Saturday, September 30, 2023


RV industry again falsely claims RVing is cheapest way to travel

By Chuck Woodbury


he RV Industry Association (RVIA) issued its annual press release recently that claims, again, that yet another study confirms traveling by RV is the most affordable way to take a vacation.

The headline on its recent press release was:
Families save money by vacationing in RVs 

The release begins:
“A new study conducted by an outside, independent firm has found that RV vacations cost much less than other types of vacation travel, even when factoring in fuel prices and the cost of RV ownership.”

EditorialI say that’s a lie! The sad part, and this is why I get so upset when I read about this, is that many people (including those in the media) will believe it.

One of my favorite classes in college (way back when) was Advertising 101. One subject we discussed at length was “Lying with Statistics.” What I learned is that you can prove just about anything you want by twisting the data in a way that proves your point. Advertisers and politicians do it routinely.

In its most recent press release, to prove its point that traveling by RV was cheaper than other means, the RVIA compared a vacation with a Class A motorhome to a vacation of luxury without an RV.

I asked Monica Geraci, the Director of PR and Communications for the RVIA, this: “Is the following statement regarding your latest study correct?”

“The class A motorhome, typically the largest and most luxurious RV, was compared to travel options such as flying first class, renting a premium car, staying in upscale hotels/resorts, and eating meals in restaurants.”

She responded: “Yes, Class A [vacation] is compared to a luxury vacation.”

I own a Class A motorhome but I do not fly first class when I take a vacation without my RV. Do you? And how does the RVIA define a “Class A” motorhome? Is it one that someone buys used for $10,000, or a half-million-dollar diesel pusher purchased brand-new?

I asked her if camping with a tent was included in the study. I mean, wouldn’t that be a cheaper way to take a vacation than with an RV? Her response was no. “We were comparing ‘comparable vacations’,” she said.

So camping with a pop-up trailer, for example, can’t be compared to traveling with a tent, but camping with a Class A motorhome can be compared to flying first class, renting a premium car, and staying in luxury hotels? Huh?

Note the chart below

Look at the 14-day vacation from Seattle to Yellowstone. According to the RVIA study, the cost is $11,328 if you fly and stay in hotels. But it’s only $4,606 in a Class C motorhome. Okay, fine. But what if you’re traveling from, say, Atlanta or Boston? In the real world might the cost of an RV trip be a bit higher?RVIA chart

When I get home from a trip I take by flying and staying in hotels, my expenses for the trip are over the minute I walk in my door. But for an RV owner returning home, the costs keep going. For most RVers, there are payments to make. More than half our readers pay to store their RV, typically from $150 to $300 a month. And they have insurance to pay, and maintenance costs, and licenses. The RV depreciates every day. The RVIA says it calculates those ongoing expenses into the cost of the 14-day trip. I don’t believe that for a second.

I live in Seattle: I can take a cab to the waterfront and board a cruise ship for 10 days to Alaska and back for less than $1,000. Might that be cheaper than driving my motorhome to and from Alaska?

Meanwhile, another RVIA statistic shows that the average RV owner uses his or her RV an average of 20 days a year. So for the other 345 days, their RV does nothing but suck up money while its paint fades.

Why am I angry about this?

I’m angry because people believe this. I’m angry because nobody but that I know of challenges the RVIA on such a contrived report. They all just print the press releases without checking the facts. It’s free editorial. Add a juicy headline and ka-ching, money in the bank.

That’s all I have to say. Call it a rant! Call it what you want! But I feel better for saying it.

Finally, this essay will not earn (and me, personally) any friends in the RV industry. The big companies don’t advertise with us and likely never will. They wish we would just get lost! If you believe in what we are doing, sticking our necks out like this, please consider donating whatever you can easily afford to help us keep going without going bust. Here’s where to do it. Big or small, your support fuels our efforts and our spirits. This website is not a hobby, but work and income for about a dozen people who care about you.


Chuck Woodbury
Chuck Woodbury
I'm the founder and publisher of I've been a writer and publisher for most of my adult life, and spent a total of at least a half-dozen years of that time traveling the USA and Canada in a motorhome.


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3 months ago

RVIA again with lies. Can we just get rid of this joke organization. Great article Bob. Call this industry out for what it is.

3 months ago

The map displayed shows a route from Portland, OR to Yellowstone N.P. rather than the Seattle, WA mentioned! Given that error, how accurate is the rest of the article?

Diane McGovern
3 months ago
Reply to  Bobkat3080

😂👍 Good catch, Bob! You’re the first one to mention that little glitch. Have a great day! 😀 –Diane at

3 months ago

“There are three kinds of lies: lies, damned lies, and statistics.” ~~variously attributed to Mark Twain, Benjamin Disraeli, and others.

You can tell if an RV salesman is lying by observing whether he/she is speaking or not.

Last edited 3 months ago by Cal20Sailor
Steve Willey
3 months ago

But Chuck — When we bought our Coach House RV 10 years ago, my wife spent some time calculating the costs of RV, insurance, and gas, preparing many of our own meals, caring for the dog with us, compared to traveling auto or air to hotels each winter. Since 2010 we have spent 3 months each winter going south for a “second summer”. It was plain in her calculations that after 10 years we will have spent far less in the RV than in auto or air travel with hotel costs each of those nights. Especially still valid now with hotel rates having increased during and since the pandemic.

Chuck Woodbury
18 days ago
Reply to  Steve Willey

Steve Willey, in some cases travel with an RV is the most affordable way to travel. But the RVIA just says, point blank, that IT IS the most affordable way, implying that goes for everybody which is flat-out not true.

Andrew Metts
3 months ago

Thank You for having the integrity to speak the truth, and the guts to call out those who don’t. I’ve been telling people for years that R/Ving is a lifestyle choice, not a cheap way to travel. We do it because we like travelling this way, but we’re fooling ourselves if we try to pretend that it’s cheaper. And I never stayed in a hotel that required me to hook up my own toilet.

3 months ago

Chuck I can’t agree with you more. Our first camping trip with our used travel trailer cost us a fortune. We had the vehicle to tow the camper so we didn’t include it’s cost (or insurance for that matter) in our cost. Night one cost us $9500 (cost of trailer and outfitting it) and we halved the nightly cost every time we used it. Had it down to double digits when we had to repair the roof (did this ourselves) so we added in the cost of a drive from Traverse City to Coldwater Michigan to get roofing material and the cost of the material (should have added in the time but didn’t). And it continues to go up and down as things break/wear out or we decide to change things.
Where it is not less expensive than a lot of vacations, it is always more enjoyable and you can’t put a price tag on having fun!

Gene D
3 months ago

I just have to laugh when I hear RVing in a class A is saving money over other means of travel & hotels. You do it because you enjoy the experience and are willing to pay the cost of admission. That’s what I tell anyone who asks

3 months ago

PART 2: For us… it’s worth it. But again, that is our experience. I can’t speak for others.
Did the RVIA lie? No. They did not. They just didn’t publish their criteria for their study. In their view, a Class A motorhome is luxury, so comparing that to high priced hotels and airlines makes sense. It may not make sense to you, but that doesn’t make it a lie.
If that RVIA advertisement makes you actually take time to research RV travel… GREAT! It did exactly what it set out to do… create interest. Now it is up to the customer to figure out if the hype is really worth it.

3 months ago

PART 1: Took 6 day car trip in 2019-food=$475, hotels=$483, fuel at the time was $115.
Took 6 day RV trip-Groceries and restaurants=$400, RV parks=$115, adjusted for inflation fuel=$172 (64% of car trip). Not including restaurants and RV parks, 36% of car trip.
Of course, RVs have steep expenses, but if you are going to add RV expenses, you must add car expenses too. To ignore this is would be skewed.
If we travelled only four months out of the year, it would take us under 19 years to pay off the RV. Of course, the whole point is to travel a lot after retirement, so if we travel six months out of the year, reduce that time to under 13 years, and it would be less than 6 and a half years if we traveled full time. Cut all that in half if you don’t eat out or stay in RV parks. If average motorhome ownership is 15 years, you could save money in the long run.

Bill N
3 months ago

I’m on my third Airstream. The first I sold for what I paid for it after 4 years. The second I sold for a profit of $5K. The third I still have and average 100 days a year on the road. When we travel we visit multiple locations. Wanna hop on 5 or 6 flights, 10-20 hotels, car rentals and meals for that period of time? The costs would limit anyone to a single trip per year. We’re heading out cross country on our 127th trip in July, There is no way to generalize the costs with so many factors and scenarios when traveling. But for me, this is the most affordable and convenient way to travel.

Theresa K
3 months ago

Well, it was definitely cheaper for me. I’m from NJ originally and my vacations with 6 daughters and my pet were far less than flying anywhere and doing the “wear your socks on hotel floors” vacays. To compare high end Motorhomes and first class, 5 star hotels with the average vacationer is ridiculous. Try doing an honest evaluation next time.

Nita Taylor
3 months ago

I certainly understand your feelings about the false advertising, and agree completely when you say that it doesn’t cost less to RV.

However, for us we believe it is much more convenient. When we need to use the restroom or want to eat lunch, we can pull off the road and use a bathroom we know is clean, or eat our own food. Most importantly, we can sleep in a comfortable bed (because we have replaced the mattress), that we know doesn’t have bed bugs!

We travel in an eleven year old DRV Select Suites, towed with a 2016 Dodge Ram chassis truck with a farm bed on the back. So, I guess our rig doesn’t classify us as luxury RVers. Our Rig and truck are paid for, but at the rising cost of fuel and campground, I would say that it is still more expensive to RV.

Nita Taylor
20 year RV traveler

Don Baxter
3 months ago

Any recreational vehicle usually depreciates in value .Maintenance is costly unless you can do a lot of it yourself ,and a lot of it has to be done even when it is not being used .The insurance has to be purchased yearly. The cost that you now have to pay to stay in an rv park is going up yearly . I do not know how most people who are retired can afford it .

john Olson
3 months ago
Reply to  Don Baxter

Its not that hard… Our biggest expenses are fuel and campgrounds… We spend about 6-7k per year “camping”. About 60% electric & 40% dry camping and rarely do we need or have full hookups. Our average daily cost for a campsite is less than $18 per day and that is over the past 4 years. It was under $15.
We travel 7 months out of the year and spend 5 months in Arizona in the winter. When fuel costs went up in 2021-22 we traveled less miles so our budget stayed about the same. This year we are traveling more miles, but with gas prices down we are still under budget.
Our average monthly cost of fueling the RV & “camping” is about $1100-1200 per month.
Where can you stay at that price ANYWHERE and have a different view of your surroundings anytime you want. We love what we are doing, but it takes organization, patience and flexibility. We are so blessed.

Joe G.
3 months ago

Chuck, liars figure and figures lie!

Ray Zimmermann
3 months ago
Reply to  Joe G.

Or like I always heard it, figures don’t lie but liars can figure!

Deborah Mason
3 months ago

Sometimes it’s less about comparative costs and more about opportunities (both lost & gained) that vary between travel methods. We have 2 fairly large (60-70lbs) dogs. We would be so limited if we stayed in hotel/motels – can’t leave them in the room. We would have to either board them (don’t want to have them caged) or fly them in the luggage area (not gonna happen). We don’t travel a lot, but we do take our dogs with us. We can leave them in the RV (they’re mostly quiet, unless someone gets really close) with heat/AC and we can take them all the places they’re allowed. Yes, it’s getting more expensive, but we chose to have dogs as part of the family and this is what works for us. BTW, the dogs flying isn’t even on the table since I’m done with commercial flying, so no need to even consider that.

3 months ago
Reply to  Deborah Mason


Dennis G.
3 months ago

We just returned from a 7-day Disney World vacation, and can say that traveling by our Class-A would have been slightly cheaper. Now,…with that said, we stayed on Disney property, ate out for every meal, and used taxis toad from Orlando.
Could we have saved $$ staying a Fort Wilderness (Disney RV parK), instead of Animal Kingdom Jambo house, for sure! But we would still have eaten out at Magic Kingdom, Epcot & the alike. The distance to and back from SFO to Disney would have been over 5,600 miles. Our 30′ RV getting approx. 7 mpg, and we would. have burned around 800 gallons of fuel, costing $2880. This is what we spent air fare!
Travel days by plane was 2, with 5 in the park. By RV we would have spent 14 days driving, and the same 5 in the park.
In conclusion, the RV vacation to Disney would have cost just slightly less than flying United economy plus.

Richard Chabrajez
3 months ago

We live fulltime in our “luxury” 5ver, so we are on constant vacation with our own bed, closet, bathroom, etc. – all the comforts of home. Statistically, if we wanted to move a sticks & bricks home off it’s foundation and deliver it to every destination we want to visit, it would be far more expensive than RVing. See, I’ve made RVIA’s point! 🙂

Last edited 3 months ago by Richard Chabrajez
Jeffery H.
3 months ago

We live full-time in our 19′ Airstream. It would be cheaper except that Grandma feels a strong need to send said Grandchildren stuff from whatever location we happen to be staying.

3 months ago

Outcome Based Research:
Choose a desired outcome and direct all of your research in an effort to acheive the desired outcome.

Outcome Based Science:
Choose a desired scientific conclusion and use only the data points that support the scientific conclusion you desired at inception.

Both models are derived from the Outcome Based Education model (OBE) which is real and was first. Education is based on having a desired minimum end point to graduate and that point is reverse engineered into 12 years of school.

Back to the top. Research firms and the scientific community adopted the OBE model to help secure greater Gov’t funding of studies to support political narratives under the guise of scientific research and social research. Pick the result you want and we can do a study that backs up your position.

Great article Chuck. We travel in our Class A for creature comforts like pillows, coffee maker and bare feet indoors. (Can’t do that in a luxury hotel).

Jeffery H.
3 months ago
Reply to  Cancelproof

True, none of those models provide conclusions that are peer reviewed. Statistics don’t lie, but liars use statistics.

Caitlin Rushing
3 months ago

It all depends on the individual situation. We are full-timers. We didn’t have much money in the bank, and we were tired of paying rent. We bought our first RV and the one we have now with cash. We could only afford a small 23ft with no slides, so it was a bit of a sacrifice but worth it. We cut our rent cost by more than half by living in an RV park for 1 yr for $500 a month.

With the money we saved, We bought a used diesel truck with low mileage cash. (Before everything went up in 2019)

We later sold the RV for a little more than we paid for it after the pandemic and bought something much larger for 4K more (35ft 2 slides) used.

Now we travel full-time, and the money we save paying rent or a mortgage, we are ok spending on gas. We like to stay longer in areas where we’re not constantly burning gas.

Our focus is cheap travel and living and we pay between 1k-5k max a year for campgrounds so it’s definitely cheaper for us.

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