One of us is a numbers geek (hint – that’s not Kathy!), but if you wonder about the quantitative aspects of our Adventure, this is your page!
The data are current as of 31 December 2021
Where have we camped? For how long?
Where did you stay?
Did you have hookups?
Did you camp for free?
When you paid for a campsite, how much did you pay?
How many total miles? What’s your average fuel mileage?
What does this all cost?
I will need to write a separate blog to fully explain how I go about determining the ‘total ownership’ costs of the Airstream and its associated tow vehicle. There are many different ways to cost out the ownership, and some of it may depend on how you wish to use this information. We are most interested in the cost of the Airstream compared to other extended vacation options (hotel, AirBnB, longer-term house rental, cruise, etc.). We still maintain our ‘sticks & bricks’ residence, so I’m not that interested in making a case one way or the other about the cost of owning an Airstream vs. a traditional house.
We also have a pick-up truck whose sole purpose in its life is to tow the Airstream – so I consider that part of the cost. I try to be realistic (i.e., conservative) in calculating depreciation. You always think ‘your’ Airstream is special, but we have bought and sold enough houses to know the monetary value of anything you are selling is what another person is willing to pay for it.
I divide the cost of ownership into three overall categories: The cost to own, the cost to maintain, and the cost to operate. This table shows what types of costs I put into each of those buckets.
Cost to own
Cost to maintain
- Upgrades & Improvements
Cost to operate
- Entrance Fees
There is nothing hard and fast about this taxonomy; some of these categories could easily be counted in another bin. But this is what I’m using.
A key metric, at least for me, is our total ownership cost divided by the number of days we use the Airstream. It pretty easy to calculate the total cost of a vacation (airfare, car rental, hotel / AirBnB, meals, entertainment) and determine the cost of a vacation for a given period of time. If the Airstream costs is significantly higher than a vacation cost, it doesn’t mean it’s wrong – but you should be aware of that fact.
Not surprisingly, the Airstream cost / day decreases the more you use the RV. Well before we bought the Airstream we figured this only made financial sense for us if we thought we would get at least six weeks of use each year. So far we are using the Airstream four to five months each year, so that’s good.
There are many other reasons besides financial to purchase an Airstream or any other RV: it’s a ‘lifeboat’ in case of natural disaster; it’s guest quarters when you are at home; it’s a way to connect with your family and loved ones not always possible in a hotel. And in 2020 it was arguably one of the safer modes of travel.