We lusted over the life of being a travel trailer owner prior to owning one, and still get giddy with the thought of taking it out. It is currently December and I just went to our storage space to check on the RV and instantly got the feeling back of how fun it was to go to Glacier National Park last summer or stay at our favorite small town in November.
As I left, I paid our monthly storage bill and went on my way and started adding up all of the costs in relation to such a good experience and decided to share them here.
How much does it cost to own a travel trailer? The monthly cost to own a travel trailer can range from about $20 per month for registration and insurance if you own it and can park it for free to upwards of $400+ if you are making payments and do not have somewhere to store it on your property.
Typically, a travel trailer will cost a user more than they initially thought when you factor in the additional tow vehicle expenses such as additional wear and tear, gasoline, and upgraded hitches or towing accessories.
If you buy a new camper, your payment would be factored into the costs of ownership as well as any accessories you buy or the dealer installs.
During the course of our ownership, we have purchased several accessories such as a generator, sewer pipe kit, upgraded shower head, bbq, additional kitchen accessories, and many more items just for our trailer.
It is easy to have your costs of ownership cost you several thousand over the first year you buy your trailer, but you should expect costs to decrease as you obtain the needed accessories.
Lastly, storage is a factor in the cost to own a travel trailer. If you store your trailer on your property it can be free, but storage can range from $20 per month to about $90 per month for outdoor storage and $300+ per month for indoor covered storage.
Despite the costs involved, we have thought of our trailer as an upgrade to our life. Having a trailer allows our family to spend time together in the outdoors away from cell service and civilization. Being able to take that fishing trip and stay at the fishing hot spot and not having to get up at 4AM to drive two hours is a wonderful feeling.
We have met so many interesting people along the way on our travels and would not change our experience or the world.
The Complete Cost Guide to RV Ownership
There can be several types of costs involved with RV ownership, these costs can be detailed as:
- Purchase Costs
- Storage Costs
- Insurance and Registration Costs
- Maintenance and Repairs
- Travel Expenses
- Tow Vehicle Expenses
- Upgrades and Other Expenses
Travel Trailer Purchase Costs
Travel trailers can vary wildly on their costs and typically range from $13,000 up to $55,000+. If you pay cash for your trailer, that is great, and for this example, you can amortize the costs over the years you think you will own the RV or omit the cost completely.
If you finance your RV, this monthly cost would be included in your costs of ownership. For the 5 examples below, we will use a down payment of $5,000 an interest rate of 4% and a loan length of 7 years. We assume tax, title, and license is included in the total cost. Each of these items can vary greatly per situation.
- Total RV Cost: $13,000 = Monthly cost of: $109.35
- Total RV Cost: $25,000 = Monthly cost of: $273.38
- Total RV Cost: $32,000 = Monthly cost of: $369.06
- Total RV Cost: $40,000 = Monthly cost of: $478.41
- Total RV Cost: $55,000 = Monthly cost of: $683.44
The numbers above can shift wildly depending on the RV cost, the amount for down payment, interest rate, as well as loan term. These factors along with the RV price can all be shifted to get a camper within your budget. Learn more about how much the average monthly payment on an RV is.
If you are interested in learning more about financing a RV, Bankrate has a great article on how to get a RV loan.
RV Storage Costs
The cost to store your RV can vary depending on where you are storing it. If you have outdoor storage, you may want to factor in the cost of wheel covers and an RV cover. These two items can cost from $200-500+ depending on the size of your RV.
The monthly storage costs in our area range from $35 per month to $70 per month for up to a 25’ trailer. If you have a longer trailer, prices typically go up to $50-$90 per month. If you buy a brand new motor home or fifth wheel, you may want to look into indoor or covered storage. I found that indoor storage for a 40’ RV was around $250-$300 per month in our area.
Obviously these numbers can vary depending on the supply and demand of storage where you live, or if you or a friend may have a large shop or plot of land where you can park for free.
Camper Insurance and Registration Costs
Adding our travel trailer to our auto insurance policy did not add as much as I would have thought, the total annual premium increased about $187 including the addition to our umbrella policy. This also included roadside assistance and towing for 50+ miles.
Insurance can vary depending on how many items are on your policy, the value of your RV, as well as the coverage you select. If you have a 42’ diesel pusher, I would expect insurance to be a lot larger than what we pay for a 20’ travel trailer.
The costs to register our travel trailer for the first year were $107. This included a $20 one time fee for a new license plate that will not have to be paid the following years.
Travel Trailer Maintenance and Repair Costs
As we purchased our trailer new, we have not had to pay much for maintenance or repairs to date. There are many items on the trailer which need service annually such as wheel bearings, tire pressure, winterization, summarization, roof repair, window reseal, interior repairs from being towed, etc.
When you tow your trailer, it is basically having an earthquake inside every trip. You can imagine what that does to all the little items, seals, and electronics so you cannot expect them to last forever. Luckily, if you are handy, you can make many of these small repairs yourself.
As I like to call myself handy, I completed the first winterization myself. I had to buy a few seal sprays, lubricants, attachments, and RV antifreeze, but the total cost to winterize for the first year was under $50. In the following years, it will only cost about 3 gallons of RV antifreeze or about $9. My local dealer charges $179 for winterization and $99 for summarization. These costs would vary depending on if you have an outdoor shower, or items such as an on board generator.
I plan to save about $50 per month for travel trailer repairs, as I can do many maintenance items or repairs myself. I will let my bank of $50 per month grow as when I have to replace the tires they can cost $500-600 for a set of nice trailer tires.
Roof sealant and small repairs should not cost over $100 per year on a newer trailer. Once your roof starts to get older, you may want to have some money saved for a replacement as roof replacements can cost over $1,000.
RV Travel Expenses
When factoring your travel expenses, where you camp will dictate your costs. When we stay at a local campground, the cost is $15 per night with no hookups. Typically we only stay for 1-2 nights so not having hookups does not make a huge deal.
When we stay in national parks around our area, they cost $23 per night. These typically have no hookups as we stay in the middle of nowhere. At a local state park on a lake near us, we pay $30-35 per night with full hookups. I will tell you full hookups are a dream come true when you get to use them for the first time.
We have paid $107 for a week of camping on Flathead Lake in MT with full hookups, which was a very good deal. Last year, we looked at driving the trailer to the Oregon Coast and wanted to stay at a very nice campground on the beach. Our thoughts were changed when we found out the price was $75 per night. We were able to get a very nice hotel for about $130 per night and figured it was a wash as the gas prices to get over to Oregon would make up the difference.
All in all, a campground can range from free if you are boondocking, to an average of about $30 per night.
Travel Trailer Tow Vehicle Expenses
Don’t forget your tow vehicle costs when factoring your costs of ownership. Your gas bill alone will be the majority of these. We get about 10 mpg when towing down from about 16 with normal driving which is not too bad.
Pro Tip: If you are buying a new vehicle, spring the extra money for the larger gas tank. You will thank me when you fill up less often and do not have to navigate a trailer in tight gas stations.
Your tow vehicle will go through tires faster, wear suspension parts, need more frequent oil changes, as well as need more general care if you are towing frequently. These costs can vary depending on the age and condition of your towing rig.
If you need a weight-distribution hitch or sway control, make sure to include that cost in your costs of ownership. These can range from $250-600 on average all the way up to $1500 for the best of the best.
Upgrades and Other Expenses
When you have a trailer sitting at your disposal, you cannot help but upgrade it or buy items for it. Just off the start, you will need some essentials such as:
- Sewer Hose Kit
- Water Hose, filter, and attachments
- Leveling Blocks
- Wheel Chocks
- Surge Protector
- Power Cable and Adapters
Along with the essentials, you will find yourself bitten with the big. Chances are, you will move on to lust over other items such as:
- Solar Setup
- Camping Mat
- Camping Outdoor Furniture
The list goes on and on. The sky is the limit when you think of outfitting your trailer, or just get the basics and enjoy your time in the outdoors. Over time, it is fun to buy small upgrades or items here and there to make your camping just that much better and give you that extra something to look forward to. If these costs scare you, learn how to reduce them or even have them paid for.
Take the time to go through each category above and use these examples to figure what your approximate monthly cost of ownership would be.
How much does it cost to store a travel trailer?
Outdoor travel trailer storage can cost from $35-$90 depending on the length of your vehicle and location. Indoor can cost $200-$300 per month also depending on the length and location.
Do I need insurance for a travel trailer?
Yes, having insurance on your travel trailer will not only be a benefit to you, but will be a benefit to others shall something happen when you are on the road. Insurance can benefit you if your trailer is stolen or damaged. Insurance will help others shall your trailer do damage to other vehicles or property. For example, it was involved in an accident or came unhitched.
Do I have to register a travel trailer?
Yes, if you are towing your travel trailer on public roads, you will have to license and register it. If you are parking it at a property using it as a cabin of sort, and will not be moving it, you do not need to license or register the trailer. Typically the costs to license are very small and should be kept up. As always, check with your local DMV to find out the answer that will best suit your needs.
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