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Buying an RV: Seven Hidden Costs to Consider

| Updated Jan 23, 2024

There are many “hidden costs” in buying an RV, similar to when you buy a house and then need to also buy that couch, dining room table, lawnmower, or other appliances on top of everything else.

When you are buying an RV, on top of the large ticket price, there are several “hidden costs” that can add up to significant expenses and are important to factor into your decision.

First, let's start with a little fun – the sometimes crazy reasons people sometimes have for buying an RV from a series of interviews we did with some folks we met at one of our gatherings:

 Check out seven of these costs to consider below.

Buying an RV: Taxes

Depending on the state that you live in, you'll need to pay sales tax on your RV. When buying an RV costing tens of thousands or hundreds of thousands of dollars, you can't forget that depending on your state, it can be another 4, 5, 8 grand or more that you need to pay on top of the sale price.

We delve deeper into taxes in “RV Buying Secrets”…just don't forget that they're a large expense on top of the price you pay for your RV.

Buying an RV: Insurance

The larger and more expensive the RV you own, the more you’ll have to pay for insurance. Remember that on top of a monthly RV payment (if you aren’t buying outright), you’ll also need to pay for insurance.

Buying an RV: Maintenance

Just like with insurance, the larger the RV you own, the more maintenance it will require (with more stuff, there is a higher likelihood that something breaks). If you have a gas-powered engine and are handy, you may be able to save some money around general maintenance.

However, with a diesel-powered engine, you’re likely stuck bringing it to a specialized shop.

Buying an RV: Fuel

Fuel is expensive. When looking to buy an RV, find out the average miles per gallon that vehicle has. Depending on if you’re going full-time or part-time, you can get a rough estimate of how much money you’ll spend on fuel in a month. Be sure to check out our post “Gas vs Diesel: Seven Important Truths About RV Fuels.”

Buying an RV: Towing

If you’re planning on towing a 5th wheel or a “toad” behind your RV, do you have all the necessary equipment for towing? If you don’t, research the extra costs these items will add to your total expense. Learn more about this topic at “Important RV Question: Towing a car with an RV.”

Towing a car with an RV
There are many things to consider when buying an RV. For example, is an RV and a tow car too big?

Buying an RV: Campground fees

Unless you’re planning on boondocking (and if you are, we definitely recommend to check out our other digital guide, The Beginner’s Guide to Boondocking), you’ll need to budget for RV parks and campgrounds. Depending on the location and how long you’re staying for, the fees can vary from $10-$100+ per day. Again, this cost will depend on if you’re a full-timer or only RVing part-time.

Buying an RV: Other amenities

Just like when you buy a house and start needing to buy a couch, larger TV, dining room table, etc., when you buy an RV there are purchases that start to add up. The most expensive among these are things like a Wi-Fi hotspot, a dash camera and other gizmos and gadgets. Just know that when you buy an RV, you’ll also end up spending money on little things that you might not have thought of.

These all play into your decision and what works best for you. The key is to imagine how you intend to use your unit, where you want to travel, how many luxuries you want, how many people will be using the RV, and if you’re full-time, part-time or a weekend warrior.

There is an RVing ideal you’ve probably created and aspire to be but until you’ve tried it and experienced it, it might not be everything you’ve thought it to be. The #1 way to save money when buying an RV is making sure to purchase the one you’ll use and enjoy the most. And do that THE FIRST TIME.

That’ll save you from having to “right-size” later on. You’ll get more use out of a unit you love that fits your needs.

With more use, the cost of ownership drops considerably.

If you own an RV for one year: Use a $60,000 unit 10 days per year and you’re paying $6,000/day. Use that same unit 125 days per year and you’re paying $480/day. Use it 300 days per year and you’re paying $200/day.

If you own that same RV for 5 years: Use a $60,000 unit 10 days per year and you’re paying $1,200/day. Use that same unit 625 days for 5 years (125 per year) and you’re paying $96/day. Use it 300 days per year and you’re paying very little/day. But your maintenance cost and repair costs will be much higher in those later years. Whatever the math, I'm sure you get the idea here.

All of these factors play huge parts in the total cost and enjoyment of your unit. It’s best to know exactly what you want (from experience) before committing to such a large purchase.

Also, if you are thinking about getting a used RV, we recommend that you have it inspected. Check out the services if the National RV Inspectors Association at https://nrvia.org/.

Our RV Buying Secrets

Buying an RV: Seven Hidden Costs to Consider 1

Next to your home, an RV is most likely the 2nd most expensive thing you'll ever purchase.

We get questions every day of other RVers wondering. “How do you buy a new or used RV?”

So we created a 75+-page downloadable digital guide to help you understand the nuances that come with purchasing an RV, where you can save thousands of dollars in the buying process, what the right questions are to ask dealers, what things to look out for, how to select the right unit, amenities, warranties, and so much more!

This ebook is designed to help make your purchase process as smooth as possible. And to teach you step-by-step exactly what to do so you can start your RV Lifestyle today!


Mike Wendland

Published on 2024-01-22

Mike Wendland is a multiple Emmy-award-winning Journalist, Podcaster, YouTuber, and Blogger, who has traveled with his wife, Jennifer, all over North America in an RV, sharing adventures and reviewing RV, Camping, Outdoor, Travel and Tech Gear for the past 12 years. They are leading industry experts in RV living and have written 18 travel books.

7 Responses to “Buying an RV: Seven Hidden Costs to Consider”

January 23, 2024at9:41 am, Larry Bachman said:

Most, if not all, of these expenses are known. What floored me, the First Time I purchased an RV, was the “unexpected” Fees and Charges at the time of purchase.

Reply

June 26, 2023at7:10 pm, Larry Elder said:

People often don’t realize that internet is one of the most expensive parts of an RV. You have folks running around with giant dish satellites on their roofs to Starlink costing an arm, a leg, and your firstborn child. I just got off of a call with customer service at Easy Choice Wireless and honestly, they’re going to end up being my internet provider once I start boondocking again.. I hate sounding like an ad but it’s the truth. My wife is real happy and we’ll be able to be anywhere and still facetime our lovely folks back home 🙂

Reply

April 23, 2023at7:24 am, Denise Thomas said:

We have a washer that is draining to the black water tank causing it to fill up faster, shouldn’t it be draining to the gray water tank?

Reply

April 24, 2023at9:29 am, Team RV Lifestyle said:

Hi Denise – that would be a good question for Mike and Jen’s RV Lifestyle Facebook group: https://www.facebook.com/groups/roadtreking – 175,000-plus people there helping each other with questions just like this. Happy Trails! Team RV Lifestyle

Reply

December 29, 2020at4:11 am, rachel frampton said:

My sister would like to buy an Rv trailer that she may use for her camping activities, which is why she’s also thinking of obtaining insurance. I’m glad you shared this; at least now we’re aware that she would have to pay for the sales tax. Thank you for also clarifying here that the larger it is, the more maintenance it will need.

Reply

October 12, 2020at6:41 pm, Patricia said:

I really enjoy your page and have learned so much. However, I think your ‘cost per day’ calculation above is misleading–it implies that you will only own the RV for one year. If it costs $60k and you own it for 10 years, that’s $6k per year. If you then use it for 10 days per year, that’s $600./day, not $6,000./day.

Reply

January 23, 2024at1:46 pm, Steven Miah said:

Then you sell it for say $20,000 so making ownership even cheaper

Reply

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