My first RV trip…how I stayed at Vineyards for free, Rented an RV for $1/day, and got to stay at camp sites that weren't teaming with other RV goer's over 4th of July weekend.
As a financial planner I find RV Purchases to be a poor investment. They depreciate rapidly, unfortunately get used much less than most people anticipate, and have ongoing maintenance, insurance, and storage costs that make ownership very expensive. I'm constantly talking clients out of buying them because of the financial burden they can cause.
However, I'm no different than many of my clients in that I love the idea of packing up my family, hitting the road, and having a blast seeing America with a home on wheels. With social distancing measures in place the appeal only grows.
Luckily, purchasing is not the only option you have for an RV adventure. There are many private and commercial leasing options available that are much kinder to the pocketbook. Continue reading to learn about my first epic RV adventure, and tips you can use to plan your own adventure without breaking the bank.
My first RV trip was 8 days long and lasted from July 1st - July 8th, 2020. The destinations were as follows:
Day 1 - Pickup RV in Las Vegas, and drive to Lone Pine, California
Day 2 - Mammoth Lakes, California
Day 3 - Angel's Camp, California
Day 4 - Sonoma, California
Day 5 - Pescadero, California
Day 6 - Paso Robles, California
Day 7 - Los Angeles, California
Day 8 - Return RV in Los Angeles, and rent one way rental car to drive back to Las Vegas.
My rental costs out the door for a 25 foot Class C RV cost less than $1,000 including taxes, insurance, and all the extra's I decided to buy (kitchen set, bedding, RV hoses, dumping, etc.) For anyone that's rented an RV before that's ridiculously cheap. I stumbled upon a website that specializes in helping RV companies get their one way trip rentals back to their store called www.imoova.com.
If you sign up for their newsletters you can get notifications for available returns their RV rental partners need assistance with that typically cost $1/day. That's right. For $1/day you can rent an RV, and all you need to do is plan the logistics of how you get home after the RV is returned if the return site is not where you live. They will typically offer additional days that you can buy up, but the discount on my first 3 days provided me with huge savings. It seemed too good to be true, but it worked exactly as I hoped it would. I think this site is amazing, but as always read all the fine print before you move forward.
Many of the offers get taken immediately so you have to regularly watch the site. If you're retired, or working remotely this is a perfect way to plan a spur of the moment adventure for very little in rental costs.
Being in the height of Covid-19 I had no desire to camp in overcrowded RV campsites so I tried something different for the majority of my stops.
The first site I used to book 3 of the stops on my adventure was called www.harvesthosts.com. This website offers their members the ability to stay at 1000's of Vineyards in their network for FREE! You do have to pay a $79 annual fee to be a member, but that can be cheaper than nightly stays at many RV campgrounds so it was a no-brainer for me. Most vineyards ask that you buy bottles from their collection if you stay there. That's not too bad of a deal considering you get to stay in picturesque settings with nobody around you, and bring home fun bottles to commemorate your trip.
On a side note it is really nice to do a wine tasting, and not have to worry about transportation afterwards.
I also used a site called www.hipcamp.comto book parts of my trip. Hipcamp is kind of like AirBNB for land owners and provides for some really unique experiences. On one leg of my trip I was able to park my RV on a sprawling horse ranch that overlooked the Pacific Ocean for $65. There was one other camper on the site about 400 yards away from me so it felt as socially distant as I wanted to feel.
By and large this trip was a huge success. I logged about 2000 miles over 8 days and stayed in some one of a kind places without breaking the bank. There were a couple of do's and don't I learned along the way. Here are some in no particular order:
- Gas: It is very expensive to pay for gas. In California I typically spent $125-$150 to fill up, and had to do so 6 or 7 times. Make sure you put that in your budget before trying to cover lots of mileage. Fuel prices vary depending on the RV, but it's not cheap to get that big rig moving
- Big cities: Try to stay away from large crowded cities if you are new to RV driving. I thought it would be fun to take the RV across the Golden Gate bridge, and cruise through San Francisco. The bridge had very narrow through ways. I had to crawl through the exit of the bridge sweating bullets along the way. The city was way too crowded for my comfort being new to driving such a large vehicle. In the future I will map my routes to avoid large metropolitan areas
- RV Dumpsites: It's not nearly as gross as some newbies would fear. If you are planning on dry camping (parking where you don't have access to electricity or water) plan on mapping out locations where you can empty your waste tanks, and refill your RV's fresh water. There are parks, and gas stations all over where you can get this done with a little planning.
- Inspection: Clean and empty your vehicle before you return it. It's a mad dash once it's time to return your RV rental, so I highly advise taking 30 minutes to empty it of all your belonging before you arrive.
I have strong conviction that renting an RV is the way to go for most American's. I would have to take many many trips to justify owning versus renting from a financial perspective. I had an amazing trip in a basically brand new RV, and handed over the keys with zero storage or maintenance concerns.
Have additional questions? Feel free to shoot me an email or give me a call. I wrote this article to help out my clients that probably shouldn't buy an RV, but want to be able to have the experience. If you find it helpful feel free to share.