Traveling with a recreational vehicle can be fun! But it can also be expensive: ongoing maintenance, necessary fuel costs, rising camp expenses, and food on the road. They all add up. Fortunately, there are many proven ways of bringing down the costs of RV travel.
You can travel more and spend less by discovering how to be frugal – not cheap – RVer. Here are my 10 tips for Frugal RV travel.
Tip 1: Remember Why You Travel
Life quickly becomes complex without any help from us. What starts out as a dream of recreational vehicle travel soon becomes RV payments, off-season storage, insurance payments, upgrades, fluctuating fuel prices, and unexpected maintenance bills. And those costs are exponential to the RV we select.
Owning a simple towing trailer is much less expensive to pull than is my friend’s 40′ triple-slide motorhome. He enjoys more creature comforts on the road. But I can go the same places – and a few he can’t – with a warm bed and a hot meal.
Frugal RVers consider why they travel: weekend retreating, full-time living, recreation, business, family vacations, other. They select an RV that is most cost-efficient for their primary travel goals.
They then can periodically rent an RV for those once-a-year trips that stretch their horizon and their budget. For more about Frugal RV purposes, read Your Camping Budget.
Tip 2: Keep It Simple
Related to the last tip is making sure your RV is no more complex than you need to meet those goals. Many RVers choose large fifth-wheel trailers or motorhomes at additional purchase and maintenance costs when they only take long trips a couple of times a year.
If your reason for travel doesn’t require a large RV and high operating expenses, consider simplifying to a basic RV – and saving money. And if you have at-home storage for a smaller rig, but not a large one, save yourself a few thousand dollars each year in storage fees with the smaller RV. Click this link to learn how to Simplify Camping.
Tip 3: Manage Your Wants
When (not if) I win the lottery, I have a list of cool stuff I want for my RV – including maybe a humongous motorhome with five slides and a garage trailer. Until I hit the lottery (maybe sometime after I buy a lottery ticket), I plan to stay within my needs list.
Does it make my RV safer? Will it save me money in the long run? Is it a smart purchase toward my traveling goals? If it survives these questions, there’s a good chance it’s a “need” and will get purchased.
Otherwise, it’s a “want” and must await my lottery winnings. You can find related camping tips at Manage Your RV Wants.
Tip 4: Be Smart About RV Maintenance
It seems like an RV is always begging for maintenance. And much of it is legitimate stuff that needs to be done to be safe and avoid repairs. But some of it really isn’t critical – at least not yet.
Determining what is necessary maintenance and what is not can be an expensive difference. The best advice is to learn your RV, not just the owner’s manual but the parts book and the service manual.
Then listen to your RV. You will soon be able to read its sounds to know if something doesn’t sound “right” before it needs a repair. Also, remember that your RV has many systems that need attention: 120v electrical, 12v electrical, hydraulic, fresh water, grey water, sewage, propane, and others.
Knowing your RV can help you extend its life by hundreds of hours – and cut your costs by thousands of dollars. View my article on RV Maintenance for more tips.
Tip 5: Learn From Your Experiences.
Keeping good records on your RV and the traveling you do can make you a frugal RVer. For example, tracking engine oil analysis reports over the years can tell you if you are using appropriate additives.
Figuring out how and when to perform maintenance is useful information that you can track and take advantage of. Also, track oil usage between oil changes to determine if something is changing in your engine that you can’t see.
A simple notebook with dates, odometer readings, actions, and observations can help you get the most from every dollar you spend on your tow vehicle, trailer, or motorhome. Find out more about the topic in my article on Frugal Maintenance Records.
Tip 6: Learn From Smarter RVers
No matter what you drive or where there’s someone nearby who knows more about RVing than you do.
Unsolicited advice can be annoying, but finding smart RVers who can teach without lecturing is an opportunity to improve your skills – and lower your traveling costs – without having to depend on just your experiences and your pocketbook.
As you identify these smart and helpful RVers, cultivate their friendships and save yourself a ton of money. And consider membership in RV clubs that fit your needs: GoodSamClub.com, Escapees.com, FMCA.com, etc. Learn more about RV groups.
Tip 7: Shop Smart
The Internet is amazing. With it you can read product reviews, compare prices and find the best resources for just about anything for RVs.
And by keeping written track of your RV (Tip 5) you also know what you’ll need in upcoming travel seasons. For example, you can buy a couple of cases of oil when on sale. Shop for your RV as you shop for any high-ticket item: do your homework and shop smart.
A frugal life doesn’t mean a cheap life. Some simple common-sense measures can really go a long way.
Tip 8: Barter and Trade as You Can
If your RV budget is tight, like mine is, there are many ways to cut your travel costs without spending much money. You typically can borrow once-in-a-lifetime tools from other RVers or rent them from a rental store.
You can trade some of your professional skills for maintenance, repairs, or even parts. Consider renting, borrowing, bartering, or trading the next time you reach for your camping wallet.
Tip 9: Multitask Travel.
Owning your own RV is an opportunity to travel for a variety of reasons including business, pleasure, and education. As you plan your next road trip, consider multitasking.
Make a tax-deductible stop at a client’s on the way to your family vacation. Plan a mid-trip stop in your next cross-country to visit old friends. Multitask!
Tip 10: Frugal RV
A frugal RVer is not cheap. Nor is a frugal RVer unsafe. Frugal RV travel means making common-sense decisions toward getting good value from every mile and dollar.
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