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After a winter storm, the beach was littered with debris and driftwood. (WA)

We have winter camped in the Pacific Northwest and dealt with wind, snow and ice storms… but we never thought we would have to prepare ourselves for winter camping in Florida. With fluctuating  temperatures this season, we have had to watch for signs of excess moisture which can lead to mold and mildew.

Each closet and storage area has a Damp-Rid (http://www.damprid.com) container which is checked (drained and refilled, if needed) every two weeks. We have talked with other RVers who prefer to not have a “spill-able” container (lower half of the container collects water, while the top half or basket contains Damp-Rid flakes) and they prefer other methods, such as placing charcoal briquettes in a shallow pan or bowl.

Some folks prefer to use a dehumidifier. We don’t use one as we have heard so many stories against – from “sweating walls” to the chore of emptying it every day and even finding the space to place one.

If you find yourself with a moisture problem, you should evaluate your storage areas. Boxes draw moisture and eliminating those by placing items in sealed plastic containers or SpaceBags® (https://www.spacebag.com) will help. Also make sure your storage areas are not too crowded to allow some air flow. Inside storage closets that contain clothes or paperwork should be left cracked open while you are settled in an area.

Check around your windows for moisture. And if you have a roll of silver sunshade shoved into each window, you should keep an eye on those for mildew, especially around the edges.

Watch your humidity inside and either run your air condition when you can or crack open a window or vent to keep the humidity low.

If you are prepared for it, you can keep moisture under control before anything develops to “dampen” your winter camping experience.

After the winter "Southern Storm" that went through the SE states. (FL)

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I received a rather amusing email from a Full-Timing friend who has been workamping for several years. Her main grip was “everyone wants to be a vagabond now!”

Lately everywhere you turn there is an article popping up either online, in the print newspaper or even on the TV news, regarding living the RV or caretaker life. The reporters interview a few of us “houseless” folks and then manage to piece a story together on how their faithful readers or viewers can just give up everything and “live free” too.

These pieces promise that you too can be a vagabond. Honestly, I’ve been finding it rather amusing! 😉

One article I read said that there was no need to buy a new RV because they depreciate like cars. Okay, that is true… but did she mention that most campgrounds and RV resorts require newer models? Most places want workampers who have models no older than 8 to 10 years. I have heard of places even saying six years or newer. So before you rush out and buy that 1980s Trek motorhome that the guy “down the road” has for sale in his mother-in-law’s barn, you better do your homework on what types of workamping jobs you hope to get and what most employers require.

Another article I read said that this lifestyle was only for retirees.  Hmm… I’m not retired (or even close to it for another 30+ years!) and several of our Full-Timing and/or workamping friends are either too young to retiree or still have families of their own (who live the lifestyle with them). There is a growing number of younger folks and families who live this way and get along quite nicely. So don’t rule it out Full-Timing or workamping if you are younger than 65.

This same piece mentioned that the jobs were rather easy and required no effort. Well… I would love to drag this writer to a campground or RV resort and put them to work for a day. Yes, it takes no skill to handle 100+ check-ins on a Friday night during the summer or on a holiday. (Insert me rolling my eyes here!) Or how about cleaning several bathouses a day and operating a Kiavac machine. No skill? No effort? Okay, well then how about mowing several acres of lawn around a hundred RVs in 90 degree temps? No sweat! Yes, there are some easier jobs out there, but in outdoor hospitality – anything goes! So even a light Camp Host position may find you having to haul firewood, clean restrooms or help evacuate the campground during an emergency.

I could go on and on, as there have been so many “be a vagabond” stories lately. With recent economic changes and many people struggling to keep their home or in need of a new career, these articles and news casts offer hope and freedom. Don’t get me wrong, it can and it does for many, but before you make that leap you should do some research and speak to those who have (or are on) that road!

Everyone may want to be a vagabond, but not just anyone can be a vagabond and be happy with it.

VW Rally VA 2009

 

VW Rally VA 2009Okay, you see one on the highway and you can’t take your eyes off it… but image a campground-resort filled with VWs! Rather interesting to see, especially those with larger families. Luckily the invention of EZ-Up tents makes VW bus living a little more livable on the outside. 🙂

After getting off to a rainy start to the weekend, the skies have cleared and temperature is in the high 80s. Folks are enjoying the river, the swim lake, the pool and the water slide and spray area. Everyone is donned in tie-dye clothing (or bikinis!) and just enjoying the weather and activities.

VW Rally VA 2009

In fact, the outdoors is calling me now… so what am I doing online? 😉 Time for me to soak up some sun and enjoy this beautiful spring day in Virginia.

VW Rally VA 2009

It’s a beautiful Sunday in Texas and we thought we would sit outside in our lawn chairs and read. A few of our fellow Full-Timers came over and started up a conversation that went from books to favorite flavors of ICEEs. Just a relaxing Sunday…so we thought.

We had been talking a few minutes when a woman walked up to the group and said, “How long are you folks staying?” We all replied a few more weeks. The woman said mumbled something about it must be nice to be on vacation that long, when one of the group members explained we were Full-Timers.

Now, imagine our surprise when she said, “Oh, well you’re trash from where I come from.” Then she walked away with disgust.

We were absolutely shocked. We all watched her walk away. No one said a thing. In fact, the only thing you could hear at the time was our jaws dropping.

Personally I thought that it was a joke. I looked around for cameras – surely someone was filming a hidden-camera show and we were the next skit? No, no cameras. The woman was for real.

She knew nothing about any of us, yet she blatantly called us trash. No, excuse me, she said we were trash.

I’m not a confrontational person, but this was rather upsetting to me that someone would make such a bold judgment and not even allow a response. I was curious and decided to see where this woman was from.

I saw her several sites down by a fifth-wheel – she was sitting on a lawn chair and drinking a can of soda. I never said anything to her but glanced at the pickup truck beside the rig and saw it had Texas license plates and several Austin stickers on the tailgate.

The group was still gathered near our site and several other Full-Timers had emerged to listen to the tale of the hit-and-run trash-talker.

I mentioned what I saw and one person said, “Oh, well, if they’re from Austin, that explains it.”

Well, I don’t quite understand what that means and find myself not really caring. I mean, why should I fall into the stereotype trap as this trash-talker?

As a Full-Timer I feel that we are a benefit to society. We bring money to local communities. From buying local produce and eating at local restaurants to visiting local attractions and attending local events – Full-timers are adding revenue to each area they visit.

They also help promote communities – they either tell other travelers or share their photos and stories online about the areas attractions and help increase tourism.

When staying in an area for an extended stay, many Full-Timers contribute to the community by volunteering their time or donating money or goods to local charities. I personally have over 350 hours of volunteer time – from the State of Florida to the State of Washington.

We are big on community. People in stick-houses go years (or decades) without knowing their neighbors. Full-Timers know their neighbors, be it for a day, a week or a year. We are there for our neighbors – we don’t ask for anything out of it. It’s just something we do to help our fellow RVers.

Full-Timers may not have stick-houses, but we do pay taxes. From Federal taxes to local sales taxes to toll road fees, we are paying our share to help keep the country running.

You will find that most Full-Timers are in support of parks and environmental-related causes. We help maintain our national and state parks by purchasing annual park passes and volunteering at them.  We contribute to eco-charities and causes and encourage others to do the same. Many of us pay fees or buy permits to hike, camp or fish areas – with the money going back into preserving these areas.

We have much smaller carbon footprints than those in stick-homes. Yes, we may put more mileage on, but we also take better care of our vehicles. Most Full-Timers are aware of their vehicles needs and constantly make sure they run as efficiently as possible. Those of us who need trucks to tow our fifth-wheels and travel trailers have newer diesels that run on bio-fuels. Those who have tow vehicles (“toads”) for their motorhomes or motorcoaches have hybrids or vehicles with a better gas mileage than standard vehicles.

Full-Timers live by the code – recycle, reduce, reuse. We recycle everything we can because if we can’t recycle it back into society it’s trash. We don’t like trash! Rarely will you see a Full-Timer with more than a tiny bag of trash. Reducing is automatic for us. Needless packaging and extra “stuff” is just a waste of space and energy to us. And we reuse like you wouldn’t believe! If we can’t reuse it ourselves, we’ll find a good home for it (often sharing it with other RVers or passing it on to a local charity).

Chevy Silverado

Chevy Silverado

We also buy American-made RVs and vehicles. Drive through any campground and you’ll see the overwhelming majority of fifth-wheels and travel trailers are being towed by GMCs, Chevys and Ford trucks. Toads vary, but favorites include Saturns, Jeeps and hybrids. We take great pride in our rigs and you can usually spot a Full-Timer by the blinding glare of polish on their RV. (Currently ours has 3 coats!)

And then there are those Full-Timers who rebuild or renovate RVs. These conversions are the ultimate in recycling, reducing and reusing! These folks use their know-how to take an older RV or bus and convert into something amazing. They buy local products and use local services to achieve their custom dream.

This is just a few of the many ways Full-Timers benefit American society. You can talk-trash me, but I really don’t care. I’m proud to be a Full-Time RVer!

Right now with the scary economic situation, many folks are looking into becoming RVers. The RV lifestyle is a cheaper way to live, yet there things to keep in mind before making that lifestyle leap.

Even if a Full-Timer doesn’t own a stick-house, doesn’t mean they don’t have monthly payments to make on their rig and/or tow vehicles, as well as credit cards, food and medical expenses and any other regular bills. Even used RVs can cost more than the average house. And unlike thirty-year mortgages  for stick-houses, you can usually only extend your payment to ten years on a RV.

Campgrounds or RV resorts vary in monthly or annual rates – some can be as low as $150 a month (in Texas, if you’re curious!) and exceed $2800 a month (Key West). Keep in mind this is just “rent” you pay to park your RV. It should include sewer, water, garbage service and electricity. However, electricity may be metered – so you may find yourself with a monthly electric bill. Extra amenities, such as Cable TV or SAT TV, WiFi and park activities are usually free, but many parks are now charging modest fees for monthly and annual stays. Always check into this before committing to a particular campground or RV resort.

And don’t forget you need fuel and propane. Right now the prices on both are going down, but that is always subject to change and does vary area-to-area. We paid $5.29 for diesel leaving California and are now paying $1.89 for it in Texas. Big difference! Propane in Washington was $3.50 and in Texas we have been paying $2.20. So it makes budgeting difficult.

Yet you can save money while RVing or living the RV lifestyle! The most popular is to be a Camp Host or work at a campground or RV resort to get a free (or reduced) site space and utilities. Often these positions come with additional perks, such as free Cable TV, WiFi, discounted propane, laundry allowances and even pay. This alone can say you hundreds to thousands of dollars each month and basically give you free living.

If you find a camp hosting position that provides discounted propane or provides a propane allowance (meaning you are allowed so many free fill-ups per month), then that helps reduce propane costs. Another way to save on propane is to shop around. Some campgrounds provide propane services and often this may be more expensive than traveling a few miles into town. If you have a motorhome and rely on a propane truck to come into the campground to fill your tanks, you should consider getting a spare that you can take elsewhere to refill until you can drive your motorhome to propane dealer. For example, our motorhome neighbors who have to rely on the propane truck are paying $3.50 for propane and we take our tanks into town (6 miles) and pay only $2.20.

Another thing to mention is if you are not paying for monthly electricity and have everything on propane (hot water heater, refrigerator, furnace) then you should switch it to electricity to save your propane. If your not in an extremely cold climate, consider getting a ceramic heater to help reduce use of the furnace. If you are paying for monthly electricity usage, then you may want to do the opposite and switch them over to propane. It depends on what it is costing you in the long run. Do the math and see which is best for your situation.

You can save money on fuel several ways. First and foremost – pay cash! Most fuel stops are now charging for credit card purchases. It may be faster to put your credit card in to pay, but if you’re barely making your credit card payment… the interest is going to increase your fuel costs even more… so keep this in mind when you pay at the pump. Secondly, consider joining frequent fuel-er programs. Many are worth the saving involved. Most larger truck stops and travel centers have some sort of program. And often there are additional perks to these programs. For instance, Flying J has a frequent fuel-er program, but if you upgrade to the RV card you also get a discount on propane! And the more you fuel up, the more savings you get. Some programs include other services, such as store purchases and restaurant visits. Nothing beats a fuel stop than the clerk telling you that you have a free pizza owed to you or you just saved $15 with your card! And if you are planning to make a long haul through remote regions, consider purchasing a few fuel cans. When you arrive at a place with cheaper fuel, fill them up. This way when you travel and see the insane “only gas station for 300 miles” prices, you can toot your horn and keep driving by.  Even if you aren’t making a long trip, filling up your extra tanks before prices rise (especially at the holidays) can save you a few extra dollars. Just make sure your extra tanks are secure and if visible, have some sort of chain-lock through them. If your rig or tow vehicles don’t have locking gas caps, you should look into that as well. While parked in the campground you can save money on fuel by car-pooling with a camping neighbor. This sort of arrangement is always appreciated and can be alternated between neighbors. If you’re close to town consider using local transportation, such as a shuttle or bus service or ride your bike.

Camping supplies can be costly, especially if you buy them from a camping store. Shop around! For instance, those quick-flick lighters RVers love to ignite their gas stoves can cost $5 in a camping supply store, $3 at Wal-mart and only $1 at the Dollar Tree. It’s pretty much the same thing – may not be the designer color you want – but still fits the same purchase. If there is something camping-related you need – such as a folding bike or lounge chairs – check your campground bulletin board. Often RVers upgrade (or downsize) and have items to sell or even giveaway. If you need some sort of part for your rig – contact your RV dealer and see if you are still under warranty. You would be surprised how many people forget that certain items are guaranteed longer. If not, ask the dealer about a customer discount. Sometimes they will take a percentage off your bill for purchasing a RV through their dealership. They recognize your patronage and want to keep you as a customer.

Campground pecans - free food!

Campground pecans - free food!

Food expenses have been a recent concern for folks as fuel prices have fluctuated. Many campgrounds offer coupon exchange areas (usually located in the laundry areas). Don’t be too proud to use coupons! And if  you have extra, share them with your fellow Campers. If you belong to a wholesale or discount club, make sure you really are getting a deal. Sometimes you’ll find that they are actually higher on bulk items. If bulk is a better deal, but you have no extra space, consider going in with a neighbor on the deal! Most Full-Time RVers belong to either Costco or SAM’s Club and love sharing deals with other Campers. And sharing a meal or having a weekly potluck with your camping neighbors is a great way to help cut food costs.

Also, take advantage of local farmer’s markets and flea markets. If you are getting ready to move on, stock up on the local fare. While in Washington we bought twenty pounds of potatoes for only $2. Before we moved on, we made sure we had plenty. Our next stop we found that twenty pounds potatoes would cost us $6. When we left California, we made sure we had plenty of citrus and olives on hand. Before our next move we will have about five pounds of Texas pecans (free for the picking here in the campground) ready to go with us.

Living the RV life can be more affordable if you keep your eyes on the road ahead and wisely manage (and limit) your expenses.

 

Most Full-Timers are friendly folks and will assist their camping neighbors anyway they can. Sometimes it is something simple, like helping them back-in their rig or helping them put up a stubborn awning. Yet sometimes it can be more involved.

The other day we found ourselves in an all-day situation. The neighbors were frantic – their black water (sewage) tank was full to the neck of their toilet despite having their tank open and directly connected to the sewer.

Their motor home is new and our first thought was a similar problem we had with our new fifth-wheel. A piece of circular plastic from the tank (we assume from where they drilled one of the openings) was wedged at the opening of the tank that releases into the sewer hose. Several attempts at auto-flush and a couple reverse-flushes managed to clear out the plastic piece. We actually retrieved the plastic piece and sent it to Forest River to let them know about the problem we had, in hopes they would check tanks for this prior to installation.

RV sewer hoseIf only that would have been the problem…

Now our neighbors are not only newbie Full-Timers, but also newbies to the world of RVs. We found they had no extra hosing and no other tank accessories that are pretty crucial for Full-Timers. We loaned them all we could and tried all the tricks we know.

Water pressure at this particular campground is a bit low, making flushing your tanks a pain. You have to really let the water run to keep your sewer hose clean of waste.

I’ll spare you all the crappy details, but after several hours the tank was finally emptied. What filled up their black water tank? They were flushing those thick hand wipes down the toilet!

Now we realize that people flush things down the toilet they shouldn’t, but when you have a RV, you really shouldn’t flush anything that is not biodegradable. In fact, you should use RV toilet paper or a thinner toilet paper that will break down. If you aren’t sure if your favorite brand is okay, grab a piece and place it in a bowl of water. See if it breaks down after a little while. If it doesn’t, then it will lay in your tank if you don’t use enough water to flush it out.

The RV neighbors also didn’t know they needed to treat their tanks and didn’t even know they had an auto-flush system. Needless to say, they were flushed (sorry, can’t help myself!) with embarrassment and are going to dig out their owner’s manual to educate themselves on their RV.

So if you are new RVer, you should take the time to find out about your rig. You don’t want to be caught with a full tank! 😉

We recently went to a RV dealership to pick up some light bulbs ( why is it RV light bulbs all go out at the same time? ) and decided to look at some of the newer models on the lot.

We have a newer fifth-wheel (2007 Cedar Creek Silverback) and are very happy with it. Our next one – we thought – would be smaller, as 38′ and 4-slides is a lot to handle, especially since the majority of campgrounds are designed for smaller rigs.

Our "bear" of a rig!

Our "bear" of a rig!

We were curious about the new layouts and options and began roaming the RV lot. Imagine our surprise when we found (and fell in love with) a newer Cedar Creek – 40′ long with 5-slides! We inquired about the price and were amazed to hear a cut of $25,000 in price. In fact, the salesman told us that the majority of RV dealerships were dramatically slashing prices.

Of course, we aren’t going to rush into anything, especially since we love our current home. But it is a good time to buy if you are in the market for a RV! However, watch the extended warranty.

Yesterday, the Campers beside us went to take in their 2008 motorhome for its yearly service (part of the extended warranty). They got up early, packed up their stuff for the journey to the service center and waited for their appointment. They were rather shocked when they found out their warranty was “no good”.

A paperwork typo – one number – caused the problem. Unfortunately by the time the error got straightened out, the service center was closing. Now they have to reschedule for another time and make another trip into the city. All because they of a typo in the  VIN number.

If you are in the market for a RV, it is a good time to make a deal. Just make sure to double check your warranty paperwork and verify information, including the VIN number.

I have been noticing  a number of RVer forums and billboards with flaming posts about digital conversion. Some folks are even saying that it will not bother RVers because all campgrounds have Cable TV (this is not true) or that RV TVs are already equipped for this (again, not necessarily true). This is an issue for everyone who has older TVs and those without additional services, such as Cable or Satellite, and does indeed effect many RVers.

What is Digital TV?

Digital TV involves advanced broadcasting technology that will allow broadcasting stations to offer better sound and picture quality, as well as multicasting ability. Multicasting means the bit stream can be split offering more than one channel. That’s a mouthful, but basically it means a broadcaster can offer more channels.

I have an older TV that I refuse to part with (it has a built in DVD player that I love) and I had to purchase a digital converter box as most of the campgrounds we stay at are not located in areas with Cable TV. I currently pick up a San Antonio channel on box channel 5.1. Multicasting has allowed the broadcasters to turn 5.2 into a local weather channel. Another example is I get a local religious channel on 23.1. The following channel 23.2 is a religious children’s channel. After that, channel 23.3 and 23.4 are religious movie and educational channels. Instead of one channel “23”, I get four channels from this broadcaster. The same with the Spanish channels (one for news, one for Soaps, one for movies). Now this is on our regular RV TV antenna, plus my digital converter box. This is not Cable TV! Right now I get twenty-six channels on my TV with the digital converter box. Before I hooked up the digital converter box, I only received four local (analog) channels at this campground!

There are a few different types of Digital TV, but the most common is Standard, Enhanced and High Definition (HDTV). My converter box is just a SDTV (Standard). It’s not the best quality of the bunch, but quite honestly, I can’t tell the difference between my SDTV and our HDTV!

More information on this can be found at http://www.dtv.gov/index.html.

Digital Converter Box and Antennas

For RVers with newer TVs, you don’t have to do anything. Your TV should be ready for digital. Dig out your owner’s manual or flip through your TV menu and see what options you have. Some TVs are simple, some may involve some reading. Our living room TV (that came with the fifth-wheel) is a flat-screen HDTVand is rather intimidating. It has us digging out the manual just to autoscan channels!

If you are like me and dragged your old TV into your RV, then you will need a converter box. This is no different than hooking up a VCR and if you follow the steps in the manual, you should be watching Digital TV in a matter of minutes.

I was amazed at the features my little Magnavox converter has! I now am able to display a TV guide, digital closed caption and a handful of other great options. Since the digital transition is still taking place, some channels are not operating at full strength, so I do have to autoscan for channels every few days. I’ve picked up a couple more since I hooked up the converter. And as you would  every time you move to another campground, you will have to run autoscan to pick up local channels.

Most converters are running $40 to $70. I recently saw a pallet full at Wal-Mart for $29. There is a TV Converter Box Coupon Program, but they have run out of coupons. There is a waiting list and with the delay in the switch to DTV, you may have a chance to obtain one. (Go to https://www.dtv2009.gov/ for more information on this coupon program). Even if you do obtain a $40 coupon, you must use it within ninety days of receiving it and you must pay all taxes on the box. I bought mine in California and with local and state taxes it was  almost $9 (out-of-pocket) for a $40 converter box with the $40 coupon.

You need a converter box for each TV. So if you have two TVs in your RV and both of them are not DTV-ready, you will need two boxes. If you get involved with the coupon program, you are allowed two coupons ($40 for each) and that can help reduce the cost.

If most of the campgrounds you stay at do have Cable TV or SATV, then you may not want to worry about. You can still hookup your TV to a VCR, DVD player or use it for gaming. If you have reliable internet access, you can watch most of your favorite shows online. Several sites, like Hulu ( www.hulu.com ) post TV shows several days after the show’s original airdate. Some networks, like Fox, post them the next day on their own website. I often watch TV (and movies) online and prefer the lack or reduced frequency of commercials!

RV antennas are not the greatest, but again, if you stay at campgrounds outside major areas, you should still be able to pick up major networks. We have been touring Eastern Texas the past three months and have been fortunate to be near larger cities (San Antonio, Austin and Houston) and haven’t had problems picking up digital signals. I still get channels without the converter on, but boy, the picture is so much prettier on digital! Now snow or lines with the digital converter box. I can see Judge Judy as plain as day! 😉

If you are a RVer and have an older TV or are not staying at a campground with Cable TV or SATV, then you will be without TV reception after the digital transition takes place. Hooking up a digital converter box only takes a few minutes and will transform your snowy analog channels into clear digital ones.

 

Once you start looking at recreational vehicles you will feel overwhelmed. There are way too many choices out there! And the prices are just as varied as the RVs.

If you are going to become a Full-Time RVer and give up the stick-house, then price may not be a concern. But if you owe a great deal on your home or rent, you may not have the money to put into your new home-on-wheels. Payments on used RVs are much lower than newer ones.

Used recreational vehicles are good starters. Most RVers live by the “trading up” rule – always hoping to upgrade to something bigger and better in a few years. Although, with recent fuel increases and more people (even us homeless nomads!) trying to downsize, many RVers are discussing downsizing their Big Rigs for something smaller – even truck campers and pop-ups!

With a used RV, you can get quite a discount, especially on a really nice Class A or motorcoach. The only problem with this is, you’ll have a great investment, yet some campgrounds are really starting to buckle down on the rig-age. By that I mean, many “RV resorts” consider rigs 10-15 years old “old”. They want modern rigs, not quite frankly, those funky-looking 60s trailers. Nothing wrong with older rigs, many (esp. GMCs!) are in really great condition and most have been rebuilt and remodeled by their current owners. It is just that certain parks want to maintain that “new” image. Another thing to consider is that parks that do not mention this in their Park Rules, may still have a “we have to right to refuse any guest” policy. A quick look out the window toward your older RV may cause the “no vacancy” sign to go up.

Discrimination? Well, I say the same thing when we pass a 55+ Park! If they are private campgrounds or parks they are allowed to have their own rules – even silly ones. If they don’t want older RVs and you have one, you wouldn’t want to be there anyway, right? It would just be a miserably place to live as the people are hung-up about age!

But don’t let an older used RV discourage you. The majority of campgrounds don’t care what age your RV is. Age isn’t always a factor though. Many campgrounds will not allow “homemade” campers. Now you’re scratching your head at this… ever see a school-bus turned into a camper? They don’t want stuff like that. Some of those homemade campers are really neat, but under the circumstances, I wouldn’t want to be camped by one either as too much can go wrong. I would feel safer with a camper that had been under inspection at a factory and manufactured by people who knew what they were doing. A homemade camper make look great – but I don’t know that the thing won’t catch on fire or blow up! So you can’t blame campgrounds for not wanting homemades or “conversions” as they are sometimes called. So keep this in mind when you are shopping for a used RV.

Another thing to keep in mind is the overall structure. If it is a private seller – why are they selling? Has there been damage? Was it in an accident? How has it been stored? Like stick-houses, moisture and mildew can be nightmares in a RV. Find out what the reasons for selling are. Are there blemishes or blistering in the outside finish? Any noticeable dents or scratches? Don’t be afraid to climb the ladder rack and look at the roof. Roof damage is not something you want! Check the flooring in all the outside compartments. Has the thing been flooded? You joke – but if you’ve ever had a water pipe break in a camper (I did!) and have it flood (3 inches!), you’ll understand that your carpeting is slowly rotting away even if you got it dried-out quickly!

And don’t be afraid to drive a RV dealer nuts with questions as well! Make them earn their commission and seek out the answers you want. Also let them know that you aren’t afraid to open cabinets or compartments. Shop around as this is a “home” purchase!

Another thing to ask is how far has the camper traveled? Does it have a lot of mileage (if a motorhome)? If it has had engine repair, who work on it? When? What was the problem? Do they have paperwork on it? If you don’t know anything about engines and you are looking at a motorhome, motorcoach or van – definitely seek out your trusted mechanic or a friend who knows about these things. When your home is on wheels and it is the main “wheels”, if it requires repairs in a shop – you have to live in a hotel or some other accommodations while it is being fixed! So if it starts up and a puff of smoke comes out – don’t reach for your wallet just yet! Repair bills on larger motorhomes can be major wallet drainers. And don’t forget the tires, brakes and other essentials.

The refrigerator is another major expense. If not properly stored a closed refrigerator can smell for decades! So check it and if dealing with a private seller, ask to come back when the refrigerator and freezer is plugged in. You can usually tell by the shelving and drawers whether it has had much use. Same with the stove, oven and microwave. Many recreational campers (1-2 weeks a year) never use their camper oven. It’s a shame really as there is nothing better than a little turkey or even a birthday cake from a camper oven! You’ll be able to see signs of use. The microwave will undoubtedly be the most used item. If it is a combo oven/microwave, make sure this works as they can be expensive to replace.

Look around every faucet, vent and “hole” (where pipes and wires come through) for signs of water or other damage. Sometimes you can see repair work you wouldn’t have noticed if you didn’t look for the signs.

Hot water heaters can be fixed, but can set you back some money, especially if you are on the road when you realize it doesn’t work. Make sure they demonstrate everything for you. If they won’t – find another dealer or seller.

The air-condition unit and furnace are other costly repair items. Again, make sure these things work. If they can’t demonstrate the furnace (or stove/oven) because they have no propane – then tell them you’ll come back when they get some!

If the camper has an awning, make sure you see it pulled down. Notice if it is difficult putting up or down and if there is too much slack when they put it up. Also note if there are any holes in it as new awnings generally run $1000 and up.

Where is the fuse box? Is it easy to get to our do you have to crawl in a closet? What about the holding tanks? Do the tank sensors work? If the camper has been in storage and there is sewer odor… well, I guess I don’t need to tell you about that!

Older RVs, especially ones in storage, may not have the newer propane valves… stations won’t service older tanks! New tanks range from $40 on up depending on the size. So see if the propane tanks meet current standards. Most RVs have two propane tanks. If there is only one, question that!

I am not trying to stop you from buying a used RV, I just want you to be aware that you’ll rarely find one that was “only driven on Sundays by a sweet old grandma”. Some RVs get a lot of wear and are wore out well before you come along. If this is going to be your home, even for a short-while, don’t cheat yourself with never-ending repair bills or part replacements.

If you are dealing with a private seller and you don’t have the proper tow equipment for a fifth-wheel or travel trailer then you will have to figure how much extra you will end up paying elsewhere. Fifth-wheels and travel trailers require special hitches and brake controllers and in the case of trailers, sway bars. If the private seller doesn’t have these to include in the deal, that’s more money out of your pocket. And you will have to have the fifth-wheel hitch installed by a professional – as well as the brake controller, unless your pickup truck has a built-in tow-package.

If you purchase used through a RV dealer, they will often throw in the hitches (and even brake controller) free just to get a sale. If not, at least try to get a discount or package deal out of them on these items.

If you are a non-smoker and looking at a smokers (or just plain smelly) RV, there are ways to take care of that, but it will cost you unless you do all the work yourself. But it is possible to get that new-camper-smell again.

Notice the coloring of the seat cushions, carpet and drapes. Has the camper been opened up to the sun? Is there discoloration? Is the fabric on the stages of rotting? Are the seat cushions so wore they will need re-upholstered? Cause if you plan to leave in it full-time, you will have to have it replaced or purchase some sort of covering for it.

Dealers who offer warranties on used RVs are ones you should keep in mind. Things go wrong with RVs – new and used. As I have mentioned before – no matter what a dealer tells you – they are not made to live in year-round. So be prepared to have some issue – whether it be blowing out a fuse cause you didn’t understand the whole 30-amp speech the dealer gave you or your TV antenna crank breaks in your hand. Something will happen – just like it does in a stick-house.

A used RV can be a good thing, especially for the money involved. But be aware that cheap is not always a good thing. If it looks too good to be true, it most likely is!

IN MY SITES: A Campground Mystery (Book #4)

In My Sites
In My Sites
A Campground Mystery
By HS Cooper
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DYING TO WORK CAMP (Book #3)

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THE PROPANE GAME (Book #2)

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A ‘CLASS A’ STASH (Book #1)

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