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RV Expenses
Old 07-24-2010, 11:44 PM   #1
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RV Expenses

My wife and I have been thinking about buying a small motorhome to explore North America on the cheap in retirement. But the more I research motorhomes, the more I wonder how expensive those things are to maintain. It seems like maintenance costs are not trivial, even on the small class B RVs we are interested in, and I balk at the idea of adding another large expense to our budget.

I know that RVs come in all shapes and sizes, but could you guys give me an idea about the possible costs associated with owning a motorhome? I am not mechanically inclined, so let's assume that I will have to hire people to perform the maintenance and repairs.

Thanks!
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Old 07-24-2010, 11:56 PM   #2
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There are things that have to be done periodically, like oil changes and wheel bearing repacks for trailers. Alot of what you will need to have done will depend on how many miles you put on per year. There are also things like a roof inspection and caulking repairs that need to be done yearly regardless of how many miles you put on it.

You may want to go online to your neighborhood rv dealer's website and look for
their service prices. If you can't find one, PM me and I will send a link to one
near our home in CA.

Note, we are not yet rv owners, but I am also in the investigation stage and have begun looking at this issue but have no real experience.

R
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Old 07-25-2010, 12:09 AM   #3
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I think we would probably put on average 5,000 miles on it annually. We would probably buy a gently used 3-4 year old RV with about 20K miles on it. My local RV dealership doesn't have service prices on its website, I'll have to call.
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Old 07-25-2010, 06:07 AM   #4
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to explore North America on the cheap
Do it because you love the RV "lifestyle". When you add the insurance and depreciation, to the extra gas on top of $50/night for an RV campground -- your "per night" cost probably exceeds a hotel.

Friend looked at both RV and trailer - went with trailer. With RV, you have an additional vehicle / powertrain to insure and maintain.

With trailer, he's using truck he already maintains and uses.

With trailer, you detach trailer and you have a vehicle to drive into national parks/wherever when traveling.

We rented RV for trip to Grand Caynon. I loved it. Wife "enjoyed" it - but she would not do regularly. We didn't have a "tow car" - so you do "explore less" when you get to a town - cumbersome driving RV around to go get milk.....
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Old 07-25-2010, 06:16 AM   #5
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This will be a tough question to answer, particularly for this group. Although it seems like a lot of us are RVers, it is actually a small world. I would suggest that you subscribe to several of the many RV forums. If not for this reason, then because you are in the "thinking about" stage of your planning.

Let me Google that for you:

Forums +RV - Google Search

or read any of the RV Blogs:

blogs +RV - Google Search=

(Make sure you look at this one by a fellow ER Forum member: http://wanderings2010.wordpress.com/)

Now then, while I don't have exact figures handy, the maintenance on our RV has been extremely low. Of course, it was brand new with only the milage that it took to drive from the factory in Canada to Denver when we acquired it. The on-board computer determined the maintenance schedule for the chassis (oil change, etc.) and because of my driving habits was around every 10,000 miles. (It is built on a 2008 Chevrolet Express van chassis.)

We, now, have around 60,000 miles on it with nothing other than those routine costs mentioned above. However, we do need to replace the tires and will cost right at $1,000.

In any event, if you buy a "good" (emphasis on the word "good") used RV and you treat it with respect, I wouldn't spend much time worrying about maintenance costs. The future is just too scary (to me) to devote much energy to such dreaming. You should think more along the lines of how cheaply you can/will be chasing your desire to travel. You have more to gain than to lose. (As Audrey suggests, you don't buy an RV to save money.)
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Old 07-25-2010, 07:13 AM   #6
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I looked hard at small travel trailers in the 16-foot range (we already have a half-ton pickup) and the break-even point seems to be about 25 days a year. Less than that and hotels/restaurants are cheaper. Add in powertrain maintenance/higher insurance for an RV and the costs go up.

I couldn't talk DW into it so it was a no-go, and thinking about it more I doubt we'd use it 25 days a year for any more than the first year or two anyway.
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Old 07-25-2010, 07:19 AM   #7
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I looked hard at small travel trailers in the 16-foot range (we already have a half-ton pickup) and the break-even point seems to be about 25 days a year. Less than that and hotels/restaurants are cheaper. Add in powertrain maintenance/higher insurance for an RV and the costs go up.
I would be interested in how you calculated this -- the methodology. (Seriously) This appears to be a valuable exercise. Very valuable indeed.
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Old 07-25-2010, 07:39 AM   #8
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Originally Posted by FIREdreamer View Post
I know that RVs come in all shapes and sizes, but could you guys give me an idea about the possible costs associated with owning a motorhome? I am not mechanically inclined, so let's assume that I will have to hire people to perform the maintenance and repairs.
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We would probably buy a gently used 3-4 year old RV with about 20K miles on it.
The following opinion is based on my experience purchasing a 6 year old gently used diesel pusher motorhome with 48,000 miles on it. I've owned it for a little over three years.

If you truly aren't mechanically inclined and will have to pay for all your maintenance, you cannot use the term "on the cheap" and "motorhome" in the same sentence. A house on wheels requires a significant amount of maintenance, especially when you stick it on top of a truck and haul it all over heck and gone. Those in the RV repair and maintenance business apparently see motorhome owners as having a significant supply of discretionary funds (why else would they buy such an expensive toy?) and charge accordingly. That's why I do virtually all of my own maintenance, especially when it comes to the house portion of the vehicle. I do take it to a truck "Jiffy Lube" for oil changes.

If you are concerned about costs I recommend going with a trailer and (very important) adequately sized tow vehicle. Even then expect to be out some bucks if you can't recaulk a roof seam or replace a faulty fan switch.
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Old 07-25-2010, 07:46 AM   #9
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I think overall cost is partly a function of how much you use the motor home. It's pretty hard to justify the upfront costs of even a travel trailer on a purely economic basis if you're only going to be using it a couple of weeks per year.

But if you're going to be living in the thing, it can definitely be much less expensive than renting hotel rooms every night and dining out, every meal. We expect to spend about the same amount on the road full-time as what we spent staying at home the previous year. That is an easy trade for us.

If you look around you'll find several people put their financial details on the internet. This link shows the expenses for one couple from 2005-2009. They live in a 5th Wheel. A quick eye-balling says they've spent about $1,000 per year on maintaining all of their various vehicles over the past five years. But in total, they spend about $33K per year when not "workamping." That's for everything, including health insurance and all the miscellaneous stuff you still need throughout the year whether you're traveling or not. That works out to be $90 per day for everything. Try living in a hotel room for that.

Happy Travels!
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Old 07-25-2010, 07:49 AM   #10
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I would be interested in how you calculated this -- the methodology. (Seriously) This appears to be a valuable exercise. Very valuable indeed.
All this is back-of-the-envelope thinking:

At the time a new travel trailer was ~$15k, one 2-3 years old ~$10-$12k. Gas mileage on the pickup towing a trailer would be ~10-12 mpg (at then $4/gallon). Taking the car on a trip would get 24 mpg.

Selling a new TT after five years, I'd get maybe $8k for it, maybe $5k for the used one. So call ownership for five years $7k, not counting insurance and maintenance. Add another $1.5k for that and another $1k for "stuff" for it. (I know I'd end up buying a lot of "stuff" for the TT exclusively.) So for five years the TT costs at least $7.5k

Hotels average - what? - $70-$100 night, plus restaurant meals at $80/day for two. Some places higher, some places less. So call staying in hotels costs $165/day.

So now I'm coming up with the TT costs the same as ~42 days in hotels, plus the "hassle factor" of dealing with it.

Being honest with myself, would I really use it significantly more than 42 days in five years? I doubt it.

YMMV.
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Old 07-25-2010, 08:42 AM   #11
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Here's the budget of another full-timer. She also spends about $1,000 per year on maintenance. In total, she spends $20K per year for a single woman.
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Old 07-25-2010, 08:52 AM   #12
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I can give you an idea of our costs for a small travel trailer (16' model). Up front costs were 13.Xk purchase price, perhaps another $800 of stuff done to the car (tranny and steering fluid coolers, hitch), and a few hundred bucks of random gear we needed/wanted on board. So call it $15k in for a new small trailer ready to go. I assume that at the end of 10 years I will be between sellinshing it off a cliff in the middle of the night.

We us it 25 to 30 nights a year plus it sits in the driveway for use as occasional guest quarters. I am not mechanically inclined, so the dealer does most everything. Maintenance costs are $200 for winterizing/dewinterizing, $100 every 2 years to have a leak test done, for recaulking as needed (haven't needed it yet), $150 for the RV insurance policy, and maybe $30 of propane. We are in our third season, so aside from some light bulbs thing have not started to wear out yet. I expect that after 5 years we will need a set of tires ($500), and prob start having a few things wear out/break ( but figuring 300 to 500 a year after the 5th year). So if you annualize the tires and toss in something for repairs, we are probably looking at 700 to 800 a year to keep the thing running. Maybe toss in $1500/year in depreciation on the trailer.

Operating costs will vary. I generally expect to spend something like $25 a night on campground fees (varies considerably from zero for boondocking to $100+ in the most ridiculously over the top resorts) at state and county parks. We also see our gas mileage drop from about 25MPG to about 12MPG, so add in something extra for gas, which depends heavily on how far you are going and how often you move.

We are taking an 8 day summer vacation next month to a spot about 250 miles away. The campground will run around $200 and the gas will probably clip us another $120. That is pretty reasonable overhead for 4 people for 8 days. There is a small offset in theform of reduced utilities costs, as I won't be home running the ACs flat out or using my own water, etc.

My understanding is that motorhomes are considerably more expensive to buy, maintain and run, which is a major reason we chose a small trailer. If I wanted to do this on the cheap, I would look for a 2 to 4 year old trailer that you could hopefully tow with your existing car.

Personally, I think that the trailer is a very economical way to travel and would be even more reasonable if we had more time to travel with it.
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Old 07-25-2010, 09:00 AM   #13
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All this is back-of-the-envelope thinking:
Got it. Thanks.
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Old 07-25-2010, 10:13 AM   #14
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Several posters have implied this, but to clarify - letting a motor home sit really plays havoc with it. Little things start to corrode all over the place and you have weird problems that would never occur on a vehicle driven regularly. Think things like brake caliper slides sticking, relays sticking, parking bake cables seizing, mouse and bee nests, tire flat spotting and sun damage to name a few . Trailers are more forgiving, but still suffer from sitting.
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Old 07-25-2010, 10:15 AM   #15
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Several posters have implied this, but to clarify - letting a motor home sit really plays havoc with it. Little things start to corrode all over the place and you have weird problems that would never occur on a vehicle driven regularly. Think things like brake caliper slides sticking, relays sticking, parking bake cables seizing, mouse and bee nests, tire flat spotting and sun damage to name a few . Trailers are more forgiving, but still suffer from sitting.
There is a pretty easy solution for all of that...
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Old 07-25-2010, 10:17 AM   #16
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Piling on with the trailer/truck combo. Trailers are MUCH cheaper to insure (no motor) and there's a lot to be said for being able to unhitch. Taking a PU truck to a down town Saturday market is doable; a larger moho may be impossible to navigate and park in tight spaces.

I would look at a slightly used medium sized trailer and a good sized PU. If you scroll to the bottom of the page you will see that ER-org has some sister sites related to RVs - they may be useful resources.
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Old 07-25-2010, 10:21 AM   #17
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There is a pretty easy solution for all of that...
True, but if you are the second or third owner, you may be buying cumulative damage without realizing it.
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Old 07-25-2010, 10:29 AM   #18
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True, but if you are the second or third owner, you may be buying cumulative damage without realizing it.
I think brewer's comment related to using it rather than let the RV sit.

As to buying cumulative damage, it isn't really that difficult to thoroughly check out a used trailer. You can run all the appliances and systems to be sure they work and don't leak. A detailed inspection of the roof, ceiling, inside all cabinets, all storage areas and underneath the trailer to spot signs of leaks or damage isn't really rocket science. Yes, it takes some time and the proper water and electrical hook ups, but I wouldn't consider buying a used RV without spending a couple of hours checking everything out to my satisfaction.
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Old 07-25-2010, 10:47 AM   #19
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I think brewer's comment related to using it rather than let the RV sit.

As to buying cumulative damage, it isn't really that difficult to thoroughly check out a used trailer. You can run all the appliances and systems to be sure they work and don't leak. A detailed inspection of the roof, ceiling, inside all cabinets, all storage areas and underneath the trailer to spot signs of leaks or damage isn't really rocket science. Yes, it takes some time and the proper water and electrical hook ups, but I wouldn't consider buying a used RV without spending a couple of hours checking everything out to my satisfaction.
Yea, I was thinking more along the lines of a motor home. Many are purchased new then are used a lot, then sit for a long time, then are sold. This is the scenario I'd be wary of.
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Old 07-25-2010, 10:57 AM   #20
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As has been posted in previous threads and our experience, you RV more for the choice of travel style versus saving costs. Our experience would seem to favor RVing as lower costs.
Some key points:
You have to use the RV regularly to get the benefits--sitting in the driveway drives your costs way up. Depreciation is your biggest item so buy used and carefully.
We find hotels are more like 100+/night versus RV parks at less than 35/night. If you use federal/state parks costs would be less.
One of the biggest benefits is to eat better and more healthy food, when and how you want it.
We have had our Roadtrek (class B) for three years and only had regular maintenance for cost-(2-300 year max), except for replacing the macerator hose three times, average of 250 each.
We previously had a 10 yr old small Class A, and other than having to put new tires on at purchase, only had routine maintenance costs but I did my own sealing of roof annually. Purchased at 32K, (owner was underwater on orginal purchase note by 6 k) sold after 4 years for 19K in market collapse of 2008. DEPRECIATION IS YOUR BIGGEST COST.
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