Wednesday, November 30, 2022


RV Shrink: Using your (RV) head – Saving on tank dump costs


Dear RV Shrink:
Nobody told us this dirty little secret when we thought about buying a motorhome and living on the road several months of the year. We just paid $15 to dump our waste tanks. That cost never even came across our budget radar when we planned our travels. We have to dump at least once a week. Simple math tells me we should be budgeting $60 a month just to empty our black and gray water tanks. Is this normal? What do other RVers budget for this chore? What other surprises do we have to look forward to? —Down in the dumps in California

Dear Dumps:
Costs will vary depending on several factors. How you travel, tank capacity, where you stay, and strategic planning. For years I could say I never paid to dump. That has all changed to some degree.

Being conservative we only dump every couple of weeks, but I have never met a dump station I didn’t like. If one presents itself, I partake. Free dump options used to be more common. State rest areas, RV-friendly businesses, small city and county parks, even small town sewage treatment plants were common RV-friendly dump stops. The RV dumping landscape is changing as fast as the lifestyle is growing. It now takes a bit more strategy. 

I suggest you start by using popular apps like Sanidumps, Campendium, Allstays, or just Google “free RV dumps near me.” Free and cheap options still exist – you just have to find them. 

Most campgrounds offer dumping facilities as part of your site fee, so be sure to take advantage of them before you leave. 

You will begin to notice that even federal parks are turning over dump facilities to concessioners. I have noticed several that have dump boots that require a credit card to operate. Before long you will probably have to pay a reservation fee to some company in New York City before you can pull up to a dump station. But for now, plan ahead. Know where your next dump is going to be. Scat happens, but planning can save you a lot of cash when it comes to making a deposit. 

If you run out of options, shop around. Many campgrounds have non-guest dump fees. It pays to make a few calls and find the cheapest service. 

The apps will help you determine if a business offers free dump facilities with a gasoline fill-up, merchandise purchase, or camping fee. Belonging to a membership can also open more options to you. 

It just takes experience. There is a learning curve to maneuver as you begin your journey. The good news is your math is all wrong. Your dumping expenses should be nowhere near what you are fretting about. Just use your head (pun intended). 

—Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-books, including Book 2 in his two-book series: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.


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Tom Edelman
2 years ago

Try not using any toilet paper down toilet. To save black tank space follow this procedure: After finished using toilet. Fold ((Draw about 4-6 sheets of your favorite choice of toilet paper. Double/Triple fold those sheets (depending on gender) wipe that better side up to three times. Then use a baby wipe to clean same side super clean. Add all to a small zip lock bag and simply throw bag into trash.
We boondock and Can GO up to three and half weeks using this method. Happy Camping by Going further between Dumps. Enjoy !

2 years ago

I thought motorhomes had large tanks. If there’s only two or three people in the motorhome, once a week sound like a lot. You need to conserve water and your tanks will last longer. We have never paid to dump but we stay in campgrounds with full hookups.

2 years ago

We noticed one campground last month whose policy stated that customers who dump on the way in would have to pay an extra fee. i.E. Your camping fee only includes dumping what u produced while at their campground!

2 years ago

Many rest stops have RV dumps along our Interstate Highway System. I have never had to pay more than $5 to dump our tanks anywhere and that is usually at a truck stop. One truck stop in particular I like to use are the TA’s aka Travel Centers of America.

2 years ago

For Full-Timers (and this can work for vacationers as well), 2 weeks boondocking, dry-camping. 1 night in a park to dump, refill water, refill propane, replenish food stocks and get laundry caught up. Limit commercial camping to 2 days per month. Basically, that’s a $100 a month or $1200 a year for your budget. Take the money saved and go on multiple cruises.

Lewis Larson
2 years ago
Reply to  TravelingMan

Cruises are incubation centers for the flu.

2 years ago
Reply to  Lewis Larson

One would rationalize the current environmental situation and plan accordingly. It was merely a suggestion. Stay home and buy a new video game if that is your thing. Regardless, you still saved a ton of money to be put toward your favorite hobbies.

Nancy Carter
2 years ago
Reply to  Lewis Larson

IMO, when cruises start up again they are probably going to be cleaner than they ever were.

2 years ago

I also live in California, every highway rest stop that I have encountered has a FREE dump station. Generally on the way out of the stop.

2 years ago

Stop by a Pilot/Flying J and ask for one of their Professional rewards cards. It reduces your cost of dumping there considerably more than any Good Sam member card!

Mike Sherman
2 years ago

We need to dump about once a week, plus laundry, plus grocery shopping, plus-plus-plus. So, we rent a FHU site for a couple of days and handle all of the above, plus any maintenance needs, etc. etc. If dumping is all that is necessary, you are fortunate.

2 years ago

Composting toilet.

Ken W
2 years ago

I would use the the phone app ALLSTAYS. I was surprised the information you get for an app cost of 99 cents. In California everything is going to cost more. May I suggest the county fairgrounds, usually $5 to dump (Sutter Co.) or the Roadside Rest Areas (free) along the interstates. Do not dump in the Walmart parking lot, as has been reported.

2 years ago

I had to look at my calendar when I started reading this segment…nope not April Fools Day.

Having to dump “once a week” seems excessive.

Thanks for the chuckle with my morning coffee.

Tom Penn
2 years ago

Doesn’t Camping World allow free dumps for customers?

2 years ago

You shouldn’t dump whenever you have a chance. You need to get the black tank at least 1/2 – 2/3 full so the solids can flush out.

Kerry Hartman
2 years ago

Move the Alabama… Rest stops have free dumps !

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