RV Clubs and Memberships – What Are They and Are They Worth It?
RV clubs and memberships have practically been around since the first RV debuted at Madison Square Garden in 1910. Since their debut, they’ve dispersed in a variety of routes in terms of their benefits and features. Each RV club has its own particular niche it tailors to. Some offer a community. All of them, however, ask for a fee (generally annual) in exchange for discounted rates.
Many of the oldest RV clubs have since disappeared. Those that remain compete with many newer organizations. In differentiating between all these options, it’s useful to ask some important questions. Does an RV club’s age reflect in its quality? Can newer memberships compete with established players in the industry? And how much do you really need to fork over each month or year to get the discounts you want? This article has the answers to all these questions. In addition, it highlights what distinguishes each RV club from the others.
Which RV Club Should I Join?
Answering this question is contingent on where you live, how much you travel (or plan on traveling) in an RV, and what your budget is. Costs range widely from as low as $30 a year, and the benefits you receive vary equivalently. There are RV clubs for amateurs and pros, renters and full-timers, and both the boondocker and the glamper. Some will offer more benefits than you want, and some won’t offer enough. In deciding which RV club to join, it helps further to break them down into categories. Let’s review three types of RV clubs and memberships: Affiliate-based, Brand Specific, and Specialty RV Clubs.
Affiliate-Based RV Clubs
Affiliate-based discount RV clubs are ones that offer discounted camping rates across affiliated parks across the United States. They are the most common type of RV club and what you normally think of when people say the phrase.
Good Sam Club – ($27/year)
Good Sam is the biggest name in the RV industry, with over one million members in The Good Sam Club. It includes a 10% discount on over 2,000 Good Sam parks. In addition to its RV club, Good Sam offers roadside assurance and insurance programs (sold separately). Like many larger organizations, however, it’s reputation is a bit tainted. The reason mostly concerns the legitimacy of its famous “Good Sam Rating” it gives each of its parks.
The rating is known in the RVing community to predominantly be a factor of how much the park pays Good Sam.
Also, be wary when you give them your email, as the company sends out the most spam out of everyone on this list (many call it “Good Spam”).
Passport America – ($44/year)
Passport America partners with campgrounds willing to sell campsites at half price during non-peak seasons in order to maintain capacity year-round. With most RV sites in the US costing over $30 a night, it only takes a couple stays a year using this pass for it to pay for itself. The downside to this discount camping club is that most of the parks willing to sell sites half off aren’t exactly the best kept. This is exacerbated by the fact that Passport America has no user reviews for listings, so choosing a park through them can be a leap of faith.
Escapees / Xscapers – ($39.95/year)
Escapees is the outlier in this section, as it’s more about community than it is about savings. This RV club offers get-togethers to help RVers connect. It also offers ongoing education courses, a job board for finding work on the road, and, of course, discounts at about 1,000 parks nationwide. This membership is best for retired, full-time RVers. You need to be staying at RV parks for a good chunk of the year to get the most out of its benefits, as the majority of what you’re paying for are community-based activities and not discounts.
Brand Specific RV Clubs
These memberships each offer discounts to a specific chain of RV parks. This means there will be less variety, but you will know what you’re going to get.
KOA Value Kard Rewards – ($30/year)
The oldest campground network in the industry, KOA is known for its family focused parks available near basically every metropolitan area. KOA parks generally have more amenities than the average campground. Though its campgrounds are normally expensive, their discount card allows you to stay at upscale parks for more affordable rates. However, with a discount of only 10% off, it can take a while to pay this card off unless you’re staying at KOA campgrounds exclusively or are RVing full-time.
Thousand Trails – ($575/year)
Thousand Trails takes a fresh approach on how RV clubs operate. Instead of requiring a small annual fee for discounted rates, it asks for a significant investment of nearly $600 in exchange for free camping at their parks all year. Similar to the KOA Value Kard, this membership is only really worth it if you love Thousand Trails campgrounds, which tend to be more luxurious (good for glampers). With just 86 parks across the country and ambiguous reviews, however, staying at a Thousand Trails campground can be hit or miss.
Specialty RV Clubs
These RV clubs differ from the traditional models above, offering alternative ways to save money.
Boondockers Welcome – ($30/year)
This membership, as the name entails, is built for RVers who prefer to boondock, or camp without hookups. By paying the annual fee or hosting yourself, you can request to stay at private residences across the country for free. Local hosts that share their properties also tend to know the top attractions in the area. Spots are generally in the driveway of homes, although some are even larger.
RoverPass Unlimited – ($50/year, $30/month)
The newest membership for RVers, RoverPass Unlimited is the perfect pass for RV renters and full-time RVers alike. The pass earns you free bookings through our reservation software with over 6,000 campgrounds across the US. RoverPass was made particularly for RV renters who aren’t necessarily as familiar with the process of reserving RV sites. Our software was made to alleviate a lot of the frustrations they commonly experience, like playing phone tag with front desk employees and, in the worst case scenario, never hearing back at all.
The membership also comes with priority customer service in the form of travel agents who will fulfill your reservations and answer questions you may have. RV renters going on a road trip can buy the pass for a month and use RoverPass to quickly and easily book RV parks anywhere they go. Full-time RVers can buy the annual membership and enjoy the same perks as monthly members as they travel at a leisurely pace.
The amount of RV clubs out there is daunting. Despite its length, this article only covered the best of what’s out there. In choosing which one’s right for you, consider the length you’ll need it for, the amount of variety you want in campgrounds, where you’ll be traveling, and which amenities and benefits are most important to you. Some RV clubs are better for beginners by keeping things simple, like KOA Value Kard Rewards and RoverPass Unlimited. Others offer a community for RVing veterans, like Escapees. There’s an RV club out there that’s just about right for you. Do your due diligence to ensure you join it and not another one.