RV travel expense debate between spouses

Dear RV Shrink:rvshrink
Every time I get the urge to do a road trip my wife throws cold water on the idea by asking me how much it will cost in fuel. I tell her it is all relative. With our motorhome the biggest expense is getting there. After we arrive we spend virtually nothing. She tells me about people that travel cheaper with smaller rigs, do not tow a car, or have diesel. I’m tired of defending my position. I really think we are as economical as the next RVer when you compare apples to apples. Can you please give me some backup? —Up Late to Debate in Des Moines 

Dear Des:
Don’t fall for the bait in the debate. I agree, compare assets to assets. I debated with a guy who wanted to compare his traveling in a Prius to my motorhome. When I nailed him down to what he spent on a three-month winter trip, I was miles ahead and dollars behind him. When you compare the cost of running an RV at 8 to 10 miles per gallon, you have to look at all the expenses of taking the same trip in some other fashion. If you decide not to tow a car you can add a mile per gallon – just don’t forget to subtract all the miles you accumulate going to the store in the RV for a gallon of milk.

I often talk to people who think it is terrible I would spend $1,500 in gas to take a 3,600 mile road trip. But the same people think nothing about giving Amtrak twice that to reach the same destination When I get there I still have my berth – theirs is heading down the rails.

You can look at this expense a hundred ways. It all boils down to what it’s worth to you to travel the RV lifestyle, with your own belongings, in a comfortable setting, being fully self-contained, and staying in areas you could often not enjoy any other way.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m all for squeezing every penny in the travel budget. Once you and your wife decide on what and where makes you happy, I would ease out of the driveway with a big smile on my face and “Move It on Down the Road.” —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

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15 Thoughts to “RV travel expense debate between spouses”

  1. Summrbrz

    It’s an expensive hobby/way to live. I wouldn’t change a thing. After over twenty years on the road, I still get chills every time we pull out of the driveway..

  2. Gene Bjerke

    We have a simple arrangement for traveling in our Class B Sprinter. I pay for fuel and she pays for food. It usually turns out to be pretty close to the same.

  3. Dan

    You could take what it cost for a trip with your RV use just that amount to travel like she wants then if you run out of money ask her what you’re going to do now. It’s either a long walk home, spend more money or hope you get home before you run out.

  4. Jerry X Shea

    In 2012 we left California for a 2 year trip to the East Coast and the Southern states in our 40′ motorhome. Our total cost per night for our 2 year trip was $18.36. As members of Coast to Coast ($10 a night) Resorts of Distinction ($0 a night), Passport America (1/2off) we stayed in great parks and had a terrific time. Same bed each night, great coffee each morning. In Maine we could have a lobster dinner for $27, or buy lobster for $3.99 a lb and eat in our coach. How about Louisiana fresh shrimp, right from the dock at $4.25 lb. No contest. Have met many guys married to “gold digger wives” that no way in hell would go RVing. Sad.

    1. Terry

      Maine lobster dinner $6.99 in Bar Harbor on the deck!

  5. Michael Nistler

    A complicated topic with hundreds of arguments to be made either way. First off, what do y’all enjoy most – the road time and journey or the destination/s? Typically the bigger/heavier the rig (and lower mileage), the more layover days folks will want at interim stops.
    But once you only look at the INCREMENTAL cost for every trip as being as discretionary/unnecessary expense, just take a look at all your ongoing sunk costs:
    – Depreciation
    – Loss of capital (alternative investments), or carrying interest rate (if bought on a loan)
    – Maintenance (often whether you drive or not)
    – Damage/repairs
    – Insurance
    – License taxes
    – Storage fees
    – Membership fees, etc
    Bottom line, the more we talk ourselves out of using our precious RV, the more we wonder why we bought it in the first place?
    Happy trails,
    California Travel Videos

    1. Summrbrz

      But, we love it, don’t we? We do…❤️

  6. Patti L

    Tell her you will send postcards from all the great places you go as she stays earthbound. I don’t mean to sound gruff but good grief, travelling is what you tend to do when you have an RV. Sure fuel can get up there, but with the comforts and capabilities of home you are much better off than folks who are looking for a restaurant with edible food for every meal or midnight snack or a motel with a bed you can actually sleep in that doesn’t cost an arm and a leg.

    1. RV Staff

      Good points, Patti. Also, think about the potential bugs, or who-knows-what, in the public beds. Ewww! 😮 —Diane at RVtravel.com

    2. Terry

      Consider going non-interstate routes to save gas, as well. Our mpg doubled when We left the interstate and went more wind-protected routes on US highways and byways, doing same 55-60 mph. Gas is usually less expensive, as well, and you’ll pass all the grocery /supply stores your heart desires.

  7. Eric Eltinge

    Instead of our Winnebago motorhome, my wife would prefer to buy a new Mercedes SUV for $50,000 and spend $50,000 staying at Hampton Inns. Do the math. RVing is a lifestyle choice, like living on a sailboat.

    1. Mark Strovink

      Are we married to the same women? No, wait, mine wants the 4 or 5 star resorts. I’ve been warned: make her stay one night at Wally Mart and we switch to her solution.

    2. Jay French

      You are correct, I did the math. The RV we wanted was $256k, after discovering our dream of living beach to beach was impossible due to lack of Parks & then we balanced the cost of space/increased transportation costs/maintenance/depreciation vs hotel rooms, transportation costs/increased meal costs.
      End result I bought a “Snowbird” retirement home on a golf course in Florida & a 32′ Jayco bumper pull trailer for close to the same initial expense with less recurring costs

  8. Bill Rusher

    Traveling is not free no matter what mode you choose.

  9. Grumpy

    If my spouse were complaining about our current motorhome I would take her new RV shopping at every RV dealer within 100 miles. She would either come round to my way, or I would find she was correct and we would get a new RV which would make me happy.

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