Regularly getting out into the calm beauty of nature is essential to my happiness. I’ve always been a car camper, at times even leaving my trunk fully packed for a spontaneous adventure or even just a day trip to a large enough park. But the more RVs I saw parked in the campgrounds with their comfortable amenities, the more curious I became until I found myself contemplating buying one of my own.
I could continue sleeping on the ground, or I could sleep in a real bed. I could taste the freedom of having an entire vehicle dedicated to my wilderness adventures, always packed and ready to go any and everywhere. But fear held me back from making the purchase for two long years. Ultimately, I had to decide that RV ownership didn’t just have to be a dream. It was an attainable goal that I could make happen if I only took the leap. Scared as I was, I started doing the research.
Today, I live almost half-time in my RV, and I couldn’t be happier with my new lifestyle. I’m confident behind the wheel and cozy in bed because I said yes to RV ownership. If you’re nervous or afraid, hopefully, I can help you also push past the fear and into your perfect RV.
A Furious Case of the What Ifs
What if it’s just a phase? What if I only think I will like RVing? What if I look like an idiot trying to park this thing? The what-ifs were circling in my mind like mad. But when I took time to really examine some of these anxieties, I could see them for what they were–small misconceptions grown to massive proportions.
While no stranger to camping, I was a complete stranger to RV Camping. I was nervous about being a beginner. But everyone has to start somewhere. And in today’s internet age, I have an almost unlimited number of people who have gone before me to give excellent advice on everything; instead of what if something negative, I started thinking cautiously that maybe I could.
What if I fell in love with an RV lifestyle? The flexibility, adventure, and possibility are what drew me to RVing, and those are crucial aspects that are built in. By thinking seriously about RV ownership, I figured I was exactly the type who would enjoy it even when it got difficult. Spoiler alert: RV living is incredibly rewarding and allows me to get outside and stay outside more than I imagined.
What Can Go Wrong, Will
An RV is much bigger than a traditional car and has a lot more systems on board that could potentially go wrong. In addition to damage to the actual vehicle from accidental mishaps on the road or when trying to park, if something went wrong with any of the water, electrical, or mechanical systems on board, I worried I would be completely lost. I can change a tire, but I’m no mechanic, and honestly, that stuff doesn’t even interest me. Would this disqualify me from being a good RV owner?
Absolutely not! Even though operating an RV can be a bit intimidating, the excitement of your big new toy helps to motivate you to learn a lot very quickly. And the best part? There’s insurance! You don’t have to worry about knowing every little thing right away.
Once you’ve learned the basics, you’re free to learn on your own time. And as long as you stay calm and level-headed, many of the issues that arise on the road can be easily sorted out by you or a real mechanic. Be sure to thoroughly inspect your rig before and after all of your trips, and you’ll find the major stuff well in advance of leaving. And in the event of something major, well at least you have all of your essentials with you while you wait for someone to arrive for backup.
A Lot of Stuff, A Little Room
I don’t live in my RV full time, but when I am on an adventure, I still need (want?) plenty of things along for the journey. RVs are much smaller than actual houses, and when fitting an entire family inside, many people stress out or fear that an RV will just be too small to take everything they need.
RVs are jam-packed with creative storage solutions, but still, you’ll need to make some decisions about what comes along and what doesn’t. While scary, this experience has felt more like a thoughtful exercise in determining what really matters to me. I made a list of everything I took with me on my very first trip in my new RV and crossed the items off as I used them. Other than safety equipment and crucial camping backup supplies, everything I didn’t use just didn’t come with me on the next trip until I’d gotten packing down to a science. I need so much less than I thought to be happy. I’m so grateful to the RV lifestyle for teaching me this lesson so thoroughly.
But sometimes, a full RV will just be a little cramped, and there’s nothing you can do. With children, pets, and everything that comes along with a loaded family trip, you will have to get used to being in tight quarters with everyone.
Remember, cramped doesn’t have to mean uncomfortable. RV appliances are smaller than what you may be used to, but you can still fit plenty of fresh food in the onboard kitchen. Don’t forget to bring rainy-day entertainment that can keep everyone busy on a day when you have to stay inside.
Alone on the Road
Sometimes I bring along friends and family on my adventures, but most of the time, I’m RVing solo. I was terrified that without my full local community, I’d be lonely and vulnerable out on the road. Is it safe to be alone at a campsite?
Realistically, buying my RV was my entrance into a giant community of people. It’s easy to find groups you can join through social media or online that are filled with like-minded RVers that can quickly become like family on the road. There are meet-ups, parties, and events that take place all over the country that are ready to welcome you completely. One of the best parts about finding community in this way is learning from each other and swapping stories of love, adventure, and triumph in the great outdoors.
RVers look out for each other, and campgrounds are largely quite safe. When free camping on public land, I make sure someone knows where I am and that I have a way to contact someone in case of emergencies. It’s easy to make it look like I’m not the only person living in my RV whether it’s by setting up an extra chair or leaving an extra pair of boots outside the door. When in doubt, trust your gut. If the situation or environment feels off for any reason, you can absolutely pack up and leave. That’s a major perk of living in an RV.
There’s no denying that buying an RV could be one of the biggest purchases in a person’s life. In some cases, they can cost dozens or hundreds of thousands of dollars. You can’t make a purchase decision like this lightly. In addition to the cost of the RV, you’ll also pay for regular maintenance, insurance, and possibly even other programs that provide roadside assistance nationwide. Is it actually cheaper?
It takes a mighty gas tank to keep an RV humming down the road, and so yes, you can expect to pay much more in gas than you would in your family car. You will save instead on hotels, airfare, and even restaurants or entertainment by taking an RV vacation. The average RV park or resort can cost around $50-$60 a night, but they are loaded with amenities such as sports courts, pools, community events, and sometimes even private trails or watercraft rentals. You can spend even less per night at a more primitive campground, but you may be giving up some of the perks of your rig, like water, electricity, or sewer services.
Your RV will also depreciate rapidly when you drive it off the lot, much like any other vehicle. Don’t think that not using it will help with the depreciation of value. You just have to be ready to accept it.
Your insurance on a new RV will be more expensive too. But if buying a brand new RV is just a little out of reach for your personal finances, consider buying a used RV. A used RV has already depreciated significantly, making it less of a factor in your purchase.
When buying used, you have a few different options. You can buy used directly from the previous owner. You may save some extra money going this route, but it’ll be up to you to make sure all of the proper paperwork is in order, and you can never be fully sure of the RV’s history. That could lead to surprises down the line — often costly ones! You can also buy a used RV from a dealership. There, too, you may not get the full story, but you will get knowledgeable advice and a helpful leg-up, especially for first-time owners.
Taking the Keys and Hitting the Road
Maybe it’s not exactly true to say I overcame my fears. The fear is still very much real; however, it is smaller and less important than the sense of powerful courage, bravery, and freedom I feel after just doing it anyway. Working with a dealer to buy a used-but-well-maintained RV gave me confidence after the full walk-through and inspection notes. They even had everything I needed to get started, from helpful literature to the actual full slate of accessories I needed to be fully functional on the road.
If you’re afraid too, go ahead and feel the fear. But you don’t have to let it hold you back. You can find an incredible used RV for an incredible value from Cruise America, and rest easy knowing you’re getting a safe, dependable RV that is ready to take you the distance. They exclusively track and service their RVs, so you can be sure there are no nasty surprises.
Take the leap into RV ownership with all of Cruise America’s over 50 years of knowledge and expertise to keep you comfortable every step of the way. Visit a local showroom or visit our website to start the search for your perfect RV.