Anyone who owns an RV knows that it can get expensive, quickly. Boats, RVs, sports cars – if there is one thing that they all have in common, it’s unexpected costs. So, can you maintain a tight budget and maintain your RV? We think so. Here are 8 ways to conserve cash and also be safe on the road.

1. Learn which things will need constant attention

It’s no secret that RVs are not a one and done deal. When you purchase a car, you can schedule regular oil changes and tire rotations and be fine for years. Not so with RVs, especially used ones. There are several things that can derail your adventure and cost unexpected money. Keep a notebook or spreadsheet of each of these items, the date you checked it, and the condition. You’ll thank yourself in the future. 

Here is a starter RV Maintenance Checklist:
Tire Tread, tire pressure
Window Seals
Roof Seals
Wheel Bearings (travel trailers)
Engine Fluids (motorized RVs)
Windshield Wipers (motorized RVs)
Hitch and frame (pull-behinds)
Brakes on tow vehicle, and break away cable (pull-behinds)
Battery – check voltage, fluids (all of them – inside, interior, and tow vehicle)
Storage bays – check for leaks and locks
Generator – oil level, run once a month
Awnings – check motor and for mold
Slide-outs: check motor, grease tracks
Refrigerator – check the connections
Hot water heater: check connections
Water intakes: check for leaks
Tanks: check for leaks and chemicals
Propane system: run stove, check lines

While this list certainly isn’t comprehensive, you can start here, and build onto it for your own RV.

2. Watch RV repair videos

There is no better friend to the RV owner than YouTube. You can search for help with anything you can imagine, down to the year, make and model of your rig. Here are some search tips:

  1. Start with Beginner help for xx (your issue – for example, squeaky brakes) and the type of rig you have, and if popular, the make and model. For example: “Beginner help for battery drain on a Winnebago Sunseeker.”
  2. From these results, find videos with the most views and many thumbs-up (votes). This will help you waste less time watching sub-par videos.
  3. Find blog posters you trust, who are sharing their knowledge and have a following. These are usually contributors who are dedicated to helping others and have amassed good knowledge. Here are three you could check out:

3. Learn from other’s mistakes

Listen when your dealership or others warn you of common problems, especially with the particular RV make and model you chose. RVInsider is a great source for consumer reviews written by actual RV owners. Certain types of RVs are prone to issues, and being prepared for that will help you panic less when things go wrong. Example: If you know your RV will go through oil quickly, you can buy your oil at your local Wal-Mart vs on the road at a gas station, which will be pricier. 

In addition, knowing that certain parts will wear out at regular intervals or something will likely break with use gives you the opportunity to source the part ahead of time and shop around for low prices on it. Examples: worn entry stair carpet / tread (prevents slipping), door and bay keys that bend (get some spares), and bulbs for your safety lights around the rig.

4. Find a source of bargain parts and accessories

From lights to fuses to propane, there is no shortage of things on your buy list. A great way to save cash is to search for discount RV stores and shop there. Ebay has great sellers of only RV parts, as does Amazon. You can often find someone getting rid of what you are seeking on Offer Up or Facebook (private Sellers). Coupons and annual sales also provide good opportunities to pick up needed items at bargain prices.

5. Stockpile things you know you need repeatedly

Fluids, propane, fuses, charcoal, paper towels – these are but a few of the things a camper needs to replenish. Find a sale or hit a big-box store and load up your garage with items you can grab before you hit the road. 

6. Use your RV storage wisely

Although it may be fun to bring every beach chair and outdoor toy imaginable, saving some room for an item that would be expensive if you had to buy it on the road is a great use of space. Set aside some space just for the must-haves.

Photo by Togo RV

7. Prep work saves money

The most vulnerable parts of your RV are the roof and the tires. Stay ahead of potential problems by performing maintenance on them at regular intervals. Here are a few common maintenance items:

  1. Check the tread for uneven wear, rotate often
  2. Keep them covered with tire covers – sunlight and tires are enemies
  3. Inspect the seals on your roof before every trip. Replace your seals every 3-4 years if your RV is not covered
  4. Cover your RV when not in use with a breathable cover

8. Roadside assistance can be your friend in need

When you need to get out of a jam, the last thing you want is to be calling around for a tow truck in the middle of nowhere, or in a strange town. Here are a few options that offer pricing scales to help you save money:

  1. Good Sam. You can choose from 3 levels of plans to fit your budget, and they have sales a few times a year. You can get a Good Sam plan for $49 if you hit a sale. 
  2. AAA. They have an RV option for a bit more than auto, around $128 / yr.
  3. USAA. Their RV option is lower priced than others if you have insurance with them. 

Call your insurance company and ask them about adding roadside assistance to your plan. Make sure that they cover towing, and ask what distance. 

Keep in mind that some roadside RV plans may not work for you if you venture often to remote places, or are a boondocker / wilderness adventurer. Be sure to ask! And finally, keep your roadside assistance card handy at all times. Better yet – download their app to your phone, and log in and make sure you can access your plan before you go. 

We hope that these money-saving RV preparedness tips will help ease your wallet and your mind, and keep you safer and stress free as an RV owner. If you are still searching for your perfect RV, take a look at Happy Camping! 

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