Mobile living is easy but that doesn’t mean the decision process is simple. There are a myriad of decisions that go into choosing your path when it comes to living on the road. Each one of those decision points can lock you into major purchases, so it’s a good idea to think it through.
One great thing about mobile living is that you’re never “stuck” in one place. But you might be stuck with an RV coach that’s too big or too expensive if you don’t cover the basics.
Travel or Alternative Housing
The first decision point is whether your primary motivation is escaping traditional housing or if you’re adopting a mobile lifestyle primarily for travel. There are people who spend their entire “mobile” existence in one or two RV parks. My wife and I would spend a year here and a year there when we were on the road. My philosophy is that you really can’t understand a place living somewhere for just a few weeks. Once we figured out a place wasn’t for us, we could start planning our next exploration.
If you’re primary interest is travel and you’re planning frequent trips, that changes a lot of how you shape your lifestyle. The weight of your vehicle becomes an issue, especially if you plan on visiting state and national parks, which tend to have narrow roads, older facilities, and smaller campsites. Lighter means smaller, smaller means you have less room, less gear, less of everything. Smaller and lighter also means you have more choices about where to visit.
Another angle to frequent travel is making sure you can get parts and service for your tow vehicle or RV anywhere in the country.
Permanent or Temporary
A lot of people use mobile living in RVs, campers, and vans as bridge housing. Some people live in their van or camper a few months out of the year to travel and save on rent. Renting for six months instead of year-round can save a lot of money. Others are using their camper or RV to get from one job to the next or as temporary housing when buying, selling, or building a home.
For making a long-term home on the road you’ll make much different choices than you will for a temporary place to live. While you might be able live in a spam can for six months, you’ll want more room in a place you intend to occupy for years. Construction quality also matters. You might not spend $80,000 on a vehicle you spend the summer in but that’s a down payment on an RV or camper you intend to stay in for years.
Cost vs Comfort
A van conversion is the low-cost option. You can get an older model van or work truck for less than $5,000 and, if you do the conversion yourself, that’s a cheap place to live. Vandwellers usually use the fitness club for showers and spend the rest of their time at the office. No matter how good the conversion, a van just isn’t that comfortable. Stepping up to a camper truck combination is going to be considerably more expensive. Now you have licensing, insurance, and maintenance of the tow vehicle, plus licensing and maintenance of your camper.
Every time you add space, every new convenience, and the price tag of both the tow vehicle and camper or RV goes up. At some point you’ll step up to a Class A, the most expensive class of RV available. Then your RV will be towing your car and that’s a huge amount of metal moving down the road. And you’ve spent as much as most houses cost to buy all that metal. Maintenance costs will be painful. Class A’s are actually more expensive to maintain that most houses because your house doesn’t have a 400 hp diesel engine.
As you can see, the mobile lifestyle offers a bewildering menu of choices. If you start with a few basic guidelines, it helps to match your mobility choices with your preferred lifestyle.