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  1. #1
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    2,286

    Default RV vs. Car+Motel

    As a member here for more than 7 months, the one thing I've noticed are a lot of questions to compare renting an RV to traveling in a rental car and using hotels/restaurants.

    In the many resources here at RTA, there is a WONDERFUL article that may be easily lost. This article compares the two ways of road travel. As one who is "between RV's" at the moment, and have done both RV and car/motel road trips, I can say that this article is RIGHT on. Go to the second page and there is a Pro and con for each mode of travel. Here is the article.

    When we travel in the car and stop at a motel every night, we have the following issues: First, we get very tired of restaurants. We did better this past trip, trying to stay away from the chains, but restaurants still get tiring. If you're trying to watch your calorie or fat intake, it's even more difficult at a restaurant. Keeping snacks and drinks in a cooler in the car is nice, but sandwiches will get old after awhile, and salad makings die in a cooler after the first day or two. Trying to cook in the hotel microwave is difficult unless you eat frozen meals every night (which also gets about as old as restaurants). On top of these considerations, restaurants are just plain more expensive.

    The motels have their headaches too. In an RV, you know who slept in the bed last night (unless it's the first night in a rental), when the sheets were changed last, when the bedding was laundered last, and you don't have to unload the car every night. (However, you MAY need to hook up to the hookups, or back into a site.) As the article points out, some campgrounds can be just as expensive as cheaper hotels, but they are friendlier. Rarely have we ever stayed in a campground or RV park that made us nervous, but that's happened several times with motels.

    Anyway, if you're debating which method to use for travel, take a good look at that linked article.


    Donna

  2. #2
    Join Date
    May 2003
    Location
    Green County, Wisconsin
    Posts
    10,865

    Default

    I will say there are quite a few more way to eat in a car/motel trip than just Restaurants and Sandwiches.

    One of the things I won't go on a major trip without is either a tabletop grill or coleman stove. I actually end up using them mostly for picnic lunches, but they certainly can be used at a motel. Many motels will often already have a picnic table outside, and I've seen a few that even have a gas grill available for guests.

    Another thing I use a lot, especially if in winter, is a "Foreman" style electric indoor grill. You can plug it in right in your room and make quite a lot of different things like burgers, sausage, or chicken breast. Throw a side dish in the microwave, and you can make a quick easy meal without a full kitchen.

    Also, looking for extended stay type motels can be a great value because they'll typically have a full kitchen in the room. Many times the price isn't worth it, but there have been times where I've found such places that are very similar in price to other standard motels.

    Of course none of those things are quite as easy as having your own fridge/freezer right in the RV, next to a stove. And I'll certainly admit that a car/motel trip is going to involve a higher number of restaurants (which on the positive side, can be a great way to get out into a community and sample local flavors, as long as you are skipping the chains), but there are options when it comes to still eating cheap and healthy in a car/motel trip.
    Last edited by Midwest Michael; 12-27-2011 at 06:24 AM. Reason: clarification

  3. #3
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    4,335

    Default Agreed!

    I'd have to agree with Michael. Car / motel eating need not be one restaurant after another. Like him I always carry my small stove, as well as a sandwich maker. Interspersed with eating out, they add variety without necessarily foregoing quality.

    I also carry a plate, bowl, mug and cutlery, a teatowel... and tablecloth with cloth serviette. Some comforts I will not forgo! When I stay in a hostel, I always use my tablecloth. And I have been known to use it in restaurants, very few of which these days provide one.

    On top of that, I have my 12volt fridge in the car. Beats a wet mess in a cooler, any day.

    Lifey

  4. #4
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    9,477

    Default Types of RVs too

    It can also be helpful to get an overview of some of the different kinds of RV's out there.

    Mark

  5. #5
    Join Date
    Jul 2007
    Location
    South of England.
    Posts
    8,346

    Default It's a Lifestyle.

    As is often said in reply to these questions, first and foremost it should be a 'Lifestyle' choice, and as stated in the article Donna linked to "It's not for everyone". If you think it is for you, does it fit into your holiday plans ? I love the RV lifestyle but even so, if I wanted a vacation visiting places such as New York, Washington, Los Angeles and the like, [City life] an RV wouldn't be my choice of transport.

    Cost is an important factor when trip planning, and the RV is generally regarded as the more expensive option. The keyword here is 'Generally', as it's not always the case. Sure you can get a cheap Motel room some distance from a 'Major' attraction, and cheaper still perhaps just off Interstate, but if like me you want to stay in the 'heart' of it all [such as in the National parks or real close by] the costs of lodgings are generally much more expensive. On a short 2 week break from overseas, being 'there' [rather than a few miles away] can save a lot of time travelling back and forth to the attraction, and in peak season it could avoid having to queue in lines of traffic. That's where I find the RV in a world of it's own, being parked up and having it all in your 'Back yard'. Four adults sharing the cost on an RV vacation that is biased towards visiting National parks and who would not want to share one Hotel room, would not work out much different in cost compared to a car and Motels in my experience.

    The food situation is pretty much the same. You have to base it on what would be acceptable to you and your group and cost it accordingly. Yep, you can keep costs down and add a lot of variety into your eating, but again as an overseas visitor on a 2 week holiday I would not personally find buying a small camp table, camp stove, cooler box, plates, cutlery etc acceptable, nor would I like cooking in my Motel room. There is nothing wrong with it at all, but it's all these little things that need consideration before you decide. I would gladly buy snacks from a store and eat out, but I would miss not being able to pull off the road in the middle of 'nowhere' and be able to cook up a meal and have a hot drink while admiring the view and enjoy the solitude. Once again it is an option in the car with a stove, but it's not so nice if the weather isn't so great and you want to eat indoors, you haven't got the bathroom facilities either ! When set up in camp with the BBQ lit, you will most likely be saving money with every beer and glass of wine you pour compared to drinking when eating out. [Big bonus!] Often it seems that when you want to eat at popular locations, the queues are long, the food is expensive and the quality is poor, not in the RV !

    If you are travelling over long distances with only short stops [mainly 1 night] then the RV fuel bills could be huge ! You will also be spending much more time in the vehicle and less in the 'Great outdoors' as the RV is much slower going, especially off Interstate and on mountain roads. Those mountain roads are exactly where I will be heading in an RV to get to the Wilderness areas, so again you need to consider. Are you looking to rack up 500 miles a day and 'shoot through' ? If Yes, perhaps the RV isn't for you and if you decide it is, what about your passengers ? Up front in the RV is just fine, but in the back there are benches with less than comfortable seating for long periods and those travelling in the back will have to remain 'belted up' while the vehicle is moving.

    There is also the option of tent camping and travelling by car with the odd Motel stay as a treat that could save you money, if it would suit your Lifestyle that is. Most of us have to work with budget restraints. Would I stay in the prime National park lodgings and be waited on if I could afford too ? I can honestly say "No". Would I settle for something that wasn't what I wanted, like Interstate Motels ? No. [Or at least not while I think I have a chance of waiting and saving for what I want.] What I want is the RV Lifestyle and that is the single most important thing to me when considering the options.

    I guess the point is there is not a definitive answer, you have to base it on individual circumstances and want. If you really want to try an RV and can afford to do so, do it or you will never know. ! More RTA RV articles can be found here.

  6. #6

    Default

    Well said, Southwest Dave!

    Both RVs and Car+Motels trips have their own pros and cons. Choosing which one is better than the other really boils down to our individual preferences and where we feel like staying while traveling.

  7. #7
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    2,286

    Default

    I just did some calculations, based on a trip that my husband and I would love to take someday. This fairy-tale trip starts in San Diego, travels to Orlando FL, then up to Bar Harbor ME, crosses to Chicago and then central MO, up to Puget Sound, and then south on 101 and PCH back to San Diego. Total mileage: 12,500 plus misc. in sightseeing, so for cost purposes, I figured the mileage at 14,500.

    CAMPING VEHICLE (a truck camper, in this case, sometimes in a motel):
    Fuel costs: (15 mpg of diesel @ 5.00/gal) - $4833.
    Motels: (18 nights in motels @ 65/night) - 1170
    Camping: (14 nights average @ 20/night) - 280.
    Overnight with fam and friends: (18 @ 0) - 0.
    Restaurant meals: (35 days @ 60.) - 2100.
    Non-restaurant foods: $400. (This assumes I bring spices etc from home)
    Entrance fees/parking fees: $481.
    Total: $9264.

    CAR AND HOTEL/RESTAURANT
    Fuel: (same mileage, 25 mpg @4.50 for Premium) - $2610.
    Motel: (32 nights @ 65/night) - 2080.
    Overnights with fam/friends - 18 @ 0 - 0.
    Days in restaurants: (48 @ 60/day) - 2880.
    Entrance & Parking fees: 481.
    Misc. Food and drink: $200.
    Total: 8251.

    So the difference is about $1000 for a 52 day trip. Most of it is in fuel. I may have estimated very high for the gallon price, but I do that for every trip. Often times, we can get motels less expensive, and I find that $60.day for two in restaurants is about right. Honestly, though, when we camp or RV, the food we eat in the campground hardly should be included as an extra expense ... because we'd eat about the same at home.

    Anyway, just thought you'd all like to see the comparison!


    Donna

  8. #8
    Join Date
    Dec 2008
    Location
    Melbourne, Australia
    Posts
    4,335

    Default Renting??

    And that does not take into account the extra cost of renting an RV (rather than a car), which can also run into a four digit figure.

    Lifey

  9. #9
    Join Date
    May 2011
    Location
    Southern California
    Posts
    2,286

    Default

    I just did a little research on renting an RV, Lifey. My fantasy trip above assumed that we owned the truck camper in question. (We do -- we have a camper shell on the back of our pickup.)

    Renting a motor-home OR a travel trailer (assuming you have a vehicle already that can tow a travel trailer) is around $1000/week plus extras.

    I just priced a one-month, 10,000 mile trip with a rented travel trailer. The cost came out to $4077, but that was without bedding, cooking stuff, barbecue grill, or a tow-brake. (I did not have to include those because we still have all that stuff from our former TT, and the truck we have is fully equipped to tow a 26 ft TT.)

    My husband said, "no wonder people BUY them." The problem here in San Diego County, though, is STORAGE. If you don't have a driveway, backyard or property on which to store your own rig, you have another expense: renting storage space. Before we sold our TT, we were paying $80/month to store it, and that was on private property. They were going up to $90/month. Even the Marine base wanted $100/mo for storage.

    It's why several of our neighbors have purchased RV's that can fit in their driveway, and one built a special place in his side yard to house his. It's also why I've been chatting with hubby about replacing a camper shell with a full-out truck camper.


    Donna

  10. #10
    Join Date
    Jan 2000
    Location
    Las Vegas, Nevada
    Posts
    9,477

    Default Not even in most driveways!

    Quote Originally Posted by DonnaR57 View Post
    It's why several of our neighbors have purchased RV's that can fit in their driveway, and one built a special place in his side yard to house his
    Donna, the problem is further compounded by the fact that if you happen to live in an area under the control of a neighborhood association -- RV parking is only allowed if a passer-by on the street can not see the RV. So, parking in driveways and side yards is often prohibited by CC&Rs...

    Mark

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