Connecticut Money: The RV retirement dream: A reality check

This article was posted in the New Haven register on September 25, 2020.

A cherished dream of many Americans is to buy an RV after they retire and roll on down the highway. Most retain their home and hit the road when the spirit moves them, while others make travel a permanent lifestyle.

If you have thought about buying an RV, or recreational vehicle, there are cons to consider alongside the better-known pros.

RVs include self-contained motorhomes and towables, or motorless units pulled by a truck or van. Sales hit a four-decade high in July, with the RV Industry Association (RVIA) reporting 43,053 RV shipments.

Sales have spiked during the coronavirus pandemic as people young and old seek to enjoy a vacation in a more controlled environment. But sales already had been hitting records for a decade, hitting a high of 504,600 in 2017 after increasing every year since 2009, which saw just 165,700 shipments, according to the RVIA.

About 11 million U.S. households now own an RV, and about 1 million live in their RV year-round. People choose to buy RVs for the ability to travel the Americas without plane fares, to see new places such as national parks and remain in a home atmosphere rather than a hotel to meet new people such as in campgrounds, and to see the scenery on the way to a destination.

According to the RVIA, RV vacations are more affordable than travel by car, airline or cruise ships. A family of four can save up to 62 percent by traveling in an RV, even after considering RV ownership costs, the association says.

Prices for RVs range from $6,000 for truck campers to $60,000-$500,000 for Type A motorhomes, RVIA says. Here are some potential downsides to consider before buying an RV:

Fuel costs. Mileage costs vary according to size and type of RV. In general, motorhomes get anywhere from 7-18 MPG. Depending on the number of miles you plan to drive, this can become a major expense.

Insurance and maintenance costs. Large motorhomes generally require liability insurance and can trigger additional add-ons, depending on what state you live in. Motorhomes also require maintenance beyond oil changes, tires and engines, as you also have to maintain water tanks, waste systems and appliances.

Depreciation costs. RVs do not carry the investment allure of houses, which may appreciate in value, and in fact motorhomes depreciate rapidly. While depreciation rates vary by type, J.D. Power estimates the buyer of a new Type A motorhome will lose about 30 percent of the RV’s value in the first three years. Buying a used RV can lower this cost.

There are also non-financial issues to consider: Are you and your spouse comfortable in close quarters? Are you concerned about finding in-network health-care providers while on the road? Are you comfortable driving very long distances? Are you fit enough to monitor water and sewage tanks and empty your own waste tank?

If you’re tempted by the RV lifestyle but unsure about the commitment, consider renting an RV and taking a test trip or two. Happy RVing!