A travel trailer parked in the woods near a lake

Camper or a Cabin? Pros and Cons..Here’s How to Decide!

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Trying to decide whether a camper or cabin is better for your next family vacation? Even harder… are you weighing the options of buying a camper vs. a cabin? Since my family has both an RV and a family cabin, I will give you the inside scoop.  Should you buy an RV or a cabin? Here’s how to decide.

In general, a cabin is better if you like solid sticks and bricks, prefer to stay in one place, and want to have your family memories rooted in a specific location. On the other hand, if you travel regularly and you love exploring different places, buying an RV is better. The entry price for a used RV is also considerably less than a cabin.

There is also an option that I found to be popular on the east coast, which is to use an RV as a cabin.

As someone who owns an RV and has a family that owns a small cabin, I think they’re both worth buying. Although, choosing which one you should buy depends on your situation, as well as what kind of traveler you are.

Not to worry, I’ll help you decide whether a cabin or an RV suits you.

Should I stay in a Camper or Cabin on my Next Vacation?

When trying to decide if you want to buy an RV or cabin, the best thing to do is plan your next vacation in one of them. Staying in a cabin versus a vacation home will give you a very different experience.

If you decide solely based on cost, you may be surprised when you put pencil to paper. While renting a cabin or vacation home may seem expensive, it will include many things which could be additional costs in an RV. With renting an RV, you still need to pay for the gas to tow it, the campsite, amenities, and the campgrounds.

Check out the prices to rent a camper for your next vacation on Outdoorsy here.

Is It Better to Invest in an RV or a Cabin?

In general, a cabin on land that you own is a better long-term investment than an RV. An RV will depreciate over time, just like your car. However, an RV can be a good investment for some owners. For example, if you travel frequently, having an RV could help you save money on travel costs. In addition, you could even make money by renting your RV out through peer-to-peer marketplaces like RVezy.

Read More: 17 Undeniable Reasons Why You Should NOT Buy an RV

On the other hand, there’s no doubt that purchasing land and building a cabin on it is a long-term investment. Its value will almost always increase over time. Plus, you can rent out your cabin on sites like Airbnb or VRBO when you’re not using it.

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Cabin in the Colorado Mountains perfect for a family gathering

RVs can be used as a side business by renting your rig out.

Most RVers, like me, do this for extra income. It even helped me make some extra cash for traveling (if you’d like to know how I did it, you can check this article).

Whichever you decide to invest in, you can generate some return on the investment if you’re diligent. 

What Do You Need to Consider When You Buy a Cabin or an RV?

A travel trailer parked in the woods near a lake
A peaceful RV campsite near a lake.
Image source: sshepard via canva.com

Again, when choosing between a cabin and an RV, you have to understand which suits you best. Just because an RV works for me, doesn’t mean it will work for you, too.

There are factors that you have to consider to make the most informed decision:

Consider Your Budget

The upfront cost of an RV may be less than a cabin on some land. However, RVs range in price widely. You can buy a used travel trailer for $10,000 or find a new Class A motorhome at $100k.

However, RVs come with never-ending expenses. If you want to own one, you need to make sure that you always have money set aside for regular maintenance and repair. Plus, there are some additional gadgets and accessories that you’ll need for your rig.

You’ll also need to take into account the tow vehicle if you are looking at a travel trailer or fifth wheel. Trust me – this gets expensive when your current vehicle is undersized and you need to buy a new truck.

While cabins also need regular maintenance, there is generally less upkeep than in an RV. You may still have the occasional roof repair and clogged drain, but a cabin will hold up better over time.

You’re Not into Road Trips

If you love going on vacation but hate road trips, then a cabin is perfect for you. When you buy a cabin, you will be able to choose your preferred location. Then, once you arrive, you can stay as long as you want.

If you don’t want to have to drive too far, look for a cabin a few hours from your home in a fun, new area. 

Of course, you can always stay local with an RV. However, this somewhat defeats the purpose as many rent RVs to be able to travel long distances – and to a variety of destinations. Therefore, if you’re someone who enjoys road trips and bouncing from one place to another, you should consider buying an RV.

You Hate Unwanted Visitors

If you buy an RV, you’ll have the freedom to go anywhere with whomever you want. You can stay relatively low-key and not have family dropping by. Also, it’s generally taboo to ask to borrow someone’s RV, for insurance reasons (among others).

If you are letting friends or family borrow your trailer, make sure you’re aware of exactly what your insurance policy covers. If you don’t yet have insurance on your RV, check out Roamly and get a free quote here.

Alternatively, once people know where your cabin is, they can go there whenever they want…even without notifying you. 

Some family and friends will feel comfortable asking to use it for their vacation. My family is very open about sharing and having gatherings, but not everyone will enjoy this.

You Already Have a Tow Vehicle

If you already have a tow vehicle and you like the idea of exploring different places, choose an RV or travel trailer. An RV can save you a lot more money than buying land with a cabin on it. 

For the least amount of hassle, keep in mind that travel trailers are less expensive and require less maintenance than motorhomes.

You Don’t Have Space to Store Your RV

Unless you’ll be in your RV full-time, you will need to store your rig when it’s not in use. If you don’t have space, there are storage facilities that will allow you to store your rig. However, it’s not free.

You have to pay for camper storage, which can range from $30 to $400 a month (depending on what kind of storage you’d like to use).

Find out which RVs you can store in your garage at home. We have a complete guide and examples of RVs that fit in a standard garage.

When Is the Best time to Buy a Cabin and an RV?

2 class b motorhome parked in a camp ground with a picnic table
The fall is a great time to look at buying a new camper.
Image source: stockstudioX via canva.com

Generally, it’s best to buy a cabin or an RV during the fall and winter seasons. Less people buy RVs during the colder months than in spring and summer, which is prime camping season, so the prices go down with demand. That is, unless you are buying a ski cabin. Thus, buying a camper or cabin in the fall or winter will generally get you better offers and discounts.

There are times (such as in the midst of a global pandemic) that prospective RV and cabin buyers just want to get away from other people, social distancing rules, etc. It’s easy to believe that these would be great times to buy, no matter the season.

Unfortunately, that’s not correct at all.

When a lot of people have the same desire to escape their surroundings, there is a high demand for cabins and RVs. As you know, the higher the demand is, the lower the supply. Therefore, you are less likely to get a discount and more likely to buy them at a higher price. 

These times of high demand and low supply are great instances to take advantage of renting a cabin or an RV, which is what I’m going to talk about next.

Consider Renting an RV or Cabin

Before buying a camper, try renting one to make sure the lifestyle suits you.

Before you make a huge decision like buying an RV or cabin, you should try renting one first.

Our family cabin is actually in a location that my Dad went to as a kid. He tent camped there, and later took us there to tent camp, too. We are strongly tied to the place. We rented a cabin for 2 years in a row. Finally, he decided to buy his own cabin there.

Similarly, I rented a motorhome in Canada when I was unsure about owning an RV. I fell in love with the RV style of travel and have owned a few different types.

When you rent a cabin and an RV, you will be able to make a strong decision on which (or even if) you prefer to buy as you’ll get to experience it firsthand.

Alternatively, if you know that you’ll only use your second home once in a while, such as on an annual trip, it would be better to rent than buy one.

To rent an RV, I suggest you check out RVezy or Outdoorsy. You can also read these for more details:

Important Related Questions

Can You Live in an RV as a Cabin?

Many people set up an RV in a specific location and use it as a cabin. Campgrounds, especially on the east coast of the US, have specific contracts to rent a seasonal site for long-term use. Campers can return to the same location year after year.

Many campers are doing this as it’s more cost-effective since you can skip the building part. Thus, you won’t need to spend money on materials or contractors to build your cabin.

The only drawback is that you may be uncomfortable living in it on cold, wet days. You will also have to use a lot of propane, which can become costly. Cold and/or wet conditions may cause your camper to get condensate and water damage. However, depending on your rig, you may be able to create an area to add a wood-burning stove. It helps.

Can I buy land and live in an RV?

You can buy land and live in an RV on that land as long as it is allowed by the county and local governments. This is more of a challenge in locations that have very cold winters.

It may only be allowed in some cities and counties in your area. Most large cities have laws that won’t allow you to do it and if you can, there are rules and codes that you have to strictly follow. Building and electrical codes must legally be followed, as well as any codes related to residence sharing. Also, your property should have septic tanks and access to the city sewage system. 

What States Allow You to Live in an RV on Your Property?

Florida, Texas, South Dakota, and Colorado are some of the states where you are allowed to live in an RV on your property. There are more states that let you live on your land in a camper, but do your research before setting up as there are different restrictions in every state.

If you’d like to learn more about living in an RV on your property, you can find answers to all your questions here.

A collage of a cabin and a travel trailer
Buy an RV or a Cabin? Here’s how to Decide!

Final Thoughts on Buying a Cabin Vs RV

To sum things up, both a cabin and an RV are good investments – whether you have financial concerns or not. They can both return the money you spent on them and give you something to treasure forever. You just have to take into consideration which one will suit you best.

After all, whatever you decide to choose, the purpose is to spend time and make memories with your loved ones. Just know whether you picture yourself experiencing it in a cabin or an RV.

For more resources to help you choose, read these blog posts:

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    Shauna Kocman founder Family Travel Fever
    Shauna Kocman founder of Family Travel Fever

    Hi, I’m Shauna – Welcome to Family Travel Fever.  We are a large family, that was bitten by the travel bug!  I take the kids by myself because I don’t mind flying or driving solo with my crew to discover the coolest places.

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