Monday, December 15, 2014

15 Things I Wish I Had Known When Buying My Used RV for Fulltiming

I am celebrating my 5 year anniversary of owning my little old motor home which I have lived in fulltime year round since buying it.  It was a 1994 model  built on a 1993 chassis, bought in 2009, so my bill of sale says it’s a 1994 but my state’s registration insists it’s a 1993. Registering my motorhome was my first introduction to the New Math that is apparently unique to the RV industry.

Here’s my advice for those desiring life on the open road in your own little old wheel estate.

First and foremost, learn the NEW MATH because this  lifestyle has it’s own exclusive way of interpreting numbers that I am still confused about but will attempt to explain anyhow.

RV Definitions for the Sticks and Bricks Folks
In the USA rolling homes are often referred to as RV’s. This stands for either Recreational Vehicle or Residential Vehicle or Rolling Vessel. Caravans are the favored terms in other cultures also meaning a camper equipped with living quarters such as a motor home or trailer of fifth wheel which is a trailer with a fancy hitch.

OK, on to my list of advice:

Driving Techniques
When things fall off the motor home, pull over and pick up the pieces. (That stuff is expensive!)

Gas Mileage (And the New Math)
Everyone lies about the miles per gallon, especially the sellers and dealers of a used RV‘s. If you keep detailed records of your gas purchases and miles driven, you will either (A) go crazy or (B) come up with about half of what everyone else claims.

Repairing a Motorhome
Fill your tool box with super glue, WD-40, Gorilla Tape and several credit cards. Oh and throw in a few tools if you feel up to it. (Remember if a hammer doesn’t fix it, then you have an electrical problem. )

Affording RV Parts
When gear falls off other people’s RV’s, most folks are unaware and keep on driving, leaving debris in their wake. Slam on your brakes and pick up their parts (this will save you a bundle in the future.)

RV Repairmen
Most RV repairmen get attached to you quickly and love your company. They love you so much, they sometimes break other things or fail to properly fix the initial repair so that you return again and again to bask in their love for you. Small wonder they greet you with open arms and generous smiles.  Greet them with open wallets. They will love you even more.

Best Way To Keep your RV Carpet Clean
Remove all carpet and replace with vinyl flooring.  A broom is much easier to store than an upright vacuum cleaner.

Broom Closet
Nearly all motorhomes thankfully come with a little broom closet.
90% of the  RV’s don’t come with room to store a proper vacuum cleaner, you know the big upright kind that is strong enough to keep all that fancy carpet clean. This is one of several practical jokes the RV designers have in store for you.  So why can’t you store your big carpet-beater vacuum cleaner in that nice little broom closet? Well, there just isn’t room because the engineers have thoughtfully placed a toilet and sink in there.

Planning Your Annual Maintenance and Repair Budget In 3 Easy Steps (More New Math)
Come up with a yearly figure you can afford that seems reasonable and generous.
Multiply by ten.
Set aside twice this amount.
This will cover your maintenance and repair costs for about half the year.

Campgrounds, RV Parks and Web Pages (Newfangled Math)
By searching the internet you can often find beautiful RV Parks in desired locations with rates you can afford. Thanks to the marvel of modern computers, a web page can be updated with new pictures and correct camping rates in about 2-3 minutes. Sometimes when one shows up,  the campground looks nothing like the pictures. That’s because the beautiful pictures are from 15 years ago when the park was new and pristine. One place I went to promised a beautiful Rec Hall. I think they meant to spell it Wreck Hall, because it was a complete nonfunctioning mess.  I’ve also discovered that typically the camping rates are out of date by at least 5 years (and the current cost nearly double.)
For some obscure reason unique to the camping industry, most RV parks take about 5-7 years to update their current rates and another 10-15 years to update their pictures. Thousands upon thousands of RV parks are not on the internet at all. As of this writing, this is still an unsolved mystery no one can explain.

State Parks and Other Municipal Campgrounds (Bone up On That New Math Again)
In some areas these appear to be cheaper than privately owned campgrounds. However, they are also notorious for advertising wrong rates or posting a “net rate“. Figure in another 30-50% in miscellaneous charges that may include some or all or  part of any  of these: sales tax, accommodation tax, tourist tax, city tax, county tax, non-resident tax, garbage tax, parking fee, entrance fee, extra person fee, pet fee plus (drum roll) a reservation fee.  A simple cash register receipt for a one night stay is often printed out two feet long sometimes describing these assorted extra fees in detail. Other times you are given the total cost, and it’s up to you figure out how a $14 night stay turned into $27.48 per night.

Boondocking (and the New Math)
This is generally free and describes camping without access to any utilities. Everyone will tell you that boondocking will save you a  fortune in campground rents. Many of these folks are “boondocking” with a $7,000 generator, $3,000 in solar panels plus $4,000 in battery banks, inverters and converters,  in order to “save “ on nightly campground rents.

Workamping (More New Math)
Trade work in your spare time for campground rent. Sounds easy. Saves money. The advertisement will say something like “Work 15-20 hours per week in exchange for campground rent and utilities.” When you show up, they hand you a list of duties that will only take 30-50 hours each week.

Fulltiming, Pets and Storage
Campers come with tiny storage areas typically suited for a small family  to spend an occasional weekend away. If you decide to fulltime in your motor home, leave the family at home. (Just kidding!) Most go full timing as a single or couple with their pet(s). Figure on using about 20% of the space for your personal belongings and food. The pets will need at least 50% the storage space for their food, toys, bedding, leashes, tethers, sweaters, coats, blankets, pet carriers, vet records, food and bowls. The rest of the storage area you  will need to stuff with cash, checkbooks, credit cards, travelers checks, gold, silver, an arm, a leg… cause you are going to need every bit of it. Don’t worry as those run out the dirty laundry, forwarded mail and broken parts will fill those areas. Also you need a long handle grabber apparatus. This is not for hard to reach areas in the motor home, but rather for dumpster diving. (Wealthy campers throw out good stuff!)

Another funny joke the RV designers like to play on unsuspecting fulltimers is leaving no room for the garbage pail or storage for shoes.  In that case, just go barefoot whenever possible and only own one pair of shoes for emergencies. (Store these under the gas pedal.) The garbage problem is easily solved by multi-tasking. Several times a day walk barefoot to exercise the dog on the way to the campground dumpster. That way you don’t have to worry about where to keep the garbage can, the dog gets a walk and you toughen up those bare feet.

This lifestyle isn’t for everyone, but if you keep a good sense of humor and study up on that newfangled RV math, it might just be your ticket to heaven (or trip to bankruptcy). I find that being wildly delusional keeps the smiles rolling along.

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  1. Great post love your humor about all this

  2. You post has amused me to a high level. Hahaha! I would have to agree with what you said that the RV lifestyle is not for everybody. It has advantages and disadvantages, and all of those could be very challenging. In any way, your list is so precise and true to life. Thanks for sharing that! I'm sure it would be of great help to people who are interested and are planning to buy an RV. All the best! :)

    Liza Pilon @ Prairie City RV


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