When you’re shopping for your first full-time RV, it’s always smart to ask other RVers their opinions about the good, the bad and the ugly of choosing a first full-timing rig.
But there’s one bit of advice that’s been going around the Internet for years and, in my opinion, it’s the worst advice I’ve ever heard. Here it is:
“Buy your last RV first.”
This advice seems to make sense for many reasons. After all, you don’t want to buy a RV you’re going to regret, so it’s smart to put extensive thought into “Must Have” criteria for your first full-time RV. You might begin by trying to figure out what your “last” RV might look like by asking yourself questions like:
- What are my camping preferences? Do I love going off-grid into the hinterlands, or living in resort-style campgrounds?
- What’s my cooking style? Do I need a fancy, large kitchen that will allow me to cook gourmet meals, or am I a keep-it-simple kind of chef who’s just happy with a basic galley?
- What kind of work / hobbies will I do on the road? You need reasonable space to do what you love, and if you’re like me and work from the road, you need room for that too.
And finally, the most important question:
What can I afford? This is the most important question of all, which is why I believe the “Buy your last RV first” advice is so bad. Far too many aspiring full-time RVers think this advice means that the way to happiness as a full-timer is to “go big,” or in other words, “Buy an RV that’s larger and nicer than you think you need.” Here’s why that advice can get you into trouble:
Buying your last RV first usually results in a pricier rig
If you can’t afford that RV, life on the road will not be fun. I’m not just talking about being able to make the monthly RV payments – even if you pay cash for a bigger, nicer RV than you think you need, can you really afford the cost of upkeep for that rig?
Buying your last RV could result in a RV that’s too big for your camping style.
There’s a fine line between an RV that has enough room, and one that has too much. I’ve talked to several full-timers who fell in love with boondocking after they started full-timing, but the size of their rig limits their off-grid adventures.
Buying your last RV first forces you into trying to predict the future.
When you’re new to full-time RVing, you have no idea if you’ll even like it. By trying to imagine your “last RV first,” you’re trying to play fortuneteller and know exactly what your tastes and needs will be like in future traveling years. This is an especially impossible task if you are working-age like me, love full-time RVing and have many years of travel ahead.
Buying your last RV first might save you the hassle of shopping for a new RV after you discover that your first one doesn’t suit your needs. But following this advice can also lead you down a path of debt and dissatisfaction with full-timing.
Remember, this lifestyle is a constant learning experience. It’s full of surprises and the more we travel, the more we learn about ourselves. Keep your first RV within your budget and current tastes, and if you end up hating it, you can always move up into a bigger/newer/prettier rig when the time is right.
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.
What are the pros and cons of getting solar panels
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Great question Jo! I will attempt to answer that for you in my next post. Thanks for reading.
Many more pro’s than con’s especially if you boondock or stay at state parks where no hookups are available. the only con that I know would be the expense of solar panels or if you have to pay someone to install them. My panels charge up my backup batteries that run the lights, TV and refrigerator for the whole night without plugging in. Of course I switched all my lights to LED, the TV is LED and the refrig is set low.
I have been looking into solar energy as well.
I’ll tell you what I have discovered; (for a common brand high end system)
-complete system 3000 watt, approx. 500 lbs utilizing 6-6vdc batteries
-expensive initial cost $2000 to #35000 approx. (if you install it yourself)
-great source of free power, long term.
-not enough for running ac units
to get familiar, I bought a 45watt portable system from harbor freight.
-great for the occasional blackouts to maintain our single 12vdc battery for a couple days.
-“0″ maintenance required (maybe wash off the panels once in a while)
I suggest if you are truly entrested to check out these few things;
-how much additional weight can you add to your RV and where can you add it to maintain proper weight distribution of your rig.
-how many watts will you require (there are websites with checklists)
-how much do you want to spend? for equipment / installation
-there are many different types, sizes and wattages of panels (measure your roof plus 6” or so to see what you can install)
-there are also many different models, wattages, sizes of controllers, switch boxes, inverters and cables.
after all that balance that against your usage then decide if its cost effective for you.
for me I am ok with my harbor freight system for now. however before we start traveling cross country I will have installed the high end system but with only 4 batteries instead of the 6. that way between the generator, solar or shore power we will never be without.
Nikki J says
I admire the full-time RV people. We have a class A we use part time as hub still works. We sure enjoy the trips, but my husband would say that they don’t make an RV big enough to hold all my “stuff”. We have friends and family that SnowBird, but we want a home base. Our first RV was a trailer, got too small as the two kids became teenagers, towering over us, moved up to the 32′ motorhome…….it worked until they finally grew up and moved to their own homes and lives. Now we can load up and go in short time…..with all my “stuff”!
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Hi Nikki! There’s a lot to be said about having a home base. I miss my garden and all my craft stuff, our trailer just won’t hold all that. Enjoy your travels, see you out on the road!
I wasted $75k not getting a big and powerful enough rig the first two times. If your committed to RVing do get it right the first time.
definitely do the research. before sitting behind the wheel of the tow vehicle or motorhome KNOW THE LAWS, type of drivers license you will need depending on the weight and length of your rig, allowed speeds per state, know how to use the air brakes, hydraulic or electric brakes, you need too know these things before ever buying one.
The way we did it was to move into our 5th wheel toy box trailer while we were both still working. this way we were able to get the feel for the RV lifestyle. we soon learned that we liked living in the RV however the 27 ft. trailer with no slide outs was a bit cramped. after 5 years we decided to move up and bought a new 37 ft. 5th wheel trailer with 4 slide outs. WOW the room inside is bigger than a studio apartment. within the first year I have already had 15 items fail which I repaired myself. this is while it has been parked. haven’t brought it anywhere yet. We have learned that there just isn’t any quality equipment anymore. whatever you buy is going to be defective and WILL need repair.
Our plan is to work out all the issues as much as possible and make all the modifications to it for comfortable living before we are both retired, approx. 5 more years. buy that time our 1 ton truck and trailer should be ready for travel. during our travels we are going to find a parcel of land to fall back onto when we finally reach the day I cant drive anymore.
it’s all in the long term planning.
and yes, there are pros and cons to everything, its an individuals or in a lot of cases a couples decision if its best for them.
Russ Roddy says
I think very few people will get it right the first time. Lots of luck…
Just being the Devil’s advocate here so bear with me. It would seem to make sense for many rv’ers to buy their last one first based on all the accounts you hear in blogs , rv web sites, and personal conversations with experienced rv’ers. I constantly hear how people have traded up two or three times within their first ten years of rv ownership in order to find “the best rig.” I almost never hear of regrets from owners who dove in too deep the first time (there are some, however). What I do hear is that some veteran rv’ers who have had large rv’s for years are now seeking smaller rigs in order to simplify their lives. Obviously, you’d think that people starting out would at least do a little research in knowing what their means vs. wants are and be able to make prudent decisions based on those things. These are just my own points of view but they are legitimate observations as well. Thanks for the article!
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Of course your observations are legitimate and worth noting, no doubt there, thanks. One of the reasons I think people get different rigs is that you never know what kind of curveballs life will throw at you. Some are great, like the way I moved up to a bigger rig because my jewelry business took off, some not so great, like when a RVer has health problems and needs to go from a towable to a motorhome because it’s less physically challenging.
The reason I wrote this article was because I know of working age full-timers like myself who got into a rig they couldn’t afford, which made life on the road difficult. There are some others who started small on purpose because they were taking baby steps into the lifestyle so they didn’t get in over their heads, which made adapting to the unpredictable nature of working and living on the road much easier. In my opinion, when you’re working age and don’t have a set, steady retirement fund, I think the latter is the way to go. That’s just me though, everyone is different.
Chris Brown says
Absolutely – there’s no way a new RV’r has any idea of how they’ll really use one nor what would suit their needs since they have no experience to draw from.
It’s really best to start cheap and small, or rent, get some experience, then you have something to draw from in choosing what will best suit over the long run.
If you buy cheap and/or used you won’t get hosed on depreciation either. Too many people run out and buy the wrong unit, new, then lose their shirt when they decide something else is going to suit them better.
My sis and BIL did this – they lost more on buying selling motorhomes than most spend on them over their lifetime. Oh well, money to burn eh?
The other thing is that what seems like a good idea, or is important today, will highly likely change after some time out actually using one. You just can’t forecast that.
We started with a camper trailer. Lived it but decided we thought we would like a motorhome. We bought a used class C. We really like it but discovered the area above the cab is useless to us except for storage. more useless space is the driver area. Our slide is only the couch area. Sooooo what we discovered is that a class A would better suit us. More usable room because the chairs in front turn around. Class A also has so much storage under the belly. We also want a bigger slide.
We bought an inexpensive used Class C to figure out what we wanted in a motorhome.
Now we are deciding whether tho pick up a used Class A our put a little work in or trailer and use that. We have a larger slide and hubby gets to have his truck with him instead of towing my car.
So many things you may not realize until you have had one for a while. We have had our motorhome over a year now.
Things I have discovered…
1. Counter space…so many campers don’t even have a place to chop various.
2. …Big enough slide out. I’m not one too cook a lot but still a pain to have to move for someone to walk by.
3…. Love a walk through bathroom, although not essential. If you are a tall or large person, make sure you have enough room to comfortably sit on the pot. May sound funny but I have seen some that would be questionable. Our little camper (yes, We have 3) if you sit on the pot you can’t really close the door.
Think about it. I don’t think you can really know totally what you want until you try some.
Even a bad day camping is a good day.
Dallas Evans says
Enjoyed your opinion on “Not buying your last RV first”. We read and article written by a long time RV’er 6 years ago entitled “buying your last RV first” and it was very convincing. I guess I would have never considered a diesel pusher let alone a tag axel pusher, let alone one with many slides and a bigger engine had we not at least looked at them and used this and many other sites to ask present and past owners what they liked and disliked about their purchases and experiences. For the most part everyone wished they had something better if they could have afforded it.
Your thoughts on being a let to afford what you want vs what you need are very well taken (my words) given I have been a financial planner 34 years. I did not need a $465,000 motorhomebut although it sure suited our needs and what we wanted. We opted to buy a 2004 42 footer (5 years old at the time) with all the bells and wistles a year later for $135,000 that originally was sold for $465,000 from a foreclosure auction with low miles, big engine, tag axel (which serves as an extra set of brakes and more stability during side winds) and it serves us well boondocking for a week. Six years later we are still very happy with our purchase and have perhaps lost virtually nothing in value due to someone else’s loss.
So my message is that there are good deals out there if you are willing to travel for the price of and a round trip airline ticket to look at a few motor homes that might fit your budget like we did. We have not been to an RV show since and find nothing that a new RV has that we don’t already have in this rig. For $20,000 we should upgrade the interior but that is not necessary for our 5 weeks a year spent in it on average.
One last observation, we have space to park this MH when not using it. This is a major expense if you have to store a rig big and heavy. We are not full timers but this could easily be converted to such use. We have taken this MH on long adventures for a couple weeks at a time and then stored it in some other state and flown home for a month and then fly back and travel another couple weeks. Cheaper than driving it on long round trips at (6mile/gallon). We make a summer out of using for a total of four or so weeks thousands of miles away and don’t need to be rushed. Having a dishwasher, laundry facilities, multiple slide outs and large holding tanks and buying a slightly used MH make it our last Motorhome.
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Thanks for sharing your wisdom, Dallas. Coming from a guy with your financial expertise, it made my day. I’m so glad you found your perfect RV at such a great price!
I’m interested to learn where you found this auction.
William Scott says
When i was younger with children we went from a used small pop up to a larger used one with a shower, then to a new travel trailer. Then the kids grew up and didn’t want to go camping anymore, so i sold a mint 3 year old 23 foot trailer and took a bit of a hit. Second time around with the kids grown and gone i started cheaply again to see how much time i could spend in one and bought a older class C Motorhome, 28 ft for under 5k. Had the normal repairs over the next 4 years, new awning, new Fridge, new hot water heater computer, but keeping it up allowed me to sell it for what i paid for it and including my repairs and upgraded to a 2004 Class A Winnebago 30B Sightseer with 46k. For first time buyers it is ok to start small, knowing it is like a used car, it will have repairs, it will go down in value. At some point you will figure out what you need. Our reason to upgrade is to get a slide out as it is nice to have some width to move around and the Class A has more usable room, including the front easy that can face in. Hope my story helps.
Steve Fennell says
Thanks for your post. Good luck with the slide out model!
William Scott says
Thanks. What a big difference in in the ability to do things inside when it is raining or night.
William Scott says
Yes or when the dog picks the exact spot you need to do something.
David B says
Hi, we bought a used small 5th wheel to see if we had any real interest in traveling in an RV… We enjoyed our time together and then went to a travel trailer once retired… it was a 30 foot Starcraft and quite frankly lacked the storage / comfort we needed or wanted… The Starcraft was great for weekends but we now needed / wanted something that would provide more comfort and space… We have on order a 40 foot 5th wheel and are excited to receive and spend more time traveling to different locations out west (anywhere but California). We also had a dodge 2500 mega cab with a Hemi which worked great until we started climbing mountains. I have traded in the Hemi for a diesel 3500 Dodge Ram 2016 and climbed mountains without feeling the loss of power… My advice is to skip the 2500 gas and go with the diesel… I would also recommend not buying your forever RV! Start with a used one and go from their… You can then decide what will work best for you…
Have a blast and enjoy your freedom!
Great plan David! We aren’t full timers but sure enjoy going. We bought an older used 26′ motor home just to see how much we would use it.Then having a little handyman ability we renovated from front to back. New vinyl flooring, built in T.V, refrigerator, toilet, furnace,removed all windows and re-sealed and all the outside trim, and last tires and a top rebuild of the engine. We put 55,000 miles on the the coach and loved it so much after five years we moved up to a much newer, roomier coach with a large slide, still a shorter version 27′ long but what a difference.
as said before many times, you need to get used to driving the motor home and all the quirks.
RVing is great but do your homework, then come to Easter Oregon..YEAH!!
Jim S. says
Not full timers, but during my “working years” (retired June 16′) traveled 50-60 nights a year. Have a 26′ tt now, 2nd one we owned in that size. Spent 110 days in AK. this summer, so we felt like “full times” at times. Started looking (kicking tires) about a year ago for that “next” RV. Personally, I’m very happy with the 2013 unit we have now. Especially after Alaska, she held up great. The only reason to even be looking is being a hybrid trailer, the shoulder seasons get a little chilly. But to get the “space” we have now and with the amount of storage space, I would have to get a 32′ to 34′ trailer.
For the type of campgrounds we like (state, federal, BLM….) I’m not willing to go over 30′ really want it under 28′. Also willing to spend the $$$ for a higher quality tt like a Arctic Fox or Winnebago, but either they didn’t have the floorplan we could live with, or as in the case with the AF, it was pushing the limits on my newer Tundra.
Everything is paid for, so were in no hurry to buy….Most likely will never full time, but will do more 1-3 month trips….
I use ebay and rvtrader.com whenever I’m looking to buy a RV. It gives me pictures, floor plans and stats without wasting time, gas or being limited to local selection. I quickly learn what the best bang for the buck in my budget. I found best prices and selection were usually in TX and FL due to numerous elderly people selling for various reasons. First time, I flew into TX and drove my RV home. Second time, I drove my rig to FL and drove it home. Upgrade due to becoming a full timer. Class A’s can be very expensive to maintain like the states. My opinion is to go with as small of a rig that will hold your stuff and a bit more but that you can stay inside for rainy days. A B+ no slide was fine for trips, but as a full timer, I upgraded to a B+ with 2 livingroom slides and tow my Harley in an enclosed trailer that has additiona storage for my hobbies. If I were married, I’d need a class C with 3 slides, at a minimum, if I were fulltiming. Of course, I’ve meet people who FT in smaller rigs, but I need a bit more space for rainy days and mission essential items.
Terry Ezart says
We agree with the author. Especially about the brand name of the RV you choose to buy. Check out all the manufacturers, Buy one that is NOT written up in Trailer Life for bad warranty issues. We like the author own an Arctic Fox. It was our first RV and it has not given us any problems in 10 years. Too many manufacturers do not build them to last and they cringe when you suggest taking them off road. If you settle on a trailer, buy a diesel truck to tow with IF you live west of the Mississippi or climb mountains. Good Luck!!
I guess I’m not that smart. Having experience buyer’s remorse a sufficient number of times in my younger days, I bought my first camper with this in mind: I’m going to want something else as soon as I get some experience under my feet. So I looked for something I thought would be suitable for our needs but at a price that would allow me to dump it without a major loss.
Ended up with a nice three-year-old toy hauler that a less careful couple with three children had purchased new. I can’t imagine what their grand total of two weekends in it was like. It soon became too small for even my DW and myself.
In about two years I was able to sell it for what I’d paid for it. It wasn’t quite a wash, as we’d added a WDH, hard-wired EMS and an electric jack. Still, we ended up with a camper that is now nearly six years old and is as perfect for us as we could imagine a camper could be. We’ve spent over four full winter seasons living in it and have taken it on numerous lengthy trip, not to mention monthly weekends with our RV club.
It has been problem free, but that’s another story.
I agree with both points of view. My wife and I also started with an old pop up, then upgraded to 23 ft TT, and then finally to a 32ft TT bunkhouse when kids arrived.
The 10 years of “upgrading” trailers gave me ten good years of learning how to deal with trailers and RVs in general in a slow, systematic way.
I think the “usual” reason someone gives the “buy your last RV first” is to try and prevent the misfortune of buying a trailer that is just a little too small, or buying a trailer to small for their needs because they have an undercapacity tow vehicle., and then the new RVer is wasting money on trading trailers every year, or worse… trading in a brand new car for a brand new bigger truck.
David B. says
We started off with a pop up… then a very small 5th wheel, retired bought a 30 foot star craft travel trailer (enjoyed) and just bought a 40 Jayco pinnacle… start off small and grow from their… make sure it’s what you want to do!
I started with a 1973 Airstream Argosy 24` back in 2000. This was a major upgrade as I had been a tent camper for the first ten years of my adulthood. Grew up camping with my family in several different class a`s and of course tent camping with friends. Our first travel trailer impressed us completely and a bond formed between myself and my Argosy. The memories I have of my family growing up while enjoying our travels are priceless. Now the wife and I are almost empty nesters and our little 24 is the perfect size for us.
I didn’t buy my trailer with “buy your last rv first” in mind, but when I realized that the trailer I bought would out live me with proper maintenance, the fact that I had already purchased my last rv became apparent. I’m very happy I made the purchase and lovingly restored my trailer to its current state. Probably my favorite part of my rv experience is knowing that when I am gone two of my children will be fighting over who gets dads trailer.
Did you do your solar yourself or have someone do it for you?
Rene Agredano - The Full Timing Nomad says
Tate, we paid Solar Mike at Slab City to do ours. No regrets.