Should or should you not be willing to go into debt to buy your RV? I’m a big fan of avoiding debt at all cost. One of the biggest lures and advantages of RVing is the flexibility. You can change your plans with very little notice. Stay where you are another day if you’re having fun or move on down the road with little effort, just however long it takes to pack up.
Debt on the other hand takes some of that freedom away, it’s like taking one step backwards. The more you accumulate in debt trying to get on the road the more your new flexibility will be tempered by it. There are a two major ways by which debt hampers RVing:
The first is time or money. To account for that monthly payment, you will have less money to spend on attractions, upgrading your rig, or on gas to travel to a new location. Talk about being a drag on your dreams. Or you can choose to still do all of the fun things you wanted to do when you hit the road, but then you’ll need to find a way to earn more money while you travel to account for that payment. Making that extra money will cost you in free time.
If you want to pay off the debt quicker for less interest, that’ll mean less enjoyment and more working in the short run. If you want to pay off the debt slower to enjoy your new RVing lifestyle, that’ll mean less enjoyment and more working in the long run. I can’t see either option as being favorable.
Besides money and free time, it’ll also wear on you mentally. Every time you make a purchase you’ll need weigh in your head if it’ll hamper your ability to make that payment. If you keep a strict budget to make sure you have enough money to avoid this pitfall, then it’ll hamper your spontaneity if something unexpected comes up that you want to pursue except you can’t, because it’s not in the budget.
The hardest part of the money equation when it comes to RVing is the initial purchase. After you have your rig, the expenses are pretty easy to control by staying at places for longer and driving less, eating in more, doing activities that don’t involve entrance fees, boondocking and choosing lower cost places to stay. It’s getting over that initial hurdle that can put people in financial constraints. So what can be done about it?
What I did to avoid debt was go small and used on the RV and truck, buying within my means. Being solo and having already rejected the rampant consumerism that is a staple to the U.S., the thought of living in something 17′ long that someone had already used before and not having the newest and “best” features in it didn’t bother me. My intention was to live out of my RV, not in it. I spent over a month looking at Casita information online and reading owner’s comments about them on various forums. Through this I learned that even over ten years old, these little trailers held up well to wear and I would be unlikely to purchase a lemon as long as I was careful to do a thorough exam of any I thought to purchase. To date, having had Cas a little over a year and a half, I’ve spent around $500 total on maintenance and fixes, most of that to a shop for labor because I’m not that handy of a person, not too shabby for a house.
The second part of the equation was waiting to pull the trigger until I had enough. I continued working over a year after I decided to go RVing, to save up enough money for the initial purchase plus about $2,000 for things I’d need once I had the RV (most notably my fancy hitch), and $5,000 set aside for emergencies.
There is a fine line to toe here, as you might not want to wait years and years to go RVing, but you don’t want to buy until you have enough to buy something you can stand to live in. I don’t have the answer to what will work best for you, just a piece of advice based on two statistics.
First of all, over 50% of people buying their first RV will be in a different RV in two years. It’s very seldom to find your perfect fit on the first go around, how can you know what features mean the most to you and in what layout until you’ve lived in one for a while to see what does and doesn’t work? Knowing this, I think it makes sense to spend less on your first RV starting out, consider it kind of like a trial run. You can always upgrade to something newer, larger, and fancier later if the whole full-timing thing goes well. Note that not everyone who moves on to their second RV chooses something larger, it does occasionally work the other way too.
Second, a new RV (Casitas aside, their sort of a special case) will lose about 50% of it’s value in five years. So you can get a five year old RV for about half of the cost of a new one, that’s a huge difference. In five years, a RV will have all of the kinks that new RVs have worked out, but will still be in good shape if the first owner took care of it.
Which boils down to my conclusion. I don’t think having the newest and biggest is what makes us happy as RVers. It’s more about the things you do, places you see, and people you meet as opposed to what you’re doing it in. If you can avoid getting into debt to get out on the road, that’ll be one less rope tying down your new found freedom. The biggest advantage as I see it to having a new RV is less maintenance and fixes to worry about, because like debt having to constantly be working on your RV would limit freedom, but if you’re a careful shopper there are plenty of used RVs out there in good shape that won’t require much more work than a new one would – my own is now 14 years old and still requires little fixing.
What do you think, is going into debt to get out on the road worth it or not?
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