Finding the Perfect RV – Part One – What Kind of Camper Are You?

Are you a weekend, seasonal, full time?

This is part of a series of articles in my Perfect RV series. Each article describes one aspect of finding the perfect RV for you right now. Your needs will change as you grow in the RV. Over time, you’ll need more or less sleeping space, your comforts will change, your transportation will change, and your desires will change. This is the first article in the series.

full time stationary
Full-time by a loose definition is considered living in your RV or recreational vehicle as your home. Many people choose to live in RVs as a more affordable way of life. Your recreational vehicle is stationary and rarely moves.

There are many benefits to living in an RV. Household chores take less time, costs are lower, maintenance is lower, and the cost of ownership is lower. RV owners have the same tax benefits as homeowners or what we call Stick and Brick owners.

For 12 years we were full time stationary campers. We lived and worked out of our RV or had full time jobs in the local community. Daisy was a legal secretary and I was a database administrator for Nokia with responsibilities for a worldwide SQL Server network. You had sold our house and the RV became our home. With an income of over $100,000 a year, I don’t think we qualify as trailer trash. In fact, we met many people who were professionals who had decided to live this lifestyle, including lawyers and doctors.

full time traveler
The common thought when people say they work full time is someone traveling across the country living full time in an RV. These people have all the benefits of stationary RV owners and the freedom to move when and where they want.

There are some additional costs to traveling full time and that is the cost of fuel and maintenance. Many full-time workers who travel also tend to stay in one location for several weeks or even months before moving on. You are full time travelers now, starting our new journey in June 2014. We spend about 3 weeks per location and then move on to a new camp when we run out of time. We spent this last winter in FL moving every other week. It was the nicest winter I’ve ever had.

snow birds
A snowbird is someone who travels to a warmer climate in the winter and a cooler climate in the summer. They can have a house in both places, they can live in an RV in one and a house in the other, or stay in an RV all year. Many retirees are snowbirds who travel to FL in the winter months.

Seasonal campers are typically people who still work but love the camping lifestyle and have an RV camping full-time but only use it on weekends or holidays. They may or may not use it for vacations. They are considered seasonal because they pay the lot for the camping season. The camping season will vary depending on where in the country you are. In the Northeast it can be from March to the end of October. Some campsites may have two or more seasons with different rates. For example, winter and summer rates, like in FL.

Weekends are campers packing up the RV and hitting the road, usually Friday afternoon, they head to a local campground and camp for the weekend. Sunday comes, they pack their bags and go home. These people are likely still working full time and aren’t ready to pack up and leave the world of work for an extended period of time.

Whether you’re working full time or retired, finances will be an important factor in getting your RV. Financing an RV will be easier if you are working, however there are places that will work with the retiree as well. But from a basic business standpoint, someone with disposable income will have an easier time getting financing than others.

Other financial considerations will be your budget. Your income to expense ratio will determine how often you can go camping or, if you want to travel, how long you can travel and what you will be able to see and do while traveling.

There are many people young and old who travel full time and also hold a job or more. You know of couples who would now be considered snowbirds who work year-round as camp hosts. You have other friends who run businesses out of their RVs and still others who trade their campsite fees for a few hours a week of campsite work (workampers). Earning an income is possible while you’re on the road. However, making a comfortable living could be another story.

As you can see, there are many things to consider when looking at an RV. In many ways, this is like buying a house. You will be living in it for a period of time, and you may need the same amenities as in your house or apartment. Understanding how you will use the RV and what you already have that can help tow it will help keep your expenses and expectations in line. In the next article I will talk about the different types of recreational vehicles.