Is RV traveling affordable?
Many retirees and some people still employed are sitting on the sidelines and wondering if the day will come when they can economically justify traveling the country in an RV and sleeping in their own beds.
Maybe the decision is easier for full-timers who in many cases sell their homes and furnishings and use the proceeds to purchase an RV, fifth-wheel or pull-behind trailer and exchange life at home for life on the road.
While full-timing is certainly not for everyone, the decision to take the plunge and invest in an RV and travel the country while maintaining a home base is equally difficult.
Large numbers of retirees are now classified as full-timers, however, there are many more who travel only on occasion; some taking small trips, others taking months to complete.
Whether full-time or part-time and disregarding the initial investment of an RV or a pull-behind, the cost of fuel alone discourages many from adopting the lifestyle.
Without trying to lobby for or against RVing, we have learned through our limited travels that actual day-to-day RV travel expenses are comparable to taking the same day-to-day trip in an automobile. Other RVer’s, however, may not come up with the same assumptions.
Here’s one way to look at the costs:
Remember, while on the road we only dine out once a week, except in the Canadian Maritimes when we were on a lobster and fried clam diet. Groceries are purchased along the trip and meals are prepared in the RV kitchen or outside on a portable gas grill as compared to eating two or three meals daily in restaurants if traveling by car.
Also, we overnight in campgrounds where the cost for hooking up to water, electricity, sewer and cable can sometimes cost as little as $15 but seldom more than $45 in popular tourist locations. Motels can cost from $75 to $150.
Last year we drove over 10,000 miles on a near six-month-long trip to the northwest and into Canada consuming over 1,250 gallons of diesel fuel at a cost of approximately $5,500. Campground averaged $30 per night or about $6,000 for the same period. Our monthly average for campgrounds and fuel was less than $2,000 per month. Food costs were not tracked but would be comparable to eating at home.
That’s a big expense but total up a car’s expense for the same mileage, add in dining in restaurants and motel nights for six months and do your own comparison.
We average a whopping 8 to 9 miles per gallon, which is about the industry standard for our size RV and diesel engine. Smaller diesel RV’s might get as much as 14 miles per gallon.
By comparison friends with diesel trucks pulling fifth-wheel units tell me they get about the same mileage. Keep in mind that older RV’s are not as economical as newer models and smaller RV’s (less weight and smaller engines) will get better mileage.
Gasoline engine powered Class A and Class C RV’s are all over the mileage board with some owners reporting better gas mileage, others less than diesel.
The engine powering our 2006 Monaco Knight is a 330 horsepower Cummins. It is driven at 63 miles per hour on the open highway.
In general, purchasing a smaller motorhome, whether diesel or gasoline, will save money on the original purchase plus fuel costs. But owners of smaller units will sacrifice some amenities.
This is certainly not a scientific study; just our limited experience after only two years on and off the road.