RVs vs. Hotels: Which Is Better for Your Next Road Trip?
Updated: Apr 18
You have a destination, you’ve taken time off, and now you just have to figure out how you’re going to get from Point A to Point B in your next vacation. Road trips are full of endless possibilities, but what vehicle you'll drive and where you’ll stay are two of the biggest decisions to make, and you might be facing a choice between RVs versus hotels.
One option is the traditional road trip, where you pile into your normal car and drive to a hotel. With this, you’ll enjoy clean, elegant rooms; room service; and amenities like a pool, free breakfasts, and nearby businesses and attractions. Another option is to travel by RV, where everything you need for an enjoyable vacation is right there in your vehicle. You’ll stay at campgrounds, cook your own meals over an open fire, and wake up to some of the best views the natural world has to offer.
When considering RVs vs. hotels and which is better for your next road trip, you need to think about a few factors. Lodging and fuel costs are primary influences, but you should also reflect on what kind of vacation experience you want, the type of weather you’ll be facing, and the expenses that will be part of your trip. Choosing hotels over RV means you can avoid maintenance tasks like knowing how to open a gate valve. Gather the information you need with this guide to decide RVs versus hotels to make the most enjoyable decision for your next road trip.
The Cost of a Hotel
Hotel rates are a fickle thing. The average cost of a hotel room is $150 to $200 per night, but this cost will vary greatly depending on where you stay, when you travel, and what kind of room you want. Smaller rooms that are farther from prime travel destinations are cheaper than luxury suites with convenient locations. You can also expect to pay less for a hotel room during the area’s off-season. Meanwhile, traveling during the height of summer or spring break weekends will put hotel rooms in higher demand, making them much more expensive. In addition to the price of your room, you also have to pay for gas and meals. Most hotel rooms don’t have kitchen spaces, which means you’re more likely to go out to eat throughout your trip. However, filling the tank on your car won’t cost as much as refueling an RV will.
The Cost of an RV: Owning vs. Renting
There are two ways to travel in an RV: renting and owning. The cost of an RV for either option varies greatly, but there are a few common factors. No matter what kind of vehicle you’re in, you’ll have to find a place to park your RV at your destination. Most of the time, this will be a national park or another campground. While fully equipped RV campgrounds at popular locations can be slightly more expensive, you can expect to pay around $30 to $50 a night no matter where you go. That’s far less expensive than most hotel rooms. Additionally, the built-in RV kitchen and campground firepit make it much easier to cook your meals and save money on food. That said, fueling your RV will be more expensive than taking a regular vehicle to the gas station.
If you own your RV, food, gas, and campground fees are the only expenses you have to worry about. As such, traveling in your own RV is by far the most affordable way to journey across the country. What if you don’t own an RV, though? In this case, you’ll have to rent one, which adds another daily cost to your trip. Like hotel rooms, rental rates vary depending on what size and type of RV you want. You might be able to find a small campervan for less than $100 a day. However, for a bigger and more luxurious ride, you’re likely going to pay over $150 a day. You’ll also have to factor in your daily mileage, as many RV rental companies charge a certain amount per mile of your trip.
Other Factors To Consider
With the above information in mind, it becomes clear that taking a road trip in an RV that you own is the cheapest way to travel. Hotels and RV rentals are close in price, but between rental fees, campground rates, and higher fuel prices, renting an RV becomes the more expensive option. However, it’s important to keep in mind that these are rough estimates. Many factors influence the exact expenses of your road trip. Make sure you think about the following details to get an accurate idea of what your trip is going to cost.
Tickets, Attractions, and More
Food, travel, and lodging aren’t the only expenses for a vacation. What do you want to do at your destination? If everything you want to experience is in the big city, staying at a campground a few miles out won’t be ideal, even if it is cheaper. However, the money you save on lodging can go toward more expensive attractions like concerts, shows, or theme parks. If you’re going to spend money on tickets or passes to attractions, make sure you work those expenses into your budget so that you can choose the best way to travel.
Your Preferred Travel Experience
Money is a huge factor in the debate between RVs vs. hotels and which one is better for your next road trip. Still, you also need to consider your preferences and desires. Just because an RV is cheaper doesn’t mean it’s better for everyone. If you decide to take a road trip in an RV, you must know both the perks and challenges it brings. An RV offers less space than a hotel room, which isn’t ideal for larger groups. You’ll also have to drive a bulky and sometimes unwieldy vehicle everywhere you go. On the other hand, RVing is one of the best ways to experience the great outdoors. You’ll have fresh air and gorgeous views no matter where you stay.
Mind the Weather
Staying warm in an RV takes some planning, and weather can change even the best plans. If you don’t want to deal with rainy days or burning hot temperatures, a comfortable, luxurious hotel room acts as a great safety net. Even if you can’t go outside, you can enjoy lounging in your room or exploring the indoor pool, spa, or other amenities your hotel has to offer. That said, seasoned RVers know that there are plenty of ways to stay comfortable in your RV no matter what the weather is like outside. If you own your RV, investing in equipment like space heaters and holding tank heaters to stay cozy or RV awnings to stay cool will help keep your vehicle comfortable regardless of where or when you travel. It’s also a good idea to purchase the heaters for pipes, gate valves, and RV holding tanks for sale at UltraHeat. These reliable heating pads will keep your water system safe and functional in cold weather, making it easy to travel in your RV year-round.
Is RV life right for you? While renting an RV for a road trip can be expensive, it’s a great way to find out. Once you get a feel for the lifestyle, you can purchase an RV and start your own life of affordable adventuring.