RV FAQ's & Tips: Costs

This section of the web site is a collection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) and Tips about RV's and the RVing lifestyle.

Which states do not have personal income tax?

There are seven states in the U.S. without personal income tax:

1. Alaska
2. Florida
3. Nevada
4. South Dakota
5. Texas
6. Washington
7. Wyoming

To find mail forwarding services in these states, see our States With No Income Tax page.

How much does it cost to live in an RV full-time?

The actual cost varies by person and their lifestyle, but the major expenses for full-time RVing are the following:

  • RV loan payments
  • Tow truck payments, if RV is a trailer
  • RV insurance, including fulltimer liability
  • Fuel, especially when towing or driving the RV
  • Mail forwarding services
  • RV site rent (most full hookup sites cost $10 to $50 per night, $300 to $500 plus electricity when paying monthly)
  • Propane and electricity
  • Storage of items that don't fit in RV
  • RV maintenance

For more details, see Budget for the RV Lifestyle.

How do I determine the fair price of an RV?

The best way to determine the fair price of new or used RV's is to look at the actual selling price of similar units. This information can be gleaned from other RV owners, online auction sites, and RV dealers who make their selling prices public. As an additional tool, consult the depreciation tables provided on the RV Consumer Group ratings CD. For a detailed explanation of these concepts, please read Determining an RV's Fair Market Value.

Is an RV a good option as cheap, stationary housing?

An RV is usually not the cheapest housing option. Even with an inexpensive unit, the costs of the RV, site rent, electricity, and propane will be at or very near the rent of a small apartment. In addition, an RV will require more time and money to maintain than an apartment, eating into your savings. We have met individuals who live very frugally in small RV's, but these are the exceptions—the lifestyle changes required to make this a reality would be considered too harsh by most.

How much does it cost to stay in an RV park or campground?

The cost of an RV site varies by location and available facilities. From least to most expensive, the following site types are available:

  • Primitive camping: No hookups available in the site. Park usually has central facilities such as bathrooms, showers, and an RV dump station. Typical daily rates: $3-$10
  • Water and electric: Contains city water and an electric outlet ranging from 15 to 50 amps. Typical daily rates: $10-$30
  • Full hookup: All hookups needed for an RV—water, electric, and sewage. Typical daily rates: $15-$50

When paying daily, many parks offer discounts of 10%-15% to RV club members and seniors (see RV Clubs). When paying weekly, the 10%-15% discount is given to everyone and club discounts no longer apply. For the greatest savings pay monthly. Monthly rates are usually the same as 2 to 3 weekly rates.

Is there free overnight parking available for RV's?

Several options are available for free overnight parking when you do not require any services:

  1. Wal-Mart and other major retailer parking lots. Be aware that some cities do not allow overnight parking outside licensed campgrounds.
  2. Rest areas along interstates and highways. Check for signs prohibiting overnight stays.
  3. Truck stops, where permitted by management.

Use common sense when parking at public places like retailer parking lots and rest areas. Depending on the area, these may not be the safest options.

How much fuel does an RV consume (mpg)?

RV fuel consumption is affected by vehicle weight, engine size, fuel type, driving habits, gear ratios, wind resistance, topography, and numerous other factors. Without knowing a lot of details about an RV, it is impossible to estimate a narrow mpg (miles per gallon) range. Here are some generalities:

  • When towing very small trailers, fuel consumption of the tow vehicle will increase slightly or may be negligible.
  • Class B motor homes should have slightly higher fuel consumption than the van they are built on.
  • Smaller Class C motor homes and trailers will consume about 10-15 mpg.
  • Large motor homes and trailers will range between 6-13 mpg.

The most accurate way to determine fuel consumption is to join a discussion group and ask others who own similar units to the one you are considering.

Look up current fuel prices in your area

Gasoline or diesel costs can be a significant portion of the RV travel budget; reduce your costs by filling up at the cheapest station. We found the following Internet resources to be the most complete:

Enter your zip code on the above web sites and they will list current fuel prices in the area.

Is diesel fuel cheaper in truck stops?

In our experience, diesel fuel tends to be a little cheaper in truck stops compared to passenger vehicle gas stations.

Some states add an additional tax to private vehicle diesel, which makes the price posted at truck stops appear considerably cheaper. Don't let this fool you—if you pull into a truck stop and you don't have a commercial license, they will add the tax on top of the posted price. One such state is Oregon, where non-commercial vehicles pay an extra $0.24 per gallon in 2005.