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You must do your homework to arrive at good decisions.The very first thing to do when contemplating the full-time or even part time RV lifestyle is homework It starts with deciding what kind of lifestyle you will live. Do you love NASCAR, rodeos, visiting family, being a snowbird, seeing the country and its natural beauty? Perhaps you enjoy traveling around and doing volunteer work at churches or maybe Habitat for Humanity. That might determine what type of rig will be best for your lifestyle. You will have to figure out how you will handle your mail and bills. Do you know how you will finance this dream? You must do at least a preliminary budget to decide what you can afford. Will you have adequate healthcare insurance? How will you communicate with people? Have you thought about what you will do with your “stuff”? All this and more goes into the “Homework” part of getting ready to be a full-time RVers.
We started to do your homework at the local library. We read every book on RVing. Some were good and informative and some were not. Some talked about current RVing information and some were old and outdated. Various internet sites led us to more information and helped us to ask better questions. We looked at the manufacturer’s web sites and we went to the Florida RV Super show and met up with two couples who were Escapees. They talked to us for more than an hour and a half about full-time RVing. We didn’t even know what that was but it sounded exciting. Of course, we asked what the down side was and they paused and pondered the question and then like a choir they said “we should have done it ten years sooner”.
OK, we were hooked, but there was still a lot more to investigate. We also looked around at all the different RVs and got their brochures to take home and study, and we took lots of pictures. We must have walked twenty miles and looked into a hundred RVs. That's how you "Do your Homework." We then went to the local RV dealers within a hundred miles of our home. Many salesmen were informative and some were not. It helped us to decide on a motor home for the lifestyle we were planning on living, instead of a 5th wheel or a travel trailer. John talked to service managers to find out which brands needed more service than others. We visited local campgrounds and talked with campers about their RVs and about their lifestyle. Some were full-timers and were really enjoying it, some were long timers who were gone from their homes for four to ten months at a time, and some were camping almost every weekend. They all enjoyed the camping lifestyle they had chosen. We learned what they liked about campgrounds and what they looked for when choosing the campground. They told us some horror stories about camping but they still loved it and were very informative about it.
Do your homework is going to RV shows, dealerships, and RV club rallies as well as talking with a number of full-timers to get various insights. Visiting a dealership can be good if you make it quite clear to the inevitable salesman assigned to you that you are in the investigating stage and are absolutely not ready to make a purchase. Always take a small notebook and a camera with you when looking at RVs. By the time you have climbed into twenty or thirty rigs, they all tend to run together. Write down the model and what features you like and which ones you don’t. Make a note of the MSRP (Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price), but don’t let that sway you. RV buying is a negotiation and MSRP is relatively useless as anything but a starting point, especially with used rigs. When Kathy and I look at rigs, I start with a walk around and look into all basement doors. This way I get a feel for how much storage is available, how easy it is to access engine filters, batteries, fuse panels, and other service items. This is also when I make a note of the age of the tires using the DOT code on the tire. If the rig is used and you are interested in it, go up on the roof and check out the conditions up there. Are there cracks in the caulking, tears in membrane material, black mildew? Are there loose items that will rattle and make noise at 55 miles per hour? Do your Homework, these are issues that must be addressed prior to purchase. Kathy goes inside and will pretend to do routine household chores like cooking a meal, changing a bed, and other things we do on a regular basis. Is there enough counter space? One of her hot buttons is whether there is enough pantry space for food and supplies close to the cooking area. Is there adequate room around the bed to move easily? Is the dinette comfortable for eating? If the rig is motorized, I check out the cockpit for easy access to all driver controls, comfort of the driver’s seat for long hours on the road, and other amenities. All this goes into the notebook. After a while, you will get a feel for what things are important and you might make up a check-list for evaluating an RV for possible purchase. I would resist the temptation to take a test drive at this point in the homework. You don’t want the salesman to salivate and count his commission in advance, do you? Save that for when you have settled on a few models that you are interested in making a purchase decision on.
We started to subscribe to Motorhome magazine and the Escapees magazine and read them from cover to cover in order to "do your homework". Gleaning all the information we could, we knew we needed to make the best decision possible. Buying a motor home is expensive and I wanted to make the best decision for us. We finally decided on a motor home and we picked out three different models that we liked when we were ready to buy. This process took almost two years and I am glad we did it. We have had the same motor home since we started in 2005 and we still like it a lot.