13 Reasons not to live full-time in an RV after retiring

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A few weeks ago I received a text from a family friend and it said “you may want to read this“. I immediately went to the website and started briefly scanning the article. Then a wave of nausea hit me like a tidal wave. A panic attack…could it be? My immediate reaction was to quickly turn off my computer and hide it under the bed. There is no way my husband could see this. It would support every negative feeling he has about my Camper Crazy dream. He will say, “see, everything I have been telling you is confirmed in this article” and with a quick chuckle finish with a “I always knew you were crazy.”

A few days later peeking under the bed, I stared at the laptop and wondered if I was emotionally strong enough to confront the dreaded list. With sweaty palms and a racing heart, I summoned the courage to reopen that link and start reading. To be honest, I could not read it all at once. It took me a couple days to finish it. It was like trying to choke down a plate of broccoli, brussel sprouts and sauerkraut accompanied with a glass of buttermilk. I could not like it!

Should I just give up on my dream based on this article? At first, I was almost convinced that I should. The article was based on interviews of people that decided to live my dream and their valuable personal experiences, which remarks did not coincide with my dream.

Then my more rational side kicked in a couple of my brain cells. I decided that I would take one item at a time and analyze how it applied to us and how we could overcome. I started with what I felt would be the easier items to confront first.

The article can be found at: https://www.kiplinger.com/slideshow/retirement/T037-S001-reasons-you-ll-regret-an-rv-in-retirement/index.html

I had to skip down to Slide 8 before I found a comfortable area to start. Not that dealing with your own waste is easy! However, in our previous article “To poop or not to poop” we confronted that topic with experienced campers. I feel like my husband will be more than capable of taking care of that part of the mess. He is an electrician by trade. That is close to a plumber, right?

Not a deal breaker

Slide 9 discusses how small the living quarters are and how it can create issues between traveling companions. That seemed plausible. We have been married 45 years and there are times I would just like to have the house to myself for an afternoon and have a “Calgon” moment. Is that enough to not follow my dream?

I sent a message to my friend Debbie. She and her husband sold their home and living full-time in an RV for over a year. When I asked her if she thought spending all her time with Joe caused issues, she laughed. Her reply was: “When you retire with your spouse what difference is there between hanging together all the time at your house or on the road in a camper? Either way you are together, so why not spend the time enjoying journeys?” Boom! Good Answer. Two down, eleven to go.

Slide 10 deals with the challenge of driving an RV. It is one of the things that sort of scares me. Not that my husband is a bad driver. But, lets face it, when one retires and ages, you look forward to losing your hearing and your eyesight. Uggg!!! It is always easier to drive when you can see where you are going. One of the things we learned from Dan & Mary Ellen, (the owners of the Pleasure-way) is careful planning helps. They plan their trip each day so they are only driving six hours a day. They can start after rush hour and arrive at their next campsite in late afternoon. A great plan!

I realize it is best if I learn to drive whatever camper we purchase in case of emergency or when my husband just doesn’t feel like driving. However, if we purchase a fifth-wheel or a travel trailer, I have zero experience. A Class C is not as scary to consider since I have driven the largest U haul trucks packed with furniture across the country.

Shanna and Brent ended up getting a fifth wheel to replace their totaled trailer. (refer to “Griswold’s in the making” article). Today she drove through Fancy Gap, VA on I-77. She said it is much easier towing a fifth-wheel than the previous Grey Wolf trailer.

Driving through Fancy Gap in a car scares me, so I am pretty impressed that she drove the F-250 with the new Elkridge. I was even more impressed that Brent wasn’t on his knees praying the whole time she was driving since the F-250 is his pride and joy.

Lynette and Mark from one of our previous posts drive a Dodge dual wheel pickup with a Jayco fifth-wheel. She tells me not to worry, it is easy. So I guess, if nothing else, I have Shanna and Lynnette to give me driving lessons if we buy a fifth-wheel.

Slide 11 discusses problematic overnight parking but gives suggestions on some apps you can utilize to find overnight parking. Easy enough we can do that. Note to self: download apps. 4 down!!! My blood pressure is now normal!

Slide 13 made me sigh. I am not a hoarder exactly, but very sentimental and like to keep things, that in all honesty.. I don’t need. However, I feel that someone close to me may appreciate the fact that I kept something that they may appreciate in the future. My husband on the other hand loves tools and wire, and nuts and bolts. We have made great strides in reducing the stuff we have over the past year. It is just stuff that will rust and deteriorate over time. For those things like old photos and letters and cards that are so dear to my heart, I am hoping my children will help me scan and maintain electronically and maybe keep some of the originals. Renting a storage unit is an option but costs extra money. We can’t forget that once we retire we are on a fixed income. A difficult obstacle for the emotional side but we can overcome!

Slide 14 deals with the fact that it is not easy to pull up your roots and leave friends and family. There is absolutely no way I can go for several months and not see my kids and granddaughters. We would both go insane. Another tip I learned from the glampers Dan and Mary, is when they owned their Class A is to invite others to join you along the way. Often they would have their kids, grand-kids and other family members and friends fly to a city on their journey. They pick them up at the airport and they travel together in the RV for a week or so and then drop them off at another airport to fly home. That way they continue their travels but share their journey with the ones they love. That can work for us as well.

Slides 2-6 &12 is what stresses me out. Those items started the heart palpitations and doubting my sanity. According to the article, RVs can be expensive, can cost a lot to repair, they depreciate, get bad gas mileage, can cost a lot to update if you buy used, and insurance can be a pain (see our blog on things you need to know about RV insurance).

While at face value those are accurate statements, what about the flip side? If you sell your home and purchase a condo to retire in, you may have huge assessments that come along as the association implements upgrades. Or like many that retire in Florida, they purchase mobile homes in 55+ communities. What happens when the AC goes out or the hot water tank breaks? Those repairs are not cheap either. Plus the lot rental can be increased every year. Stick and brick home renovations are expensive as well. In either case, if you live in an RV or a regular condo or stick and brick home – any type house repairs are going to be needed and will be expensive unless you know someone that can make the repairs for you.

I have a sister that lives in Ohio, in the same home she and her husband purchased back in the early 1960’s. If she only used her fuel oil for heating and not her wood-burner too, her heating bills in the winter would be astronomical. She would probably be better off driving a gas guzzling RV to Arizona to spend the winter. So saying that RVs are expensive may be true, but one would have to consider the alternative costs of whatever other living arrangements you make in retirement.

After reading the whole article I reached back out to our friends Debbie and Joe. Debbie made the point that after selling their home they purchased an RV lot where they spend the winters. However, after raising a family in a “bricks and sticks” home, they were happy to buy an RV even though they realized the RV would depreciate. Debbie said, “who cares? the experience is worth it”. Just look at this picture, you can see how the RV life suits them.

Happy Campers
Covered deck at their RV lot – Real RV Relaxation!

Slide 7 deals with something we basically have little control over, Health Care. It makes sense that when you travel continuously it could be a hassle. While doctors may be everywhere, we prefer our regular doctors. That can be a real challenge.

My husband had major back surgery a few years ago. If by chance he has a similar issue while traveling that requires additional surgery, there is no way we will want some random doctor performing the surgery. Not knowing how the whole Medicare thing works is also a little nerve-wracking but we have some time to figure that part out.

For employed people that have the option of participating in an employee sponsored HSA (health savings account), it may be something to take full advantage of, especially if planning on a “Camper Crazy” lifestyle after retiring. We realize we must have something set aside to help pay for costs not covered by insurance.

While there are downsides to retiring in an RV, there are also upsides. The 13 reasons mentioned above are things that we feel can be minimized with knowledge and planning.

Unfortunately, we should have actually started planning for this lifestyle even sooner. However, my husband’s hesitancy is actually a good thing because it offsets my crazy “jump right in and do it” personality. With planning and the right strategy… hopefully… we will NEVER regret living full-time in an RV in retirement. That is, if my husband can be persuaded to be Camper Crazy too!

One of the ugly things you need to know about RV insurance

RV insurance is offered by many of the names we recognize, such as Progressive, Farmers, Allstate & Geico. It is also offered through partner companies associated with AARP and Good Sams. Depending on the type of RV you own, there are various options to choose from. Different circumstances require different needs regarding insurance and the cost will be based on your specific needs. Living in an RV full-time is much different than only using an RV for vacation travel a few times a year, so of course full-time RV coverage is somewhat similar to insurance you would purchase for a primary home insurance policy.

A popular option is that of full replacement insurance coverage. Most people may think that they will get the amount needed to purchase a comparable new RV if theirs has been stolen or totaled, especially if it is brand new and the damage is not the result of negligence. You may think you would not have to come out of pocket at all except for the deductible, if for instance it was totaled by weather damage within a month or two of purchase. However, that may not the case, at least with Shanna and Brent, the couple that traveled with their new Grey Wolf travel trailer this summer shortly after purchasing their 2019 RV.

If you remember from previous blogs, they suffered hail & wind damage that ripped off the awning, damaged the roof and air conditioner, and completely damaged the whole side of the camper siding. After the damage we asked if they were concerned about replacing the RV and what it would cost them, and their reply was, “we have replacement insurance, we are all set.”

They purchased the insurance through an agency associated with Good Sam, a premier company that has the largest RV club membership. They offer everything from discounts on RV accessories, roadside assistance, RV loans and more. Their website boasts providing and servicing the insurance needs of RV owners for over 50 years. They state that their goal is 100% customer satisfaction. Unfortunately at least for Shanna and Brent, they are not 100% satisfied.

Is that the fault of those selling the Good Sam insurance, the Camping World salesperson, or the buyers not reading their policy carefully? If you go to Good Sam’s website and read their reviews, it seems like they are “God’s gift to the camper”. So, I went to Consumeraffairs.com where they have a comparison of a few RV insurance companies. There is also a link provided to an expert review and it references the following Good Sam list of statements. Notice the first bullet point which states:

Full replacement: Customize your RV coverage by adding full replacement cost coverage. This way you will receive a comparable new RV if yours is stolen or too damaged to repair.

https://www.consumeraffairs.com/insurance/rv-insurance/#good-sam-insurance-agency

Okay, so easy to understand why Brent and Shanna would believe they would get the equivalent amount of money from the insurance company to put towards a new RV with no issues and no extra out of pocket expenses. Like anything “insurance”, it isn’t always clear cut. For example, yesterday they picked up a new 5th wheel RV, and although they returned from vacation in July with their damaged camper, it is now almost mid-September and they still have not finalized everything with the insurance company. Their complaint is that the insurance company is almost impossible to get in contact with.

When they purchased their 2019 camper in late spring, they paid a fair price and put down a substantial down payment. Then they added extended warranty but then Camper World hit them with an ugly high dealer fee that was all rolled into the financing. When returning with the damaged RV and finding out that it was totaled, they decided it may be better if they upgraded to a 5th wheel with different siding that may hold up better in harsh weather. They anticipated getting the full value of what they purchased minus the deductible of course. But this is where it gets ugly.

When they returned from vacation with the damaged camper, the 2020 models are now for sale and the 2019 models of their RV are selling for substantially less than what they purchased the camper for. In fact, the insurance company found the same RV selling in Ohio for $6,000 less than what they purchased their RV for just a few months ago. So, at this point it looks like that is going to be the cost basis the insurance may use for the replacement price, which could leave them upside down. This is one of the ugly reasons this may potentially cost them an arm and a leg (seriously did you see the pics of Brent’s leg in the previous blog) to replace their unit

Assuming they simply replaced their 2019 Grey Wolf with another 2019 Grey Wolf, they think they would come out a little more whole. However, although they worked out a fabulous deal on the new 5th Wheel, which by the way they also purchased at Camper World and this time not paying an astronomical dealer fee, since the 2019 Grey Wolf is now highly discounted at dealers across the nation, it ends up being a disadvantage in this situation.

Although only owning the trailer for less than six months, the bottom line is that with replacement insurance, you only get back what your camper is worth at the time of the loss. The only silver lining to this story is that they did purchase GAP insurance which hopefully will help close the gap between what they are paid by the insurance company and what they owe on their original loan.

However, GAP does not cover the down payment they paid or the cost of the extended warranty, even though the insurance customer service rep did assure them that GAP would cover the down payment. Where is that is that in the fine print? Make sure you read that is Shanna’s advice.

But, will they ever hear back from the insurance company? You know that ugly little saying, “timing is everything” and it certainly applies to the world of RV insurance.

Griswolds in the making

Since you are now introduced to BJ & Shanna’s family and have seen pics of what seems to be the start of a perfect road trip with their new RV, it is time to see their Griswold moments. As novice campers, they are learning the “RV ravages of the road”, and have learned sadly what can happen in a split second.

Day 3 started with the first damage to their new travel trailer. As BJ said, “I could have waited a little longer to have the camper damaged.” Excited for the day’s travels, he leaned the level up against the trailer and started to hook up the truck to the trailer. As he lowered it onto the hitch the level crunched the side. A loud squeaking sound and uggg….the first damage. Thank goodness no major damage…yet.

A little disappointed, but they wipe their frowns away and head on down the road. They figure “hey, that is why we purchased insurance.” RV Insurance is something we will discuss in a future blog, and I am sure BJ will be able to share all he experiences when filing his claims. Yes, I said claims because this is just the beginning.

Traveling through bad weather is always expected, however, the severe winds and rains they encountered in Minnesota, South Dakota and Montana was much more than they wanted to experience. They have hunkered down in Florida through several hurricanes, but being in a travel trailer during bad storms or pulling one down the road, that is a whole different story.

First, the extreme wind quickly blew the awning off the side of the trailer, damaging the roof and the air conditioner. The wind and rain was so severe they didn’t even realize the awning was ripped off the side. To be highly entertained, you will want to hear BJ’s & Shanna’s story in their own words, please watch…..AND SUBSCRIBE https://youtu.be/k58qtKPtAtM

As soon as possible, BJ did some of his fancy repairs to seal up the holes. It wasn’t pretty but he hoped it would keep the rain out. He was very satisfied with his hard work and ingenuity!

At this point, the roof and awning will have to be totally replaced, but at least the truck has gone unscathed…until some nice person dances into BJ’s lane, and BAM…damages the truck mirror. Thank goodness he has cameras to backup that trailer. Still, BJ will not let all this dampen his spirit, he is happy and having a great time.

Then more bad storms and hail. Really??? Now the hood of the truck and the trailer looks like they were ambushed with pellet guns.

Bad enough that they will have at least 4 deductibles for the damages to the truck and trailer, but poor BJ did not remain unscathed either. He did not escape the ravages of bad fast food and somehow he fell on the trailer stairs and they won.

Just two days from home and one of the tires on the trailer is pretty much destroyed. We met up with them and our son-in-law helped change the tire since BJ did not have a jack that would work. Although we hated to see them incur more hiccups to their trip, we were happy to share some time and get some highlights of the Griswold moments and invite you to see some of the “not so much fun” part of the trip on our youtube channel.

For all us wannabe Camper Crazy individuals, the lesson we learned is that we need to be “prepared for the unexpected”. When purchasing a new RV, most RV retailers require the new buyer to learn everything about their new RV in a class before they can take their camper home. Whether they discuss what to do when encountering damages from storms or what products to use to make temporary repairs, we are not sure. We will research and share in a future blog. At a minimum we can see a good first aid kit is a must. If purchasing an RV from an individual, a novice Camper Crazy buyer should review our future blogs for tips on what to purchase for situations like BJ and Shanna encountered. Perhaps a visit to a local RV store to inquire as to what to buy to be prepared for a first RV trip, (especially if you are planning to go in remote areas) is probably a good idea. Better safe than sorry as they say, because of course, we all want to be “Happy Campers”, just like Jax.

Their baby Jax has some special needs and the travel trailer worked out very well for Jax. He was able to get down and play on the camper floor once they parked each day, and a reason to purchase an RV. They did not want Jax crawling around on the nasty floors of hotel rooms. Carrying suitcases and baby equipment into hotels every night and day for 30 days was not something Shanna was looking forward to either.

With all the challenges to their trip, Shanna said, “I liked it much more than I thought I would,” and BJ said, “If Shanna said, ‘okay lets turn around and go back out west – I would say, ” LETS GO!!!”

Mark & I have now visited two camper sales stores close to our location and will be asking questions and posting what we learn. Planning on visiting a couple this week in Alabama and Mississippi. Will be asking lots of questions and posting info on future blogs.

Don’t forget to subscribe to our youtube channel and watch the video at: https://youtu.be/k58qtKPtAtM