A Dose Of Reality

 Posted by at 12:02 am  Nick's Blog
Dec 242014

I get a lot e-mails and letters to the editor and see posts online from people with limited funds who want to go fulltime and are looking at older, usually entry level RVs. And many of those RVs have been sitting a long time, which is why they are for sale at relatively low prices. I really worry that a lot of folks are setting themselves up for disappointment.

I’ve always said that you don’t have to have the newest and best RV in the campground to enjoy the RV lifestyle, and that is true. However, an older RV can come with a lot of potential mechanical problems that can easily put you off the road needing expensive repairs. Tires alone can be a major investment and must be addressed on an older rig. They can look good but still be over-aged and a potential hazard. Even new high end RVs can and do have problems. That’s why extended warranty companies exist.

An older low mileage quality unit that was stored properly can be a good investment, but be aware that things like seals and tires will deteriorate, and a generator that has sat without being run for a long time is going to need some attention. All that adds up, fast.

If your idea of fulltiming is to park it someplace and live it in, that’s one thing. But to do much traveling, one has to be aware that it takes its toll on any RV, new or older, and hopefully you have the funds to handle problems that will likely arise. I hate to see people put all their money into something and then be stuck someplace broke down and with no money for repairs.

I’m not trying to say that if you can’t afford a new or late model RV that you should stay home. I’m just saying to do your homework, shop carefully, and be aware that you are going to have to spend money to keep whatever you have running, new or old. Our rig is a 2002 Winnebago Ultimate Advantage that was eight years old and had 33K miles when we bought it. The previous owner bought it new and did not use it much, but he also ignored a lot of maintenance items. For example, he had never taken care of the slide seals, so they had to be replaced to the tune of over $2,000. The house batteries went bad, so he replaced them with regular car starting batteries. Another $600 expense for us. Also tires, for $2800. But we bought it right and factored those items into the purchase price.

Every week I hear from people who want to raise their kids on the road and homeschool them. I think that could be a wonderful way to grow up, but I get worried when I get ones like I did a few days ago from a family with five kids, looking at a 1987 travel trailer they planned to pull with a 2002 minivan. Another from a family looking at a 1991 Fleetwood Class A gas model that has been sitting for three years. Or worse yet, the couple with 13 and 16 year old sons who want to fulltime in a B van. They said they like spending time outside so they didn’t think the limited space would be a problem. I asked where everybody was going to sleep and they said mom and dad would use the bed across the back, one son would sleep on a dinette that converted to a bad and the other in the reclining passenger seat up front. Seriously? How long do you think that’s going to last on a fulltime basis?

Please understand that I’m not trying to be an elitist. I know what it’s like to be broke. Keep in mind that we lost everything after Terry’s cancer and had to start all over again. We bought a beat up old 1976 MCI bus and converted it ourselves and lived in it for over eight years. But I do think it’s important to inject a dose of reality into the fantasy that a lot of folks have about living on the road. It’s not all sitting around a campfire toasting S’mores and singing Kumbaya.

It’s Wednesday, and that means it’s time for a new Free Drawing. This week’s prize is an audiobook of Big Lake Blizzard, the fourth book in my Big Lake mystery series. To enter, all you have to do is click on the Free Drawing link or the tab at the top of this page and enter your name in the comments section at the bottom of that page (not this one). Only one entry per person per drawing please, and you must enter with your real name. To prevent spam or multiple entries, the names of cartoon or movie characters are not allowed. The winner will be drawn Sunday evening.

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  6 Responses to “A Dose Of Reality”

  1. Your writing today about the e-mails you receive got me thinking. (For full disclosure I will admit having writing to Nick myself asking for opinions.) Some of the e-mails you get must be rich fodder for the fertile imagination of a novelist.

  2. Some people just use their head for someplace to store a hat. Whatever happened to common sense?

  3. If I were looking to buy a motor home or RV of ANY type, I would look for an Owner’s Forum to join and start learning about the issues for any given model and year. There is GREAT information to be had from folks who are actually living and dealing with those rigs. Once you DO buy, a forum is a fine place to get answers and advice … but you have to be smart enough to listen. We are very happy with our present rig, a 40′ 2002 Foretravel. If I wanted to upgrade, I would still buy used. Get the best quality USED rig you can afford … plan on an extra $10,000 to bring it up to your expectations … keep a “kitty” for the unexpected … and plan for the routine expenses. Common Sense, indeed. Otherwise, the lifestyle is just not for you.

  4. Another way to start, the way we did. Go ahead and buy the rig that you think can do the job. It will probably be a piece of good looking junk. But you will find out about that later. Use the junk, drive it into the ground, while checking on the idea of full timing. Get rid of the junk and get ready to do it right the next time.

    Our trial only cost us $15,000. We learned a LOT and will be having a great time later.

  5. Merry Christmas Nick and Terry. Since I found your blog a number of years ago, you’ve become like family. Thanks for sharing and safe travels in the year to come.

  6. This is good Advice Nick… We bought a 1985 Chevy Fleetwood Tioga Arrow. Knowing that we’d have to do some work to it. We are not old enough to “retire” so we have to make money on the road. We’ve made it work, but you are correct – it is not all sitting around the campfire enjoying life. We’ve had to find work where we are and that limits us to being in a single place for an extended period of time. For us, that is not all bad. We were running from the cold and snow of the state of Maine. So we’ve been here in Texas for a little over 2 months with plans to stay until the end of April.

    We did replace all 7 tires however on our trip down. When you say tires are a problem on an older rig even when they look good – you are not lying! The best thing about this lifestyle though is you can back up and re-think your plan, make changes to it as you go to meet your needs. When you are living on a shoestring budget it can get pretty scary.


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