RV Vacations For Dummies
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Budgeting for a trip in an RV has a few different wrinkles from a vacation on which you’re not driving your accommodations around. You won’t be able to figure out to the last cent how much you’ll be spending, but the RV Vacations For Dummies Cheat Sheet and the information in this article can help you develop some reasonable estimates for building your travel budget.

Save on fuel ©sirtravelalot/Shutterstock.com


Transportation — renting or buying and maintaining an RV and then filling the gas tank — is the biggest chunk of your budget. For information on renting, see “Testing the Waters: RV Rentals.”

Even after you own an RV, you must pay attention to the cost of filling the gas tank and maintaining the vehicle in top working order. You’ll want to prorate your annual maintenance costs, insurance, license, scheduled maintenance, and minor repairs on a per-mile or per-month basis.

The total cost of fuel depends on how much time you plan to spend on the road. Your gas price per day goes down considerably if you spend some days hiking, fishing, or doing local sightseeing. To get an estimate, drive mentally through your trip, adding up the mileage as you go based on the estimates in this book. (You can confirm the mileage online at sites such as Google Maps and MapQuest.)

Next, settle on an expected average per-gallon price for gas. You can take an average figure per gallon from the signs at your local service station. Knowing the exact price of gas in the future or even two or three states down the road is impossible, but GasBuddy can give you current retail prices throughout the country, including the lowest prices in a particular area. Divide the daily or total trip mileage by the estimated miles per gallon that your RV gets, and you can get a good idea of how many gallons you’ll use per day or for the entire drive.

Maintenance costs vary according to the type of RV you have. A towable has fewer motor-related costs than a motor home, of course, but your towing vehicle may require some maintenance. A rental unit should be in tip-top condition when you pick it up, so maintenance costs will be minimal. If you own the RV, you face unexpected road risk costs; roofs can peel off, flying debris can shatter windows, and tires can fail. Your warranty or RV insurance may cover such incidents.

Along with regular engine and vehicle upkeep on a long haul, spend that little bit of extra money on RV service when necessary. If you own your RV, it’s a good idea to get an annual multipoint checkup at your dealership, performed by a qualified RV technician. The added expense can save money in the long run.

Be aware that when you travel on back roads, you not only drive slower (not a bad idea when sightseeing), but also avoid the toll roads that charge fees based on the number of axles on your rig. Parking charges may double or triple for RV drivers. My 36-foot motor home takes up two parking meters (three or four with the tow car), and all those meters must be fed. Parking lots may charge additional fees depending on the size of your rig. Always be mindful of your overhead-clearance requirements when attempting to use pay-for-parking lots.

Saving money on fuel

Fuel conservation is important for all RVers. Cutting down on the amount of fuel you use helps not only your budget, but also the environment. What follows are tips for conserving and finding the best fuel prices:
  • Consider staying longer in one location. Because I’m so happy and comfortable in my newer, larger motor home, I find myself staying longer in each place than I used to. This practice cuts fuel costs by reducing the average number of miles I drive per day. I get almost the same gas mileage in my 36-foot motor home as I did in my old 24-footer.
  • Contemplate not taking the tow-along, and walk or bike. Enjoy a walk of a mile or two to the market, a museum, or a restaurant. Other RVers carry bicycles for making short trips from and around the campground.
  • Mind and maintain the speed limit. Experts say that observing the speed limit saves fuel because the fuel economy of your vehicle decreases at higher speeds. Cruise control (for those vehicles that have this feature) also contributes to fuel savings because it helps you maintain a constant speed. Being light-footed on the gas pedal rather than applying too much throttle also saves gas.
  • Keep your air filter clean. Make sure that your air filter is checked and replaced often. U.S. Department of Energy studies say that a dirty air filter can raise fuel consumption by as much as 10 percent. Keeping your engine tuned and not carrying any extraneous weight also helps.
  • Take advantage of gas competition. I carry binoculars to check out posted gas prices along an interstate exit or on the outskirts of a town. Always go for the cheaper price, even when doing so requires turning around. Even in the same area, prices can vary a lot. A helpful website for finding the lowest prices in any area is GasBuddy.
  • Pay cash when you can. Sometimes, the cash price for gas is lower than the price if you pay by credit card. If you prefer using a credit card, watch for stations where prices are the same. If nothing is posted, ask before filling your tank.

RV and camping supplies

You can purchase most RV and camping supplies at your local supermarket. Specialty items such as storage-tank deodorizers, biodegradable toilet paper, and other RV items are available in RV stores and auto-supply shops. For a list of what I consider to be essential supplies, check out the RV Vacations For Dummies Cheat Sheet.

About This Article

This article is from the book:

About the book author:

Dennis C. Brewer has a Bachelor of Science Degree in Business from Michigan Technological University and is the author of several books. As a self-described traveler and snowbird, Dennis is a lifelong camping and RV enthusiast. He and his wife, Penny, visited 43 states in their Fleetwood Class A Motorhome so far.

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