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Old 07-26-2014, 11:41 AM   #1
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Rob Outlaw's Avatar
Name: Rob
Trailer: Oliver Legacy Elite II, #70
Posts: 198
Is it really worth it?

RV camping, is it really worth the expense we go through to pursue this activity? Not trying to be judgmental here only rather just trying to draw out a sensible informed conversation.

Allow me to elaborate a bit. I'm not talking about the full timers or even half timers such as Norm and Ginny. I get it for those who can and do pursue a life on the road especially when you look at their (Norm and Ginny's) relative modest investment. For the rest of us weekend warriors and perhaps once a year vacationers for a week or two at most (usually) does the expense justify the means? I'm starting to wonder.

Lets say the average FG or any other camper for that matter is hovering around $30 grand USD, then there is the tow vehicle and the addition fuel it takes to get there, taxes, insurance and repairs over lets say a 10 year period. How many days does the average weekend warrior actually spend in their campers? I doubt its 30 days per year on average and it wouldn't surprise me if its half that. While I know there are some who do it for much less, I don't think its unrealistic to assume a $60,000 investment is out of the ordinary. Between my Ford F150 EB and T@b its certainly more than that. Heck I was just at an RV show at the local mall yesterday and the investment level was easily twice this amount. Over a 10 year period this $60,000 equates to $200 per nights stay figuring 30 days out per year, yet I know my wife and I have never come close to achieving this many days out. And this doesn't even figure in the camp fees, gas, and other items. So for those of us who aren't hitting roughly half those days we're now looking at $400 ± days and nights.

Not once have we ever staid in motel/hotels that cost $200 let alone upwards of $400. My fanny puckers at $100 or more.

By comparison the median price of a home in the US is $273,000 averaged out over a 30 year period comes to a whopping $22 per day, which does not include taxes, insurance, repairs and maintenance etc. So lets say we double that figure which would probably be excessive yet still nowhere near what the RV/camping lifestyle cost.

In the last couple of years my wife and I have take a few road trips, mostly in the offseason (i.e. winter for us) and were amazed at how relaxed they seemed by comparison to RV camping. Within an hour or two max we were packed and ready to hit the road, no worrying about battery levels, fridges not working, preparing the camper and on and on. Depending on the vehicle we took fuel economy was double or nearly so compared to tugging the T@b. And driving was relatively effortless by comparison.

Don't get me wrong, we both still love to camp… I think. And will never give up serious hiking, cycling, kayaking etc. Note we don't hang around the campground except to sleep and occasionally eat. Am I missing something in the thought process? Love to hear others opinions on the matter.


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Old 07-26-2014, 11:56 AM   #2
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Name: David
Trailer: Escape Trailers
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Evidently, not for you!

It sounds as if the answer to your question is 'it's not for you'. To each her/his own, whatever floats your boat, etc.

FYI, we have less than $40,000 in a new Scamp 19 and a slightly used Frontier and I believe many FGRVers have substantially less in their rigs.

If it was all about $$$, we should all stay home!
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Old 07-26-2014, 11:57 AM   #3
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Name: Glenn
Trailer: 2009 Escape 17B
British Columbia
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It's probably not worth it if your destination is urban.
I like to fly fish and camp ( not park ) and the places I go don't have hotels or motels so there is no option ( I'm done tenting ).
What happens to the hole when the cheese is gone?
- Bertolt Brecht
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Old 07-26-2014, 12:00 PM   #4
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Name: Steve
Trailer: 2018, 21ft escape— 2019 Ram 1500 Laramie
NW Wisconsin
Posts: 4,500
Many things we do or enjoy in life do not make financial sense . You can buy a 6 pak of beer for what 1 beer costs in some bars or you can have a steak dinner at home for what a hamburger costs you in a restaurant. If everything in life was ruled only by its' dollars and cents cost life would be awfully boring . I don't keep track of what I spend on camping ,upgrading my trailer or my gas mileage . Knowing would probably just upset me and ruin my camping trip
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Old 07-26-2014, 12:00 PM   #5
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Trailer: 2004 13 ft Scamp Custom Deluxe
Posts: 8,266
I have a Scamp 13D with every option offered and many additional mods.
I have owned it for 10 years now. The average night's stay has been just under $8...which is less that the tax alone on the average motel room...and even less than the daily tax on my house.

The difference in lodging costs paid for the camper in fewer than 200 nights, and that's assuming only $75 for a motel (a VERY modest estimate).
The last motel I stayed in was a Holiday Inn Express in Nowhere; USA.
The bill was $114 for one night. (about 120 nights at that rate.)

Since our travel trailer requires only a 4CYL SUV to tow it, the fuel difference is negligible.

Travel times are admittedly somewhat slower when towing, but accommodations are assured without surprises and there is no toting of luggage after a day on the road.

BTW: my Scamp would still sell today for 3/4 of the original purchase price and I doubt I could find a buyer for my motel receipts!

Is it really worth it?...
Oh Yeah... !
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Old 07-26-2014, 12:03 PM   #6
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Trailer: 2009 Trillium 13 ft ('Homelet') / 2000 Subaru Outback
Posts: 2,217
Smile RV vs Motel/Hotel

I think your figures are a little high.
We paid less than half your figure for our RV.
We are retired and use Homelet for about seven weeks January to March plus weeks out during the summer. We just returned from a week at the Sequim, WA Lavender Festival.
We don't have to worry about the cleanliness of the hotel/motel including but not limited to bedbugs.
We don't have to worry about forgetting some important thing in a motel room, camera, watch, etc.
We don't have a refrigerator nor furnace so those worries are non-existent.
We do save some money by being able to cook and eat some meals in Homelet.
We have gotten into some parking lots which took some maneuvring to extricate ourselves, but by and large driving with Homelet is similar to having no trailer. Backing up excepted Plus Homelet is so darned cute!
You are doing what, when I worked, we called "Bean Counting." If everything was reduced to dollars and cents, what a drab, dreary world this would be.
A charter member of the Buffalo Plaid Brigade!

Whether you think you can or think you can't, you're right.
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Old 07-26-2014, 12:18 PM   #7
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Name: Jon
Trailer: 2008 Scamp 13 S1
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Agree - it depends on where and why you are traveling.

We spend about an equal number of nights each year in motels and our Scamp trailer. If we are traveling to an urban area to do urban things, we stay in a hotel. If we are simply trying to get from point A to point B as quickly as possible, we leave the trailer at home, drive 70-75 on the interstate, and stay in motels. Priceline is our friend!

But if we are traveling to enjoy a beautiful place, we slow down, take the trailer, reserve a nice campsite in the heart of the beautiful place, and camp.

One of our favorite places is Carlsbad, CA. We pay $35/night for an oceanside campsite during peak season. The only hotel that close to the ocean is across a four lane highway from the beach and costs upwards of $250/night. We're saving over $200/day! The extra cost of gas to pull the trailer is more than offset by the reduced cost of meals. We paid $4000 for our trailer, so at that rate, 20 nights and we're even.

And that's not considering that our Scamp is probably worth at least as much now as when we bought it!
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Old 07-26-2014, 12:45 PM   #8
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Trailer: Scamp
Posts: 7,056
I've often wondered the same thing. Part of it depends on how you see your RV and how you use it. For us we've camped year around, that's what the trailer did for use before retirement. Our average nights per years was closer to 50 nights. The tow vehicle was already in place as a vehicle for recreation, so no additional expense there. Our average cost per night has been under $10.00 per night for past 8.5 years. When we were working gas prices were a lot less than they are now so we may have spent $30 on a weekend trip for gas and $100 for a 3 week trip. The initial cost of the trailer was $10,500 new. Pre trailer our main camping method was backpacking, at least 1 mile from the nearest road and about 30 nights a year. As we aged the backpacking became more difficult, but we still got out until the last couple years. Without the trailer we would have stayed home much more. Now we're part timers averaging close to 175 nights a year.

If you're a working stiff that only gets out for a week-end once a year or every other year. it's hardly worth the expense. As I drive past the storage yards and see hundreds of large RVs parked knowing that most sit there for a couple years or more without moving I think is a large waste of resources.
Byron & Anne enjoying the everyday Saturday thing.
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Old 07-26-2014, 01:00 PM   #9
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Name: Sheryl
Trailer: '99 Casita 17'LD
Posts: 114
As others have said, RVing isn't for everyone. There are many variables. For me, as I've always loved camping, a small, manageable RV was my first thought as I neared retirement. I have never considered camping (in whatever form) as a cheaper form of travel; I think of it as "entertainment", like boating or snow-skiing.

Now that I am retired, I only own one vehicle--my tow vehicle is also my transportation vehicle. I bought my Casita second-hand and it's worth more than I paid. I passed my Boler on to my granddaughter's family so they can share the camping experience with their two young children (and they love it!).

Priceless... But not for everyone!
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Old 07-26-2014, 01:14 PM   #10
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Name: Norm and Ginny
Trailer: Scamp 16
Posts: 7,513
Cost of not Camping

We are outliers compared to most on this site. Our costs are low in part because we do travel a lot, averaging 230 days a year.

The cost of our trailer was $6,000. We have spent about $3,000 updating the trailer over the last 3 summers. I assume I could sell it for at least a significant part of purchase price and additions. This is all one time money, paid for, no loans, one reason we don't have a $40,000 trailer.

Our tow vehicle is our only vehicle and we've owned it for a decade, cost of ownership was about $1,500 a year. We averaged about 22,000 miles a year, we used less than 1,000 gallons of gas a year, at today's prices about $300 a month. Maintenance basically consisted of tires, oil changes, plugs, brake pads and about $400 of other repairs.

We definitely eat less and eat healthier when traveling.

There is definitely a cost to traveling but there's also a cost to not traveling. Our doctor jokes about the improvement in our health statistics since we started traveling, every year we seem to get a little better (though the aging process does continue).

Health wise we're definitely better but more importantly to me is that we're retired and mentally active, being challenged by so much we haven't seen and didn't know. We sometimes hike just to hike, but more generally we hike to an abandoned town site or to the site of the first wireless transmissions or .... always looking for new and different. Though we often go to the same place(s) we are always looking to extend ourselves, to discover something new in that same place.

My view of life is that life is short. My goal always has been to have more lives by doing different things. When we hike the same trails, like in the Redwoods, we do it because they are so totally wonderful that our memory needs a refresh. Generally we look for new.

We are definitely fortunate to be retired. I only wish I knew about the RV life earlier, I would have structured my life and purchases to escape the working world sooner. Now it may seem foolish to say this in our 14th year of RVing but it has been so wonderful.

In conclusion, it can be inexpensive, it can be healthy and it's definitely fun and expanding. However as Ginny so often tells me "It's not for everyone".
Norm and Ginny

2014 Honda Odyssey
1991 Scamp 16
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Old 07-26-2014, 01:57 PM   #11
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Name: Sid
Trailer: Parkliner 2014 V6 Jeep 2022 Grand Cherokee
Posts: 523
Cost of camping, dollars and sense

I have never stayed in a hotel and heard loons calling to each other in the early morning.
I have never witnessed so many shooting stars from a hotel balcony.
I have never stared across the glow of HD 32 inch flat screen and saw my wife the same way she looks in campfire light.
I actually enjoy the setup, taking generic camp space and making it uniquely ours.
I also love that my bedroom is within walking distance from El Captain, Carlsbad Caverns, Olympia, Arcadia, the Boundary Waters, Arches, or anywhere else we wish it to be.
These items and a whole host of others are what makes camping make sense to me.
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Old 07-26-2014, 02:26 PM   #12
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Trailer: 2009 17 ft Eggcamper / Chevy S-10
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It's not the cheapest way to travel or to spend the night; but we're not getting any younger, we have the money, we enjoy doing it, so why not?
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Old 07-26-2014, 02:37 PM   #13
Name: Jack
Trailer: Casita
Posts: 51
This reminds me of a boss I had about 40 years ago who wrote a column in the local paper telling how much money he put into deer hunting. It came out to more than $30 a pound but his justification was that this was his hobby and relaxation away from work. He later wrote a similar piece about fishing where each bass cost about $20. His conclusion was that people put their time and money into the things they enjoy. I couldn't agree more.
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Old 07-26-2014, 02:52 PM   #14
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Name: Greg
Trailer: 1987 Lil Bigfoot
Posts: 9
I never really thought of either the trailer or the tow vehicle as being part of the expense of fiberglass RVing. Our Lil Bigfoot cost us $4000, we have put about $1000 into it and I would expect to get around $5000 if I sold it. My tow vehicle is a Dodge Dakota, my daily driver and I would have the same vehicle even if I wasn't pulling a trailer. I would think the OP's argument comes more into play with urban dwellers who have the $40,000 40 foot fifth wheel and $50,000 1 ton diesel that they tow 1 hour down the road twice a year. I guess that for me is the biggest appeal of these little trailers.
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Old 07-26-2014, 02:56 PM   #15
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Name: Steve
Trailer: Scamp 13
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Your numbers are way off in my scamp world. Scamping and other activities we enjoy while not working are the only thing that makes financial sense. You cant take the money with you and what are you working for, you cant take it with you. Stop being the sheep in the herd pushing forward with the others. Make a left turn and buck the system and take back some of the life you were born to and not what society has laid out for you. When was the last time you stayed at a hotel and hung out with the neighbors and shared a bonfire? And laughed at the poor suckers still at work while your sucking down a cool one watching the sun go down.
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Old 07-26-2014, 03:07 PM   #16
Name: Richard
Trailer: Casita
Posts: 86
In terms of cost, our trailer (16' Casita) and tow vehicle (Toyota 4Runner) cost 8000.00 together, so the cost was not prohibitive.

I think that trying to justify something in terms of cost effectiveness or ROI is, for me , misplaced. My hobbies are ham radio and cycling. Both cost money that could be allocated elsewhere. But they bring me pleasure, so I allocate money to them.

I like RV'ing. I like bringing my home with me when I travel. I would rather sleep in the Casita than in a hotel. And I can sleep in the Casita close to some of the most beautiful places in the Americas.

So, at least in my case, it is definitely worth it. I have recently sold my house and begun fulltiming and am very happy, so far. Jessica will be joining me shortly and we are looking to get a bigger FG egg.

Rick and Jessica
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Old 07-26-2014, 03:18 PM   #17
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Trailer: 1988 16 ft Scamp Deluxe
Posts: 25,452
Someone sent this to me. I think it sums up "why" very nicely. The only thing missing is the tug needs to have an all molded towable behind it!
Attached Thumbnails
Donna D.
Ten Forward - 2014 Escape 5.0 TA
Double Yolk - 1988 16' Scamp Deluxe
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Old 07-26-2014, 03:25 PM   #18
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Name: Greg
Trailer: 1987 Lil Bigfoot
Posts: 9
Just thinking about 2 very similar trips we have done recently. Last year we did a one week trip from Alberta to Utah in April, hitting the Moab area staying in motels and eating out. This year we did a two week trip to Utah and towed the Lil Bigfoot, exploring our way from Zion to Moab, camping in BLM and NP campgrounds, eating mostly in camp. Adding up costs both trips ended up being very close.
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Old 07-26-2014, 04:54 PM   #19
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Name: Dave
Trailer: Bigfoot
Newfoundland & Labrador
Posts: 405
Is it worth it???

If it cost a nickel to go 'round the world, I couldn't get out of sight.

A few years back we lost almost everything. We never fully recovered but we always managed to have some kind of RV. We were always able to 'get away' to our favourite places or explore new ones. We just did. We made it happen.
In 2011 my life changed so drastically that I did not know if I would ever adjust to the 'new normal' that they talked about. I am still working on it but again, I have managed to have an RV {Westy/Truck camper/Trillium in that order} and this year I hope to be away for 172 days. It is bittersweet, therapeutic, lonely, wonderful and still exciting for me. It is always a drive down memory lane.
How much does it cost me? I have no idea. I don't worry about it.
What is it worth to me? I have no idea. I can't count that high.

It may not be for everyone but for me, it is just a normal part of my life.
Embark upon this journey........

Embark upon this journey with enthusiasm and eagerness.
If we were expected to remain in one place we would have been created with roots
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Old 07-26-2014, 05:22 PM   #20
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Name: Anne
Trailer: 1973 Hunter Compact II
Posts: 35
When I chose my last replacement vehicle, I paid a little more for a 6 cyl Rav4 with tow package so I could have an economical daily vehicle that could also tow a light trailer. It was paid for a couple years ago and I get 32 mpg hwy or 20+ mpg towing. I decided on a Compact because it is light enough and inexpensive enough to buy without depleting my emergency funds.
So why not stick with a tent or the (improved) camping experience of sleeping in the back of my car? I camp for a little different reason, perhaps. In order to live close to my son' family in SoCal I rent a room in a shared house with 3 other women. We get along great, but my dog does not deal well with kids, confusion and strangers. Well, OK, neither do I. So about once a month I and dog leave for a few days to a week just to give all 5 of us a break. I have the same issues with hotels as has been mentioned in previous posts. I like NFS campgrounds for low cost and large sites.
My close friends and family are scattered across the country. No one questions why I would rather stay in my own trailer in their yard than in their spare room/couch. They DID question me sleeping in a tent or car when I visited!
As to the cost, which is low for me, I am viewing my trailer as the replacement for the home that I don't expect to ever be able to buy again (I have sold 5 homes since 2005...long story). I can decorate, personalize and be alone in the way I used to do with my house(s). Considering that entry level fixer homes go for $400K and up in my chosen community, getting my own moveable home for less than $4K seems like a deal!
Everything in life involves some kind of trade off. As long as I stay true to my priorities I don't feel compelled to justify my purchases.
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