21 Reasons Why You Really Don't Want To Buy an RV

Woman stranded by RV

Cheapism / DALL-E 3

Cheapism is editorially independent. We may earn a commission if you buy through links on our site.
Line of RVs in Line At a Campground Sewage Dump Station, Foreground Left to the Background Right, Dump Sign in the Grass

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 21 reasons to think carefully before falling in love with an RV. 

Related: Thinking About Buying an RV? Read This First

Winnebago Vista and Mini Winnie 2017 RV Models, Side By Side in a Parking Lot Surrounded By Grass and Forest, Ojai, California

1. RVs Can Be Insanely Expensive

Planning to go big? A new Class A motorhome starts — yes, starts — at around $10,000 to $400,000, according to the Bob Vila website; 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?

A Row of Six RVs for Sale At an RV Dealership, in Parking Spots, Prices on the Front Window

2. 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 just to make sure you really do want to buy that RV.

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

An RV At a Pump At a Shell Gas Station, Fort Collins, Colorado, Trees Surround the Side of It

3. RVs Are Gas Guzzlers

No one ever accused RVs of being fuel efficient. The biggest motorhomes, Class A, will get only 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 can cost $150 or more in gas, depending on gas prices. That 2,500-mile cross-country dream trip? Expect to spend over $775 ... and that's just one way. 

Side-View of Beige with Dark Brown Lines RV Parked in a Parking Lot in North Hollywood, Lawn in the Foreground

4. 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, which often makes buying used the smartest financial move. 

Senior Couple in an RV, Male Is Driving on the Right and Female Is Giving Directions While Looking At a Map on the Left

5. 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. 

RV Parked on Grass of a Park, on the Left Foreground, Skyscrapers of the Downtown City in the Background

6. 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. 

1984 White Itasca Sunflyer RV Parked in a Parking Lot, Santa Monica, California

7. 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. 

Woman Hanging Clothes on Hanger on Lawn in Front of an RV, Two Outdoor Folding Chairs Surround Her, Two Bikes on the Right

8. 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

Young Couple in the Kitchen of a Modern RV, Cooking and Preparing Food

9. 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

Woman's Hands Holding a Pen and Going Through Documents on a Wooden Table, Selective Focus, Woman on the Right with Documents in Center

10. 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.

For more great travel guides and vacation tips, please sign up for our free newsletters.

Servicing the Bearings and Brakes on a RV, Underneath of the RV, Wheel Is Off

11. 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.

Three Long Rows of Different White RVs Stored in a Lot At a Dealership

12. 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

Woman Sitting Inside an RV, Opening the Window, Looking Outside At Trees and Forest During a Rainstorm, Shadow
Georgia Court/istockphoto

13. 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.

Spacious Kitchen in an RV, Food on Countertop of the Island with a White Sink

14. 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

Three Woman Hanging Out of the Door of an RV, All Smiling, Taking a Selfie, on a Cell Phone, on the Right, Side of White RV on the Left

15. RV Life Can Feel Isolating

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.

Two People At a Dumping Station with an RV on the Left, People on the Right, Surrounded By Forest

16. 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. 

Side-View of an Old Abandoned Beige and Brown Lined RV on Dirt

17. 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. 

A Line of RVs and Few Cars on a Two-Lane Road in Traffic in Arches National Park, Utah, Brush in the Foreground

18. 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; there is the time-consuming process of setting up and breaking down campsites; and there's finding the best local grocery store and cheapest gas. 

There are 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.

Woman Holding a MacBook While Standing, on a Porch in Front of an RV

19. 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.

Woman sleeping in bed hugging soft white pillow

20. Safety Can Be an Issue

Living out of an RV poses unique safety challenges compared to traditional housing. For starters, they can be easier to break into compared to a house or apartment — and, as mentioned above, you can't just park your RV anywhere. RVs are also more vulnerable to hazards like gas leaks, fires, and carbon monoxide poisoning, especially if heating and cooking equipment are not properly maintained. 

Traveling in an RV also brings the risk of accidents or breakdowns in remote areas, where help may not be readily available. Moreover, staying in unfamiliar locations can expose occupants to the risk of theft or physical harm from strangers. 

pumping septic tanks from the backyard tank in the countryside
Artur Henryk Bialosiewicz /istockphoto

21. Cleaning Out the Septic Tank Stinks (Literally)

Another significant deterrent to RV life is having to regularly clean out the septic tank, also known as the holding tank. As one can imagine, this task can be particularly unpleasant and inconvenient as it involves dealing with waste directly, which is not for the faint of smell. The process also requires finding and traveling to designated dump stations that may not always be conveniently located or available. 

On top of having to deal with nasty poop smells, improper maintenance of the septic system can lead to blockages or backups, which can be costly to repair and also cause unsanitary conditions and potential health hazards in your living space.