Now is as good a time as any to share my basic plan of attack for going full-time RVing, hopefully some of this will be helpful to you all out there who are also in the planning stages. At the very least, it should be helpful for me to see it all laid out on paper, err…word processor. But first, two notes worthy of mention.
First, this is a huge lifestyle change for me with many facets. I’m expecting that my plans will shift and evolve as time progresses, so there are no guarantees that this is exactly what will end up happening. Secondly, RVing is a highly individualized activity. No two people make full-timing work exactly the same way, there is no right or wrong way to go about it. This is what I think will work for me, if you think some of this will work for you too, that’s great! By the same token, if some (or all) of this doesn’t seem like it’ll work for you, don’t get discouraged. You just need to start looking at the options and figuring out what’s best for your situation. Where there’s a will, there’s a way.
Now then, a bit of background. The idea to seriously go full-time RVing first occurred to me on December 17th of last year. After about four months of thinking long and hard about the direction my life was going (or wasn’t going), and wrestling with the idea that I should actually live it instead of just going through the motions, I sat up bolt upright in bed that night and had an ‘ah-hah’ moment: I really want go RVing, so that is what I should do.
After waiting a month to two to make sure it wasn’t just a fleeting fancy, I really started taking it seriously. Fortunately by that point I had already begun keeping a eye on my finances, so it didn’t take too long to hammer out my rate of savings, and what I was willing to spend. For those who are curious, I’ll put it right out on the table. I’m buying used, and out of pocket. Right now I’m working on my goal of getting a tow vehicle and travel trailer, so that will be the focus of this post.
The truck I purchased four weeks ago cost $6,984 after trade-in of my ’04 Honda Civic ($4,000). That was right on target for my goal of spending $7,000. For the travel trailer, I’m allotting $10,000 at most, including the weight distribution hitch and brake controller that I’ll need to get installed on the truck before I can tow with it. I’m already starting to search for it, but if it takes longer than expected and I get more money saved up I may end up spending more. Originally I wanted $25,000 in the bank before I started actively looking for the truck and RV (would have been later spring or early summer 2012) but I changed my mind more recently and at the time of purchase of the truck had about $23,700 in the bank.
Next up, my reasoning behind deciding on a truck and travel trailer, a decision I came to pretty early on. Off the bat, I ruled out fifth wheels and class A’s because of the higher price, my desire to travel to out of the way places, and to stay in more rustic campgrounds with smaller sites. I’ll also be traveling mostly solo and really don’t need that much space, and while I’m sure I could learn how to safely drive something that large, I don’t really want to. This left class B’s, C’s, and travel trailers.
I love the over cab beds in class C’s, I really do. It seems like a more efficient use of vertical space to put the bed higher up, unlike a regular bed where you maybe get a cabinet or something above it. Plus I think a part of me might still be jealous that I never had a bunk bed as a child, but that’s another story. Either way, I ended up ruling class C’s out because I didn’t want to have to maintain two engines, plus my Civic couldn’t have been towed without some serious work or investment in a dolly that would keep all four wheels off the road, so I wouldn’t have been able to save myself any steps by keeping the same vehicle.
Of course I could have bought a small class C or a class B that would fit in normal parking spots and not have to worry about a tow’d at all, but while I am working on transitioning to location independent work I don’t expect to be entirely there by the time I go full-timing, and I don’t want to have to pack up and drive my house to and from a temporary job on a daily basis. Plus there was the fact that I wanted to have the RV before the lease on my apartment came up and I stopped my current job, and I needed to trade in the car in order to get the money to buy it – I didn’t really want to be driving the RV to my current job which is 27 miles one way.
This left travel trailers. Heated discussions around whether to choose the RV or the tow vehicle first arise all the time in RV forums. If you already have a vehicle capable of towing, it makes your choice pretty straight forward. Since I didn’t, I had to pick a side. In the end, what I ended up doing was narrowing down my tow vehicle some, then looking at RVs that matched my broad decision, then once I picked a specific travel trailer, I was able to narrow the tow vehicle down further.
I decided that I wanted a truck because I wouldn’t need space for passengers, and there is more storage room in a truck compared to a SUV. I further narrowed it down to nothing larger than a half ton truck, because anything larger could making finding parking difficult, was more expensive, and would be hard on gas mileage around town, and during the period before I go full-timing. This limited my travel trailer choices considerably.
Requirements for my travel trailer were that it be self contained for boondocking, didn’t have any canvas parts that would leech heat in the winter and be more prone to wear and tear, and no slide outs since I’d heard about so many people having issues with them and didn’t really need the extra living space.
Researching the perfect for me travel trailer took months, in fact it’s still not completely set in stone, you really don’t want to rush this process. A few times I was sure I’d found the floor plan that was going to be it, but then I’d discover a flaw with it, or find something that seemed better. Eventually I stumbled across fiberglass egg trailers, and was sold on their small size and light weight, and their longevity and durability compared to the other kinds of travel trailer that met my price and size requirements. Right now, I’m nearly positive my TT will be a 17′ Casita Spirit Deluxe. I have a picture of one above that was for sale in my area, and the floor plan and specs can be found at Casita’s website here.
Picking a RV let me get real specific about the tow vehicle. With the GVWR for the travel trailer being only 3500 lbs there were some midsize pickups that qualified for the job – even allowing for a 75% margin of safety on the tow rating. Once I decided what features were important to me, I started looking. I needed to buy the truck first after all in order to be able to tow the RV home.
I was honestly expecting it to take months for the right truck to make itself known to me, but the whole process from starting to search to owning a truck that fit my needs perfectly only took about 2 weeks. I find it funny how sometimes it seems like the universe conspires to give you exactly what you need when you need it. It is a ’01 Dodge Dakota SLT club cab, with a 4.7L V8 engine, automatic transmission, rear wheel drive, and factory installed tow package. It even came with a large camper top already on it, something I was expecting to have to shell a fair bit of money out for. Plus, it’s silver, so it won’t clash with the white with blue trim of a Casita, a very serious consideration. 😉 A picture of it can be found in my previous article here.
Beyond that, the tentative plan is to take vacations and numerous weekend trips in the RV once I have it and get it prepped and ready, with an expected departure for full-timing at the end of…well, it might be as early as August of next year, when our current lease is up. I promised my roommate/best friend that I wouldn’t go gallivanting about the countryside and leave her stranded down here in South Carolina without the funds to get an apartment on her own or move back to Wisconsin where we’re both from. Originally the plan was two years, which would have been August of 2013, but she might let me go a year early, so long as I don’t leave her stuck with the lease on her own which I’d never do.
My first trip once I’m a full-timer will probably be first up to my parent’s house in Wisconsin to visit and drop off anything I want to keep but can’t fit in the RV, and then across to South Dakota to establish residency and get my plates. If I do leave in late summer or early fall I might look into working the holiday season at Amazon to earn up some money since I probably won’t be leaving with as much in the bank as I’d like, then heading down to Quartzsite for the rest of the winter. This would give me a good introduction into the full-timing lifestyle and allow me to meet knowledgeable RVers, as I’m sure I’ll have questions.
That’s the plan anyway, we’ll see how it actually unfolds. If you care to share your plans for RVing, have any thoughts or comments on RV selection, or know where you want to travel to first once you’re full-timing, let us all know in the comments below!