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The Cost of an RV Vacation in Canada

The cost of an RV vacation can be equated to travelling in Canada – there’s a lot of choice and there are many variables to consider.

Where will you go RVing and for how long? Will you buy a trailer or motorhome or will you rent one, and how many travellers will there be? What about additional expenses such as insurance and storage?

Photo: Go RVing Canada

Affordability

In January of this year the 2020 Family Vacation Cost Analysis was released by the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) of Canada, the Canadian Recreational Vehicle Association (CRVA) and Go RVing Canada. The updated study was based on a family of two adults and two children travelling by different modes of transport and staying in various types of lodging. Five trips were analyzed (all with a high season ‘start date’ of Friday, July 16, 2021):

Printed with Permission from RVDA of Canada

In addition to trip expenditures such as fuel and food costs (showing that RVers spend less on dining out compared to hotel vacationers), the study also factored in estimated costs of various types of RV ownership (insurance, maintenance, storage and eventual depreciation).

Overall, the 2020 Family Vacation Cost Analysis concluded that RV travel “remains an affordable and a cost-effective way to vacation” and that “based on the parameters and data samples in the study, RV vacations are generally less expensive than those where the travel party stays in a hotel/motel”.

Rental Options

RV rental costs vary depending on which rental company or platform you select and the location, what type of unit you choose, the age of the RV, and more. You may opt for extra insurance, kilometer package rates, convenience kits for the family (which can average $75/pp) and don’t forget the GST and PST.

The author and her family had their first RV trip in 2020 and visited several Provincial Parks | Photo M. Carmichael

Expect to pay between $75-$150/night to rent most small trailers and campervans, while fifth wheels run from $60-$150/night, with larger trailers and motorhomes around $100-$250/night. A 25-ft Class C motorhome (with bed over the cab) can go for $1,000-$1,200/week, and Class A motorhomes, which range in size from 30-45 ft, are roughly $175-$275/night.

Jeff McSweeney of Vernon owns and operates Vantastic Campervan Rentals. All of his 2-person units are fully restored classic Chevy vans that, says McSweeney, “have been safety inspected, have new tires and brakes, and are fully equipped with fridge, stove, furnace and a coldwater sink”. Vantastic offers long weekend and week-plus options as well as longer trips (3-day rentals are $520, 7 days cost $1,160 and a 10-day rental is currently $1,580.) Adds McSweeney: “…our average Canadian booking is five days. We offer tips on places to go, sites to see and free places to camp along the way.”

Jeff McSweeney gives renters a USB stick with 1,000 songs & the vans come with camp chairs, an axe and a portable toilet | Photo courtesy Jeff McSweeney

Meridian RV Rentals, which has locations in both Port Coquitlam and 100 Mile House, lists a Class B off-season one-week rental for 4 people at $265/night. The prep fee is $90 and it offers optional 500 km or 1,000 km packages ($195 or $380 respectively).

Chilliwack-based Brad Harvey, sales rep for Canadian ultra-light trailer manufacturer ProLite, says that RV sales are currently “through the roof” and quoted ProLite weekly rentals (for 2-5 people) at between $625-$725/week.

To Buy or Not

There is always the option to purchase. As one RV dealer states on its website: “Money saved from hotel trips will help to easily make trailer payments.”

Some RV sales companies have vacation cost calculators on their websites. Research your finance options if this is required (RV dealers can assist with this; some banks specialize in it and even offer online loan calculators) and don’t forget the costs of insuring and storing your unit if the latter is a necessity.

Plans this year with the new (used) RV include a trip to Golden Ears Provincial Park

One Coquitlam family lucked out last year when a friend called them about someone putting up a ‘For Sale’ sign on a trailer. They had been actively looking and the market was “crazy due to COVID”. They quickly purchased the 30-ft 2009 Class C Coachmen Freelander. The sale price was $28,000 and it needed a new water tank, which the owner installed himself for $900. “I feel like we got a good deal,” said the owner. The family plans to use the RV to replace some of their vacation travel, to “safely visit” and spend time with other friends who RV, and to eventually attend the kids’ sports meets and tournaments.

Campgrounds

RV campsites in Canada cost anywhere from $40-$75/night, depending on location, size, and access to electricity and sewage. Expect to pay more at campgrounds or parks in high season and budget for additional costs such as laundry, wood, propane refills (average $20 for a 20 lb tank) and activities such as canoe or kayak rentals.

Be sure to factor into your budget activity costs such as canoe, kayak, bike rentals | Photo: M. Carmichael

British Columbia has over 1,700 campgrounds and they range from rustic to full-service. The four campground options are: national parks (Parks Canada), provincial campgrounds (BC Parks), privately operated campgrounds and RV parks (including municipal campgrounds), and recreation sites and Trails BC (operated by the provincial government). Check out BC campgrounds at campingrvbc.com.

RV Life

The vacation plusses that RVing provides are many, particularly during these pandemic times: you have your own space, you can bring what you need and stock up along the way, and you can cook and BBQ at your convenience or choose to dine out.

RV trips are certainly on the rise in Canada, and how affordable one is will depend on many factors. Have fun figuring it out and happy and safe exploring.

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For campgrounds and RV parks in British Columbia check out the Camping Map at campingrvbc.com.

Share your BC camping and travel photos using hashtag #campinbc, #exploreBC and #bcnice

Published: April 1st, 2021

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by Marney Carmichael

Marney Carmichael is a freelance journalist originally from Northern Ontario. She has lived and worked in seven countries and spent many years exploring and snowboarding in BC. She loves walking with her hound dogs and is currently rediscovering Canada with her family.