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RV Vacations Cut Costs, Not Comforts

RESTON, Va. -- Hitting the road in record numbers by recreation vehicle (RV) this season, Americans are significantly lowering their travel expenses without compromising on family fun or creature comforts - a real bonus in today’s travel climate, experts say.

A recent vacation cost-comparison study demonstrates that, even after factoring in RV ownership costs, a family of four can spend up to 70 percent less when traveling by RV. Analyzing trips with three types of RVs most commonly used for travel with children, the study by international travel and tourism research PKF Consulting firm found that:

  • Travel with a folding camping trailer in tow averages 50 to 70 percent less expensive than the non-RV trips;

  • Vacations with a conventional travel trailer cost 24 to 57 percent less; and

  • Travel in a type C motorhome costs from 9 to 49 percent less than comparable car/hotel combination trips and air/hotel vacations respectively.


  • Nine different kinds of vacations to such popular family travel destinations as the Grand Canyon, Orlando, Cape Cod, Napa, Calif., and Alaska were analyzed by PKF. Among the variety of vacation travel modes studied for each of these destinations, RV trips were the least expensive in all cases, including prorated vehicle ownership costs for the period.

    For a typical week-long vacation, the study showed that, depending on the type owned, going by RV cost an average of 65 to 80 percent less than a cruise; 57 to 72 percent less than an all-inclusive air/hotel/meal package; 50 to 66 percent less than a trip involving air travel, rental cars, restaurants and hotels; and 34 to 56 percent less than travel to a condo or rental property by personal car or airline.

    The cost of going by RV was 9 to 42 percent lower than traveling in a personal car, staying in hotels and eating in restaurants–the least expensive of the non-RV travel options analyzed.

    "Affordability is just one reason more families are choosing RVs over other forms of vacation travel," said Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) President David J. Humphreys. "In addition, many people tell us their RV trips are the ultimate family bonding experience. Travel is far more comfortable, convenient and flexible with an RV, with no hassles like long airport lines, flight delays and heavy baggage to lug."

    Amenities in today’s RVs range from central heat and air conditioning, fully equipped kitchens and bathrooms, queen-size beds and plenty of storage space, to new innovations like entertainment electronics, satellite dishes and expandable slideout rooms. "And for the vast majority of RV buyers, the interest on their motorhome or towable unit is deductible at tax time because it qualifies as a second home," Humphreys added.

    RV owners say the savings and convenience of RV vacations are significant. "To fly with the kids would be well over $1,000, and when you factor in expenses for hotels, renting a car and eating out all the time, it really adds up," said RV owner Andrea Hyland of Long Island, N.Y. "On top of that, we have to book everything at least a month in advance. RVs are a much better option for us."

    Besides major cash or credit outlays required from start to finish for each vacation (such as food, fuel or fares, lodging or campground fees), PKF factored in estimated costs of RV ownership based on research documenting average ownership periods, residual values, annual days of use, insurance and interest deductions.

    Today a record 7.2 million RVs are on the roads in the United States. RVs are owned by nearly 7 million U.S. households–a 7.8 percent increase over the past four years, reveals a 2001 University of Michigan study. RVIA estimates there are as many as 30 million RV enthusiasts nationwide, including renters.

    Vacation Cost Comparisons – By PKF Consulting


    Case Studies: RV Travel vs. Other Vacation Types

  • A family of four traveling from Denver to the Grand Canyon for 10 days with their folding camping trailer in tow, staying in campgrounds for the local average of $16 per night, would save 52 percent, or $1,515, over the same trip taken by car, staying in hotels averaging $117 per night and eating in restaurants. Taking the same vacation by motorhome would save $575, or 20 percent, over going by car.

  • On a trip from Atlanta to Orlando for a week, a family of four would save $1,250, or 43 percent, by traveling in their motorhome and staying in campgrounds averaging $23 per night, rather than flying, renting a car, staying in hotels averaging $92 per night and eating in restaurants.

  • A week-long family vacation towing a conventional travel trailer from Washington, D.C., to Cape Cod would beat the cost of taking the same trip by airline, renting a car and staying in a rental property by $1,475, or 50 percent.

  • A family taking a three-day vacation from Detroit to Traverse City, Mich., would save $145, or 18 percent, by towing a conventional travel trailer, rather than going by car, staying in hotels and eating in restaurants. The savings would be even greater–$1,140 or 61 percent–for families taking the same trip by motorhome rather than flying.

  • Renting an RV to tour Alaska for 14 days, including air transportation costs to and from Alaska, was found to be less than half the cost of Alaskan all-inclusive cruises, and 16 percent less expensive than trips encompassing air fares, car rentals, hotels and restaurants.







  • Published: 1/11/2003
    Source: RVIA Press Release

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