The True Costs of RVing

By Sam Lemna | January 3, 2022

RVing can be an affordable way to vacation with friends and family. However, there are a lot of costs that some RVers don’t account for. This article will help you plan for the costs of RVing, including: 

  • Buying an RV 
  • Registration 
  • Insurance 
  • Fuel  
  • Maintenance 
  • Winter Storage 
  • Accessories 
  • Camping 

The Cost of Buying an RV 

Possibly the largest cost and the first one you’ll need to make as an RV owner is purchasing or financing your RV. Depending on the type of RV and its year, make and model, this can range from a few thousand dollars to over one hundred thousand dollars. The range really is that large!  

New RVs will usually be more expensive than used RVs, but it will depend on your budget and what you’re looking for to decide which is best for you. We have an article discussing the pros and cons of buying new and buying used here. 

Whatever your budget for purchasing an RV, make sure to consider the following: 

  • Taxes 
  • Delivery charges 
  • Cost of inspection 
  • Cost of any repairs or maintenance that may be required 
  • Interest rates, if financing  
  • Payment plans, if financing 
  • Warranty, if included 
  • Additional fees  

If you don’t have a tow vehicle and you’re purchasing a trailer, you will also need to account for the cost of getting a tow vehicle.

You may need to install a hitch and trailer hauling system (electrical and brakes) as well. The hitch and tow system can cost between $200 and $1500, depending on the vehicle, hitch, system and where you get it done. 

When all is said and done, the cost of buying an RV can be as low as $2000 (or even less). It can also be very expensive!

The Cost of Registering Your RV 

All RVs must be registered in your name.  

For trailers, you simply register it once and get your license plate. You won’t need to renew it each year, at least in Alberta. Trailer registration costs $163 as of October 2021 and you’ll need a bill of sale and personal identification. 

For motorhomes, you’ll have to register your vehicle annually (or every two years). You’ll need proof of insurance, your bill of sale, and personal identification. It will cost $93 each year as of October 2021. 

Keep in mind that if your RV was purchased out of province, you will need to get an out-of-province inspection done.  The price varies but is usually between $100 and $150.

The Cost of RV Insurance 

The cost of RV insurance starts at $200 per year for trailers and $400 per year for motorhomes. Your RV insurance rates will depend on: 

  • The year, make and model of your RV 
  • The type of RV you have 
  • How you use your RV 
  • Your insurance options 
  • Your insurance history 
  • The value of your RV (MRSP and market value) 
  • Your driving record (for motorhomes)

The Cost of Fuel for an RV 

Whether you’re towing a trailer or driving a motorhome, they’re not as fuel-efficient as a normal vehicle – it is a home on wheels, after all. Consider the cost of fuel, including the fact the price can be much higher during the summer months and long weekends when you’re normally camping. 

The cost of fuel can vary widely, depending on your tow vehicle or motorhome. Tow vehicle fuel efficiency varies, but will likely be 10 to 17 litres per 100 kilometres. Towing will likely decrease your fuel efficiency, so don’t forget to account for that. You’ll also burn more fuel going through the mountains and driving against headwinds. Electric tow vehicles are beginning to become available but with limited infrastructure in Western Canada, it’s difficult to predict costs.

Motorhomes come with diesel and gasoline engines. Most motorhome fuel tanks are 90 litres to 350 litres (Class Bs have the smallest tanks and Class As have the largest). Fuel efficiency for motorhomes vary wildly, but you should expect to get between 12 and 30 litres per 100 kilometres. 

Don’t forget to include the cost of propane and any fuel you use for a generator as well. Most RVs and camping equipment use propane while generators normally use gasoline or diesel. These prices fluctuate greatly depending on the location and timing.  

The Cost of Maintenance for an RV 

Maintenance is important to keep your RV in working order and prevent small things from becoming huge issues. Insurance will rarely cover damage caused by poor maintenance, so it’s important to do the essentials to protect your RV.  

Check your roof, tires, brakes, battery, water system, propane system and seals. You should also winterize and de-winterize your RV (this should cost between $25 and $150, depending on if you do it yourself or have a shop take care of it).  

You’ll also need to dump your grey and black water tanks and use chemicals to treat them, as needed. Sani-dumps can be free but can cost up to $50 per use, depending on the location. Account for $10-$20 per dump of your RV’s tanks. 

You can do much of the maintenance yourself but you may need to call in professionals for repair work. Expect a shop rate of $150-$200 per hour for repairs, plus the cost of parts. 

Winter Storage Costs for an RV 

If you can’t fit your RV in a garage or driveway, you may need to find an alternative place to park it for the winter or when you’re not using it. Some municipalities have bylaws prohibiting or limiting the parking of RVs on the street.  

Costs for storing an RV for the winter can range from free to $700 for six months. Your price will depend on security features, location, and the type of storage facility it is. 

The Cost of Accessories for an RV 

If you’re already a frequent camper, you may have all the gear already. But inevitably you’ll probably buy a few things for your RV, whether it’s a solar power system or generator or a separate set of dishes to keep in the camper. 

The cost of accessories will depend on the individual. If you’re on a budget, you can easily use things from your home that you already have or look for used items. You can also go all out and outfit your RV with a second set of everything, minimizing the need to pack. 

The Cost of Camping in an RV 

Unfortunately, the cost of camping has gone up in the past few years. Here are some costs to expect when you camp: 

  • Fuel 
  • Food 
  • Firewood/Campfire Pass 
  • Showers 
  • Campsite Fee 
  • Administrative Fees 
  • Park Passes (in Alberta this includes the Kananaskis Pass, Crownland camping permit, and National Park passes) 
  • Activities 

Again, the exact cost of camping in an RV will depend on the individual, what they enjoy doing while camping, and what luxuries they want. A full hook up will cost a lot more than a dry campsite. We recommend budgeting $50 per night, although the true cost can be less or more. 

Other Costs for RVing 

Here are some examples of other costs you may encounter while RVing: 

  • If you rent a seasonal lot 
  • Property taxes if you have your own property you’ve parked your RV on 
  • Roadside assistance (included in some of our RV insurance policies) 
  • Memberships 
  • Air brake endorsement for your license if your motorhome is equipped with air brakes 

Hopefully, this article gives you some good insight into what the true costs of RVing include. Keep in mind, this will always vary depending on your RV and travelling style. Some people will RV very cheaply while others enjoy luxury RV travel.