Saturday, May 17, 2014

Calculating the REAL Cost of Travel

Calculating the costs of living on the road varies from person to person depending on the travel rig and the way one travels.  I thought it might be interesting to calculate the costs from my last trip and factor in the averaged costs of my little home and the maintenance upkeep.  While there is no comparison with the costs of maintaining a sticks and bricks dwelling, there is still maintenance to be done. 

Currently I travel in Lolita, my cute little vintage trailer.  It is sixteen (13 feet of cozy living space).  I bought Lolita for a pittance a few years ago and have continued to do routine maintenance and a few upgrades.  Some of the upgrades are portable like my portable solar and refrigerator so while costly they can go into any unit I might upgrade to.   (Yes, I am always looking but haven't found a unit with the upgrades I want AND the charm of vintage). 

The cost of gas and any camping cost and ice are easy to see and add up as you cruise down the road.

What is more difficult to factor in is the scheduled and unscheduled maintenance.  While the specifics of my maintenance and upkeep will be specific to my rigs and style of travel, the process of what I included may be helpful for others and it will certainly be helpful to me in the future.  

Finally, I need to factor in the clutsy mistakes that seem to follow me around. While some people seem to fall into mud puddles and come out clean,  I have always had my own personal dark cloud that follows me and it always seems to add up to dollar signs.  On top of that my granddaughter suffers from the same clutsy fate so between the two of us we will probably break plenty of equipment adding to the bottom line.  

 So here goes......The easy stuff......  

Utah Specific costs:  Obviously these will change for shorter trips with less intensive traveling and sightseeing for 16 days.  I would also like to compare later this summer costs when I am traveling with less intensive travel and sightseeing. 

Mileage for the Utah trip     3562miles        Per day average 222 miles        
Cost for Gas   274 gallons     $996.00        Per day average gas costs        $ 62.25     
Campground  costs                $151             Per day average                          $9.44

Generally the truck get 15 miles per gallon, while pulling the trailer this drops down to 13 miles per gallon.  On this trip I was plagued with massive mountain climbing while towing and head winds often at the same time.   Usually when traveling I stop when facing towing with head winds... on trips such as this....(full steam ahead on limited schedule), I had little choice about traveling with head winds.  During such travel, I just watched the gas gage drain down to empty.

I carry full insurance for maintenance bumper to bumper for my tow vehicle.  What that means in term of monthly expenses is I must keep up with factory scheduled maintenance schedules (at my additional cost) and then all repairs are done at $100 per repair for the next 4 years.  I have found this to be good for peace of mind although the initial cost is not inexpensive ($45 per month averaged over the  next 4 yrs).

Like any home, I anticipate that repairs will need to be made to my home on  wheels as well.  This includes tires, wheel bearing repacking and anticipate a monthly expense for upkeep and maintenance.  When anticipating living in an RV people are excited to rid themselves of a mortgage payment but some maintenance cost need to be anticipated in

What is not included in this is the boo boos that happen along the way....the things that are broken, lost or used up along the way.  Whether you are in a sticks and bricks or home on wheels stuff happens and needs to be repaired.  It is all part of the costs of living.

This trip's boo boo's included:
  • Development of Inverter / truck incapability issues   Wiring of the truck to the 12 volt  sources in the truck stopped charging through invertor.  The Dodge dealership  said the wiring is not high enough gage to support the inverter so it kept blowing the fuze for This will require an upgraded 12 volt higher demand outlet.  Luckily it did not completely burn out the wiring in the truck and I am still able to charge the phone and MiFi in the truck.  More solor power is needed in the trailer to handle the big stuff.... like the portable compressor refrigerator/freezer.

  •  The topper for the truck bed is brand new.  It folds into sections to access the cargo locked underneath. While pushing cargo towards the back, Hailey ripped off where the under harness was  attached.  I'm hoping larger screws will solve the problem....with my handy gal efforts.  One can hope can't they? 
  • The handle off the solar case broke off while carrying it out of the trailer.  Luckily the case protected the glass panels from damage but certainly has made getting the panels in and out of the trailer more challenging. (Currently looking for a sturdy handle that will support the weight of the case and panels)

  • MiFi went for a swim in a coffee cup when it fell out of it's cubby in the truck.  Initially the digital readout did not work but after a thorough drying out it is currently working but it certainly may affect it's longevity and I will update it to the next model when that happens.
Keep on working, baby!

  • Heater output in the trailer quit along with a strong smell of propane.  I stopped using the heater (not a good thing on an April trip into the high desert!  I did have a Heater Buddy along but mostly we used extra blankets and just used the stove top to take off the chill in morning and night to take off the chill.)  Now who doesn't love a good cup of coffee or cocoa to take the chill off.  I will have the trailer back to a propane specialist and test all systems before we use the heater again.  I am beginning to wonder if all new propane lines are in order.
I have always carried an alternate source for cooking outside and heat for emergencies and will continue to do this in the future.  It just makes good sense to me since  we are not always in an area serviced by repairmen or takeout.

I haven't decided whether I will invest in the repairs for the items above since I am hoping to change  trailers in the near future.   I may wait until I get a different trailer and fit the truck and trailer so that they work smoothly together.  whether you maintain an emergency fund for repairs or plan for a monthly maintenance funding of repairs, you must include the cost in the real cost of travel.

So actually the longer I put these figures together, the less important they seem.  The most important part is always finding a way to put your dreams together to make a wonderful reality.

Bottom Line - The Trip was Priceless


  1. Really nice detailed account of the costs. It's true that those little things add up. Something wears out especially if you have a used rig like we do. Or somebody makes a mistake which always seems to be costly.

  2. Nice summary of your expenses. We get pretty much the same mileage as you do. We're planning to take a 6 week trip and trying to know what it's going to cost is a challenge.

    We had a major major boo boo a couple years ago coming back from a trip out west. $10k damage to our truck. Fortunately it didn't ruin our trip since it happened on the way home, but it would have been nice NOT to have happened.

    Totally agree with your last statement - the trip was priceless.

    1. I did an estimate based on mileage with MapQuest fuel cost estimator. It actually came out pretty close. That is awful about the damage to your truck.... I hope this trip goes with that kind of challenge!! Happy Trails!!

  3. Hi, klbexplores,

    It takes me forever to get around to all the blogs I want to read. I enjoyed this post very much. Boo-boos are bound to happen and when they cost us $$$... well, that's part of the cost of travel . .

    BTW, thank you for listing my blog in your sidebar. My blog address is now You must have the address which is why it shows my last post as being 11 months ago, before I started self-hosting.

    You have the same jetpack I have. Dropping it in the coffee cup is one boo-boo I hope I never do! Thanks for a good read.

    1. Thanks for bringing your blog address to my attention. I changed it on my news feed but didn't think to change it on the blog roll. I have been enjoying your adventures in Utah. Wish I was traveling there too!

  4. I like the way you figured out everything. Since I have the mid-sized Dodge I get a little better mileage but I notice once it's loaded and ready to go the mileage drops considerable.

    And yes the trip is priceless.

  5. Yes, the milage dropped when I went from my mid-sized pick-up to the big boy.... put it sure pulled nice up the mountains pulling the trailer!! It was a grand time!!

  6. Whether stationary or on the move, those boo-boos always add up. At $2150/month for fuel and campground it is easy to see that traveling at that intensity all the time would not only be exhausting but expensive :-). Still, memories are indeed priceless.

  7. Jodee, you are so right....I certainly couldn't afford to travel that many miles every month.... winters are long here and I was able to set aside money for gas for this adventure! It was my reward for surviving winter!