The Financial Weight of a Road Trip

It’s officially summer. I have never been on a road trip, but it is on my to-do list. And I am mean like a long-term, living in the van kind of road trip for two weeks or more. It’s one of those things that I hate putting off because it becomes harder to realize the older that I get. Also, a road trip adventure with friends or family is what summers are made for anyway. However, the more I crunched the numbers, the more I realized how expensive it would be.

Road Trip Standards of Living

Unless you plan on sleeping in the back of your Civic, you’ll need a van large enough to house a mattress and mini living area or an RV. The average cost of a used passenger van from the 1990s or 2000s could cost you $5,000 to $10,000. You can get a used RV for about $10,000 to $20,000. Otherwise, a new luxury line RV can cost you $300,000. Yu could rent a vehicle, but that won’t be cheap either.

Most people think about the road trip and not the expenses along the way. Even if you are extremely frugal and only eat canned and preserved food and water, you might expend $20-a-day eating for two people. That’s 600 a month. Eat out at a restaurant and those costs will rise exponentially every time you do so. Unless you can hook up solar panels on the roof of your vehicle, you are going to need electricity to power devices and appliances.

The good news is that there are many campgrounds that serve RVs and vans on road trips. They specialize in offering utility hookups, access to showers and bathrooms, hot meals, WiFi service, and more. The bad news is that such services usually cost $50 to $60-a-day. Imagine paying $900 for a 15-day stay at such a campground, or $1,800 for a month.

Also, you should definitely have an emergency fund for vehicle maintenance. Unless you, or one of your trip companions, has skills in vehicle repair breakdowns are going to happen. The average cost to maintain a car is $8,500 annually and average car repair bill is $600. Plus, it’ll be more expensive to source parts for an old vehicle. Or, more expensive to buy a newer vehicle, so, pick your poison.

Travel Insurance

If you own a gun for protection, a permit allows you to carry it in your state of residence. It is a federal offense to carry a weapon, legal or not, across state lines if you have a permit applicable only for state residency. The last thing you need to pay for on a road trip is a lawyer. Or, medical bills. So, you might want to have travel insurance for your road trip.

An average travel insurance premium costs about 4% to 10% of the total cost of your trip. Keep in mind that your travel insurance may not be accepted everywhere you go, so paying out of pocket for an emergency is not out of the question.

Road Trip or Hotel Stay

The cost of a road trip is comparable to buying plane tickets and going somewhere on vacation. It might actually be cheaper. A road trip still sounds like a blast and I will do it one day. I just know now that I have a lot more saving up to do.

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