The 55 Gallon Elephant in the Room

Recently, American RV arranged a Class C motorhome rental for our family and we headed to Gulf Shores, Alabama.  It was our first trip to Gulf Shores, it was our first vacation during spring break (we had always waited until summer,) and it was our first vacation in an RV.


Surprisingly, when asked my impressions of the RV experience, the gas thing usually doesn’t come up right away.  But it comes up eventually.  Let’s face it – it has a 55 gallon tank and with gas prices the way they’ve been, I thought I’d weep openly at every frequent fill-up. 


The truth is that every vacation has its major expenses.  Pick your poison – airfare, lodging, car rental, food, and no matter how you get there, fuel.  I read that Class C motorhomes, the kind built on a truck frame, get between 6 and 10 miles per gallon.  (Did you just slap your forehead in disbelief?) 


OK, here’s the how the fuel broke down for us - figuring on 7 miles per gallon, the RV could travel about 385 miles on a tank.  Gulf Shores is roughly 600 miles from Newburgh so it added up to a little over 3 fill-ups or 175 gallons for the round trip.  When we took the vacation in late March, gas was about $3.50 per gallon.  We budgeted $600 for fuel and it turned out to be pretty accurate.  After organizing it in those terms, it didn’t seem as scary.  In fact, I didn’t cry once at the pump.  I said, “Whoa!” a few times, but no tears. 


There are also numerous ways you save money on an RV vacation that never occured to me and compensate somewhat for the fuel cost.  For example, we stayed in Gulf State Park where the RV hookup site cost $27 a day, far less than any hotel a mile from the surf.  Since an RV features a full kitchen, we brought along groceries from home rather than having to rely on restaurants for nearly every meal.  The bonus is you can be picky about which restaurants you want to try.  Any beach town along the Gulf has seafood markets and most will boil up fresh shrimp for a very reasonable price.  We did that one gorgeous evening at the RV and with the rest of the meal prepared in our own kitchen, it was as if we had moved our patio at home to the beach for the day.  Of course, these examples can also be accomplished in a condo or hotel suite but not with the completely self-contained convenience of an RV.  


Another major expense we avoided on this vacation was the cost of a kennel.  We brought along our dog, Maggie, and she loved it.  We loved having her with us, too.  And when we’d go out to see not-so-dog-friendly sites, she’d stay in the RV in air conditioned comfort.  She had food and water and slept the afternoon away on the couch just like she’s not supposed to do at home.


My wife and I have often discussed looking into a lake house or a time share but after a single RV vacation, we’d much rather invest in a house we can take to any lake or beach we choose.  We’d be limited only by how far we wanted to drive.  And the prices for a good RV are about half what I expected.  Of course, you can spend as much as you’d care to but there are amazing deals to be had new and used.


Any questions about our RV experience?  Love to hear from you – Expert questions need to go to American RV at US 41 and Baseline Road a couple of miles south of I-64.  American RV has been in the business 40 years and they know, live, and love the RV lifestyle and would be happy to share it with you, too.  Check out their website,

Gotta go, "Smell of shrimp, they're beginning to boil..."