Lorraine and I met quite a few couples at the RV SuperShow last week in Tampa, many of them looking to buy their first coach to hit the road full-time in retirement.
Our first coach is closing in on the four-year mark and we have been full-timing for almost two years now. Here are a few things I wish I had known before making the transition to full-time RVing.
Don’t buy a new coach. Buy a gently used coach.
There is a significant depreciation cost in the first few years of ownership, easily into the hundreds of thousands if you buy into a mid-level or higher model of diesel pusher. We have met a surprisingly large number of people that decide the lifestyle is not for them after only a short period of time, often less than a year, and they sell their lightly used coach at a steep discount. We should have purchased one of their coaches and avoided the steep depreciation expense.
Bigger is better.
We constantly fight with our basement bays. We have a 40-foot diesel pusher. The bays are not as tall as the larger coaches and the storage space is more limited. I am generally going in and out of the basement bays on a daily basis. The bays are difficult to access and I am constantly playing Tetris with the things that we carry in our bay. The extra 4 to 5 feet of length of a bigger coach may not seem like much, but it is significant.
Canada is not like the United States.
It is far more difficult to full-time in a motorcoach in Canada. The weather makes it challenging to find a decent spot to park the coach in the shoulder months (April and November). There isn’t a single Class A Motorcoach resort in Canada. Most RV parks fall into the rustic category, not much more than a dirt field.
The lifestyle is expensive.
We spend more on the RV lifestyle in our coach than we did in our sticks and bricks house. When we factor in all of the various costs (fuel, insurance, maintenance, site fees) it is more expensive than we first thought. We spend at a level that we can afford but it is not any cheaper than how we were living beforehand.
There is always something going wrong.
We knew that the RV lifestyle would bring its own set of challenges. What we did not fully appreciate is just how many things do go wrong with a coach. Most of our issues have fallen into the minor category but the ownership experience is quite different from that of owning a house or a car. You have to learn as much as you can about the various systems and you need to be mechanically inclined. Either that or be prepared to spend a lot of money on RV repairs.
Dealers are not great at servicing.
If we were to buy new again, we would not worry about where we bought the coach. We would bid the configuration out to a number of dealers, get the best price and ensure that we included the factory delivery option. We would take our coach to the factory and/or to the chassis manufacturer for service. We would only use dealer servicing as a last resort.
The RV community is amazing.
We were initially a bit concerned about community. Would we make new friends? Would we have a sense of feeling at home? Would we tire of moving around? So far it has been a wonderful experience. We have experienced tremendous community and we have connected with so many terrific people in our travels.
Minimalism is rewarding.
We have everything we need inside our coach. We do not miss the house or the pile of stuff that we had collected over the past 40 years of marriage. It is hard to describe, but there is something liberating about not carrying around so much stuff.
No need to rush.
If nothing else, I wish I had known to take my time before we started out on the road. I have always been so driven in my career that I seemed to be in a constant state of rushing to achieve something in life. There are slow days in retirement and I have to remind myself that it is okay to spend time just chatting with friends or enjoying a long walk with Lorraine and Tabby (our golden retriever) or sitting outside enjoying the sun and reading a book. In fact, it is okay to take two weeks to drive down to Florida from Ontario. Or a month. Or two.
Life in our coach is so much better than I expected.
Decades of being an executive in large corporations taught me to live in a state of constant worry. To always be thinking about what might go wrong and how to plan accordingly. I carried that worry with me into this lifestyle. It has turned out to be so much better than I expected. Lorraine and Tabby have been patiently teaching me how to be content with life. And that is perhaps the best thing to know before going out on the road. You bring yourself into any context or situation. As we age, we need to be in the moment and we need to be optimistic. There will always be challenges in life. Being able to spend this time together in our beautiful coach enjoying wonderful friendships and experiences is such a blessing.