You could call it an “RV-aissance” if you want to as RV sales make a steady comeback. But is life in an RV really as glamorous as it looks on Instagram?
In 2017, RV shipments in the U.S. reached record levels, according to the RV Industry Association. In 2019, it was reported that approximately 10 million households have an RV, and sales are expected to stay strong. Baby boomers continue to enter the RV market, a growing number of Americans are renting these vehicles for vacation, and younger people are trying out an on-the-road, working lifestyle.
But what’s it really like to travel or live in an RV? More importantly, is it worth it? Before packing up or selling a household, it can be helpful to sort through common misconceptions about RVs. Following are myths that typically surround this type of vehicle. Read on to learn the realities about the RV lifestyle.
Myth #1: RVs Are for Older People.
It is true that RVs continue to remain a popular option for retirees, but younger Americans are enjoying the RV life as well. Millennials travel 30 percent more than previous generations, as reported by the RV Life Magazine. Individuals and young families are RVing for vacations and long road trips.
The availability of Wi-Fi and ability to work remotely has led to a trend of nomadic RVers.
“There are many people who are in their 30’s and 40’s who work on the road,” says Allison Bruning, who is 43 years old and is a fulltime RVer.
Bruning, the founder of AcademicWarriors.com, and her husband were drawn to the travel perks of the RV life, along with the chance to work while on the road. Bruning is from Ohio and her husband is from Texas. “We wanted the ability to visit both of our families without having the moving costs,” she says.
Myth #2: RVs are Expensive.
While luxury models, with walk-in closets, marble floors and flat screen TVs can cost hundreds of thousands of dollars (or even millions), there are many cheaper, budget-friendly RV types. If you want a folding camping trailer, you may be able to find a new one for as little as $6,000. Truck campers can range from $5,000 to $55,000.
For a new fifth wheel trailer, you could spend between $60,000 and $150,000. Before making the leap into RV ownership, you might opt to rent an RV to make sure the lifestyle lines up with what you have envisioned. You could also choose to purchase a smaller RV or a used camper before committing to a bigger investment. Either way, it is probably cheaper than buying a house.
Myth #3: Traveling in an RV is Always a Vacation.
Even those who are retired and live in an RV will note that not every day is a free day. Maintenance checks, fuel fills, and other vehicle-related tasks need to be carried out periodically.
Repairs are also part of the motorhome life.
“Recreational vehicles are rolling earthquakes,” says John Driessen, a National Recreational Vehicle Inspectors Association (NRVIA) certified RV inspector, “If something hasn’t broken yet, it will.”
If you bring along a set of basic tools, you’ll likely be able to take care of any issues that come up on the road.
“Most problems are small and can be fixed by anyone handy,” Driessen says.
Myth #4: A Manufacturer’s Warranty Will Cover all Repairs.
If you purchase a new RV or camper with a manufacturer’s warranty, you could still run into trouble along the road.
“Many dealerships have small repair shops and they limit their service work,” Driessen says.
So if your trailer breaks down and you take it to the first dealership you see, you might be turned away.
Ask what is covered, and how repairs are handled, before buying a new RV.
“Some manufacturers will reimburse you for a mobile tech,” Driessen says.
Read reviews and ask for recommendations to see which brands tend to be more reliable and easy to repair.
Myth #5: It’s Easy to Cook Homemade Meals in an RV.
You’ll have access to more appliances in a motorhome than at a campsite with a tent, but the realities of cooking are not always easy. If you purchase a week’s worth of groceries, for instance, it might be hard to store everything in the small kitchen space. It could be more practical to shop every few days to properly manage the pantry.
Cooking foods that need a lot of preparation may also prove to be difficult. “There is usually very little counter space,” says Bruce Leadbetter, owner of Arizona Backpacking and 360 Adventures. You might choose to make meals that are easy to prepare, such as packaged dinners, pasta, or one-pot dishes.
Myth #6: An RV Makes it Easy to Have a Quiet Life.
While you may be able to stay in hidden places while boondocking, or parking in an area without any hookups, you’ll typically find you need access to amenities at certain times. If you stay in a campground, the spots can fill up quickly.
“When you’re in an RV park, you don’t get much privacy unless you keep the windows closed, the curtains pulled, and the doors shut,” Leadbetter says.
Groups in nearby sites might hold parties late at night on the weekends, families with small children might get up early, and neighboring campers could take pets out for exercise during the day.
Myth #7: You’ll Have the Freedom to Spontaneously Travel.
If you show up to a campground without a reservation, there’s no guarantee you’ll be able to snag a site.
“Campgrounds get very full in the summer,” Driessen says.
To avoid driving around looking for a spot at the last-minute, call ahead and make a reservation. Also check that your motorhome and any pets are permitted at the campground, as some places have restrictions on pets and older RV models.
Some supermarkets, like Walmart, might be an option for a one-night stop.
“You can usually stay overnight in store or church parking lots, but that is not always the safest or most comfortable way to camp,” Driessen says.
You’ll also want to ask permission at these places before parking your travel trailer for several hours.
Myth #8: RVing Leads to a Cheaper Lifestyle.
You could spend much more – or significantly less – while living in an RV compared to a house or apartment. It will depend on where you stay and the type of lifestyle you prefer. Spending the night near urban areas and in private RV parks will usually be more expensive than state parks or public campgrounds. On average, it costs $29.12 per night of camping in an RV.
Boondocking is typically free, but you’ll need to plan ahead, as you won’t have access to amenities like electricity, sewer, or restrooms. The National Forest and Bureau of Land Management offer public lands where RV camping in remote areas is typically free. Use a resource like the Public Lands app to find nearby options.
Fulltime RVing could mean you’ll save on expenses related to home maintenance, but you could face other bills. Some RV parks, for instance, will charge utility fees. You might also need to pay for some logistic services. “If you fulltime RV, you should join a club such as Escapees, to handle your mail and residency,” Bruning says.
And don’t forget gas. If you are traveling full-time fuel will take up a large chunk of your budget, so be sure to get a credit card that earns bonus points at gas stations.