Three Years In A Casita

Snow in my Yellowstone site back in May

Snow in my Yellowstone site back in May

While September 14th marked my third nomadiversary, it also marks almost three and a half years of living in a small RV.

To this day I get incredulous looks that a trailer only 17 feet long from hitch to bumper provides adequate space to live and thrive in, but I can now say in no uncertain terms that for me, it works wonderfully.

I love my little home. It’s small size encourages me to spend more time out in the world. The lack of storage space and thus stuff that I own makes me feel free. I don’t need a behemoth of a vehicle to tow it, it tracks better than a longer trailer, and I don’t need a spotter to get in and and out of of a campsite.

More specific to a Casita, it’s narrow width makes for easier driving on narrow or congested roads, the fiberglass shell has fewer possible leak points than a box style trailer, and the multitude of windows make the interior feel surprisingly roomy.

I’m very proud of the legwork my 28 year old self did when researching RVs. For my situation, working in a location for months at a time and needing to commute to seasonal jobs, a trailer + tow vehicle was the best choice at the lowest cost. Casitas are pretty low maintenance and have amazing staying power compared to other brands of small travel trailers.

At 16 years old now, Cas has held up to the rigors of full-time travel these past three years better than I anticipated. Long time readers will recall that my several months on the road was full of plenty of wonder, but also an apprehensiveness than my used RV, while it looked sound on the surface, could prove to be a lemon–I had only the previous owner’s assurances that it had been well taken care of.

I anticipated needed to replace at least one appliance within the first year, my water heater (the only major thing that has gone kaput in my 3.5 years of constant use) lasted about a year and a half before it quit. To be honest I hardly used it anyway and I haven’t used it at all since getting it replaced this spring.

There have admittedly been numerous other small problems, but none that have required drastic action.

I’ve had several leaks, a couple involving rivets, one spot where the awning is anchored to the roof, part of the seal around the fresh water storage compartment, part of the seal along the top of the door frame, one when the vent over my gray tank disintegrated due to age and UV exposure, and one crack in the roof resulting from hail strike damage (it didn’t start leaking until nearly two years after the fact). Most leaks in a Casita are easily handled by carrying a tube of caulk, rivets, and snap caps with you. The gray tank vent one was a bit more of a hassle, I needed to order a new part and had help replacing it.

One of my inside storage cubbies has a door that refuses to stay shut when traveling, and I’ve had to replace the hinges on it a couple times. My propane bottle cover blew away, I never bothered to replace it. The city water connection valve became damaged (could have been age or the fact that it froze once or twice), it still worked fine when hooked up to city water but would leak (outside the trailer) when I used the fresh water tank and so I had it replaced. A couple of the additions the previous owner made to the trailer didn’t work out in the long run: the shelves in the closet have fallen a couple times and I removed the valences over the windows after one broke and the others started warping the metal window frames.

It’s hard to remember every little thing that has broken. RVing wannabes might cringe at this rather lengthy list but if you compare it to other full-timers you’ll see it’s really not that bad. It’s important to know that no matter what RV you pick you’ll be dealing with these kinds of issues and if you can’t handle them yourself and don’t have the money to pay someone to fix them for you, then RVing might not be for you.

I have the 17′ Spirit Deluxe model, and still find it the best floorplan to fit my needs. I keep the rear dinette as a full size bed at all times, the small side dinette is where my laptop is set up. The only problem I’ve had is that I’ve found it impossible to keep the weight evenly distributed between the left and right side. The major appliances, closet, fresh water tank, and largest storage cubbies are all on the right side of the Spirit model and so it’s always heavier on that side which probably isn’t great for my tires (though the my last ones held out for seven years), but with the weight distribution and sway control I’ve never noticed any problems in handling while towing.

Casitas aren’t perfect, but the truth of the matter is no RV fits that description. As with most things in life, choosing an RV involves compromise. You can’t get something without sacrificing something else. For example the increased maneuverability gained by the narrower width of a Casita comes at a cost of the length of the bed. The correct question a prospective full-timer should be asking is not which RV is best, but which RV best suits their needs. In the example I listed above, I’m short enough that the 75″ bed length is not a problem for me, but for taller individuals it could be.

I frequently get questions about Casitas and if I’d still choose one if I had it all to do over, and those questions have increased as I’ve started contemplating on IO about downsizing to something smaller. While I haven’t come to a decision yet on the later point, on the earlier question I can give a solid answer.

Yes, if I had it all to do over with the experience I’ve gained, I would still choose a Casita for my current situation and needs. That doesn’t mean that in the future my needs and situation won’t be different and therefor better met by a different RV, but I certainly do not regret my purchase.

If you’re a prospective full-timer who’s been thinking about a Casita yourself, I won’t come out and say that a Casita is the best option out there. I don’t know your situation and needs nearly as well as I know my own, you’ll have to do some research and come to conclusions yourself. But I will direct you to my rig page, which gives more info on my Casita and links to several other articles I’ve written about my diminutive home. Happy hunting, and I hope you find the RV that works best for you.

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Becky

Forget about what the world tells you your life should be like. At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and go full-time RVing before retirement. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.

40 Comments

  1. Julie on November 29, 2016 at 7:23 pm

    Hi Becky, just caught your interview with Chris and Cherie and hopped over to your site to see more of what you had to say about your Casita.

    I’ve long been considering one for when I retire and have toured a couple and read a lot about them. But I think I’m likely to spend time in freezing climates for at least some portion of the year.

    I see a couple pictures on your site that seem to indicate you have had your Casita in freezing weather and I know they are not insulated. What has been your experience? Difficult to heat or keep comfortable? Problems with freezing pipes or tanks?

    I’d appreciate hearing of your experience.

    Julie



  2. Jim Schmechel on September 28, 2015 at 10:38 am

    The “Spirit Deluxe” sounds like the right model for someone like you πŸ™‚ With uneven tire wear due to weight distribution, you could get your tires rotated every year or two.

    I hope you get to drive through the Bighorn National Forest on your way to Texas (assuming it is not Winter-like driving conditions). You would exit Yellowstone on the east towards Cody, Wyoming and follow US 14 to Sheridan, Wyoming. I will try to share a few photos with you, to help convince you to take this route πŸ™‚
    Jim Schmechel recently posted..Born of the SpiritMy Profile



    • Becky on September 28, 2015 at 11:04 am

      Yeah I’m not sure I’ll be able to make it this time Jim with my appointment at the factory on the 8th. When I visit there I’d like to be able to take it slow and enjoy it instead of feeling rushed. Some day though for sure!

      Hope you were able to enjoy the rest of your trip in Yellowstone better, it really is a fantastic place when you look beyond the crowds. Take care.



  3. Sherry in MT on September 28, 2015 at 9:04 am

    Well written as always and you are right no RV is right for everyone and no RV is perfect for anyone. I’m on my 4th in 20 years and think maybe just maybe I’ve found the right one. We shall see. I loved my 16′ Scamp and would still have it except it was too small for my needs (and the dogs) at the time. Love the “eggs” of all makes and if you watch while on the road many many are out there rolling along!
    Sherry in MT recently posted..Craters of the Moon National Monument and across the Oregon High DesertMy Profile



    • Becky on September 28, 2015 at 11:01 am

      Yeah Sherry, in my opinion “the right one” is a fluid concept. What is the perfect RV at one point in a person’s life will probably not always be the perfect RV. Situations and needs change.



  4. Tim on September 27, 2015 at 6:24 pm

    I went to a Casita/fiberglass rally this weekend. I finally got to see Casitas up close and personal! I really liked them – and Casita owners are just the best. My favorite is the 13′ Patriot Deluxe – just loved it…. The show stopper was the small freezer in the fridge. I think the new models don’t even have a freezer. Darn! Apparently they bring the fridge in through the back window and the only models that have a big back window is the 17′. So that narrows it down. I am leaning towards the Liberty since the kitchen layout is similar to the Patriot.

    I am so glad you are still enjoying your Casita. I think it is going to be right for me too.



    • Becky on September 28, 2015 at 10:56 am

      Glad you had a chance to look at them in person Tim.

      My older 17′ has the small rear window, the fridge/freezer was placed in the trailer before the two fiberglass halves were put together. Means it’ll be a pain to get it out if it ever dies (it’ll have to be disassembled partly inside and the door will have to be taken off the hinge) but it can be done. Heck, Larry over at Little House Customs put a residential fridge/freezer in his old smaller windowed Casita.



  5. JimS on September 27, 2015 at 1:04 pm

    Understanding one’s needs are pivotal, and I strongly believe an important initial step before a person becomes enamored with a particular model. It can be difficult to consider something more modest when you’re drooling over a 45′ Prevost (yes, I need granite countertops; 5 slideouts? Oh, yes I need that…).

    For an introspective and curious personality, those thoughts come more easily than if you’re an emotionally driven type. RV salesmen love the latter.

    Personally, the research is my favorite part. I’ve “evolved” from a class A down to a truck camper and cargo trailer so far.

    Good post.



    • Becky on September 28, 2015 at 10:53 am

      Glad you enjoyed this Jim, thanks for sharing your thoughts.



  6. FrugalRVGals on September 27, 2015 at 12:52 pm

    i was just thinking this week if I ever went back to a bumper pull I might have to try a Casita. I guess I didn’t realize yours was 16 years old. That is wonderful!

    As always enjoy reading your post they are inspiring! Can’t wait to be full time!
    FrugalRVGals recently posted..Travel through a WeddingMy Profile



    • Becky on September 28, 2015 at 10:43 am

      They hold up amazing well when cared for Frugal, a lot of people can’t imagine that it’s 16 years old.

      Best of luck for making the switch to full-timing!



  7. Terri on September 26, 2015 at 8:01 pm

    Oh Becky, congratulations! I remember the first time I saw your youtube video interview with Chris and Cherie, and I”ve listened to your words of wisdom many times over, since then. You inspired me so much to just get out there and do it!

    I have to admit, if it weren’t for my animals, I would definitely have something smaller than I do now – I see the scamps and the casitas and escapes being pulled by all the smaller cars and I really do love how little they are, and efficient with their space, etc. My fifth wheel isn’t as big as my apartment, so it does encourage me to prioritize in terms of having stuff, which I love, like yo u do. And yes, I think you have been very lucky and bought a good rig. My ac fan just died and now I have to have it replaced.

    You’re thinking of going smaller, eh? I love Jackie’s little tic tac! But i realize not everyone can live that small. πŸ™‚

    And yes, I love reading your regular posts. I want to take some inspiration from you and start posting more regularly myself.

    Happy Nomadiversary!
    Terri recently posted..Have You Ever?My Profile



    • Becky on September 28, 2015 at 10:41 am

      You should blog more Terri! You’re a good writer, have an interesting job and live in a beautiful place, there should be plenty of things to talk about.

      Wishing you and the animals the best. Sorry to hear about your AC and hope it gets fixed quickly, I know how warm that part of Utah can be even in September.



  8. Jodee Gravel on September 26, 2015 at 4:49 pm

    So glad you’re happy with your decision and that the little trailer continues to take good care of you. You should pat yourself on the back, both for doing your research, and for trusting your gut! Even with two of us and the dog, I think I’d look more closely at smaller models if I could go back at the point of purchase. 35′ isn’t super big, but I think I’d like about 30 – 32 even better.
    Jodee Gravel recently posted..Home on the RangeMy Profile



    • Becky on September 28, 2015 at 10:33 am

      Most people if they had to go back would choose a bigger RV, but I know of a couple others besides us Jodee who would go smaller. As you said though, at least 35′ isn’t huge. πŸ™‚



  9. Dave Rambeau on September 26, 2015 at 12:18 pm

    7 years on RV tires is a bit too long…especially on tires that are sitting in one spot for long periods of time. Careful, the last time we were in Yellowstone Park and got “snowed out” it cost us $60,000. Went window shopping in Twin Falls Idaho at an RV dealer.



  10. Norm on September 25, 2015 at 6:48 pm

    Just wanted to add my many thanks for your years of “tell it like it is” blogging on full-time RV life. We recently sold our 28 ft. motorhome and are considering a Casita as our next RV, so I appreciate your comments on maintenance issues. You are so right about picking what will work for you and then dealing with whatever issues will arise, as they always do, whether stick n’ brick, or rolling home. As you wind up your time at Yellowstone may you enjoy it, and safe journey to Texas.



    • Becky on September 25, 2015 at 8:45 pm

      You’re welcome Norm, glad you’ve found this helpful. My biggest hope for the trip down to Texas is that it doesn’t snow when I’m going through the mountains, hehe.



  11. J. Dawg on September 25, 2015 at 2:29 pm

    Congrats – to Cas for holding on (and together) and following you everywhere you went! Sounds like Cas has been a fairly reliable guy who has faithfully (and silently) rolled behind you. You probably couldn’t have made your journey without him.

    Congrats to you also on your nomadiversay!

    Not sure if RV years are like dog years but at 16 years young sounds like Cas has plenty of roll left in him πŸ™‚

    J. Dawg



    • Becky on September 25, 2015 at 8:35 pm

      Haha, I’m not sure how RV years would stack up to dog years either J, interesting question. πŸ˜‰

      For travel trailers 16 years is pretty old (if you’re not counting vintage ones that’ve had excessive rebuilding). For Casitas, well, I’ve seen ones from the 80’s still on the road.



  12. Gayle on September 25, 2015 at 12:06 pm

    Isn’t it nice to make a carefully thought-out decision and to have it actually work out! I must have missed your post about downsizing. Would you mind telling me the reason? Seems Cas is about as downsized as one can get. How about the Patriot 13′? Same reliable RV package and a lot smaller? If I get the Patriot, I am seriously considering no bathroom and having a small compost toilet. Do you think that would be a mistake (not full-timing, just weekends or 2 weeks)? Don’t forget us out here if you make any new plans!!!



    • Reine in Plano on September 25, 2015 at 5:15 pm

      Gayle. When you’re considering no bathroom in the Standard models, be aware that there’s no closet either. We’ve found the closet to be really useful since I don’t like everything to be stored in the open. Also the 13 and 16′ Casitas don’t have as much overhead storage and aren’t as tall in the middle. That works great for some folks but not all. The 17′ Freedom Deluxe was the only model we considered but that’s just us. We don’t full time but do spend about 90+ nights a year in our Casita.



    • Becky on September 25, 2015 at 8:32 pm

      I haven’t actually made a post about it Gayle, just have mentioned it a couple times here and there, more so in comments. It won’t happen while I’m still working seasonal jobs, because those last long enough that I can’t follow the good weather, and if I went to a teardrop or van I’d need to spend more time hanging out outside.

      I have thought about the Patriot, but it doesn’t seem like you can buy it without the bathroom (I’ve never used my shower in my Spirit) and like you I think I’d rather go without if I went smaller. Again I haven’t made a decision yet, just something I’ve been thinking about.

      As for if the Patriot without the bathroom would work for you, it all depends on how you like to camp. If you’ll be staying in campgrounds that have showers, I really don’t see where it would be a problem.



  13. mike on September 25, 2015 at 10:28 am

    Becky I do not full time (yet). But I have had my Casita close to 10 years after previously owning two Revcon motorhomes and I love my Casita. The motorhomes were fun but expensive. I have had to replace the tires a couple of times and the converter because I hooked up the battery wrong (remember black is positive, I think????). And the hot water heater as I did not replace that little rod the anoid (I think that is what it is called). I am close to retirement and plan to hit the road in a couple of years and I believe for almost all the reasons you stated above the Casita will be perfect and it is paid for lol. Love all your posts and always look forward to getting them and reading them.



    • Becky on September 25, 2015 at 8:26 pm

      If it’s only 10 years old it has plenty of life left for full-timing, take it from me. πŸ˜‰ Not everyone is happy living full-time in a Casita, but there are surprising number of folks (mostly singles) who do. Best of luck to you!



  14. Ernesto Quintero on September 25, 2015 at 9:49 am

    Becky I look forward to reading your thoughtful observations, and accompanying photographs, on your blog. Your effort is appreciated. Be safe.



    • Becky on September 25, 2015 at 8:24 pm

      I will Ernesto, thanks for reading!



  15. Yvonne on September 25, 2015 at 8:27 am

    Happy Nomadiversary!

    I agree with the previous commenters:
    Thanks for all of the time you spend posting!
    We love how well you write and what you have to say.

    Happy Travels,
    Yvonne



    • Becky on September 25, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      Thanks Yvonne, I’m glad you’ve found IO enjoyable, take care!



  16. Jerry Minchey on September 25, 2015 at 7:18 am

    Becky,

    Thanks for the update on your Casita. You are right about there always being something to fix on an RV. In addition to fixing things, being an engineer, I’m always adding gadgets and modifying things on my RV. I’ve just spent the last two days waxing it. I know it should be done every six months, but it’s been almost two years since I’ve given it a good wax job.

    You hit the nail on the head about not needing a lot of stuff. I think it takes a year or two to fully realize and accept the fact that you don’t need all of that stuff that you thought you just had to have. It’s not only that I don’t need it. I don’t even want all of the stuff now.

    Thanks for taking the time to write an article two times a week. I know those deadlines come fast sometimes, and it has to be a drag at times, but we all appreciate your diligence.

    Jerry



    • Becky on September 25, 2015 at 8:23 pm

      You’re welcome Jerry, thank you for following along as always. Oh, someone who bought my guide on Amazon told me that they saw one of yours and bought it too and enjoyed it, thought you might want to know.

      I haven’t waxed Cas since that first summer, haha. Would need to buy a special product to take the old wax off first and that’s just too much effort.

      Take care, happy upgrading on your RV. πŸ™‚



  17. Snayte on September 25, 2015 at 6:59 am

    Becky,

    Any idea if Cas’ previous owners follow your blog? I do not recall if you mentioned to them your intention to go full time. I always wonder what adventures my previous homes on wheels have made since we have moved on to new campers. It would be really fun to follow someone like you that I had sold a camper to.



    • Becky on September 25, 2015 at 8:19 pm

      Yes they do Snayte, not religiously I don’t think, but they check in now and then. πŸ™‚



  18. Cathy P. of KS on September 25, 2015 at 6:58 am

    Excellent article. It is too bad you can’t experience ALL of the possible RV choices and write articles! I have seen a lot of people try to duplicate the equipment of another down to the letter. Even duplicate the “experience”. What you provide on your experience with full-time RVing is the “warts and all approach”, a breath of fresh air. Thanks!



    • Becky on September 25, 2015 at 8:13 pm

      Glad you enjoyed this Cathy. πŸ™‚



  19. Rick on September 25, 2015 at 12:45 am

    Becky,

    As my wife and I contemplate full timing in the future, we have come to understand one concept that you stated perfectly; “The correct question a prospective full-timer should be asking is not which RV is best, but which RV best suits their needs”. Every manufacturer and every RV, no matter what type, will have their own quirks and personalities which really means “plusses and minuses”. And that’s why there are hundreds of different rigs rolling up and down the highway, because like our campers, we have our own quirks and personalities. Thanks for all the great posts.

    Rick
    Rick recently posted..Family CampingMy Profile



    • Becky on September 25, 2015 at 8:05 pm

      You’re welcome Rick, I hope you and your wife find a good RV match!



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