My House Has Wheels has kind of a split personality. In one way we’re all about talking about how much fun RV living really is. And, let me assure you, it’s a blast. When you were a kid maybe you imagined that it would be totally awesome to live in a campground. Well, you were right, it is totally awesome to live in a campground and it’s every bit as much fun as you imagined when you were young.
Over the years My House Has Wheels also gotten pulled into the broader discussion of affordable housing. That subject is kind of a downer but it’s also true that, for many people, RV living represents an affordable alternative to traditional housing. Those people are not living in a camper because it’s fun, they’re living in a camper because they can’t afford anything else. I met an unfortunate number of people in that situation when we were on the road. That was my first real clue about how badly our housing market was letting us down.
Let’s face it, our current housing market is messed up. Back in 2014 Bob Sullivan pointed out that America was house poor and it’s only gotten worse since then. It’s not abnormal for a lot of people to see 40 percent of their combined disposable income going to a mortgage payment. That crippling economic reality hasn’t always been the norm. Housing costs continue to climb while wages stay relatively stagnant. The housing market we find ourselves in today was an evolutionary process and has evolved to where costs are shutting younger and older Americans out of the market.
It’s probably lucky for a lot of people that RV living is an option and it’s a good one. I went through PPLmotorhomes.com used travel trailer listings I found several models that would be good for one or two people and all were under $12,000, including one toy hauler that makes it easy to rearrange your internal space. Shop around a bit and you could find a livable camper for a lot less. People unload them all the time. The heaviest I looked at was 6,400 pounds (that’s curb weight, not loaded) which means most 1/2 ton pickups and even a couple SUVs can tow that much. That means you won’t need a separate local vehicle when you’re parked.
You need a car anyway, so for about a third of what a down payment on a house would set you back, you could get an entirely decent camper that would be livable for five or six years, at which time you can trade it or buy another one. During that time you can live at campgrounds, RV parks and BLM land and just generally have a blast. You can move around from place to place as the wind blows or, if you find a place you like, stick around as long as the park will let you hang around. Think of it as an apartment on wheels. That’s the very low end of RV living, most people enjoy a more comfortable rig and camping experience.
For about half the price of a car, or less, you can have a dry roof over your head and a decent place to live. For $300 to $500 a month you can live in varying degrees of luxury, depending on what amenities you find important. We tended to stay at parks that offered a pool, security, bathhouses and laundry facilities. You can park anywhere you have water and electricity, though you’ll have to move regularly to empty your septic tank at a dump station.
It is sad that many people are living in campers basically because otherwise they’re homeless. That’s no good for either society or people adopting the RV lifestyle because it’s footloose and fun. Something has to give in our dysfunctional housing market. RV and camper living should be a fun and voluntary alternative, not an act of desperation.