If you’ve owned an RV of any description, it’s appreciated that one of the regular costs to bear is for RV parks or RV campsites. Why are RV parks so expensive? While they used to be very affordable, as the cost of land has risen, so too has the RV park rates for an overnight stay. Nevertheless, they remain busy – especially during the peak season and at popular spots.
It pays to research well and booking ahead to avoid disappointment. This way, you can get the plot you prefer if you’ve picked one out that’s perfect or have visited previously and know exactly what you like.
Why are RV parks so expensive? It’s a common complaint amongst RVers. Certainly, the land is pricey and cannot be replicated. RVing has become extremely popular across all adult-age demographics from Millennials to the Gen-X crowd, early retirees, and the Snowbirds too. RV rentals are now a popular way to take a vacation without owning an RV yet.
Demand has gone way up which is reflected in rising RV park rates too. Plus, along with RV campground rates, the cost of providing added services such as security, water, trash management, sewer disposal, and maintenance all don’t come cheap either.
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To learn more about why RV parks and campsites are more expensive and how to get better deals for yourself, read on.
Public RV Campgrounds vs. Private RV Campgrounds
A clear demarcation line should be drawn between public RV campgrounds and private RV campgrounds.
Public RV Campgrounds
Public campgrounds for RVs, trailers, and campers are offered and run by the local municipalities. They put money into these facilities and run them proudly. Often it serves as a profit center to them, but they’re also an excellent tourism advertisement for the municipality, city, state too. They draw in more visitors who enjoy the grounds, the facilities and spend money while in the area before moving on.
Private RV Campgrounds
Private campgrounds for RVs are privately owned enterprises run for a profit by the business owner.
They tend to have more facilities available to people staying there compared to a public campground. Also, they may be open to suggestions about new facilities, such as a dedicated dog-walking area (whereas the hoops you’d have to jump through trying to get a municipality to offer the same doesn’t bear thinking about).
Average RV Campground Rates Per Night for Public Campgrounds
Public campgrounds for RVs vary in quality and facilities provided. This is to be expected because there are thousands available in the U.S. and over 13,000 when including Canada too.
For instance, some may be a simple dry camping spot with no hookups whereas others many have full hookups to keep your RV running without having to turn on the noisy generator and bother your neighbors. A few public RV campgrounds offer electricity and water access, but not much more than that. It varies enormously, so it’s best to clarify before booking.
The public places often get the choice spots with great scenery and privacy from the road which for nature lovers or people who prefer to be a little more away from it all, holds some attraction.
Average RV Rates for Public Campgrounds
Bradbury Mountain, Maine Campground — $15 ($25 for non-residents)
Rangeley Lake, Maine Campground — $20 or $30 with electric & water hookups ($30/$40 for people from out of state).
Tomoka State Park, Florida — $24 per day, $168 for one week with access to a fire ring, water hookups, picnic table, and pets allowed too.
White River National Forest, Frisco Bay, Peak One Campground, Northern Colorado – $22 to 25 with access to toilets and potable water.
Malaekahana State Recreation Area, North Shore, Oahu, Hawaii — $9.41 per night with access to toilets and a beach shower.
Public Campground Camping Tips
To reduce the regular RV campsite rates, various discounts are available at public campgrounds depending on whether you qualify for them or not.
For instance, holders of the federal Senior Pass (formally the Golden Age Passport) which covers monuments and national parks often receive a 50 percent discount. A few state parks also accept it and offer discounts when it’s presented too.
A few state parks have annual passes that cut the cost of staying there. State residents may also get a discount if you’re a senior citizen too. Also, the America the Beautiful annual pass provides unlimited access to national parks and federal recreational land with discounted overnight stays too.
Various community parks and state and federal ones offer some free days each year. The Corps of Engineers and USACE also have free days annually too. So, look out for local updates in the media or sign up for their email newsletters to get notified about special rates.
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Average RV Campground Rates Per Night for Private Campgrounds
Private RV parks and campgrounds dictate their policies when it comes to pricing, services & facilities, and the time of the year that they’re open too.
It’s fair to say that private campground rates are more expensive than public ones. With that said, invariably they offer more to the weary RV traveler.
Their location can sometimes be spectacular and other times, not so much. But what really shines is the amenities which usually put the public RV parks and campgrounds to shame. So, if you can afford them, then head there.
Affordable RV Parks: Average Park & Campground Rates
Fort De Soto Campground, Tierra Verde, Florida — $40.12 to $45.77 including various fees and state tax. Includes access to electricity, grills, picnic tables, showers, and restrooms. Special camping spots for RVs (or tents) specific for pet owners.
Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California — $63 for Fountain views and $68 for Riverfront views. $378-408 per week. Additional costs for more than 2 people or extra vehicles on the plot. Good Sam Club/Seniors 10% discount and 15% off for Veterans too. Facilities include a spa treatment facility.
Narrows Too Camping Resort, Bar Harbor, Trenton, Maine — $77 to 145 per night, including access to the clubhouse, swimming pool, water, electric, sewer, cable TV, fire pits, and picnic tables. Pets are allowed, there’s a dog park, and the resort is just minutes away from the Acadia National Park too.
Private Campground Camping Tips
With private RV parks and campgrounds, you’re paying for the location and the many amenities.
Some RV parks are full resorts with people staying weeks or months. They enjoy the swimming pool, hanging out at the clubhouse, and full hookups. It’s a vacation for them; not a place to park up for a day or two.
Other commercial RV parks are more basic with perhaps electric and water hookups provided, and a firepit with some wood left behind by the previous occupant.
When wanting the most affordable private RV park or campground, then it pays to look around, keep your ear to the ground, and see what your fellow travelers recommend in the state. Many will have already visited the state at least once and will likely have a strong view of an RV park or campground nearby.
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Why are Some RV Parks So Expensive?
The more amenities and other features present in the RV park or campground, the costlier it is to provide them. With parks and campgrounds becoming busier than ever over the last few years, these destinations have had to hire & train more staff and deal with extra wear and tear at their facilities too.
Some of the most expensive things to provide and maintain include:
- Campground and building maintenance
- Preparing for Emergencies
- Keeping the store fully stocked
- Arranging bike, canoe, and other rentals
- Clear signage and navigation around the park
- Security procedures and Patrol staff
- Picnic spots
- Fire rings or fire pits
- Wood supply for fire-making
- Bathroom and shower maintenance
- Provision of electricity, potable water, and/or RV dump stations
- Landscaping around the grounds
- Trash collection and removal
Ultimately, there’s a great deal going on behind the scenes that people who rent RV plots or take a spot at a campground don’t even realize.
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Can I Stay Somewhere More Affordable?
In most cases, heading for the public campgrounds will be cheaper. However, they’re scattered about and you may find if they’re full that you’ll need to use a private RV park instead.
The other alternative for a convenient stay is to use one of the free overnight parking options which we previously covered in our article about where you can park for free?