Let’s Compare Some Travel Costs ~ With or Without The 5th Wheel?

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Let’s Compare Some Travel Costs ~ With Or Without The 5th Wheel!

I decided this morning to run a few numbers and do my own little comparison of travel costs. Travel with the 5th wheel vs travel without it. Are you already full-time RV’ers? Are you thinking about becoming full-time? Do you plan to travel daily? Weekly? Monthly? Or remain in one location for a more extended period of time? Your budget figures will vary from ours depending on your situation. Variables will include the amount of miles you intend to travel each month, cost of your RV, cost of your tow vehicle, fluctuating fuel prices to name a few. Peak travel season pricing (parks and fuel) will also influence your bottom line. Do you cook in your RV? Or primarily eat out? All these are factors which need to be considered as you do your cost comparison.

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Maybe not quite big enough for full-timing??

The Husband and I have had numerous discussions recently about our future options. Do we want to keep the 5th wheel? Do we want to get a smaller RV? Do we want to sell the RV and truck and travel with a more fuel efficient vehicle and utilize motels in our travels? So many options. I decided to take our recent trip from Washington State to the State of Arizona for my comparison.

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We try not to exceed 300 miles per day when we are towing the RV. Towing a 38′ RV creates a more tiring driving experience than when not towing. We feel, for us, a 300 mile maximum makes a doable day without becoming too exhausting.

Washington to Arizona 1489 Miles

The trip from Spokane, WA to Mesa, AZ is a total of 1489 miles. When we are towing the 5th wheel our truck gets 8 mpg. Although fuel costs fluctuate, it cost us an average of $2.40/gallon on this trip. So our total fuel consumption was 186 gallons x $2.40/gal for a total fuel cost of  $446.40. We parked in RV parks nightly for the 5 nights it took us to reach Mesa, AZ. Again, the costs of parks will vary depending upon the park and the time of year.

This trip our park fees totaled $287.00. I didn’t add in any restaurant expenses because we cook in the RV  daily. Our only expenses were fuel and parking for the RV.  We didn’t encounter any breakdowns or unforeseen expenses this trip. Total costs then with the RV totaled $733.40.

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Wonder what the price per gallon was when this was taken?

Let’s Compare The Same Trip Without The RV

Taking that same trip in our existing truck but without the RV behind we could plan on getting 14 mpg. This would change our total fuel consumption to 106 gallons. 106 gallons x $2.40/gallon average cost would bring our fuel expenses down to $254.40When not towing we cover 450-500 miles per day. The extra mileage each day means we could easily make this trip in 3 days.  Two nights in a hotel and arrive at our destination on the 3rd day. Average cost for us for two nights in a hotel/motel is $255.00. Again, I’m not including restaurant meals in my total (see explanation in the next paragraph). Total cost this trip $509.40.

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Get checked in and be ready for a good nights sleep!

Hotels With Full Breakfast? Or Not? What’s Your Choice?

We usually choose hotels with a full service breakfast or full buffet breakfast included in the cost of the room. Although this initially may be a little more expensive choice of hotel, it alleviates the need to eat in a restaurant later in the day. Again, your circumstances will differ from ours. If we have a full breakfast we then typically eat an Isagenix protein shake or an Isagenix meal replacement bar later in the day. Snacks, if eaten at all, would be fresh fruit or veggies we carry in a cooler in the vehicle.

If we were to take this same trip in an all wheel drive passenger vehicle averaging around 24 mpg we could bring those fuel prices down again.  We would then need only 62 gallons of fuel at average cost $2.40/gallon. Total fuel costs would then be $148.80. Trip total for fuel and hotel would then be $403.80.

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Boondocking anyone?

Where Do You Plan To Park? Boondock? WalMart?

If you plan to travel full-time where do you plan to park your unit? Are you looking for places to boondock  ? Or will you be staying in RV parks? If so, will you be at each location long enough to get the monthly rate? Or will you be paying nightly or weekly rates? When you are on the road do you stop at RV parks for the night?

Or do you stay in Wal-Mart parking lots? (We did that twice and I told The Husband that wasn’t an option for me.  Can we just say creepy?? As in really creepy??) Is your unit paid for? Or will you be making payments on your RV in addition to paying rental fees for a place to park it? Don’t forget about insurance costs.

If you are full-timing you’ll need full coverage RV insurance to cover the RV, personal contents and liability. Be sure you notify your insurance company that you are full-timing. Some companies will not insure the RV if you live in it as a full-timer. Additional costs that can’t be forgotten are propane   as well as electricity (if you are stationary) and internet, TV (cable or satellite) and phones.

There are many points to consider. Have you done your research? I hope my little cost comparison of this one trip is helpful to you. We would love to hear about your research and your ultimate decisions in the comments section below.

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    • Phil & Cindy Falls
    • March 27, 2017

    I don’t think your comparison was fair. For instance you ate every day and cooked in your fifth wheel which was to you no cost. But when figuring to drive without your RV you did not figure in any cost for meals which you would’ve needed. Just adding the Mills would’ve put you at or above the same cost as pulling your RV. Without the convenience of having your home with you and all your clothes in your closet and not needing to cure your clothes up to the room or making room for your clothes in your vehicle. Although cost can be close to the same as traveling without an RV you still don’t have the convenience of your home with you. But you are correct, it can be very expensive full-time if you need to join Camping affiliates we’re in the long run it’s much cheaper to camp. Such as thousand trails RPI and the such. Utilizing this option your nightly cost for camping can get down to less than $14 per night even if you only use it three quarters of your time during the year. And let us not forget by traveling using motels you don’t have the atmosphere of Camping , friendly neighbors and meeting new people. Plus the other benefit of being closer to nature. So, for mine which is camping and will find the least expensive way to do it and still enjoy ourselves.

      • NoniKay
      • March 27, 2017

      Phil and Cindy,
      Thank you for your comments. There are a wide range of variables that affect the final budget figure for sure.


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