Recreational Vehicles, or RVs provide freedom on the road to see America. But are they worth the investment? Let’s weigh the pros and cons of RV ownership and see if you want to take the plunge.
Definition of the term
RVs can cover a range of vehicle types starting with single axle “pop-up” trailers, then two axle hard shell travel trailers that pull behind a truck or SUV on a bumper hitch, larger “fifth wheel” trailers that connect to a hitch situated in the bed of a pick-up truck, and finally, motorized RVs.
There are pros and cons between these types, the main one being that with a trailer, your truck or SUV by which you tow it is an all purpose, full time vehicle. When the trailer is not in use, the truck or SUV is your work, family and personal vehicle. A motorized RV is for travel purposes only, is much more expensive than a travel trailer or fifth wheel and for extended periods of time that much bigger investment sits, unused.
For the remainder of this comparison, let’s look at the pros and cons of motorized RVs.
Owning a motorized RV: The pro side
You will tour the country and see the great natural and diverse beauty of America. RV traveling opens up vistas of mountains, forests, deserts, plains and coasts. You will experience unforgettable scenery.
Your RV takes you to some great remote settings to experience nature. It is made for exploring the wilderness.
RVs provide the personal comfort of living in your own place on trips, rather than staying in hotel rooms where countless other strangers have been, eating the “free continental breakfast” with a roomful of strangers. You are in your own place, preparing your own meals.
You save money on the costs of hotels and cabins. If you are financing your RV, the monthly payment is equivalent to a few nights in hotel or cabin accommodations. Most RV parks are very affordable. There is also the concept of “boon docking”, which means to park overnight in a place that is free, such as a Walmart parking lot, when you are traveling between parks.
Security is solid, since RVs are difficult for a thief to break into.
Owning an RV: The con side
There’s more to the cost of RV ownership than just the purchase price and/or monthly payment. As with any vehicle there are fuel costs, maintenance and repair, Department of Motor Vehicle sticker fees and more. Gas usage is a prominent factor.
The daily rate for parking in an RV park can run $50/day and up.
Will you have enough time to enjoy it over the course of a year? If you are still working full time and have two or three weeks of vacation, will that be enough time to use your RV and get your money’s worth from it? In this regard, being retired or semi-retired has the advantage of allowing you more opportunity to enjoy the RV lifesyle.
You are limited to the continental U.S. and Canada. A European vacation doesn’t work with an RV.
Once you are on-site at a campground, you are there. You have to plan trips to the grocery store ahead of time, because to unhook from utilities and return is a hassle. Many RV owners solve this by having a compact car which they tow behind the RV for excursions.
Driving a vehicle that size is an acquired skill and can be nerve wracking, especially when passing through a large city with traffic.
Making the decision to buy an RV should be researched thoroughly. After some reading and talking to people who are RV veterans, you could test your mettle by renting an RV for a vacation trip, to see how you like it. You may come away from such an experience convinced that this is the life for you, or that it’s not. In which case you will have spared yourself a giant expense and and time commitment.