Traveling in an RV is often mistakenly labeled as a rich man's mode of travel. What is misunderstood about RV's is that there are many ways to travel with them where those with a frugal mindset can give a nice checkmark on the expenditures and budget. Although RV's can indeed be insanely expensive to travel in, paying close attention to details during many processes of RV ownership can ensure that a person can travel and not needed to take a second mortgage or go into debt to do so. Please note that everybody has their own ways and wants with RV's, and these solutions are for those who really want to save money while traveling.
Save on Fuel Expenses!
Gas and diesel fuel is one of the most critical consumable expenditures that RV owners incur. Many Class A and Class C RV's are only capable of getting between 8-12 miles per gallon! Consider that a trip from Dallas, TX to Denver, CO is 1578 miles round trip. With the average cost of gasoline being $3.50 (estimate), it would cost $552 in fuel alone to make this trip (at 10 mpg)! This does not include camping fees, activities, food costs, let alone the upkeep on the coach.
With a Class A and Class C RV, lowering these costs is a true challenge. It is possible to squeeze out a few more miles per gallon by keeping fresh clean oil in the RV, proper tire pressures at all times, clean air filters, and fresh general tune ups. Also, be sure to remove anything that can cause drag. Keep aerodynamics on roof items by installing aerodynamic reflectors. Even with all of these things, most Class A and Class C RV's will inevitably be expensive to operate. A budget minded person, unless fairly local travel is expected, should probably steer clear from these types of RV's if they want to travel on the cheap. Not all is lost however, as there are other ways to save money in these types of coaches to help with the budget.
So where do gas savings begin?
A budget minded individual who is looking for an RV should really consider a popup camper (also known as a tent trailer). These campers can range from incredibly nice all the way down to being basically a super nice secure tent. They are available with or without air conditioning, showers, and toilets. Many have good furnaces, refrigerators, and even air circulation fans. The best part about a popup camper is the dramatic fuel savings that can occur.
First, you have to consider the aerodynamics of a popup. You are not driving a huge "square" down the road where the wind is pounding against it. The popup collapses far down below your tow vehicle's height. This makes them very aerodynamic in comparison to many RV's. This in turn makes the camper have far less drag while going down the road.
Secondly, you will also be freer to choose V6 powered tow vehicles. Many mini-vans and V6 powered SUV's can tow most popup campers! A van such as a Toyota Sienna can easily tow a popup camper and still get 19 miles per gallon! (I've personally done this.) Also, a popup camper is usually much lighter than a typical RV or travel trailer, so it will take less power to get it down the road. Consider this is nearly double the fuel efficiency of a pickup towing a large travel trailer. The money spent on fuel will nearly be cut in half doing this.
Also, most people need to consider that the popup RV will often be a lot cheaper than a standard RV on initial purchase, so there will be added savings there. The tires are small and inexpensive on a popup. You can use a common vehicle to tow it (probably one you already have (many RV's take large trucks).
The Least Expensive RV Option
One other option are small little guy campers. These are small tear drop styled campers that are incredibly light. Many can be towed with a 4 cylinder vehicle where one can get nearly 30 miles per gallon while towing. While they do not have a bathroom, they can be adapted with climate control and offer a secure sleeping area. Many come with television sets, DVD players, and plugs for your accessories. They are compact, but incredibly cheap to travel the country with. They will tow with almost any vehicle.
If you apply further RV money savings techniques while in your travels, you will be traveling nearly the least expensive way that you possibly can with an RV. Traveling does not have to be expensive. If the traveler is willing to sacrifice a little of the luxury and convenience of large RV's while traveling, they'll be able to see the entire country while saving an astronomical amount of money!