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
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.
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
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