RV travel and camping are fast gaining popularity this summer as an appealing vacation option to cruise ships, airplanes and hotel rooms in light of the COVID-19 crisis. “RVs are a great way for consumers to enjoy vacations with their families, while still adhering to social distancing policies that are likely to remain in place in some fashion moving forward,” according to the RV Industry Association, which estimates 46 million Americans plan to take an RV trip in the next 12 months.
“RVs are generally seen as a safe way to vacation in nature and visit national parks, which are expected to see a surge in traffic this summer,” reports the RV marketplace website Outdoorsy. “The coronavirus has been shown to be less contagious outside, and RVs can make trips to national park seem even safer: providing a controlled environment for cooking, socially distant living arrangements and a built-in private bathroom.”
Whether you’re already enjoying the RV life or yearning for it, it’s important to understand the costs involved so you don’t undo all your hard work you’ve put into financial planning and saving for the future.
Creative ways for RV owners to save money
Monthly RV loan payments are only the beginning of your expenses. The average RV budget also includes: insurance and gap coverage, maintenance and repair costs, insurance and registration, and storage space for when the vehicle is not in use. Then, there’s the costs you incur while traveling, such as gas and propane fuel, cable and internet access, parking and hookup fees, and how you’ll make your meals.
Marianne and Randy are the ultimate RV enthusiasts. In June 2000, the pair purchased a Class B 1986 Roadtrek RV and set out on a yearlong road trip. They were hooked. Since then, the couple have taken numerous extended adventures between 5-6 months long, as well as countless shorter trips.
A handyman and a waitress, the two are often asked how they can afford their RV lifestyle. Drawing on their years of pennywise adventures on the open road, they founded Frugal RV Travel and offer the following tips on how to save money on RV camping:
- Choose public campgrounds over private. While most public lands charge a fee for campers, they are almost always less expensive than private, commercial campgrounds with concrete slabs and swimming pools. Or, consider boondocking in the woods and enjoy the chance to unplug and get closer to nature.
- Find the cheapest fuel available. They recommend apps like GasBuddy that can help you compare the cost of fuel at different vendors near you in real-time.
- Join a camping discount club. Popular options like Good Sam and Passport America offer discounted access to campgrounds and cash savings on purchases from fuel to pet food.
- Live frugally… just as you would at home. The same common-sense practices you use at home to maintain your personal finance budget will also serve you well on the road.
For even more ways to make the most of your RV adventures, check out these 41 hacks to improve your RV experience.
Financing and budgeting your RV purchase
Are you thinking about becoming a first-time RV buyer? If so, there’s a lot to consider. “Buying an RV is a long-term, adventurous investment that isn’t right for everyone,” cautions travel website tripsavvy.com. “It’s more than just buying an RV. It’s learning how to drive or tow it. It’s learning how to do your maintenance and when to take it to the shop. It’s learning how to overcome the sticker shock of gas prices versus mileage.”
- Be realistic about your RV budget and learn about the different types of RVs.
- Create a monthly travel budget. Creating a budget doesn’t end with the RV purchase. Just like home, also think about what you spend each month on everything else.
- Find ways to save.
- Earn money on the road.
Once you’ve made the decision to purchase an RV, Bankrate.com advice about How to get an RV loan is a good place to start. “Just as you would when buying a car, be prepared to haggle. RV dealerships will expect it, and you could save yourself a good bit of money. In addition to dealerships, sites such as RVs.com, RVT.com and RVTrader.com can give you an idea of prices and deals. Check these sites when doing your research. Also, if you’re considering dealership financing, don’t be afraid to ask if a better deal is available on the loan side of the transaction as well.”
Biweekly loan payments can also help with affordability and early pay off. It’s a finance strategy car buyers have been using for years to manage their payment obligations, shorten the terms of their loans, reduce interest charges and accelerate equity.
Biweekly loan payments are designed to coincide with when you get paid. By simply splitting your existing monthly RV loan payment in half and paying that amount every two weeks, you’ll make the equivalent of 13 monthly payments over the course of a year instead of 12. On a monthly basis, it’s not a big change, but making just one extra payment a year will save you hundreds, if not thousands, of dollars in interest over the life of the loan.
AutoPayPlus is a leading provider of automated biweekly and accelerated loan payment services for mortgages, student loans and credit cards, as well as auto and RV loans. Examples of the loan benefits RV customers are achieving with AutoPayPlus’ biweekly payment schedule are:
- Andre in Illinois who is paying off his loan 32 months early and reducing his loan balance ahead of schedule by an extra $11,363.81.*
- Cynthia in Rhode Island who is paying off her loan 24 months early and reducing her loan balance ahead of schedule by an extra $6,479.63.*
Use our free biweekly RV savings calculator to find out your potential interest savings and how much faster you can pay off your RV loan using AutoPayPlus.
* After fees and dependent on the customers’ adherence to the AutoPayPlus payment schedule.