Sunday, November 11, 2012

Live in an RV after Retirement

In the early 1970's, my husband and I spent six months traveling through nearly every state in Mexico, as well as across the Southern United States, in a VW Westfalia Camper similar to the one shown here.  We were young, spontaneous and not very worried about needing a lot of luxuries.  Things have changed since that time.  Today, I would need something much larger and more comfortable if I were going to spend months, or years, living in an RV.

During our trip, we met many retirees who had made an RV their permanent residence.  Some of them maintained small apartments in the United States where they could live when they returned home.  Others, like us, had put their belongings into storage during their travels.  I'm sure there were at least a few people who had sold everything and were carrying what they had left in their RV.  As a result of meeting these fellow travelers on the road, as well as our own experiences, we learned a lot about the advantages and disadvantages of life in an RV.

Are You Ready to Leave Your Friends and Family Behind?

Today it is much easier to communicate with your loved ones while you travel.  Most modern day vagabonds have laptop computers and cell phones, both unheard of when we were traveling in the 1970's.  However, even with though it is easier to stay in touch, it is not the same as being able to have coffee with your neighbor or lunch with your grandkids.

If you aren't absolutely sure you want to live in a motor home for a long period of time, you may choose to rent an RV for a few months and try out the lifestyle for a while before you sell your home, buy an RV and go on the road.

Can You Afford the Cost of Living in an RV?

Many people assume that living in a motor home is cheaper than living in a traditional home.  However, this is not always true.  First of all, a basic RV starts at about $20,000 and prices go up from there.  In order to avoid overpaying for your motor home, you can check out the value of used RV's through Kelly Blue Book and other online pricing guides, just as you would when purchasing a car.

In addition to paying for your vehicle, you will also need to pay a daily fee to stay in a a campground or RV park.  According to the website,, the daily fee at an RV park ranges from about $15 to $50 a day, with the majority charging about $30 to $40 a day.  If you do a lot of driving, your fuel costs can be astronomical.  From time to time you will also have repair and maintenance costs.  At $30 a day, you will pay a minimum $900 a month to park, plus the cost of fuel when you travel between locations.

In addition, you may be paying for an apartment back home, or a couple of hundred dollars a month to store your belongings.  Don't forget the normal expenses you will have, no matter where you live.  These include items such as health insurance, medical costs, motor vehicle insurance, groceries, life insurance, and any other debts and bills you have to pay.

Depending on your other expenses, the size of your RV payments, and the amount of driving you do, it is feasible that a couple could live and travel in an RV if they have an income of $3000 to $4000 a month.  This is well within the reach of many people on Social Security.  You will need to carefully consider your own budget to see if your income will cover the RV lifestyle you have in mind.

Can You and Your Spouse Get Along in a Small Space?

After my husband and I traveled in our Westfalia Camper for six months, we frequently said we knew that our marriage would last.  If we could get along as well as we did in such a small space, we were convinced that we could live anywhere.  After 43 years of marriage, that seems to have been true.

However, people need to be willing to adjust to the loss of space.  You will not have a garage, large walk-in closets, an attic or a basement.  There is very little room to store things that you do not absolutely have to have.  You also will not have a lot of privacy.

How is Your Health?

This is a serious question to consider before you move into an RV.  Remember that you will not have a regular physician.  There may be times while you are on the road that you could be a long way from emergency medical facilities.  If you have serious medical problems, you should discuss them with your current doctor before deciding if traveling around the US is a wise decision.

The Advantages of Living in an RV

Hopefully, I have not discouraged you from giving this lifestyle a chance.  My own parents lived in a fifth-wheeler for three years after my father retired.  While they now live in a retirement community in Florida, they look back fondly on their days of traveling around the country.

The older couples we met when we were traveling in Mexico in the 1970's all seemed to enjoy their lifestyle, too.  Living in an RV is relaxing. There is no yardwork to do, and the motor homes are small enough that very little housekeeping is necessary.  Many of the RV parks have a wide variety of amenities, including swimming pools, lakes, game rooms, and club houses.  Some of them are located on beaches or in fascinating state and national parks.

Living in an RV gives you the opportunity to travel around and see distant friends and relatives.  You can also go to out-of-the-way attractions and feel that you have plenty of time to take tours and really enjoy each place you stay.

Finally, I have never met someone who regretted the experience. Although I am sure that there must be some people who have taken off in an RV and hated it, all the RVers I have known have been excited to tell everyone they meet about all the wonderful experiences they had on the road.  Of course, most people also have at least one disaster story to tell, too, such as the time they got a flat tire in an inconvenient location, or had a complete breakdown on the way to visit a family member.  However, they usually are laughing about the experience once they have put it behind him.  In general, people on the road do not have the stress of time constraints, and they are able to change their plans easily, when they have to.

Of course, living in an RV is just one of the choices open to people after retirement.  If you are looking for more retirement information, use the tabs or pull down menu at the top of this article to find links to hundreds of additional articles on where to retire, common medical issues, changing family relationships, financial planning and more.

While you are trying to decide what you want to do, you may also enjoy reading these blog posts:

The Best Sunny Places to Retire
Best Places to Retire Outside the US
Do You Need a Million Dollars to Retire?
Cheap Places to Retire
Finding Niche Retirement Communities
Retiring Former Hippies Spark a New Generation Gap

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Photo of VW Westfalia Camper courtesy of 


  1. I love the idea of being a "gypsy" and traveling around the country. I know many seniors would do well with the circumstances. If I could fit my craft room in an RV, I might consider it! Thanks for a sensible look at the subject.

  2. Dear Deborah-Diane,

    I'm wandering around the internet looking at RVing articles. I know nothing about RVs and have never been inside one, but... so far... you've written the most balanced, reasonable, concise, and interesting article. And, I'm fairly critical, as I'm a writer myself (Actually, I consider myself to be an artist with a typewriter.) More importantly, I'm a former "hippie," so I can relate to your early 1970s experience. And, you're the kind of person to which I can relate. Cool.
    Tina Boomerina

  3. Thank you, Tina Boomerina, for your comments on this article. I'm glad you enjoyed it. You sound like the type of former hippie that I would relate you, as well!

  4. Plan for a reasonable amount to purchase your motorhome, and include taxes as well as all of the other charges inherent in vehicle purchases class a diesel pusher


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