Buying an RV: Seven Hidden Costs to Consider

 Buying an RV: Seven Hidden Costs to Consider

There are lots of “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:

 RV Buying Secrets is a digital guide we have written that’s more than 70 pages and designed to help you fully understand the nuances that come with purchasing an RV. 

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/

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 that’s 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. We talk insurance deeper in “RV Buying Secrets”, but 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 equipment you need 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 in 2020.”

Towing a car with an RV
There are lots of considerations to be thought through when buying an RV…like 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 cell signal booster, a dash camera and other gizmos and gadgets. Just know that when you buy 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.

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.

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.

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Mike Wendland

Mike Wendland is a veteran journalist who, with his wife, Jennifer, travels North America in a small motorhome, blogging about the people, places, joys and adventure of RV life on the road at RVLifestyle.com. He and Jennifer also host the weekly RV Podcast and do twice-weekly videos on the YouTube RV Lifestyle Channel. They have written 10 books on RV travel.

1 Comment

  • 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.

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