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Full-time RV considerations

Some people become full-time RV’ers out of sheer necessity through a loss of their home, a job that requires or allows movement around the country, or for temporary housing due to natural disasters. But most of us make a conscious choice to become permanently ‘homeless,’ and a great deal of thought and preparation goes into the decision.

If you are toying with the idea of joining us on the road in your RV, here are some things that you should think about first.

Your spouse/partner

If you are in a relationship, the most important consideration is how your partner feels about the idea of living in an RV. If they are not 100% on board with it, don’t do it. Otherwise you will be dragging them unhappily along, which will result in a serious strain on your relationship and will set you up for failure. A ‘trial’ might be a better idea for a reluctant partner if they are willing.

In addition to both of you being enthusiastic about the idea, you must also have a strong relationship in general. You are going to be traveling and living in an extremely small space with a limited number of possessions. You will be leaving your friends and family behind and will have no support network for the most part. You must be able to tolerate spending nearly 100% of your time with each other. If you can’t handle that then full-time RV’ing is also not a good idea.

Your hobbies and interests should be similar, or at least compatible. If you can’t find some things to do that both of you want to engage in it will make your time on the road pretty miserable.

Children

Just because you have children does not mean that you can’t consider a life on the road. We embarked on our journey when our son was in middle school. He missed his friends and the school structure at first, but eventually got used to it. We signed him up for an online charter school through k12.com, which provided all of his materials, teachers and even a desktop computer at no charge. Just like your partner/spouse, your children must be supportive of the idea of full-timing. If they aren’t, you will also have a miserable experience while you drag them along doing things that they don’t want to do.

Finances

RV’ing actually sounds like a cheap way to live, and it certainly can be if you are frugal and can pay cash for your RV and other vehicles. That said though, it can also easily cost as much or more than living in a permanent dwelling. Why? Well, if you are financing any of your vehicles you will have a loan payment (think of it as your mortgage). You have to insure it, maintain it, pay for a place to park it, put fuel in it, pay for utilities when you are parked, pay for your entertainment, dining out, etc. Just the payments on your RV and the park rent can add up to more than a home mortgage. So if you think that you are going to get away cheap while on the road, think again.

From the beginning you will need a realistic budget. Be sure to double what you think you are going to need for maintenance on your RV. Something is always going wrong with them and warranty companies specialize in finding ways not to pay for it. Unlike a permanent home, you are also going to need to replace your dwelling occasionally, so you will need to be saving up for your next one. Add that to your budget.

Where is your income coming from while on the road? If it’s a retirement that is fairly secure and regular, great. This will allow you to have a fairly good idea of what you have to work with. Self-employment is a different matter. Are you going to be able to continue doing business the way that you were when you were sitting still? You may find that there are many logistical and tax ramifications that you hadn’t thought of. Full-time RV’ing can offer some tax advantages, but probably not like you got with a mortgage.

The bottom line about finances is to plan for the worst-case scenario. Our first four years on the road were fraught with disasters of various kinds that really chewed into our savings. You are all but guaranteed to have some challenges of your own. Be ready for them.

What kind of RV?

Now that you have your budget worked out you can decide what type of RV you want. This is a very personal decision and I’m not going to try to recommend one type over another. You and your partner must take your time with decision because it is one you are literally going to have to live with for a while. The best thing to do is visit plenty of RV shows and dealerships. Spend some time in each type of RV and imagine what it would be like to spend days on end in it.

We had to start our life on the road in an RV that we owned already. It was poorly suited for our needs, which provided us with an opportunity to know exactly what wanted for a full-time rig.

Your budget is of course the first consideration. You obviously can’t have a half-million dollar motorhome if you only have $50K to spend. Beyond that the first thing to decide is what type of rig you want: a Class A motorhome, a smaller Class C motorhome, a travel trailer, a fifth wheel,  or a toy hauler. Tent trailers are not on my list because they are not a good choice for serious full-timers. If you have an extra vehicle like we do (a Jeep), you have to consider how you are going to move that second vehicle around. With a motorhome you could tow it; with a trailer someone will need to drive it.

This is such an involved topic that I think I will break it out into a separate post. For now I suggest going on to some of the RV forums and nosing around about RV choices.

Travel style

How do you want to travel? Do you want to stay in one place for just a few days and then move on? Or stay in the same place for a few months each time? Do you want to dry camp (without hookups), always stay in an RV park, or do a combination? This decision will have a large influence on your budget, or maybe your choice is dictated by a limited budget. Weekly and monthly stays in RV parks are always cheaper than the daily rates, so we usually try to stay for at least one month in each place that we go. The nice thing is that you’re not locked in to your RV’ing style. Dry camping might sound very appealing until you try it, or not appealing at all. It’s a very personal preference.

To be continued…

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