A couple of years ago my wife and I decided we were going to travel the US in a semi-retired state. We kicked out the kids (all over 21), sold our home and purchased an RV. Well live situations change and we didn’t get on the road, at least not yet. We ended up staying in the area and taking full time jobs. But we decided at the time to stay in the RV as full-timers.
The purpose of the article is to offer some insight as to the possibilities of using RV’s instead of apartments and the advantages of Rving. First a little background for those that are not familiar with the Recreational Vehicle (RV) terms. RVs are classified into several different categories.
Class A are the bus like vehicles you see traveling down the road. These are also called Motorhomes and for good reason. Class A’s are the cream of the crop so to speak. They are the most expensive in terms of cost but have the most storage and amenities. I have seen some really nice Class A’s and when it comes time for us to upgrade or trade in our current RV we will be looking at the Class A again. However, my tastes start in the $250,000 range, which is a little hard for me to justify.
Next are Class B, these are mini motorhomes. They are built on a light to medium truck chassis and can be identified by the truck cab appearance of the vehicle. In my opinion, these will not be suitable for full time use unless you really like small places. Some newer Class Bs are including what are called slides which are sections of the RV that ‘slide out’ from the body giving you more living space inside. Living space is what you will be looking for in the long run.
After the Class B comes Fifth Wheels. Fifth Wheels are trailers that are pulled by pickup trucks. So to get a fifth wheel you will also need a pickup truck of appropriate size. I would figure at least a ¾ ton pickup. Fifth wheels offer an advantage over Class A and Class B in that once you have the fifth wheel set up on a campsite, the truck is detached and can be used as a means of transportation. With Class A & B RV’s you will need to either tow or bring another vehicle with you to get around. Fifth wheels approach the Class A RV in amenities and in some cases have more space. Dollar for dollar you will get more living space in a fifth wheel than a Class A.
However, you do need an expensive tow vehicle (truck) which has to be considered as part of the purchase. The fifth wheel is also part of a class considered as ‘Towables’. The next ‘towable’ is the travel trailer (TT). These are similar to the fifth wheel except in the connections to the tow vehicle. With TT you connect to a hitch that sits near the bumper of the vehicle. Hence, just about any vehicle has the capabilities of towing a TT depending on size and weight of course. Class A, Fifth Wheels and Travel Trailers are the 3 main RV that you will find people living in on a fulltime basis. After the TT comes the camper class. These are light weight RV really not suitable for full time, however, I have met people that are full-timers in pop-ups, truck campers and even tents. The top of the line for the camper class is probably the truck campers.
These are units that slide into the bed of a pickup truck. In general, the max length is no more than 12 feet from front to back and maybe 10 feet side to side. They are very compact. These offer the ultimate in freedom, in that they are quick to setup and take down so that you can move quickly from place to place. However, just like the class A & B, your home is also your transportation, unless you bring another vehicle with you. The last group of towables is the popup or tent trailers. These have a study box frame and as the name implies pop up or lift up to raise the roof over the frame. This class of campers usually have soft sides made of cloth. I have used popups for years as an alternative to hotels while on assignments around the country. Even did some camping in the middle of winter with snow on the ground in a popup. Needless to say, a heater was required and it ran all day and all night. At night it wasn’t able to keep up with the cold so the morning was a little fun getting out of bed. It was 20 degrees outside and about 50 inside.
That is a basic overview of the types of RV’s available. As mentioned before, Class A, Fifth wheel and Travel Trailers are the units that most people will find suitable for full-time living.
Our experiences with living full-time in an RV.
We currently have a fifth wheel. Ours is from Jayco and is 38 feet long with 3 slides. One slide is in the bedroom, the other two slides are in the living room one on each side of the trailer. After almost 3 years in the RV as full-timers, we both love it. My wife likes to say it takes less than an hour to clean from front to back, floor to ceiling.
Let’s start with the financial side of living in a RV. You have the cost of the RV. These are to be treated just like cars. If you buy new, you will take a beating on depreciation. However, like a home, the interest is tax deductible. So the best deal seems to be a unit that is a year or two old and financed. If you want to buy new, figure a discount of about 25-30% off from the list price. Our unit was a 2003 still on the lot in 2005 with the 2006 units being delivered. The sticker price was over $65,000. We paid $40,000 saving us about 38 percent. Now at the time we did not have a tow vehicle so the dealer delivered the fifth wheel to a near by campground.
Oak Grove in Hatfield, PA is a year round campground. This is important. You want to find a campground that offers year round operations. You don’t want to have to move out in the wintertime. A lot of camp grounds close from November to March or early April. When we started there our rent was $375 a month and included water and electric. Our only other expense was propane for heating and hot water. Oak Grove supplied 2- 100 lb propane tanks and they automatically changed the tanks for us. This is really nice, kind of like automatic oil delivery when you own a house. During the warmer months we hardly use any propane, maybe a bottle every other month if that. However, wintertime we will use 3-4 bottles a month due to the heater. Currently propane runs about $50 a bottle. So from the standpoint of renting an apartment to living in an RV expenses are normally cheaper. My daughter pays $750 a month for an apartment near us and we pay on average $425-450.
Other benefits of living in a RV – people! The people you find camping are the most wonderful folks you will ever come across. They are friendly, helpful, young at heart and just plain nice to be around. We have been avid campers since before we were married. I used to sneak down to DE where my wife (girlfriend at the time) and her family were camping and pitch a tent, then make myself part of the family. In the almost 40 years we have been together and camping we have never met anyone that was rude, a thief, or not willing to lend a hand if asked. In fact we have had more offers of help without asking than anytime we lived in a house or apartment.
It’s funny, but when I traveled and stayed at hotels, you almost felt like a ghost or leopard or something. Heaven forbid if you said ‘hi’ to someone in the elevator or hallway. But when camping, everyone waves as you walk by, some will offer drinks or have you sit by the fire and chat for hours. Its like we are all family.
Speaking of fires, what is it about a campfire? To sit down at night around a nice campfire is so relaxing. Nothing needs to be said, just watch the flames and it seems all the stress just floats away. But campfires have another benefit, food. Nothing tastes better than food cooked over an open fire. Try doing that in an apartment.
Rving has another benefit, vacations. If you live in an apartment, you vacation consist of going to a destination, finding a hotel/motel, eating out every meal, and taking enough clothes with you for the length of the vacation. When you live in a RV, your home goes with you. 30-40 minutes to pack the RV, disconnect the utilities and hook up to the truck and you are on the road. When you get to your vacation destination, another 30-40 minutes and you are ready to enjoy the sites. Meals are not a problem, you have a complete kitchen already stocked just like at home, since it is home. On a special diet? No problem, you normal routine is uninterrupted. Clothes get dirty, a lot of RV come with washers and dryers, so you can do your laundry while relaxing in the evenings or before you get started for the day. Rving is usually cheaper too. When you compare the expenses you will find the RV trip is a lot cheaper than hotel/restaurant trip.
These are just a few of the things to consider when you look at living in an apartment verse living in a RV. I hope you have found the information useful.