Thanks for stopping by to read about our travel trailer. If you enjoy this article you might also want to check out what I learned about trailer tires – Trailer Tires: A Lesson Learned
A few years ago we bought a used 26’ travel trailer for our family. At the time it seemed like a cost efficient solution to our problem, but there were a lot of unexpected expenses in owning a travel trailer. Here are my thoughts on why a travel trailer wasn’t a good decision for our family…
Our young family makes several outings a year where a travel trailer would come in handy. Quite often we were using it at church camp and other similar events where we didn’t have to pay for an RV space. We had grand visions of using the trailer for family outings but in the past couple of years we have used it once. We looked into renting a trailer but at a cost of approximately $600 a week it appeared to get quite expensive.
The trailer we bought was a 26’ Jag by K-Z trailer that has a full-size bed in the front. A kitchenette with microwave, stove, oven and fridge. A dining table and couch that folds out into a bed. Plus a bunk bed area next to the full bathroom. The trailer was bought on Craigslist for $5,500 and had a used book value of around $8,500 at the time. The awning on the trailer had been torn off and would need replacing, but that was a $500 repair.
Let me be clear. I think the whole RV / travel trailer lifestyle is pretty cool. We have met some neat people and everyone is super friendly. My thoughts are not a ‘slam’ on this lifestyle. My thoughts revolve around taking an honest look at how much it costs to have a travel trailer.
Some of the associated costs are insurance ($185 a year) and license tags ($56 a year). To increase towing stability I had a $400 stabilizing hitch put onto the truck which makes a HUGE difference towing a trailer this size. (The hitch makes the truck and trailer feel like one vehicle when it is going down the road.) Add another $200 for the electronic brake control that had to be installed in the truck to control the brakes on the trailer.
Along the way there seem to be lots of little parts that have broken on the trailer. I don’t know if it is our specific trailer or a general theme among them. A few that I can think of are the motor in the bathroom vent fan ($25), two plastic vent covers ($20 each), plastic retainer clips ($8 / 2), the sewer hose ($25) and probably several other items. Pretty much every time we took it out I found some little piece that needed to be repaired that would cost $20 or so.
Don’t forget the fuel to pull the trailer. Oh, the fuel! Many times I would get a whopping 8-10 mpg while pulling the trailer. Added wear and tear on the truck would also be another consideration.
Parking a Trailer
When we started doing some trailer camping I was surprised how much a spot can cost. They can range from $15 dollars a night up to $45 or $50 a night. Hookups usually include water, electric, WiFi and sometimes even cable.
Another thing to consider is where you will store the trailer. For a year we had our trailer parked off the end of our driveway with the tires sitting on some pavers. A city employee stopped by to let us know that was a violation of code. We would either have to park it on the driveway or erect a six-foot privacy fence. Many HOAs do not allow trailers to be parked on property, so you might have to pay $50-$100 a month to store the trailer offsite.
Is It Worth It?
Many people have asked me if they would be better off renting a trailer to take on their vacation. In most cases the answer is no. Let me give you an example…
One of the best places we put the trailer was The Vineyards campground in Grapevine, TX. This campground is pretty expensive but it is very well maintained and beautiful…you get what you pay for. Our spot was $45 a night and they require a minimum of two nights stay. With taxes it ran just over $100 for our two night stay. They also have cabins at the campground that can be rented for $85 a night. Using the price difference between RV spot and cabin, we could stay at the campground for approximately 140 days based on the purchase price of the trailer. That is 140 days of cabin living that doesn’t involve any maintenance time for me or additional expenses.
Owning a travel trailer has been a fun adventure for us, but not one that is cost efficient. We should be able to sell the trailer for close to what I paid for it even though we have owned it for a couple of years. There are many scenarios where owning a trailer or an RV makes since, but for us the numbers just didn’t add up.
Our trailer is on the very low end of the cost spectrum for trailers. Many trailers run $20,000 to $50,000 when bought brand new and come with amazing amenities. Motor homes start at around $65,000 and can easily run $400,000 with some of the mega rigs costing over $1,000,000. Depreciation is a huge factor to consider when buying a travel trailer or motor home. It costs a lot of money to have a mobile home away from home.
Anybody want to buy a trailer? 🙂
Update 9/2/14: I have noticed a lot of traffic on this post and thought an update would be good. You might want to check out The End of the Road: Our Travel Trailer for a detailed write up on an insurance claim that totaled our trailer. Trailering is a fun way of life for many, but I found the experience to be problematic and EXPENSIVE. I fully believe I bought a ‘lemon’ of a trailer so there is a lesson to be learned in buying something very expensive on CL that you know nothing about. I still think travel trailers and RVs are COOL! Unless I can work my way up to affording an Airstream I don’t see us getting another travel trailer.