Are you an RV’er? Maybe you’re a Weekend Warrior? – does your RV spend more time in storage or parked in the driveway than on the road? Maybe you’ve dreamed of the time when you can “get outta Dodge” and hit the open road full-time?
As we’ve traveled and worked in RV parks, campgrounds, and museums around the country we’ve made many new friends with other full time RV’ers. We’ve had the opportunity to sit around the campfire or share a dinner together after work. We’ve all shared our experiences with each other and now we we want to share some tips that you might find helpful.
Is the full-time RV lifestyle really for me? If you have a partner, keep in mind that you’ll be spending a LOT of time with each other in close proximity. If you’re not already good with each other, getting rid of the house and changing your lifestyle so drastically might not be for you. Maybe you should just rent a rig and try a long trip away .. maybe a couple months or so to see how things go.
And while you are on this “Trial Run”, don’t chase down every destination you can – slow way down. Remember .. the purpose of this test run is to simulate what your life might be like when (and if) you do make the change to full time RV’ing. Running from location to location to “see everything we can” will more closely simulate a vacation than a lifestyle.
Most full timers stay one or more weeks in any one location .. sometimes even months. This gives one plenty of time to be able to become immersed in the surrounding area seeing lots of new sights and very often developing new lasting friendships that just wouldn’t happen if you’re only in a location for a couple days at a time.
If your trial run goes well then the next step might be to find an RV that fits your needs, likes, and pocketbook.
Again, renting a rig might be a good idea although most folks just find what they THINK they will like the first time. Studies show that RV’ers typically own three RV’s before settling down on one type or brand vs another.
There are just so many choices out there; travel trailer or fifth wheel or motorhome? What length? Gas or diesel engine? New or used? What floor plan suits you? Oh, and yes, what does the pocketbook allow? I’m not going to pretend to think I can tell you what type RV is the best, that’s a decision you’ll have to investigate further and decide on your own.
Read RV blogs written by actual RV’ers, not by professional writers. Follow RV’ing You Tube videos. Join Facebook RV groups. I especially recommend Chuck Woodbury’s “RV HORROR STORIES” on Facebook, you’ll learn a lot about what brands (and dealers) to stay away from.
Our personal experience has been that buying a good used rig is favorable to purchasing new. We had never done any camping of any sort in our 40+ years of marriage. Our first rig was a used 30′ Dutchman 5th wheel, followed a year later by a 34′ Monaco gas motorhome and then after another year we finally settled on our current 36′ Airstream diesel motorhome.
The fifth wheel was parked at a nearby lake adjacent to our pontoon boat, then we bought the gas Monaco after selling the 5’er and the boat. We made a few short trips with the Monaco gasser, but decided to buy the Airstream diesel pusher once we knew that we were going to “take the plunge” and go full-time.
All of these rigs had some problems, but none that convinced us we shouldn’t have made the purchase of a previously owned RV. Even though we had to pay to have some of the repairs made (I made many of the repairs myself), the cost was still FAR BELOW the cost of buying new. And further, we didn’t have the aggravation of trying to get warranty work taken care of. As you’ll learn soon enough, so many dealers use stall tactics to delay completion of your warranty work because they have a higher profit margin doing non-warranty work that’s paid by the customer rather than warranty work paid by the manufacturer. Again .. check out Chuck Woodbury’s “RV Horror Stories” page on Facebook to see what I’m talking about.
What about joining clubs? Our advice is don’t get caught up in subscribing to every magazine and joining every club out there. Many of the magazines are nothing more than corporate-owned platforms for advertising their (or their affiliates) products.
There are lots of clubs out there that cater to those who own a specific BRAND (Monaco, Arctic Fox, Airstream, etc.) of RV, others that attract owners of TYPES of RV’s (Pickup Campers, Fiberglass “egg” style campers, etc.)
Our advice is to look seriously at Escapees RV Club. This club was founded by a husband and wife full-time RV couple in 1978 who saw the need to come up with a way to support other full-time RV’ers. This club offers all the perks the other clubs offer (product discounts, caravans, rallies, training, etc.) but we’ve found it’s so much more than that. It’s truly like a family – our family out on the road. We encourage you to find out more at Escapees.com – at only $39.95 a year it’s a great bargain. If you DO decide to join, please mention our names as those who referred you – we get a little something. It all helps!
Have you thought about how you’re going to finance this new lifestyle? If you sell your sticks ‘n bricks home, you can use that money. Maybe you have an income stream that can work for you on the road. That’s one of the great things about technology today – many of us can work from just about anywhere provided we have a good internet connection. Or maybe your savings and investments you’ve developed can carry you a long way down the road.
Personally we decided we were going to live on our Social Security income and Kathy’s small pension from the school system she retired from while keeping our savings and investment nest egg intact.
In order to be able to do this we sold our modest home and paid off all our outstanding debt so that we were debt-free. We also determined that it would be less stressful (on our emotional well being and our pocketbook) if we were to Workamp and volunteer. We found that by volunteering 10-12 hours each week in exchange for our site and utilities we could live, in essence “rent free” and not receive any taxable income. To find out more about one of our Workamping experiences you can visit this link. You can also just use the search box here on our blog and enter the word “Workamp” or “Volunteer” to learn more about the types of opportunities that we’ve had.
What about an “Exit Plan”? After all, nothing lasts forever. If you DO decide to go all-in and sell the sticks-n-bricks home to hit the road full-time, what might you do when the time comes to get off the road? As we age, we tend to develop health issues that require more attention by medical professionals and could very well cause us to suspend travel – either for some extended period of time (while we recuperate) or permanently. So what might you do should that happen to you?
We’re getting close to 4 years full-time and much of that time we’ve been Workamping and volunteering and you can read more about some of those gigs here. But we have begun to think more and more about when that time comes for us.
Many RV’ers buy or lease an RV lot in a park or campground that they can use to “lay low” for extended periods of time. For us, we have a lifetime lease on an RV lot at Rover’s Roost in Casa Grande, AZ. This lot is ours for as long as we want and when we are not there, the lot is in the rental pool so we receive some income from the rental.
Do we miss our friends and family? Absolutely! We try to make a pass through Ohio once a year to visit. We realize that we don’t t need to be there all the time. With all the technology available to us today to visit online, our once a year visit in person gives us the recharge to head out again.
There are other more boring considerations too like; what to do about mail and packages, how and where do I get health care, what state do I claim as my “residence”, and figuring out what cell phone and internet plan might work best for you on the road.
I’ll talk about each if these issues in upcoming posts, but for now I think I probably have given you a bit to chew on.
So yes, there’s a lot to consider when thinking about making the move to full-time RV life.
I wish you well in this uncertain time and trust you will stay safe wherever you happen to be. Be good to yourself and to each other and “this too shall pass” in time – let’s just hope not too long.