Why You Really Don't Want to Buy an RV

Reasons Not to Buy an RV


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Reasons Not to Buy an RV

Road Warriors, Beware

For some, the American dream is to own a house with a picket fence. For others, it's a house on wheels — a recreational vehicle such as a motorhome or fifth wheel — that can take them wherever they want, whenever they want, and vacation on the cheap. But RVs are a big investment, especially if you want one with all the comforts of home. Here are 18 reasons to think carefully before falling in love with an RV.

Related: 22 Important Things to Consider Before Buying an RV 

RVs Can Be Insanely Expensive

RVs Can Be Insanely Expensive

Planning to go big? Even before pandemic scarcity pushed up prices, a new Class A motorhome started — yes, started — at around $50,000 to $200,000, according to Camper Report; with all the bells and whistles, they can push a million bucks. One of the most expensive, the EleMMent Palazzo, comes in at a whopping $3 million. Smaller motorhomes won't approach seven figures, but still range from about $40,000 to $100,000. Travel trailers, pop-up campers, and fifth wheels are more economical, starting around $8,000 and topping out around $50,000.

Savings Tip: Joining an RV membership club can save you on camping fees, RV accessories, and even gas. Check out Good Sam Club for RV discounts and roadside assistance.

Related: How Much RV Can You Get for Your Money?

Buying an RV Can Be a Minefield

Buying an RV Can Be a Minefield

Very few people look forward to setting foot on a car dealer's lot, and it's no different with RVs. Buyers can expect to deal with similar frustrations, from rampant upselling and scare tactics to pricing games and salespeople ignorant about what they're selling. Study up before even thinking about going to a dealership, and don't be afraid to ask tons of questions and test every single part of the RV while you're there.

Savings Tip: If you're looking to rent an RV, try RV Share for a wide selection of drivable, towable, and pet-friendly RVs

Related: The Coolest RVs You Can Rent in Every State

RVs Are Gas Guzzlers

RVs Are Gas Guzzlers

No one ever accused RVs of being fuel efficient. The biggest motorhomes, Class A, will only get 7 to 13 mpg, according to the Camping & RVing British Columbia Coalition. Downsizing to a Class B or Class C could mean anywhere from 14 to 25 mpg, but a lower number is a better bet. At 10 mpg, that short 500-mile round trip will cost $250 or more in gas. That 2,500-mile cross-country dream trip? At least a cool $1,250 ... and that's just one way.

Related: How Gas Stations Have Totally Transformed Over the Past Century

RVs Depreciate Like Crazy

RVs Depreciate Like Crazy

Like any new vehicle, simply driving an RV off the lot causes a huge loss in value — around 21%, according to Camper Report. No matter what the size in more typical times, once your RV is 5 years old, it'll have lost somewhere from 36% to 38% of its value; when it's 10 years old, you'll be lucky to get half of what you paid. In a normal market, buying used may be the smartest financial move, but both pre-owned and new RV prices are currently through the roof because of supply shocks and inflation.

Related: RV Tax Deductions Owners Shouldn't Ignore

RVs Can Be Terrifying to Drive

RVs Can Be Terrifying to Drive

RVs demand confident drivers who understand that larger vehicles require special skills behind the wheel. For instance, you'll need to learn how to park using mirrors instead of being able to judge distance and potential obstacles over your shoulder, and learn how to travel downhill without stomping constantly on the brakes. And you always have to remember that an RV cannot — and will not — stop on a dime. 

Related: 30 Biggest Mistakes of First-Time RV Drivers

RVs Aren't Meant for Urban Exploration

RVs Aren't Meant for Urban Exploration

There's a reason compact cars are marketed heavily toward city dwellers: Space, especially parking, is at a premium — so good luck with that 40-foot behemoth. Motorhome USA goes so far as to recommend ditching the RV for a city sojourn, leaving it at a shopping mall or some other location with plenty of parking and using public transportation from there. Campanda has some suggestions for cities friendlier to RVs, including Las Vegas and Orlando.

Related: RV Campgrounds to Avoid, According to Reviewers

You Can't Just Park an RV Anywhere for the Night

You Can't Just Park an RV Anywhere for the Night

Obviously, if you want to have the proper hookups for electricity and water, you'll need to find an RV park. Penny-pinchers may wonder if they can just pull over and "rough it" to save some dough. The answer? It depends, and if you don't make sure it's kosher ahead of time, you can get hit with steep fines for violating laws or regulations against overnight camping, RVshare warns. Even Walmart, which is famously welcoming to RVs, may not allow overnight parking, depending on local laws and management. But road trip apps like Walmart Overnight Parking can help you find camper-friendly lots.

Related: How to Find a Place to Boondock or Free Park in Your RV

You Can't Escape Housework in an RV

You Can't Escape Housework in an RV

In an RV, chores follow you on vacation. No dishwasher? That means washing dishes by hand, of course. There's sweeping and vacuuming, since floors and upholstery get dirty quickly when people tromp in and out all day. There's laundry, which often involves hunting down a laundromat, or doing the tiniest of loads in a portable washer. And there's a lot of cleaning to be done after a trip.

Related: 32 RV Tips for Laundry and Cleaning on the Road

It Can Feel Cramped

It's Hard Not to Feel Cramped Sometimes

Even in a massive RV with slide-out rooms, you just don't have much space. Models top out around 400 square feet — anything more, and they may be considered manufactured homes. Suffice to say, sometimes sharing one tiny bathroom doesn't cut it. And the feeling that there's no privacy can extend outside at a campground, where there are other travelers living just feet away.

Related: 26 Little-Known Facts About RVs

Qualification Process Has Changed

You'll Have Yet Another Insurance Bill

To stay street legal, you have to pony up for insurance. The bigger the RV, the bigger the bill is likely to be — perhaps $2,000 a year or more for Class A motorhomes, according to Trusted Choice. Of course, many other factors will affect the rate, including whether you'll be tooling around on the occasional weekend or living in it full-time; driving history; kind of deductible; and extras such as coverage for personal belongings and roadside assistance.

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Upkeep Is Expensive, Too

Upkeep Is Expensive, Too

Just like homes and cars, RVs are pricey to maintain. Mobile Home Parts Store surveyed several RV experts and found they spent an average $1,410 a year on RV upkeep, or nearly $118 a month. Of course, that includes routine tasks such as replacing tires, getting oil changes, and keeping brakes in top shape, but there are other RV-specific things to worry about as well. Think broken generators, awnings, windows, and slide motors.

You'll Need a Place to Park an RV When It's Not in Use

You'll Need a Place to Park an RV When It’s Not in Use

RVs are fabulous on the open road, but what about at home? Not everyone is lucky enough to have a massive garage or a long driveway. Simply parking a big RV in the driveway might not even be allowed, depending on whether you have a homeowners' association that considers it an eyesore. Of course, there are facilities that will store an RV for you, but that's yet another bill. Depending on the size of the RV and the type of storage (bigger RVs and climate-controlled storage cost more), you could pay anywhere from $30 to $450 a month.

Related: Boondocking and Other RV Terms You Need to Know

You're Still Vulnerable to the Elements
Georgia Court/istockphoto

You're Still Vulnerable to the Elements

It's tempting to think of an RV as a tank on wheels, but RVs can be a dangerous place to be during severe weather. RVshare recommends always knowing where you can seek shelter in truly bad conditions (for instance, extreme winds or tornado warnings). Even a minor storm can toss the outdoor furniture, damage awnings, and send a branch crashing down on that shiny windshield. An emergency weather radio is a must in case your phone dies or can't get service.

Savings Tip: Good Sam Club offers another RV perk: medical travel assistance. It's worth checking out for that extra level of security on the road.

Related: The Coolest Off-Road RVs for Battling Rough Weather

Demand Generous Counter Space

You'll Be Buying Lots of RV Accessories

Sure, RVs can help you streamline and simplify, but a lot of stuff you already own won't cut it in such a small space. You'll probably need a lot of gear — from RV-sized appliances to things such as stackable or collapsible kitchen accessories to save space, plates that will actually fit in the tiny microwave or cabinets, special sheets to fit non-standard mattresses, camp chairs for sitting outside, and so many other things. Oh, and don't forget the hoses, filters, connectors, cords, adapters, leveling blocks, and other things that should come with a new RV but often don't.

Related: 30 RV Accessories That Are a Waste of Money

friends taking selfie in an RV

RV Life Can Be a Social Minefield

Staying in an RV park? You might be able to look forward to planned events, such as live entertainment, coffee hours, or even ice cream socials, according to Axle Addict. But you may also find cliques, or even worse, discover you absolutely loathe the people who've pulled in beside you. Even if you do find a great group of fellow RVers, everyone is keeping their own travel schedule, often putting an end to budding friendships before they can flourish.


One Word: Sewage

One of the least-savory parts of RV life is having to think a lot about, well, No. 2. RVs have what's called a black water tank to hold sewage, and as Axle Addict notes, it's only so big — it can hold up to a week's worth of sewage and toilet paper for two people. That means cozying up to a designated dump station fairly frequently. You'll also need to think about keeping the tank in good shape by flushing it regularly, using chemicals that speed the breakdown of waste, and finding special toilet paper that dissolves easily.

Related: 21 Things You Never Knew About Toilet Paper

RV Quality Can Be Poor

RV Quality Can Be Very Poor

RV forums are filled with complaints about shoddy workmanship, from poor finishes and loose screws to more serious issues such as excessive vibration and poorly done electrical wiring. RVs are by and large still built one at a time by workers whose skill levels are all over the map. Since the lack of automation makes RVs expensive to build, manufacturers are always looking to cut corners, which can lead to problems down the road — even for the most expensive models.

Related: You Won't Believe These RV Horror Stories

The Logistics of RV Travel Can Be Exhausting

The Logistics of RV Travel Can Be Exhausting

It's not as easy as grabbing an atlas and heading out on the open road. There are campground reservations to make, and they have become rarer and more expensive during the pandemic. There is the time-consuming process of setting up and breaking down campsites. There's finding the best local grocery store and cheapest gas. There's even worries about plotting the smoothest route between Point A and Point B — can the RV handle those hills or fit under that bridge? Bottom line: You'll be doing a lot more than propping up your feet by the campfire.

Female freelancer working from a remote location

Internet Access Can Be Unreliable and Expensive

There are plenty of ways to stay connected while road tripping, but your Wi-Fi may be unstable, and a more reliable option like satellite is expensive, according to RVShare. If you aren't willing to spend the money on a satellite install, you'll be limited to a mobile hotspot, your smartphone's cellular data, or public internet connections at coffee shops and libraries. That might not be a problem for surfing the web, but gaming, streaming, and important video calls could be a burden for your mobile internet. At the end of the day, nothing beats a hard-wired connection at home or at a hotel.