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Why Owning an RV Is Becoming a Rich Man's Hobby

Updated on October 25, 2017
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an avid RV enthusiast who has traveled, lived, workcamped and volunteered nationwide for more than 50 years and am still going strong!

If you have been to an RV show recently, you probably were shocked to see the high asking prices on campers, trailers and motor homes.

You should have been. Many can cost as much or more than brick and mortar houses!

In recent years the costs involved in owning and traveling in recreational vehicles has increased significantly, and there seems to be no end in site.

Only the wealthier among us will be able to afford to costs involved in traveling in a recreational vehicle in the future.
Only the wealthier among us will be able to afford to costs involved in traveling in a recreational vehicle in the future. | Source

The Good Old Days

Some years ago purchasing a travel unit was a relatively minor expense. In fact, many people would buy one, use it for a summer and then sell it in the fall. Most would recoup almost all of their ownership costs.

Some would even buy one in the East drive it across the country and sell it in the far West, where they could get more than what they had paid for it.

For around $1200 you could buy a clean, used popup camper. For $2,000 a 24 foot travel trailer and for $10,000 to $15000 a good pre owned motor home.

While it is still possible to find deals like this, it has become extremely difficult to do so.

This means that people who are just beginning their relationship with recreational vehicles had better plan on spending significant amounts of money, even if they only want to buy an entry level previously owned coach.

If they want to buy a new unit, the sky is the limit!

The same was true of camping.

People could easily find sites for around $5 to $10 per night, didn’t need reservations and didn’t have to worry about whether there were cost raising events going on that would force them to pay more.

Camping Has Become Glamping

Today, most of the mom and pop facilities have disappeared, and in their places expensive parks with unbelievable amounts of amenities have risen.

The five dollar campsites are gone, but if you have $40 you can stay in one that is very similar to what those used to be.

Conversely, you can spend as much as $300 per night for a spot that is located in a gorgeous, well located and well outfitted resort where luxuries abound for those who can afford them.

Camping in plush resorts can cost hundreds of dollars per night.
Camping in plush resorts can cost hundreds of dollars per night. | Source

What Happened?

If you are wondering how it is that we’ve gone from paying $5 per night to $300 to camp and from $15000 to three million dollars to own recreational vehicles, the answer is demand.

In the early days of RVs, there were relatively few people using them for vacations.

Today, there are more than 9 million! In fact, RVing has become a 50 billion dollar a year industry!

This means that travelers now have to compete for many campsites, especially those that are in great locations or offer outstanding amenities.

Furthermore, today’s RV owners demand more than those of old because they are younger, more active and have more expendable incomes.

They want more than just a full hookup site and are willing to pay to get it.

In fact, Millennials are fast becoming big buyers of RVS, while Gen Xers (ages 35 to 55) have already replaced Baby Boomers as the people most likely to buy them.

Jacuzzis, massage rooms, yoga classes, cocktail parties, organized activities larger, well manicured campsites with 100 amp electric hookups and telephones are becoming increasingly popular.

So have travel units with space for tech devices, special accommodations for pets and storage areas for sporting equipment.

Many are willing to spend even more to have comforts such as multiple flat screen TVs, surround sound, built in bars, oversized refrigerators and even rooftop patios.

As RVs have become bigger and fancier, campgrounds have had to expand their services to provide what owners need.

This means larger sites, 100 amp electric outlets, lush greenery, lap pools, golf courses and even movie theaters.

The bottom line is that RV sellers and campground owners gear their products to feed the needs of their main customers.

However, for the older generation, the costs involved in having these things are prohibitive.

They either have to find ways to reduce their costs or give up RV travel altogether.

While it still is the least expensive way to go, it still can add up to costs that are much more than many can afford, especially when people add in the expenses involved in buying fuel, dining out, maintenance and travel entertainment.

The Future Will Be Grim for Some

As recently as 24 years ago my husband and I were able to buy a new Ford Supercab truck for $15,000 and a previously owned slide in camper for another $3500.

This past summer some friends purchased a similar truck and a larger slide in camper (both new) and paid almost $100,000 for the pair.

Thus they paid 540% more today than we did back then to have fairly similar equipment. This is an increase of approximately 22% per year, which is significant, even considering the fact that their truck is slightly bigger and their camper is new.

If costs continue to rise as much in the future as they have in the past, there will come a time when some people who could previously RV will no longer be able to afford this lifestyle.

However, those who are clever and are willing to make some basic changes may still be able to d so, even though where they can go and what they may be able to do will be limited..

As you can see from the videos, there is a big difference between lower priced campgrounds and RV resorts. (At this writing staying at Ft. Wilderness costs around $120 per night). Also note the video about fluctuating gas prices. These are the types of things travelers must consider when it comes to costs.

What Can People Do?

People who are willing to settle for smaller, less and sometimes substandard may be able to handle travel costs by

  • buying older but well-maintained travel units,
  • camping in free or reduced cost facilities,
  • driving shorter distances and
  • avoiding the big tourist attractions.

No longer will they be able to stay in resorts, visit the big national parks or enjoy a leisurely drive across the United States.

These will be things that only the wealthier among us will be able to do.

Even as I write this the National Park system is making plans to triple the entrance fees at many of their facilities. They undoubtedly will also increase pricing for items people need to buy or use within the boundaries of their parks.

When this happens, campgrounds that are located nearby will do the same.e.

RV Now or Lose Your Chance

There is no question that owning and traveling in recreational vehicles is fast becoming a rich man’s hobby.

So, if you have any interest at all in this lifestyle, don’t waste a minute waiting for the right time to buy.

If you do, you may find that you will have been priced right out of the marketplace.

Do you think you can afford to own and travel in a recreational vehicle given today's prices?

See results

© 2017 Sondra Rochelle

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  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
    Author

    Sondra Rochelle 3 weeks ago from USA

    Doug West: I indeed to wish you good luck. You should bear in mind that the lest costly newer RVs are usually poorly made, so what you save in buying costs,you may lose in upkeep and repairs. Shop carefully!

  • dougwest1 profile image

    Doug West 3 weeks ago from Raymore, MO

    My wife and I are hopefully going to get a truck and a pull behind camper in a couple of years. From what I have seen, the truck will be $35K and the 19 foot trailer will be around $20K. That is the plan, wish me luck!

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
    Author

    Sondra Rochelle 3 weeks ago from USA

    Hi Mary: It sure is getting to be that way. Can't help but feel bad about it, though, because this has been such a great way of life for so many years.

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image
    Author

    Sondra Rochelle 3 weeks ago from USA

    Don: We've run into the same thing. It's exactly what I'm talking about here. I really do believe that one day people like you and me will no longer be able to enjoyably afford this lifestyle. What a pity!

  • Blond Logic profile image

    Mary Wickison 3 weeks ago from Brazil

    This was an eye-opener. I had no idea that some places were so costly to stay in. Like everything, maybe the changes were inevitable.

    I think you're right, it is a rich man's hobby now.

  • Don Bobbitt profile image

    Don Bobbitt 3 weeks ago from Ruskin Florida

    TT2 - My wife and I have been looking at NEW and almost new motorhomes. Our Fleetwood Bounder is now eleven years old and even though we keep it in good shale, we felt it might be time to test the market and check out the newer ones.

    WOW!

    What a surprise for us. The quality of the woodwork on the cheaper models is deplorable; essentially pressed-wood with a paper wood grain veneer on it.

    The rest of the cheaper units are just as bad, but the pricing has continued to go up much faster than the COL numbers you would expect.

    After looking at one manufacturers products we just walked away, so disappointed in what these things now cost that we feel if we keep our unit going, we have higher quality in our older unit and "IT's paid for!".

    Have a good day,

    DON