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RV Living Verses Apartment Living
A few years ago, my wife and I decided to travel the US in semi-retirement. We kicked off the kids (21+), sold our house and bought an RV. Well, life circumstances have changed and we’re not hitting the road, at least not yet. We ended up staying in the area and working full time. But we decided at the time to stay in the RV full time.
The purpose of this article is to provide some insight into the possibilities of using an RV instead of a condo and the advantages of Rving. First, some background for those unfamiliar with recreational vehicle (RV) terminology. RVs fall into several different categories.
Class A are the bus-like vehicles you see on the road. These are also called RVs, and for good reason. Class A can be said to be one in a hundred. In terms of cost, they are the most expensive, but have the most storage space and amenities. I’ve seen some really nice Class A motorhomes and we’ll be looking at Class A motorhomes again when we upgrade or trade up our current motorhome. However, my taste is to start at $250,000, which is a bit hard for me to justify.
Next comes Class B, these are minivans. They are built on light to medium duty truck chassis and can be identified by the vehicle’s truck cab exterior. In my opinion none of these are suitable for full time use unless you really like small places. Some of the newer Class Bs include so-called slides, which are parts of the motorhome that “slide out” from the body of the motorhome, giving you more interior living space. In the long run, you will be looking for living space.
After the B class comes Fifth Wheels. The fifth wheel is the trailer towed by the pickup truck. So to get a fifth wheel, you also need a pickup truck of the right size. I estimate at least a 3/4 ton pickup. Fifth wheels have an advantage over Classes A and B because once you install the fifth wheel at the campsite, the truck detaches and can be used as a vehicle. For Class A and B motorhomes, you will need to tow or travel with another vehicle. Fifth wheel is close to a Class A RV in terms of amenities, and in some cases more room. Dollar for dollar, you’ll get more living space than a Grade A in your fifth round.
However, you do need an expensive trailer (truck), which has to be considered as part of the purchase. Fifth wheels are also part of the category considered “towable.” The next “towable” is the travel trailer (TT). These are similar to fifth wheels, except for the connection to the towing vehicle. With the TT, you attach to a hitch located near the bumper of your vehicle. So almost any vehicle is capable of towing a TT, depending of course on size and weight. Class A, 5th wheel, and travel trailers are the 3 main types of motorhomes you’ll find people living in full time. TT is followed by a camping class. These light RVs really aren’t for full time, however, I’ve met people who do it full time in pop ups, truck campers, and even tents. Probably the top product in the camping category is the truck camper.
These are the devices that slide into the bed of the pickup truck. Generally, the maximum length from front to back is no more than 12 feet, and the maximum length from side to side may not exceed 10 feet. They are very compact. These offer maximum freedom as they can be quickly installed and removed so you can quickly move from one place to another. But, like Classes A and B, your home is also your vehicle, unless you bring another vehicle with you. The final group of towable trailers are the pop-up or tent trailers. They have a den frame which, as the name suggests, pops up or lifts up to raise the roof above the frame. These campers usually have soft cloth covers. For years, I’ve used pop-ups as a hotel alternative while on missions across the country. Even camp with snow on the ground in the middle of winter. Needless to say, a heater is required and it can run all day and all night. It can’t keep up with the cold at night, so getting up in the morning is kind of fun. It’s 20 degrees outside and about 50 degrees inside.
Here’s a basic overview of the types of motorhomes available. As mentioned earlier, Class A, fifth wheel and travel trailers are units that most people will find suitable for full-time living.
Our experience living full time in an RV.
We currently have a fifth wheel. Our slides are from Jayco and are 38 feet long with 3 slides. One slide is in the bedroom and the other two are in the living room, one on each side of the trailer. After working in RV as a full time employee for almost 3 years, we all love it. My wife likes to say it takes less than an hour to clean front to back, floor to ceiling.
Let’s start with the financial aspects of living in an RV. You have RV expenses. These are treated like cars. If you buy new, you take a hit from depreciation. However, like a house, the interest is tax-deductible. So the best deal seems to be a unit that is a year or two old and has financing. If you’re looking to buy new, consider a 25-30% discount off list price. Our unit is from 2003, 2005 still in use, 2006 unit delivered. List price is over $65,000. We paid $40,000 and saved about 38%. We didn’t have a trailer at the time, so the dealer sent the fifth wheel to a nearby campground.
Oak Grove in Hatfield, Pennsylvania is a year-round campground. This is very important. You want to find a campground that is open year-round. You don’t want to move out in the winter. Many campsites are closed from November to March or early April. When we started there our rent was $375 a month including utilities. Our only other expense is propane for heat and hot water. Oak Grove provided 2-100lb propane tanks and they automatically replaced the tanks for us. It’s really nice, sort of like automatic gas delivery when you own a house. We barely use any propane during the warmer months, maybe a bottle every other month if that’s the case. However, in winter we will be using 3-4 bottles per month due to the heater. Propane is currently about $50 a bottle. So, from the standpoint of renting an apartment versus living in an RV, the cost is usually cheaper. My daughter pays $750 a month for an apartment in our neighborhood and we pay an average of $425-450.
Other Perks of Living in an RV – People! The people you find camping are some of the nicest people you will ever meet. They are friendly, helpful, young at heart and simply wonderful to be around. We’ve been avid campers since before we got married. I used to sneak out to DE where my wife (then girlfriend) and her family were camping and pitching a tent, and make myself part of the family. In the nearly 40 years we’ve been camping together, we’ve never encountered a rude person, thief, or someone who wouldn’t lend a hand when asked. In fact, we get more help without asking than at any time we live in a house or apartment.
It’s funny, but when I travel and stay in hotels, you almost feel like a ghost or a leopard or something. If you say “hi” to someone in an elevator or in a hallway, gosh. But when camping, everyone will wave as you pass, and some will offer drinks or let you sit by the fire and talk for hours. Like we are all family.
Speaking of fire, what is a campfire? It was so relaxing to sit around the nice fire in the evening. Needless to say, looking at the flames, it seemed like all the stress melted away. But campfires have another benefit, and that’s food. Nothing tastes better than food cooked over an open fire. Try doing this in an apartment.
Rving has another benefit, the holidays. If you live in an apartment, your vacation consists of getting to your destination, finding a hotel/motel, eating out for every meal, and bringing enough clothes for the entire vacation. When you live in an RV, your home follows you. 30-40 minutes to pack up the RV, disconnect the utilities and hook up the truck, and you’re good to go. When you arrive at your vacation destination, you’ll have another 30-40 minutes to enjoy the sights. Eating is not a problem, you have a full kitchen and it’s like being at home because it’s home. special diet? No problem, your daily work will not be interrupted. Clothes get dirty, and many RVs come with a washer and dryer, so you can do your laundry before you wind down in the evening or start your day. Rving is also usually cheaper. When you compare costs, you’ll see that RV travel is a lot cheaper than hotel/restaurant travel.
These are just a few things to consider when you’re considering the condo verse of living in an RV. I hope you found this information useful.
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