.

Not fair, you say?  Maybe.  But it does go to show that RV’ing is not a bargain type of travel.  A good friend of mine, an experienced class A driver, once told me, “rather than buy an RV, it’s cheaper to just buy yourself a Porsche and stay in luxury hotels. 

I think he was right.


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2 Responses to RV travel expenses vs. other travel types

  1. nigel says:

    This is a helpful ‘thought process’ and one that we have just gone through. Having sold our RV a few years ago we are now on our way up to the Yukon (from Vancouver Island – 1st Sept) for a 4 – 6 week trip. Buying an RV now at this time of year (peak season) is expensive so we have chosen to stay in cabins and Air B&B’s – for the first time. The disadvantage of this is that you are reasonable stuck to a schedule – so even if you wanted to stay longer at a place, tough as you need to move on. I suspect that there is no ‘easy answer’.

    • Jonathan says:

      Hi Nigel:
      The thing is you also must stick to some kind of schedule on an RV, at least much of the time. I just don’t see the freedom from that, except in so far as you can park at a Walmart parking lot or on the side of the road somewhere. Otherwise, you still need to make reservations at a campground.

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