Three friends standing with their luggage in front of an RV, ready to go on a cross country trip.

Is it Cheaper to Rent an RV or Stay in Hotels When Traveling?

Increased gas prices and inflation aren’t stopping those with an adventurous side from traveling. They’re instead looking to save a buck where they can, especially when it comes to lodging.

Many travelers are considering alternative lodging options that they might not have otherwise seen as viable options. So is it cheaper to rent an RV or stay in hotels when traveling? Here’s what our research has found.

Three friends standing with their luggage in front of an RV, ready to go on a cross country trip.

Is It Cheaper to Vacation in an RV?

An RV can be a cost-effective way to vacation, especially if you already own one. While RVs may not be huge, depending on the rig, they are typically not much smaller than most budget-friendly hotels. However, most RVs are more than just a couple of beds and a bathroom. 

RVs often offer a refrigerator for storing food, kitchen spaces for preparing and cooking meals, and plenty of storage space to bring items to enhance your vacation. These features can allow travelers to purchase groceries and food supplies instead of going out to eat for every meal. While eating out may be more convenient, it can be disappointing and expensive.

When RVing in state parks or on public lands, you’ll likely find that it’s much less expensive than other lodging options. However, if your idea of camping involves RV parks or resorts, it may not be the cheapest option. You’ll want to consider the lodging savings in addition to the added fuel costs and inconveniences of traveling in an RV. 

How Much Does an RV Rental Cost?

The cost of renting an RV will depend on several factors. First, the type of RV you want to rent. Renting a larger motorized RV can cost $175 to about $275 per night, while a tiny pop-up camper ranges from $50 to $100 per night.

Travel trailers, fifth wheels, and toy haulers will typically range from $50 to $200 per night, depending on the RV’s size and features. You’re likely not going to find a motorized RV rental for less than $100, and the largest Class A motorhomes could run you about $275 per night.

You’ll want to consider that there will also be taxes and fees associated with the rental. Some rentals will charge additional fees for using generators and other equipment. If you’re renting a drivable RV, the owners will likely require you to return it with a full gas tank.

Aside from the fees for renting the RV, you’ll need to consider how much it will cost you to park it while you’re using it. Campgrounds and RV resorts could cost $20 to $100 per night.

For a short-term road trip, RV rentals can get very expensive if you’re not careful. However, it can still be a cost-effective way to vacation and experience a taste of RV life if you’re considering jumping into the lifestyle.

HOT TIP
Before you set out on your cross country trip, here are the things you must know before you rent an RV!

Where Can You Find RV Rentals?

There are a few reputable RV rental companies that are popular. Cruise America has been renting RVs to travelers looking to hit the open road and make memories since 1972.

There’s a good chance you’ve seen their massive RVs cruising down the highway or parked in the parking lot of a popular tourist attraction. Renting an RV from Cruise America is similar to renting a car or other vehicle from any budget-friendly car rental company.

More recently, a couple of new players to the RV rental market have come on the scene. RV Share and Outdoorsy allow RV owners to rent their unused RVs to other travelers who are looking to RV. It’s similar to Airbnb, but for RVs.

You can search through various RVs located all over the country to find the right listing for your needs. RV owners can make a few extra bucks, and travelers can get a unique experience. It’s a win-win situation!

How Much Does an Average Hotel Room Cost?

According to MarketWatch, the average cost for a standard hotel room is $89 per night. However, hotel room costs will vary considerably based on the area. Taxes and fees can considerably add to the cost of a hotel room.

Some states or cities have increased taxes on tourist-related activities to milk travelers for every penny they can. Before making a hotel room reservation, you’ll want to ensure you know of any hidden fees or charges.

What Is the Cheapest Way to Travel in an RV? 

An RV can allow you to save money while traveling, especially if you take advantage of several camping options. Here are the cheapest ways to travel in an RV. 

Boondocking

Boondocking is a style of camping where you set up camp on public lands. There are thousands of designated campsites on lands managed by the federal government. Boondocking will require you to be self-sufficient regarding power, water, and waste disposal.

However, these spots are typically very budget-friendly camping options as they’re free or require a very inexpensive permit.

Two RVs parked near a lake at the base of a mountain, boondocking on public land.

Rules and regulations for these campsites will vary based on the location. They typically have stay limits ranging from five to 14 days before campers must move on their way.

If you’re planning to travel in your RV out west, it’s worth considering these camping locations, especially if you’re traveling near expensive tourist areas. You can avoid paying expensive campground or hotel fees and likely have a much better view.

Campground Memberships

If you want to save money while RVing, a campground membership can help. These membership programs allow you to stay in partnering campgrounds for free or at heavily discounted rates. One of the most popular campground memberships used by RVers is Thousand Trails.

Thousand Trails offers various membership levels and has campgrounds in some of the most popular tourist locations. RVers can spend weeks at a time at many of their resorts.  When done right, a campground membership can practically pay for itself.

HOT TIP
While it can save you money, learn why so many people complain about their Thousand Trails membership.

Moochdocking

Many travelers visit friends and family while traveling or as a part of their vacations. Some RVers will even bring their RVs and camp in their friends’ and family members’ driveways or side yards.

This type of RVing goes by the name “moochdocking,” as RVers are “mooching” off their hosts. Sometimes, they will have access to power, water, and a sewer connection to dump their tanks.

This type of RVing can require a bit more effort and research. Not everyone understands how large RVs are and how much space they require to maneuver safely. You’ll want to make sure you do your research to avoid damaging your RV or your host’s property. The host will want to ensure you can legally park on their property without violating any HOA or local ordinances.

State Parks

State parks are typically one of the cheapest options for campsite reservations. These can range from $10 to $50 per night, depending on where you want to camp and any amenities offered at the campsite.

Campsites in the most popular locations typically come with a premium price tag. However, some fantastic state park camping opportunities are relatively inexpensive.

For example, New Mexico State Parks offers some incredible campsites with water and electric connections for $14 per night and even more budget-friendly dry camping options at some parks.

Camping Clubs

Another great way to save cash while RVing is to join a camping club. Good Sam Club, Passport America, and Escapees RV Club are all great options for camping clubs. By joining these camping clubs, you typically get a discounted nightly rate at partnering campgrounds. You can expect to save 10% to 30% off the nightly rate.

However, some of our favorite camping clubs are Boondockers Welcome and Harvest Hosts. Boondockers Welcome is a club where individuals can offer their properties to travelers passing through the area.

Some hosts are free or have a nominal fee for any utilities needed. This is a great way to connect with other people and learn about the communities you’re driving through during your travels.

Harvest Hosts locations are typically businesses like wineries and farms that offer parking lots for travelers to stop for the night. Guests are typically expected to make purchases to support the establishment. However, both options are typically much less expensive than staying overnight at a campground. 

How Much Does It Cost to Drive an RV Across the Country?

Many people dream of driving an RV across the country on an epic road trip. However, very few people end up doing it.

This once-in-a-lifetime trip will typically range from $2,500 to around $5,000. Keep in mind, there are a variety of factors that can quickly skyrocket the costs.

A couple in the front seats of their RV, driving the first leg of their RV road trip.

If you rent an RV, you’ll likely pay through the roof regarding mileage. Many of these rental companies provide a certain amount of miles for free and then charge a per-mile rate. In addition, you’ll have to pay for fuel, food, and a campsite if you’re planning to park for the night. But, the memories you’ll create during your road trip will be priceless!

Is Renting an RV Worth It?

Renting an RV can be worth it, especially if you only plan to take one or two RV trips each year. RVs depreciate incredibly quickly, and the costs and time to maintain them can be a source of frustration.

Renting an RV may make each trip cost slightly more than owning it, but it helps you avoid the responsibility and long-term financial commitment of being an RV owner. However, if you enjoy RVing enough that you want to take frequent trips, owning an RV will be a better long-term financial decision.

If You Love RVing, You Need to Stay Informed

Don’t rely on biased RV industry news sources to keep you informed with RVing news.

Stick with Nomadic News. We publish daily articles and breaking stories that matter to your RV lifestyle.

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