How much does it cost to keep up an RV?

Owning a recreational vehicle can be an exciting and liberating experience, allowing you to travel and live on the road. However, RVs also come with ongoing costs for maintenance, insurance, registration fees, and operational expenses like fuel and campground fees. So how much does it really cost to keep up an RV?

Average Annual Costs of RV Ownership

According to a survey by RVIA, the average RV owner spends around $5,000 per year on ownership costs. However, this can vary substantially based on the size, age, and type of RV.

Class A motorhomes tend to be the most expensive to maintain, with average annual costs of $10,000 or more. Travel trailers and fifth wheels are more affordable, averaging $5,000 to $7,000 per year. Pop-up campers and truck campers are the least expensive, with average annual costs under $3,000.

One-Time Purchase and Preparation Costs

The first step in RV ownership is purchasing the vehicle itself. New RVs can cost anywhere from $10,000 for a basic travel trailer to $500,000 or more for a large Class A luxury motorhome. The average price for a new RV is around $73,000.

In addition to the purchase price, you’ll need to pay sales tax and registration fees. Most states charge around 5% to 7% sales tax on new RV purchases. Registration and title transfer fees vary by state but typically range from $100 to $500.

Unless you’re buying brand new, used RVs will also need an inspection and may require repairs or upgrades to get them road-ready. Budget at least $1,000 for any necessary maintenance or repairs.

You may also want to attach accessories like a tow bar or bike rack, or add interior features like solar panels or satellite internet. These upgrade costs can easily tally $5,000 or more.

Insurance Costs

Just like cars, RVs must be insured. RV insurance provides protection against damage or theft, and liability coverage in case an accident is your fault. It typically costs $800 to $2,000 per year depending on the RV’s age, value, location, and your driving history.

Full replacement cost insurance gives the best coverage but is the most expensive. Liability-only policies are cheaper but only cover damage you cause to other people or vehicles. Optional add-ons like emergency roadside assistance and full-timers coverage will raise your premiums as well.

Maintenance and Repair Costs

RVs need regular maintenance and occasional repairs just like a car. Typical annual maintenance costs are $1,000 to $2,500 depending on the RV’s age, mileage, and warranty coverage. This includes expenses like:

  • Oil changes and filter replacements
  • Generator maintenance
  • LP gas system inspections
  • Water system winterization
  • Appliance and HVAC tune-ups
  • Roof resealing

Repair costs vary widely based on the issue. Some examples of common RV repairs and their average costs are:

Repair Average Cost
Refrigerator replacement $1,500 – $2,500
Electrical system repairs $300 – $600
Generator repair $500 – $1,200
Axle or suspension repair $600 – $1,500
Tire replacement $150 – $300 per tire

Major repairs like engine or transmission work can cost $5,000 or more. RV repair costs also tend to increase with age as parts wear out.

Fuel Costs

Fuel is one of the biggest variable costs for RV operation. Fuel efficiency ranges dramatically based on factors like:

  • RV type – Class A motorhomes (8-14 mpg) vs travel trailers (10-20+ mpg)
  • Size and weight – Larger/heavier RVs use more fuel
  • Driving style and speed – Aggressive acceleration and high speeds decrease mpg
  • Generator use – Generators consume .5-1 gallon per hour
  • Auxiliary systems like air conditioning also impact mpg

The average fuel efficiency is 6 to 12 miles per gallon. At $3.50 per gallon for diesel and $4 per gallon for gasoline, fuel could cost anywhere from $300 to $1,000+ per month depending on how far you drive.

Campground and Parking Fees

Spending nights parked at campgrounds and RV parks will be one of your biggest recurring costs. There are several options for overnight RV parking:

  • RV parks ($35-$75 per night) – Offer amenities like full hookups, showers, pools.
  • Public campgrounds ($10-$35 per night) – More basic with limited hookups and amenities.
  • Boondocking (Free) – Free dry camping without hookups on public land.

The nightly cost averages $25 at bare-bones campgrounds up to $75 at luxury resort-style RV parks. Monthly rates offer discounted costs from $500 to $2,000+ per month.

You may also need to pay for overnight parking in cities. Walmart often allows free RV parking, while other lots charge up to $20 per night.

Maintenance Fees for RV Lots

Some RV owners purchase a lot at a residential RV park. This provides a home base to park the RV with full hookups and amenities like laundry and recreation centers.

Owning an RV lot comes with ongoing maintenance fees, similar to HOA dues. These typically cover costs like landscaping, road maintenance, utility access, and park amenities. Average monthly fees range from $200 to $500.

RV Storage Costs

When not in use, RVs need storage space. Indoor heated storage costs $100 to $300 monthly, while outdoor RV storage runs $50 to $100 per month on average. Storage fees are lower if you split costs with a friend and store RVs together.

Self-storage with climate control provides security and protects RVs from weather damage. Outdoor storage exposes RVs to the elements, so you may need to budget for repairs after long-term outdoor storage.

Costs for RV Improvements

Personalizing your RV with upgrades and renovations can be a fun part of ownership. However, these optional improvements will increase your total maintenance costs. Some examples include:

  • Interior decor updates like new flooring, countertops, furniture ($2,000 to $10,000)
  • Exterior paint job or detailing ($1,500 to $5,000)
  • Electronics like flat screen TVs, satellite internet, solar panels ($1,000 to $6,000)
  • Luxury add-ons like full-body paint, awnings, dishwasher ($3,000 to $15,000)

Cosmetic changes like paint jobs cost less, while upgrades like solar power systems require major investments. Spreading larger projects over time can make them more affordable.

Miscellaneous Ownership Expenses

You’ll incur other random costs during RV ownership, including:

  • Licenses and permits ($100-$500 annually)
  • Club membership dues ($50-$150 annually)
  • Safety gear like fire extinguishers ($50-$200 as needed)
  • Wastewater disposal ($10-$50 per dump)
  • Cleaning supplies ($5-$20 monthly)
  • Bottled propane for fuel ($20-$60 monthly)

Budgeting $100-$200 monthly for these miscellaneous RV expenses is realistic.

Cost Saving Tips

While RVing certainly isn’t cheap, there are ways to reduce your costs:

  • Buy used. New RVs depreciate up to 50% in the first 5 years. Buying used saves substantially.
  • Learn DIY maintenance. Do basic repairs and maintenance yourself to save on labor costs.
  • Reduce fuel costs. Drive slower, maintain your RV, and use fuel efficiently.
  • Boondock more. Reduce camping fees by using free public land.
  • Join a club. Club memberships provide discounts on campgrounds, fuel, and more.
  • Cook your own meals. Eat in instead of dining out to save.

Conclusion

The average annual cost of RV ownership ranges from about $3,000 to $10,000, depending on the type and age of the RV, as well as your driving and camping habits. Key factors impacting costs include:

  • Purchase price
  • Insurance premiums
  • Maintenance and repairs
  • Fuel for driving
  • Overnight parking fees
  • Storage when not in use

While owning an RV is not inexpensive, proper budgeting and smart cost-saving strategies can help keep expenses affordable. The financial investment pays off in the freedom, comfort, and memorable experiences the RV lifestyle offers.

Leave a Comment