Cost of an RV Vs. a Motel

Buying an RV can be a financially responsible decision.

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The various costs associated with traveling mean that even a vacation can be a time to pinch pennies. Owning an RV is one way to travel, while renting a motel room offers a different experience. While neither option is guaranteed to be less expensive than the other, the distance you want to travel and the vacation destinations you prefer may determine whether an RV or a motel provides the most savings.

RV Costs

Unlike a stay in a motel, the cost of an RV extends far beyond the initial purchase price. Many buyers choose to finance their RVs, which means they pay interest on top of the sales price. Routine maintenance, fuel, vehicle registration and inspections all contribute to the annual cost of owning an RV. As you use an RV, you'll need to pay for sites in campgrounds and RV parks, adding to the cost of a vacation.

RV Savings

Despite the many costs associated with owning an RV, you may still be able to save money when compared with staying in a motel. Motel rates tend to be much higher than the nightly cost of a campsite or RV park site. Motel rates also rise during times of peak demand, such as summer holidays or weekends. If you own an RV, the cost of using it is more predictable and easier to budget for. Finally, when you decide to sell an RV, you will receive money based on its value, which isn't applicable to a motel.

Other Factors

Many additional factors contribute to the cost of an RV or motel vacation. This means that the most cost-effective option may be different for each trip you plan. High gas prices raise the cost of traveling in an RV. However, if you plan to drive your car on a motel vacation, you'll also be affected by gas prices, though to a lesser extent because a car doesn't use as much gas as an RV. Just as motel rates vary based on location and date, RV prices vary widely depending on whether you buy a new or used model, or select an entry-level or top-of-the line vehicle.

Planning Your Vacations

Buying an RV or choosing to stay in motels can also largely define the type of trips you are able to take. If you plan to do all of your traveling with an RV that you've invested tens of thousands of dollars in, you won't be able to travel overseas. Long trips will represent higher fuel costs and more time on the road, which you'll want to compare with the price and time involved with flying instead. Campgrounds and RV parks are plentiful in rural areas, but motels in major cities or popular vacation areas may be difficult to make reservations at, or check into spontaneously, on peak dates.