These Sneaky RV Costs Can Kill the Van Life Before it Ever Begins

Living in an RV is becoming an increasingly popular move. The freedom of pickup up and rolling to your next destination as your heart desires is definitely appealing. As with most things, van life has some serious downsides, too. In fact, many people think of this as a cheaper way of life, but if you aren’t prepared, the hidden costs of RV ownership could kill your new-found van life before it gets going. 

Class B Camper Van Parked In Woods. What's the average cost of a camper van like this one. BUt there are still some hidden RV costs that need to planned for.
Class B Camper Van Parked In Woods | Leila Navidi/Star Tribune via Getty Images

What is the average cost of living in an RV? 

Many factors go into how much it costs to maintain the RV life. Most importantly, the size and type of rig you have make all the difference. A giant Class A motorhome will be a pricer to park, clean, power, and so on. A smaller, more self-sufficient rig like a camper van might help keep the costs lower. That being said, according to the Wayward Home, RV living costs $1,300-$3,000 on average, depending on the specific rig. 

While that is a serious range, calculations get more specific once you know the type of rig you have in mind. Aspects of RV living like power, water, and fuel are what they are, and you must be prepared for them. But they are also some sneakier costs you may not know before RVing.

What are some hidden costs to owning an RV? 

RELATED: What’s the Average Cost of a Camper Van?

Fuel prices are one of the main costs to be aware of. Unlike your car, an RV of any kind will likely have an enormous gas tank that will cost a small fortune to fill, especially now that gas prices have skyrocketed. The other thing to consider is fuel economy. The bigger and heavier your RV, the worse fuel economy you will get. This can help inform what size rig you go with. 

The other big one is insurance. Insurance depends on a long list of factors like driving history, the type and age of an RV, and the state in which you insure your camper. According to the Wandering RV, the cheapest states to insure your RV are North Carolina and Massachusetts. RV insurance averages are between $860-$1,100. On the other hand, Michigan is one of the most expensive states, with an average of almost $4,500 a year. 

Don’t let road tolls catch you by surprise

A 2017 Winnebago Travato camper van model parked in Hastings Mesa of Ridgway, Colorado at sunset
2017 Winnebago Travato | Joe Sohm/Visions of America/Universal Images Group via Getty Images

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Covering long distances in a double-axel vehicle can get you caught up with some nasty toll prices. In the Northeastern U.S., toll roads are nearly impossible to avoid. While most tolls only charge cars a few dollars to pass through, some can creep up into the teens like a few of NYC’s bridge and tunnel tolls. If $16 feels like a lot, wait until you get hit with $88 for an RV. Tolls like this can stack up quickly if you travel long distances or travel back and forth in one region. 

Propane don’t grow on trees

Propane powers a great many things inside many RVs. A refillable 30-pound propane tank usually costs between $80 and $100. To refill them yourself usually costs somewhere between $2.50 and $4 per gallon. Like any other fuel, refills come as needed. If you cook a lot or take long showers, it’s not hard to run through a propane tank. Although, it is pretty standard for families to need a refill once a month. 

How much does RV maintenance cost?

RV maintenance is a bit more complicated than normal vehicles. With normal vehicles, you have to keep the thing running, rolling straight, and able to stop. While that may be a touch oversimplified, that is basically it. However, RVs require the same maintenance plus house maintenance. Such is van life. 

The appliances and extra gear needed to live comfortably can break, too. There are far more windows, carpets, and other surfaces for damage than in a car. These things all cost money. Be prepared to have to buy new appliances and fix others when they break. 

Van life can be pricey, but if you prepare it’s doable

Overall, living in an RV can get pricey. Many factors go into having a comfy van life, and with that many moving pieces, there is a lot of potential for costs to add up. Always make sure to have a solid backup plan, extra resources, and a healthy attitude.

RELATED: The Important RV Maintenance You Probably Aren’t Doing