A Buying Guide for Senior RVs

You have worked hard your entire life and now that you have reached the age of retirement – somewhere between 55 and 65 for the majority of Americans – it is time to do something you want to do rather than what you must. For nearly 95 percent of baby boomers like you, the number one thing on that list is travel.

Recreational vehicles (RVs) are an excellent option for that travel. There are currently more than nine million RV owners in the United States, with Baby Boomers between 55 and 64 having the highest ownership rates among Americans. As more and more seniors hear the call of the open road, those numbers continue to grow.

Is the RV lifestyle right for you? Well, to decide that one must take several things into consideration.

The RV Lifestyle

There are basically only three types of RV owners: Vacationers, Part-Timers, and Full-Timers.

Camping – Vacationing in an RV

As the moniker suggests, vacationers use their RVs to take short getaways from their home. They take to the road for a weekend, week, or a couple of weeks at a time to visit family, a specific attraction, or to get away briefly. They always return to their primary residence and often spend more of the year storing their RV than using it.

Travel – Part-timing in Your RV

Part-timers spend more time away from ‘home’ in their RVs. However, they still maintain a primary residence and consider their RV to be more of a home away from home. Snowbirds who escape harsh winters in their northern residence and live in a southern warmer clime for those months fall into this category.

Living – Calling Your RV Home

The third group of RV owners calls it home. These adventurous souls relinquish their permanent residence in favor of downsizing and living in their RV exclusively. Whether they park year-round in an RV retirement community or travel regularly from place to place, full timing is a drastic change of lifestyle that requires planning, commitment, and a certain level of wanderlust.

The Costs of RV Living

There are a number of factors to consider when discussing the cost of an RV. The most basic of these starts with what kind of RV owner you are – vacationer, part-timer, full-timer – as discussed above. This can affect the extent that other considerations affect your decision as well. These other considerations may include:

  • the kind of RV you want: tow-behind or motorized, large or smaller, etc.
  • whether you will be buying or renting your RV
  • maintenance and operating costs … including gas prices (RVs average eight to ten miles per gallon)
  • insurance
  • storage costs for part-timers and vacationers
  • site rental whether campground, retirement community or otherwise

Buying vs Renting

It is strongly recommended that you rent before you buy if you have never spent any time traveling in an RV. Moreover, if you intend to live the life of a full-timer – or even a snowbird part-timer – then it is suggested that you take an extended vacation in your rental to determine if this drastic lifestyle change is a good match for you.

This is essential as the purchase of an RV should be considered like that of a vacation property or second home.

Renting comes with an assortment of different costs that should be taken into consideration when making the decision between buying or renting. First off, you should expect to pay a damage deposit on any rental. Second, there are costs that depend upon what sort of RVing experience you are looking to have. These include:

  • additional mileage above the amount included in your package (generally 100 miles per day)
  • additional amenities like Kitchen Kits, Houseware Kits, emergency road kits, electronics, etc.
  • model, size, and luxury of RV

Generally speaking, it is cheaper to rent an RV for a week or more than by the day. The average base rental price for an RV is between roughly $2,000 and $3,000.

Financing & Loans

RVs are designed for longevity – built to last 20 years or more – and their engines, interiors, and other components are designed for durability. Thus, financing an RV is less likely to result in payments beyond the life of the vehicle.

That is why financial experts often recommend financing the purchase of an RV rather than liquidating your retirement assets for outright purchase. It is common for lenders to finance these purchases for up to 20 years with interest rates that are similar to those of a home mortgage.

RV Insurance

How an RV should be insured depends largely upon what type of RV it is. Every state within the United States requires that all vehicles with four or more tires have adequate insurance coverage.

All motorized RVs are required to be insured as a four-wheeled vehicle. That means that they require the same insurance coverage any car or truck would need – primarily personal injury and collision coverage. The cost of coverage for motorized RVs insurance coverage is often less than that of similar coverage for a truck or car, however, due to the fact that the accident rate among RVs is generally lower than that of other vehicles.

Towable RVs are not required to carry motor vehicle insurance coverage. However, it is advisable to add coverage that will cover your RV in the event of an accident. Furthermore, if your RV is financed, it is likely that the financer will require that insurance is carried to cover their investment.

RV Parks & Campgrounds

When it comes to where you park your RV, the choice is yours and depends upon the RV lifestyle you choose to live. An annual spot at a particular park or campground can provide yearly “neighbors” and guaranteed access to those that you enjoy. There are RV communities that are exclusive to seniors, senior-oriented, or open to everybody.

Some parks and campgrounds only allow certain types of RVs and you should plan carefully to ensure that you are able to park. Generally speaking, you can expect to spend between $15 and $75 for an RV campsite with an electric and water hookup.

Storage

If you are a part-timer or vacationer, you are going to need somewhere safe to store your RV when you are not using it. This can be as simple as parking it in your yard at your permanent home or renting a climate control facility to keep it in. The latter will help to keep your RV in peak condition for longer but bears an added expense to ownership.

Unheated indoor storage facilities commonly charge rates that start from $50 to $125 or more. Those heated facilities can run between $100 and $450 per month to rent. The size of your RV and the amenities offered by the storage facility will affect where on those scales your storage costs lie.

Are There RV Dealers Near You?

It is estimated that roughly one-third of cities in the United States have one or more RV dealerships. In addition, many nationwide RV dealers have fully operational websites that can be used for making a purchase. If you are looking to rent, these same national chains and RV dealerships often loan RVs for temporary use.

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