Canada’s one-stop resource for snowbirds: snowbirdadvisor.ca. The promise of free and useful information built on a platform for advertising travel-related services targeted at wealthier retired Canadians.
Difficult to get a precise number, although some estimates suggest that over one million Canadian seniors go south to the United States for at least a month or longer. Many will stay three to six months.
Canadians represent the largest international tourist group for the state of Florida. And Canadians are the number one group of international buyers of real estate in Florida. More than half a million Canadians own property in Florida.
Canadians pay cash for U.S. real estate. Very few take out loans.
Canadian snowbirds represent an attractive market for a number of services: insurance, real estate, tax and legal, and destination marketing.
I am a member of the snowbirdadvisor.ca website and I receive regular updates from them. They had recently published an article on an introduction to the RV lifestyle for snowbirds.
The Canadian Recreational Vehicle Association has noticed that retirees are choosing RVs over rental or ownership options when wintering in the United States. There has been a big surge over the past decade in the sale of RVs to the mature market. Over 60% of all Canadian RV buyers are first time buyers.
We were first time buyers. We bought our coach three years ago. Many of our Canadian RV friends did the same as they neared retirement.
The article suggests the following reasons for choosing the RV lifestyle in retirement:
- Freedom to travel to different destinations each year, or multiple destinations in a single season
- Ability to leave and return whenever you want
- Flexibility of schedules and planning
- Very relaxed lifestyle
- Your home away from home and your own things are with you all the way
- Affordability – compared with airline trips, hotels, rentals and vacation home ownership
- Enjoy the outdoor and camping lifestyle, but with all the comforts of home
- You can use your RV for summer trips too – or as a cottage
I’d challenge the affordability reason. Yes, if you spend a few thousand on an old travel trailer and boondock for free, your costs will be quite low. For most, the RV lifestyle is just as costly when compared to airline trips, hotels, rentals and vacation home ownership. You have to buy the RV, insure it, fuel it, service it, store it, park it and, when all is said and done, it would be far less costly to rent a condo south for the winter.
The article raised a number of questions. These are my thoughts on those questions.
What types of RVs are most popular for snowbirds?
Travel trailers. They represent the largest number of RV shipments in the industry. Fifth wheels would be the most popular for Canadian snowbirds. We see a significantly lower number of Canadian Class A motorhomes in our travels.
Should you rent an RV before you buy?
No. You should research carefully and thoroughly before you buy. We spent considerable time looking at all of the options, manufacturers, and floor plans. Even then we did not buy the perfect coach. They don’t make one yet.
Should you buy a new or used RV?
Used. The depreciation hit is so significant for Canadians that it is really unwise to buy new. We bought new and we have learned a rather expensive lesson. Next time we will buy used.
How much does an RV cost in Canada?
More than it should. Our government insists on impoverishing its citizens through its policies on taxation and devaluing the Canadian dollar. Roughly 90 percent of all RVs sold in Canada are made in the United States. We pay a premium due to our devalued currency and, of course, we pay taxes on the total purchase cost. The cost of an RV might vary between a few thousand for something quite basic to a few million for a luxury Class A. The question isn’t how much an RV might cost. The question is how much are you prepared to spend on an RV?
What are the other costs associated with the RV lifestyle?
More than you might think. As part of our research we looked into all of the following costs: fuel, park fees, RV insurance, travel insurance, currency exchange, maintenance, storage, extended warranty, coach improvements and accessories, roadside assistance, RV clubs and memberships, entertainment (satellite TV and satellite radio), Internet (cellular and WiFi), tow vehicle and accessories (tow bar, supplementary braking system), license fees, toll fees. Those incremental costs can really add up.
Do you need a special driver’s license for an RV?
Possibly. Rules vary by province and by class of RV. In Ontario, the laws governing license class are based primarily on weight. Our coach exceeds 11,000 kgs and we are required to hold a commercial driver’s license. Our coach has an air brake system and we are required to have a special endorsement for the air brake system on our license.
What are the most popular RV winter destinations?
Snowbirds on the eastern side of Canada tend to go to Florida. Snowbirds on the western side of Canada tend to go to California and Arizona. Last winter we travelled both sides. This winter we will stay in Florida.
We love the RV lifestyle and we wouldn’t change our decision embrace the RV lifestyle. Retirement is freedom and we are loving our time in retirement and living out of our RV.