How To Avoid Costly Mistakes When Becoming A Fulltime RVer (My Best Tips!)



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My wife and I made the decision to hit the road as full time RVers with little more preparation than a few years worth of subscriptions to Trailer Life magazine.

Full time RV living takes some planning -- especially if you bring your pet along!

We sold the house, the car, and a lot of junk.  Then, we packed the rest into a small motorhome and thought we were ready.

Well… we made some mistakes along the way.

Hopefully, the following tips will help you avoid some of the pitfalls that we fell victim to during our first year of full time RV living — some of which can be expensive lessons!

 

4 Costly Mistakes We Made Our First Year Of Full Time RV Living

 

#1 – It’s hard to adjust to the new change of pace.

Staying in town for the summer after selling the house was a smart move.

The motorhome got traded in for a 36-foot travel trailer — which gave us enough room to exhale.  We were a bit unrealistic thinking that we could easily adapt to a much smaller space for the long term.

Knowing that we would have to find work of some sort within a reasonable timeframe, we wasted no time getting from our hometown to Arizona — where we planned to settle in to some degree.

As new full timers, we found it very hard to get it in our heads that we no longer had a time schedule to keep.


#2 – If you don’t stop and smell the roses, you’ll have regrets.

We never realized that the limbo in between destinations is time that can be stretched out very inexpensively.

For the cost of food and gas, you can remain out there indefinitely by making use of truck stops, Walmarts, and similar overnight stopovers — most of which are free.  So take your time. Go slow, and see all there is to see out there!

Many small towns have city parks with campsites as a way to draw in tourists.

We found quite a few going across Texas from Denton and headed toward Roswell, New Mexico. Some even provide the first night free — just to entice you to stop and see what they have to offer.


#3 – Think twice before going in debt for fancy RV upgrades.

Within a couple months, we had settled into jobs in Tucson and once again started thinking like house-bound people.

For example, we were wanting a few more luxuries — like a washer & dryer. So we traded in our 36-foot travel trailer for a 37-foot 5th wheel trailer.  Of course, that meant we were no longer debt-free.  (Our initial trailer and truck were paid off before we left home to explore full time RV living.)

Yep, our next big mistake was to mortgage our future by upgrading.  Any debt will severely reduce your ability to pack up and leave.  Day-to-day living expenses can be pretty reasonable — but making payments is a whole different story.

Some RV mistakes can break the bank!


#4 – Choose your RV wisely!

Picking the right RV the first time around is the most important thing you can do.

Depreciation on a new RV will drop its value by 10% to 15% the day you drive it off the lot!  Within 2 years, you could easily be out 30% or more of your investment — if you made the wrong choice and were forced to trade it in.

Plus, full time RV living is harder on an RV. This also will have a heavy impact on its trade-in value.

Concerned that I should have something heavier duty than my ¾-ton pickup to pull our now 14,000-lb home, I traded the pickup truck for a 1994 Chevy Kodiak 1-½ ton truck — thinking that bigger was better and that I would have power to spare.  I would encourage you to do some research first.  The new truck was more stable and had plenty of stopping power, but it was underpowered and could hardly pull the load.

Headed north out of Los Cruses, my new truck barely cleared the long hill heading for White Sands.  Down to first gear and just creeping along, we made one trip from Arizona to Minnesota — and then traded both the truck and the trailer before we returned in the Fall!

It can’t be emphasized enough, all RV dealers will sell you absolutely anything to make a commission — because that’s what they live on.  Without a sale, they go hungry.  That’s why the act of making sure your tow vehicle and trailer are well-matched is completely up to you.

Our next RV was a 37-foot Class A motorhome.  We towed a Ford Fiesta behind it — with a small motorcycle on the back bumper.  This was absolutely the best vehicle we owned for our times on the road.  It made traveling a terrific experience.  We had it for 2 years until we became house-bound again.


Which RV Is Best For Full Time RV Living?

At the end of our early RV trips, we reached the conclusion that if your full time experience has you on the road more than sitting still, then a large motorhome would be the most comfortable way to travel.

On the other hand, if you’re expecting to be stationary for months at a time, then you can’t beat a travel trailer for giving you the feeling of being in your own small apartment.

Unless climbing a few steps up to the bathroom and bedroom are an issue for you, I would recommend a fifth wheel trailer — because the towing characteristics are so much better than a travel trailer.

You can’t realistically compare the two.  A large travel trailer will have you worn out at the end of a day’s driving because you can’t relax.  You have to be “on your game” all the time in order to safely tow a large travel trailer.

The most important tip I have for anyone considering full-time RVing is to do everything in your power to choose the right RV for your situation the first time.  Otherwise, RV mistakes like those we made will eat up your available funds real quick!

Here are some of my additional tips for choosing the right RV for you.

 

Other RV Mistakes To Avoid

Curtis

I’ve been involved in RVing for over 50 years — including camping, building, repairing, and even selling RVs and motorhomes. I’ve owned, used, and repaired almost every class and style of RV ever made. I do all of my own repair work. My other interests include cooking, living with an aging dog, and dealing with diabetic issues. If you can combine a grease monkey with a computer geek, throw in a touch of information nut and organization freak, combined with a little bit of storyteller... you’ve got a good idea of who I am. To date, I've shared my RV knowledge in over 300 articles here at The Fun Times Guide! Many of them have over 25K shares.

19 thoughts on “How To Avoid Costly Mistakes When Becoming A Fulltime RVer (My Best Tips!)

  1. Hey Curtis I am/will be a solo RVer. I agree with most of the article; however I have preference for a trailer- those fifth wheels are nice but huge. I recently purchased an Airstream 25′ and towed it without any issues until I got new tires on the truck. Suddenly, sway became an issue. As a result I now have a pro pride hitch and towing is no longer a problem and hitching is much easier too- even on the move. I still am not sure if the RV size is right yet as I have only used it so far on 4-5 day trips but I want to stay with a 1/2 ton truck if possible. As you shared, there are many factors to consider for longer stays. I am not sure yet about livability (space) needed for comfort over time. I looked at a Winnebago 26SE Class A. At first look it appeared to have more of everything but I found that it had less interior storage and considering the bed of a truck and three trailer trunks, had about the same exterior storage (actually measured it!). Yet, the front area seemed more open, even if about the same width, etc. Then too the mpg is different. The Airstream option gets about 12mpg. I am told that smaller class A gas motorhomes get about 7-8 mpg. A final issue in my contemplation of which to buy for full-time is that no matter what it seems the RVer is towing- trailer or toad. What are your thoughts on this?

    1. For myself, probably used. But consider I have owned many many RVs and I know what to look for to make sure I am getting a good solid rig. Depreciation on a new rig is a killer. 25% the minute you drive it off the lot is about normal.

  2. Thank you for all the wonderful information. This fall my husband I will be starting out on full time RVing. But we have a good place to store our furniture for a year, just incase it doesn’t work out for us. We are both retired and are looking forward to our new life style. We will be using much of what you have shared.

  3. @carpercb:disqus I am trying to find a way to just message you. I google searched and found some of your comments about flat towing a Jeep behind an RV. I have some specific questions about my Jeep. How do I just message you?

      1. I have a 94 Jeep Wrangler YJ. The previous owner told me that he put a Ford rear end in it. I am not certain which one. This jeep is an automatic transmission with a manual shift for the transfer case. My question is, do you know the proper procedure to be able to safely flat tow the Jeep behind an RV?

  4. Hey Curtis! Thanks for the great article. As a newbie looking to buy his first RV, I do want to make sure I know my tow vehicle’s limitations and not just trust the RV dealer. We have a 4Runner V8 that has a towing capacity of 7300 lbs, and the travel trailer we’re looking at has a “shipping weight” (dry weight?) of 5510 lbs, length is 31 ft 6 in. So I believe once we add water and cargo, etc we’ll be ok. Am I missing anything?

    1. It sounds like you are within the manufacturer’s limits. Though personally I would be concerned. A forerunner is not a very large vehicle to be towing a 31-foot trailer regardless of how much it weighs. The larger the trailer the poorer the handling characteristics. All travel trailers sway and are affected when a semi goes by. That large of trailer could overpower a 4Runner short wheel base. A 31 foot trailer should be towed with a three-quarter ton full-size pickup.

      1. Thank you so much Curtis! So, assuming we stay with the 4Runner as our vehicle, what trailer length, in your opinion/experience, should we limit ourselves to for a purchase?

        1. I’m not going to make that judgment. My personal feelings are that a short wheelbase tow vehicle is not appropriate for anything of Size. They handle horribly. If I tell you one thing and you have an accident that puts me in a bad position. The best I can tell you is that long trailers sway noticeably and a lighter short tow vehicle cannot handle it. I recommend going with something small if you stick with that tow vehicle.

      2. Forgot to say, I’m using the measurement that says “Exterior Length”, which I think means the housing is 27ft or so? (model is called 278URL), and the total length with hitch is 31ft? Is that the correct measurement to work with? So much info to process 🙂

    2. Seems to me it would definitely be a mismatch. Power, weight and length not to mention the fact that the trailer would probably push you instead of you pulling it. Just saying

  5. Hi Curtis, I could not agree more. I have a 7.3L diesel Excursion and we had rose colored glasses thinking I would sell it, buy a dually and beautiful 5th wheel. We have decided to get a travel trailer, pay cash as the Ex is paid for and can pull anything. Our challenge was the total weight limit of 20,000 thus a the travel; trailer

  6. Hey @carpercb:disqus. In your experience towing a travel trailer, were you using an kind of weight distribution and/or sway control system? I’m trying to decide between that or a Class C/A with a toad, and want to make sure we have a enjoyable time – both at the destination and during the journey. Thanks!

    1. In general almost all travel trailers will require the use of an Equalizer hitch because it distribute the weight properly. A sway control is an additional fixture and not part of the hitch. Large travel trailers over 30 feet long handled badly in most cases. you will be working all the time while towing one. driving a motorhome towing a car is a much more pleasant experience. for the most part you will not know the car is behind you.

  7. So glad to have these blogs to read, my husband and I are seriously considering this lifestyle and are trying to avoid mistakes. Thank you Curtis for your advice and wisdom!

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