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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”?

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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 QuinnsCommentary.net. 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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John McNally
John McNally
5 months ago

Purchased a 2016 truck and 2017 35ft trailer one year ago for about $30k each with a $10k loan at 3.5%. Added about $5k of solar. Sold our house and switched residence to a no income tax state. Spent the last year seeing family and traveling the Mountain West. Stayed just outside Natl. Glacier for a month with rent of $1000 with full hookups. There is BLM and NFS land you can stay for free, just have to move every 2 weeks. BLM also offers land in AZ and CA that you can stay in place for up to 6 months for about $1 a day with easy access to water, trash, and dump; we spent 6 weeks at Quartzsite, AZ for $20/wk while I installed the solar. Nice long walks with our dog free to roam off leash. We have our bed, kitchen, bathroom, and hobbies with us as we go. Fully funding 401K and IRAs incl. catch-ups along with more savings (also did this while a homeowner). If you are going to base a rant off of a TV show, then do next how dumb it is to own a house based on no experience other than watching the ridiculous home buying/improvement cable TV shows.

R Quinn
R Quinn
5 months ago
Reply to  John McNally

Hey, if you enjoy living in 280 sf or so and dumping gray water, and hooking up and pulling a trailer more power to you if that’s your thing. Personally, I’ll drive to the same areas and stay in hotels.

But I think you have to admit it’s not all a bed of roses. From what read there are many issues to deal with along the way with trailer living. In any case enjoy the experience.

AnthonyClan
AnthonyClan
5 months ago

Travelling cross country recently, I see a lot of very large RV’s, especially the giant Class A units. They kinda stand out on the highway. At one time one sought out light-weight, small, vehicles to tow behind them. No longer, the current trend is to tow full-sized pickup trucks!!! No consideration for gas mileage/cost. Serious baby boomer $$$.

George Kaplan
George Kaplan
5 months ago

George

I’m going to chime in as someone that has owned an RV for years. My ex and I owned a couple of mid-sized rigs back in the 80’s. We traveled throughout New England and the Eastern US. Financial issues forced us to sell, but we later bought a smaller (Toyota based) rig and traveled in it with our young kids. After the divorce, I got the camper and continued to travel with the kids. When I remarried, we got a somewhat larger (27′) camper and took the blended family. Now the kids are gone, but my wife and I still enjoy traveling in the camper, especially during COVID when we drove to Atlanta to see our granddaughters, eating and sleeping in the rig. This kind of travel does involve some work (dumping the holding tanks for instance), but we enjoy it.

R Quinn
R Quinn
5 months ago
Reply to  George Kaplan

Apparently many people enjoy that kind of travel. Nothing wrong with that. It’s when financial priorities and short term thinking are issues when i see it as a mistake.

Olin
Olin
5 months ago

I wonder what those RV’ing people would say of people who drive luxury vehicles, have second homes and write about their world travels? It’s all relative on how one wants to be humble with their dollars.

R Quinn
R Quinn
5 months ago
Reply to  Olin

Oh, by the way many of those cars with luxury names like Mercedes cost less than the largest selling vehicle in the US – pick-up trucks.

R Quinn
R Quinn
5 months ago
Reply to  Olin

As i said if it’s fully affordable in the scheme of all current and future finances, go for it, but that’s not the case many times.

Many of those folks with luxury cars, second homes and who travel made sure all their family and other obligations were met, and financial security achieved first.

Humble Reader
Humble Reader
5 months ago

Since most of the other comments are quite negative about the benefits of owning a land yacht (RV) I thought I should add something positive. My brother went mobile last year, buying a new RV and new pickup. He lost his wife two years ago and his kids live in every part of the continental U.S. He officially moved from California to Texas, using his son’s address to establish residency. He does have a room in his son’s house when he is there. One daughter now has his former house in California. Last year he and his RV visited all of his offspring as well as his two brothers. We had his RV parked in our yard for the week he was with us. He is retired military and so has nationwide medical services available to him as well as other perks, such as shopping at any BX. He does often travel alone but it is usually only a few days on the road to get to the next family location, and he can stop at any RV park or rest area when he decides to. We are not sure how long he will continue his mobile life style but he seems quite happy so far. And not to knock California (we do like to visit there) but he says the taxes he no longer pays to California more than covers his RV, truck, and road expenses.

Andrew Forsythe
Andrew Forsythe
5 months ago

We had some neighbors who, on reaching retirement, were really looking forward to “the RV life”. They bought a big expensive one and a year later sold it, saying they’d had no idea how much work the darn things are.

For anyone considering such a substantial investment, seems like it might be a good idea to rent one for a while before making the commitment.

parkslope
parkslope
5 months ago

I have never had any interest in RVs. However, fact that there have been 93 episodes of Going RV since it first aired in 2014 indicates that many people value the RV life. RV depreciation appears to be similar to that of cars and I’m sure many folks opt for used vehicles. While RVs aren’t my cup of tea I don’t see a reason to view them differently from other expensive recreational activities, such as luxury cruises.

Bill Porter
Bill Porter
5 months ago

Couldn’t agree with you more! Land Yachts are NOT an investment. One thing you didn’t cover was how do you get your RV to Europe–what does that cost? LoL On the other hand, we’re looking at this through the older and wiser lens of experience, and maybe we missed out on this opportunity in earlier times.

mytimetotravel
mytimetotravel
5 months ago

Sounds like typical reality TV – find the most extreme examples. Also, sounds like this is RV plus house, RV instead of house is an entirely different matter. I have a friend who traded her house for a small RV, and spent summers in New York state near family, and winters in the south in an RV park whose long-time denizens became valued friends. Then there was a couple whose now-defunct blog I followed, who spent three years traveling round the US in an RV, and wrote one post explaining that the RV was cheaper than a house: https://everywhereonce.com/2014/01/31/yes-full-time-travel-really-is-less-expensive-than-staying-home/

Charlie Warner Jr
Charlie Warner Jr
5 months ago

Funny, thanks for posting Dick. My idea of camping is a Holiday Inn….

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
5 months ago

Don’t forget the cost of storing those monsters. Sure, some people have acreage or a relative willing to keep it for you. But, for everyone else, you’ll probably spend several hundred dollars a year in storage costs.

Last edited 5 months ago by Kristine Hayes
R Quinn
R Quinn
5 months ago
Reply to  Kristine Hayes

Good point, but even worse are the ones parked in the owners driveway. I was driving around my daughters neighborhood recently – one with pretty large homes. In one of them was parked this RV bus taking up the entire length of the driveway and blocking the view of neighbors. It looked horrible.

Kristine Hayes
Kristine Hayes
5 months ago
Reply to  R Quinn

Yep…having just left a neighborhood where just about every other house had: 1) an abandoned vehicle 2) an RV 3) a boat and/or 4) various other large vehicles, I’m happy to now live somewhere where the rules allow an RV to be parked in front of a house for 72 hours maximum. And you can’t have trailers or boats parked in your driveway at all.

Jo Bo
Jo Bo
5 months ago

I agree completely, Richard. I’m all for the open road, but one unencumbered with possessions other than a trusty vehicle, a willing partner, and a snack pack. The adventure of not knowing the exact route or what the motel will be like at the end of it is part of the fun. The interest alone on an RV loan could provide for quite a few stays in nice motel rooms. No Walmart parking lots for me!

David Sayler
David Sayler
5 months ago

I’ve never understood the concept of “camping” in an RV. My definition of camping is at most sleeping under canvas (now nylon). If the weather is cooperating, you don’t even need that. An RV is more similar to renting a cabin.

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