My husband and I had never even driven an RV before selling almost everything we owned, buying a 40-foot behemoth on wheels and making it our only home. So it shouldn’t come as a surprise that our first few months of living on the road were a trial by fire.
We survived to tell the tale. Based on our experience and conversations with others in the RV community, these are what we consider to be the four most common mistakes that new RVers make:
1. Buying the wrong RV
If you’ve browsed online RV listings, you don’t need me to tell you this purchase is a big investment. With a depreciation rate of 30% of MSRP as soon as you drive that new RV off the lot, you want to get this right the first time. I recommend going inside every RV you possibly can, at dealer lots and RV shows, to see what you like and don’t like. Step in the shower and mimic your routine. Do you have enough room? Consider what you hope to take with you on your trip, opening all the cabinets and bays to imagine where everything will fit. Also consider how you want to use your RV. For example, if you love national and state parks, or dry camping in the middle of nowhere, big rigs may have trouble accessing those areas because of their size.
2. Going too far, too fast
Like a greyhound out of the gate, new RVers want to see everything as quickly as possible! But being a full-time tourist is exhausting and hard on the pocketbook. For those of us who live on the road, we have to take time to rest, run errands and live a “normal” life. My husband and I have made a rule for our travels. We move our RV every two weeks and we don’t drive more than 250 miles. This routine protects our sanity, keeps fuel costs down, and allows us to see microcosms of the United States instead of driving right past them. For those of you who plan on being seasonal RVers, or taking your rig out on holidays, this still applies to you. Explore what’s in your neck of the woods before driving 1,000 miles to that destination spot! The kids will thank you.
3. Taking too much stuff
You won’t know how little you really need until you’ve experienced this lifestyle for yourself. We go through our RV from top to bottom every six months and every time we are astonished at how much we get rid of. To keep clutter down, we follow the “one in, one out” rule. For example, if we buy a new pair of pants, then an old pair of pants has to go. We also say goodbye to items if we haven’t touched them in a whole year. This lifestyle isn’t about collecting stuff. It’s about collecting experiences and making memories that will last a lifetime.
4. Not planning for maintenance and repairs
Imagine putting your house on a trailer with wheels and driving it down the road. Your new home on wheels, your RV, experiences an earthquake every time it moves. There are complex systems and tiny parts that will fall apart and wear down, no matter the original construction quality. For this reason, you must plan maintenance and repairs into your budget as you prepare for this lifestyle. If you have a new RV, understand your warranty: how long it lasts, and what it covers. Some people who buy a used RV opt for an extended warranty, while others choose to take that money and invest it in a cash reserve. We keep a $5,000 emergency fund, and plan ahead for our annual maintenance and big expenses like tires (new tires for our diesel RV cost about $5,000).
Bonus tip: Make sure you get the best RV insurance for you! There are lots of different options, depending on your RV type and if you’re a full-timer or recreational cruiser. Do your homework!
Don’t get scared away! Avoiding these common mistakes just takes planning and time. As you prepare for the lifestyle, you’ll find there are amazing resources online, where veteran RVers are happy to share their wisdom and answer your questions.
I’d love to hear from you! Chime in with a comment if you have questions about RVing or want to share a humorous anecdote from your early days on the road. C’mon, we can’t be the only ones who made mistakes, right?