Are you like me? Do you put your whole heart into something when you start something new?
If you are, and if you’re pretty new to living the RV life, you have burning questions you’d like answered now. No problem!
A Brief RV FAQ–Where I briefly answer the first big RV questions I had when I was a newbie.
What kinds of RVs are there? Many types, all with different floor plans!
- Class A–the ones like buses. People can travel in the camper part while driving. Doesn’t have a garage, patio, or place to store ATVs or other toys. This was our final selection because: we wanted people and/or our pet to ride in it during travel, we could save money driving around town by towing a vehicle with it, we have good storage under and throughout the vehicle, and we couldn’t find a Class C that didn’t have water damage.We also didn’t have a truck already to tow a trailer or Fifth Wheel with, so that would have been a hefty additional expense. I also loved that our motorhome has a steel frame. Learn what material the frame of your future RV will be so you can determine if it’s got the “right stuff.” I read about a couple who saw an RV fly apart while on the road because it was made so cheaply.
- Class B–look like mini vans but can have beds, bathrooms, kitchens. People can travel in the camper part while driving. Doesn’t have a garage, patio, or place to store ATVs or other toys.
- Class C–the ones with the cab over the driver’s seat and what looks like a van front. People can travel in the camper part while driving. Doesn’t have a garage, patio, or place to store ATVs or other toys. Every one we found had water damage in the cab sleepover area!
- Trailers–usually need a strong-engined truck to tow them. People cannot travel in the camper part while driving–not advised for pets to ride in this while driving either. May have a garage, patio, or place to store ATVs or other toys.
- Fifth Wheels–also need a strong-engined truck with the tow part fitting into the truck bed. People cannot travel in the camper part while driving–not advised for pets to ride in this while driving either. May have a garage, patio, or place to store ATVs or other toys. I notice a lot of women try to cover up the front hitch of fifth wheels with fabric curtains or other items.
Should we buy a new RV?
If you’re buying a new RV, find out how much it will devalue when you drive it off the lot. The answer may inspire you to buy a gently-used RV. In this RV forum, one user says they love new RVs, but “my financial advisor keeps telling me, there is absolutely no worse investment than buying a new RV.”
An easy way to check is to use the NADA Guide online, which tells you what RVs are worth. Compare a 2015 and a 2014 model of the RV you’re considering. See how much you would lose. I compared two Dutch Stars this way and the difference was more than $20,000 lost in one year after purchasing a $200,000+ motorhome.
$20,000 would pay for a longer RV trip or eating out half the year.
How do we make sure we select a good, used RV? This is a short list because you wanted some answers today. I suggest learning more than this through the blog and other materials here.
- Avoid delamination (bubbles on the outside walls of your RV that can cause $10,000 to replace) and water damage (no strangely colored parts of walls or ceilings or mangled-looking wallpaper)–look for any water stains. We didn’t get a Class C because we couldn’t find any cab overs that didn’t have water leaks.
- Get a Carfax Report (have your dealer provide it).
- Check RV values here.
- Have a separate RV survey inspector come out and evaluate the vehicle. We found ours using a Google search and we paid about $300. Have the RV inspected by an independent party before you settle on a price with the dealership. Have repairs made before purchase.
- The year of your tires is marked on your tires. Make sure that all tires are fairly recent and examine the tire tread. If they’re a few years old or have worn tread, negotiate the price down with your dealership. Tires are very expensive. Our RV has six.
- Get the lowest mileage possible for the newest vehicle you can reasonably manage. Mileage affects the value of a vehicle, but also it’s ability to qualify for an extended warranty.
- Check for any recalls for your vehicle and make sure the dealership made them all. Ours didn’t, and that resulted in $5,000 worth of damage to our RV and a fire we luckily put out in time!
- No ammonia or other weird smells should be in the RV refrigerator. That’s an expensive item to replace.
- Get the owner’s manual.
- Make sure they have keys for every part of the vehicle that has an ignition or locks and look inside all compartments for damage or problems.
What can I do to make sure my RV is ready for travel?
Your dealership should allow you to spend the night somewhere near the facility. Travel around, sleep in the RV. Our first night, the A/C was clogged and water poured out of our A/C and dumped on the floor! We hadn’t planned time in our agenda for the time to repair this. They should also teach you how to hook up to sewer, water, electricity. Learn how to level your RV and make sure all the parts work. If they don’t, this is an expensive repair if you have leveling jacks, so get it done. They should teach you how to put up your awning. The next day, they should teach you how to dump the sewer, water, and electricity. Then, how to take down your awning (videotape this, ha ha, easy to forget the steps.) Also ask how to use your propane. For this stay, you’ll need some bed sheets, blankets, pillows, towels, toilet paper, toiletry items, food if you want to try cooking (with pans, utensils, plates, trash can, paper towels), drinks, medicines, outdoor mats, and anything else you can’t live without. Test your stove, air conditioning, water, lights, toilet, TV, radios, anything you can find that might go wrong or be broken.
Is insuring our RV like insuring a car?
If you’re living in it, no. You’d need to ensure your stuff! But it’s also like a house, with walls, sinks, ovens, stoves, refrigerators, toilets and many parts that can be damaged. Many people, including us, get an RV extended warranty. Buying an RV that has less than 100,000 miles usually allows you to qualify for some type of extended warranty. We’re with Good Sam for our Extended Service Plan. If you want tires covered, you’d have to do that through roadside assistance plan. Your RV dealership will offer you plan. Compare prices and coverage. Others put the money aside for repairs instead.
How do we cram our stuff into the RV?
We didn’t, so then the choice was what did I need to take with me and what to leave behind in storage.
How do we travel with our dog, Max, a German Shepherd?
Just like in a house, because we purchased a motorhome, and have electricity or use a generator to keep the A/C running. We didn’t solve the ramp problem, because he had to jump from the top step of the RV. A plastic doggie ramp wasn’t stable. No one seems bothered by this but us. Update: Finally found a decent astroturf ramp for large dogs at Pet Smart. Keep the receipt if you get one. Dogs are fond of ramps.
Can we learn to drive this big vehicle?
The width of an RV is wider than a car. Because of the complications of towing a Jeep (because you can tow Jeeps with all four wheels on the ground), I’ve found it’s easier for my husband to drive it. I have driven our RV in a parking lot and determined I want to take a course to learn the specifics.
What does it cost to live full-time in an RV?
This depends on your planning and any monthly bills you have. Ways to save money are:
- Working as a camp host for a free campsite. Learn more about this at Workamper.
- Camping at a location for at least 2-3 months at a time, especially if you’re driving long distances. Driving from Texas to Montana costs us around $700 each way in gasoline, for example. Not driving for a few months offsets that cost.
- If you are a veteran, senior, or have a disability, look into getting discounts for admission and camping at your state’s parks and at national parks. You can also buy passes to save money.
- Towing a car saves money driving around town while you leave the RV at camp.
- Cook at home.
- Remind yourself you’re not a tourist. Then remind yourself again. Full-time RVing can feel like a vacation.
- See which things you can do without and be creative in ways to lower your monthly expenses. We could’ve saved a lot of money if we weren’t paying for storage every month. Cell phones are another cost that can be reduced. We use Verizon because it has access almost everywhere we want to go.
- See if you can avoid a monthly storage fee or any bills that might cost you $1,000 or more a year.
How do people afford to do it?
There are now a lot of jobs where people can travel or even work remotely in a virtual job. Search for virtual jobs at LinkedIn to get you started. Many people also have pensions or Social Security, and many work part-time for free or reduced campsites.
On Pinterest, I have a board, Making and Saving $, that has many alternative ideas for earning income on the road, and I don’t think any of them are stuffing envelopes.
The way we made it financially possible for us was to decide our house was bigger than we needed, so we sold it. The way we looked at it, all we needed was a Tiny House one day, wisely organized. With the extra money from the appreciation of our home over the years, and learning some tricks to make more money off the sale, we had enough of a cushion to help us RV for a few years, while having money for a home later.
What about receiving mail when living in an RV? Not a tremendous problem. We use Escapees mail forwarding service like 50,000 other people. We have our mail sent to them and they forward it when and where we want.
I’ll go into more detail in my blog posts about the above questions.
Living in an RV is not like an apartment or house and is closest to living on a boat in smaller quarters. We don’t miss our house or the extra space and things we had! However, happiness in reduced space is better enjoyed with forethought.
Not planning for the RV life could be expensive, painful, and unpleasant. We learned about a way to examine used RVs for a defect that could cost $10,000 or more to repair if not caught. That is one of many examples. That’s why we paid an RV appraiser $300 to inspect our RV before purchase and that paid off well! Still, I would have done that differently if I could go back . . .
You’re in better shape because I’m here for you, working on reducing the amount of time you have to research by pulling together a variety of resources.