Choosing your first home on wheels for full-time RVing is daunting. Experienced full-timers are always happy to share their shopping tips like “Buy your last RV first” or “Don’t buy too small,” but you won’t know if it’s a perfect fit until you take the plunge and put some real miles on those wheels.
In time you’ll understand if you made the right choice, but eventually you might start to recognize the top four signs that it’s time to upgrade your RV.
Sign #1: Your RV’s first name becomes “Stupid.”
Living in a new-to-you rig is like moving in with a romantic partner: you hope your life will be blissful, but you won’t know if you have a future until you experience difficult times together.
If you buy a used RV, you’ll quickly find out why the previous owners sold it and if your rig is brand new, you’ll usually discover areas where the manufacturer cut corners. If those issues are all you think about when you’re inside the rig and you begin referring to it as “That stupid RV!” that’s when you know it’s time to go shopping.
Sign #2: Your RV spends more time in the shop than on the road.
Full-timing is hard on RVs and eventually all of them need repairs. One way to keep costs down in your early road-tripping days is to buy an extended warranty. We opted into one for our first rig and used it plenty during our first years of full-timing.
From a cracked bathtub to problems with our satellite dish, the warranty gave us the peace of mind as we honed our own RV repair skills. We would later learn that when it comes to RVs, some fixes are easy to do on your own and many aren’t. Eventually your cost of owning the rig will exceed its current value and that’s when it’s time to put the “For Sale” sign on the windshield and start shopping.
Sign #3: Your RV seems to be shrinking.
An experienced full-timer once told us that she based her first RV purchase on whether or not it had enough room for her to practice yoga. This makes total sense because if you aren’t able to do at least some of your favorite indoor activities, life on the road will feel like a sacrifice.
In my situation, our 24′ fifth wheel was great before I started my jewelry business. But as orders took off, my work started overtaking the kitchen table. After over one year of consistently eating late night dinners because I was working on orders, we finally purchased a slightly larger rig with a bunkhouse that we converted into a workshop. Now I can make jewelry–and do yoga inside!
Sign #4: You and your partner bicker about upgrading your RV.
All married men know the old saying: “If Momma ain’t happy, nobody’s happy” and that’s especially true when he and his bride live in a fiberglass shoebox. I was the first one to suggest that we consider upgrading to a larger rig but it took my husband at least a year before he was open to the idea.
The biggest motivation was my growing jewelry business and the toll that full-timing was taking our our RV. Finally the time came when we saw eye-to-eye (he might describe it as “caving in”) and we started shopping around for a rig that was a little bigger but within the towing limits of our Dodge 2500. Now those bickering sessions are now a thing of the past and everybody’s happy.
Whether you’re full-timing with a partner or flying solo, life on the road can be as comfortable as living in a stick house if you choose your RV wisely. And if the day comes when you fall out of love with your home on wheels, there’s no need to be miserable because there are plenty of models of new and used RVs in every price range for traveling full-timers like us.
Rene Agredano and her husband, Jim Nelson, became full-time RVers in 2007 and have been touring the country ever since. In her blog, Rene chronicles the ins and outs of the full-timing life and brings readers along to meet the fascinating people and amazing places they visit on the road. Her road trip adventures are chronicled in her blog at LiveWorkDream.com.
Buy RV Lights says
Thanks for sharing this interesting and wonderful post Rene! Loved reading this! Many a times people brag about such situation and do not know the right time to upgrade their vehicle. Reading this post will really be helpful for anyone to determine as to which is the right time to replace or upgrade to a new RV.
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Glad that you enjoyed the column. Thanks for reading!
Raymond Laethem says
Looking for someone living in or near Duvall Washington area I lived there in the 50’s and have not been there since. I wanted to look at some present day photo’s of the town area as it looks now. I attended Cherry Valley grade School back then. At 75 now I don’t think I will returning there. Thanks Ray
Sherise Baltazar says
Hi Ray are you still looking for pictures? I have a friend that lives up there who might have some pics.
Try Google earth
Erika Brady says
My husband and I have had an RV for several years now and we are trying to decide if we need a new one, or can just have it repaired. We both to tend to call is “stupid” a lot of the time, but we can usually get things going. It has not spent tons of time in the shop, so I think it might just need to be looked at for a repair.
Janice Blake says
Our Winnebago is 12 years old, miles 80,000 and no problems, we got it second hand and are thinking of having the Transmission overhauled, new tires all around, this winter the lino cracked in -40c weather. It is big enough and we are very happy withit but I am beginning to wonder should we put all this money into it. I read constantly about people having problems with new ones and wonder is it time to upgrade or stay happy with what we have. . Some opinions plse.
Garry Griffitt says
Transmission will be expensive, but cheaper than a new unit with interest, taxes, registration.
Tires are available with load range E, should last a number of years.
IF engine is treated with reason and runs well, does not use oil then it should last a while longer.
IF all else runs OK, why buy newer with all the computerized “stuff” and emissions “stuff” that is
My tow vehicle is a 2004 Dodge 3500 crew cab 122,000 miles and yes, it has had a few issues, but still cheaper than a $70,000 bill hanging over my head with all the restrictions and complications.
Good luck with any decision.
If you buy used, ask questions about it’s history and abuse so you don’t get nailed with a new driveline
and or repairs.
Take care and be well.
Linda Kurgan says
You said it “we’re very happy with it”; I wouldn’t rock the boat if I were you! We love our 23 yr old Fleetwood Pace Arrow motorhome, but the outside is rough from being outside, we have trouble keeping the occasional mouse out, and it has no slides, so after 17 years we finally decided to get something newer. Ended up with a BRAND new travel trailer, and we’re not so sure we’re happy. Turns out our truck is, though a 2500, is only a 6 cyl, so hard to pull this 36 footer, and it’s more work to set up or take down (we’re used to just plugging in the electric and sewer hose, then sitting with our coffee while our friends with their 5th wheel keep working). We’re beginning to think we might be motorhome people after all, but will have to give it a try, since it’s ours now…. It is lovely, but when we go in the old one, it’s still home. Don’t do anything rash….
Good column. Our brand new 2017 Fleetwood Bounder’s name became BooBoo almost immediately. We went back to a fifth wheel a year later. I can’t type here what the dealers’ name (LaMesa) became.
Garry Griffitt says
We have a 1998 Spinnaker with three slide outs triple axle with tires that are 238/85/r16 load range E and have had the wheel bearings replace once, packed each year. 1 small crack in the fiberglass, carpet is original, paint is faded. I would put it up against a lot of new units for reliability, and lack of needed repairs.
I read that a lot of “NEW” units are of such poor quality and workmanship, why would anyone put up with this??
We just finished a 3500 mile trip from Colorado to Yellowstone NP, Seattle, WA, Coos Bay, OR, Redwoods, CA, Reno,NV and home with the only problem was a low tire repair in Grants Pass, OR. (Nail)
Why buy new??
Wonderful camping trip.
Good luck to all with your rigs.
You are correct about buying new; workmanship and quality control are horrible. Nothing major yet, but several dozen small annoying issues do to poor quality control and assembly personnel that do not seem to care. Nobody seems to take pride in their work, OR management wants to take all shortcuts possible to maximize profits. Not to concerned about customer satisfaction or repeat customer loyalty. Either way customer gets the short end.
Janice McFadden says
Kathi Simpson says
We did more than two years of research when we decided we were going to purchase our rig – looked at everything from 12 foot bumper-pulls to diesel pushers, but with our basic requirements of headroom and lifestyle furnishing, wound up with a 39 ft 5th wheel. We bought new because we were such newbies that we wanted a warranty to take care of anything major.
When we start calling our rig stupid, we will probably just replace with as close as possible to what we have, because we have no complaints after two-and-a-half years of living in it.
If we could custom build one, it would have more substantial wall material, and better access to common repair areas, but overall, we have not encountered anything that we can’t deal with.
As always, DO YOUR HOMEWORK!! Be realistic about the way you want to live in your rig, and find one that is pleasing to your individual taste.
Best of luck, and welcome to the adventure-driven lifestyle!
Vanessa A Simmons says
The only thing about older units is that I’ve seen some campgrounds that say nothing older than 7 years. Unless it has been redone and looks brand new.
Even if I had a brand new rig, I wouldn’t want to stay with those kind of snobby people ! Our amazingly clean, undamaged, original, shiny , all original Pace Arrow is 39 years old this year and when someone says how “dated” it is, I just tell them it is a lot less dated than I am !
After 30 years upgrading from a tent to 2 pop ups and 2 TT I found the second TT to be the one I want to possibly spend my retirement with. It is a bunk model and a nice bed. After 3 weeks with 4 people in it it was cramped but we all worked well together. When I retire it will be just me. I think 21 feet is big enough for me and my three dogs.