The U.S. is full of remarkable natural and manmade wonders, but you might never get to explore these treasures if you don’t have the right vehicle to handle long-term road trips.
When adventure calls, many turn to recreation vehicles (RVs) to help them reach their destinations and enjoy the journey.
However, with many different kinds of RVs available, prospective motorhome owners can quickly find themselves wondering, “How much does an RV cost?”
To answer this question, we’ll need to examine the initial cost of purchasing an RV and the long-term expenses associated with ownership.
Understanding RV Costs
How much does an RV cost?
The answer varies depending on several crucial factors, including:
- RV type
- RV condition
- Insurance rates
- Maintenance and repairs
- Lodging and parking
- RV storage
Types of RVs
When you picture an RV, what kind of vehicle comes to mind?
For many, they imagine the typical tour-bus-style bus with two to three axles, massive interior spaces, and onboard plumbing.
However, gigantic motorhomes are only one of the many RV types.
Purists maintain that RVs are self-contained shelters on wheels, capable of driving themselves without a tow vehicle.
But other RV enthusiasts believe that towable camping trailers are also RVs, despite their lack of motor.
We’ll explore both essential RV types in this guide and highlight their features, benefits, and price differences.
This way, you can select a rig that fits your needs, preferences, and budget.
Class A RVs
The biggest and baddest of the RV types is the Class A motorhome.
These massive vehicles tend to be the priciest, and most impressive options.
The typical Class A motorhome has at least one bedroom, bathroom, kitchen area, and living space.
Some offer multiple bedrooms, loft sleeping areas, full bathrooms, and expandable siding.
Class A RVs are often the most complex motorhomes, with interior televisions, solar panel powering systems, and numerous modern conveniences typically found at home.
A Class A RV is a motorized vehicle between 29 ft and 45 ft long with the average option coming in at 33 ft.
They can cost anywhere from $50,000 to $200,000, though some models retail for more than $2,000,000.
Class B RVs
Though you might imagine that Class B RVs are only slightly smaller than Class A varieties, RVs that fall into this category are far smaller.
These vehicles are often called camper vans due to their van-like design and compact nature.
A Class B RV is usually 20 ft or shorter, and most have a standard set of dual axles.
While you might not be able to comfortably fit six people in a Class B RV, this option is well-suited to individuals and couples.
If you’re in the market for a camper van, you’ll likely spend between $20,000 and $50,000.
As you might imagine, used models tend to retail for less than brand-new options.
Class C RVs
Class C RVs are more akin to Class A vehicles.
These hefty rigs are between 21 ft and 41 ft in length, and they often resemble miniature Class A RVs.
If you’re looking for an affordably-priced family camper, a Class C RV might be your best option.
Much like Class A RVs, Class C rigs have bathrooms, sleeping quarters, compact kitchens, and living quarters.
These vehicles offer nearly the same wealth of features and conveniences are their pricier alternatives, but with less living space.
You can expect to spend between $50,000 and $100,000 on a Class C RV.
While this might not seem like a significant price difference when compared to a Class A RV, it’s crucial to remember that the average maximum price for a Class C vehicle is still half the average maximum price for a Class A one.
Fifth Wheel RVs
Motorized RVs might be some of the most popular RV types, but they’re not the only kind of recreational vehicle.
If you own an SUV or truck, you might prefer to choose a motorless trailer that you can hitch to the back of your vehicle.
Fifth wheel RVs tend to be the largest of these towable trailers, and they’re similar to Class B RVs.
Many fifth wheel RVs have loft sleeping areas, a small bathroom, a short galley kitchen, and living room seating.
These towable vehicles are designed to fit onto the back of a pickup truck, with most models featuring a small compartment that hovers above the truck bed.
The average fifth wheel RV costs anywhere between $20,000 and $50,000.
Finally, there’s the travel trailer. Now, travel trailers come in many sizes and styles.
You can choose a compact trailer that’s only large enough for two sleeping adults, or you could opt for a roomier model with a kitchen, living quarters, and a bathroom.
Still, most travel trailers tend to be smaller and more efficient than their fifth wheel cousins.
These RVs are also some of the most affordable in terms of initial purchase price and insurance rates.
But if you choose one of these towable campers, you’ll need to make sure you have a vehicle powerful enough to pull it along.
Are you planning on buying a new RV or a used model?
Your answer can either raise or lower your prospective RV costs.
A used RV might have a handful of blemishes or faulty parts that lowers its value.
If you’re willing to refurbish an older travel trailer or RV, you might be able to save several thousand dollars by purchasing a used option.
Still, the condition of a used RV varies widely, and you’ll want to ensure that your chosen model is within your experience level.
For example, if you find an affordable Class A motorhome that’s missing part of its roof and needs electrical work, it might be better to skip it and choose a different vehicle.
The overall condition of your preferred RV will influence the final purchase price.
And while it’s vital to avoid broken-down trailers and rigs, it’s also essential to remember that brand-new RVs immediately begin to lose value when they leave the vehicle lot.
Unless you feel comfortable spending between $10,000 and $2,000,000 on a brand-new motorhome, it might be wiser to select a gently-used model.
Still, purchase price isn’t the only expense you’ll want to consider. Insurance rates also play a significant role in the overall cost of RV ownership.
RV Insurance Rates
Your RV type will partially determine how much insurance you’ll pay each year, with larger recreational vehicles typically generating the most insurance costs.
Towable trailers are often far more affordable to insure, though several factors can lower or raise your final rate.
For example, RV and trailer insurance rates tend to vary from state to state.
Your age and driving history may also impact the insurance quotes you receive.
Individuals 25 and older with few or zero traffic violations, accidents, or claims are the most likely to enjoy lower insurance premiums.
That said, the majority of RV owners can expect to spend between $500 and $2000 per year on insurance for their rig.
It’s crucial to remember that while towable trailers often have the lowest annual insurance rates, you’ll also need to insure your primary vehicle that’s towing the trailer.
Consequently, the cost to insure a massive Class A RV might be relatively equivalent to the annual cost of insuring a towable camper trailer and a vehicle.
Still, you can choose the best possible RV type by considering additional ownership costs, such as regular maintenance.
Maintenance and Repairs
The larger and more self-sufficient your RV rig, the more you’ll likely spend on maintenance and repair.
Towable trailers may only require the occasional new tire or weatherstripping replacement, but Class A and Class C RVs can be far more challenging to maintain.
RV owners typically spend hundreds of dollars each year replacing and repairing their rig’s:
- Waste water system
- Roof seams
- Engine motor oil
- Tires and lug nuts
- Interior appliances
Naturally, the amount of usage you get out of your RV will determine its maintenance schedule.
If you’re hoping to take your RV out on the road for long-term travel, you’ll need to spend more to keep your vehicle in tip-top shape.
However, if you’re only planning on traveling for a few months out of the year, you might be able to save a little on maintenance and repairs.
But you’ll still want to ensure you have plenty of funds to spend on RV lodging and parking.
After all, many RVs and camper trailers don’t fit into convention parking spaces.
Additionally, the majority of campgrounds across North America charge per parking space.
Owners of larger RVs may end up spending more than those with smaller, compact travel trailers.
Lodging and Parking
Part of the charm of an RV is that it saves you from having to spend money on a hotel or motel room.
Instead of sleeping on dingy sheets in a musty room, you can enjoy virtually-free lodging that’s perfectly up to your standards.
But notice that we said virtually-free.
While there are some exceptions, the majority of retailers do not allow RVs, campers, motorhomes, or travel trailers in their parking lots.
After a long day of driving, you’ll likely need to park that rig somewhere, and unless you’re financially prepared to pay for a parking spot, you might find yourself in a spot of trouble.
A single RV-sized parking spot at a campground or RV park can cost between $25 and $50.
If you’re out on the road for several weeks or months, these daily parking fees can add up to several hundred dollars.
Still, some campgrounds offer free parking areas, discounted rates for extended stays, or membership rebates.
Unfortunately, it’s nearly impossible to determine your RV fuel costs.
Larger rigs will naturally consume more gas than smaller ones, but towable trailers might lessen your primary vehicle’s average miles per gallon.
As such, your total fuel consumption might be fairly equal no matter which RV type you choose.
The distance you drive and amount of time you spend driving will influence your annual fuel expenses.
Still, it’s crucial to note that diesel motorhomes tend to enjoy a slightly better fuel efficiency than standard gasoline models.
For example, a massive Class A motorhome with a gas-powered engine might only get six miles to the gallon. But a diesel-powered rig can get up to 14 mpg.
Conversely, diesel fuel is almost always pricier than gasoline, once again leveling the playing field.
The best way for RV owners to minimize their fuel expenditures is to carefully plan their trips, consistently look for low-priced fuel, and make short trips.
Of course, keeping your RV stationary also comes with its own set of costs.
Besides the initial purchase price, insurance rates, maintenance costs, parking fees, and fuel expenditures, there’s also RV storage to consider.
Unless you’re hoping to live in your RV full-time, you’ll likely need to find a convenient place to park your rig during the off season.
Many homeowner’s associations do not allow boats, RVs, or trailers to remain visible on a property’s lawns or sidings.
As such, you may need to find an alternate way to store your RV.
Self-storage services often include special RV parking rates that vary between $15 and $100 per month.
If you’re able to keep your RV close to home, you might still want to consider proper storage practices.
An RV that’s left out in the elements can quickly experience maintenance and repair problems.
If you’re planning on storing your RV or trailer at home, you’ll want to invest in RV-sized protective tarp coverings and tired storage pads.
What’s The True Cost To Own An RV?
After exploring the most common costs associated with RV ownership, it’s time to crunch the numbers and figure out how much an RV truly costs.
However, because there are so many RV types and cost variables, coming to a single sum is impossible.
For example, you could purchase a used travel trailer for about $3,000, sometimes less.
Annual insurance might top-out at about $600 on a compact towable camper, and yearly maintenance costs aren’t likely to rise much higher than $200.
However, travel trailers technically aren’t RVs, as they’re stationary unless hitched to a moving vehicle.
For many, part of the joy of owning an RV is the ability to simply hop inside and drive away.
If this rings true for you, the idea of owning a compact towable camping trailer might not be too exciting.
Individuals hoping to enjoy a Class A, Class B, or Class C RV will spend a little more for the convenience of a driveable second home.
The lowest potential price for a used motorized RV is about $10,000.
A new Class A motorhome with plenty of modern appliances and convenient features can easily cost upwards of $2,000,000.
An RV or travel trailer can cost between $3,000 and $2,000,000.
Insurance rates, maintenance costs, and other long-term expenses vary just as widely and often depend on your state of residence, driving history, chosen RV type, and travel habits.
In short, owning an RV could cost you as little as $1,200 per year, not including the initial purchase.
But if you’ve got your eye on one of the larger, more expansive motorhomes, be prepared to spend much more.
In the end, your preferences will answer the question, “How much does an RV cost?”