Moving Home

Richard Quinn

FROM TIME TO TIME, I’ve been called judgmental. Me? Just to be sure, I looked up the definition. I’ll admit I do meet some—but not all—of the criteria.

I read or listen to something, and then I start thinking. Can that be true? What are they thinking? Why would they do that? Have they considered their financial priorities and the possible consequences?

My latest target is the TV show about people buying a recreational vehicle (RV). What are they thinking?

There’s nothing wrong with camping vacations, along the way seeing the country and its national parks. But is it worth a $100,000 or more investment that declines in value the minute you drive off the dealer lot?

These folks often claim to want the camping lifestyle, but demand their RV have “all the comforts of home.” A full-size fridge, a dishwasher, washer-dryer and multiple televisions are often basic requirements.

In a recent show, a woman rejected one RV because she couldn’t see the big screen TV from the kitchen area. Another was upset because the bedroom didn’t have nightstands on both sides, not to mention there was no king-size bed. The kids typically get bunks—each with a TV.

An outside kitchen and entertainment center are frequently RV must-haves. All I can think of is… bugs. I hope the folks in the adjacent parking space are watching the same TV show.

Some buyers make assessments of pullout beds and seating based on anticipated entertaining and guests. Traveling across the country, stopping here and there, and you worry about guests—as a primary criterion? I keep thinking the only guest knocking on the door will be furry with four legs.

I went camping as a kid, and also as a parent with my sons. Fun, but not the lap of luxury. We didn’t worry about a dishwasher—no dishes. The size of the toilet and shower were no concern. There weren’t any. As for TV, our entertainment was scaring each other with ghost stories. And when it came to mattresses, pine needles did the job.

Once, when breaking camp after a week, I picked up my sleeping bag to find I was on top of a nest of baby copperhead snakes. Maybe there’s something to be said for a luxury RV.

There are those who will live fulltime in their RVs, with three kids and two dogs, while also working remotely. In my judgment, there is not an RV large enough for such a venture. Can you say, “five days of steady rain”?

Budget, what budget? My favorite recent story was about a middle-aged couple looking to spend up to $150,000 on their RV. They finally settled on something called a fifth wheel for $149,000, but realized they’d also need to buy a bigger truck to pull it—for $50,000 to $80,000 more.

A young couple looking barely out of their 20s had an $80,000 budget and were going to buy an RV rather than a house. While looking at one, the young woman said “amazing” 16 times—I counted—but ended up buying a different RV. I couldn’t help but think to myself, are they saving for retirement?

Some presumably well-off retirees go for a luxuriously equipped class A RV—think bus—costing $250,000 or more, not counting the car being towed behind. My judgment says, go for it if you can afford it. But can they really?

Then there’s the attachment called a toy hauler. What toys? Bikes, motorcycles, kayaks, even ATVs. Never leave home without your stuff.

A class C midsize RV gets 10 to 15 miles to the gallon. A gas tank averages 25 gallons for a class C, and 25 to 50 gallons for RVs overall. At today’s gas prices, it would likely cost more than $100 to fill the tank—and that tank might get you 300 miles. Judge me incredulous.

But that’s just the start of the expenses, which include insurance, repairs, maintenance and such. Costs vary, but parking that RV in a campground will range in cost from a low of $25 at national parks to over $100 a night at luxury private resorts.

To each his own, of course. I think taking the family to see the U.S. is a great idea. Rent an RV for a month and off you go. Just don’t take out a mortgage. In my judgmental mode, I see buying an RV as an extreme luxury that most people can’t afford. It certainly isn’t an investment.

Richard Quinn blogs at Before retiring in 2010, Dick was a compensation and benefits executive. Follow him on Twitter @QuinnsComments and check out his earlier articles.

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