Jewish Journal

RV or apartment? The more affordable option might surprise you

by Lance Richardson

May 23, 2014 | 8:57 am

Photo via shutterstock.com

Everyone fantasizes of living life a little differently. Some think about what it would be like in a country with a culture completely different than theirs. Others think about what it would be like to live in the woods or to be a missionary. Then there’s the RV dream, which many of us have had concocted at least once in our lives.

The Concept

You most likely pay rent every month at the moment. You decide to make a change in your life to both save you money and spice things up. So you buy an RV. You save up for it in expectations of long-term savings. You may buy one new or you may just get a used RV, but either way it’ll take a hefty penny upfront.

So let’s say you spend $10,000 on a used RV that has enough life in it to not cause you any major problems. This is the amount a single person would spend on rent in a year, roughly of course. This amount could also jump dramatically if you have higher expectations. Keep in mind that your RV needs to fully accommodate you and most of the cheap used models will not.

The Problem

It’s a good idea (in theory) but it just doesn’t add up.

Let’s look at it with the expectation that you will stay in the RV for four years. This is an approximation on the amount of life you get out of the RV without any major problems. It’s also assuming you can bear the lifestyle for that long.

At the end of the five years, let’s say your RV purchase depreciated to $3,000. After all sale/transfer fees on both ends, let’s say you recuperate $2,000 of the $10,000 investment.

So the RV cost you $8,000. Let’s average that out to $2,000 a year.

How much did gas cost you?

It’s not easy to estimate, but let’s say you drive roughly 15,000 miles in the RV. The older the model, the lower the fuel efficiency rating. The specific type of motorhome you choose will also play a role in its fuel efficiency. You will need to find out the miles per gallon your RV will get, but let’s assume it gets 10 miles per gallon.

10/15,000 = 1,500 gallons consumed X $3.75 per gallon = $5,625

$5,625 in a year on fuel alone.

You are now at $7,625 for the year. There are still more expenses to come, but let’s look at the bonuses first. You covered your form of transportation. Your need for fuel for any reason is covered in this calculation. This may save you a few hundred dollars a month on your current expenses.

Now where is your RV going to be camped? Now that you left your comfortable little home, you’re going to need to pay for that. RV camping sites can get a little pricey too. Sure there are times of the year when you may be allowed to camp at places like Wal-Mart and national parks, but even two thirds of the year will cost you around $3,500.

So assume you cut corners, your running total is now $9,125 and there are still some big-hitting expenses to come.

You want to make your RV as comfortable as possible. So you may pick up some tools like a tire pressure checker, maybe even a tow-bar system. Then you have interior additions as well. Heck, you may even want to increase your comfort with RV cushions. But all of these additions come at a cost. Let’s say you spend $1,000 a year for anything that fits in this category. Now you’re at $10,125 and still counting.

Now you have to factor maintenance. Even if there are no major problems, you still have to take care of getting your oil, fuel filter, and air filter changed from time to time. You will have to get your generator oil changed as well. Let’s say all this runs $300, so you’re at $10,425 and counting.

Now you need RV insurance. You may want renter’s insurance (for your belongings). This will easily run at least $1,000 a year, making it $11,425 with more to come.

Now consider how much you use your propane. This could easily run up, but let’s just say it costs $250 for the year.

Let’s cut the list short now. There are still other considerations such as groceries, appliances, laundry, entertainment, and etc. Some may be argued as balancing out expected costs in a typical home. So we will use this total as the baseline for what to expect with an RV.

The total is $11,675 for a single year. This is assuming the RV is sold after four years and the same lifestyle is maintained for the entire time. If the RV is sold sooner, depreciation won’t be as major but there will be less savings to balance things out.


The cost of just the most basic factors involved with living in an RV is pretty hefty. It’s hard to justify it when you are easily looking at $1,000 a month just to be able to call the motorhome your home. It does come with the benefit of having your travelling covered too, but the low gas mileage easily makes this a disadvantageous benefit to have.

If you are looking to save money, buying an RV is probably not the way to go. This is a great lifestyle to live for a year or two, especially if you have the money to travel across the country at the same time. It is definitely not a budget-friendly living accommodation though.

Don’t believe me? Check out a real life story of a family that tried to live in an RV. In the end, they found out it cost a lot more than they expected.

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