Fair Pay Value

(Anonymous writes...)

I am a single, retired lady, who would like to find a work-camping exchange situation that is fair and reasonable for the employer and employee. I'm having difficulty understanding how the employer justifies asking for 20 hours a week for living space exchange.

Eighty hours a month at a reasonable $10 per hour would be an exchange value of $800 per month for the RV space. Perhaps the employers are intending minimum wage pay in exchange, which would drop the space value closer to $520 per month. Certainly the work experience of a retiree is worth more than minimum wage.

The no-kill animal shelter that advertises continually in your newsletter, expects 30 hours per week work for married couples (combined), and 20 hours per week for a single person (double that would be 40 hours per week).

Both situations above appear to have unfair pay value. The animal shelter is leaving themselves open to a law suit for discrimination against single people.

Are you able to explain the thinking of the above situations? I'd really like to understand. Thank you.

Coleen, the RVing editor replies:

Volunteer Position or Employment?

Yes, and I hope my explanation will help you understand.

There are two types of work that RVers do. One is paid employment. The other is volunteering. It looks to me that you are confusing the two.

Charitable and educational organizations, non-profits, and government agencies have volunteer programs. The rewards for doing volunteer work within these programs are contributing to society, helping a good cause, and making yourself and your country better. You do volunteer work because it makes you feel good. Sometimes when you do volunteer work you get extra benefits, such as a place to park your RV. Think of the RV site as icing on the cake, not the cake itself.

As for discrimination against singles, I'm no lawyer and don't make any claims to knowing discrimination laws. But, common sense says that a couple living in one RV, sharing one RV space is using fewer resources than two single RVers, each living in separate RVs, and each taking up an RV site. Using the example you gave, why doesn't each person in the couple work only 10 hours a week while the single works 20 per week? Because even though they are only using one RV space, those two people use more electric and other resources than one would.

Looking at it practically, the couple uses more resources than one single, and less resources than two singles in separate RVs. So, the couple works more hours than one single and fewer hours than two singles.

Paid employment is a whole different thing. In some cases there's a barter situation going on, where the employer and employee are trading work for housing and other benefits to the worker. In other situations, living on the employer's property is a condition of the job, for the employer's benefit. I believe the IRS uses fair market value to determine what the RV site is worth. It is also my understanding that regular labor laws apply.

Pay is typically set by the job, not the age of the person doing it. Work experience has value in some jobs and not in others.

Cleaning bathrooms at a campground? The 16-year old with no job experience (and little life experience) can be taught to do that as well as the 60-year old retiree. It is probably a minimum wage position, regardless of the employee's age, experience, education, or other qualifications.

Comments for Fair Pay Value

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Unequal Pay

I understand the answer Coleen gave concerning the single/couple work camper situation and using more sites by the single.

But, when a single works half the time of a couple for site only or half the time for site and dollars, then does a single pay half as much at that park for a site than a couple? A site costs the same for both singles and couples, and the number of hours credited for the site should be the same.

We've even had to work extra hours when only one of us worked and I know that the second person doesn't use as much of the resources as a single would.

Fair Pay

We are new to this, and are considering the workkamp life style. To be honest with all of you, if this site is any indication of the compensation...we will do something else. We also feel our labor, even at 20 hours per week, is worth more then a $300-$600 (per month) camp site.

Exchanging Work for Site

I manage a county campground in MN. We offer a campsite plus $200.00 a month in exchange for 20-24 hours a week.

The first time I did any work camping I was not paid any extra for 25 hours a week for a couple.

I think the true meaning of exchanging a site for a small job has been lost. I thought it was a wonderful opportunity to see the country and meet great folks and have a good time doing it without it costing you a fortune for your site.

We had a great host couple last year and they thought their site and pay was only worth 10 hours a week per couple. They did no sight seeing and very seldom left the park, but made it clear they were worth more than we offered. They left early because of problems with selling their business (they claimed).

What is It Worth?

Anonymous writes: I have been workamping, volunteering, and working on the road for 18 years. The campsite that you occupy is usually empty, except to the holidays.

I usually go for the weather, as a sun bird, and to check out an area or look for something to develop. I like to spend no more that two months at any one location and that means three positions for the summer.

I do not do bathrooms and can do maint. if the camp host is not open. The last resort is golf course volunteer.

Every one thinks their camp sites are worth a lot more than they should be, but if you never have to pay that much, it is O.K.

Home -v- RV

We have not yet began our RV experience so this is not an "experience statement" but I have to add my two cents worth.

My hubby and I, living alone and renting, pay out over $1,200 per month in household bills alone. I can not imagine what that would be for a home owner with mortgage payment and home insurance and upkeep.

We have researched the workamp life and we honestly believe that, if we find an honest employer, this will be a lot less hardship on us than present living and we get to experience so many new things/places. If we don't like it we can move on (hopefully with notice and agreement with employer). Our lives have become boring, especially for me since my retirement/disability. I not only miss my salary but also the daily experiences with people outside my home. Workampng would appear to be a whole new life for us and we are excited about it.

I feel that when an employer offers FHU, including cable, WiFi, and laundry plus--in many cases--use of recreational facilities such as pool, then we are the ones getting a deal. We have little doubts, lots of dreams, and we are ready for any disappointments that may occur. We are not looking for big money, just a good/better/happier way of life.

Who's Getting a Good Deal?

I believe the editor's answer to the question posed here fails to discriminate between non-profit employers and for-profit employers.

For a for-profit employer to expect volunteer work in exchange for something worth far less than the employee's time on the open market is exploitation. And for an employer to insist on a couple traveling together to do the same hard, time-consuming work two paid employees would do so that the workers can enjoy the RV lifestyle and "meet a lot of people" is exploitation.

I am seeing something become the norm in workcamping that allows employers to call all the shots, even the marriage status of the potential employee, and leaves little room for potential employees to feel as though they have been treated fairly.

An RV site is a commodity and should be treated as such on both sides in a for-profit situation.

People who want to volunteer their time in a state or national park or at other charity efforts know what they are getting into, but a commercial campground is not a charity and it is wrong (and, yes, probably illegal) for such enterprises to make a profit at the expense of retirees and others who need to work to survive on the road, and to do so "free" of all labor law regulation just because that's the way it's always been done.

Stand Tall or Fall

If we, as workampers, agree to an ad that we find insulting, then we have "reaped what we sowed."

May I suggest...if you see an add for an area that you would like, contact the park and see if they will offer a compromise. If the park is unwilling, then find another place to go and leave the park to fend for themselves. When no one is willing to work for them, the cost to the workampers in hours will go down. BUT, until we stand up to the parks, they will not change.

We, as a rule, are willing to lose 5 hours per week for site & full utilities, with all other hours paid. We have never been without a job.

Workampers Salary

I can't understand why people think their time is worth so little. We started out thinking how great this whole workamping thing would be perfect. Yes, we love the RV lifestyle, but you can keep the workamping. The only person who wins is the owner of the campground who doesn't have to pay a proper wage.

As long as people keep doing it, the campground owners will never pay anyone what they should be paid. It's shameful.

Pay for your space and get a real job. It works out better, even if it/s only for a few months. That's what we had to do. I haven't made minimum wage since I was 12. It's demeaning.

And I agree with the single work camper. We have worked as both single and couple workampers and they expect the same work out of one that they expect from a couple. It's not fair.

Fair Pay

What should happen here is a price placed on the lot rent, utilities, Wi-Fi, anything that incurs expense for an RV workamper to live there, be it single or couple. Then place a price amount per hour of pay. Then ask how many hours it would take of working to compensate the cost of living there. It should balance out, or someone is getting ripped.

Ripped or Not?

I dislike quoting this, but campground owners do not have to hire work campers. I work as a single-solo. I was told by a previous VP where I was employed that work campers "are a dime a dozen." Won't repeat what I said.

I chose this lifestyle to have fun, enjoy traveling to different locations, stop when I want, stay as long or little as I see fit. When it stops being exciting, fun, etc., then I will stop. All I ask is for a fair shake for my time invested, with very little stress and free time for self. Will deal with low wage, as long as perks are good.


It's interesting to hear about all the different situations that occur for workcampers. The campgrounds appear to be getting the best deal. In my opinion, the hours worked should reflect the cost of the campsite.

Fair Pay for My Time

WOW! I am a little afraid to start my journey of living in an RV. My husband can not work very much because of his back problems so that will leave me to do the work. So, am I considered a couple and have to work more?

I'd be quitting my 26 dollar an hour job just to work harder and get less perks and lose my health benefits.

I am not sure how this works? It seems to me that things are not fair and we are going to have a hard time paying for our truck payment and the RV payment, plus living, eating, and trying to find health benefits. I won't make enough to do the RV life will I?

Whether You Think You Can, or Think You Can't, You are Right

Dear Anonymous, the one who wrote, "I won't make enough to do the RV life will I?"

There's a saying, I think it is a paraphrased quote from Henry Ford, which applies to most people: If you think you can or you think you can't, you're right.

There are excellent paying jobs out there for RVers. The fact is that many people live in RVs and travel not because it is some romantic lifestyle or lifelong dream, but because it is a cheap way to follow high paying work. Those who are volunteering or working for a site are doing so because they choose to, not because it is the only option.

I don't mean to be harsh. But the reality of it is that your attitude plays a huge part in how successful you will be as a full-time RVer. If you believe that employers aren't going to be fair to you and that you aren't going to make it, then you are probably right that you won't.

Better to be a WalMart Greeter...

than work for less than minimum wage as a workamper! I emailed a "resort" near Jellystone that was advertising for a couple workampers. I took their monthly camping fee and compared that to the number of hours they were expecting and it worked out to about $4.11 per hour. His response was, "That's what all RV parks pay," and "My last couple stayed two years; they must of been happy with the arrangement."

I camp in a pretty darned nice RV resort on a lake in Texas. I pay $425 per month and that includes water, sewer, WiFi, basic cable, daily garbage pickup, use of the very nice pool and spa, mail service, lawn care, and a coin-op laundry. I pay for my electricity, and so far that has averaged about $75 per month in the hot Texas summer.

That equates to $16.67 per day, or $116.67 per week. If I was interested in working for my keep and the park required 20 hours per week, I would be "earning" a whopping $5.83 per hour for my site and utilities. Keep in mind, the only "out of pocket, or variable expense the park would have would be for the water and electricity I use.

The national minimum wage rate is currently $7.25 per hour. Exploitation? I think so!

Consider the 24/7 Public Relations Expected

There was a time I worked as a rental agent at a large apartment complex, and I lived on-site. One day I was sunbathing by the pool on my day off, and a lady came to me and said, "It's Thanksgiving and my dishwasher broke down. I want you to fix it right now. What am I supposed to do with dinner guests coming?"

Well, do I really need to say what I felt like telling the ole bat? This would be an issue whenever someone works in any pay arrangement what-so-ever, and lives on site. There is no measure of pay offset for the aggravation of having to be a smiling hostess and deal with inconsiderate guests (sic) . . . like the ole bat with the broken-down dishwasher. Public relations is a 24/7 job, and (in the eyes of the employer) there is no excuse for the worker's right to privacy. Is there any compensation to offset the aggravation disadvantages? I don't think so.


Non-profit Status Doesn't Justify Exploitation

People who have non-profit businesses don't willingly pay themselves a non-sustainable living wage. They expect to meet their monthly needs and earn enough money to support their business and its improvements and growth.

A non-profit status does not justify exploitation of employees, regardless of the pay arrangement. It's a matter of ethics, and non-profit status doesn't sanctify anybody. Slavery was wiped out a
l..o..n..g time ago. If the Labor Commission was doing their job correctly, this exploitation of workers wouldn't be happening. Now we're getting into politics, aren't we?

Get What You Pay For

My husband and I started work camping and quickly found out that most of these campgrounds expect more from their host than what they are willing to pay. To be a host available to answer questions, help campers with parking or even minor tasks such as selling fire wood or ice is fair for the min. wage. Asking the host to clean bathrooms, lawn and pool care, propane dispensing, and endless other tasks is not hosting. Those are several jobs, some of which require a license. We noticed that our age (in our 40's) seems to make them think we are not only able to physically do the extra work, but for some reason, think we are willing to do the extra work. The last park charged $350 a month for a site to anyone for monthly rate, but expected 20 hours per week from us.

Hosts Do Many Duties for a Wide Range of Compensation

All of those things you listed ARE typical camp host duties. Unless you have a written job description that lists specific tasks that you will or won't be doing, expect that you may need to do those things.

They may not be what you want to do or are willing to do, but hosts do all those things and many others besides.

As for the hours required, if you agreed to work that many hours for a site, then that is what you committed to. If you didn't agree to it, then simply point out how many hours you did agree to and decline to work the additional hours.

The saying, "No one can take advantage of you unless you let them," is usually true.

WOW, It's Interesting to Read All...

I am planning to retire in two years, at 62 and planning to do traveling and workamping. I thought the way they figure out the work exchange is by adding up the amount to rent a full hook-up site and then divide the hourly rate. For example: the site costs $35 a day, 7 days is $245 divide by 20 hours comes out to $12.25 per hour. Is this not fair? I am thinking there is no way I will be able to pay $245 a week and almost a thousand dollars a month on a camp site, so I will have to work for a free site. Sad to say it, but it will be the only way I could travel and have money left for foods and other expenses.

Also, the most dreadful, disgusting thing I don't really want to do is cleaning the bathrooms! Is there a way out? I know state parks volunteer required you to clean the bathrooms. Any tips or insight would be appreciated, thanks.

Daily Rates Compared to Seasonal Rates

Hi Carmen,

Your way of figuring is correct if you are staying at an RV park that only has a daily rate. However, many parks have weekly and monthly rates that work out to a much lower per day rate. Some parks have seasonal rates and they are cheaper still.

There are some parks that charge over $1000 per month. However, I think you will find there are many more that charge less than $500 per month, especially if you are looking at staying for two or three months or more, common for work camping positions. The $245 you mention as a weekly figure may actually be the monthly rate at many parks.

As for cleaning bathrooms?. There are jobs out there that do not require you clean restrooms.

Go to the Workers On Wheels Work for RVers and Campers blog.

To Colleen

To Colleen, as editor of RVers and Workers On Wheels, you don't seem very sympathetic to the working camper and most of your statements seem to be excuses for campgrounds labor practices. Was wondering if you are a working camper or do you own the campground?

Restrooms and Rates

When I was a camp host, my main duties were cleaning restrooms and cleaning sites. Really, the restrooms were not a problem. Soap'em up, hose'm down, and done.

When I was growing up, the daughter of a real estate agent, I was taught one shouldn't spend more than a quarter of one's income on housing. Based on a 40 hour week, that would make a 10 hours a week fair.

True, lots of people pay more than that for their housing - and look at the housing crisis that got us into!

Why are you doing it???

This needs to be the question you ask yourself. Are you doing it because it's a cheaper way to live, or to make money? Are you doing it to explore our great country? You have to consider, not just the compensation from the place you work, but what the area you're in has to offer.
We have work camped for about 8 yrs. We have been camp hosts, worked visitor centers in Nat. Park system, even managed a campground, but we still feel that this lifestyle is the greatest.
Yes, cleaning the bathrooms can be bad, but not always the worst job. Our experience was the people who were middle to upper class were the nastiest to clean up after. Some of the worst & most destructive groups we had were boy scouts and church groups, that of course was due a lot to lack of discipline by their leaders and lack of teaching moral respect at home.
You have to decide if the area you're in is worth a little bit less in the compensation department.
Like others have said, only you can let yourself be taken advantage of.

Non-Profit's & Volunteers

Volunteering for small non-profit organizations can be very rewarding. Giving of your time to volunteer is how some of these organizations are able to continue their good deeds.

If you are thinking about volunteering for a non-profit, then go into that with the mindset that you are there to help with their mission. Most non-profits operate solely on donations, so no, they can't provide you with free laundry, propane, pools/spas, shower houses, or any other amenities that you would find in an RV resort.
If these things are what you are looking for and expect, then you don't need to volunteer for them. You should be there for what you can do for them, not what they can do for you.

Some of you have mentioned no-kill animal refuges expecting to many hours for the compensation. It's as I stated above, they operate on donations and you shouldn't ask that they use those hard earned donations to provide you more than the basic amenities.
I currently volunteer at a no-kill animal refuge and it is so easy to spot who is there for the good of the animals and who is just there because of a free RV site. If you're not there for the animals and wanting to contribute to a worthy cause, then you don't need to be there.
You should be there because it makes your heart feel good.

lots of choices

Full-timing for over 4 years, I've volunteered in a National Park, worked for a couple of campgrounds that wanted 20 hours for hook ups and minimum wage or a little more for additional hours. But one place that I worked several summers paid $8 for every hour I worked. It was older and not fancy, but it was run by the owners.

My advice is to never work for corporate businesse, anywhere - a family run business is much more accommodating, less about policy, procedure and protocol that disregards the individual, are generally friendlier and will know the all the cool places off the tourist track. Besides we all need to support local at every chance.

I am proud that at 53 I am not above cleaning bathrooms. One time I went into a very clean bathroom in a motel; I looked around and realized how much I appreciated it. From then on I sang row, row, row your boat as I happily cleaned toilets....merrily, merrily, merrily......I was doing an important job and did it well.

But workamping is changing; most managers now want responsible, mature, hard workers, multi-taskers, computer wizards, plumbing and electrical experience, perhaps college educated, strong and fit, bringing a load of life lessons with them. They want slaves. It has been determined that in most cases you can pay a seasonal rate for your site and get yourself a job somewhere else that might pay a bit more than minimum wage and you will come out ahead.

Yes, boycott those campgrounds who want to take advantage of dedicated workers. You just have to shop around. When you stay at a place you really like, ask if they need help. Or do like I do....I say: "I love this campground and I would just love to work here, I'm a very hard worker and I promise you'll be happy with my work!" You would be surprised how often that works....and of course, I keep my promise.

Also, think outside the box...there are interesting temporary jobs all over....just ask around.

Working and paying for it

We decided to try workcamping. We are to work 15 hrs each per week at $7.35 per hr. Our site is $850/mo (someone paying to stay for a month, $650)and we pay electric over $40. We actually worked 24.5 hrs each in a week; after 2 wks, we each got a check for $8.04 after $12.56 taken for medicare and disability; $200 for 'rent'. We will also have to file an AZ tax return, even though we signed a form declining taxes be taken out of that left over $8.04.

This is a for profit membership campground, WHR, and they tell everyone that the federal gov enforces the 'new' ruling making this mandatory. We think this is hogwash! BUT, we do enjoy the comraderie and our co-workers, even spending off times with them; this wouldn't happen if we didn't work. Also, if we moved every two weeks, we would be paying for diesel to move and the daily fee at the campgrounds.

All that said, we are trying it, enjoying ourselves and new friends, so looking at it as 'just another experience' and will be more diligent when looking at any other working opportunities. Thankfully we don't have to work.

Previous Work

What you did before becoming a fulltime RVer has no bearing on what job you can do after. And I would assume an employer doesn't really care that you had a high paying corporate job; what they want now is someone who is able, and willing to do whatever it is they need done at their campground.

Entitlement Crowd

I can sure tell the people on here are of the entitlement generation. I was never afraid to clean a toilet, or do things that were not asked of me. Do these people really think they will get a job? They lost their job, or left it and come on here looking for work. Maybe this site should be for retired people only, who never worked in a public agency. To be able to travel, stay where you want, and have to pick up a limb or cut the grass to pay for your stay is much better than what you left. Or, is it?

Campground Owner

I have been reading about the RV Parks. I understand that there are some parks that will take advantage of the workers.

I have a couple that have been with us for over a year. Husband is sick and they are going back home. This couple, she worked for space and electric, and I would give a bonus. They liked it because the park is real laid back and on weekends she would do bathrooms, and during the week, if needed answer phone.

But, we as owner get out and work just like anyone else; if we have a leak in the bathroom, manager and I will clean up -- we work together. Thank you.

It's Up to You if It is a Good Workcamper Job

I have workamped for 14 years and when I wish to work I do.

I enjoy seeing new places and people. I am very careful about the jobs I take.

1.Do I wish to go there?

2.What will I be doing?

3.Where is my site, with the other campers or in a hole some where? Never near a dumpster, restroom or laundry.

4.Does the site and wages come to $8.00 an hour? check out their web page.

5.Talk to the manager and after 5 min. you do the talking.

6.Never take a job you will not like, single or couple.

There are a lot of good positions and fair wages. Cleaning restrooms is not that bad. Just remember 4 to 6 months any one can do any thing, if you want the lifestyle.

It's all up to each person that is what makes the USA such a great place.

Who is Entitled to What?

Reading many of the comments here, one would think that folks were FORCED to accept minimum wage-equivalent positions at campgrounds and RV parks.

My own take...

No one is "forced" into work camping; it is a choice.

No one is "exploited" if all parties agree to an arrangement.

No level of compensation is "demeaning," nor, frankly, is it enhancing. We are demeaned (or enhanced) by the work we do and the way we treat each other. Deriving your self-worth from the size of a pay-check is, well, pretty self-demeaning.

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