Which Costs More: Hotels or RV Traveling?

There was a time in America when almost every American of retirement age dreamed about buying a cheap RV and traveling across the country, never having to worry about all of the expense and taxes involved with property ownership combined with the promise of being able to see this great country that so many of us have yet to fully explore.


And while that dream may have slipped from the mainstream a bit, there is still a vibrant subculture throughout America that is determined to get behind the wheels of a relatively inexpensive RV and just taking road trip after road trip clear across the nation.


At the same time, more people are figuring out that hotels can be an inexpensive alternative to RV travel when it comes time to hit the road. There’s almost always been this age-old battle between those that feel that over the long-term investing in an RV is cheaper than the hotel rooms, and vice versa – with fans of hotel convenience saying the RV R.O.I. is just to far out to appreciate. If you find yourself mulling over this debate in your mind hopefully we are able to shine some light on the subject for you in this quick guide.


Thinking about staying in hotels?


If you’re thinking about traveling around the United States in your car, staying in hotels, and eating out, there are some not-so-obvious expenses you’re going to want to consider.


For starters, let’s assume that you are driving a vehicle that has been purchased for $20,000 with about 20,000 miles on it already. You have to look at annual maintenance costs of about $900 over 15 years, a fuel consumption on average of about 30 miles per gallon, and total operating costs that are going to come in at just about $.33 per mile.


Then you have to consider the average hotel room rate of about $121 per day and then factor in spending about $60 a day at restaurants and you’re looking at a daily expenditure of about $181 when you decide to stay in hotels and eat at restaurants on your road trip.


What about traveling by RV?


If you are purchasing a used RV for about $80,000 with 20,000 miles on it already and maintenance costs of about $1700 over a decade and a half, you’re looking at spending about $.78 per mile. RVs will get you a lot lower level of fuel economy, so you’re probably looking at about 15 miles per gallon – which bumps operating costs up to about $.96 per mile.


On the flipside, however, the average campground rate is about $25 per day and most people can get away with spending $30 a day on groceries for meals you’ll prepare inside your RV. This gets you to a daily expenditure of about $55 when you decide to buy your own small RV.


As you can see here, if you’re going to be spending extended amounts of time on the road you probably aren’t going to want to do so staying in hotels nonstop. This is definitely the more expensive way to travel, even if purchasing the RV upfront is going to cost about four times as much as it would to purchase a $20,000 used car.


Many readers are interested in lengthy periods of travel and hitting many destinations on the way.  If that sounds like you then you’re probably more inclined to go the RV route.  However, if you’re still figuring out if road-tripping or spending vacations (or even retirement) on the road is going to be your thing, then going the hotel route is a much smarter way to try out the lifestyle before plunking down the cash for a major vehicle purchase!