Living Full Time in an RV – Part Two
In part one of this article I discussed the ideas of renting an RV before you buy one that you will full time in, considering the limited space and how it will affect your current family relationships, choosing your domicile state, to remember the pets and their needs, establishing a budget to see where you stand, a possible need to supplement your income to afford the lifestyle, and choosing the best RV for you while not forgetting to consider every aspect of it.
In this writing, we will go a little deeper and continue the thought processes that may help you as you consider your plans to embrace full time RV living.
Where Do You Want to Go?
Will your full time RV living involve lots of traveling or will you move to an area and stay for one to three months, or maybe even six months? Perhaps you are just selling everything, downsizing and moving into a “tiny home” as they are being called these days?
How you plan your full time RV lifestyle will determine a lot of things when it comes to the purchase of your tiny home on wheels! If you have decided that you will be traveling a lot and reside in both warm and cold climates, that will affect many things when choosing the RV you will buy!
RV’s don’t do well in cold weather unless they are designed for that purpose. Some manufacturers refer to that as four season living. These types of RV’s will have more wall, roof, and underbelly insulation than the typical RV.
They may also have tank heaters installed for the fresh water tank and the waste tanks. The outside services where water and sewer services attach to the RV will also be more concealed and have a heater vent so that when the furnace is running that area is kept from freezing when the temperatures get below thirty-two degrees. Other systems may be upgraded as well.
You can buy a heated water hose that plugs into a 120-volt receptacle. That way as long as the service bay in the RV is heated and insulated, the water hose is heated, and the RV park service is protected from the cold, you can comfortably live in your RV when the temperatures drop below freezing!
Pam and I bought our first full time living RV with the thought that we would stay stationary for a bit and work camp, but then we would travel to both warm and cold climates. Now, we are not talking living in the north with snow, but places where it can drop below freezing at night in the month of January.
Our first full time RV had all those extras I mentioned earlier. The coldest we ever experienced was in the panhandle of Florida. It was January, and the prediction was for snow. That is a rare event but none the less it happened. We were staying right near the beach, so we did not see snow, but that night it did drop to sixteen degrees, and we had an ice storm that coated the RV so badly it took a hair dryer to get out the door.
The high that day was twenty-nine degrees! It did not last long, and we were back in the sixties in a few days, but these things can happen. We were at the Grand Canyon in November and got four inches of snow. It too disappeared quickly, but we had to wait for things to warm up a bit to get our slides in before we could continue our travels. They had iced over and would not retract!
If you only plan to stay and travel in warm climates, you can save yourself on the some those cold weather extras that you will not need. But, if you are unsure it would be best to buy something that will handle the cold weather, just in case! We were glad we did! While our fellow RVers were rupturing water connections, we were fine!
Motorized or Towable?
One of the biggest decisions that people considering the full time RV lifestyle have to face is to get an RV that has an engine or one that can be towed behind a vehicle.
Motorized RV’s that would be suitable for full timing could be a Class A gas, a Class A diesel, or a Class C gas or diesel RV.
Towable RV’s could either be a 5th wheel RV or Travel Trailer. We know fellow full-timers who live in each of the types I just mentioned. Some of these people are just couples, some travel with kids, and others are singles that have adopted the lifestyle.
Which type of RV will be best for you? This decision will be hard to make when starting to plan an RV purchase. That is why renting an RV will help! From our personal experience and that of others, a motorized RV will work better if you plan to move around a lot. A towable RV will be cheaper and works better for folks who intend to stay in one place for extended periods of time.
Consider that as your main criteria when starting to look at RV’s. That does not mean a towable RV won’t work when you are moving around from week to week. It just takes more effort to get it parked and setup compared to a motorized RV. Again, this is just our opinion and one based on our experiences of living and traveling in both!
Some other considerations
How much weight do you plan on carrying, will you be dry camping a fair bit, and what will be your transportation other than the RV?
When looking at RV’s you will want to be aware of what the manufacturers call the cargo carrying capacity of the RV. In RV’s after the year 2008, they have a yellow label posted inside the RV that shows how much weight you can put in it.
Our current RV home lists that we can carry 2,800 pounds of stuff. That includes people, a full tank of water, and our personal belongings. We also pull a trailer, so we need to add the 475 pounds of the trailers tongue weight on the rear hitch.
That 2,800 pounds sounds like a lot until you start loading the RV for full time living. Being concerned about that we had it weighed at a rally while in Elkhart, IN. The RV was weighed at each tire, including the trailers tires, and with the trailer unhooked to determine the tongue weight. We were loaded as we would travel with some water, a full fuel tank, and Pam and I seated in the driver and passenger seat.
We discovered we were okay on the front axle with a thousand pounds clear of the maximum axle load rating. However, in the rear axle, we were pretty near maximum on the curbside and a little over on the streetside of the RV.
Now because we don’t travel at speeds of more than 65 mph, and usually less than that, we were advised that we are okay as loaded, but don’t add any more weight! We had this service done by the RV Safety and Education Foundation. So, my advice is once you get your RV loaded for full time living, get it weighed for safety sake!
If you are dry camping a fair bit and not have access to water, sewer and electric, then you need to have adequate sources on board to meet those needs: a large freshwater tank, perhaps 100 gallons or more, adequate waste tanks, solar panels and/or an inverter, and a generator.
It is nice to have all the comforts of home while traveling and to be able to park in approved locations other than RV parks and campgrounds. There are many places you can go that accept RV’s and you can stay for free! And you can only do that comfortably if your RV is set up with that use in mind.
Other than your RV, what will be your vehicle to go shopping with, sightseeing, etc.? If you are in a towable RV, the vehicle used to pull it will probably be utilized for that purpose. If you are in a motorized RV, then you will have to consider towing a vehicle behind. Can the towed vehicle be pulled with all four wheels on the road or does it need a tow dolly? Maybe it can’t be towed at all, and you would prefer to keep it protected in a trailer?
When Pam and I had the 5th wheel RV, we had the big Freightliner truck or a small Honda motorcycle to get around with. We loved the Honda because it was easy to carry on a custom made platform on the back of the 5th wheel. It was also easy to get around with compared to the Freightliner medium-duty truck. But we had either to choose from.
Now that we have a motorized RV and no car, people ask us how do we get around? They don’t realize the Honda is in the trailer, but we tell them, we have legs to walk, we each have a bicycle, and we have the Honda. Sometimes we take the RV out for those big shopping trips, or we shop before we reach our destination.
If you choose a towable RV, please be sure to buy more tow vehicle than you need! Don’t trust the dealer on this. Do your research and be sure you know what the vehicle can tow and how much load the vehicle can carry. For most people, the tow vehicle will be a truck. Think about the value of a long bed over a short box truck and having four doors instead of an extended cab. Reflect on how you are going to use that vehicle!
Most people think that RV stands for Recreational Vehicle. What it actually stands for is Repair Vehicle regularly. Perhaps they should be called RVR’s! Just a bit of humor there as I am trying to make a point!
If you own an RV for any length of time and put a lot of miles on it, you will discover things will break or require maintenance. When driving an RV down the road, to some of the interior components it appears to be like an earthquake! The bumps, ruts, potholes and washboard roads send vibrations throughout the RV.
Things will loosen, break, start to leak, not work, etc. How will you get things fixed? Should you consider an extended warranty for your RV? If you are not comfortable with the complex systems and nuances of an RV, that may be the best way to go! However, when you are sitting in your RV and the lights go out, will an RV tech be immediately able to take care of you?
We talked about this maintenance aspect when a full time RV living budget was discussed in the last article. Be prepared for unexpected costs that may show up during travel. Tires blow, road alligators (truck tire shreds) can damage your RV, AC units fail, etc. You will have less of this with a newer unit, but if you buy used, be sure you cover the bases!
If you are at the point in your life where you require frequent visits to the doctor and prescriptions needing to be filled, how will you accomplish this while in travel mode? Can you visit other doctors in different locations? Can you get prescriptions through a national drug store chain? Perhaps you can plan annual visits back to your doctor to take care of these things?
Having access to the internet while traveling full time in an RV can be a challenge! For those of us on the road full time, we need internet access all the time! Especially for Pam and I who run a business out of our RV home!
Cell phone access has not been a problem for years! We can always make and receive phone calls wherever we travel via Verizon Wireless.
There are many reasons to stay connected to the internet: email, financial needs, travel research, Skype, YouTube, and social media. However, it all consumes gigabytes of data and that costs! When you have a fixed residence, unlimited data plans are typical! Not so much when it comes to living in an RV unless you spend the dollars for the technology.
You can’t just rely on RV Park WiFi either. For the majority of the RV parks, the WiFi is free for a reason, because it is worthless! They don’t offer the bandwidth to accommodate everyone who wants to Skype, watch movies, and watch YouTube videos. We have noticed that as we travel it is getting better, but don’t count on it!
You can purchase antenna boosters and routers that will help to receive a stronger signal. For the money you may spend on this technology, it may be the first thing to try, and if you find that is not meeting your needs, then search for alternative ways to get online.
Pam and I have been with Verizon since before it was even called Verizon! We each have a smartphone, and one unit called a MiFi. It broadcasts a signal that our laptops and tablets can access at the same time. We could just use the smartphone to do that, but this just works better for us. With 24 Gig of data per month, we are just under $200 for all our devices. We use up all our data every month! Sometimes when in a park with decent WiFi, I can stretch that even further but that does not happen very often!
So, the bottom line is you may have to spend money on some technologies to suit your full time RVing mobile data needs.
Here is one aspect of the lifestyle that people don’t consider as being a big deal! Doing laundry is never fun, and it can be even worse when you have to use the facilities at an RV park. Most of the laundry rooms are okay, but some we have used were scary! I did not want to wash my clothes there!
Pam and I were staying in a park in Albuquerque, NM, and the park had a lot of people that did road work, namely paving operations. They would bring their dirty laundry in a garbage can and monopolize the entire facility. Once done, an examination of the washer revealed that the machine was loaded with dirt and sand from their clothes. I am not sure what else was in there but needless to say; we didn’t use them again.
Shortly after, since our RV had a place for an apartment size washer and dryer, we purchased those and installed them ourselves! Oh, happy day! From then on laundry was a breeze! That is until we sold it and got another RV that did not have them! So now we choose RV parks that are a little higher class and if in doubt, we run bleach through before washing our clothes. Our next RV will again have a washer and dryer!
If you can get an RV with a combo unit, or one that has the separate washer and dryer, you won’t be sorry! You will always know where your clothes have been!
For Next Time!
In the next and last installment of this series, we’ll address some final thoughts that will get you that much closer to hitting the road!