KOA and Good Sam are two of the most widely recognized names in family camping in North America, but they are different organizations with different approaches to enhancing the family camping experience.
Good Sam is an organization whose members are individual campers or camping families while KOA is a franchise organization whose members are KOA campgrounds across north America.
Good Sam’s focus appears to be on owners of recreational vehicles while KOA caters to both RVers and tent campers, plus they also offer furnished cabins with full baths.
Good Sam – An Overview
Good Sam has the most members of RV owners in the world. Good Sam members pay an annual membership fee for Good Sam memberships. Memberships start at $29 per year—two and three year memberships are available for $55 and $79, respectively.
The Good Sam Club is focused primarily on campers who rely on vehicles for camping, i.e., camping trailers and motorhomes (recreational vehicles—RVs), and Good Sam Club offers protection plans (insurance) for RVers similar to the services of an auto club for vehicle owners, including trip planning, emergency road service, as well as campground directories and trip planning apps.
There are additional fees for emergency roadside assistance protection.
The amount of the fee depends on the type of camping vehicle to be covered: truck and travel trailer, small motor home, or larger motorhome. There are different levels of coverage available, with plans starting at $79.00 per year with several pricing and coverage options.
Good Sam also offers services to campgrounds, and campgrounds pay a fee to: be evaluated and identified as a Good Sam Campground, use the Good Sam reservations system, and display the Good Sam membership logo.
According to the Good Sam web site web site, it is the “largest organization of RV owners in the world” with more than 2.1 million members. More than 2000 campgrounds are authorized to display the Good Sam campground sign. The parent company is Good Sam Enterprises.
In 2017, there were more than 2,100 privately owned and/or independently operated RV parks and campgrounds affiliated with the Good Sam at which club members receive a 10% discount on the nightly rate for staying in their parks.
In addition to their colorful Good Sam logo, Good Sam is also known for its campground rating system for amenities, cleanliness, and environment. Campers look for the 10/10/10 rating.
Both Good Sam and KOA are well known names in the camping world, and they both offer valuable services to campers. But they are very different.
Kampgrounds of America (KOA) – An Overview
KOA is a franchise organization of independently owned and operated campgrounds. It is the largest affiliated group of privately owned campgrounds with more than 500 campgrounds in the United States and Canada. KOA is headquartered in Billings, Montana.
KOA has an established set of guidelines and requirements for each franchisee, including quality of the camp sites, amenities such as playgrounds and pools, camp stores, cleanliness, services, etc.
Campgrounds that do not meet their requirements cannot become KOA campgrounds, and KOA campgrounds can lose their KOA franchise if they do not maintain the KOA standards.
At one time, there were more than 900 KOA campgrounds, but after stricter quality standards were established and enforced by the company in 2002, KOA was left with 500 campgrounds that met their standards.
KOA campgrounds are scattered across the United States and Canada. KOA also has its own reservation system and membership loyalty program.
A portion of a typical KOA campground map showing access roads, and site layouts. Different colors indicate the power available, for example: 20/30 (red) or 20/50 (purple), etc.
KOA also has a membership program. You do not have to be a KOA member to camp at KOA parks, but you will pay full camping rates and there and you will have access to all the camping facilities and activities.
Each KOA Park is a franchise holder—that is each KOA campground purchased a franchise to do business as a “KOA Kampground.”
KOA Loyalty Program
KOA does offer a rewards program. There is a modest fee for the program that offers significant discounts on camping and other expenses, that—after several stays at a KOA campground—can save money and offer discounts on other products and services.
Individual campers do not have to be members of KOA—they are open for business to any camper.
The KOA Website provides information on all aspects of KOA Kampgrounds and loyalty programs.
KOA Rewards loyalty program offers exclusive benefits to campers, including discounts for each night of camping. The loyalty program costs $33 per year and entitles the member to 10% discount on daily registration fees.
KOA also offers different discounts as part of their promotions. For example, during the month of July (2022), senior members can get 20% off camp registration fees. Promotions and discounts vary from month to month. To check on current KOA discounts go to Coupert.
KOA also offers active duty and retired military discounts of 7.5% to 15%. The discount varies based on location.
They are known for their friendly and helpful staff and diverse camping sites. From sites for RVs and tents to yurts and small cabins, KOA has a lot of camping options
Good Sam Camp Grounds
In addition to camper and vehicle services, Good Sam has an inspection and rating system to provide campers with the quality of stay they can expect at a Good Sam Park. Good Sam also provides a reservation system for member parks and features them in their comprehensive Campground Guide.
Campgrounds pay a fee for access to the reservation system, to be evaluated, and to be identified as a Good Sam Campground with the authority to display the familiar Good Sam membership logo. Each campground is a private entity, “recognized” by Good Sam as meeting their standards for campers.
The Good Sam Club also offers discounts on a wide variety of camping related products and services. Their principal membership is made up of RV owners and Good Sam provides them information on campgrounds around the country.
Because of their huge membership, they can provide benefits and services for members such as roadside assistance for your camping vehicle, whether you are towing a trailer or riding in a motorhome.
They also publish detailed travel guides listing all campgrounds (Good Sam campgrounds are highlighted), as well a local attractions and places to eat.
More than 2000 campgrounds across the United States and Canada display the Good Sam logo as a “seal of approval.” At a glance, the discounts may seem small but, they can add up over time.
In 1985, Good Sam reported a membership of 450,000 members. At the end of 2021, they had more that 2.1 million members.
Good Sam has developed a “state-of-the-art” reservation system that it will license to any campground. Their system can be tailored to the needs of specific, unique campgrounds or networks of campgrounds. The system allows campers to make online reservations.
Back at the campground, the system can visually allow staff to assigned sites before they arrive to arrange campers and sites for the best fit.
Which is Better – Good Sam or KOA
It is likely if this question comes up at a gathering of a number of campers, there could be a heated discussion. There are loyal fans of each organization.
Good Sam campers like the protection plans offered for their vehicles as well as the reservation system for camping, and the directory of campgrounds and attractions. Both offer different “perks” with their memberships as well as discount programs that can reduce the cost of frequent camping.
Good Sam campers are attracted by the insurance or protection policies that are available, which do provide an increased sense of security against breakdowns and flat tires, etc.
Other than meeting Good Sam’s quality criteria, there is not necessarily any similarity or familiarity from one Good Sam campground to the next.
KOA provides stricter standards on amenities and activities and is focused on family camping. There is a strong level of confidence that if a camper likes one KOA, he or she, or the kids are likely to enjoy most other KOA campgrounds and feel at home.
In addition to being a comfortable campground, they usually have enough activities to keep kids happy. For a family, this is the campground of choice if you just want to get away—with the kids—and have a good time and not necessarily have an agenda to concentrate on touristy activities. And they are pet friendly, usually with dog parks or walking areas.
What they have in common is a set of standards for each of their networks of campgrounds, and an apparent commitment to ensure that those standards are being maintained.
Frequently Asked Questions
Can you sleep in your car at a KOA?
As a rule, KOA’s (and most other campgrounds), do not allow anyone to sleep in a private vehicle unless it is an RV. If you have a long-bed pick-up with a cap over the bed and the interior arranged for sleeping, they it may consider it enough of a camper and sleeping in it may be acceptable.
Can you stay at a KOA without a membership?
Absolutely. The membership simply provides a discount or the privilege of earning free nights of future camping. Anyone is welcome to pay full price and camp and enjoy all of the amenities of the campground.
Where is the largest KOA campground in the U. S.?
The largest KOA campground is the Okeechobee KOA near lake Okeechobee, Florida. It has its own nine-hole golf course, driving range and practice putting green plus access to some of the best bass fishing in the state. A site with electricity and water for a 15-ft camper will average about $88 per night.
Is alcohol allowed in KOA campgrounds?
Alcohol is discouraged in public areas of KOA campgrounds. Campers, of legal drinking age, may consume alcohol at their campsites, provided they do not become a nuisance to other campers. Also, in some locations—cities, counties, or townships, alcohol consumption may be prohibited in campgrounds; especially in public owned campgrounds (Example).
Can you use your Good Sam membership discounts at KOA campgrounds?
No. KOA does not accept Good Sam loyalty cards.