The RV Lifestyle: Fear, Uncertainty, Doubt

Something is always broken. This from a post that I came across on the Newmar Dutch Star Owners Facebook group:

For the last month, my wife and I have been planning our new RV life. We found a 2016 DS 4369 that was just what we wanted. There were a few things that needed repairs, nothing major, and the dealer agreed to take care of them and make sure we were ready to go. Being new and never having owned an RV before and just entering retirement we wanted to learn everything we could before heading out on our own. It has been a little over a month since we decided on the DS and while waiting for the repairs to be completed I have watched every Youtube video I can find and joined every online group related to Newmar and diesel pushers that I can find. Sadly, the more I watched and read the more concerned I became. It seems that something is always broken and that every dealer is poor at best. Almost to the man, everything I read is negative about the quality of the motorhomes no matter what brand or how much you pay. I realize that most posts will be about problems but there is no shortage of problems and no stories about being happy with the quality and reliability of the product. After postponing the closing twice because the repairs were not completed, I finally decided to walk away, thinking that if this is as good as it gets, when we are all alone broken down on the side of the road it won’t be the adventure we were hoping for. Not asking for anything just offering a perspective from a Newbee’s point of view.

We have owned our coach for over three years now. We have experienced many issues with the coach. You can read about some of them here. Aside from the random deployment of a Girard awning while the coach was in motion — that issue stranded us for almost six weeks — we have travelled extensively around North America without a breakdown on the side of the road. But it could happen. That’s just the way it is.

We love our coach and we love the RV lifestyle however the RV industry is nowhere near the automotive industry in terms of quality and reliability. My view is that there will always be issues with our coach. The only question is whether an issue is highly disruptive or merely inconvenient.

Aside from the awning issue, our problems have been minor and inconvenient.

We come across people that buy into the lifestyle without doing the research. They make a significant purchase of a motorhome only to walk away after a few months because of mechanical issues. Or they get angry and frustrated because they do not expect to have any issues with their motorhome and that anger and frustration distorts the wonderful adventures that most enjoy while being on the road.

The poster walked away from the deal out of fear. Fear that something could go wrong. That the RV lifestyle would be difficult.

This quote, from The Road Less Traveled, is relevant:

Life is difficult. This is a great truth, one of the greatest truths. It is a great truth because once we truly see this truth, we transcend it. Once we truly know that life is difficult – once we truly understand and accept it – then life is no longer difficult. Because once it is accepted, the fact that life is difficult no longer matters.

Regrets? I’ve Had A Few

13 Reasons You’ll Regret an RV in Retirement. Someone passed this over to me. And I clicked on the link. Perhaps you did as well.

Let me save you some time. Here are the 13 reasons.

  1. They are expensive
  2. They require upgrades
  3. They depreciate
  4. They are costly to fuel
  5. They have to be insured
  6. They require you to have extra health insurance
  7. They require you to manage your sewage waste
  8. They offer tight living quarters
  9. They are not easy to drive
  10. They are not easy to park
  11. They are expensive to repair
  12. They don’t have a lot of storage space
  13. They can make you isolated from people

Quite the list and certainly people should think carefully about the implications of embracing any type of major change in their retirement years.

Some retirees long to travel the world in a sailboat. I suspect the same 13 regrets would apply.

Some retirees long to relocate to a new country. At least a few of those 13 regrets would apply.

Some retirees stay planted in their hut. And a few of those 13 regrets would apply.

Regret is a negative emotional state that involves blaming ourselves for a bad outcome, feeling a sense of loss or sorrow at what might have been or wishing we could undo a previous choice that we made.

In other words, regret is a state of mind.

A colleague of mine had retired and passed away only a few months later after coming down with pancreatic cancer. He prepared his own memorial service before his death and he used a familiar song to make a point:

I’ve lived a life that’s full
I’ve traveled each and every highway
But more, much more than this
I did it my way.

Regrets, I’ve had a few
But then again, too few to mention
I did what I had to do
And saw it through without exemption.

I planned each charted course
Each careful step along the byway
And more, much more than this
I did it my way.

Embrace your dream, whatever that might be and make it your own.

No regrets. Especially in retirement. The clock is ticking. Death is not that far away now.

It could be an RV, a sailboat, or a log cabin in the wilderness. Whatever it is, no regrets.

And, if you do have regrets, make a change before the clock winds down.

It is up to you.

No Hut

Two years without a hut. We still get puzzled looks from some people when we let them know that we are currently home free. Home ownership is so deeply embedded in the Canadian culture that it almost goes without saying that, in Canada, a house is a wonderful investment. We always looked at housing as a place to live. Whenever I took the time to include all of the costs associated with owning a house, we never experienced a compelling return. Our houses did appreciate but overall there wasn’t much of a profit to be had when selling. Especially when moving on to the next house.

As we debated our plans for retirement, we knew that owning a house in the country was not what we wanted. What we did know is that we wanted to be south during the harsh Canadian winters. We did not want to own two houses, one in Canada and one in the southern United States. We wanted the freedom to move around.

That was part of our reason to buy a coach. We could have a wonderful condo on wheels for our travels stateside and downsize into a smaller property somewhere in Canada.

But then we asked ourselves why would we buy a house in Canada in our early retirement years if we were only going to live in it for, at best, 2 or 3 months of the year? Could we live out of our coach year round?

The short answer is yes, we can and yes, we did.

We do not miss owning a house. We currently rent an apartment. Our youngest son lives in it. And, after whatever period of time, when we decide to come off the road, we will find someplace nice for the latter part of our retirement.

We do not know what that looks like just yet. We will tackle that transition whenever it comes along.

Two years and I haven’t thought much about the house we sold. A distant memory from a different time.

I did take a look back on some of our photos of the house when I was prepping this post.

It was a nice place. We used it for a period of time and then the house went on to someone else. Eventually every house, like the many other things that we buy in life, will go to someone else.

Except my guitar collection.

Those guitars I will take with me when I leave for heaven.

One Year Ago

One year ago. My last day in the office. My last day in the corporate world. I had spent the past ten years of my career as a Chief Information Officer in the financial services industry. The role was challenging and often quite stressful. Deciding to retire was not easy. Aside from the financial considerations — have we saved enough? will we have enough? — there was also a sense of fear and apprehension. What will happen next? Will we be okay?

One year ago we took the last walk to the office.

A photographer captured that moment as we were approaching the main entrance for the corporate retirement celebration. It all felt a bit unreal. After all, I had been working for most of my adult life and now we had arrived at this point: the end of work.

Lorraine and I have been married just over 40 years now.

The years pass but we have travelled through life together. Always together.

We really had no idea what our future would look like back then.

At the time I wanted to be a musician. Still playing after all these years.

And now, one year into retirement, what does the future look like?

We are living a nomadic lifestyle in our coach. And we are loving it. We are in a new community in Canada. And we are loving it. We will be returning to Florida in a few months. And we love being there.

One year into retirement and we are doing just fine.

I can hardly remember the years spent working. I gave it my best shot and we have finished the stage of life known as work. We finished that stage well.

We are now at the start of the stage of life known as retirement.

Yes, mortality does make itself known at this stage of life. But the gift of time has allowed me to become far more active in my volunteer work in the areas that I am most passionate: music and audio.

Lorraine and I have far more time to build relationships and we have made so many new friends since the start of our retirement.

Retirement one year later has been awesome.

Top Snowbird Tips and News

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.