RVs and campers are cabins on wheels. You can go practically anywhere the road leads you and when you get to your destination, you get to enjoy the luxuries of indoor living. Campsites have grown to a point where they have full hook-ups to electricity, water, and sewage, making it possible to stay in one spot for days and days on end. This helps cut the cost of visiting so many places around the US, as staying in your RV or camper at a campground is much less expensive per night than staying in a hotel!
But how much do RVs and campers cost? The cost to purchase an RV can vary from vehicle to vehicle, so it’s difficult to approximate how much an average RV will set you back. A few things to consider when pricing out an RV are:
- Whether you’re buying a new or used RV
- The size of the RV
- The materials used to make the RV
- The number of slide outs the RV has
- Maintenance Considerations
New or Used?
If you are just getting into camping in an RV or camper, you may be tempted to just get onto Facebook marketplace and source a used RV right away. While there are plenty of quality used rigs for sale, there are a few things to think about before you jump into buying a used RV.
For starters, when you buy a used RV or camper, you run the risk of purchasing a vehicle that doesn’t have a warranty to replace and/or repair common issues on the vehicle. RVs and campers pull double duty of serving as a vehicle as well as a mobile home, which means that they see double the wear and tear that your home and vehicle do in a given year.
Think about it, people are driving their RVs and trailers all over the place. From salty ocean coasts to rocky mountain roads, used RVs may have gone just about anywhere. There may be issues that you might not have seen when you were just looking at the RV before you bought it that come up when it’s the most inconvenient to!
If you do buy a used RV, definitely ask to have it looked over by a qualified mechanic. Ask them to check for leaks all around the RV and test the electrical and water systems thoroughly. That way you’ll be confident in the purchase that you make.
While there are some risks associated with buying a used RV, the benefits may outweigh the risks. One obvious benefit is that you’ll end up saving quite a bit of money by buying used. RVs, much like new cars, depreciate in value the moment you drive them off the lot. So even if you bought an RV that was only a year or two old, you’d still be saving thousands of dollars by buying a used RV over a new one. This is beneficial to new and veteran RVers alike!
Buying new can be a great option, depending on the total cost of the RV and what you intend to do with it. If you’re looking for an RV that you’ll use for a long time, season after season, and you don’t want to deal with any potential maintenance issues right off the bat, a new RV might be your best option.
New RVs come with factory warranties that help give you peace of mind to know that if something breaks within a certain number of miles that you’ve driven your RV, you can get it fixed professionally by the dealership.
Another great benefit of buying a new RV is that you know that you’re the only person to have done anything inside of the RV. There won’t be any weird left-over residues in the bathroom or in the storage area. All of the appliances are in perfect working order. The bed is fresh and has never been slept on by anyone else but you. So there are some pretty good things about buying new over used!
Of course, you need to consider your budget before you decide to buy new. Like we said before, new RVs depreciate very similarly to new cars. This means that whatever money you spend on it, be aware that you’ll never recover at least 20% of your initial purchase price as soon as you drive away with it. If you’re comfortable with that thought, a new RV might be the best choice for you.
How Does Size Influence the Price?
Size is a fairly straight forward factor in determining the cost of an RV. In general, the larger the RV, the more expensive it will be. The smaller, the less expensive it will be. While there are a few exceptions to this rule, it tends to be a pretty predictable standard when pricing out new and used RVs alike.
The least expensive RV you can buy is going to be a pop-up camper. Pop-up campers are great for people who are transitioning from tent camping to RV camping. They are inexpensive, costing anywhere from $3000 for a decent used camper all the way up to $18,000 for a top of the line new one.
Pop-ups are inexpensive because their bodies are made up of mostly canvas. The canvas can be folded and tucked inside of the camper when not in use and expanded and propped up with the attached frame when in use. This reduces the cost for construction and the total weight of the RV.
For those who are looking to upgrade their camping experience from tents completely, a bumper-pull RV is going to be the next best option. The costs are going to rise significantly compared to pop-up campers, even though there might be similar living spaces inside. This is due to the fact that bumper-pull trailers are made out of hard material throughout the entire exterior of the camper.
Bumper-pull RVs are great for those who intend to camp in a wide variety of temperatures as they are much better insulated than pop-up campers.
In addition to the better insulation, bumper-pull trailers often have much bigger bathrooms compared to pop-up campers, making them ideal to take on extended road trips.
Bumper-pull RVs are very popular compared to any other model of RV, so prices will differ quite a bit here. Depending on the make and model of the RV, you can easily spend $20,000 to well over $40,000 on a new bumper-pull RV. Quality used bumper-pull trailers will set you back between $15,000 and $30,000.
5th wheel RVs are the next step up from bumper-pulls. They are towed by a much beefier truck than most, often in a heavy-duty model like a Dodge 3500 or a Ford F350. These are the top of the line in terms of towable RVs, as they have cavernous interiors compared to bumper-pulls and pop-ups.
The cost of 5th wheel campers is going to be much higher than any of the other towable RVs. They are the largest and most luxurious in comparison, which means that you’ll end up spending at least $30,000 for a base model 5th wheel and over $100,000 for a top of the line 5th wheel camper.
5th wheel campers are really ideal for those who camp and travel over half of the year. They are really like a second home wherever you go. Plus, depending on the model, you can bring along your toys like ATVs and dirt bikes by purchasing a toy hauler style RV. The back of the RV acts like a garage that you can tow your toys in, but then convert back into living space once you’ve backed your recreational vehicles out of it.
The next style of RV to consider are class A, B, and C drivable RVs. These are great because they combine your driving vehicle with your living space. Each style has pros and cons to them and will all cost different amounts from each other.
Class A are the largest, most luxurious, and most expensive styles of RVs. They often look like charter busses on the highways! These are usually priced around $50,000 to $200,000 depending on the make, model, and size of the RV. They will last you about 200,000 miles before they begin to see major mechanical issues.
Class B RVs look like vans more than they do busses. They are much smaller than class A RVs, which makes them ideal for those that are camping solo or with one other person. They cost anywhere between $60,000 and $190,000, again depending on the make and model. You can buy a brand new class B RV or you can choose to build out your own! Get some inspiration by looking up the hashtag #vanlife on Instagram or TikTok to get a good idea of what is possible when building out your own class B RV.
Finally, class C RVs are the most affordable of the driving RVs. With costs ranging between $50,000 and $100,000 for a brand-new RV, you’ll be able to get a little more bang for your buck when comparing the livable space inside of a class C compared to a class B. Class C RVs can comfortably sleep up to 4 people, compared to the 2 people that can comfortably be accommodated in a class B.
Materials and Features of the RV that Affect Price
After you have decided upon which style of RV you want to go with, you need to consider the type of materials that are used in constructing your RV. There are two main materials that RVs are made out of that will influence the price: fiberglass and aluminum.
Fiberglass is one of the best materials for building out the exterior of the RV, as it is lighter, more durable, and overall, better looking compared to aluminum. This means that over time, you’ll get more life out of your RV when you purchase a fiberglass RV compared to an aluminum one.
The biggest downside to fiberglass RVs is that they are much more expensive compared to aluminum RVs. Depending on your budget, this might mean that a brand new fiberglass RV might be out of the picture.
If you’re on a budget, aluminum RVs are a good option as well. If your objective is to get on the road with a brand-new RV, then aluminum will help you do that. Don’t be scared off by the fact that fiberglass is the better material. There are plenty of quality campers made out of aluminum, they just won’t be as lightweight and durable as fiberglass. This means that you’ll likely spend more money on gas when driving your RV around and it won’t last as long as fiberglass RVs.
For those who only plan on using their RVs a few times every year, an aluminum sided RV might be the best choice, as it will get the job done without breaking your bank account.
Slide Outs Costs
Finally, the last thing to consider when pricing out an RV is the amount of slide outs that it has. A slide out is a feature that comes on most RVs that allows you to extend the living space inside of the RV when it’s parked. The slide outs can be pulled back in to make it so that the RV can safely be driven on the road and stay inside standard traffic lanes.
Slide outs have influence on the final cost of the RV, as they are complicated to construct and install. The more slide outs the RV has, the more expensive the RV will be! Depending on your needs, you may need more or less slide outs depending on how many people you plan on hosting inside of your RV.
Another factor to consider when selecting an RV with slide outs is the weight that they add to the RV. Slide outs generally make the RV heavier, which in turn will cause the cost of moving your RV from place to place go up.
A way to avoid the additional costs and weight of slide outs is to purchase an RV with pop-outs. Pop-outs are a hybrid between the slide out idea and the pop-up camper, in that pop-outs give you the extra living space that comes along with slide-out campers, but with the lightweight and low-cost benefits of canvas. If you’re intent on purchasing a hard sided RV, but you want to have plenty of space inside of it without having to spend a ton of money, be on the lookout for campers with pop-outs.
Often times people get caught up in the thrill of purchasing an RV that they forget that you need to consistently maintain your RV to get the most use out of it. Maintenance costs will vary quite a bit from RV to RV, but there are some common areas to keep in mind when choosing your RV that will affect the cost of maintenance over time.
First of all, the material that your RV is made of will determine how often you need to get it repaired from the wear and tear it will experience while on the road. As mentioned earlier, fiberglass is the best material for RVs to be made out of, as they will last the longest against the rocks that will inevitably bounce off the sides of your RV when you’re driving.
Another area to consider with RV maintenance is the size of the water tanks that it has. During the winter months, you need to winterize your RV to ensure that the pipes don’t burst due to freezing temperatures. The larger the water system, the more it will cost to winterize. For this reason, pop-up campers are the least expensive to maintain while 5th wheels and class A RVs are the most expensive to maintain.
Finally, the cost of gas is something to consider when choosing an RV. In general, the larger the RV, the more it will cost. Drag and weight will influence how much gas mileage you’re able to get out of your RV, so consider how far you intend to travel and how often you intend to travel with your RV before purchasing one.
There are many different factors that influence the price of an RV. From the style of RV to the number of slide outs, there are many things to think about when pricing out your next RV purchase.
Take your time when shopping around for an RV. Go into a dealership and tour several before making your final decision. Even if you’re shopping for a used RV, it definitely is worth your while to tour some new RVs at a dealership in the same make and model so you can get a good sense of what you’re getting into.
And always make sure to conduct the proper maintenance on your RV every year to make sure that you’ll get the most life out of your home on wheels.
Which RV will you purchase to get your adventures going this year?