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Jan 16, 2007
Lee's Summit, MO.
Hello Everyone:

Mike and Lisa here from Kansas City.  Lisa and I hope to become RV gypsies in about 10 yrs when I plan to slow down my law practice.  For now, we've decided to rent until we have more free time to justify owning our own rig.  Our maiden voyage was in a 34' Hurricane that we drove to Mt. Rushmore in a whirlwind four-day weekend with our famiy of six.  We're crazy gluttons for punishment and we loved it!!  Next, we rented a 34' Fleetwood Expedition and took the family of six, plus one of our teenagers' friends (total of seven--three teenagers, one adult son, and our 10 year-old) on a 10-day tour of the Texas gulf coast.  We bumped into, stepped over, and fought with each other the whole time--again, we all loved it. 

The Expedition has me hooked on diesels--quiet, smooth ride, and plenty of power.  That's a long intro to my questions: If we buy now, and only use the rig 3-4 weeks a year, is it worth owning (my willpower is fading fast and I'm itching to buy my own rig)?  Does it make more sense to rent for now?  And finally, I really want to try out some of the state and national parks, and am afraid that the size of a diesel will exclude us from some of those parks. 

Ok, no more babbling, I promise.

Mike & Lisa.
The Expedition has me hooked on diesels--quiet, smooth ride, and plenty of power.  That's a long intro to my questions: If we buy now, and only use the rig 3-4 weeks a year, is it worth owning (my willpower is fading fast and I'm itching to buy my own rig)?  Does it make more sense to rent for now?  And finally, I really want to try out some of the state and national parks, and am afraid that the size of a diesel will exclude us from some of those parks. 

Oh what the hell, why not.  ;D

In favor of it is that you are at about your maximum earning power now and you can afford the payments over a 10 year span, a normal term for an RV loan.  Furthermore the interest deduction on an RV as a second residence will have maximum value right now as opposed to your retirement years.  (See your tax accountant.)  A class A diesel will have more than a few years in it -- I will leave expansion on that to our Motor Homers around here.  Furthermore, if you do buy the silly thing you will start thinking up trips for the thing.  For example have you ever considered parking it for a week or two in the middle of a desert in Quartzite Arizona?  I think not, but go and see the photos in the Quartzite Rally topic. 

The con augment is that 10 years is a long time and your ideas or health may change and $150-$250K is a fair chunk of change.  You will have to store the beast and maintain it.  Finally, God only knows what will happen to the cost of diesel fuel in 2017.
My question is, why does everyone think they have to retire before they can buy a motorhome???  We've had motorhomes since 1972 and only retired in 2000.  Yes, there were some years when we couldn't use it very much because we were just too busy working.  On the other hand, we managed to fit in some really neat trips lasting a summer, six weeks, or even weekends - whatever we could fit into our busy schedules.  There is so much to see and do in this great country of ours that you can't see it all in a lifetime, so why wait?  Or, put another way, too often we hear of someone who waited to do something - whether it's buy a motorhome or take a cruise or go on a foreign vacation - until after they retired, only to have something awful happen like an accident, a serious illness, or even death.  Life is too short not to enjoy it along the way.  So make the most of it while you're young enough and healthy enough to enjoy it because none of us knows what the future holds.

Now to the realities.  Carl mentioned some of the practical things.  A big one is, do you have a place to park it?  We were able to park our smaller ones in our driveway and one of them once sat for a year.  Yes, the downside was paying insurance for that year.  No, we didn't have a problem starting it.  Jerry just put the charger on the battery ahead of time and made sure all the spark plugs were okay.  You can bet we had our fingers crossed when we tried to start it and it started right up!  During that year one family member thought we were being too wasteful and said we should rent it out if we weren't going to use it, but we nixed that in a hurry - after all, our RV is our home when we're on the road and there was no way we were going to have some stranger mess it up or, worse, wreck it.  Once we moved up to larger motorhomes and could no longer park them in the driveway, we had to find parking elsewhere and that can be expensive, depending on where you live.  We were on the San Francisco Peninsula where storage space is at a premium and felt lucky to find a nearby place for "only" $140/month.  We met others who had to drive 40 miles across the Bay just to find a space for their toys.  So, there are downsides, but we thought the pluses far outweigh them.  Assuming you can afford it and can figure out the logistics, I say go for it!

;D ;D
You can cut one whale of a change of change out of that 200K be simply shopping for a decent used unit and have a bunch of dinero left over.  One easy way to finance is to borrow against your present home so you only have 1 payment and at a lesser price.  Personally I would never buy a new unit and take the hit of depreciation.  The depreciatiion on the used is bad enough.That being said if it weren't for the new ones there'd be no used.  When buying new sometimes one can become a slave to payments and the MH itself and that doesn't make for decent retirement nor fun recreation.  Just my thoughts on it.  But then too each his or her own.
It makes the most economic sense to rent, but yo will enjoy your own rig much, much  more. You can outfit it the way you like and begin accumulating possessions that will stay in the RV - dinnerware, maybe a BBQ, some tools, etc. Cuts down on the pre-trip packing too.

The downside is expense - insurance on a motorhome is hefty, as is annual maintenance on a diesel (whether you use it or not). And depreciation is a killer, so definitely go with a used one at first. Besides, you will want to upgrade long before it is paid for and before you semi-retire. Used motorhomes are available everywhere and most of them are in fine shape.
Thank you all for the wonderful, insightful advice.  As a professional advisor, I've learned that the best advice comes from those who've learned by experience.  I guess what it really comes down to is whether owning enriches the experience enough that it justifies the additional cost.  I figure that if we buy, the "cost" is not the purchase price, but rather the depreciation, storage, insurance and maintenance--the rest of the cost will come back when we trade or sell.  If we rent 3-4 times a year, we'll spend $8,000 to $12,000 in rental fees, which will come to $80,000 to $120,000 over 10 years.  Plus, I know that if we own our rig, we are certain to use it more, if for nothing more than the occasional 3 or 4-day weekend.  I am coming to the conclusion that I'm trying to make a "quality of life" decision using a "quantitative" analysis.  As a typical lawyer, it takes 100 words to get to the question: Do you have any regrets having taken the plunge?

Mike & Lisa
You said, "I am coming to the conclusion that I'm trying to make a "quality of life" decision using a "quantitative" analysis."  BINGO!

I'm pretty much a beginner, but a year and a half or so, ahead of where you are now. You will rent, less than you enjoy, because regardless of your financial situation, you still have to justify the expense, every time. You will use your motorhome more than you know, if you own it. First, going somewhere is no big deal. Just get in and go. Shorter trips are easier to justify - maybe you'll feel you need to do them, to justify the depreciation, if cost crosses your mind - which it may not.

There are lots of opportunities. Shorter trips are just one of them. We use our RV, occasionally, to go to the park. No overnight stay. But, we have airconditioning if we need it. We brought the kitchen with us if we want to use it. We have our own bathroom. We have the same for guests, if  we have guests. We have an awning for the picknic table.

Some folks take them "Tailgating." Great idea, if you're into it! We don't happen to be into that, but there are other "Tailgate like" events, and the RV is fine, for that. You're not going to rent an RV for a "Tailgate Party." If there is one in your driveway, no big deal.

Depending upon the rules, where you live, you may or may not be able to park at home. Many park in their driveway. We poured a slab in the back yard, built a fence, put in 50 amp service, and keep it there.

Some observe that they are great for modern disasters and or inconvenience. Our electric never goes out. Well, it does, but we just move to the back yard, start the genset, and go on with watching the TV Show, if that was what we were doing. We have electic, running water, heat or airconditioning. We can go back to the house, when it is operating, again.

It's a wonderful guest house. Guests, at least ours, absolutely love it! They can have their privacy and their company, both at once.

Don't know your lifestyle. But if you think about it, for a while, more may come to you. There's no reason not to keep it "ready to roll." If you do, you will "roll" it more often. It ain't that big a deal!

Then, there is the grin factor. It's just plain nice to come home from the store, and see that thing sitting there. It's so inviting. It wants to go somewhere - - It wants to take you and your family with it - - it wants to have a good time! It's so pretty!

Gotta echo the others. You are speculating on greater usage in ten years. Lots can and will happen in ten years. One thing, you won't still own your first unit. Buy used, first. Get to know what you like doing with it. Later, if you wish, buy the "Dream Coach." You'll do a better job of it, on the second try. We did.

By the way, I have a nephew in your business, in KC.

Ray D  ;D
"I am coming to the conclusion that I'm trying to make a "quality of life" decision using a "quantitative" analysis."

Yup and double Yup!  Even with those annual costs and no time to use it, we never once regretted having our own motorhome!  Ray D said it all.  You're more likely to use it more frequently than if you rented one.

No need to wiat till you retire. My wife and I bought our first TT last summer and were only 41. DO it nowas you will have lasting memories with your entire family before they have grown up and can't go with you because of their new lives they start.

Do it now!!! I know too many people would uttered those famous words and now they are eating them (sort of).  My Dad couldn't wait for retirement so he could travel which didn't happen because my got to where she couldn't get around and is now in a nursing home and can't go.  I think he regrets not doing it sooner.
We've had RVs since 1973. We moved up from a VW vanagon (all we could afford when we were first married) through a TT, 5th wheel, 24-foot Class C to the 28-foot Winnebago. We plan on going full-timing later this year. I can't even imagine how much fun we'd have missed if we hadn't had our own RV parked in our driveway so we were able to jump in and go on a whim. Buy something used now to travel in until retirement. You can always buy something else when you retire and you'll have had 10 years of fun in the meantime. Besides, an RV in the driveway makes a great guest house, getaway spot for the kids, and a good tax deduction if you finance it (interest qualifies as mortgage on a second home so long as the RV has sleeping, kitchen and bathroom areas). And unlike a rental, you'll always know who sat on the toilet.

Buy now and enjoy the heck out of it.
Relaxing at Lake Mead NRA
RayD, you make a lot of good points.  The mere time and hassle involved in renting will surely limit our use.  Ultimately, the point of RVing is to get out and enjoy our country, which I expect we will do more of if we own our own rig.  Plus, as Wendy and Ardra point out, we should live now because there's no telling what the future holds.  We'll let you know if and when we take the plunge.

Mike & Lisa
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