I can’t believe it! I just bought an RV! It’s been a crazy couple of months, and at times it felt like I was spinning my wheels. Now everything seems to be happening at once. I’m a month away from listing my house and have been furiously emptying rooms and getting rid of stuff. And now that I found my dream RV, I can begin making plans for this new life of adventure. It’s exciting, and a wee bit terrifying!
The Uplifting Act of Getting Rid of Stuff
I wrote an article for my friends at WomensMoneyTalk.com, called Downsizing for the Holidays. In it, I talked about the process of getting rid of stuff and the battle between the logical and emotional self. And what a contrast to be getting rid of stuff during the holidays, when most people are busy accumulating stuff. When I first decided that RV living was in my future, I dreaded the idea of inventorying, pricing, and selling (or trashing) most of my stuff. But now that I’ve started, I can’t seem to stop!
Downsizing in Stages
My downsizing mission has been simple – fill up my garbage bin every week. Strangely, I feel an odd sense of satisfaction when the bin is emptied. That’s my signal that another closet or another room has been sorted through, leaving nothing but the necessities and a fresh clean smell. My clothes closet is down to the bare minimum, my loft is void of the giant woodturning equipment, and even my garage is emptier. As I make progress, the remaining rooms and closets no longer feel so overwhelming. And because I am doing this in stages, I won’t have any last-minute frantic moments before the house goes up for sale.
Less Equals More
It doesn’t seem all that long ago that all of my belongings fit into a little Honda hatchback. And I’m not a shopper, but after living in this house for 18-plus years, accumulation just happened. In hindsight, I can see why Marie Kondo’s The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up (affiliate link) is so popular. I discovered that in the end, it really wasn’t that difficult getting rid of “stuff” (very few things “sparked joy” for me). If it’s practical or it brings good memories of people I love, then I keep it. Otherwise, I sell, donate, or toss. I’ve been surprised by some of the things I’ve kept (or tossed) and by the lightness that I feel as each room gets cleaned out. I should have done this long ago!
Jumping at the Chance to Own my Dream RV
Just when I thought I had made a decision on the size of the RV I would purchase, the best-looking RV I had seen returned to the market. I pounced! You see, I had decided to narrow my search to a smaller-size class C rig (26 feet or less). But honestly, I wasn’t thrilled with the floor plans and the prices. Because I will be working from the RV, I wanted a separate dinette/office space and sitting area. And that’s tough to find in the smaller rigs. Plus, I’m taking three cats on the road with me and they’ll need their space. Overall, I was not impressed with the interior layout of the smaller RVs.
A Disappointing Search
Last month I began visiting local dealerships and consignment lots, looking for a used RV. And I set up searches in RVTrader and connected with a couple of owners who were selling their RVs – each time the owner sold it before I could even see it. There’s a shortage of used RVs and I knew I would have to move fast when I found the right one. And that seemed to be especially true when searching for a Winnebago, which is my preferred brand.
My Luck Changes
When I walked into a 2012 Winnebago Aspect 30C that was parked in the consignment lot, it was exactly what I wanted. Yes, it was big, but the floor plan was terrific and it was bright and cheerful inside. There was only one problem – it was already under contract. So I put it out of my mind as I continued my search. On Monday, I received an email from the salesman in reference to the rig. It was back on the market (the contract had fallen through when the out-of-state buyer changed his mind about driving it home). So the next morning I drove to the lot, walked through the unit (and still loved it), and put in an offer! Today the inspection was completed and after some negotiation, I completed the sale. Wow! I can’t believe it!
Prioritizing Home Life
While I’m not crazy about driving such a big vehicle, and it will require me to tow a car so that I can get around easily, the reality is that I will be parked more than I am moving. Because I will have regular Monday through Friday coaching hours for DrBrendaMoneyCoach.com, I plan to be stationed at a campground for one or two weeks at a time. And when winter arrives, I may stay put for a month or two before moving on. This is going to be my home, so I chose to prioritize the space and feel of the coach. I’m sure I will build my driving skills and confidence over time.
Altering my Money Mindset
In an ideal world, I would have sold my house and then used the profits to buy the RV. But that would require me to find a temporary place to live until I could find an RV. And because the used RV inventory is so tight, I would be limited to whatever was available at the time of the house sale. And that’s not ideal at all.
Asset Rich but Income Poor
As a new business owner, I am asset rich but income poor. Nearly all of my funds are tied up in the house and retirement accounts. I had hoped to use my house as collateral to get a loan to buy the RV, and then pay it off when the house sells. But without a steady and sizable income, I didn’t qualify. The only timely option was to tap into my Roth IRA funds. And this is where I struggled the most.
The Value of Dreams
The irony is that I spent over a year creating workshops and online courses at the Early Exit Academy. There I help people reach financial freedom, so that they can pursue their dreams. Well, I’ve poured a ton of money into my retirement accounts, paid off my house, and am debt-free. If I’m not willing to use my funds to chase my own dreams, then what exactly am I saving my money for? And what’s the message I am sending to my students? As I drove to the consignment lot, I felt at peace. I am investing in my future, in my happiness, and this may be the thing that gets my business moving forward. Aren’t I worth it? ABSOLUTELY!
The other financial aspect that buoys me is knowing my tendencies. When my house sells, I will have a lot of cash sitting in my bank account. I’m frugal by nature and there’s no temptation to splurge – I will reinvest most of it. And when my business produces a steady income, I will fill up my retirement funds again. I will be fine. Even more than fine!
Finally, I kept returning to a comment that a Facebook friend wrote on my page when she learned I was going to live in an RV. And I realized that I would be writing those same words in 15 years if I don’t take this adventure now. If that’s not enough to prompt action, then I don’t know what is!
Buying by the Numbers
Since I write about financial independence and I strive to be transparent, I’m sharing my buying process and numbers with you. But before I do, there are three decision factors that preceded my purchase.
Used or New. I chose to buy used. A new RV depreciates the minute it rolls off the lot. And even more worrisome for me is that most RVers report massive maintenance and repair issues in the first year. After all, you are subjecting your home to potholes and highways stresses. I wanted an RV with the kinks already worked out.
Inspection or Not. Many people buy an RV based on the word of the sales person or the in-house service team, which is a terrible idea. For many of us, an RV is the second biggest purchase of our lives, next to the house. And since my RV is going to be my traveling home, I absolutely needed it to be inspected before purchase – one source to find qualified inspectors is the NRVIA. I chose to have my RV fully inspected (including undercarriage) at a local RV parts and service shop that had a good reputation. This was especially critical since the RV did not have a maintenance record.
Warranty or Not. One of the reasons people buy new RVs is to get the warranty. But you can purchase a warranty on a used RV. The best time to do it is before the purchase – Wholesale Warranties is a good place to start. Unfortunately, I found warranties to be very expensive (about $4,500 for a 3-year policy with $500 deductible). After speaking to a representative from the Good Sam Insurance Agency, I learned about their Extended Service Plan (Mechanical Breakdown Insurance). It covers most items and at a cost of just $68 per month, or the equivalent of $2,448 over a three-year period, it is a reasonable alternative (see this comparison).
So let’s get down to the actual purchase price. Here are the details.
My Accepted Offer
Title Tax, Registration, and Fees
Final Cost (before inspection)
Full Independent Inspection
Broker Allowance for Repairs
FINAL COST (after inspection)
Before I made an offer, I went to NADA Guides to find the price and value of the RV. I entered the RV year, make, and model, zip code, and mileage, and found that the original suggested list price was $92,886. The current retail value ranged from a low of $49,550 to a high of $59,720. My offer was on the low end, but I was ready to push it up if necessary.
The Value of the Inspection
If you’re paying attention, I paid $620 out-of-pocket for a full RV inspection. It included the undercarriage and took about five hours to complete. Was it worth it? Here’s why I feel the inspection held great value:
I received an itemized list of every item that was in need of repair. It included even small things, like a missing support bar and a missing hallway light fixture cover. Afterward, I was confident that I was getting a fully operable vehicle.
The inspection gave me negotiation power. I was able to lower the purchase price by $1,500, which would pay for the majority (if not all) of the repairs. So I actually netted $840 ($1500 discount – $660 inspection cost).
The process connected me to a reputable service and repair shop, which is doing the repairs and giving me an estimate on the cost of adding solar power to the rig.
Ultimately, the inspection dropped the final purchase price from $52,702 to $51,136. Not a bad deal!
Additional Considerations and Costs
I bought the RV at a great time of the year – December. And because the RV was bank-owned, I learned that they wanted to get it “off the books” before the end of the year. Plus, I got lucky that that the RV service shop could do a timely inspection. Everything worked in my favor, including the fast transfer of funds from my retirement accounts to my bank (thank you, Vanguard). I was ready to roll!
Once I knew the purchase would go through, I had to quickly shop for RV insurance. There aren’t a lot of options for full-time RVers (Progressive and Good Sam are the top options). I received quotes from both agencies and found that Good Sam offered the best deal ($94/month with $500 deductible). I signed up for a Good Sam membership ($29/year), roadside assistance ($125/year), and their mechanical breakdown insurance ($778/year). Next up was finding a place to store it until my house sells. I grabbed the only open spot available in an outdoor secured facility ($106/month). It was a flurry of activity for sure.
The Ragdoll Phenomenon
I signed the contract for the RV just three days ago, and I must have slept half of those days away. The stress of building my business and then trying to market myself and produce income, has been more crushing than I thought. And in more recent months, the stress has been coupled with an underlying unhappiness, as I struggle with the loneliness of working from home day after day.
I feel like a ragdoll – like I have been holding myself up, trying to be strong even though I was surrounded by worries. It took a toll on my physical and mental health. So now all my body wants to do is sleep. But each time I awaken, I feel like I’ve been able to shed another layer of heavy armor. It feels so wonderful to be excited about something again!
If you want an RV lifestyle or want to live an unconventional life, check out my Gutsy Women Program.
Dr. Brenda is a financial coach, educator, researcher, and sociologist. In addition to blogging at The Five Journeys, she is the founder of the Gutsy Women Club. Her passion is guiding people on their journey to financial freedom through coaching at DrBrendaMoneyCoach and online courses at DreamBigMoneyAcademy.com.
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