The RV Trap

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It’s common to make payments on a new car for six years  – in part because of the high cost of new cars; many people could never afford the payments if they were on a three or four year timetable, as they once were back in the days when cars were affordable.

How about ten years – on an “affordable” small camper? One of those little guys you can pull behind your truck or SUV that has a bed, mini-kitchen and maybe a small bathroom/shower combo.

The latter can be found for $25,000 or so – which is about half the price paid for the average new car, financed over six years. But it’s common for loans on even small and putatively “affordable” campers to extend as far out as ten years – in part because the interest on RV loans is roughly twice what it costs to borrow money for a new car loan. The monthly payments seem pretty low – but how much will you have paid by the time you pay it off?

I did the math – as the saying goes – because I’ve been interested in one of these small campers for some time, not so much for camping but for traveling. It’s not so much that hotels are too expensive – though they aren’t cheap. It’s that hotels are where everyone else is staying. Put another way, your travels are winnowed down to where the hotels are.

That usually means where we don’t want to be.

There is something very appealing about the idea of having a cozy-comfy little “hotel” room of our own right behind us, wherever we decide to go. Our sheets. Our stuff. Our pets, too. All the comforts of home – away from home.

No worries about Hotel Policies – and no need to show ID or hand over a credit card to get put up for the night. And – on the road – one of us can take a nap in back. Maybe make some lunch, watch a movie. You’re not supposed to do that, of course. It’s illegal.

It’s not saaaaaaaaaaaaaaaafe!

We care about that as much as we do about the laws saying we must “buckle up” for “safety.” Because we consider the risk of doing/not doing either thing to be trivial relative to fun/freedom we enjoy from doing/not doing such things. And – much more important – it’s no one else’s business.

Which is part of the reason for the camper-lust. Having one of these things allows you to spend the night wherever you like and on the spur of the moment. Wherever you can find a place to park for the night. And that can be almost anywhere. No having to look for a hotel when you’re too tired to drive anymore. Just pull over – and make some supper.

Also – and related – no one knows where you’re staying unless you tell them.  It’s a way to claw back some of the freedom we once had and took for granted. It’s also a way to get away, if things get bad. I got into this a few months ago in another column. The gist of it being that mobility is good when times get bad. It’s hard to take your house with you. But how about a home that you can?

It’s a way to get away, in other words. In both senses of that term.

Even a small, affordable travel-trailer will allow you to take a hot shower – and keep perishable food cold. To sleep in a bed. To have lights, heat – and Internet – independent of the grid. Most have solar/can be fitted with solar sufficient to power those things. You’ll still have to replenish the water supply every few days, but it beats a tent and a mummy bag.

Especially given how affordable these small campers seem. But when you look into how much they cost, you might – as Geraldo used to say – be shocked!

If you can’t afford to pay cash.

And there’s the rub. Most – including us – can’t. But it can’t cost that much to take out a small loan . . . can it?

Yes, it can.

The travel-trailer we looked at (and lusted after) is called the Flagstaff E-Pro E15FBS. It’s a little guy, only about 17 feet long. The weight – just 3,500 lbs. – is within the towing capacity of almost any truck; no need for a dualie with a gooseneck to pull it. And it seemed very affordable – with asking prices around $25k. If this were a car, the payments would be around $400 per month – for six years. The payments on the travel trailer seemed much more affordable – about $253 per month.

But the catch is those payments last for 120 months (ten years) at 9 percent interest. And assumes $5,000 down, which is a proportionately large down payment equal to 20 percent down.

Do that math. A ten year, $20k loan – plus interest – adds up to about $30k paid in total over those ten years, to pay off $20k.

Plus the $5k down payment you paid to reduce those payments to $253/month for ten years.

Granted, the monthly payments are “affordable” – in the sense that many people can afford to spend $250 or so each month on an indulgence. But it does mean buying into debt (on a depreciating asset) for decade and you never know what you might not be able to afford a long time before that elapses.

It probably makes more sense to save up – and buy a two or three-year-old travel trailer in cash for much less.

And for a lot less longer.

. . .

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51 COMMENTS

  1. I’ve been seriously considering getting a smallish (up to 3k lbs) travel trailer for my wife and I to do a cross country tour (national parks etc.) next year when I retire. I’m thinking the best bet is to buy a lightly used one for cash, use it for a couple years, then sell it. It’s good advice to rent one first to make sure it’s something I really want to do.

  2. Flip side:

    If you buy one of these, you need a proper tow vehicle. Numerous acquaintances have bought a huge gas-guzzling pickup or SUV that they have to drive (and refuel) year-round because they “might” pull an RV or boat trailer once a year. Without that RV (or boat, etc.) they could have lived just fine with something cheaper and more fuel-efficient.

    The cost of an RV will pay for a lot of motel stays.

  3. I think anyone considering buying an RV should watch the old 1950’s movie called Long Long Trailer with Lucille Ball. It’s a hoot

  4. Camper-lust, haha…love it. And it is just that, until you actually get one and use it.
    There are a lot of great comments/advice below this post.
    Here’s some of mine for you Eric.
    First, I’ve pretty much done it all, 30 footer tag, 35 footer 5th wheel, 25 ft toy hauler, 27 ft toy hauler w/genset built in, 37ft class A diesel pusher, and currently a 20ft all alum toyhauler (3500lbs dry). 10’s of thousands of mile from East to West, over around 20+ years.
    Weight is your enemy, size effects handling and interstate nerves.
    When we did our 30ft tag cross country, I was drinking by noon………. metaphor.
    Anything over 5K requires weight distribution which adds more weight and complexity in hook ups, etc….
    East of the Mississippi there is practically no “just stay anywhere” places. Sure they likely exist, but you could be taking a risk that it’s likely private land, and then what.
    West has way better access to ‘just stay anywhere’ but you still have to be cautious.
    There are some good apps that help, but again have to still be cautious. It’s not as easy as I’m guessing you are thinking.
    RV parks are very bad/scary to luxurious with costs the same.
    Even at your suggested 3500lbs, which is great, you will add weight with your stuff and it’s hard to be prudent about this. Just adding 50gal of water adds 400lbs.
    I recently did a NorthWest to SouthWest trip, 1400 mile each way, in late winter. I loved the trip, enjoyed it immensely with our 3500lb dry and two dirtbikes in the toyhauler. So I estimated I was around 5000lbs. I dislike weight distribution hitches so I did it without, and it was fine, but my truck is a long wheelbase V8 with 3.92 gears, and it did awesome. My lines froze up north so I couldn’t use anything except sleep in it, which was still cold (not the most fun part of the trip).
    Solar is no where near what you think it is unless you get a lot, and then there’s’ the room/weight issue again. I had one 12V deep cycle, and one 100w panel, and we ran out of juice on the 2nd day of a 3 day trip. I added another battery for next time, and I think will be Ok but again I just added another 50-80lbs near the hitch. always tradeoffs.
    As many have mentioned, they deteriorate rapidly out in the elements. IMO, a covered garage is a must. Those erect-a-garage galvanized units are pretty mandatory at a min., and a concrete floor barn is best. It will live a lot longer then. adding a concrete floor to your an erect-a-garage is a bonus (no moisture rising from the ground, matters in the east, not as much in the west)
    They always break, always, but you are handy, bring tools (more weight).
    A spare tire is a must if it doesn’t come with one (more weight).

    Hope this doesn’t get you down. They are fun and rewarding if you know what your getting into, but I’ve paid my dues countless times. Be happy to talk live about it, give me a call.

    • ChrisIN,
      That post should be mandatory reading for anyone considering the purchase of an RV! You managed to give the proper sense that RVing isn’t the carefree panacea that most imagine it to be. Instead of freeing one, it basically adds a ball-and-chain that takes on a life of it’s own. The care and feeding of the RV and the constraints that hauling around the rig brings becomes paramount.
      It’s a far cry from just hopping in your car and going where the whim takes you. You always have to think and plan, and the expenses are always more than one would imagine. The RV industry sells a dream. That dream is a far cry from reality, and often ends up being a nightmare, or at the very least a huge waste of money.
      If I were to ever do it, I’d prefer to do it the Blue Highways way [Blue Highways: A book by William Least Heat Moon -in which the author travels the back roads of the country in his Econoline cargo van. IMHO that is the way to do it, as it minimalizes your “stuff”, and is basically just hopping in your vehicle and going. It also makes just plopping down and staying “wherever” more doable, as one can truly be stealth in a common non-descript generic vehicle. Park anywhere other vehicles are parked, and go to sleep. Have a portable john and a cooler and a camping stove, and you’re in business. It’s just another van parked on the street or in the parking lot, and still allows one to camp down by the river where appropriate. It avoids the hassles of towing something around, as well as the expenses associated with RVs and tow vehicles. The van gets the same mileage whether you’re going to Home Depot to get some wood; going grocery shopping, or taking a 1500 mile trip.
      The fewer things you have on the road, the less there is to break. Only 4 tires. No leaky roof. No trouble in the wind. No tanks to fill. No tanks to empty. Perfect for one or two people.

      • Thank you Arthur, it’s just because I’ve done a lot of RV’ing in all types.
        First was by force, because if you wanted to race off road motorcycles with a youth, you had to stay the weekend. If you tried to hotel it, you likely had two less bikes the next morning right out of your pickup, or they took the whole box trailer.
        By rv’ing at the event, all was great and fun, campfires, hanging out with like minded people, etc…. lots of fun but lots of work too.
        We then did a ‘vacation’ trailer to minimize the cost to go on vacation, and it worked, but again lots of extra work vs just renting a vacation house for a week.
        But we did enjoy it, and even migrated to the class A diesel unit because we explored the whole NE and mid-Atlantic, and my dream since I was a kid was the Rockies. But no way in hell was I towing a tag trailer across the country, cause I knew already that I’d be drinking by noon on the interstate trying to put in 6-8 hr days driving with Semi’s pushing you around (an RV is a sail). Hence the Class A, but we got very lucky cause it was during the ’08 crash and RV’s dropped 50-70% in cost and we got a used Class A diesel for $50K (that cost $180K new). Man did we have fun going cross country, but again work, cause the darn things break all the time, countless stories (even caught on fire once driving down the road!!!, cars would pull up waving and I would wave back, HI!!!, until we smelled the smoke!!!).
        Wouldn’t trade those experiences with our young kids ever, but again, lots of work.
        And now why we got a little 20ft toyhauler that gives me the least amount of stress, and as little effort and maintenance as possible.
        And why I’m trying to beg Eric not to tow even that lightweight unit with his Frontier, it will not end well if he has to go any distance. Yes it will work, but not well or long.
        You are absolutely right that they are selling a dream. And you can absolutely find your dream(s) w/RVs. We did, but again, gotta work for it.

  5. An interesting book on RV travel is “Blue Highways” an autobiographical travel book, published in 1982, by William Least Heat-Moon, born William Trogdon.
    The author took an extended road trip in a circular route around the United States, using mostly only the “Blue Highways”. He had coined the term to refer to small, forgotten, out-of-the-way roads connecting rural America (which were drawn in blue on the old style Rand McNally road atlas).
    He outfitted his old used full size van with a bunk, a camping stove, a portable toilet, a copy of Walt Whitman’s Leaves of Grass, John Neihardt’s Black Elk Speaks and 150 dollars. He embarked on a three-month soul-searching tour of the United States, wandering from small town to small town, stopping often at towns with interesting names. The book chronicles the 13,000-mile journey and the people he meets along the way, as he steers clear of cities and interstates, avoiding fast food and exploring local American culture. I’m sure many people including me had this same idea but never “put the hammer down”.
    The book probably is available at your local library and Amazon;
    https://www.amazon.com/Blue-Highways-Journey-into-America/dp/0316353299

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Blue_Highways

  6. Poor people just sleep in mini vans….used ones are very cheap…..save rent…

    mini vans…park anywhere…can’t tell you live in there…..no tickets….motor homes…a bigger problem…get ticketed….lots of regulations….

  7. Put an old school bus on a cheap remote lot…outside any town…convert it…done….

    buy cheap remote lot…or just squat on the land……someone complains…move it….

  8. A sailboat…or power boat, if you can afford the fuel….. gives more freedom then a house or van….a condo in a city…trapped like a rat….40 foot plus sailboat…go anywhere….

    on roads they…shut them down, charge by the mile, speeding tickets, parking tickets, ULZ zones, no parking, ban ice cars….etc…boats are harder to control….airports…they shut them down…borders get closed…

    In a boat…none of that…plus free food…fish…

    A boat can give cash flow…charter it out…30 ft sailboat….$1400 per week….

    240 foot $90 million super yacht….charter it out……$500,000 per week…..investors will finance the $90 million at 9%…..you go along with the 12 guests…live like the rich….

    Boats you have to acquire another skill set…which is valuable…..gives freedom….

    Yachts give billionaires freedom….go anywhere on the planet…some sell their house…live on the yacht….anchor it….no rent, property tax….

  9. Eric,

    Where I live, I have no space for an RV; I have nowhere to put one. Since the decision was made for me, that’s that.

  10. The problem with buying an RV new is that is rapidly depreciates to zero. Just look on Craiglist for free travel trailers or 5th wheels – out west nearly every acreage has one or more parked in the woods – which gets destroyed by falling trees or snow.

    Theoretically you can gut them and fix them up – but they are built like shit, I know, cause I used to demo them as a job. 1×2 framing stapled together – water leaks in and they structurally fail. What is better is a school bus bought at auction for around 1000 bucks. And government school buses are built like brick shithouses.

    If you want to see and eyeful of converted buses to hippie homes go to the National Rainbow Gathering, go to the “Welcome Home” website to find it, and it starts just about now. Each year hippies scout out a new gathering spot, usually in a national forest, and around July 4th, 50,000 hippies and their rigs show up from nowhere for a big celebration.

    https://duckduckgo.com/?q=converted+hippie+school+buses+with+boat+on+top&t=ffab&iar=images&iax=images&ia=images

    Imagine painted school buses, with elaborate wood trim on the inside, and a VW van welded on top – you can crawl up their and sit while going down the highway to a gathering.

    BTW Oregon is the RV sales capital since they have no sales tax, you just need an address when you fiy out and buy some rig and save 5-10%, then drive it back to Michigan or Ohio.

    After being at many hippie gatherings I was inspired to build my own cool looking camper for a 1986 Nissan 720 truck I had. I wanted it to look like those old gypsy wagons. I built the whole thing for free using scrap materials. It had a curved roof and sides that angled out – which gives you more space inside and keeps the rain off the walls, and sun out.

    • I think Eric the car guy ought to fly out to Eugene Oregon for the country fair, which is always right after the annual national hippie gathering.

      https://www.oregoncountryfair.org/

      At the Oregon Country Fair will be a huge collection of cool hippie buses that you can not believe. And a whole bunch of hippies you can not believe. Trust me, it will be a huge eye opener, like a spiritual journey you can write off, lol.

      And while in Eugene arrange to buy yourself that dual sport bike from Trax powersports (a fair size motorsports dealer in Eugene) tax free then have a big adventure driving it back to Virginia.

      Yeah, in Oregon NO SALES TAX.

  11. There was a video about…

    A monk converted a small cave into a little house…stove, cabinets, table and bed, garden out back…stream down below….

    He died …..it might be still available….

    Find a cave…convert it…or airbnb it…$$$$$$

  12. A converted school bus is great…

    A converted 1 ton truck with a plain white box…with no markings… is stealth…they can’t tell you are living in it….

    A pickup with a camper makes sense…you can use them separately or together…

    A converted step van would work well…..

    Live on a boat…anchored…free rent…in a marina about $600/month…might be cheaper then rent…

  13. Yes, trailers these days are preposterously expensive. If you want one for travel and camping, that’s fine, but yes, you will pay.

    But I’ll give a word of advice. If you are planning to move off grid, onto your own land, and stay put, don’t go that route.

    If I could do it again, I would’ve just built a small structure, and it would be much better sealed and insulated than the RV in which I’m living now. It came with the land, so it seemed like a blessing, but it is essentially a perforated cardboard box. I could’ve built something for a few grand that would’ve been about as spacious, but offered us much less in the way of problems in life.

    Still trying to pour concrete, and my 350 has blown a head-gasket.

    Eric, there may be a fun question coming to you relating to that latter issue.

    Life is difficult at this time. Back to work. Work makes you free.

    • The worst thing about pre-made RVs is that they are ridiculously heavy. Whatever RV floorplan you look at for its size, it is always trying to fit every potential buyer the best possible and fits no one perfectly.

      Some of the coolest small trailer RVs I have seen were home builds with cargo trailers. Start with an affordable enclosed trailer, remove interior walls, insulate, and go from there. The sky is the limit.

      They can also be made stealthy allowing camping in places where a truck and cargo trailer are ok whereas an RV would be told to keep moving down the road.

      Since my truck has a 3500 lb limit, I was thinking of getting a trailer with a ramp in the back. I was to have a way to level the ramp to make a deck to stand and chill out on (a porch). Install a retractable awning overhead for shade and shelter. And in the fashion of a tear drop trailer, enclose the rear so that it made an outdoor kitchen when the ramp was down. Basic sink, water supply and water containment (5 gal buckets, 5 gal water cooler bottles with battery powered pumps). A camp stove on a camping table away from the trailer on “the deck” for cooking.

      On the interior of the V nose trailer, section off the front with a sliding door and a shower pan/walls with a simple hose drain. Drain to a bucket, etc. You can get propane powered water heaters for camping and use a 5 gal bucket for the water supply. As well, when not showering, the chemical toilet can occupy this space.

      Heat and AC are problems easily solved when looking at your particular setup. Same with electrical. You can even hide your hookups so that no one can tell it is a camper.

      A fold down murphy bed and creative storage/seating solutions can make the interior cozy for nights and rainy days.

      And at the end of the day, it is setup just for you. No overpriced RV market BS that breaks down anyways.

      ERIC, here’s another aspect, those new RVs are always breaking down and needing repair. The best RVs are those used for a couple of years or so whose previous owners had everything that failed repaired.

  14. The idea of vagabond traveling has always appealed to me, too. I used to think about buying an old step van or cargo trailer and doing the interior myself (It could be done for less than the cost of these little trailers, and one could do it over time so as to spread out the cost. Best off all: The quality would be a lot higher than what you can buy. RVs are made like crap, and don’t age well -which I’d surmise is why you’re looking at new ones instead of used?).
    So what stopped me from building a camper, you may ask? Well, the fact that there’s really nowhere to camp anymore, unless you want to stay in campgrounds or state parks, which in my book defeats the whole purpose, as you lose the freedom you’re seeking, and such places are typically worse than motels.
    The idea of just pulling off the road into some empty lot, or parking lot, or the far reaches of some farmer’s field is what most of us imagine, but in reality there’s almost nowhere left where one can do that anymore. Most Walmarts now even prohibit camping in their parking lots (Not that one would want to camp there anyway!). And regardless of where you set up shop in a camper, if it’s not a “designated place” for it, you become a magnet for those armed alcoholic steroid-users with badges and guns, whom even if they can’t find a reason to interfere with you, will at least hassle you.
    How many times have you seen someone camping freely lately? I’ve found (Unless traveling in the West/desert) that the type of places that tend to interest me are always small town/rural areas, and in very small towns there’s almost always a little old small motel where one can get the 3 S’s [Sleep, shower and shit] for the night for $30-$50. Seems like a lot less hassle than dragging around a trailer and making a long-term recurring payment, and trying to find a place where you won’t be hassled. Usually in smallest towns they don’t even ask for ID at the little motels.

    • RE: “campgrounds or state parks” Neighbor had a camper for many years then sold it ’cause the kids were grown up, but more importantly, he worked his butt off & didn’t want to spend his free time in those parks ’cause they were Always near a very loud railroad crossing (horns blaring @ 2 A.M, then, 3, then 4) or by a super busy hyway or near the loud assed river barges no diff than trains. Few people can sleep well through that.

      Anyway, the ‘Nomadic Movement’ I linked below, they seemed to find quite a few free spots to camp. At Walmart’s, too. I thought he might’ve gotten robbed a time or two, but they did okay. YMMV?

      Agree with you about the “magnet for those armed alcoholic steroid-users with badges and guns” I think he had one of those encounters, too.

  15. I’ve never owned an RV, but I have owned a boat. One particular problem is usage taper. We started out using it all the time, but after a few summers, sold it when we realized we hadn’t been out in it for a month. In July.

    I suspect this would happen with RVs, at least for me. I have friends who have been camping fiends for years and wouldn’t consider going anywhere without their trailer. Same with people who are on their boats every single weekend. I think you gotta know yourself as much as the equipment.

    • As the old saying goes- “If it floats, flies, or fucks… rent it.” 😎

      I feel like since you can do the 3rd option in an RV/Camper, it fully qualifies in this regard although obviously that particular idiom was directed as a joke at the ‘fairer sex’ regarding high net worth individuals and the divorce rape men experience in our insanely gynocentric divorce courts.

  16. Campers today are built as disposable garbage. The roof’s are just a super thin piece of vinyl they call ‘rubber’ over thin particle board, absolutely absurd. The best product we found to seal the roof is called ‘Rubber roof’ and last I checked was over a $100.00 a gallon, lasts a year or two before you need to repeat. A messy job on your expensive new rv.
    We purchased two brand new campers before we really learned our lesson. At least we were able to pay cash and avoid any loans. Now, we love campers and camping so we decided to order a 24×8 drop skirt enclosed car hauler that comes standard with a metal roof. We had them custom build it with rv style man door, windows, electric pack, awning etc. When we got it home we went in and finished building it out exactly the way we wanted it. This trailer is gorgeous and holds 1-3 motorcycles in the back. We did this back in 2017 and the trailer cost us $9k OTD. After the build we now have $15k invested. Quite a bargain in my opinion and the inside stays dry with no leaks! We actually use it all the time even here at home and have no plans on ever selling it. Although we may do another build with smaller model we can pull with a car or suv.

    Everything today seems to be either fake, gay and/or disposable. Turns out modern RV’s are no exception.

    • I forgot to mention. Annual taxes. Last RV tax bill showed up and was over $600.. every year!
      This enclosed trailer build has annual taxes that started under $100 after the first year and have been going down a little every year since. Also was able to put a multi year tag on it. Something they won’t allow on a corporate built camper.

      Just a little food for thought. 🙂

  17. Heard a lady call into Dave Ramsey not long ago saying they owed $146K after several years of payments. And, they were paying a $90K dually on top of that. Yikes.

    His advice was to get out from underneath them both very quickly. That means some other fool has to start making payments on whatever the market value of the camper & truck is.

    My neighbor’s impulse bought a camper 3 years ago. I think it’s been used four times. Mostly it just sits in their driveway. Yet I have a coworker who came here from Colorado say the 2500 Ram & 24′ camper was the best money he ever spent in terms of quality family time. To each their own, I reckon. Though he’s re-wired it, did something to fix a leaky roof, etc.

    The other thing I’ve noticed is the number of storage units popping up for RVs and campers. No idea the monthly fee.

  18. Please rent first and save yourself from a possible “disaster decision”.

    Frankly Scarlett the whole thing is a giant pain in the a**. The kids bought one your size, used, about 4 years ago. It’s been out three times for a family weekend getaway.
    Now it sits on my side patio area, baking in the sun. Maintenance, it’s one more thing to clean/wax/winterize. Where are you going to go? Need power, water, waste dump otherwise you’ll be independent for just a couple days till fresh water runs out and the waste tanks are full.

    Then the joys of RV parks! Hope you have decent neighbors. However if they’re a bit noisy the loud roar of your overhead AC unit will drown that out no problem! You’ll be exhausted after getting the thing level, running the four stabilizer jacks by hand in 95 degree heat, hooking up the water and power plus that stinky waste line. Whew, kick back and finally crack open a cool one – wait, those are yellowjackets flying and out of the fridge vents! Got EpiPen?

    Sparkey’s idea of roughing it – checking in to my favorite resort, down one flight of stairs to the pool, comfy chair under an umbrella then if it takes more than 8 minutes for the cutie in white shorts to take my poolside drink order it’s a rough day! Vacation snob, you bet! Spendy? Yep but it keeps out the riff raff and their feral crotch spawn.

  19. A single wide will be what you want to have. Too big of a travel trailer will be a pain.

    On the Alaska Highway heading up to Alaska, in The Yukon Territory, there was a single wide trailer along the way, it was down in the ditch a hundred feet away from the roadbed, the owner had to drive away. Accidents do happen.

    When you get so far away from civilization, the Alaska Highway turns to gravel.

    Use to camp at campgrounds, but then campers show up with a motor home, set up a satellite dish, make noise all day, and you are supposed to enjoy what they’re doing.

    You’ll always be home when on the road.

    Just think Jamaica in the moonlight
    Sandy beaches, drinking that rum every night…

    I feel a tropical vacation this year
    Might be the answer to that hillbilly beer
    – Guy Clark, Voila, An American Dream

  20. So, buying a camper hints –

    Some people trade in every year or two (usually larger campers) and you can get deal on these

    Other used sources is an option (rv trader, marketplace)

    Go to one of those end of season RV shows – very good discounts dealers are trying to clear inventory

    Shop large volume discounters like Keystone rv mega center

    Since campers are a nice to have, they like to make payments cheap. I hate to borrow money so save up the money first.

    When you buy, do a thorough check out. Have the dealer demonstrate stuff works and take a flashlight and screwdriver. Open panels and look at the wiring, plumbing, make sure control boxes are attached to walls.

    Unfortunately, build quality can be junk, so a good look over can save you problems down the road.

    Once you have it, use it or you wasted the purchase.

    • Once you have it, use it or you wasted the purchase. – Dan

      Yep, that’s the thing. Between work and drudgery getting out to enjoy the thing is a problem. And then once you get going, you discover that everyone else is at the same place you are, so now you have to figure that out too. Where I think it would be nice is in route, being able to pull over at a rest stop or parking lot for a few hours of shuteye or cooking a meal instead of eating restaurant crap is appealing. That’s not how they’re sold though. Push the dream of boondocking and adventure. But when you actually do get out of cell service, well, things aren’t all that amazing and boredom settles in.

      • “ you discover that everyone else is at the same place you are … “

        Yeppers!

        The local RV ads always show YOU as the only one in that amazing picturesque spot! Reality? You’ll be mirror to mirror with all the rest that find that spot too!

        • Yep! And Grandma and Grandpa (Who can afford the nice RV and have the time to use it) always seem to bring a gaggle of shrieking screaming grandkids with them, and are near totally deef, so blast that satellite TV (or the latest abominable rap “music”) at full volume (Or even if they’re not deaf, they blast it just to drown-out the screaming kids and the incessant farting, belching, and phlegm-clearing).

          • I “test rented” a trailer I was interested in buying a few years ago. I stayed at a nearby national park campground. I had the place to myself, and a nice view too. Then on Friday afternoon a massive 5th wheel pulled in across the street. So much for the view. Then the genset started up and despite the hard rule about quiet time at 21:00, somehow ran all night without the host saying anything. And the family was in and out, slamming the door, lights on and off, and the AC running full blast. No music but loud beer-fueled discussion amongst the adults. Might as well been next to a bar.

            Nothing wrong with that either. People having a good time in their own way is OK with me. And I did have a nice night on Thursday and met a very nice female introvert too. But lesson learned, be out of there before the weekend.

          • “ bring a gaggle of shrieking screaming grandkids with them “

            Ahh the “Disease called OPK”. (Other People’s Kids)

            See also my prior comment “feral crotch spawn”.

  21. When shopping for a travel trailer, Craigslist is your best source. Depending on your search area -AZ and NV, anywhere with lots of retirees- usually have lots of older but realistically priced units as they get dumped after hubby dies.

    But more importantly, you get to see what they look like after a few years. The gelcoat fades, the interior wears out, the hip and trendy finishes look more dated than a Trump video from the 1980s. And that’s just the survivors. Take a long hard look at the <$2000 price range to see what you're really getting into. Leaks that require the whole thing to be gutted. Stains that won't go away. Physical damage and wrecks. Doesn't take much to take that midline trailer to scrap status.

    The other thing is they're pretty much all alike. Like the mid-century modern ranch tract home, there's not much variation in layout, finishes, etc. Like pickup trucks the design is all about numbers: How many beds can we cram in to make it sleep more people? How many cabinets can we install? How can we max out the size of the tanks even though most people aren't going to boondock for months at a time? But, salespeople sell these things on numbers, not looks. So you get a big ugly box that could be stylish but isn't. With fake fireplaces and TVs and indoor and outdoor kitchens. Because that stuff somehow makes sense, while a few nice sized windows or a skylight don't.

  22. For what ever reason the algo’s of YouTube started pushing this lady’s feed my way.

    Eye opening info on how sleazy the RV industry is. I know RVs have always had massive depreciation rates. What I didn’t realize is how the COVID induced RV boom tanked build quality. But makes sense when you consider increased demand at a time when no one wanted to work.

    Bottom line if you buy a new RV expecting any warranty coverage – good luck.

    https://youtu.be/jZp3uUJb4oo?si=nojv7Nz9FciSszrE

  23. This young couple on YouTube, ‘The Nomadic Movement’ drove through 48 States in 48 days in an Airstream camper. At the end of the trip the guy shared what didn’t last long or work in his camper:

    ‘DON’T BUY AN AIRSTREAM / our journey is coming to an end’

    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=kxJO6Opbm4w

    His takeaway was he’d rather convert an old school bus into a camper. Imagine what $10,000 & a welder can do to a used school bus.

    • That’s an interesting video. I see a lot of Airstream shells out there and have watched a couple convert one into their own custom build. Seems like that would also be a good way to go if you’re handy.

  24. The quality of most campers today are horrible. My nephew has a large hitch camper a few years old and the floors are sagging and coming apart and the windows are leaking. The warranty has so many loopholes that it is comparable to Swiss cheese. Unless you are willing to spend a mint on above quality, many of the campers today are made with the cheapest materials and shoddy craftsmanship.

    • Tis true. Even the “best” ones are literal junk, made to look nice…and that is all. The things are literally STAPLED together. To say they’re held together by bandaids and baling wire would be giving them too high praise. If a kid were to build one out of papier mache and Playdough it would probably be superior to anything currently on the market.

      Funny, but I’ve known a number of people who had RVs. The ones who bought new ones had endless trouble and got disgusted and sold their RVs and gave up on RV camping. The old couple I know who stayed with it for decades and had a great time, had an old motorhome from the 70’s…ugly as all get-out, but they never seemed to have a problem, and they used it a LOT. (They’re dead now. I miss their postcards from all over the country. Wouldn’t surprise me if someone is still using that old RV though!).

  25. The RVs and travel trailers became YOLO purchases during the pandemic, but I’ve seen them starting to stack up as of late at the dealers up and down I-35 between San Antonio and Dallas.

    You might do better shopping away from The Woods and pricing used near Del Webb “young retiree” communities like the Sun City developments outside Austin and Tampa.

    “Young retirees” eventually become old retirees or simply assume room temperature and the YOLO purchases go away in favor of ACLF facility payment and estate liquidation. Harsh, but those are the facts of life.

    As for the costs and financing, back when we lived in Tampa, the single most valuable house in the county was built/owned by the founder of Lazy Days RV Center, one of the biggest dealers in the US.

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