RV camping is trending these days—and for good reason. You get to bring your modern conveniences with you, you get to travel farther or even to multiple places in one trip, and you get to camp in a certain level of safety. So, let’s talk about the details, and we will start with the most important one:
What is the average price for RV camping? RV camping will cost an average of $35 to $50 per night including campsite and food. The base cost per campsite, you are looking at anywhere from $17-$50 per night and food will cost about $15 to $25 per day for breakfast, lunch and dinner. If you consider other costs such as gas and insurance, a two day stay at a campgrounds can cost $50 to $200 per day.
Those are averages and the true cost can vary depending on gas milage and other variables.
The price I listed was a range from cheapest to most expensive campsites per night throughout the United States of America. Nowadays, each RV campsite should come with a website where you can get the individual details relatively easily, not just the price, so for now, we’ll stick with the range.
Along with cost per night, you will also want to think about how much it costs to rent or buy an RV, the cost of food, the cost of hookups, and of course, the cost depending on how long you plan to roam in your RV. Lots of people live in an RV full time, and the cost is actually very doable when you compare it to the rent you would pay in one single area.
As you can probably tell, even though you have the base cost, you should be prepared for the other features required for RV camping. So, we will talk about long-term prices as well as short-term prices, and of course, the best ways to save money while RV camping.
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Buying or Renting an RV?
If you already have an RV, you can skip this section. But we might as well go over the biggest cost of all for RV camping—long term or short term: the cost of the actual RV.
If you plan on going on many RV trips, or even living in the RV, of course buying would be a better investment. If you are going on a summer trip, perhaps renting is a better option. And anything shorter than one summer trip might call for renting as well.
Even if you do plan on buying, you should know exactly what you want from an RV, and that will include going on RV tours and possibly even renting short term to see what actually living in one feels like.
So, the average cost of buying an RV obviously depends on the style and extras each model has to offer, but the prices range anywhere from a used RV at $10,000 to a completely new, upgraded model at upwards of $400,000.
RVs at prices in between exist, and it is up to you to decide what you need in your new mobile home. Remember, too, that if you buy an RV, you have the option to rent it out while you are not using it.
If you buy an RV for your camping trips, you will need to possibly anticipate finding storage for the RV when you are not using it. In a perfect short-term RV camping world, you have a house where you can park the RV when you are at home, but that is not always the case.
You will want to research best storage places and prices before purchasing to see if the cost is worth it for your situation.
As for renting, average RV rental prices range from $50-$275 a night, again, depending on the model. Generally, the cheaper options are reserved for fifth-wheels or pop up campers.
If you want to rent an RV you should definately read this article that we wrote- How much to rent an RV? ( Day, week and monthly rates )
Now that the highest price is out of the way, we should talk trip details:
Average Cost of RV Campsites Per State
Below is the average cost for RV campsites per state, so you know what you are getting into. Of course, this price will vary per campsite, so keep in mind this is an estimate.
|New York, Maryland, Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New Jersey, Alaska
|Maine, New Hampshire, Delaware, Virginia, West Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina, Kentucky, Ohio, Arkansas, Wisconsin, Minnesota, South Dakota, Colorado, Oregon, California
|Vermont, Pennsylvania, Georgia, Alabama, Missouri, Mississippi, Tennessee, Indiana, Michigan, Illinois, Iowa, Louisiana, Texas, Oklahoma, Nebraska, Montana, Wyoming, Utah, Arizona, Idaho, Washington
|Kansas, North Dakota, New Mexico, Nevada
Hawaii is not included in the list, because generally, RV parks there do not have full hookups. There are places to park the RV, and per night the price is anywhere from $12-$30, though usually you have to call for specific rates. And again, remember that the site in Hawaii will not have everything you need to stay long term.
If you don’t live in Alaska but are planning to RV camp there, don’t forget your passport! Might as well have the passport anyway—driving through Canada will just add to the magic of your trip.
These prices on the chart are also generally reflective of the area the campsites are located in—for instance, Florida is more expensive because lots of sites are near the beach. According to the chart, you will see a pattern in comparing places to prices similar to Florida.
Some that you might expect to be more expensive because of the view—like Oregon or Washington, for example—have a smaller average because those states offer free campgrounds, for which I’ll go into more detail in the next section of this article.
Costs of Private Campgrounds vs. Public Campgrounds
First of all, you should consider purchasing Passport America, a campground pass that only costs $45 a year for a membership. That membership pays for itself in just two nights of camping—perfect for either a short- or long-term RV trip! The passport does not work at every campground in America, but it does at about 1,800 of them!
The price also varies depending on if the RV site is public or private. There are specific RV parks, but there are also often RV hookups at regular campgrounds.
In a private RV park, you should be able to expect full RV hookups: water, electric, and sewage. Often, you will see other amenities like showers, pools, entertainment areas, and more. While these spots are usually smaller than public campgrounds, since they are specific to RVs, you can usually get a good weekly or monthly fee that will be a better deal than paying per night.
With these private RV parks, there are often specials at different times of the year. Some RV parks offer a free night, or discounted rates depending on the season. So, be sure to research each different RV park to know your rates and deals.
Public campgrounds are usually cheaper, more available, and more common than you might think. Of course, you will find public campgrounds in national parks, national forests, and state parks, but you will also find them in county or city owned parks—which means that a lot of times, you can even find hookups at amusement parks!
These public campgrounds require more research, because some campgrounds will have full hookups—electric, water, sewage—as well as picnic areas, fire pits, bathrooms, and maybe even showers, but then some campgrounds will put you smack dab in the forest, offering only the trees for amenities.
Since public land is generally cheaper anyway, it is unlikely that the campgrounds will offer any specials, but you never know! Calling the campground or visiting the website will give you all the specific campground information.
There is also free public land—usually found in the Northwest like Oregon and Washington—where, as long as you have a permit, you should be able to park for no cost at all. Some state park passes will also allow you to camp for free, though you will, of course, still pay the fee for the pass itself.
If the campsite is free, that generally means it is lacking in amenities and hookups, so you will have to find dump stations, which will still cost you about $10 to $15, depending where you are. So, even though the word “free” is enticing, some experiences are never really as free as we want them to be, are they?
So, honestly, it might be smart to combine all three options—private land, public land, and free land—if you are planning a longer RV trip. There might be some nights where you will not need the hookups to be able to continue on for another day afterwards, so a campground without hookups would be just fine.
If you are planning on a short-term trip where you are parked for most of it, you will probably want a campsite with hookups so you can keep your place of living charged and full as long as you need.
Understanding RV Hookup Costs
First of all, you should know that your RV has a water tank and battery-operated appliances that should stay full and charged until, well, they run out! In order to refill and charge, you will need the hookups most campgrounds provide.
Most RV parks will have some or all hook-ups included depending on what type of site you rent. There will be different terms used such as semi-modern (usually water and 30amp electric) or modern (usually full hook-ups with either a 30 or 50 amp electric outlet). Be sure you understand what this means and how much each type of site will cost at the campground you are planning to visit.
To understand the prices a little more, here is some general info on general hookups you will find at RV campsites.
If a campground is a little cheaper, you might want to check if that is because it only offers partial hookups. With partial hookups, you will only have access to water and electricity. This is no small feat, however—this access to water and electricity is usually unlimited.
Water hookups usually come from municipal sources, so the water should be completely safe to drink. The electricity will have either 30-amp electric power or 50-amp, depending, again, on what the specific campground provides.
If the campground has full hookups, you will also find sewage along with water and power. The sewage tank in your RV will be able to hold waste for a few days, but you should empty it periodically. So, if you have emptied your sewage tank recently, you will feel better about considering a partial hookup campsite.
Some campgrounds will have dumping stations, where you will have to drive the RV to unload the dumping tanks, but a lot of the sites will have the hookups for depositing the waste in your actual campsite.
In the fanciest of campgrounds, you might also find cable and phone hookups. Some parks will include these fees in the nightly payment, but others will ask for more money for these services. And these days, many campgrounds offer Wi-Fi!
Really, these campgrounds are offering a lot for inexpensive rates. But be sure to check with your specific campground to find out if the price justifies the hookups. And remember, the price will also depend on location. In any case, make sure you are getting the most for your money!
Ways to Avoid Overspending at Campgrounds
Sometimes campgrounds will have hidden fees that you do not expect. As I have reiterated throughout this article, remember to do your research. Even though full honesty is usually the norm at campgrounds, here are a couple of questions you can ask to make sure you are getting the best deal possible:
- Is there an extra charge for pull through sites?
- Are there extra charges for RV hookups?
- Is there a charge for using showers?
- Is the price higher at peak seasonal times?
- Is campfire wood extra?
- Do you have washers and dryers, and if so, will they cost extra?
- Do you provide discounts for extended stays?
Most parks will not charge you these extra fees, so if you encounter one that does, just know there is a better deal somewhere nearby. For a great guide to campground prices, amenities, and locations, check out Good Sam Club.
It is hard to put a general number to gas prices, as we all know gas prices fluctuate so often, and different states have different rates. You should know your RV’s gas mileage, and that way, you will be able to calculate costs before you embark on your trip.
There are several apps to help you track gas prices if you are interested (like GasBuddy), but there are also simple equations to estimate your final cost. And remember, if you are towing a vehicle with your RV, the price of gas will go up.
A good equation I have found is: price per gallon ÷ gas mileage x your total miles traveled.
Your final number should equal an estimate of the amount of money you will spend. Generally, a fill up should last about 800-1000 miles.
These prices will depend on short- or long-term camping as well, but for those living full time in an RV, the price of gas per month can be anywhere from $200-$400. If you will be towing a vehicle, $300-$500 is normal. Obviously, for a shorter time in the RV, the price will be much lower.
Even if you are living full time in an RV, you can limit your travel and save on gas. Spending more time in one area allows you to really explore the country, so as long as you have a good campground cost, you can save a lot by simply enjoying your travels.
Maintenance and Insurance Costs
Similar to car costs, apartment costs, and house costs, you should always be prepared for what might happen. It is always smart to set aside money in case of emergency.
Common RV issues include brake pad failure, a blown tire, and a propane leak, among others. I say common, but that doesn’t mean these problems are inevitable. But as always in the camping world, even in an RV, better safe than sorry.
You will need to change propane and oil routinely anyway, so you should prepare for those costs. Similar to these routine costs is also RV insurance. This is something you will likely discuss when purchasing the RV anyway, but if you did not get it then, definitely get it now.
And along with insurance, you should consider roadside service—something like AAA or Good Sam’s Roadside Service. Insurance might be a little more important for long term camping, but it is still good to have it for any length.
Last but not least, prepare for the usual vehicle cost: the registration.
Grocery and Food Costs
The nice thing about grocery and food costs is that they really reflect reality outside of the RV. You should not have to plan for anything out of the ordinary.
For grocery lists, the prices are higher for long term RV trips, simply because you are gone longer! If you are going on a short trip, your grocery costs will be just about the same as your weekly or monthly budget at home. Of course, that depends on if you plan on bringing the usual camping food for Dutch ovens and s’mores—then your grocery list might be a little different than it usually is.
For long term RV camping, what you buy also depends on what your RV kitchen is equipped with. You might have to adjust your meal plans, which will also adjust your usual cost.
And depending on how long your stretches of driving will take, you might want to prepare for when you have to eat out. If you are driving overnight, you might have to factor in buying an extra coffee or some other caffeine options to help you get through the drive.
The thing about food is that you are completely in control of what you spend or do not spend. If you want to eat out more because of convenience or simply because you like it, factor in those costs to your regular meal budget.
When it comes to long term travel, though, you also have more food options than you may be used to in whatever area of the country you live in. Food is a huge part of travel—it really reflects the place you are visiting. So, if food is an important part of your experience, you should make room in your budget for those new experiences.
Some people, however, are living in an RV long term because they want to get out of debt. If that is your plan, food is a very easy category in which to save money. Try some new local recipes with your regular grocery budget! You will still have a new experience, but it will be a lot cheaper. The grocery and food budget depends on what you want to afford.
More Information on Ways to Save Money
I briefly touched on some ways to save money throughout this article, but here is some more information on how.
- Passport America will save your life. According to their website, when you become a member, you are able to save about 50% at any of the 1,800 participating campgrounds. Becoming a member only costs $44 for one year—basically the cost of two to three nights at a campground. If you are planning on traveling in your RV for a while, this deal is a no brainer.
- Good Sam campground guide will help you find the best deals in the area. Using Good Sam along with Passport America will definitely get you the best prices during your RV adventure. Good Sam keeps the individual in mind by including family friendly campgrounds, campgrounds near major attractions, and destination deals, among others. You will never be lost if you use their service.
- Remember that if you stay at campgrounds for longer periods of time, you will almost always get better deals. Take some time to explore new areas and save some money while you are at it. And, if you stay longer, you also save on gas money. It is a win-win-win situation.
- Don’t forget free camping areas. As mentioned above, there are a lot in the Northwest United States, but you will also find them sporadically across the country. Good Sam will help you with the specifics, and then all you have to do is arrive.
- You can ask for discounts or negotiate prices, especially for long term trips. Some campgrounds are more receptive to negotiation than others, but it never hurts to ask for what you need.
- Since your RV should come equipped with a large water tank, a charged electric battery, and enough room in the sewage tank for a few days, you can stay at partial hookup campgrounds, which are often cheaper, until you need to dump the sewage. It is best to dump the sewage as often as possible, but if you really need to, you can get by without it every now and then, which can save some money.
- You do not have to eat out! Eating out is so tempting when you are on the road, but if you meal plan, buy groceries, and make your own coffee, you will save a lot of money.
- A larger note on meal planning: it will help you save money, even if you do just intend on buying groceries. By meal planning, you can make sure you use every little thing you bought so you are not wasting money or resources.
- If you know you will have a tighter budget in, say, April rather than May, try to plan your trip accordingly. Visit states that have lower campground and gas costs. Average campground pricing information is available in this article, and you can find local gas prices by a quick Google search or by using your gas apps.
- When you RV camp in “shoulder season” (or off season), you will likely get cheaper campground prices and encounter less tourists!
- Shop around for fuel! When you are filling up a gas guzzling RV, every penny counts. When your gas receipt comes out $20-$30 less because you picked a gas station with lower prices, you will have more money to spend on experiences.
- Look up ways to fix the RV when the inevitable problem occurs. If you are able to do the work, you will save money by not visiting a mechanic.
- This might be simple but avoid toll roads! It is easy to overlook that detail while planning your route and avoiding heavy tolls will save you a lot of extra expenses.
If you can’t tell by now, RV camping requires a lot of planning ahead. This article has a lot of information in it, and that can seem overwhelming when it comes to price. But you know your situation better than I do—take this advice based on your own life, especially if you are camping short term compared to long term.
Remember that RV camping is completely individual. If you want to spend more money on eating out, do it. If you would rather stay at an upgraded campground with all the amenities, go for it. But at least you know the alternatives, and now you know to plan for it.
I hope this information will help with any trip you have planned. RV camping is a great and affordable way to see the country, and with this article, you will be able to make it the most affordable.