If one of your retirement dreams is to purchase a recreational vehicle (RV) and discover the open road, take time to carefully consider all the costs before you buy. You are likely to enjoy your RV more if you keep costs to a level that allows you to spend more time in it. Below are some of the costs you can expect to face if you decide to buy an RV.


Purchase price

The initial cost of your RV can vary widely from just a few thousand dollars to over $100,000 depending on the year of production, the model and features you opt for. You can save money by buying a pre-owned unit from an individual or broker. Use the web to research the opinions of others who own the models you are considering. In some forums, you can even pose questions of owners.



How much it will cost to license your recreational vehicle for the highways varies from state to state. Some states are more RV friendly than others, charging a low annual fee no matter the size or cost. Others may charge based on the size or cost of the vehicle. Check with your state’s department of motor vehicles for an estimate of costs and factor it into your decision-making process.



Motor homes are known for plush amenities, not good gas mileage. If you are thinking about traveling long distances, take into account the cost of fuel. Even a travel trailer that you pull behind your car or truck will result in worse fuel economy because of the added weight.

Maintenance & repair

Regardless of the type of RV you might be considering, maintenance and repair costs are inevitable. Tires will wear out, batteries will need replacing, bearings will need grease, and water pipes might need repair from time to time. Do your research and tally up the estimated costs you will likely incur to keep your rig in travel shape.


If you want to protect yourself from the potential cost of damage due to other drivers, weather or vandals, you will probably want insurance for your RV too. Check with your insurance agent for a premium quote to cover models you envision yourself owning.


Unless you have a place of your own to keep the RV, you will need to consider how much it may cost to store it elsewhere. Options include a self-storage facility where your motor home or trailer is parked in a secure yard that you can access at your convenience. Indoor, climate-controlled storage may be available too, but will likely cost more than outdoor parking. Some owners choose to pay for lot rental at a campground or RV park if it’s convenient enough.

Alternatives to owning an RV

A University of Michigan study revealed that, on average, people who own a motorhome use it only 21 days out of the year.1 If you do your research and find the joy of owning an RV won’t outweigh the costs, see if rentals might be available in your area. Other options include RV timeshares or fractional ownership.


Retirement is the stage in life when you can chase after your dreams. If your vision includes hitting the road in an RV, do your homework and see if the joy you will receive is worth the cost of owing. If not, perhaps you can save money and live out your dream by renting or sharing ownership with others who have similar ambitions.



1 The RV Consumer by Richard T. Curtin, University of Michigan, p. 31