How to Choose and Buy an RV – sample chapter
Establishing the essentials
An RV is a considerable investment. You need to ensure it is the right thing for you and, if applicable, for a partner. As well as seeing new places and people, RV travel can involve long distances, loneliness and frustration. It also requires teamwork and multiple tasking and can be stressful and hard work. Most people like it, some love it, but it is not for everyone.
Those likely to enjoy the RV lifestyle are likely to enjoy exploring, being outdoors, socialising and at least tolerate cooking.
Ideally, they can fix things that go wrong, and (while probably having a Plan B) do not overly worry about what happens next.
Those people probably unsuited to the RV life may have routine long-established social and family networks. They may prefer fixed routines, dislike cooking or DIY (doing it yourself) or lack affinity with nature.
Consider where you plan to go and for how long. How much you can afford to budget for purchasing and using your RV and the type of RV, i.e. camper trailer, caravan, or motorhome that suits your circumstances and your budget. You also need to consider where to store it when it is not in use. It helps talk to those already travelling; however, many tend to adapt to that which they already have.
It is essential not to create a close to a full-size kitchen on wheels: this can and does happen if either partner insists on that being conditional. Why this matters is that you’re cooking and eating habits rapidly change in favour of more uncomplicated routines.
Almost all RV owners cook outside (the more experienced have an external slide-out kitchen). You are likely to use an internal kitchen only if the weather precludes cooking outside.
Figure 1.1. The author’s previously-owned 1974 VW Kombi in camp near Boulia (Qld) – his wife (Maarit) is admiring the sunset. Pic: rvbooks.com.au.
Selling your home is a financial trap
Do not sell your home to finance a travelling lifestyle because RVs depreciate, whereas house prices rise. Those who sold up to buy an RV may never again be able to afford to buy a house or home unit. It is far from unknown, for those who sold an original home, to sell the RV after a year or two and buy a new home.
Rather than selling your property, consider buying a cheaper RV and have an estate agent let and manage that property. Use any rental income to fund your travelling. Other outgoing costs may be real estate agent commissions, possible furniture storage, council rates, and repairs and maintenance.
If you let your existing property, landlord insurance is essential. There are horror stories of tenants trashing properties. An alternative is to buy and, if permitted, let a property in one of the increasing numbers of communities that cater primarily for RV owners who are away in their RVs from time to time.
It is necessary to budget not just for buying the RV and your living expenses while away, but also for its ongoing maintenance, registration and insurance.
Some outgoings may be lower than when living at home, e.g. electricity, gas and water. There are fuel costs and caravan fees if you stay in any.
You need to ensure you have an income while on the road, and whether it is enough to allow you to enjoy your travels - or merely survive.
The kind of travelling you have in mind substantially determines the type and size of RV to buy. In general, the longer your trips, the more you are likely to need creature comforts. Doing so may take up more space and require a larger RV, but one that is too large restricts where you can take it. If a caravan, the smallest you are likely to find feasible is about 4.5 metres (14 ft).
If you decide to set aside a year in your life to drive around Australia or explore its centre, then, after careful planning, do it. But also consider more but shorter trips. Doing so allows you to keep in touch with friends and family at home.
Will you be staying mainly in caravans or heading to remote areas? Think about this carefully since RVs tend to be designed for one purpose, or the other, but rarely both.
Assessing your probable length of stay in each place is desirable. An RV that takes an hour to set up and pull down if you are moving sites every 24 hours will likely prove tedious. Here, a campervan or motorhome may better suit. They are quicker and easier to place on-site and often fully self-contained.
RV accessibility – for those less mobile
Consider your health. Are you and your travelling companions fit enough to travel? What physical labours are involved, and can you cope with them, for example, changing a motorhome wheel and tyre that may weigh 30 kg (66 lb) or more?
Check how far you will be from the nearest hospital if you plan to visit remote areas. Also, check, your travel insurance covers medical treatment away from home, and even evacuations by air?
Less mobile travellers can enjoy their holidays as much as everyone else. While the RV rental market lags in providing accessible RVs, those seeking to buy one will have several from which to choose.
Accessibility features available include an accessible interior with wider doorways and handrails with everything reachable and usable when seated in a wheelchair. There are also wheelchair ramps to the RV’s entrance door or wheelchair lifts.
Also valuable are remote-controlled and electric-assisted jockey wheels, stabilisers, awnings and entertainment, easily accessible beds and tables, roll-in bathrooms, and specialised storage for ramps and wheelchairs.
An RV maker may be able to modify one of their standard RVs. Doing so, however, increases weight, so discuss the implications to ensure you are within legal weight limits with ample allowance for food and personal belongings.effects.
A few RV makers have individual mobility models.
Figure 2.1: The Winnebago Forza suits people with movement issues. Several Australian companies can similarly modify RVs. Pic: Winnebago (USA).
How many people may travel in your RV?
Is it clear how many people are travelling initially? How many beds are needed, and what if circumstances change? Will children always want to go with you? What if grandchildren come along in the future? And do you have friends or relatives who may wish to travel with you?
Figure 3.1: Caravan annexe and children. Pic: source unknown.
Accommodating more people
RV’s do not have to be so large that they can cope with more people occasionally. Alternatives are to tell your friends to buy or rent an RV and travel in convoy, or to put older children in a close-by tent or annexe.
Think hard about who drives. Distances covered can be longer if there is more than one driver. If travelling with a partner, both need to be able and willing to drive. In a medical emergency, it could be essential and especially in remote areas.