If you are in the market for a recreation vehicle (RV), you must understand the costs associated with owning one.

When you buy an RV, you will be paying for more than just the vehicle. You will have to factor in RV repairs, maintenance, registration, depreciation, and so on. 

There are a lot of variables involved, which is why it’s so difficult to accurately calculate the real cost of owning an RV.

In this article, we aim to break down all the nuances into several parts to explain the cost of RV ownership.

What Do We Mean By Cost of Ownership?

Multiple factors determine the cost of owning an RV. But expenses like tolls, campground expenses, camping membership, fuel, and gas are not part of this equation – these fall under RV travel expenses.

Cost of ownership are expenses that you will have to bear just by owning an RV. That means you will be incurring these costs even if you never use your RV. Some significant costs of RV ownership include:

  • Purchase Price
  • Registration
  • Insurance Cost
  • Warranty
  • Repairs and Maintenance
  • Depreciation

RV Cost of Ownership: The Expenses

There is no way to sugarcoat the fact that owning an RV is quite expensive. Most people who switch to the RV lifestyle treat their RV expenses like rent and home maintenance. Let us take a deeper look at the costs of owning an RV. 

1. Purchase Price

The first and most obvious cost you will face is the price of the RV itself. Then again, this expense isn’t as straightforward as it sounds. 

There are certain decisions you have to make that affect the initial price of the RV. First, you’ll need to decide on the type of RV you want. There is a wide variety of brands, and you will have to choose between the motorhome and towable options.

You also need to choose between a diesel-powered or gas-powered engine. Your standard use cases and necessary mileage will significantly impact these decisions.

Then there is the difficult decision of choosing between a brand new and used vehicle. Both options have their ups and downs.

You will usually save on some repair costs with brand new RVs, but used vehicles have a more affordable price tag. If you choose to go for a used RV, the condition and available warranty of the vehicle will also affect the price. 

Besides these factors, market conditions and taxes will vary from one place to another. But these will surely add to the initial purchase cost of the RV. Many retailers offer financing options for RV purchases too. 

All of these decisions and variables will affect the purchase price of your RV. We strongly recommend listing down what you want out of your RV and researching which options fit your needs the best.

2. Registration

Based on where you live, you’ll have to pay a price to register your RV. Most state DMVs have this information on their websites.

Some even provide a registration fee calculator that makes it easier to calculate the total registration fee. It is good to know about these fees before buying an RV. 

3. Insurance Cost

When you make an expensive purchase like an RV, you would be crazy to not get insurance. But insurance will also cost you a decent amount. 

The cost of insurance varies depending on your vehicle. Regardless of the insurance company you choose, your insurance cost will depend on your RV’s value, coverages, location, driving record, credit score, insurance claim record, and the list goes on.

Due to the complex nature of insurances, we recommend getting an insurance broker to look into your options. Depending on your needs, you should look into at least a couple of options and quotes. 

Insurance costs vary for each owner. But realistically, you should be ready to pay at least $100 per month for any insurance. 

4. Warranty

Most brand new RVs come with a factory warranty. But factory warranties don’t cover all repairs, nor do they last very long.

So, for most casual RV owners, an extended warranty becomes a necessity. 

Extended warranties cover most repairs you will come across while owing an RV, including ones that factory warranties do not cover. Moreover, a warranty contract can last from two to seven years based on your budget.

You will have to pay a deductible of around $100 at the start, but repairs will usually cost you a negligible amount afterward. Depending on the repair and policy, however, deductibles can even reach around $500.

Used vehicles benefit the most from extended warranties. Since these vehicles have already used up all or a significant portion of their factory warranty, the extended warranty continues to provide peace of mind on the road. 

Extended warranties are also a great option for people who have limited knowledge of repairs or people who don’t want to deal with fixing their RV. For them, the right warranty policy can be a lifesaver. 

Extended warranty costs may depend on your vehicle, the duration of the warranty, and the policy you choose. 

5. Repairs and Maintenance

It is impossible to avoid repair and maintenance costs when owning an RV. You are bound to face some sort of technical failure at some point. This is an inherent risk of owning any vehicle, be it an RV or an SUV. 

Note that you will need to put your RV through regular checkups and maintenance to minimize repair costs. There is no going around the fact that any RV – old or new- will cost money to keep them running in good condition. 

RV repair costs can be quite expensive. In general, you should be ready to spend at least $300 every month on maintenance.

But you are bound to face major technical issues at some point, especially if you bought an old used RV. In some cases, you might have to dish out around $800 per month for at least a few years. 

Extended warranties can lighten the load of maintenance costs. That is why it is important to get a warranty with extensive coverage. Repair costs are the biggest expenses associated with owning an RV. So any buffer you can add to minimize it is a bonus. 

You can reduce a portion of the repair costs by doing as many DIY repair costs as you can. The labor rate for repairs usually falls within $80-$160 per hour. But depending on the workshop, the rates may be slightly higher.  

Ultimately, it is impossible to predict repair and maintenance costs for an RV. There are too many unknowns.

This is one of the main reasons why many people want to buy a brand new RV. But that involves a hefty investment and isn’t a feasible option for most people. 

6. Depreciation

Depreciation is an interesting topic for RV ownership. It varies greatly from one vehicle to another. But a general rule is that newer vehicles depreciate significantly faster than older ones. 

A brand new RV will depreciate a lot in the first few years of ownership. Over time, the curve begins to settle. So if you buy a vehicle near the end of the depreciation curve, then the base value of that RV won’t drop for a long time. 

Many other factors affect the depreciation cost. Firstly, you must consider the condition of the vehicle. An RV that is in good condition has a better resale value. Compared to that, an old and worn-out RV might sell for scraps.

Then, you have to account for who is buying your used RV. Your vehicle will depreciate much more if you sell it to an RV dealer. On the other hand, private parties will usually pay more for used RVs. 

A lot of people underestimate the importance of depreciation. But this is a major concern for people looking to shift to the RV lifestyle. So we recommend you give depreciation costs a good thought before buying an RV.

Final Thoughts

Buying an RV is a massive investment, and the bills keep on coming long after the purchase. According to some long-time RV owners, you should be ready to pay an average monthly expenditure of around $1,500, excluding fuel costs.

But for people who can make use of the advantages RVs offer, they are well worth the costs. The scariest part of owning an RV is the uncertainties.

You never know when something might go wrong, and you have to cash out a massive bill. Even the regular expenses vary from person to person. So, there are very few certainties when it comes to owning RVs.

We hope this article has managed to help you get a better understanding of the expenses that come with owning an RV. Now, it is up to you to figure out what you need and how you adapt to the RV lifestyle.

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