14 Hidden Costs of Owning an RV That Nobody is Really Talking About

RVs may be a great way to travel, but there are hidden costs you should consider before you buy one.
Last updated Nov. 20, 2022 | By Jenny Cohen | Edited By Michael Kurko
family enjoying outdoor infront of an rv

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RVs have become popular in recent years as more people have hit the road for their next adventure.

An RV can be a great way to see places because you have all your living arrangements with you so you don’t have to worry about hotels. You also have the freedom to go wherever you want or change your itinerary on a whim.

But RVs can cost you some cash above and beyond the sticker price of the vehicle itself. Here are some hidden costs to consider to help you avoid money stress before you hit the open road.

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Campsites

CL-Medien/Adobe RV stranded in the middle of a forest

Just because you have a traveling home with you doesn’t mean that you can just park anywhere for free. Some campsites have great amenities like showers and bathrooms. They also could have unique features like pools, spas, or outdoor activities.

But staying at one of these campsites usually means you have to pay a fee for a parking spot for your RV. Those fees can change depending on how popular the site is during peak travel times.

Waste

Tony Skerl/Adobe woman disposing chemical waste

You may like the idea of traveling with your own bathroom in an RV, but emptying your waste can be a dirty job — and it can cost you money.

Some campsites may allow you to dump your waste for free if you paid for your parking spot. But other places may charge a fee to dump out your tanks before you hit the road again.

Insurance

Tomasz Zajda/Adobe rv accident in mountain

You have to get insurance for your RV just as you would for a car or motorcycle, but you may be surprised at the cost. Insurance may be more expensive for a large vehicle like an RV compared to your typical car in your driveway.

It may be a good idea to call around and find out how much insurance for different sizes of RVs will cost you before you make a purchase.

Driver’s training

云 王/Adobe an rv on road during autumn

Driving an RV is not like driving a car, so you'll want to consider taking a course specifically for RV drivers.

It’s also a good idea to check with your state department of motor vehicles to see if they require you to have a specific license to operate an RV, which could also cost you more money in fees.

Gas

moodboard/Adobe man refueling an rv at gas station

You may think you’ve calculated your gas costs, but filling up the tank of an RV can be expensive. Remember to account for how many miles per gallon your potential vehicle can handle and factor in any changes in cost depending on the places you may stop for gas.

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Registration

H_Ko/Adobe man signing a document with silver pen

Registering your RV with your state department of motor vehicles costs money, and those fees are likely to be more expensive than when you register your car.

Check with your local DMV to see how much registration for your vehicle will cost and if those registration fees vary depending on the length of the vehicle.

Maintenance

Tomasz Zajda/Adobe young man fixing wires

Just like your car, you need to keep your RV maintained regularly with oil changes, tire rotation, and brake inspections. But those costs may be higher than you expect since your RV is a larger vehicle. You might also have to pay extra for a more specialized technician.

Storage

knowlesgallery/Adobe RVs parked in a garage

It can be difficult to park a large vehicle like an RV at your home, and some cities or homeowners associations may not permit you to do so.

It’s a great idea to find a garage or some other storage facility that can accommodate your RV when you’re not using it, but storage fees will add to the cost of your RV ownership.

Amenities

Drew/Adobe elegant living room with lcd and couch

You may want to add special features to a basic RV like a TV, Wi-Fi, dash camera, or other fun features. But additional technology can add up and make the cost of creating a custom vehicle to your liking cost more than the base price.

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Utilities

simona/Adobe man in RV relaxing

You need things like electricity to run all the extras that an RV holds like your stove, lights, heating or cooling, and electronics. The great thing is that campsites may have electricity hook-ups to help you out, but that can add extra costs to your campsite fees.

Generator

Tomasz Zajda/Adobe man starting a portable generator

You don’t need an electric hook-up if you want to run those cool electric gadgets out on the open road, but you may need a generator.

Adding a generator to your RV could cost extra money. Don’t forget to factor in the cost of gas to keep it running if you’re not at a campsite with a hook-up to electricity.

Laundry

anetlanda/Adobe drying clothes on an rv

Your dirty clothes can pile up if you plan to go on the road for long periods. It may not be a big issue compared to some of the other items on your RV budget, but it’s a good idea to factor in the cost of doing laundry when you’re on the road.

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Towing

james meijer/Adobe jeep towing rv

You may want to bring along your car for day trips or small vehicles like an ATV for outdoor fun while using your RV as a base at a campsite. But bringing additional vehicles requires towing equipment, which can get expensive.

You also need to make sure you get equipment capable of handling the weight of whatever you’re hauling behind you for your trips.

Tolls

Miroslav110/Adobe cars lined at toll booth

The open road sometimes costs money, and those tolls can add up depending on where you’re going.

Remember to bring change with you to get you through toll plazas quicker or invest in something like an EZ Pass, which can be used in several states to get past toll booths quicker.

Bottom line

Darrenp/Adobe rv standing in the middle of canyonlands

The good news is there are ways to save money if you want to hit the open road in an RV.

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Author Details

Jenny Cohen Jenny Cohen is a freelance writer who has covered a bit of everything, from finance to sports to her favorite TV shows. Her work has been featured in The Wall Street Journal, USA Today, and FoxSports.com.