He Says/She Says: RVing

He Says/She Says: RVing

In the He Says/She Says series, we discuss financial-ish topics where we agree to disagree and make our case with fighting words. We then promptly make up.

George Washington would be pretty impressed with a lot that the 21st century has to offer. Computers, drones, dental hygiene, Capri Suns. But among all of mankind’s greatest innovations over the last 300 years, there might be none that would make General Washington’s jaw drop quite like the mobile home. Part truck, part home, part storage unit, part campsite, all awesome.

In my mind’s eye, this is what I see in the not-so-distant-but-maybe-not-totally-realistic future…

Sally now has a brother and a sister. They’re sitting in the back of an RV watching a 3D DVD of The Mighty Ducks. Sally gets up and walks to the front seats where Joanna and I are sitting. “Mom, Dad. This is just the most swell thing we’ve ever done. You guys are the best.” Joanna glances over to look at me approvingly as I steer our 30-foot home. I slow down as we approach our next “address” for the next three weeks. I hear ooohs and aaahs from the back as our children peer out the windows to see a variety of prehistoric wildlife. I put the RV in park, turn toward our children and say, “Welcome… to Jurassic Park.”

Joanna hates everything I just wrote. I think she’s okay with the Jurassic Park part (because it’s a reasonable future-world prediction), but she despises the entire premise of owning, driving, and living in an RV. Her objections are many: she doesn’t like feeling unsettled; she thinks they’re weird; she thinks RV parks are weird; she doesn’t like the idea of having a mini-sewer in our car; she doesn’t want to shower in our car; she doesn’t like the idea of driving a minivan, let alone a freaking semi-truck; etc., etc., etc.

Here’s my argument. I want to see America. I want to take our sweet time visiting the most beautiful, historic, and amazing destinations in America. I want to bring the whole family (including our cat… maybe… eh, probably not). I want to be able to work (comfortably) on the road. I want to be able to sleep in my bed and not worry about bed bugs and every hotel bed black light demonstration I’ve ever seen on TV. I want to bring bikes and gear and groceries. And I want to do all of it on a tight budget. If there were ever the perfect sales pitch for RVing, I’m pretty sure I just laid it out there. There’s a whole lot to love about living in an RV.

Those perks don’t come without a few negatives. The RV itself can set you back $100k if you’re considering a full out conventional motorhome. We’d obviously look used first, but that’s a hefty chunk of green regardless. Then there’s the costs of gas. And the older, slightly strange RV-park neighbors. But all of that seems like a small price to pay for the ability to take your show on the road full time, if you please.

I think Joanna’s afraid to admit that we’re nomads, but the fact that we’ve moved to five different states in five years says it all. RVs were invented for people like us. And if I have my way, Joanna’s just gonna have to get used to a big, beautiful home-on-wheels sitting in our brick-and-mortar home’s driveway.

Time to weigh in, Interneters. Are you on Team RV or Team NoV? Are you open to the idea of vacationing/living a semi-nomadic life on the road, or are you only open to leaving the comfort of your home if it includes room service and a mint on your pillow?

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  • Reply Mrs PoP April 21, 2014 at 8:46 am

    Our version of the RV dream is actually a sailboat – which share a lot of the bad qualities of RVs (small spaces, bathrooms, potentially weird neighbors at the dock/harbor), but with the benefit that the ocean can rock you to sleep at night. Getting a boat and spending a couple of years traveling around in it is definitely near the top of our FI list.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 12:28 am

      Ooo…sailboating would be rad. Thanks to Joanna’s propensity for motion sickness (which I do not envy at all), that would be even more vetoed than RVing. Love the FI goal though.

  • Reply Jenni April 21, 2014 at 9:09 am

    What about renting an RV as a trial run before investing in one full time? I think it would be a fun thing to do occasionally, but I don’t know that I would love it enough to justify owning one full-time.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 12:30 am

      Totally. Yeah, we can’t even commit on buying a house yet, let alone an RV. We’d probably need a few summers of renting an RV before getting close to throwing down that sort of cash on one. And maybe a few roadtrips in one would be enough to walk me back from the ledge and joining Joanna’s team. 🙂

  • Reply Eric Williams April 21, 2014 at 9:18 am

    Oh man, I’m with Johnny! It might be a man thing, but I think every father envisions taking their family on the “greatest road trip of all-time,” at least once.

    The price tag is another story… Unless it was given to me, I can’t see us prioritizing the large expense that comes with owning and operating an RV at this stage of life. But, a boy can dream can’t he?

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 12:33 am

      I think it’s definitely a primal testosterone thing. Cavemen have probably been drawing RVs for centuries. We’re nowhere even close to making a purchase like this, especially if Joanna has anything to say about it.

  • Reply Little House April 21, 2014 at 9:29 am

    I’m team RV. Last summer, Mr. LH and I started to concoct some wacky idea of purchasing land and living in an RV until we could afford to build. We went and checked out some awesome RVs and realized that it probably could be done. Our biggest problem with this idea was finding the land! Yet, I still like the idea of RV living and traveling. Though RV parks are definitely a little weird and I’m not so sure our three cats would be hip to living in a moving vehicle.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 12:36 am

      Purchasing land is totally another thing on my splurge-list. That’s awesome that you actually looked into it. I’d love to hear if you start considering it again and allow me to vicariously follow that search.

  • Reply coolfam April 21, 2014 at 9:38 am

    We may one day do a road trip like that but we would rent the RV. I don’t know if it works out to be any cheaper to travel by RV as you say buying an RV is sooo expensive – it’s more of a lifestyle preference. You could buy the RV used and then sell it in a few years and that may work out to be very cheap especially if you bought and sold it for a similar price. There are a lot of families at camp sites as well as older people – but I think it depends on which ones you go to – ex. Yogi Bear Jellystone Park RV/campsites will probably have a lot of kids! 🙂 We rent cottages a lot. We plan to do a little bit of tent camping this summer – a night or two here and there.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 12:42 am

      Hold up, there’s a Yogi Bear Jellystone Park RV Park?! How has no one ever shared this secret? And is it as awesome as it sounds? As far as buying one, you’re totally right. If we ever went down that path, we’d buy used (like very used) and hope to upgrade/maintain it to keep it’s resale value close to our purchase price.

      • Reply coolfam May 1, 2014 at 10:11 am

        It’s pretty awesome but don’t expect Disney World! lol They have all sorts of activities especially in the summer and on weekends. There are jellystone parks all over the U.S. and a couple in Canada. We were at one once on Father’s Day and they had a drinking contest for the dads – drinking apple juice from a baby bottle with nipple top and everything – hilarious. Wish I had it on video!

  • Reply Brian April 21, 2014 at 10:02 am

    We are on team RV (well team travel trailer) and will probably be purchasing one in the next couple of years. We both enjoy glamping alot and with a kid (and a second one on the way) there is pretty much very little chance we will be flying as much as we do now.

    Also don’t forget you can deduct the interest on your RV just like you can a house since it meets the IRS definition of a home. So that don’t forget that in your sales pitch too.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 12:44 am

      Great tip on the write off. I’m afraid all our family will ever know is glamping. I suppose it’s better than the alternative of never seeing the outdoors.

      And congrats on numero dos, man!

  • Reply Meghan April 21, 2014 at 10:18 am

    I used to be on Joanna’s side on this, but have switched. When my parents bought their 5th wheel and F-350, I thought they were nuts (well, they were because I think they spent 100k). Anyhow, they were able to travel to places that were otherwise off limits. There were no hotels for miles in many Colorado-Utah locations. They were able to pull it to visit family so we didn’t have to go to a hotel. And best of all, when I decided to go camping with them and “rough it” in a tent, I was so thankful to be able to sneak inside in the middle of the night to use their bathroom instead of finding some dark spot in the outdoors. I now spend way too much on an apartment and know I’ll probably move in another year – year and a half. I looked in to the idea of renting an RV. The only reason I didn’t go ahead and do it was that because I live in the DC area, most campgrounds run $1500 a month, because they want short-term tenants. You should at least rent one in the future and go on a road trip!

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 12:46 am

      I could definitely get Joanna onboard with a summer road trip RV rental. So that’s probably where I should start. That’s crazy that DC parks run $1500/month! No savings there, I guess.

  • Reply Kali @ Common Sense Millennial April 21, 2014 at 10:30 am

    I lean Team RV, especially as with a little kn0w-how, you can really eliminate many of the negative aspects. Take the toilet, for example. That was one huge reason I wasn’t sure we could ever live full-time in an RV, because you have not known “disgusting” until you try and empty a trailer sewage tank. But you can actually replace the stock system with a composting toilet! You don’t have to drain anything, it eliminates a lot of the sewage smell, and there are no chemicals (that help promote the portapotty smell in conventional camper toilets) to flush down it on a regular basis. When you start thinking about the modifications you can do to make your RV perfect for you, it’s hard to argue against that lifestyle 🙂 You should check out Gone With The Wynns [.com] – it’s a great blog that will have you jonesing to get your own RV asap! I’m not quite sure they are the most frugal of travelers (their RV is HUGE and way more than I would ever want, but hey, to each their own), but they have a lot of tips and ideas on how to make life in an RV more comfortable, realistic, and fun.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 12:50 am

      Haha. I have not tried to empty a trailer sewage tank, but thanks to your advice, I’ll do what I can to avoid having to do that. And thanks for passing along that link! Can’t wait to read through it.

  • Reply Jenni @ Fitzala April 21, 2014 at 10:46 am

    I love RVs for camping. It’s so nice to have a warm and dry place to sleep instead of a tent with a rock that inevitably pokes your lower back.

    It’s great to have a place to keep things cold, warm things up, and store supplies without lugging it all over and completely filling the back of your truck (or car).

    I would love to have an RV to see all of the national parks that are spread over the US. I wouldn’t love LIVING in an RV though. They are small and cramped and hard to cook in. Your family is on top of each other and who wants to do laundry in a laundromat?

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:04 am

      Amen and amen on your first two paragraphs. And I’m not going to lie, I agree with most of what you’re saying in the third paragraph. It’s certainly not ideal, but if the numbers crunch the way I’d hope they would, I’d rather be cramped and seeing all those national parks than not. But I’m still in dream-and-get-Joanna-onboard phase, so the number crunching will have to wait.

  • Reply Michelle April 21, 2014 at 11:04 am

    We’ve been thinking about renting an RV for a few months. We found some great deals at an RV dealership near us. We would still keep our home as our home base though.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:04 am

      This seems like the sensible option. This is where we’d probably start, too.

  • Reply Miranda April 21, 2014 at 11:05 am

    I see both sides. I think RVs are awesome for vacations and camping. I would actually love to buy a used Airstream and renovate it someday. As far as living in one permanently, I couldn’t do it, but I am in awe of people who can/do. And Joanna is right, I know this from personal experience, RV parks are weird.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:07 am

      Renovating one would be rad, right? And your personal experience comment about the weirdness makes me all the more curious to go try one out for myself now. I’m always down for a little weirdness if it nets an awesome story to tell.

  • Reply Lauren April 21, 2014 at 11:40 am

    This is basically my dream. Can’t wait to get my family out on the road someday, even if the idea of driving an RV is intimidating!

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:08 am

      The only people who should be intimidated are the puny humans in their puny cars around you. 🙂

  • Reply Tara @ Streets Ahead Living April 21, 2014 at 2:06 pm

    I’ve car camped plenty of times in my life so I wouldn’t feel the need for a full-blown RV since gas isn’t great. If you want the convenience of camping but still like having a car when exploring town after setting up camp, I recommend a pop-up camper to tow instead (although you’d need a car that can tow, like a Subaru or a any other 4=wheel drive vehicle). You get better gas mileage but still also have the convenience of an easy-to-set-up sleeper.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:09 am

      This is a very sensible option. And one that Joanna could probably get behind. Thanks for the advice.

  • Reply Nicole April 21, 2014 at 2:56 pm

    I’m Team Camper, but not really Team RV. In a few years, when our kids are a bit older, I would love to buy a camper, but I can’t see myself wanting to do the whole RV thing for months at a time. I have a 4-5 day limit when I
    it comes to camping, pretty sure I’d lose it if I had to spend a month or more in an RV. BUT, I wouldn’t totally dismiss the possibility of renting an RV for a summer when the kids are out of the house…it is a great way to see the country without having to do the hotel/eating out, etc thing the entire time.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:27 am

      I could see cabin fever brewing up fast, especially with little ones. I think we’d have to make pitstops at relatives’ homes and/or the occasional hotel. But maybe that defeats the purpose? Clearly I’m mostly uninformed about life on the road, but a dude can dream. 🙂

  • Reply Kristin April 21, 2014 at 3:01 pm

    There is just no way my man & I could live in an RV full time. He’s a mechanic w/ lots of tools & we’ve got 3 cars (so far) that I just can’t imagine selling or storing for extended periods of time. Plus, since he’s worked on a good amount of RV’s & dealt with all their engine / body problems he would want to buy one. I’d say rent RV’s for the trips you want to take, then head back home & relax 🙂

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:29 am

      Hah. That’s seems like sound advice worth heeding. Especially since I don’t have a mechanic bone in my body.

  • Reply Carla April 21, 2014 at 4:15 pm

    No way! I cleaned rental RV’s for a summer (gross!), and I got a little stir crazy just being in one for work all day. They might seem big and awesome when you’re on the lot, but they get small quickly, especially if you’re toting three kids along. Besides, as much as growing up in a small town drove me crazy, I’m grateful now that I can look back and say, “I’m from there.” Oh, and RV’s are sort of like tossing hundreds in a tank, lighting them on fire and seeing how far you can roll before they burn out. I may not be very good at staying put, but I’m going to stick to places where my couch isn’t built into the floor.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:30 am

      Haha. “Oh, and RV’s are sort of like tossing hundreds in a tank, lighting them on fire and seeing how far you can roll before they burn out.” As good an argument as I’ll probably ever hear.

  • Reply Wade April 21, 2014 at 4:21 pm

    I have learned to be team “both be on the same side”. My wife and I are not often on the same side of issues. Which is ok as it keeps us from making some poor decisions.

    Here is a situation: I say, we should get a dog. If your spouse says “I love that idea” you most likely end up with a dog. It may be good or lots of work of both.

    I often throw out some crazy ideas and some not so crazy ideas. My wife thinks they are all crazy. Let’s move somewhere warmer. No. Can I buy a 1978 Ford pickup. No.

    Let’s downsize our house and work less. No.

    I am certain that I have some bad ideas. Does anyone else have a “no” person with a “yes” person?

    • Reply coolfam April 21, 2014 at 4:29 pm

      My teenage son can be a “no” person. My spouse and I are usually on the same page. If you want to live somewhere warmer, maybe go there on vacation and just casually check out a few houses for sale. If you see a house you might like to downsize to, see if there’s an open house and bring your wife to check it out “just because you’re curious about it”. Sometimes subtlety works!!

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:34 am

      What’s funny is that although this is me playing the “yes” person and Joanna playing the “no” person, I think the roles are typically reversed. She usually has the fun, spontaneous ideas and I’m usually the party pooper. But we see eye-to-eye on enough things that we get along great. But coolfam’s definitely got the answer: subtlety is the gateway drug that turns “no” to “yes”. 🙂

  • Reply Tarynkay April 22, 2014 at 12:17 am

    We have done a lot of camping, but only in tents. So an RV doesn’t sound totally crazy to me. Though I don’t know that I would need to own one. Unless we lived full time in an RV, I guess. We have friends who have ten grown kids. They don’t have as much saved for retirement as they ought. So they told the kids that when they retire, they will be selling their house and buying an RV and parking the RV in each kid’s driveway for a month or so.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:38 am

      Hahah. Coolest (or worst) parents ever!

  • Reply Slinky April 22, 2014 at 3:29 pm

    Definitely no for me. Backpacking, camping, or short term rentals are all cool. I’d love to just go live somewhere for a couple of months and then move somewhere else for a while and so on. I’d also love to go on a long backpacking trip, and camping is always fun. Keep the tent, I’ll bring my hammock and snorkeling gear! But an RV? Blech. Neither my husband nor I are fond of road trips. We’ll just meet you there, thanks!

    Also, things I remember from road trips as a kid:
    It’s hot!
    I’m bored!
    He’s taking up too much room!
    Stop kicking the seat!
    I have to go to the bathroom!
    I’m bored!
    Are we there yet?
    I’m bored!
    This game is stupid! (Every car game ever.)

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:40 am

      Haha. Aren’t those quotes what made those road trips so memorable as kids though? I think I probably hated them, but I look back on them fondly (I think). But you hit the nail on the head — I don’t know if it’s the RV that I really want or just the idea of living a nomadic lifestyle. I’d gladly trade in my RV dream for a life “on the road” through other means like backpacking.

      • Reply Slinky April 29, 2014 at 5:38 pm

        Um…no! Plenty of fond memories of being up north. No fond memories of the road trip to get there or other places. I just remember being stuck in the middle seat (the WORST!) and stuck in a van with the cousins and no air conditioning on an absolutely sweltering day and being bored.

        Sounds like alternative nomadic lifestyles might be more workable for you guys though. A lot cheaper to “try out” too!

  • Reply Sarah Lunt April 22, 2014 at 6:07 pm

    My husband and I have actually discussed the RV idea seriously over the years. We’ve decided to opt for renting an RV for the times when we really want to do a road trip vacation instead of trying to own one. Renting a nice one is kinda pricey for a week or two, but it is much, much cheaper than purchasing one. You also avoid the regular maintenance of owning.
    Another option, if you are set on owning one, is renting it out when it’s not in use to offset the cost of purchasing and maintaining a house on wheels.

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:42 am

      Agreed. We’d definitely go the renting route long before we considered throwing down all that cash on one. And renting out an owned one is a really smart idea. I didn’t even realize that might be an option, but I’m sure there’s a market out there just like Airbnb. Awesome idea.

  • Reply megan April 22, 2014 at 7:01 pm

    I never thought I’d say this but I think I may be a RV person too. The idea of being home while traveling is awesome. Although I do have to agree with your wife… RV parks are a little creepo… haha

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:44 am

      High five on coming around to the idea. I’m a little iffy about the RV parks and RV park people, but man, can you imagine all of the awesome stories?

  • Reply Becky @ RunFunDone April 23, 2014 at 9:49 am

    Team RV all the way! I love camping, and seeing new things and being in nature! I wouldn’t really want a $100,000 RV though – I’d probably go for a VW camperized van or something like that!

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:46 am

      I could totally go for a VW camper and the $10’s of Ks of savings. Too many options. I need an RV/trailer/camper realtor.

  • Reply Quan April 23, 2014 at 11:57 pm

    Hmmmm…. $100,000 for round numbers is 1,000 stays at a $100/night hotel, less gas and a ‘real’ shower. Even better rent an apartment for a few weeks at a time. Mix it up with the occasional camping. Clearly – I’m against the RV idea (don’t worry – my husband loves it).

    • Reply Johnny April 24, 2014 at 1:48 am

      Haha. Touche. There’s no better way to shoot my ideas down than with sound number logic, which you’ve just done. I guess I’ll have to aim lower on my RV price to get that number in the $50-$75/night range. And find one with a real shower. 🙂

  • Reply NZ Muse April 24, 2014 at 7:59 am

    Love it for a trip, wouldn’t live in one. We spent two weeks in one touring the south island which was rad but I think a month would probably be my limit.

    • Reply Johnny April 29, 2014 at 10:17 am

      I’d need to test my limits with a road trip first before deciding to take the plunge. A month might be my breaking point, too.

  • Reply Amy April 27, 2014 at 11:29 pm

    We actually own an RV and do the RV thing all the time. We took a one month road trip with our kids (15&16 years old at the time) 2 years ago from VA to the Grand Canyon, Lake Powell, & Zion National Park & back with several other great stops along the way. We had a great time. We were also able to stop along the way and visit relatives we hadn’t seen in a while. We talk about that trip all the time. My husband & I knew that would probably be the last big trip with our kids before they started working part time jobs & start their own lives. I think I will cherish that trip for a very long time.

    I know my kids enjoyed it too because my son (who is now 18) and I were talking the other day and he was telling me that he wanted to take his girlfriend to see some of the places we have been to because her family never did trips like that & he really wanted to share those things with her. If that doesn’t sell Joanna on the RV idea nothing will : ) (proud momma alert)

    BTW: you don’t have to spend $100,000 on a brand new RV. We bought ours used for $45,000 and have had it for 4 years. It has every modern amenity you can think of including a full size shower, fridge, and a washer/dryer.

    • Reply Johnny April 29, 2014 at 10:26 am

      So great! Thanks for sharing your experiences, Amy. I love that you made the cross-country RV trip with two teenagers. If that’s not a testament that it’s a good option, I don’t know what is. 🙂 You’ve given me some great debate fodder, thanks!

  • Reply Heather April 28, 2014 at 7:08 pm

    How about this? Not live-in able, but it’s only $2500 on Amazon.


    • Reply Johnny April 29, 2014 at 10:27 am

      Super cool. Probably the most practical thing I’ve seen so far.

  • Reply Shawndra July 2, 2014 at 5:09 pm

    I am TeamRV! Plus, you could rent it out on airbnb when you aren’t using it to make extra income. Airbnbers love RVs. Here’s a few examples: https://www.google.com/webhp?sourceid=chrome-instant&ion=1&espv=2&ie=UTF-8#q=airbnb%20rvs

    • Reply Joanna July 9, 2014 at 5:26 pm

      That’s a good idea! Thanks for sharing, Shawndra!

  • Reply Victoria August 18, 2014 at 10:45 am

    I think an RV roadtrip would be cool…..living in one full time as a young adult -not so cool! I don’t know if anyone has mentioned it yet, but have either of you seen the movie RV with Robin Williams in it? It is hilarious and kind of brings out both of your perspectives…the wife and kids want to go to Hawaii for vacation and he wants to take a RV roadtrip because he needs to be somewhere for work and wants to show his kids a vacation spot his dad took him to. I know a few people who are full timers and they often stay at State Parks and USACE campgrounds that run seasonly, spending the summers up north and the winters in the south. To offset the price at national parks, like the ones at Corps lakes you can volunteer at the lake in various ways ( visitor center, trash pickup, tours, etc.) and often get a full summer’s worth of camping with full hookup for free….all it takes is around 10-20 hours a week in volunteer work (maybe less for a discount price). You can also buy something called an America the Beautiful pass that gives discounts on National Park campsites and historic places.

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