The Real Cost of RV Ownership. After 6 Years and 2 RVs, Here’s What we Spent on RV Repairs, Maintenance and Depreciation

Disclosure: Please note this post may contain affiliate links. This means – at no additional cost to you – we earn a commission if you make a purchase using our links. We only link to products and companies we use and recommend. The income goes toward supporting the free content on this site and community.

After owning 2 RVs and full time RVing for 6 years, what has RV ownership REALLY cost us? This is Part 3 of our ‘6 Years of RVing’ recap series, where we share what our RVs have cost us in RV repairs, maintenance and depreciation etc over the years. We did the math on both of our motorhomes – a 2012 gas powered motorhome and a 1999 diesel pusher motorhome – to see how it all added up. We think you’ll find the data very enlightening – and hopefully helpful in your own RV decision making.

It’s not always easy to find accurate data on the real cost of RV ownership. A list of possible expenses to be aware of is one thing. But real, hard data is another. This report is based on our 6 years of real-world RV ownership, documenting our expenses and coming up with a total and average monthly cost. We also provide context, as RV-related expenses can (and will) vary, depending on your own unique situation and choices. And not all of the decisions we made will be the same as yours.

RV life vs traditional life

Keep in mind that as full time RVers, many of our RV-related expenses replaced what we might have otherwise spent on our stick and brick home. But, if you plan to own an RV in addition to owning or renting a regular home, keep in mind that many of your costs will double up, which naturally makes RVing more expensive. But as full timers, many of our prior home ownership related expenses were simply replaced by our RV life expenses.

We embraced the RV life from day one in a Class A motorhome, knowing this is typically a more expensive option than buying a trailer. Have there been some costly surprises? Yes! But we have no regrets, and we take responsibility for ALL of the choices we make in our RVing journey. So should you.

Disclaimer: Before we begin, know that every RV – and every RVer is different. So our expenses may be similar or very different to what yours is or may be. There is no right or wrong – just different scenarios and different related costs, which may or may not be typical. This is simply our personal experience. We share this information as a useful guide, but it should not be considered a hard and fast rule of what to expect. You should always do your own research, and do not overcommit yourself financially when buying an RV – a depreciating asset. Go in with eyes wide open, so you are prepared.

We hope this article provides you with an excellent perspective and understanding, to help guide your own RV purchase and ownership decisions. Read it in detail to the end, to get the full picture. Because it is NEVER just about the numbers. And it’s not black and white – there are many variables to consider, even in our own situation shared here.

Lastly, this post covers the cost of our actual RVs and related expenses to keep them safe, operational and well maintained. We never skimp when it comes to safety. 

What is NOT included in this report?

We do NOT include the cost of campgrounds, camping memberships, or fuel and gas here, as we consider those RV travel expenses. You can read our other posts in our 6 Year Recap series for that detail. In Part 1, we share our comprehensive review of our Thousand Trails camping membership – is it worth it? In Part 2 we share our total RV camping expenses – campgrounds and boondocking – over 6 years. Here in Part 3 we cover RV ownership expenses. And in our upcoming Part 4, we’ll cover mileage and fuel.

There’s a LOT of information and detail in this article, so we have broken it up into several parts. We recommend you read it all the way through to get the full picture. 

Grab yourself a beverage and settle in! You are about to learn a TON!

RV Cost of Ownership

Before we dive into the details, it is important to keep in mind that RV ownership costs can vary widely, depending on numerous factors. These include, but are not limited to:

  • Type of RV (motorhome vs towable; diesel vs gas; brand; model etc)
  • Buying new vs used
  • Purchase price (and tax)
  • Financing (or not)
  • Market conditions (supply vs demand)
  • Condition of RV
  • Standard and frequency of your RV maintenance and care
  • RV Repairs – and whether or DIY or take to a shop
  • RV Warranties (manufacturer and/or RV extended warranty)
  • Your RV use and mileage 

The variety of RV choices is enormous. Some RVs are simpler while others are more complex and thus more expensive. Some people will certainly spend far less than we have, and others will unquestionably spend far more. 

What type of RV(s) do we travel in?

To offer some perspective, over the past 6 years, with both of our RVs, we have chosen to travel in Class A motorhomes towing a car. This combination generally tends to be a higher average cost than towing a trailer with a truck. But, we purchased both RVs used, which usually helps reduce the overall cost and depreciation.

Also, keep in mind that Class A diesel motorhomes are more expensive than Class A gas motorhomes – purchase price, repairs and maintenance – as they are generally higher quality with more expensive parts and components.

Our first RV – a 2012 Tiffin Allegro Open Road Class A gas motorhome. We towed a MINI.

RV Purchase Price – What did we Pay for our RVs?

Here’s what we bought, and what we paid for them:

RV #1 – 2012 Tiffin Gas Allegro Open Road Class A Gas Motorhome

Our first RV (known as Rocky) was a 36’ gas powered motorhome, bunkhouse model, with 4 slides. We bought the Tiffin from a private seller in Ohio in May 2014. It was just 2 years old with 23,000 miles. All up, we paid about $100,000 ($93,000 plus our Colorado state taxes). According to NADA Guides, the MSRP was $129,500 (ex tax). We were the 3rd owners.

RV #2 – 1999 Country Coach Intrigue

Our second RV (AKA CC) was an older but high quality 40’ diesel pusher motorhome with one slide. We purchased the Country Coach from an RV dealer in Tucson, AZ in March 2018 at the bottom of the depreciation curve for just $25,000 plus Texas sales tax (we changed domicile from Colorado to Texas in 2015), so all up around $26,500. 

Although it was 19 years old with 170K miles (we were told but unable to verify as the odometer was broken). We were not too concerned as Country Coach has a reputation for making some of the finest motorhomes ever built, and the quality is still superior to many newer RVs today.

According to NADA Guides, the Country Coach sold new for around $234K (about $360K today). We believe we are the 6th owners of this coach. Our intention was to do a complete RV renovation and truly make it our own. Being experienced RVers who saw how these things are built at the factories, we weren’t afraid to tackle an RV remodel and DIY repairs. I’ve done construction and mechanical work, and figured it would be a good learning experience.

What about our TOAD vehicles?

During this time, we have also owned two vehicles for towing behind our motorhome/s. We started out with a 2006 Mini Cooper Convertible, towed on a tow dolly. We switched it in October 2017 for a 2015 Jeep Cherokee Trailhawk, which we flat tow 4-down. We won’t be including these costs in this article as we are focusing on the costs of RV ownership. Towing a vehicle is optional for motorhomes.

Our 2nd RV –1999 Country Coach Intrigue Class A diesel motorhome. We tow a Jeep.

Did we have any Factory or RV Extended Warranties?

Having your RV repair costs – or at least some of them – covered by a warranty is one way to help you contain RV repair expenses. Here’s what we have had over the years.

RV #1 – 2012 Tiffin Open Road

Although this 2 year old coach did not have a factory warranty (most are only for a year), the structure/body was still covered under Tiffin’s 5 year structural warranty.

We were lucky that the seller included an exclusionary RV extended warranty in our purchase, with the remaining policy valid until March 2018. This was worth several thousand dollars. It cost just $75 to transfer the policy into our names. 

King Pin repair underway on our Tiffin, this one was covered under our RV extended warranty

RV #2 – 1999 Country Coach

The Country Coach was sold ‘as is’ with NO warranties from the RV dealer because we haggled hard on price (originally $50K, sale sticker was $35K). We also had a professional RV inspection done (approx. $450) so we knew some of the issues before buying. 

We looked into getting an RV extended warranty (also known as an RV extended service contract). Even though our CC was 19 years old at the time, it was actually not the coach age but the 100,000+ mileage that made this motorhome ineligible for warranty coverage. We decided to ‘self insure’ and bought the coach anyway, figuring our financial exposure was fairly limited as we bought it so cheaply and could DIY many repairs.

Had the coach mileage been only, say 90,000, we would have been able to buy a 3 year RV extended warranty – with a $200 deductible – for just $7,500. (And as you will see, it would have been worth it.)

Boondocking in Sedona, Arizona

RV Cost – Financing and Interest

When we jumped into the RV lifestyle in 2014, even though we had sold our home, we chose not to pay cash for our RV. We wanted to invest our money elsewhere, plus our RV mortgage interest was a tax deduction anyway as it was our ‘home on wheels’. 

Finance and Interest on RV #1 – Tiffin

We financed our first RV – the Tiffin – at 4.39% over 20 years with a secured loan, and payments of $569 a month. We paid that loan off when we sold the Tiffin a few years later (after 45 months of ownership). All up we paid around $13,740 in interest during the time we owned the Tiffin. That averaged out at $305 per month.

Finance and Interest on #V #2 – Country Coach

We also financed our second RV – the Country Coach – at 5.44% over 7 years with an unsecured loan, and payments of $501 per month. Up to June 2020 (27 months of ownership) we have paid $3,784 in interest on the Country Coach. That averages out at $140 per month.

We both have excellent credit, so our interest rates were near the lowest available at the time of taking out our loans. 

Keep in mind financing costs will depend on several factors, including but not limited to:

  • The type of lender
  • Prevailing market interest rates
  • The RV you buy (eg. age, price)
  • The loan term
  • Your credit score

Looking back, our total interest expense over the six years was about $17,524, with average monthly interest costs of $243. Most of that was for the financing on our first, more expensive motorhome.

RV Insurance Costs

Insurance is another cost that will vary widely, depending on the type of RV and vehicle you buy. Your insurance cost – regardless of the insurance company – will depend on the type and value of the RV, type of coverage, state and city you insure the vehicle in, your driving record, credit score, insurance claim record, and no doubt many other factors we aren’t even aware of. It’s best to have an insurance broker look into the options available to you, and recommend at least a couple of options and quotes, based on your individual situation.

We had a full timer RV insurance policy, with no prior insurance claims, plus excellent credit scores and driving records. We were insured in Colorado for our first 8 months, but this switched to Texas when we changed our domicile in early 2015.

Here is what we paid in insurance:

RV #1 – 2012 Tiffin Open Road. Annual insurance premium on our Tiffin was around $1,200 per year. All up, during our 45 months of ownership, we paid $4,700 in insurance for the Tiffin, an average of $104 per month. 

RV #2 – 1999 Country Coach. Annual insurance premium on our Country Coach was around $1,075 per year. All up, during the 27 months to June 2020, we have paid $2,298 in insurance for the Country Coach, an average of $85 per month. 

Over 6 years, we have paid a total $6,998 in RV insurance, averaging $97 /month.

Cost of RV Repairs and Maintenance

All RVs – new or old – cost money to repair and maintain to keep them in good running order. We always knew the RV repair and maintenance would be more on our older coach – that’s part of the trade off for buying it so inexpensively, and not anticipating much (if any) depreciation. 

So let’s take a look at what we spent on RV repair and maintenance on each RV, before drilling down into the detail, so you can see just how and where these expenses add up.

RV #1 – 2012 Tiffin Open Road Class A Gas

Over the 45 months we owned our first and much newer motorhome – the Tiffin – the total RV repair and maintenance expenses came to $17,981 from May 2014 to March 2018. But we didn’t have to pay for all of that ourselves. Our RV extended warranty covered $5,721 of the eligible repair costs. 

However, some RV repairs were NOT covered by our warranty, plus we also had to pay a $500 warranty deductible each time we took the RV in for a warranty repair (four times). And of course, regular maintenance / wear and tear isn’t covered by a warranty either. 

So we ended up paying a total of $12,260 out of pocket – averaging $272 / month.

Two of the most expensive items – 6 new tires ($3,200) and Sumo Springs ($1,450) –added up to $4,650. And while neither of these were urgent, we opted to install them anyway as safety is high priority to us.

Summary of Tiffin Repair and Maintenance Costs

  • Total RV Repairs & Maintenance: $17,981 over 45 months
  • Less Amount Covered by RV Warranties: $5,721
  • Total Out of Pocket Expenses: $12,260 over 45 months
  • Monthly Average: $400 per month total (we paid, out of pocket, $272 / month)

It may also be worth noting that our RV extended warranty on the Tiffin was set to expire a couple of weeks after we sold the coach @ 59,000 miles.

We were definitely glad to have the warranty subsidize a significant amount of our RV repair costs. We know the previous owner also made a claim under the warranty, so that policy would have more than paid for itself. However, we found the $500 deductible to be quite high and really added up ($2,000 over 4 repair claims). Next time we would opt for a lower deductible. 

Related Content: 

RV #2 – 1999 Country Coach Intrigue Class A Diesel Pusher

Being an older RV and based on the inspection, we knew the motorhome needed some repairs and maintenance right away – like new tires. We have invested a lot of time, energy and money into getting this motorhome into MUCH better shape than when we bought it. Fortunately, I was able to do a lot of RV repairs, maintenance and upgrades myself as DIY projects, which saved us many thousands of dollars in labor.

Remember, ALL of the repair and maintenance costs on our Country Coach were out of pocket, as we had no RV warranties (no RV factory or extended warranties). And we did NOT include optional RV upgrades like our RV makeover and off-grid system (we’ll share more on those below), as we consider most of these non-essential improvements (many aesthetic and comfort) – not actual necessary RV repairs and maintenance.

From March 2018 – June 2020 we spent $23,268 in repairs and maintenance on our 1999 Country Coach motorhome. That’s $862 /month over 27 months so far. OUCH!

Spoiler Alert: note that almost a third of that is related to a single major repair in March 2020. Up until then, the numbers weren’t nearly as scary. More on that repair in a bit.

Marc repairing the air suspension linkage on our Country Coach (above and below)

Summary of Country Coach Repair and Maintenance Costs

  • Total RV Repairs & Maintenance: $23,268 (as of June 2020)
  • Monthly Average: $862 / month over 27 months

Again, this amount of $23,268 is ONLY counting the required RV mechanical repairs and maintenance from March 2018 to June 2020. AND most of these were done DIY.

It is worth noting our average total monthly expense for RV repairs and maintenance on our second RV – the older 1999 Country Coach – were more than double that of our first, newer coach. And our average monthly out of pocket expenses were more than TRIPLE. But again, we paid a lot less for this coach – it was a quarter of the price of the Tiffin, and a higher end diesel motorhome!

Until 2020, the Country Coach repairs were actually not too bad. But we were hit with a big, unexpected $8,500 repair bill in March to replace the fuel pump, which spiked our repair costs significantly and may not have been necessary on a motorhome with lower miles. We later learned the actual mileage of the Country Coach was over 200,000.

What if we had qualified for an RV extended warranty?

In reviewing our first 2+ years of ownership of the Country Coach, we are confident a significant portion of the $23,268 in repairs would have qualified as RV warranty repairs exceeding the $7,500 we would have paid for a 3 year RV extended warranty. That is, had the coach qualified with under 100K miles. We would definitely place a higher priority on eligibility for an RV extended warranty for our next RV.

There is never any guarantee, when buying an RV, on what you will end up paying in repairs and maintenance. There are way too many unknowns and ultimately, it is all a bit of a gamble. That’s why we really wanted to limit our financial exposure upfront, and reduce our risk, by not spending as much on our second motorhome. 

The Country Coach ended up being a lot more time and work to fix than I anticipated, but I put it all down to a great learning experience. Now I have a lot more confidence tackling DIY RV repair jobs, and a much better understanding of the many things that can break! The education has been priceless.

If you’re interested in the detail of our actual repairs and costs, year-by-year, on both of our RVs, take a look at the table below. 

Marc cleans and preps, then reseals the roof on our Country Coach

RV Cost of Repairs – Year by Year Breakdown

Just click each tab to see the detail of RV repairs, maintenance and expenses each year.

Tiffin Repairs from June – December (we bought the RV in May 2014.)

Total Repair Costs: $3,081. We paid $1005. RV Warranty/ies covered $2,076.

    • Propane leak test $40 
    • Replace broken main door handle $253
    • Fix propane leak and replace hose, furnace $1,593 (extended warranty covered $1,076, we paid $517 deductible, misc, plus $50 for hotel = $567) 
    • Repair and repaint cracked fiberglass wall ($1,000, covered by Tiffin 5 year structural warranty) 
    • Oil change $125 
    • Plus a few small parts repaired DIY $20

Tiffin Repairs in 2015.

Total Repair & Maintenance Costs: $1784. We paid $1,085; RV extended warranty paid $699.

    • Replace water heater and power window switch, inline valve and new wooden base for water heater etc $1,414 (extended warranty paid $699, we paid $715 for deductible and extras not covered)
    • RV extended warranty deductible $500 + $215 = $715
    • Annual service, chassis lube, generator service $270 
    • Miscellaneous broken parts etc $100

Tiffin Repairs in 2016.

Total Expenses: $8931. $7,007 paid by us; $1924 paid by RV extended warranty.

This did not include the cost of towing our coach to the repair shop when we had an electrical failure. Towing was covered by our roadside assistance.

Tiffin Repairs in 2017.

Total Expenses: $3,617. We paid $2,595. RV extended warranty paid $1,022.

    • Replace broken door latch handle again $190 (DIY)
    • Fix jacks controller, water valve, and driver door power window switch, realign entry door – via mobile RV tech $1834 (RV warranty paid $1,022, we paid $812 for warranty deductible and misc non covered items)
    • New power steering pump $548, new engine belt $44 + labor $1,001 

2018 Repairs – Tiffin and Country Coach (we switched RVs in March 2018).

Total Expenses: $10,110 paid by us. The first item was for the Tiffin, the rest were for the Country Coach, much of which was done DIY.

    • Tiffin Annual service and prep before selling $568
    • Country Coach – new set of 6 tires ($3,770 with FMCA tire discount)
    • Re-wire towing electrical (DIY); fix turn signal and brake light wiring (DIY)
    • Replace waste tank dump valves $20 (DIY)
    • Welding work in battery bay $400
    • Replace starter battery $623
    • Repair electronic slide controls (DIY)
    • Install new residential refrigerator $1,300, DIY
    • Annual service $475 @ Speedco (usually $500-600 for diesel coaches)
    • New air filter $160 (DIY)
    • Replace engine belts @ Cummins Amarillo $182
    • Another air filter (sucked up dirt while boondocking) $174 (DIY)
    • Replace Fantastic fans/vents (DIY)
    • New toilet (DIY)
    • Repair wall and floor from slideout water damage $50 (DIY)
    • Fix malfunctioning entry steps (DIY)
    • Troubleshoot leaking window (DIY)
    • Fix basement door locks, replace toilet seals, plus miscellaneous small repairs and maintenance $150 (DIY)
    • Replace engine coolant hoses after they burst, causing engine to overheat* requiring coach to be towed $888 
    • New slide seals; service generator @ Texas Custom Coach $1,350

* Note: Our coach was towed 8 miles to the Cummins repair shop in Amarillo at no cost to us as it was covered by our roadside assistance policy. We spent 3 nights in a hotel during the repair – our roadside assistance covered most of our accommodation and meal expenses. We also saved 10% on parts and labor by joining Cummins Power Club. 

Related Content: 

Getting a Professional RV Inspection Before Buying

Watch our 8-Part Ultimate RV Makeover Series

11 More RV Repairs and Mods on our Motorhome

Country Coach Repairs in 2019.

Total Expenses: $2,665 paid by us. 

Almost everything was DIY, so labor cost was minimal. We spent no time out of coach during these repairs.

    • Repair fiberglass damage from hitting ice bank during blizzard $100 (DIY)
    • Replace ignition solenoid $30 (DIY)
    • Repair some water damage/mold in one basement bay (DIY)
    • Replace electrical system transfer switch $185 (friend DIY)
    • Replace engine starter $450 (DIY)
    • Annual service $600
    • Welding of subframe under generator $350 
    • Add support under entry steps $40 (DIY)
    • Replace transmission touch panel $350 (DIY)
    • Replace broken skylight $210 (DIY)
    • Welding repair under water tanks $200 (DIY friend)
    • Repair exhaust $50 (DIY)
    • Plus a few other small repairs and maintenance around $100 (DIY)
    • We also replaced all of our RV patio and window awning fabrics, which were borderline repair/upgrade, but we consider this an upgrade, not a repair, so we have not included in total cost above) 

Related article: 

Replacing our RV Awning and Window Topper Fabric on our Motorhome

Country Coach Repairs in 2020 (January to June, our 6 year mark).

Total Expenses: $11,061 paid by us. Most of these were done at repair shops.

    • Cummins Repair Shop: $9,200 included replacing the fuel pump and repairing exhaust manifold (fuel pump part alone was over $5K, plus 19hrs labor = approx $8,500 for all that ); also repair engine block heater; annual service ($600). Includes Cummins Power Club 10% discount on parts and labor). We also spent 5 nights at an Airbnb for $500 
    • Repair windshield chip $17 (DIY)
      Repair air suspension linkage $20 (DIY) 
    • Clean, prep and reseal fiberglass roof $100 (DIY)
    • Welding work in subframe around propane tank $300
    • Replace alternator $924 ($244 for part, $680 in labor)

Our friend Brett helps Marc replace the transfer switch in the Country Coach

Total RV Repair & Maintenance Costs over 6 Years

Here are the totals over 6 years, with expenses combined for both RVs – the Tiffin and the Country Coach:

  • Total RV Repair and Maintenance Costs: $41,250
  • Less Repairs covered under RV warranties (first coach): $5,721
  • Out of Pocket RV Repairs and Maintenance Costs: $35,529
  • Average Monthly Cost: $573 over 72 months ($400/mo RV #1; $862/mo RV #2)

Again, a few things to keep in mind

On our first coach – the 2012 Tiffin gas motorhome – $5,721 in RV repairs and labor were covered by our RV extended warranty during the time we owned it, and the Tiffin 5 year structural warranty covered the bodywork from the crack under the slide (twice).

On our second coach – the 1999 Country Coach diesel motorhome – a large percentage of the repairs were DIY. So technically the labor was ‘free’ since so much of the work was done by me and/or with the help of a friend, for the cost of parts, no labor costs.

If I wasn’t able to DIY as many repairs as I did on our second coach (which had no RV extended warranty) I would have needed to take the coach into a shop for those repairs and paid the going labor rate, which ranges from $80–$160 an hour (we have found most are more like $120-$140 an hour). This would have saved me many hours of time, but also would have substantially increased our out of pocket expenses. And I wouldn’t have learned as much – ha!

How much was RV Depreciation?

This is a really interesting comparison. Let’s look at both – very different – scenarios.

As you would expect, our first RV, being only two years old, experienced substantial depreciation – but not nearly as much as if we had bought the motorhome new. We were fortunate that we bought the Tiffin at a good price in May 2014, and sold it well in March 2018 to a private party. But if we had traded the Tiffin in at an RV dealer, our net cost of depreciation would have been MUCH higher. 

With our second RV, the Country Coach, we can only make estimates. Buying at the bottom of the depreciation curve meant the base value wasn’t going to drop any further for a long time. BUT we did spend a lot on RV repairs, maintenance, upgrades and the RV makeover. How much will we get back in increased value over what we paid?

Let’s take a look at the details. 

700-x-450-tiffin-and-mini-badlands-yellow-mounds_rfw

Depreciation on RV #1 – 2012 Tiffin Open Road gas motorhome

To recap, we bought the Tiffin for around $100,000 ($93K + Colorado state tax) in May 2014 and sold it privately in March 2018 for $75,000. When we considered trading the Tiffin in at a dealership, we were only offered $50,000. So, by selling it privately, we were able to make an extra $25,000 and also limit our depreciation to $25,000. 

That $25,000 depreciation loss averaged out at $556/month. 

Had we traded the Tiffin in, and rolled that extra depreciation into a new RV loan (as many do), we would have had net depreciation of $50,000 – or $1,111 /month. OUCH!

Now, you’re probably keeled over on the floor right now!

Remember, everything with wheels depreciates, and our RV life isn’t just a vacation, it’s the vehicle that allows us to live, work and travel as we roam North America. Also, we don’t have another home / mortgage payment, so think of it more like rent. 

Depreciation is very real, and we strongly recommend you think about your future (likely) loss when thinking about buying an RV, so you know what to expect.

Now, pick yourself back up and let’s continue!

700-x-450-CC-in-Joseph-Oregon-road_rfw

Depreciation on RV #2 – 1999 Country Coach diesel motorhome

To recap, in March 2018, we purchased our Country Coach diesel motorhome for $25K ($26,500 including taxes). Our decision to buy a much older RV (19 years old, but high quality) for our second RV was multifaceted. Obviously, after $556/month depreciation on our first RV, we wanted to minimize depreciation even more next time around. 

We bought our Country Coach at the bottom of the depreciation curve – about a tenth of its original $230K price 20 years ago! (Yes, RVs depreciate hard!) We knew that base price would not move much – if any – for the next few years at least.

Still, we managed to negotiate 28% down from the asking price of $35K (originally 50K) to $25K, which was just above dealer wholesale price. No, we didn’t get any special favors or deals. We were simply experienced, well informed buyers who recognized an ideal purchasing scenario. Then used all of that to our advantage to negotiate HARD. And we also took the risk of buying the RV ‘as is’ with no dealer warranty.

We knew the trade off in buying this older RV would mean higher repair costs and maintenance. And it did! Discouraged by seeing how (poorly) RVs are built during multiple RV factory tours and with so few that suited our more modern style and our need for two separate work spaces – we took on a DIY RV renovation.

What could we sell the Country Coach for?

In an ideal selling environment, we feel it would be possible to sell the Country Coach for double what we paid for it. Based on prevailing market values of comparable coaches. 

Selling the Country Coach for $50K would mean a $23,500 increase in value – appreciation instead of depreciation. Essentially ‘getting our money back’ on our purchase price, PLUS offsetting the depreciation we experienced with the first coach.  

BUT…. this is hypothetical and not the whole picture!  

The interior of our 1999 Country Coach, after our Ultimate RV Makeover

Investing in improvements to the Country Coach

We need to also factor in how much was invested into the Country Coach to increase the value since purchasing it. We spent about $12K on our interior remodel supplies and decor. And we upgraded our power system with lithium batteries, hybrid inverter, and solar panels, so we could spend extended periods of time off-grid, and save on camping fees. This was a project in partnership with Battle Born Batteries and Zamp Solar. We also upgraded our RV awning and slide topper fabrics thanks to Tough Top Awnings. We estimate these upgrades to be worth about $16K all up (including labor). 

So let’s put a total $28K value on RV upgrades and improvements, which would bring the total investment value to $54,500. 

IF we sold the Country Coach for say $50K (in June 2020) that would mean $4,500 in depreciation over 27 months. An average of $167 per month. 

This does not factor in the RV repairs and maintenance of $23,268 or $862 a month (to keep it comparable with the Tiffin depreciation example).  

The heart of our off-grid system – lithium batteries, inverter and solar charge controller

Key considerations

We front loaded our investment in the Country Coach with the RV reno, upgrades and a few big ‘one time’ repairs. So the longer we keep the Country Coach, the more the average monthly cost should reduce over time. Assuming we don’t incur any other major repair costs in the meantime.

Last but not least, remember most of the RV renovation, plus many of RV repairs and upgrades had ‘free’ labor from me, Julie and a handful of friends. If we counted all the hours we invested into the coach – even at a conservative $20/hr – that would add up to at least another $20K. Likely much more, but I don’t want to think about it. For the purpose of this exercise, we’re NOT putting a dollar value on our labor / sweat equity!

Something to point out though… free is rarely truly free, including labor. Our / your time has value – so time spent on RV renovations, repairs and upgrades could potentially be spent doing other things. Like more travel, hiking, biking, exploring, working, creating more content. It’s an opportunity cost and personal choice.

Marc with our CC and Jeep, parked just outside of Great Sand Dunes National Park, Colorado

Total Depreciation on 2 RVs Over 6 Years

So to recap, the depreciation on our first RV was $25,000 over 45 months of ownership, or an average of $556 a month. We can only estimate the projected depreciation on our second RV. But in current market conditions (RVing is hot!) we expect we could sell it for around $50K, with a net depreciation of about $4,000 or $167 /month, over 27 months.

All up, we estimate our total depreciation over 6 years on both RVs to be around $29,000 or $403 per month. 

But this isn’t the full picture either! Now we need to add ALL of these RV-specific expenses to arrive at the grand total of costs related to our RV ownership. 

Take a deep breath, here we go!

Total Cost of RV Ownership Over 6 Years 

Before you jump straight to the figures, please keep in mind this is not “black and white”. So don’t just take these numbers purely at face value. There are SO many variables – like warranties and optional upgrades – and those highlighted earlier in this article. Here is what we have spent, out of pocket on both of our RVs (up to June 2020).

RV Year and Type

Months Owned

Purchase Price (inc. tax)

2012 Tiffin Gas RV

45

$100,000

1999 Country Coach Diesel

27

$26,500

Finance Interest Paid

Insurance

Repairs & Maintenance

RV Renovation

Depreciation

TOTAL

Avg. Monthly Cost

$13,740

$4,700

$12,260*

N/A

$25,000

$55,700

$1,238

$3,785

$2,298

$23,238

$12,000*

$4,000 (guesstimate)*

$45,321

$1,678 (as at June 2020)

* NOTES:

  • The Tiffin repairs and maintenance were offset by our RV extended warranty – if we didn’t have one, we would have been an additional $5,721 out of pocket. Total RV repairs would have been $17,981, with a monthly average of $400. Remember we inherited our RV extended warranty, so will need to factor in that cost. Also budget for RV repairs and maintenance not covered by the warranty. 
  • We included the total cost of our Country Coach RV renovation, but we did not include the value of improvements like the off-grid system and new awning fabric (partnerships) as they weren’t a direct out of pocket expense. We also consider these optional – not essential. But they helped increase the value of the coach.
  • The Country Coach depreciation amount is a hypothetical guesstimate, to provide some form of comparison for this exercise. 
  • Don’t just look at the numbers as black and white – consider all of the variables we have shared to keep things in perspective. You can play around with different scenarios and data to see other possibilities. eg. What if we hadn’t done a remodel? Or how about you don’t want to DIY your own repairs? What if a coach with lower mileage didn’t need a fuel pump repair costing $8,500? Imagine if you bought the RV new instead of used with a factory warranty, but also got hit much harder with depreciation, especially if you traded it in? Something to think about.

Marc replacing the skylight in our Country Coach at Catalina Spa & RV Resort, California

Key Takeouts

  • We are glad we didn’t overcommit financially on either RV, but they still ended up costing more than we originally anticipated when we bought them.
  • The extended warranty on our Tiffin helped reduce our anxiety whenever something went wrong! Many times we wished we had one for our CC.
  • Diesel motorhomes offer super ride and quality, but it was also more expensive to repair than our gas RV.
  • We knew it would be a lot of time and work renovating and repairing our Country Coach, but it still exceeded our estimates.
  • I gained so much experience doing all that DIY work renovating and repairing, which gave me a lot of confidence in my ability to tackle many issues myself.
  • Having such vastly different experiences with both RVs has been incredibly valuable, and further deepened our knowledge and understanding of each option.
  • We have loved both of our RVs for different reasons, so don’t prefer one over the other. Each has pros and cons, offering the experience we wanted at the time.
  • Despite our extensive research, we still underestimated and overlooked some of the expenses related to RV ownership – mainly in unexpected RV repairs.
  • At the end of the day, we don’t focus on what the RV life has ‘cost us’ so much as what it has given us, in terms of experiences, joy and adventures.

Perspective and Summary

After reviewing all this, you may be thinking “Wow! Owning an RV is expensive!” Yes, it certainly can be, but as we’ve said, it really does depend on how you do it, your style, budget and preferences.

So let’s wrap up with why we made the choices we did, to provide some perspective.

A few things to keep in mind

We specifically chose to live and travel in a Class A motorhome – not a truck and trailer –as we felt it was better suited to the type of experience we wanted to have. While we did consider towable options (both times we were RV shopping) we decided against it as we did not already have a suitable truck to tow with and we didn’t want a truck to be our daily driver. We prefer smaller, sporty cars for exploring. Heavy duty trucks are great for towing RVs, but these can be expensive to buy and maintain too. 

For us, trading one life experience (ie. a suburban stick and brick home with a mortgage, two cars and commutes to work) for another (ie. a full time traveling lifestyle in an RV exploring the country) has ended up costing us about the same. Aside from the RV ownership costs, we also had to add our RV camping costs and fuel costs (next article). Of course, the other big consideration is while an RV depreciates, your home (presuming you own not rent) would typically (but not always) appreciate over the years. 

But as full timers, we’re not paying for a vacation RV on top of a stick and brick home. Keep that in mind if you’re planning to travel part time or just for vacations. You may not use the RV as much, so your repairs, wear and tear and maintenance may be lower, and you may also need to pay for storage.

Do we have any regrets? 

The answer is no. Each of these motorhomes has provided us with the ability to travel all around North America, create incredible adventures, experience personal growth, learn how to DIY repairs, build confidence, make great friends, spend more time together, visit family and friends around the world, work remotely, create content that helps and inspires others, transition to self employment, write and publish a bestselling book, build a wonderful community, and make a living doing what we love. We’ve been able to follow our dreams and do all this while we’re still young and healthy, create memories and fulfilling experiences in ways we could never have imagined. 

We are well traveled, fulfilled, and grateful. How do you put a price on that? 

RV campsite at Thousand Trails Orlando, Florida. Credit: Jerome Braga of Our1Chance.com

What about the other costs of RV Life?

We have shared a lot of detail in our ‘6 Year Recap’ articles to give you a real-life, honest perspective of every aspect of what the RV life can cost. Remember, this article just covers our RV ownership, so if you haven’t already, jump over to:

In the next article, we’ll be covering our mileage and how much we spent on fuel (including the RV, propane, generator hours etc.) over the past 6 years.

We hope you found this article helpful and educational! We’d love to hear your questions and comments about your RV ownership – expenses and experiences! So drop us a note in the comments below!

Breaking pandemic lockdown monotony – dressing up for Formal Fridays, in the desert

GOT COMMENTS OR QUESTIONS?

We would love to hear from you. Drop us a note in the comments section below.

Recommended Resources

Over the years, we’ve found many great resources that help save us money and/or enhance our RVs and RV life. Here are some of our faves that we recommend.

If you have any questions at all about these resources and providers, please don’t hesitate to ask. We’re here to help.

6 thoughts on “The Real Cost of RV Ownership. After 6 Years and 2 RVs, Here’s What we Spent on RV Repairs, Maintenance and Depreciation”

  1. Wow. Very detailed article. Great info. While we personally own a 2018 Keystone Outback toy hauler and a 2015 Chevy Silverado dually diesel truck, we can relate to some of the costs and scenarios you’ve presented. Most recently, it was our three-day boondocking experience in a Walmart parking lot while we had a $2,300 repair done to our truck. 🥴 Thank you for putting this all down on paper. It encourages us to be even more diligent in recording our expenses of the same. Fortunately, John is excellent, mechanically, as well as being an RV Inspector, so many of the repairs on our former RV/truck and our new combo have been more affordable. Eager to read your other articles in this series!

    Reply
  2. HELLO MARC AND JULIE!! We are not getting much in the way of travelogues from RVLove of late, but I hope that is coming in time! Well, different strokes for different folks! I don’t own a thing which i did not pay cash. That includes a sticks and bricks house. The people selling extended warranties are in it for profit. They know what the cost of maintenance should be and they charge us more than that so that they are profitable. Lenders charge you interest plus whatever charges they can hide in there so they are profitable. I just pay cash and let them go to others to be profitable. I bought a new RV that was a year old paying cash. I did not tell them that this was a cash deal until we were signing papers and they tried to start selling me financing. I said that I would have a cashier’s check for the entire amount for them the next day. It is a 2000 bought new in May of 2001. I got a great deal because they wanted to get it off their books and get the new models in to sell.

    Reply
    • Hi Carl, good to hear from you. Yes, we have had a lot of things going on behind the scenes and taking care of some personal business. More content on the way. Good to hear you found a good deal and paid cash. Yes warranty and finance companies – like all businesses – are there to make money. But they also provide a service, at a price, for those who choose or need it. As you saw from our post, we definitely got the benefit from our RV extended warranty and savings. The majority of people probably won’t ‘get their money’s worth’ out of a warranty as they don’t use their RV a lot. But for full timers like us who use the RV extensively, and travel more miles, well, there are just more things than can go wrong – and do. We have several friends who have extended warranties and are already well ‘ahead’ on their purchase price. It’s different strokes for different folks as you said. All depends on the RV, your situation, budget, how you use it. More complex motorhomes have a lot of things that can go wrong with them, which we have learned through experience. Good move to buy your RV at a time when the dealer is wanting to move inventory and create space on their lot. Same as when we bought the Country Coach – they wanted to move it so we were able to negotiate a good deal. Take care of yourself! Cheers – J

      Reply
  3. Hi you two pandemic travellers,
    Thank you for a most informative and interesting article! It was an eye-opener and especially nice to hear your honest perspective/comment on the build quality or lack thereof within the industry. In my mind given the increased demand by boomers wishing to experience RV travel/ownership along with a highly competitive market, I anticipated and questioned whether greater improvements and quality had occurred in the industry and you’ve provided the answer…. not a lot lol. It will be interesting to see what happens post COVID-19 or when a vaccine becomes available as I actually think there will be continued interest in land-based travel vs cruising and flying for some time. In turn the demand for rigs and camp-sites should remain strong along with the costs associated. Thank you again, great article….travel safely! Ron & Cathy, Cda.

    Reply
    • HI Ron and Cathy – glad you enjoyed the article. Yes we agree that RV travel is likely to remain in high demand for quite some time. Sadly, with RVs being so popular and flying off the lots (as they have been for many years) there does not seem to be a huge incentive for RV manufacturers to improve their quality, as this inevitably increases labor and cost. And the lower they can keep RV costs the more they will sell. It’s a shame the industry isn’t regulated to a higher degree such as automobiles. It’s also no coincidence that we purchased a high quality 1999 Country Coach – over one of the newer models. We believe that decision speaks volumes. That RV is not perfect either, but we never doubted the build quality or thoughtfulness in design. Wishing you all the best!

      Reply

Leave a Comment