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Do RV vacations really save you money? We run the numbers:

A recent survey was taken of over 2,000 existing RVers. 78% thought RVing was the cheapest way to travel compared to renting a hotel room. Stable fuel prices the last few years combined with more efficient RV power plants and tow vehicles is having a positive effect on the RV industry as more people are buying RVs than any time in the past five years and planning longer trips, both in duration and distance traveled. Aerodynamic designs and lighter (but stronger) build materials are also lightening the load, resulting in easier to tow RVs that slip through the air. Car manufacturers have been on to this for twenty years and the RV industry is finally beginning to follow suit. We here at applaud this pivotal design advancement, having long been critics of the traditional “box-style” designs that were outdated, unattractive and about as enjoyable to pull or drive as a barn on wheels. Surprisingly, it was the surge in interest in the Ultra-Lite Travel Trailer segment that prompted designers to take another look at the more traditional trailers. Many of the innovations in the small campers have been working their way up to the big boys and the results are positive all around. Having stagnated for decades with few real innovations other than high end finishes and electronics, RVs are finally beginning to drop the box and join the rest of us in the 21st century, and we say Hooray!

So, with this in mind, is the RV vacation truly cheaper than the standard “plane and rental car” vacation? Curious ourselves, we ran some numbers on a theoretical 1,400 mile round trip of one week in length:

Option 1

class-c MotorhomesWinnebago View (Class C Motorhome) powered by a Mercedes 6-cylinder diesel. 350 miles covered first day and an overnight at a Walmart complimentary RV site. Assuming 15 mpg (seriously, these Mercedes diesels are amazing) at $4.50 a gallon, we spend $105.00 on fuel with no additional expenses. Day two gets us to our destination for another $105.00. Five nights at a premium campground at $50.00 per night comes to $250.00, followed by another $210.00 in fuel for the return leg. The grand total for transportation and housing comes to $670.00 for a one week vacation. If you’re taking three people instead of two? No additional charge. Four people? Still no additional charge.

Option 2

Airfare from Des Moines to Denver (672 miles each way) with an economy rental car is available on Expedia today for $799.00 person X 2 = $1,598.00. This includes accomodations in a 3 star Quality Inn. Understanding that most RVs today would be comparable to a 4 star hotel in finishes and comfort, an upgrade to the cheapest available 4 star hotel would cost you an additional $579.00 per person if you wanted to do an apples-to-apples comparison.The grand total for transportation and housing comes to $1,598.00 for a one week vacation + $1,158.00 for a comparable hotel room to a modern RV = $2,756.00 all in. Add accordingly for each additional person.

$670.00 for a one week RV vacation versus $1,598.00/$2,756.00 for the traditional “plane/ rental car/ hotel” vacation! This doesn’t account for the money saved preparing some of your own meals in your RV kitchen versus eating all meals out. Granted, the diesel gives you some stellar mileage but go ahead and double your fuel costs for an additional $420.00 and you are still saving $500.00 to $1,200.00 dollars. Interestingly, the $1,200.00 saved on the RV vacation would just about be enough for another 7 day vacation -on the house.

Two vacations for the price of one?  You won’t find a better deal than that -and wouldn’t you rather sleep in your bed anyway? We know we would. And let’s face it, any air travel in this day of heightened security is neither fast or enjoyable. It’s a long day of being treated like cattle. We’ll take the RV any day.