(aka: Planning for Full Time RV’ing)
So, how do we go from “here” to full time living in an RV? A huge question since “here” meant never having owned an RV!
What kind of RV should we buy? New or used? What about a tow car or… should we get a truck/ 5th wheel? How much do we budget for fuel, RV parks, maintenance, etc., etc., etc. Our mantra became “we don’t know what we don’t know” as we plunged into the information gathering mode.
The voice of experience – those who actually lived the dream – quickly became our best resource! We were very lucky to have good friends who hit the road 5 years ago. Their advice and experiences were invaluable and motivating. Books, internet forums (www.irv2.com), websites and talking with current and former full-timers were extremely helpful.
One of the best pieces of advice we received was to “buy an RV that is larger than you think you need”. In the long run, it will be less expensive. Also, you need more space for “full-timing” than “vacationing”. After much research, we decided we “needed” a Class A diesel pusher, about 40’ with opposing slides in the living area (one of us has “space issues”), 350+ HP engine, and it should be used (with low miles and good interior condition) rather than new (deemed to be a better value). This is not to say that a Class A is better than a fifth wheel, or that any other RV is not a good choice. Instead….it has everything to do with matching your needs and preferences to the RV and your lifestyle.
Buckets…. “We need a bucket plan.” “A what?” Let’s see… we need a bucket of $$$ to purchase an RV, another bucket for regular RV maintenance (It costs $6,000 to replace a set of tires?!), one for “surprise” repairs, a car that’s towable (“toad” in RV lingo), a tow hitch and reserves for other living expenses that could crop up and interrupt life on the road. “And, the buckets need to be filled from new $$$, not current savings”. We knew we couldn’t plan for every contingency and life would certainly throw us plenty of curve balls but decided that a conservative path was the best approach for us.
Budgets….how much will fuel cost per month? RV park space rental? RV and vehicle registration? Internet? Etc., etc.? We calculated RV fuel costs based on 7.5 to 8 mpg at an average price of $5.00 per gallon (the conservative approach again…but maybe not so in the not too distant future!). Estimating the average driving miles per month was more difficult. Knowing that RV park space rental costs much less by the month and thinking that we would like to take time to really explore the areas we visit, we decided that an average of 500 miles per month would be realistic but…(you guessed it) we budgeted for 1,000 miles. Piece by piece the budget puzzle came together and we’ll see how well we did after it is road tested!
Betty….now all we need is our home on wheels (name to be ‘splained later)! Again, this really comes down to budget, preferences and lifestyle – there is no right or wrong choice as long as it meets one’s personal needs and criteria which are as varied as the traveler. For us, we focused first on basic systems (engine, hp, transmission), reliability, availability of service, ease of driving and setup. Bells and whistles were secondary, except for the layout (just a reminder…..one of us has space issues and a large living area with opposing slides became a must!). We wanted the rig to be powerful enough to bravely climb mountainous roads and to be easily set up upon arrival. We narrowed our list down to Monaco, Tiffen and Newmar coaches.
We spent about a year seriously searching. This included dragging our relatives and good friends to RV shows and dealers, surfing the web, and generally making pests of ourselves at our favorite dealerships. On a whim, one sunny, warmish, Saturday in October, 2011 we decided to take yet another field trip to DeMartini RV in Grass Valley, CA. A couple rigs on their website looked good and usually sold quickly…but what the heck, the drive from Reno is only 1-1/2 hours through the scenic Sierras so it was a great way to spend the afternoon.
There they were! Both rigs…Monaco Diplomats, 2008. Different floor plans. One had a black/silver exterior and front kitchen. The other had a brown/beige exterior with a front living room area. Either floor plan would work but we liked the floor plan and interior condition of the “brown” rig better.
A week later, on October 14, 2011 we wheeled back to Reno dizzy from our 2 hour+ walk through as proud new owners of “Big Brown Betty”. The name, despite objections from one of us, stuck. Yuck. And the rest is history. Let’s just call her “Betty”.