Sense & Centsibility Blog
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Six Things to Consider Before Buying a Camper

It’s summer and camping season is upon us. Everywhere you look there is someone pulling a camper, usually stacked with bikes or kayaks. For some that may look like a lot of work and the potential for a disastrous vacation experience, but for me that looks like a whole lot of fun and family time rolling down the road. My husband and I have kids who are old enough to adventure with us, yet they’re young enough to still want to spend time with mom and dad. I know this window is small, so we are making the most of this time by traveling and adventuring together. 

One of our favorite ways to do that is with a camper. The benefits are seemingly endless.

  • There’s a kitchen and bathroom with you at all times.
  • You sleep in your own bed.  
  • You almost always have everything you need, and you aren’t hauling your stuff in and out of hotel rooms at every stop.  
  • Travel options are boundless as you can camp almost anywhere.

What could be better than this quality family time? Now before you go selling all of your worldly possessions to live on the open road, here are a few costs you will want to take into consideration.

  1. What is your getaway goal? For some, a camper is a way to travel and still have your own space. For others, it is a portable cabin for a seasonal campsite. Shop for the camper that fits your lifestyle. Let’s talk about the numbers. The average cost of a seasonal campsite is about $2500 a season and a campsite is generally $25/night if you average in free sites in some states.   So if you camp for an average of one weekend a month that adds about $50/month to the cost of your camper. If you have a seasonal site that will average $209/month to the cost of your camper.
  2. Where are you going to store it? Indoor storage will be about $60/month for six months out of the year; adding $30/month to the overall cost of the camper. If you have space to store it outdoors that will be no cost; however, you may have some additional repair costs due to the elements. This can be costly if it leads to leaks and water damage. Winterization will be necessary for outdoor storage — add $10/month for winterization.
  3. How will you tow your camper? If you are getting a towable camper, make sure your vehicle has the power to tow. The more powerful the vehicle, the more expensive the vehicle is to buy, insure and fuel. This may have an impact on the size of the rig you buy. Whatever the average miles per gallon (MGP), you can drop that by at least five MPG’s when you are towing. In addition, the travel will add wear and tear to your vehicle (tires are a great example of this) so you will need to add a little extra for that. Take that all into consideration and expect an additional $75/month. However, in my opinion having a bathroom with you wherever you go is priceless.
  4. What will you pay for insurance and registration? The average insurance cost is about $230/year and only about $25/year for registration, totaling approximately $21.25/month. This is for a medium sized camper in Minnesota — keep in mind costs will vary.
  5. How much could repairs cost? Like vehicles and ATVs, you will need to repair and maintain this unit regularly. It is not a matter of “if” something will happen, it is a matter of “when.” Just ask the beaver that chewed down a tree that fell on our camper at 4:00 a.m. and broke the vent covers!
  6. How will you finance it? The terms for camper loans are unique. You will see a camper with a big price tag, but a reasonable monthly payment. That is because you can extend the loan term to 15 years resulting in a lower payment, but that will also pretty much guarantee you will be upside down on your camper, not to mention the amount of interest you end up paying over a 15-year term. That camper will cost you SO MUCH MORE in the long run! Therefore, saving up to buy it outright is ideal. But if you can’t do that, make sure you keep the big picture in mind and not just the monthly payment. 

If a camper is in your sights, be sure to take all of the costs into consideration first and make sure it’s affordable. If it ends up being unaffordable, you won’t be able to travel much — which defeats the purpose of buying the camper in the first place!

If you’re unsure whether or not you can afford to buy a camper due to your monthly expenses or debts, give LSS a call at 888.577.2227 to schedule your free, confidential financial counseling session. Our expert counselors can help you set up a realistic budget and determine if you can afford the purchase now, or if it’s best to save up and wait. You can also get started online.

Author, Ashley Hagelin is a Counseling Supervisor with LSS Financial Counseling.