Advice Request: RV Purchase - Contemplation

Updated on October 02, 2016
C.S. asks from Saint Louis, MO
19 answers

We travel by car a lot due to sports. We travel to two different states outside of our own. I really really want a full hook up RV van, but it is not any type of must have to survive. My daughter and I often travel alone.

My pros, we travel a lot, I get tired of waiting for check in time at hotels, sometimes I have to pay for an extra night if there is an activity too late and I am not rested enough to drive back, we could eat better and cheaper, my daughter would like the open space in an RV park, the 20-22" van because you can park it (almost) anywhere, I could pull over and rest/eat if I need to along the way. I could take my dog who has to be boarded sometimes if there is no one to watch her.

my cons are, it may be a little extra work filling and emptying the tanks and it may be a little more than what we are paying out for travel now.

I am a really-really safe conservative person. I am about 12 years away from a decent retirement age. I have a pension. Would you pull money out of savings to purchase a van? They are really expensive and obviously don't last forever.

I see people traveling in the huge RV's that say they spend their retirement. In my case, it would only be a matter of me spending some of my savings. Without getting into savings, the payment/insurance would likely go a little over the travel expense budget, but could be made up during long tournaments.

To answer some questions:

My daughter is almost 11, she has played sports since she was 5 and wants to participate in every sports he can...of course we don't let her, but I don't see her stopping to become a gamer on the computer at any point.

I have considered pull trailers and full sized RV's and for the short weekend trips, I don't find it feasible. I can't see pulling a trailer, hooking up for a day, and then unhooking. I don't know how long it takes, but it seems like a little work. I didn't mention above, we can't fit a trailer in the garage and do not have RV parking on our property. I don't want to drive a full sized RV to the store and event. During tournaments (3-4 days), I figure I could camp out in the rink parking lot with the few large RV's that do it. No, not a lot of room, but yes, often only the two of us. The difference in rates between rooms and RV parks is that RV parks seem to have season rates that are fixed where rooms have very adjustable rates that move up or down according to the events in the area, as well as a weekday rate that is double the rate of the weekend when we need a Friday or Monday. My problem is also food. I don't like to eat out a lot and my daughter is becoming the same way. Once in a while is okay, but we are both pretty picky with what we eat. Neither of us care for fast food, so I am including the expense of food as well.

The money is sitting there doing nothing, but the RV we would use. So far I am hearing save your money. Keep sending the input, I need the help. My husband is a spender and he will just say do it without reason.

No cashing in on retirement, this is just some savings I have stashed.

What can I do next?

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answers from Portland on

Have you considered buying a used van? My brother bought a used 5th wheel RV for much less than a new one.

2 moms found this helpful

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answers from Washington DC on

okay - not sure what you mean by "VAN" - are you talking a cab-over Class C motor home? They can be as little as 18' and as long as 38'.

A conversion van does not have full hook ups to the best of my knowledge.

you seem to be confused about several things.
1. a campground will need you to make reservations.
2. a campground will have check in and check out times.
3. many campgrounds are NOT open year round.
4. there are campgrounds that are $50 to $60 a night. Still not as expensive as a hotel - but still.
5. You'd have to be able to tow a car behind the RV so that you can get around where you need to be. you will NOT be able to drive to the campground sit there and then drive back out. that's NOT feasible. you MUST set up and level your camper - you cannot just pull in. not all spaces are level. You need to know how to handle the jacks, leveling, etc. almost all newer models have automatic hydraulic jacks for leveling - but even then - it's not good enough.

I THINK you are looking for something like this:
Mercedes Benz has a great chassis that gets great gas mileage as well. Look for a diesel, it's cheaper.

upkeep on the motor home isn't bad. but you HAVE to stay on top of it. My dad owns a 40' Bounder with 3 pull outs.

Dumping isn't hard, it just can be messy. if you buy from a dealership? they will show you how to do it.

Feel free to PM me with questions.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Atlanta on

You really need to do research on RVs, the cost of insurance, maintenance and fees for camping before you do this.

It sounds like you don't understand that once you get to a campground, you set your RV up. You don't toodle around town with it. That's why people tow cars behind RVs.

Why not check into cruise America? you can rent an RV and see if you like driving it, using it for your events. If you feel that you will use outside of sporting events, it might be a good purchase for you.

You need to check with the rinks that you go to and see if they allow the RVs to park there. Just because some do it, doesn't mean it's legal or safe.

10 moms found this helpful


answers from Dallas on

I personally would not but that's just me.

Have you taken into consideration ALL of the expenses you incur now on these trips?

If you get the RV, you will have upkeep, repair, insurance, park fees, plus you have to drive this to your events and find parking at events. This assumes you are paying 100% cash. If not, then add the amount of payments and interest you will pay on top of the regular expenses involved.

What about storage when you are not using it? Depending on your neighborhood, you may have to pay separate storage at another facility. RV's boats trailers etc are not allowed to be parked on our neighborhood streets, driveways or back yards. They can be parked long enough fur someone to load up and prepare for a trip which is typically less than 24 hours. It can be an eyesore. We have no street parking policy in our neighborhood to keep the area cleaner and safer.

The $$ you say is doing nothing is indeed doing something. It's there for your retirement and should be growing.

That's just my two cents.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

I'd say you need to figure out what you spend on hotels every year and then figure out how many more years you'll be traveling for sports. Once you get that number figure out how much it will cost to purchase the RV, how much more you'll be paying for gas, figure in maintenance, and insurance and get that figure. Don't forget to add in camp site rentals but if its self contained you can always overnight at Walmart.

My parents traveled a lot for many years and my dad did a cost analysis for a RV vs car travel and motel/hotel. They ended up not buying the RV.because it would have been more expensive for every trip.

9 moms found this helpful


answers from Milwaukee on

My husband & I researched RVs pretty extensively for the past year or so - we wanted to get a Class C (cab-over) or a small Class A (like the big Winnebagos, on up to the Greyhound bus size). Class B (conversion vans) are too small to fit us & 4 large dogs. We've been doing more traveling & competing with our dogs in some events together & thought it would offer more flexibility.

What we just purchased was a Chevy Hi-cube van - kinda like someone took the front seats of a van & frankensteined them onto a box truck. We are going to retrofit it with couches, kitchenette & maybe a composting toilet, so that we have some of the amenities when we are out on the field watching the pups run. It fits our budget right now, even though it is not our dream vehicle. It also still requires us to book a hotel room for overnight travel (husband would be happy camping out in the truck, I need the softer side of life!).

I suggest you talk to people you know that have different types of RV's & campers, to find out what they like/dislike about their setup. If they have something really nice, find out what they started with, what they could reasonably live without. It's so easy to get pie-in-the-sky fantasies about a sleek new RV, but realistically most people I know worked their way up from something much more modest. As Jackie P stated below, a Class B (which it sounds like you are considering) can be very pricey for new, top of the line, although you can find something functional & used on Craigslist for A LOT less.

To be honest, it sounds like what would work very well for you, without going & buying a new vehicle, would be a pop-up trailer camper. Very easy to tow, store & set up. They come in a variety of sizes, & again, on Craigslist, you can get one in good condition for under $2-3K.

You might also want to consider buying a traditional passenger or cargo van, & retrofitting what you want in it. Check out Pinterest - do a search on RV Conversion, you'll be AMAZED at what people have done with their vehicles!!

Good luck, think small, & be creative with what you need & how you can achieve that. T. :)

8 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

i think it sounds like a great idea, but we have always loved camping, and had a pop-top when the boys were little.
it doesn't sound as if you're really into the fun aspect, more the practical one. which is great. but in that case you need to sit down with the pro/con list and really dig into all the costs of the RV van (i'm not sure just what that is.) don't forget upkeep, tolls, insurance and the cost of running a genny when you're not at a campsite with hook up.

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Orlando on

I would rent one and see if you like it. The type you are considering is called a "Class B" and I can tell you the smaller the RV the more it costs (they start at about 80k).

We have a small travel trailer (18 ft) and it works well for us. Not too long (like our last one) and easy to set up and take down. If you are only staying for one night you done need to hook everything up or un-hitch it from the tow vehicle.

Also, keep in mind that no matter which one you may choose, they all need to be maintained like your house. The roof needs maintenance every 6 months, the septic/sewer system, the water holding tank, etc..

7 moms found this helpful


answers from Pittsburgh on

When I think of how many hotel rooms I could pay for, for the cost of an RV - no way.

You could add an extra night on to your hotel stays for every sports trip for YEARS to avoid inconvenient checkout times and still come out ahead as compared with buying an RV.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Tampa on

I would really sit down and figure out how much you would use this. You would be paying for this all year long with insurance and maintenance. At least with the hotel, you only pay when you use it. What is your motivation for this? Is it to save money? If so, you might find that with the extra gas and insurance, there might not be much savings.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Boston on

We have taken 3 RV trips - 2 were vacations when our son was 7 and 9, and one was when he was 17 and we did the "college tour" via RV. We used a 30 foot bus style van with a bathroom, shower, and queen bedroom, and our son slept on one of the bunks. My suggestion is that you RENT an RV for several of these trips and see if you like it. Learn the ins and outs, make a few mistakes and do better the next time, and keep copious records of all your expenses. Yes, it's more expensive than owning one, but it's a lot more sensible than cashing in your retirement. If you buy one and use it for a year, then try to resell, you will find the depreciation is significant and you will lose a ton of money.

Pros: no checking in/out at hotels, no packing/repacking, control of cooking and food, learning to fill water & propane tanks is easy, learning to dump septic (for your toilet and shower) is really easy, campgrounds are very affordable and people who live there are usually very helpful for novices, most campgrounds have pull-through sites so you don't need to learn to back up all the time, you can pack a little food and then pull into a standard supermarket parking lot and pick up what you need, for the same price as what you would pay in your own supermarket. You can use a campground every other day if you want to save money, or you can stop in at certain ones to just dump your septic for a fee but not pay for a full campsite rate. And state parks are way more affordable.

Cons: You can't tow a car with a rental, moving in is a pain because you need all your kitchen stuff and food and supplies (not just the stuff you would put in a suitcase), gas prices and tolls are high for a vehicle like this, you can't stay overnight for 4 nights in a parking lot (you will run off a generator and use fuel, vs. getting electric power at a campground), you need to be able to do basic tasks on your own (and that means your daughter needs to learn to help out). Everything needs to be secured before you drive, so your daughter needs to learn to be organized lest everything you own hit the floor the first time you go around an exit ramp curve!

I understand about not wanting to spend money eating out, but I'm very concerned that you are allowing your daughter to grow into a picky eater. That's setting her up for problems in her teens and when she goes off to college. If you both have food allergies, that's one thing, but if you are decidedly non-adventurous, that's an issue long term.

And if she stays with the sports/tournaments, this might be a good investment, but if you cash in your retirement and then she either loses interest in the sports, you're stuck with a big, expensive vehicle. Some owners recoup some of their expenses by renting out their vehicles (same principle as a VRBO or summer home rental), so you might offset some investment that way IF you can get renters and protect yourself against damage/theft/negligence. You might also rent that way to start out. We went through an RV sales/rental place to start, with good orientation and all the insurance/maintenance handled.

Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Phoenix on

We recently this year bought a pop up camper, it's used and older so we didn't pay much for it but it's in good shape. Just to use on weekends to get away although I am considering heading to No Cal to see the redwoods again.

I have seen the vans that you are talking about and they are pretty cool. Not a lot of room but for the 2 of you I can see how you think that would solve your problems. It would be a lot more expensive then a hotel, IMO. And how old is your daughter? Is she 7 and you have many years left of doing this? Or is she in HS and only have a couple years? How likely will it be that you will use it after she's out of sports? I think you could use a pull camper easier after she's done with sports and you may not lose as much in value as you would with the other one. Did you check into the cost of the campsites? Depending on your area, some are more than $50 per night for full hook-ups.

The concern I would have is not only are they expensive, but you have to drive them every where you go. You can't just park at a camp site then go to your event, or dinner or sight have to take it with you! I like the ability to park your trailer, get it all set up and then head out in your vehicle to do as you wish.

So I guess that's my opinion but I'm not an expert on camping by any means. Good luck!

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Cleveland on

just a thought, I have never been part of the "travel sports scene" isn't it all about the tailgate experience and after parties in the hotel pool and all the "TEAM" hanging out together, and maybe some drinking together for the adults in the group. It doesn't sound like your DD would be part of that if you couldn't fit her bffs in the rv with you. And you wouldn't have her crash at the hotel with out you right? and you would miss out on all the socialization too.

I was all for it since it seemed to practical and would fit my personality, but i think the social aspect is what will ruin your dd's chances if you do this. The coaches are going to promote the friendly committed athletes, wouldn't they? I mean I wish it was just pure talent but generally in life there is more do it than just being skilled, its playing the "political games" and if you are all in your RV then dd won't be getting face time with the coaches.

5 moms found this helpful


answers from Washington DC on

After figuring annual costs for both options, I would also want to know some resale info for the rv. You won't get any $ back from the hotel in 5 yrs, but you will when you decide to sell the rv. Maybe you could make some money in between trips by renting it out to other sports parents or camping friends.

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Oklahoma City on

I think of this a little bit differently. It's like getting a second home. The payments will be about the same for several years. BUT like you said. You don't pay hotel bills, you can take it anywhere like camping, travel anywhere you can drive, and you can make it your own inside. mattresses, seating, interior, etc...

We had a bubble trailer that we pulled several times and it was soooooo horrid. I hated the bed, it was 3/4 size and when both of us laid down we made it sag in the middle. A tummy sleeper can't really enjoy being bent in the middle like

We have considered a motor home instead. I would want one that is larger than a van but not as big as a full size RV.

BUT a motor home has to have the capacity to pull a vehicle, right? So you don't have to drive the motor home in the town where you're staying for an event.

When you get where you're going you are going to want to go places with your family so you just have to have family transportation along with the motor home.

That's an additional expense.

If you don't want to pull a vehicle behind everywhere they you'd have to consider rental when you get some place, again, another expense.

A class A would be so expensive, gas and travel cost would be additional to that high payment cost. So it would simply be less expensive to just drive there and do they hotel thing. But some of them do have a compartment underneath/in the back where a vehicle can be stowed and carried along.

A class B seems like a good choice but some are small and only large enough to fit 2 comfortably. So getting just the right one would be imperative to me. I wouldn't want one where I couldn't pop anyone in it that I invited to go along. So we'd need a bigger one of this size.

A class C could be a great choice IF you got good gas mileage and have enough room.

Some other options for travel. Budget for the extra day in the hotel. We're traveling in a month or two for a mini vacation. We're leaving OK and heading towards St. Louis. We'll be stopping to spend the night even though we "could" make our destination in one day. If we had a motor home we could probably do it because one of the drivers could be relaxing in a seat and even prop it back a bit and sleep/nap if they want.

I budgeted for that extra night. We'll be staying there on the way to and from where we're going. Then we'll get to our destination the next day. Stay there for 3 nights and drive back to St Louis to stay again then home the next day. Yes, it's a lot of time in a hotel. Yes, it's more than a motor home payment would cost but we only travel a few times per year. Unlike you. If you really want to have a home along with you then that is what you need to consider it. A second home that you can take with you. Get the most you can afford that has the best amenities for you.


3 moms found this helpful


answers from Las Vegas on

It sounds like a Class B RV would be very good for what you are looking for. They look like a "conversion van", would fit in your garage, are easy to drive, offer the option to stay in an RV park with hook-ups or "dry-camp" for a few days without hook-ups (batteries and generator), and can carry enough food/supplies for several days without a trip to the grocery store. We have large Class A RV now (we're retired and take looonnnnggg trips), but had a 19" Class B (Roadtrek) for 4 years. We towed a small sail-boat and traveled around to various weekend regattas and was perfect for our needs at that time. We always say that you can do everything in a small RV that you can do in a big one, but you can only do one thing at a time! Yes, they are a little small, but for shorter trips, very easy to make the appropriate adjustments. You do save $ on motel rooms and food; gas mileage is usually less than a regular auto. One piece of advice --- Do NOT buy a new one; there are soooo many used ones out there with low mileage and low use. Shop your local RV dealers, publications like RV Trader, or the classified sections of the brand-specific newsletters (I know Roadtrek has a newsletter; other brands with Class B's are Pleasure Way, Winnebago, Itasca, Forest River).

3 moms found this helpful


answers from Portland on

Does it have to be brand new? My mom has been looking for a while, and she is finding some great things for about $10000 on Craigslist. Or even used from a dealer is going to be quite a bit cheaper. I think the van or Mini Winnie types are a brilliant idea. Then, you don't really have to "set up" anywhere. You can drive it around town and where ever you want to go. For convenience, personal comfort, and nutrition, I think it is exactly what you should do. I think I would if I were in your place. I do love the idea of renting or borrowing one for at least one trip to be sure before you dive in. (Unless renting one is a couple thousand, then its just not worth it. I know the big ones do cost that much).

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answers from Philadelphia on

Unless you want a new toy and know you would really enjoy the road trips, I would not get it. The cost of the RV and insurance is going to be way more than the incremental savings you get from not renting a hotel room. Therefore, if finances are driving your decision I would say no. If pleasure and fun is driving your decision I say go for it!

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answers from Peoria on

Definitely check on craigslist for lesser-priced conversion vans. You can also consider "ice cream" vans that have extended tops you can stand up in. Just remove all the unnecessary ice cream stuff and put in your potty, sink, etc. Just beware of the scammers that don't seem like legit ads, charging hardly anything for a vehicle but has no photos of it other than one exterior photo or seems too good to be true ads. You can also find mini-motorhomes pretty cheap, low mileage, all different styles & sizes so don't give up on a mini-motorhome. You can also consider converting a mini-bus like a shuttle bus or "short bus" as some call them. They'd have to be converted which may cost extra but still may be w/in your budget, just remember that buses normally have a LOT more wear & tear & high mileage on them compared to a camper. Good luck!

2 moms found this helpful
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