youtubeA Northwest RV blog watcher was asking about the ongoing costs of RV ownership. The reader in question is considering purchasing a Class B van. In this article I will discuss some (but not all) of the financial outlay you can or should expect after purchase.

The question/comment submitted by the reader is as follows:

“I'm thinking of purchasing a B-class van RV. I was wondering about the ongoing costs apart from the purchase price. Things like initial and annual registration, Insurance, AAA membership, annual maintenance, and winter storage. Also, since my neighbors don't really want to stare at an RV parked at my home, and there are city regulations about that, I'd probably need an off-site storage place. I live in Washington, so there are some high registration fees.”

The author touches on cost of maintenance. This is an extremely important point to consider when purchasing any RV. Whether you buy new or used, the dealer or other seller often neglects to mention the importance of regular upkeep of an RV. Failure to do so can quickly turn your home on wheels into a money pit that there may be no reasonable digging out.

Sealants - A typical example is seal failure due to lack of maintenance. This can easily result in water intrusion between the exterior and interior walls of the coach. This leads to delamination of the bonded walls, causing bubbling to the inside and/or outside walls. This is extremely costly to repair. Similarly with roof sealants, where the roof can delaminate, causing a new roof to be required, again a very expensive repair. When you consider the cost of sealant, as well as the ease with which visual sealant inspection can be done, this is extremely inexpensive insurance against water damage. If you are patient and handy with a caulking gun, sealant inspections can easily be done yourself, but in this case be sure to purchase the special sealant directly from an RV dealership, as regular silicone sealant should not be used on the outside of RVs. If you are hesitant to do this work yourself, or if you do not want to or are unable to mount your roof safely, your local RV service center can perform the work for you.

Checking for holes or gaps in sealants

Maintenance Tasks - Other important maintenance tasks include annual propane and brake/bearing inspection (in the case of a travel trailer), tire, and battery maintenance. If you drive a motorhome, such as this reader is considering, you should also have regular chassis inspection performed (oil/lube/filters, brakes, tires, coolant, etc.).

Tire check is one of many maintenance tasks

License and Insurance - I can’t comment on the license and insurance fees, since I don’t live in Washington (or even the USA). However, in the case of a Class B motorhome in my jurisdiction of British Columbia, these can be insured as regular commuter vehicles if they are used that way. It really depends on whether the Class B is strictly being used as an RV, or whether you are also using it to commute on a regular basis. A simple phone call to your local insurer can answer any RV registration issues you have.

Check with your local insurer for registration issues so you can relax and enjoy

Road Assistance - While you can use AAA roadside assistance, the RV option costs more, and a side-by-side comparison of RV association offerings from Coach-Net, Good Sam, FMCA, and others should be made alongside AAA RV option to find the best deal for you. The rates often change, so I will not list them here. Also, check our article about Avoiding the RV Breakdown Blues.

Winter and Off-Site Storage - I am going to lump winter and off-site storage into a single requirement. As mentioned earlier, a Class B RV may be considered a commuter vehicle, and therefore parking regulations may not always apply. A phone call to your city parking enforcement office will yield the answers you need on this. This changes with municipality, so Seattle and Tacoma may vary for instance. In Vancouver, Canada where I live, you are not allowed to park RVs on the street, but it tends only to be enforced if there are complaints. However, there are a number of areas in Vancouver and elsewhere where “RV Cities” have popped up. A number of (generally derelict) RVs are parked on the street and people live in them. Because the owners are parked long-term, the sidewalk and street around the rigs tend to get very messy. We also have a local rest stop that has become somewhat of an RV city. I am not a fan of this practice, especially the rest stop. This is the last rest stop westbound on the Trans-Canada Highway before coming into the lower mainland of Vancouver, so I am not proud of the impression visitors get when they arrive here. Even though your neighbors may not appreciate staring at an RV, a Class B van may not be as much of an eyesore. This is a tricky area, and really depends on the relationship you have with your neighbors. It is smart to consider storing offsite, at it alleviates any conflict. RV storage can be found in your area with a simple internet search, so make some calls. My most important factor when choosing a storage site is security, followed by price and accessibility. For instance, we like to pull out on short notice, so being able to access the storage lot 24 hours is key.

Ready to go on short notice

Kudos to this blogger for asking important questions about RV ownership. My apologies that I can’t provide more specific answers, but as I pointed out, those that can are just a few short phone calls away. It is important to get accurate information and answers to your questions. Form a good relationship with your local RV dealership and reach out to your municipality and insurance agent to gain a better understanding of the cost of ownership of your RV.

Steve Froese
Author: Steve FroeseEmail: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.
Steve Froese is a Licensed Professional Engineer in British Columbia, as well as an Interprovincial Red Seal RV Technician, which is equivalent to a Master Certified RV Technician in the USA. Steve was a personal friend and colleague of the late Gary Bunzer (“the RV Doctor”), and works closely with FMCA as the monthly “Tech Talk” columnist, as well as being a member of the Technical Advisory and Education Committees. Steve and his family are lifelong and avid RVers, mostly in the Pacific Northwest.

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