RVs vs. Hotels for Your Road Trip

Working or retired, who doesn’t dream of more traveling? When I early retired, we wanted to travel several months out of the year. So, we purchased a small RV. RVs are flexible and comfortable. You travel on your own timetable, overnighting any spot that interests you. You rest in your own bed and prepare your own food. It’s like being at home while being on the road.

I thought that owning a small RV would save us money. And it does. But if you’re thinking about renting an RV this summer? Well, you might want to rethink and do some math beforehand.

You need to do the numbers on three modes of road-trip travel: (1) driving your own car and staying in hotels; (2) having a small RV; or (3) renting a small RV. (I focus on small RVs here. They are affordable. The modern small RVs are comfortable and economical for a small family or couple.)

For each choice, you’ll figure the cost per mile of owning the vehicle. To this, you’ll add the cost of driving the vehicle, according to its fuel consumption and the current national average cost of gasoline, about $2.70 per gallon as this is written. That will give you an general cost per mile of operating the vehicle.

Next, you’ll want to figure the daily expense for traveling, based on average hotel and camping rates. For food costs, you’ll compare the expense of dining out for hotel travel with preparing meals in an RV. You’ll use national averages when possible, plus your own estimates and experiences.

What you’ll see is that the essential trade-off of RV ownership is that it saves you on daily costs at the expense of mileage costs. An RV is more expensive to own and drive but saves you each day on lodging and meals. Your personal break even point will be contingent on your travel plans and lifestyle.