Have you ever wondered what the cost comparison of an RV or hotel is? In this RV camping resource guide, I decided to set out to answer the question: Is it cheaper to RV or stay in hotels?
If you’ve been curious to discover if RV camping is really cheaper than a week’s family vacation in a hotel, then you and I have been thinking the same thing.
The cost of RVing versus staying in hotels can vary greatly depending on several factors such as travel distance, length of stay, RV rental fees, campsite fees, and fuel costs.
Read on as I share an analysis of our own experience in RVing versus staying in a hotel.
Cost Comparison RV or Hotel
As a family who utilized a lot of FREE HOTEL STAYS and credit card points, we have often wondered if taking a road trip in our RV travel trailer would be more economical than road-tripping and staying in hotels.
In this article, I go through the various costs associated with each of these travel types and break down some questions you may want to consider before making a final decision on how you want to plan your family vacation.
RV vs. Hotel Cost Analysis
|Lodging Type||Lodging Costs||Food Costs||Fuel Costs||Total|
|Owned RV Camper||$315*||$350||$188||$853|
|Rented RV Camper||$1483||$350||$80||$1913|
Is It Cheaper To RV or Stay In Hotels?
The answer to this question depends a lot on your travel style and your level of desire to stay in a luxury hotel versus low budget hotel as well as whether you are boon-docking, camping in a State Park campground, or choosing an RV park.
Most state parks will have plenty of amenities, but for a more accurate comparison, I decided to compare Camp Margaritaville (or similar RV Parks) to a standard Marriott or Hilton-type hotel room big enough for a family of 5 as this is typical of my own personal travel needs.
Most RV parks are going to offer full hookups, dump stations at your campsite, and other amenities such as a pool for the kids and playgrounds.
State parks will be even cheaper in most cases as would boondocking.
Hotel Costs For One Week
Our family generally needs a hotel that has sleeping for 5 people, an onsite restaurant, and a pool.
This costs us a minimum of $250/night on average plus an average of 14% in hotel taxes and fees. A one-week stay would cost us ~$1995
When staying in a hotel without a kitchen, we are most likely going to be spending anywhere from a minimum of $100/day for food to as much as $ 200/day. We’ll take an average of $150/day for meals.
Assuming you take a road trip for 375 miles and the average cost/gallon is currently $3.50 and assuming you are driving a minivan or a sport utility averaging 15 miles/gallon on a 25-gallon gas tank, your fuel cost to drive the car to the hotel would be approximately $80.
This doesn’t figure in any additional driving you may do after arriving, but even if you have an RV, you are likely to rent or pull another car to the campground, so for simplification purposes, we will just call that even.
1 week’s stay in a hotel is approximately $3125
How Much Does It Cost To Stay In An RV Park?
Seasonality can have a huge impact on RV park rates just as it does with hotels. For example, we recently visited Camp Margaritaville in Pigeon Forge, TN and the range of rates for the RV campground are as low as $59 in the off-season to as high as $129 per night for a premium sight in the peak of summer.
As you can see, the rates can vary tremendously with the type of park and time of year, however, if you choose to stay in a State or Local small RV park or campground you can expect an average of $29-$45 per night.
For our purposes, I’m going to assume the higher end of that average just to give you some room for a nicer stay when compared to a hotel.
These parks would have the amenities of a swimming pool for the kids as well as a full hook-up and a dump station for you.
For our calculations, I assumed that the average cost for staying in a moderate RV park with a 35-ft. travel trailer is around $45/night.
RV Park Costs For 1 Week
Now, taking the same numbers, let’s look at staying in a moderate RV park in our own RV travel trailer.
If you have a travel club discount like Good Sam Club, you can expect to save approximately 10% off of the regular rate for your RV park rental.
Using our same calculations above, that’s $45/night x7 nights= $315
Assuming we buy groceries for the week instead of eating out every meal and even if we eat out on a few dinners (which we are apt to do sometimes, even while camping in our RV) our daily average should be closer to $200 for groceries + and additional $150 for eating out, that is $350 for the week or $50 per day.
Here are some great cheap camping meals to help you stretch your food budget even further.
Finally, pulling our RV with our truck is, of course, going to cost more per gallon on the diesel. The current US average for diesel is approaching $4 per gallon. We tend to only average about 8 miles per gallon with our rig. So using the same calculations as above it will cost approximately $187.50 in fuel to pull the travel trailer.
A 1-week stay in an RV Park is approximately $852.50
As you can see, camping would definitely be more economical for our family.
There are a few other factors to keep in mind that can affect the cost of staying in an RV camper for your family vacation or renting a hotel room.
A hotel may be a better option:
- If you have a lot of credit card hotel points and can book the hotel on points. This could bring the cost of the hotel week down to $1130 for the week. Still more expensive than camping, but not by much.
- If you can also get a hotel with a kitchen and plan to eat in more. Assuming you still want to eat out for dinner every day (I allowed $75 per dinner), you could further reduce your stay costs making the cost of the stay $805. I arrived at this by subtracting $150/day for food for 7 days and adding back $75/day for dinners PLUS an additional $200 for groceries. This would obviously vary a bit depending on your family and food choices.
The bottom line is, if you can stay on hotel points and reduce your eating-out expenses, you can, in theory, bring the cost of staying in a hotel equal to the cost of RV camping.
Other factors to consider:
- Nearby attractions
- Importance of outdoor time
- Pet-Friendly hotels vs. RV Camping (does the hotel have a space for the dog to walk/potty?)
These calculations assume a travel trailer that is paid for and doesn’t take into account costs for your vehicle over the course of the year.
If you want a more in-depth look at this question, read this article at Money.com
Is Renting an RV Cheaper Than A Hotel?
What if you want to rent an RV instead of using your own or staying in a hotel?
Is renting an RV cheaper than a hotel?
Let’s assume you will be renting a hotel that has 2 bedrooms so that you and your kids each have your own private sleeping area as you would in your RV rental.
We already know that the cost to rent the hotel for the week would be $3125 and the cost to haul your own travel trailer would be $852.50.
In order to get the rental rate, let’s look at the cost to rent a 35-foot RV travel trailer for one week and add that to the cost of food and RV park rental.
Since we wouldn’t be pulling the trailer the entire trip, I used the fuel costs from the hotel in this calculation rather than the cost to pull the trailer.
However, there are sometimes delivery fees and service fees if you choose to use this route, so that needs to be calculated as well, but there are also periodic specials and coupon codes so be sure to check for that. (If you subscribe to my newsletter, I will send those out to you in my Thursday Pack-Up series).
- Cost for RV Park= $315
- Cost for Food= $350
- Cost for Fuel= $80
- Cost for Travel Trailer Rental for one week in peak summer= $1168
A 1-week stay in a RENTAL RV is approximately $1913
So as you can see, it is more expensive to rent an RV, but the cost of staying in a hotel is greater than 60% higher unless you book your hotel on credit card points.
Keep in mind, that I chose a 2021 31-foot travel trailer with a bunkhouse. I also chose one that was being delivered which made fuel costs about even. The costs can go up significantly if you choose to rent a larger RV or take a longer road trip.
Additional fees will be added for pet fees, generator use, and any additional insurance. There is standard insurance included in the cost of the rental.
RV rental is a great option if you are looking to really enjoy the outdoors on your family vacation, get away from it all, and cut down on eating out.
Getting kids in the outdoors is a wonderful experience and makes some truly amazing family memories.
Download Our FREE RV Kitchen Checklist
Related RV Camping Resources
- RV Checklists To Help You Get Ready For The Camping Season
- Ultimate Interactive RV Departure Lists
- RV Must Haves for your new Travel Trailer
- Camping Meals You Will Love To Prep
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