Ahh, RV life! A fun, trouble free lifestyle enjoying the views and travels! Wait a second! Hang on, yes, the RV life is amazing, but there have also been some unexpected challenges and plane BS advice that I have received and that’s what I’m going to share with you today! My 25 Unexpected Things I learned (Plus a bonus!) and the Pros & Cons After 4 Years of full-time RV living. These are things every RV newbie and seasoned RV veteran need to know (You can watch the companion YouTube video above for more information.)
We are currently boondocking here near Helena Montana on a balmy summer day in August! It is like 90 plus degrees here and I just passed the 4-year mark of RV living full-time and wow, have I learned a lot! I’ve had some amazing experiences and some tough lessons! I was not a seasoned RVer and I went from zero RV experience to buying a 40-foot luxury 5th wheel. So, learn from my experiences so you can save money and have more enjoyable travels.
It’s kind of a cool coincidence that Cheri’ and I celebrate our RVersaries on the same day (or maybe within a day or two, we haven’t figured it out exactly haha!) Be sure to watch Cheri’s 6 month and 1-year RVersaries here: http://enjoythejourney.life/RVersaries
To make this blog post easier to follow along, I have it divided into 4 sections. Section 1 is all about the planning stage for RV living full-time. Section 2 is about heading out to buy your RV. Section 3 is all about getting on the road to full-time RV living. And our final section #4 is all about enjoying the full-time RV lifestyle. So let’s jump into this together!
Section 1: Planning for RV Living Full-Time
(Note from Tom: Be sure to enjoy this stage, my ex and I spent several years watching every video about full time RV living that we could find. Many trips to RV dealers, looking at so many different models. It was so fun imagining ourselves in the mountains or by the water in our beautiful RV. Anticipation if this lifestyle is a stage not to be missed. Enjoy it as part of your journey to getting here!)
- Many of your friends, family, co-workers, etc. will not understand this lifestyle and might call you crazy. They may try to discourage you from doing this. That’s not about you, it’s about them and you doing something that is out of your friend’s/family member’s comfort zone. They don’t want you to change. They may tell you to come back home when you are challenged on the road and get back into a house or apartment and get a safe and secure job. In reality, there is no job security. That’s an illusion. We are all just a few decisions away from major changes in our lives. The loss of a job, house, relationship, etc.
We have had a number of parents of adult children comment on our videos. Some telling us that they are waiting for a child to finish college, then they will get on the road. Or an adult child lives with them and is not very excited about their RV life dreams and they are actually waiting to start because of it. Our opinion is that at 18 to 21, your child is a young adult and should be capable of finding a job, paying rent, and finding their own place to stay, etc. If they are not, then it is time for some tough love. Tell them your timeline of getting on the road so they can make the necessary plans to be on their own. This may sound harsh for some of you, but don’t forget that one of your main jobs as a parent is teaching them to become a self-sufficient member of society. You are not helping them by letting adult children live with you for long periods of time.
If your kids are young, traveling and actually seeing some of the places they study in school is the best education in our opinion. And the rest of your child’s schooling can be learned online. Don’t let family, friends, children, etc. stop you from your RV dreams. I’ll link to a video that goes over this in more detail: Your #1 RV Excuse: https://youtu.be/mGxciNWniHU
- You can find a job or income opportunity anywhere you want to support your full-time RV travel lifestyle. There are jobs to do in every community. Not even mentioning all of the online work opportunities. With a smaller footprint (budget), your bills will be less. You don’t have to have a six-figure income to afford this lifestyle.
- Have multiple sources of income. Cheri’ and I have over 10 sources of income of varied amounts. So if one stops or diminishes, we can fall back on the others and work on increasing them. This could include a part-time job, contract work, small online business, etc. I will be doing a more detailed video on this one in the future.
- I’m calling BS on this advice! You DO NOT have to be debt free to live full-time in an RV! I know there are a lot of opinions out there about this. But that’s what they are, just opinions or just one way of doing it. Trust me on this, I have a Bachelor of Accounting degree so I am writing about this with some expertise in the area. Debt like a credit card is just another line on your monthly budget. It’s just another payment, an outflow of money. Just like food, rent, a cell phone bill, etc. Cheri’ and I are not debt free, yet I’ve been RV Living Full Time for 4 years now. In that time, my payments have reduced my debt by thousands of dollars. There are many, many paths to this lifestyle, and one of them is debt free. When people get stuck on a debt free plan, they delay this lifestyle sometimes for many years or until it’s too late. So don’t delay on the lifestyle of your dreams. The future is guaranteed for no one, all we have is the present moment.
We have had so many comments from people that are waiting years to do this. Some have said it will be 5 or 10 years down the road until they are debt free. They often quote some financial guru (that does not RV full-time) so that becomes the template for their lifestyle. It all comes down to your intention of what you want to create. Don’t let someone else’s program (paradigm) determine when you can realize your RV living dream.
I want to end this debt free fallacy with a comment from another viewer, I think it puts things into perspective: “…I’m going full time in two years when my daughter goes off to college. as someone who has worked in the senior care industry for many years I can tell you that you should go out and spend your money now and have a great time. In the end people either give it to the nursing homes with your private pay or family comes in to steal it unfortunately….”
- You can full-time RV on the cheap or with a large budget. You can find RV’s for free or next to free or spend $500,000 on a new coach. You can vary your expenses per month if you need to. For example, we love having full hookups (RV camping with electric, water and sewer connection) with a great view, but that could cost $1000 or more per month in a popular spot. Or we could boondock for free for 30 days and save all of that. Right now we are in currently doing a 30-day boondocking challenge to see how cheaply we can do this. Be sure to watch for the videos on our YouTube Channel about our experiences with this and our expenses. You can subscribe here: http://enjoythejourney.life/YouTube You can watch our RV for under $1000 a month video here: https://youtu.be/34u5KqL-I9U
- Not everyone loves this lifestyle. My ex grew to hate it. And that’s ok. This does not have to be a permanent decision. You can try out this lifestyle, rent or borrow someone’s RV, take a sabbatical from your job and try this out for a few months. If you decide you prefer your old lifestyle better, you can go back to that (or just find a new job). You are not a failure, you just tried something new. And think about what amazing experiences you could have in 6 or 12 months or more on the road!
Heading Out to Buy Your RV:
- First! Research, research, research! Check out the reviews of the specific RV you want to buy. Join the Facebook groups for that particular brand and see what current owners like and don’t like about their RV. Try to get answers on the exact make, model and year as RV manufacturers make updates from one model year to the next. Ask a lot of questions. I am so embarrassed to admit this, but I never checked reviews on our RV before buying it. And I wrote a book and have a course about online reviews! (Find my book here and how to get a free copy http://tomkenemore.com/fans/) My ex and I were so caught up in picking out the RV that we liked the most, not necessarily the most reliable and dependable.
- Size matters when picking out your RV! Length is an issue, and yes, shorter can be better. Because our RV is so long, we can’t fit into about 50% of the campgrounds in the US. My van life friends like to give me a hard time with the size of our RV. Yes, I think a smaller RV is in our future.
- Make sure you get the right tow vehicle if you are getting a 5th wheel or travel trailer RV. I specifically asked my RV salesperson if the truck I had just purchased would be big enough (of course the truck salesperson insisted it would pull our RV). My RV salesperson told me that my truck should be fine even though I said I could return it and get a different truck if it wasn’t big enough. This was not a safe situation and after a couple of years pulling the RV part-time, it destroyed the backend of the truck. And I’m not the only one, I’ve seen many smaller trucks pulling RV’s that were way to big! So again, smaller or shorter can be better! I had to upgrade to a 1 ton diesel dually just to pull our RV.
- A used RV could be a good option. Depreciation is huge on RVs. So buying a used one could save you a lot of money too! A well taken care of used RV could be a nice option and possibly have less issues going forward. If the current owners have already paid to fix any major or minor issues. You could also be buying someone’s lemon. So that leads to next point.
- Have your new or used RV inspected by an independent RV expert or repair person before driving it off the lot. Think about it, you are basically buying a small house. You wouldn’t buy a house without an inspection would you? There are so many components and moving parts to an RV. I have issues with my RV even 6 years after I purchased it that have not been resolved. But I’m happy to say that the factory is stepping up and taking care of them. So thank you Forest River and the Columbus division for standing behind your product!
- Get the right RV living full time insurance. All insurance plans are not the same. I’ll link to our experience where I learned a tough lesson on insurance, yes, we got robbed! See the video here: https://youtu.be/Vn9wgPjIG70
- Get the right RV tires. Here is another one where you can learn from my mistakes about tires. I’ll link to that video as well here: https://youtu.be/AvokoM_tHk0 As some have said, the tires that come on your RV are just good enough to drive your RV off the lot and into a tire dealership for new tires. Haha!
- Do you think your RV was expensive? Wait till you see the repair bills! Repairs and maintenance are a thing…a big thing! This has added up to $1000’s of out of pocket expenses over the years that I initially didn’t expect. From my research, I’ve learned that you have to expect major and minor repairs. Think about it, owning an RV is like putting tires on your home or apartment and towing it down a bumpy road for 1000’s of miles. It’s like a constant earthquake. One repair shop guy joked with me that RV stands for Ruined Vacation and BOAT means Bust Out Another Thousand! So you need to budget a significant amount of money for potential repairs. Set aside several thousand dollars in a savings account or have a credit card available for these types of expenses. If you are lucky, you won’t need to use all of it and can spend more of it on fun!
- Oh, and that bright, shiny extended warranty doesn’t cover much. I bought the most deluxe extended warranty offered by my dealer. So I thought I was covered for almost anything. In reality many of the repairs bills were only covered by about half of the total bill if they were even covered at all. For example, my underbelly falling off during a trip…NOT COVERED! Diagnosing a malfunction of the microwave, not covered. So be sure to read the fine print and understand what you are buying with an extended warranty. Still in the end, this warranty has saved me money. I’ve had far more claims covered then what I spent on the policy. I’ve just had a lot more repairs then I expected.
Getting on the Road to Full-Time RV:
- When packing your RV, really think about what you need. Everything takes up space and has weight (not just physical weight but emotional haha) Everything you own has a string connected to you pulling you down. You will feel so much better with less stuff. I like to say, put every item you put in your RV on trial for it’s life. You can also continue to downsize as you head down the road.
- RVs are dangerous! They have sharp cabinets, corners, slides, slippery stairs, etc. I recently had a run in with the hitch and the hitch won! Although it isn’t pretty, some RVers put pool noodles on edge of their slides. Ugly, but effective!
- Driving, backing in and hooking up is stressful, especially for large RVs. An RV does not stop on a dime. Big RVs are a challenge to drive and park. Make sure you do a test drive before purchasing an RV to make sure you can handle it. Be aware of the height of your RV as well. There are some bridges that you cannot go under. Here is a great app that I use to let me know about low bridges, camp sites and more: http://enjoythejourney.life/allstays
Enjoying the RV Lifestyle:
- Adventuring can be free or cheap! Like the old saying goes, some of the best things in life are free! You can hike, bike, kayak, head to a beach, explore and so much more on the cheap. You can also spend more and go to Disney, rent a jet ski, take a ride in a helicopter, etc. It’s your choice and your budget. Spend it wisely!
- Be aware of gotcha property taxes when storing your RV. I received a bill from a county in Virginia for around $500 in property tax just for storing my RV and truck for a month and a half in a local storage facility. I had to fight this and they finally dropped the bill, but they didn’t care that I was not even a resident of Virginia. And avoid toll roads it you can. You could spend several times more for your RV than a car.
- You don’t have to plan your exact travel itinerary. We actually seldom reserve an RV park or campground in advance. We like to get to an area, park somewhere free overnight and search out the best camp spots for the best value and scenery. By leaving flexibility in your travel schedule it allows for unexpected detours and longer stays, more adventuring, etc. We are even doing this around places like Yellowstone National Park and Glacier National Park. We had some people laugh at us on a Facebook group post saying you would have to reserve those locations a year in advance. This simply is not true. We travel with confidence that the perfect spot for us will become available. Campgrounds have cancellations, walkup only reservations, etc. Even with that, we would not venture say down to the Florida Keys that way. We would definitely have a spot reserved down there because there are just so few places in that area. Check out our how to find the best campsite video: https://youtu.be/evvAbQ85zjA
- You completely make your own schedule. Our breakfast could be at 11 am, lunch at 3 or 4 pm, dinner at 9 or 10 pm. We stay up late and sleep in. Sometimes working until midnight and on weekends. You can take off during the week when crowds are smaller, you don’t have to wait for weekends anymore. Life is less routine, when you move to a new place, its like starting over, learning where everything is, etc. This keeps your brain fresh and young!
- You are not on vacation (if you still work) But you get to work with some pretty amazing views!
- I find that I am more social then I used to be. I am naturally an introvert and normally don’t strike up a conversation with strangers. But there is something about being in a great campsite. Most people are in a great mood and on vacation. They see your license plate and want to ask about your travels, etc. It’s really cool meeting people from all over this way.
- Things can go bad in the extreme temperatures in the RV. Mostly from heat, but from the cold as well. Medical supplies, food that sits out, supplements, etc. Be sure to put items in the refrigerator or a cooler to protect them.
- BONUS #26! You need to be good at problem solving. Challenges seem to happen 2 or 3 at a time. For example, the batteries are dead and we caught a mouse or the refrigerator isn’t cooling and the black tank smells. I think you get the picture!
Thank you for reading and learning from my 4 years of full time RV living mistakes or experiences haha! I like to keep it positive! So what unexpected things or tips have you learned from owning an RV? Please share those with us below. Or if you have questions, please ask in the comments below as well. Please share it with your friends on social media and subscribe to be notified of our next post! See you next time! – Tom