How Much Does It Cost To Start an RV Park?

Article By:

CEO | Chief Innovation Officer

Starting an RV park can be a lucrative business opportunity, given the increasing popularity of RV travel in the United States. However, the costs associated with establishing and operating an RV park can be significant and vary depending on numerous factors. On average, the total cost to start an RV park ranges from $500,000 to $2+ million. This article will delve into the detailed breakdown of costs involved in starting an RV park, from initial land acquisition to ongoing operational expenses.

Starting an RV Park: Estimated Cost Breakdown

Purchase of Land

The first major expense in starting an RV park is the acquisition of land. Land costs can vary greatly depending on location, size, and local real estate market conditions. On average, land costs for an RV park can range from $2,000- $20,000 per acre. A 20-acre plot suitable for an RV park could therefore cost between $40,000-$400,000+. Additionally, property taxes must be considered, which vary widely based on the location and assessed value of the land. On average, property taxes for an RV park can range from 1% to 2% of the property's assessed value per year. For instance, if the 20-acre plot is valued at $200,000, the annual property tax could be between $2,000-$4,000. These ongoing property taxes represent a significant operating expense that must be factored into the overall cost of starting and running an RV park.

Licenses and Permits

Before you can start building an RV park, you'll need to obtain the necessary licenses and permits. These can include zoning permits, environmental impact assessments, and health and safety inspections. Permit fees can range from $10,000-$50,000.

Designing the RV Park

Designing the RV park involves careful planning of the layout, style and amenities, which requires the expertise of urban designers, planners, architects and engineers. Each professional contributes differently to the project, and their fees are based on the acreage of the park.

  1. Urban Designers and Planners: Urban designers and planners are responsible for the initial land planning, including zoning, land use, and environmental impact assessments. Their fees can range from $500 to $2,000 per acre. For a 20-acre RV park, this translates to $10,000-$40,000.
  2. Architectural Design: Architects handle the detailed design of buildings and amenities within the RV park, such as restrooms, shower facilities, and laundry areas. Architectural design costs are based on the percentage of construction of a building, for instance, a 2,000 sq. ft. clubhouse would approximately cost $500,000 to construct; and hence the architect’s fees would be $50,000 for architectural design assuming that the architect charges 10% of construction estimates.
  3. Engineering Costs: Engineers are responsible for the technical aspects of the park, including utility hookups, road construction and septic systems. Engineering costs typically range from $1,500-$5,000 per acre. For a 20-acre RV park, this would be $30,000-$100,000.

Overall, the total cost of designing an RV park can vary significantly but generally ranges from $60,000-$200,000, depending on the size and complexity of the project.

Other Expenses

Other initial expenses in starting an RV park include marketing and promotional costs, legal fees and initial stocking of supplies. These costs can add up significantly, ranging from $10,000-$50,000.

Marketing and Promotional Costs

  • Approach and Methods:
    • Website Development and Maintenance: A professional website is essential for marketing. Development costs can range from $2,000-$5,000, with annual maintenance fees of about $500.
    • Online Advertising: Utilizing platforms such as Google Ads and social media (Facebook, Instagram) can effectively reach potential customers. Monthly budgets typically range from $500 to $2,000, totaling $6,000-$24,000 annually.
    • Print Advertising: Local magazines, travel brochures and RV club newsletters are traditional marketing methods. These costs can range from $1,000-$3,000.
    • Promotional Materials: Brochures, flyers and business cards are useful for direct marketing. Printing costs can range from $500-$1,000.

Legal Fees

  • Approach and Methods:
    • Business Registration and Formation: Costs for registering the business, obtaining licenses, and forming an LLC or corporation typically range from $1,000 to $3,000.
    • Legal Consultations: Ongoing legal consultations for contract reviews, compliance issues, and other legal matters can cost $2,000 to $5,000 initially.

Initial Stocking of Supplies

  • Types of Supplies and Costs:
    • Office Supplies: Computers, printers, software, desks and chairs are necessary for daily operations. Initial costs can range from $2,000-$5,000.
    • Cleaning Supplies: Stocking up on cleaning products for restrooms, laundry facilities, and common areas can cost between $500-$1,000.
    • Maintenance Supplies: Tools, equipment, and materials for regular maintenance and repairs typically cost $1,000-$3,000.
    • Guest Supplies: Items like toilet paper, soap, laundry detergent, and other consumables for guest facilities can cost around $1,000-$2,000 for initial stocking.

Construction Costs and Materials

Construction costs for an RV park are significant and include expenses for building essential infrastructure and facilities. The types of materials used can vary from basic to premium, impacting overall costs.

  • Site preparation:
    • Basic Clearing and Grading: Basic clearing, cleaning, and grading is what most developers will have to do prior to construction but in certain instances there would be some extra steps depending on site features, basic preparation could range from $8,000-$12,000 per acre.
  • Roads and Driveways:
    • Basic Materials: Gravel roads are the most cost-effective option, typically costing $4-$10 per square foot. For a 20-acre park, this could range from $80,000-$200,000.
    • Premium Materials: Asphalt paving offers a smoother and more durable surface, costing $7-$15 per square foot, with total costs ranging from $140,000-$300,000 for the same area.
  • Utility Hookups (Electricity, Water, and Septic Systems):
    • Basic Materials: Standard PVC piping and basic electrical setups can cost around $2,000 to $5,000 per site. For 100 sites, this totals $200,000 to $500,000.
    • Premium Materials: Higher-end copper piping and advanced electrical systems can increase costs to $4,000 to $8,000 per site, totaling $400,000 to $800,000 for 100 sites.
  • Restrooms and Shower Facilities:
    • Basic Materials: Simple, functional designs using standard tiles and fixtures can cost between $20,000 and $50,000 per building.
    • Premium Materials: High-end materials like ceramic tiles, luxury fixtures, and eco-friendly designs can increase costs from $50,000 to $100,000 per building.
    • Alternatives: CXT restrooms and shower houses which are concrete precast units poured off-site and transported and placed on site with costs ranging from $40,000-$200,000 depending on size and finishes. There are also more budget-friendly prefabricated timber units, ranging in price between $20,000 and $130,000 depending on size and finishes.
  • Laundry Facilities:
    • Basic Materials: Basic washers and dryers in a modest building can cost $10,000-$30,000.
    • Premium Materials: Commercial-grade appliances and a well-designed facility can increase costs from $30,000-$60,000.
  • Office and Storage Areas:
    • Basic Materials: Standard construction for office and storage spaces can cost between $20,000-$50,000.
    • Premium Materials: Enhanced designs with better insulation, security features, and high-quality materials can range from $50,000-$100,000.

Overall, the construction costs for an RV park can vary widely based on the materials and quality of construction, ranging from $330,000 to over $1.3 million. These costs are crucial for establishing a high-quality, well-functioning RV park that meets guests' needs and ensures a positive experience.

Amenity Design and Construction:

In addition to essential infrastructure, investing in amenities is crucial for attracting guests and enhancing their experience. Amenities can include both indoor and outdoor facilities, each adding value to your RV park.

Outdoor Amenities:

  • Swimming Pools: Construction costs for a swimming pool can range from $50,000-$150,000, depending on size and features.
  • Playgrounds: Building a playground area with equipment can cost between $10,000 and $30,000.
  • Picnic Areas: Setting up picnic areas with tables, benches, and grills may cost $5,000-$20,000, depending on the size and materials used.
  • Hiking Trails: Developing hiking trails within your park or nearby can range from $5,000-$30,000, depending on terrain and length.

Indoor Amenities:

  • Clubhouse/Community Center: Construction of a clubhouse can range from $100,000-$300,000+, depending on size and amenities included.
  • Game Rooms: Equipping a game room with arcade games, pool tables, and other amenities can cost $20,000-$50,000.
  • Fitness Centers: Building a fitness center with exercise equipment can range from $50,000-$150,000, depending on size and equipment quality.
  • Meeting Rooms: Constructing meeting rooms for events or gatherings may cost $20,000-$50,000, depending on size and features.

Associated Building Construction:

  • Outdoor Kitchen/BBQ Areas: Building outdoor kitchen spaces can range from $10,000-$30,000, depending on size and equipment.
  • Restaurants/Cafes: Constructing a restaurant or cafe on-site can range from $100,000-$500,000, depending on size and level of finish.
  • Retail Shops: Setting up retail spaces for camping supplies or souvenirs may cost $50,000-$200,000, depending on size and inventory.

Building an RV Park Vs. Buying an Existing One

When considering whether to build or buy an RV park, there are several factors to weigh, each with its own set of pros and cons. Building an RV park from the ground up offers the advantage of complete customization. You have the freedom to design the layout and amenities exactly to your specifications, catering to your target demographic and business vision. This means you can create a unique offering that sets your park apart from others. Additionally, building from scratch may potentially offer lower initial land costs, especially if you find undeveloped land in a favorable location.

However, building an RV park requires a substantial upfront investment in land, infrastructure, and construction. The costs associated with site development, utility hookups, roads, amenities, and buildings can quickly add up. This high initial investment is one of the main drawbacks of building an RV park. Moreover, constructing from scratch typically involves a longer timeline to become operational. From acquiring permits to completing construction, it may take several months to years before your park is ready to welcome guests. Zoning and permitting challenges can also arise, potentially causing delays and adding complexity to the process.

On the other hand, buying an existing RV park offers immediate revenue generation. With an established customer base and existing infrastructure in place, you can start earning income from day one. This can provide a quicker return on investment compared to building from scratch. Additionally, an existing park already has amenities and facilities in place, saving you the time and expense of constructing them yourself. This can be particularly advantageous if the park is well-maintained and has a good reputation among RV travelers.

Buying an existing RV park typically comes with a higher initial purchase price compared to building new. Depending on the condition and amenities of the park, you may also need to invest in renovations or updates to meet your standards or address any deferred maintenance issues. Furthermore, buying an existing park may limit your flexibility in layout and design. You will have to work within the confines of the existing infrastructure, which may not align perfectly with your vision.

The Best Places To Build RV Parks

Choosing the right location for your RV park is crucial for attracting guests and ensuring its success. Here are some ideal places to consider:

Near Water

RV parks situated near natural bodies of water such as lakes, rivers or the ocean can offer a plethora of recreational opportunities, making them highly desirable for RV travelers. These locations provide guests with activities like fishing, boating, swimming and water sports, catering to a wide range of outdoor enthusiasts. Imagine waking up to the soothing sound of waves lapping against the shore or enjoying a serene sunset over the water from your RV. Waterfront RV parks often provide a unique and relaxing experience, drawing visitors seeking nature and tranquility.

In Mountainous Regions 

Mountainous regions boast breathtaking landscapes and a wealth of outdoor activities, making them attractive destinations for RV travelers seeking adventure and natural beauty. RV parks nestled in mountainous areas offer opportunities for hiking, mountain biking, rock climbing and even skiing or snowboarding in winter months. The stunning vistas and fresh mountain air appeal to nature enthusiasts and those looking for outdoor recreational activities. Whether it's exploring scenic trails or simply enjoying the peace and serenity of the mountains, RV parks in these regions offer a unique experience for guests.

Near Cities

RV parks near cities cater to travelers who want the best of both worlds: Access to urban attractions and the comfort and convenience of RV accommodations. These parks provide easy access to museums, restaurants, shopping centers, entertainment venues, and cultural landmarks, allowing guests to explore city life during the day and retreat to their RVs for a peaceful night's rest. Proximity to cities also means travelers can enjoy amenities like grocery stores, fuel stations and other conveniences nearby. Additionally, RV parks near cities often experience higher demand year-round, as they appeal to both tourists and business travelers seeking temporary accommodations.

Other Considerations: When choosing a location, factors such as accessibility, local attractions, climate, and seasonal demand should also be taken into account. Accessibility to major highways or tourist routes ensures easy access for RV travelers. Proximity to popular attractions, national parks, or scenic landmarks can further enhance the appeal of your RV park. Additionally, considering the climate and seasonal weather patterns of the region is important, as it can influence the operational months and visitor preferences.

Designing the RV Park

Number of Sites To Build

Determining the number of RV sites to develop depends on various factors, including the size of the land, desired density, and projected occupancy rates. Typically, a density of 5 to 6 RV pads per acre is considered optimal for space utilization and guest comfort. For instance, on a 20-acre parcel of land, you could accommodate approximately 100-120 RV sites with this density. However, this number can vary based on the layout dimensions, amenities offered, and any open space requirements.

In planning the layout, factors such as space for roads, common areas, amenities, and landscaping need to be considered alongside the RV pads. Adequate space between pads ensures privacy and comfort for guests while also allowing for maneuvering room for larger RVs. Moreover, the inclusion of amenities like picnic areas, playgrounds or hiking trails may reduce the total number of RV sites to allow for these additional features.

The exact number of RV sites should also consider the expected occupancy rates and demand in the area. Factors such as local tourism trends, seasonal variations, and nearby attractions can influence the number of guests your park can accommodate. Additionally, providing a variety of site options, such as standard, premium, or pull-through sites, can cater to different preferences and increase the overall appeal of the park.

Careful planning and consideration of these factors ensure that your RV park layout maximizes guest comfort, meets regulatory requirements, and optimizes the use of available space. Adjustments may be made during the planning phase to balance site density with the provision of amenities and an enjoyable guest experience.

Infrastructure and Buildings

Infrastructure costs encompass various components essential for the functioning of an RV park, ranging from utility installations to building construction.

Utility Hookups: The installation of utilities including electricity, water, and septic systems is vital. Costs for utility hookups can vary based on factors such as site conditions and distance to existing infrastructure. For example, installing electrical hookups might range from $2,000-$5,000 per site, while water and sewer connections could cost $3,000-$7,000 per site, depending on the complexity of the system. For a 100-site park, utility hookup costs can total between $500,000-$1.2 million.

Restrooms and Shower Facilities: Constructing restroom and shower facilities is crucial for guest comfort. Costs can vary based on the size, quality, and amenities included. Basic facilities might range from $20,000-50,000 per building, while more upscale facilities with high-end fixtures and amenities could cost $50,000 to $100,000 per building. Additionally, the number of buildings needed will depend on the park's size and layout, with larger parks requiring multiple facilities.

Laundry Facilities: Providing laundry facilities is another important amenity for guests. Costs for laundry buildings can range from $10,000-$60,000, depending on the number of machines, size of the facility and quality of equipment installed. Additionally, incorporating energy-efficient appliances or eco-friendly features may impact costs but can lead to long-term savings.

Office and Storage Areas: Building office and storage spaces is necessary for park management and maintenance. Construction costs for these buildings can vary based on size, design, and materials used. Basic office and storage areas might cost between $20,000-$50,000, while more elaborate or larger structures could range from $50,000-$100,000. These spaces are essential for administrative tasks, guest services and storing maintenance equipment and supplies.

Amenities and Services

Beyond the core infrastructure, several additional features and considerations can significantly enhance the guest experience and increase the appeal of your RV park. These considerations range from basic amenities to premium features, catering to a diverse range of travelers.

Security Measures: Implementing robust security measures ensures the safety and peace of mind of your guests. This may include gated entry, surveillance cameras, well-lit areas, and onsite security personnel. Investing in security systems and personnel can help prevent theft, vandalism and unauthorized access, enhancing guest satisfaction and overall park reputation.

Wi-Fi Installation: Offering reliable Wi-Fi connectivity is increasingly important for modern travelers. Many guests expect to stay connected during their stay, whether for work, entertainment, or communication. Installing Wi-Fi throughout the park allows guests to browse the internet, video streaming and stay in touch with family and friends. Consider offering both free and premium Wi-Fi options to accommodate different guest needs.

Recreational Facilities: Providing recreational facilities adds value and entertainment options for guests. This can include amenities such as swimming pools, hot tubs, playgrounds, sports courts (basketball, volleyball), and hiking trails. These facilities cater to guests of all ages and interests, encouraging longer stays and repeat visits. Additionally, organizing activities or events such as movie nights, barbecues or guided nature walks can further enhance the guest experience.

Electric Vehicle Charging Stations: With the increasing popularity of electric vehicles, installing EV charging stations can attract a growing segment of travelers. Offering EV charging facilities demonstrates your commitment to sustainability and environmental responsibility while meeting the needs of EV owners. Consider installing Level 2 charging stations, which provide faster charging than standard outlets, and designate parking spaces equipped with EV chargers. Providing this amenity can attract eco-conscious travelers and set your park apart from others.

Premium Amenities: Consider offering premium amenities for guests seeking added comfort and luxury. This may include premium RV sites with larger pads, private patios, or scenic views. Other premium amenities could include concierge services, on-site restaurants or cafes, spa facilities and pet parks. These features cater to guests willing to pay extra for enhanced comfort and convenience.

Conclusion

In conclusion, starting an RV park is a promising venture with potential for substantial returns, but it requires careful planning and consideration of various costs. The total cost to start an RV park can range from $500,000-$2+ million with cost per RV site excluding the cost of acquiring land ranging between $20,000 and $60,000+ depending on amenities, finishes and materials and infrastructure encompassing expenses from ongoing operational needs. Land purchases, licenses, and permits, alongside infrastructure development, constitute significant upfront investments. Ultimately, RV park designers require a thorough understanding of costs and considerations. By carefully planning and budgeting for each aspect, you can create a well-equipped, attractive RV park that meets the needs of modern travelers and ensures long-term success in this thriving industry.

Bibliography

  1. U.S. Land Prices: National Association of Realtors
  2. Land Cost Data: LandWatch
  3. Site Development Costs: RSMeans Construction Cost Data
  4. Permits and Zoning: American Planning Association
  5. Construction Costs: National Park Service
  6. Office Construction Costs: Commercial Construction Costs
  7. Recreational Facilities Costs: Recreational Management
  8. Marketing Costs: Small Business Administration
  9. Staffing Costs: Bureau of Labor Statistics
  10. Maintenance Staff Wages: Bureau of Labor Statistics
  11. Housekeeping Staff Wages: Bureau of Labor Statistics
  12. Utility Costs: Energy Information Administration
  13. Maintenance Costs: Facility Maintenance Journal
  14. Insurance Costs: Insurance Information Institute
  15. Advertising Costs: American Marketing Association
  16. Property Taxes: Tax Foundation
  17. Average Daily Rates: Good Sam Club

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