Where to Park Your RV for Free on a Road Trip

Where to Park Your RV for Free on a Road Trip

Are you ready to hit the road and experience the beauty and diversity of America from the comfort of your RV? Whether you’re an experienced RV traveler or new to the world of recreational vehicles, finding a place to park can be a challenge – especially if you’re trying to stay within budget. While choosing to stay in one of the best RV parks in the United States is definitely a good option, sometimes you may want to avoid the crowds and fees that RV parks charge. In that case, consider staying at one of the many locations that offer free overnight parking for RVs. Whether you’re looking for a quick overnight stay or a longer-term arrangement, these free parking options can help you plan the perfect road trip for those looking to save money.

Where to find free RV parking

Whether you plan to park overnight in an RV park or in a national forest, you’ll want to do some research ahead of time, as well as download a few apps to use during your trip. You can also use an American road trip guide to help you plan your trip. Lands managed by the U.S. Forest Service and by the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) are “multiple use” sites, so they’re dedicated to preservation but also allow for recreational activity. These sites are your best bet for finding free overnight parking for your RV. Most of them are also dog friendly.

The RVParky app, Allstays app, and Campendium website have exhaustive lists that include overnight RV parking and camping options across the United States and Canada. Search by location and price (filtering by “free,” if you’d like) to find RV parking options in parks, forests, parking lots, and public lands. You might also want to check out these top spots for beach camping.

What to know before starting your RV road trip

No ParkingMany towns and cities prohibit long-term parking on public streets, so even if you’ll be parking your RV or travel trailer in front of a friend’s home, you’ll need to abide by public ordinances. Off-grid camping is typically allowed anywhere on federal public lands within a specified distance of established roads, except where it’s otherwise restricted. Check with local authorities or online to see the varying rules for each location you want to visit.

Some of the most popular RV parks and campsites fill up quickly during warm-weather months, with some booking up months in advance. If you’re committed to parking only where there isn’t a fee, understand that there will be fewer options and there likely won’t be electric or water hookups. No matter what your plan is, always have a backup plan, just in case the RV park or campsite you had in mind is at capacity. Under no circumstances should you set up in an area that doesn’t allow it. Not only could illegally parking and camping damage the ecosystem and threaten wildlife, but it’s also illegal. The same rules apply if you’re leaving your RV at home and doing some free camping instead.

Why avoid RV parks

Aside from not wanting to pay a fee, there are other reasons you might want to stay somewhere other than an RV park. They aren’t necessarily bad places to stay—they’re great for amenities and for meeting fellow travelers—but sometimes you may want to get off the grid. If you’re not concerned with having hookups for electricity and water, boondocking (camping without the hookups) can be a great way to avoid the crowds, noise, and light pollution associated with RV parks. Opting for a dispersed campsite (a site outside of a designated campground) also lets you reconnect with nature while saving some money on RV park fees. If you’ll be heading out on an extended RV adventure, you’ll likely need to stay in proper RV parks sooner or later, but if you just need a quick place to sleep, sacrificing amenities during short-term stays can add up to big long-term savings. Don’t miss these other ways to find cheap places to stay.

How much does it cost to stay in an RV park

According to Alyssa Padgett, author of A Beginner’s Guide to Living in an RV, the average price of an RV park is around $45 to $50 per night, but that price can vary dramatically. Depending on the season, location, size of your vehicle, amenities offered, and whether or not you’ll need electric and water hookups, you can expect to pay anywhere from $10 to $120 per night for 24-hour parking at an RV park. A large RV park that has tennis courts, playgrounds, showers, and dining facilities may cost three or four times as much as a park that only has electric and water hookups.

Where to look beyond campgrounds

If you’re looking for a non-campground experience, check out HipCamp, which is sort of like an Airbnb for campers, offering ranches, farms, beaches, and private land preserves (for a fee). Harvest Hosts is a paid membership program (about $100 per year) that allows members access to more than 1,500 RV-friendly breweries, wineries, vineyards, and museums. Whether you’re staying on a beach, a farm, or in a cidery, there are some great phone apps that help you plan your trip, determine where to go, and find the best restaurants and services nearby. These are the best road trip apps you can get for free.

Safe places to park an RV overnight

Though many full-time RVers swear by Cracker Barrel and Walmart parking lots as safe and secure overnight options, free overnight parking isn’t always guaranteed. Though Walmart has a longstanding RV-friendly parking policy, you’ll still want to call the store ahead of time to check with the manager. If you plan to rely on their stores during your trip, first check this list of no-go Walmarts, which is regularly updated based on the experiences of RVers who attempted to or successfully camped in their lots. Avoid large retail shopping center parking lots, as they tend to be patrolled, private property and you’ll be asked to leave.

Rest stops and truck stops also tend to be great options for overnight RV parking because they are well lit and have 24-hour bathrooms. Casinos fall into this category, too, and the grounds may be patrolled, but some casinos may also attract sketchy characters. Many outdoor stores like Bass Pro Shop, Cabela’s, and Camping World will also let you park your rig overnight, but it’s always best to check with the manager in advance.

How long you can park your RV for free

Each campsite, RV park, forest, and public space has its own rules about how long you can park there. Most Bureau of Land Management sites cap free camping at 30 days, though the amount of time can vary by location. Most national forests allow dispersed camping up to 14 days, but some areas are limited to one day, while others allow up to 30 days. Check the local regulations by stopping by the ranger station or calling ahead of your stay. For travel inspiration, check out the most scenic campsites in every state.

How to be a responsible RV camper

The most important Leave No Trace principle is properly planning ahead. Knowing exactly where you’ll camp, having backup plans for alternate campsites, and bringing all the supplies you’ll need will go a long way.

Proper waste disposal is essential, and while RV parks may have waste disposal options, dispersed campsites won’t, so you’ll need to keep all your waste with you until you’re able to safely dispose of it. This includes packing up all your food waste and garbage, as well as burying human waste in an eight-inch “cathole” that’s 150 feet from trails and water sources.

Vehicles can do significant damage to the environment, so it’s crucial that you look for already impacted sites with well-worn access drives. Never drive onto vegetation, cut down trees, or stray beyond the borders of established camp areas. If, and only if, you confirm campfires are allowed in an area, you can minimize your campfire impact by seeking out existing campfire rings instead of creating new ones. Buy local firewood (or gather firewood in the area, if it’s allowed) to prevent the spread of invasive species. Before you leave, make sure that the fire is completely out and that any food you may have thrown in the fire has completely burned up so wild animals aren’t attracted to it. While you’re at it, make sure to avoid these other common camping mistakes many first-timers make.

Is Winter the Right Time to Buy or Sell an RV?

Is Winter the Right Time to Buy or Sell an RV?

If you’re considering buying or selling an RV, you may wonder if winter is the right time to do it. While both options have pros and cons, it ultimately comes down to your circumstances and what you’re looking to get out of the process. Here are some things to consider if you’re trying to decide whether to buy or sell an RV in the winter:

Pros of Buying an RV in the Winter:

  • Looking to save money on an RV purchase? Winter may be the perfect time to start shopping. Demand for RVs tends to be lower during the colder months, which often results in lower prices for buyers. In addition to potentially getting a better deal, you may also have more bargaining power when negotiating the price of an RV during the winter. With fewer people in the market for recreational vehicles, sellers may be more willing to negotiate in order to make a sale.
  • Another benefit of shopping for an RV during the winter is that you’ll have more time to do your research and make sure you’re getting the right vehicle for your needs. Taking the time to carefully consider your options and make an informed decision can help you avoid regrets down the road. So if you’re ready to take the plunge and invest in an RV, don’t be afraid to start shopping during the colder months.

Cons of Buying an RV in the Winter:

  • Limited selectionThere are typically fewer RVs for sale in the winter, which means you may have fewer options to choose from.
  • Harder to see: It can be more challenging to get a good look at an RV during the winter, especially if the weather is bad or the RV is not easily
    accessible.
  • Maintenance issuesIf an RV has been sitting idle during the winter months, it may have developed some issues that will need to be addressed
    before you can use it.
     This can add extra cost and time to the process of getting your RV ready for use.

If you’re willing to do some research, prepare yourself for some of the challenges that come with winter RV shopping and strike a good deal, then you may be able to find an RV during this time of year. Just be sure to carefully consider all of your options before making a decision.

Selling an RV during the winter can be a challenging taskbut it also presents unique opportunities. If you are considering putting your RV on the market during the colder monthshere are some pros and cons to consider.

Pros of Selling an RV in the Winter:

  • Serious buyersPeople who are shopping for RVs during the winter are often more serious about their purchases. They may be looking to upgrade
    their current RV or are planning a trip for the spring or summer and want to get a jump start on the 
    process.
  • Lower prices: In general, the demand for RVs tends to be lower during the winter months. This can translate to lower prices for buyerswhich can
    make
     your RV more attractive to potential 
    buyers.

Cons of Selling an RV in the Winter:

  • Limited showingsIt can be difficult to get people to come out and look at RVs during the winter, especially if the weather is bad. This can make it
    harder to sell your RVespecially if it’s not easy to get to or requires a lot of effort to 
    see.
  • Maintenance issuesIf your RV has been sitting idle during the winter months, it may have developed some issues that will need to be addressed
    before you can sell it.
     This can add extra cost and time to the sales process.
  • StorageIf you are selling your RV in the winter, you will need to find a place to store it until it sells. This can be a challenge if you do not have a
    garage or other covered storage space available.

Overallthere are pros and cons to selling an RV in the winter. If you are willing to be patient and put in a little extra effortit can be a good time to sell.
Just be prepared for the challenges that come with it and make sure you are pricing your RV appropriately for the current market conditions.

Featured Image Credit: redagainPatti / flickr

RV Buying Guide

RV Buying Guide

In the market for an RV?  While still in the “investigation phase”, that’s the time to think through the process of buying an RV.  As with anything, there are good products and bad products. Good salespeople and unscrupulous salespeople.  Here are a few considerations:

RV RentalsImage Credit: kennejima / flickr

Have I done enough research?

Going out to the various RV lots is great fun IF your expectation is just to look around and kick a few tires.  If you’re the type of person that can’t say “NO” to a pushy salesperson, you may want to do your online research before hitting the lots. (We think this is a good idea anyway.)  If you spend the time to research your purchase prior to hitting the lot, you’ll find a plethora of resources available to help you.  Camping World, RV Trader and Craigslist are awesome places to see local inventory and options. Other places to educate yourself include the Family Motor Coach Association (FMCA) and the many travel blogs out there. Here’s a list of the 100 Best RV Blogs for Motorhome Travel Enthusiasts.

Do I want a motorhome or a trailer?

An RV is a vehicle that combines transportation and temporary living quarters for travel, recreation and camping. Two main categories of RVs are motorhomes (motorized) and towables (towed behind the family car, van or pickup). – prvca.org

Once you make the decision, between a motor home or a towable, then it’s on to …

What size is right for me?

Large Motor Home
Image Credit: Mitch Barrie/ flickr

Size is an important factor; Not just for storage, but where will it sit when at the house for preparations, breakdowns, or cleaning. Does your driveway have an incline? If so, larger motorhomes and trailers may have issues with scraping and/or unhooking from the hitch.  A flat area with a concrete pad is ideal.  Just remember – size matters and biggest isn’t always best!

Where will I store my RV when it’s not in use?

If you’re lucky enough to have storage at home (especially indoor storage) – skip to the next question.  But for most of us, we need to find a place to store our RV when it’s not being used.  Most HOA regulations prohibit the storage of RV’s, boats, and the like – So you need an alternative place to store it.  Storage rates vary depending on 2 main factors: Whether you want to store it indoors or outdoors AND the length of your RV.

RV-StorageImage Credit: MemoryCatcher / Pixabay

Should I Buy New or Used?

This is a very personal question, but one worth mentioning.  In my opinion, it comes down to whether you trust the individual selling the used RV. The downside to buying used is that you may be buying someone else’s problem.  Other issues include odors, outdated colors, and fix-it items.

There is an upside to buying used (if you trust the seller). Many, if not ALL new RV’s have minor adjustments that are made during the shakedown cruise. If you’re buying a used RV that will work to your advantage, having been broken-in and presumably ready-to-go.  As in everything… Buyer beware!

Travels and/or camping in an RV can be fun for the whole family if you find the right piece of equipment for your individual needs.  Make sure that you’re patient, that you’re working on your timeline (not the dealer’s), and that you’re dealing with someone you can trust.  Happy camping!

Tips On Buying Your First RV – Welcome to the Club!

About “The Club”:  First and foremost, there is a tremendous amount of camaraderie among RV and trailer campers.   For example, when you pull into a national park or campground, you will regularly get approached to see if you’d like some help backing-in, leveling your rig, or just about anything.  It’s a great feeling knowing there are lots of folks that were once rookie RV owners, and they’re happy to help out and share the knowledge.

RV Cost: How much is an RV in 2022?

RV Prices

Do your Homework

At first glance, calculating RV cost can seem daunting. With so many variations in design, manufacturers and even separate classes, there is much to decide.

The best path to take is to inform yourself of some very basic information about the different RV classes, and then begin dissecting the financial pros and cons in line with your particular needs. Equipping yourself with this level of information can easily transform a difficult decision into a pleasurable and rewarding experience.

Let’s start with defining the basic classes and then evaluate some of the potential and perhaps unforeseen costs of each choice.

Motorhomes

Motorhomes are the most convenient and luxurious form of travel since the occupants can enjoy the comforts of home while on the road. However, their large size can be difficult for some drivers.

Campsites can be a challenge to maneuver unless they are pull-through sites. Also, unless you tow another vehicle behind a motorhome, it is best to be prepared when you arrive on site. There are few things as inconvenient as settling into a site only to realize you forgot something important and have to leave with your RV for the nearest town store. Low gas mileage and high maintenance costs are a negative factor in this option.

Motorhome Class C
Motorhome Class C ~ Image Credit: Tony DiGirolamo / flickr

Class A

These are the RVs most people notice traveling down the road with their shining chrome and exquisite paint jobs. Inside, these vehicles are better equipped than many site-built homes and can offer better amenities than some high-end hotel resorts. Class A motorhomes typically have the most room and storage of any other class of RV, but it all comes at a premium price. Expect to pay $80,000-$120,000 for a used model from the last five or ten years. The average price of a new Class A motorhome ranges from $95,000 to $120,000 and up.

Class B

If you want some of the luxuries of Class A, but are looking for a little less expensive option, or something much easier to drive, you might consider the Class B. They are typically the smaller of the motorhome classes and as such do not offer as much space but can be a good solution for the more agile motorhome buyer.

These vehicles drive similar to any normal van and can achieve much easier access to tight camping spots. The cost of a new Class B motorhome typically falls below that of Class A. Expect to pay  $40,000-$80,000 for a used model from the last five or ten years. The average price of a new Class B motorhome, on average, ranges from $85,000 – $165,000.

Class C

The Class C motorhome is somewhere between the Class A and Class B. They are typically larger and roomier than the Class B, but smaller and less spacious than the Class A. As you would imagine, the maneuverability factor also falls somewhere between the other two classes as well. Expect to pay at least $60,000 for a good used model from the last five or ten years. The average price of a new Class C motorhome ranges from $75,000 – $90,000.

Fifth Wheel

Fifth wheels are trailers that are towed behind vehicles equipped with a specialty hitch that is smaller, but similar to the type of hitch found on 18-wheelers. The main benefit of this type of hitch is that they allow for greater weight which can accommodate larger trailers.

Due to this advantage, fifth wheel campers are generally more spacious because part of the trailer can reside over the bed of the tow vehicle, which of course limits such transport to pickups or flatbed style trucks.

Additional living space is achieved through slide-outs that can be noticeably larger than those found on a travel trailer. Another advantage is that due to this type of hitch, control of the trailer – both on the road and in maneuvering into a campsite – is much more stable and manageable. You can expect to pay between $36,000 to $135,000 for a fifth-wheel trailer depending on the age, size, condition and amenities.

The costs associated with a fifth wheel often accompany the fact that these trailers, due to their extra weight, require the utility of a more powerful tow vehicle than the remainder of the trailer category.

Travel Trailer

The travel trailer typically connects to a tow vehicle with the typical ball hitch making tow vehicle options quite a bit more versatile than the fifth wheel. There is a huge variety in the size of travel trailers that can accommodate just about any particular desire.

However, it is absolutely essential that you choose the appropriate tow vehicle for your trailer. Due to the smaller hitch and weight distribution, travel trailers can become very unstable at higher speeds depending on the vehicle pulling it. You can find several new models for less than $10,000. Used can be found for less, with pricing dependent on the age, size, condition and amenities.

popup camper
                             Image Credit: Korey99, CC BY-SA 3.0, Wikimedia Commons

Pop-Up

Of all the trailer RV options, the pop-up camper is typically the lightest and thus requires the least powerful tow vehicle of all the options. The compactness of the trailer when in travel mode makes them very easy to pull and maneuver into campsites.

Once on location, the canvas or vinyl tent portion of the camper is raised, and the beds slide out. There is a surprising amount of room in these small campers but be smart. The pop-up is not much more than that, a tent on wheels. You shouldn’t camp in extreme cold or extreme heat unless your particular model is adequately equipped.

It’s also not the safest option when camping in remote areas with large predators such as bears or big cats since the canvas or vinyl tent is not much of a deterrent. Pop-up campers’ MSRP is between $9,000 to $30,000 on average. Used can be found for less, with pricing dependent on the age, size, condition and amenities.

Truck Bed Camper

If you own a nice-sized pickup truck and don’t want to tow it behind a motorhome or use it to tow a trailer, the bed camper could be just the choice you’re looking for. Technology has come a long way in recent years and the amount of space in truck bed campers may just surprise you.

Some models even offer the option to extend legs down to the ground allowing you to pull the truck out for various excursions away from camp. Lower end truck campers can cost around $4000 and range upward to $50,000 or more, depending on the age, condition and amenities.

After You Pick Your RV

The costs don’t end when you choose the particular RV that meets your needs and requirements. Depending on how well equipped your choice is, there may be necessary additional items to acquire.

Accessories

Typical accessories include a generator or Solar Power / Lithium Batteries, storage cover, potable water hoses, propane tanks, and a multitude of outdoor equipment such as stoves, grills, chairs, and awnings. Many of the new higher-end models will come well equipped, but as the price goes down so do the added accessories.

Storage

In addition, if you don’t have room in your garage or on your own property, you will need to add a monthly storage fee to the list. If you aren’t buying with cash, you must also pay to finance your purchase.

Insurance

Unfortunately, the total RV cost will be more than the initial RV price. You should also factor in insurance to your decision process. The cost of insurance is typically in line with the value and type of the RV you choose.

Sales Tax

Let’s also not forget that your local government gets its share of the sale price through sales tax as annual fees. In most states, they come in the form of registration and inspections. These costs are of course dependent upon the type of RV you choose. The government exempts some of the smaller and lighter options from the inspection fees. It is important, however, to do the research in your area to determine what is required.

Operating Costs

Operating costs cannot be overlooked. A beautiful new RV is only a good investment if it can be used as often as possible, or if you rent it out when you aren’t using it. Due to the amount invested in this type of purchase, the less you use it or rent it, the less valuable your choice may be.

Want to try before you buy? Rent your RV first!

On the other hand, if you aren’t smart with where and how you use it, your RV cost can add up through high camping fees, excessive fuel costs, as well as maintenance and upkeep.

If after you find these options too expensive, there’s another option. There are some great RV rental options out there. For example, companies like RVshare.com connect renters with private owners similar to Airbnb.

By renting an RV for your outing, you can avoid the huge initial investment as well as the many additional costs of storing and maintaining it. You simply choose when you want to escape to the great outdoors, reserve the RV of your choice, and pick it up.