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Old 08-17-2013, 10:47 AM   #1
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Analysis motorhome vs hotel vs pulling an airstream

Can anyone help me understand pros and cons of these different options to include daily cost to operate?
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Old 08-17-2013, 11:06 AM   #2
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I think it depends on your amount of use and where you go. If you are buying new Airstream, it would take a long time to off set the cost. I used to tell folks that my initial desire to camp was justified by the cost savings. When I got into buying a new Airstream the pendulum shifted the other way.

Now I justify the cost based on my preference of sleeping in my own bed and not having to worry about bed bugs!

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Old 08-17-2013, 11:16 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sittingbl View Post
Can anyone help me understand pros and cons of these different options to include daily cost to operate?
Recreational Vehicle Association of America commissioned a study on that very subject a few years ago. I looked up that study and read it while deciding whether to buy an RV. Travel trailers came in as the second cheapest form of vacation; only tent camping came in cheaper.

The rankings were based on cost per day of use, not per year, and assumed that the various RV alternatives included a trade-in or resale at some point so that you would recoup some of the purchase price.

Class B motorhomes like my Interstate weren't even mentioned, so the study wasn't as much help as I'd hoped.

But if memory serves, the general ranking, least to most expensive went something like this:
1 - tent camping
2 - travel trailers
3 - class C motorhomes
4 - driving your own car to a hotel
5 - flying, renting a car, and staying in a hotel
6 - class A motorhomes
7 - cruise liners

Memory may not serve— the more senior I get, the more senior moments I have— so that ranking may not be exact, but it should be close.

And of course, a more expensive travel trailer like an Airstream may skew the rankings slightly, pushing the cost of Airstreaming closer to the Class C cost. And I estimate that a class B Airstream Interstate comes in somewhere above a class C and below driving your own car to hotels.
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Old 08-17-2013, 12:36 PM   #4
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Very helpful all these posts. My secret side of me is hard core data analysis. I might do some analysis with some set of assumptions (trip, distance) and see what I come up with and share out here.
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Old 08-17-2013, 12:48 PM   #5
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We have been tracking the cost per day of our travels pulling our trailers and using our MoHo. I just finished a 10 day trip on the MoHo staying a week at a $100.00 per night site and fuel cost, average $103.00 per day. We did a motel trip in July staying for a week and cost per day was over $225.00 per day. Case solved!! Enjoy your travels.
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Old 08-17-2013, 12:48 PM   #6
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Re: Travel Expense Calculations - Prius/hotel versus Tundra/Airstream

Last year, I did this comparison before visiting relatives in San Francisco:

Note: We have a 2005 19-foot Bambi, departed from Phoenix, AZ, and stayed with relatives in the Bay Area.

==========

SF Trip without Airstream, staying at a hotel halfway - 1,625 miles round trip, fuel only @ $4.00/gallon:

* Prius Fuel = $171 (38 mpg, highway)

* Tundra Fuel = $394 (16.5 mpg, highway)

* Hotel expense (Rodeway Inn, Barstow, one night each way) = $176 (2x$68)

Prius + hotel = $347

Tundra + hotel = $570

==========

Same trip with Tundra & Airstream:

* Tundra & Airstream Fuel = $482 (13.5 mpg, highway)

* Campground (Brite Lake County Park Campground, no hookups, one night each way) = $30 (2x$15)

Tundra & Airstream = $512

==========

The advantages for taking our Bambi were that we stayed three days in Tehachapi on the return trip as a mini-vacation, which cost only $30 extra. And, we had our own accommodations in the Bay area, and didn't have to impose by staying with relatives for a week (although, we parked in their driveway).

Note: Not sure about others, but over a week, we need an occasional break from our relatives; so our Bambi provides a little privacy and quiet time when we need it. Plus, it's nice to be able to sleep-in late, take a nap in the afternoon, and sleep in your own bed at night. (OK, I realize this makes me sound like an old-f@rt.)
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Old 08-17-2013, 01:24 PM   #7
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We use our Airstream a lot; about 60 nights a year.
But once you include the purchase price of the tow vehicle, and fuel and the trailer in your cost per night calculations; you can stay in the finest hotels for less.
But that is not why we have Airstreams.
We have them to be free from hotels and motels.
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Old 08-17-2013, 01:36 PM   #8
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I think one of the big expenses is food. When you stay in a hotel, you are eating out three meals a day, and that's pretty expensive if you stay somewhere a week. If you have an RV full of groceries to whip up meals for yourself, you will save a lot of money there.

Plus I find it more relaxing because you can go relax or take a nap in your RV, when in a hotel I never feel like it's 'home'. I think the comfort or staying in your own place has a value that is hard to put a number on.
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Old 08-17-2013, 01:38 PM   #9
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How can you include the purchase price of the yow vehicle? You still have the tow vehicle. After the trip using the hotel, all you have is the hotel receipt.
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Old 08-17-2013, 01:41 PM   #10
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How can you include the purchase price of the yow vehicle? You still have the tow vehicle. After the trip using the hotel, all you have is the hotel receipt.
That should read "tow" vehicle.
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Old 08-17-2013, 01:51 PM   #11
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How can you include the purchase price of the yow vehicle? You still have the tow vehicle. After the trip using the hotel, all you have is the hotel receipt.
Think of it this way: Would you have bought an Airstream if you weren't going to use it? Of course not. So the cost of using your Airstream has to include the cost of buying it, prorated over the number of days you actually use it. That makes an Airstream very economical for a full-timer, less so for a weekender.

Would you have bought a tow vehicle if you didn't need it to tow your Airstream? That depends. But as long as you're using it to tow your Airstream, you have to prorate the cost of the tow vehicle over the number of days you're using it. Most people use their tow vehicles as daily drivers as well, you the cost is spread over a greater number of days, and only part of the cost of the tow vehicle is applied to the cost of the vacation. But at least some of the cost has to be included for a fair comparison.
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Old 08-17-2013, 01:53 PM   #12
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Plus, hotels frown on having a fire on your balcony or porch/deck area.

Regarding the cost of your tow vehicle and Airstream. I figure the tow vehicle cost is the same whether you take your Airstream or not, so it's a wash.

Regarding your Airstream, one can probably only justify the cost if they are full-timing. Otherwise, you could rent an RV for two weeks a year for a long time before ever breaking even. Plus, a rental is usually a fairly recent model in roadworthy condition, and maintenance is covered in the rental cost; so 10 years from now, the rental you get will still be fairly new, while your Airstream will be starting to show its age, need some maintenance, and probably a second set of replacement tires.

Therefore, I wouldn't even bother to try and cost justify purchasing an Airstream. From a financial standpoint, it's like buying a boat; it's just a really dumb idea. However, how much value do you put on camping in the outdoors with your family? Sometimes, you just have to bite the bullet and not worry about the cost -- or, not. That's the difference between an Airstreamer and regular people.
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Old 08-17-2013, 02:05 PM   #13
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We use our Airstream a lot; about 60 nights a year.
But once you include the purchase price of the tow vehicle, and fuel and the trailer in your cost per night calculations; you can stay in the finest hotels for less.
But that is not why we have Airstreams.
We have them to be free from hotels and motels.
Actually, try staying in hotels 60 night a year, every year, and say that. When my career and I were both younger, I had to travel a lot more for business than I do now, and stayed in a lot of hotels. I got reimbursed for it after the trips were over, but it was still a lot of money out-of-pocket until the reimbursement check came.

It's not just the cost of the hotel. It's also meals, transportation (plane tickets, rental car, etc.). It all adds up. RVIA's commissioned study on relative vacation costs took that all into account. Here's a link to the study:
http://www.airstreams4rent.com/PKF_Consulting_Study.pdf

Turns out, in my earlier post where I first mentioned the study, my memory WAS a little bit faulty as to the particulars, but not too far off. Anyway, check out Table 1 in the study…
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Old 08-17-2013, 02:11 PM   #14
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I LOVE CAMPING!!! That is a big reason to own a camper. Also, our dogs love to go camping. I refuse to stay in a hotel unless it is an absolute emergency. I know my camper bed, sofa, bath, sheets, etc are clean and you cant always say that about a hotel room. Owning a camper and TV may cost more, but you have got to love it and we do.
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Old 08-17-2013, 02:18 PM   #15
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A lot of it is about the freedom to be where you want in nice surroundings as opposed to being in a cookie cutter room and eating out, to say nothing about carrying all that stuff back and forth. In our case it is much cheaper as we favor out of the way spots and generally average $6. a night outside of planned rallies. We probably would not go at all if we had to do the hotel thing.

I used to think it was just because I was frugal (alright cheap) but I found out I didn't like the hotel/ airport/motel thing any better when some one else was paying for it
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Old 08-17-2013, 02:35 PM   #16
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For me its a matter of my own bed, my own food and my own schedule. I went the TT route because I wanted to be able to drop the trailer and still have a vehicle to run around in. I plan to RV for 4-6 months a year and for the other months wanted a decent vehicle for everyday use. With a MH you might need to tow yet another vehicle for groceries etc. I did not want to do that. BTW, I have encountered a number of 5th wheelers who indicated that they wish they had gone the TT route. Sometimes shorter is better.
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Old 08-17-2013, 02:36 PM   #17
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Another thing to consider is pets. We have two dogs, and cost to board them together is $35 per day. When we travel by air and stay in hotels, they have to be boarded, unless i can find a house sitter. When we take the trailer, they always go with us. They are happier and we are happier having them with us. What price can you place on that?
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Old 08-17-2013, 02:41 PM   #18
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A new 25 Flying Cloud is about $55,000. If you finance it, there will be some interest cost as well. A good TV costs more than a family sedan. For argument's sake, call it an extra $10,000 or so. This means you have about $65,000 in capital cost before you spend a single night in the Airstream.

That can buy a lot of travel by car or plane. In my analysis, you have to offset this heavy capital cost with something - - and for me it is adventure. The AS is an adventuresome wickedly romantic way to travel, not much of an economical one. It produces a sense of freedom that is hard to come by in modern life. If your life revolves only around the bean counting, an RV is really hard to justify. Just like boats are hard to justify.

So, you begin with a $65,000 investment, then you have travel costs on top of that. A typical day of travel includes $75 in gas and another $30 in park fees, plus food. You're at about Motel 6 cost right there. But man o' man, what's it worth to avoid those "juicy" Motel 6 beds? For me, the AS is priceless.

Probably a realistic cost comparison of use, is to compare trailers to MoHos, or Class Bs. Can you imagine trying to justify a $600,000 MoHo?

For people standing on the outside looking in, an Airstream may seem impractical as a way to travel. Absurd in fact. But you have to experience it, to fall in love with it. Then, the money is not that important, other than to know that it is definitely in the category of a luxury expense.
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Old 08-17-2013, 07:35 PM   #19
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This is an interesting thread, and in the end its all about choice.
If you want an Airstream/rv then buy one.
If you want to travel and stay in hotels then do.
Point being, if you want to travel, pick you mode, then economize to the budget you set to pay for your choice.
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Old 08-17-2013, 08:12 PM   #20
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You have to make two decisions. One decision is weather you are a camper or you like to stay in motels. My kids used to ask me "dad, why do we have to camp? Why can't we just stay in a motel like other people. I used to tell them, we may just as well stay home. Staying in a motel is too much like just staying home." I guess I am a camper.

The other question is mh or trailer. I made that decision about 15 years ago. I felt the TV/trailer was more flexible and much more economical. We bought a new 08 Tundra for 25k and have less than 10k in a 66 Tradewind. Both are very reliable and work well for us. The TV is probable still worth 20k and I sure would not sell the Tradewind for less than 10k, so it has not been real expensive for us. Plus I am continuaully upgrading the Tradewind and customizing it to my own specs.

I really enjoy going to music and bluegrass festivals. Most of these take place where camping is available. Most of the time we boondock and camping is free or close to it. This works for us.

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