That Time We Bought a New Home for $6,000

Minnie

No, we’re not moving to Detroit, we bought a motorhome.

Motorhome

It followed me home, can I keep it?

Why? Well there’s a saying, “dress for the job you want”. Granted, the phrase was probably coined by someone trying to sell you clothes, but perhaps there’s merit to the thought. So, since we want to retire soon, we’re working on looking the part. As part of the retiree makeover, we bought an RV, a 1992 Winnebago Minnie Winnie to be specific. It’s a 24 ft Class C motorhome, has 31,000 miles, and cost $6,000, if you like numbers.

Minnie, as we’re calling her (creative aren’t we?), is sitting in our driveway (just barely, she’s a big girl, despite the name), while we get her ready to travel and live in full-time. We think there won’t be too much work to be done. The engine has no problems (or so it seemed during our test drive and clueless examination), and the interior is very clean and well maintained, if slightly dated (it’s almost as if only old people buy RV’s.. is the early thirties retiree market not big enough?). We can live with the aesthetics as long as it is comfortable and functional, and we’ll be focusing on organization, storage, and figuring out the best way to bring along all our toys (bikes, kayaks, etc.). At the same time, we’ll also be doing things like finishing up work, moving out of our house, and other trivial stuff like that.

GoodNewsRVSo good news everyone: we aren’t going to be homeless, we’ll be living out of a motorhome?

Our plan is to hit the road and keep going until we get bored or broke (or something else shiny catches our attention). We’ll first be making our way to the old country, for an extended stay visiting friends and family. After that, we’ll head back south looking for a new place to call home, unless we’ve decided by then that we like being nomadic and don’t yet need a new home-base, in which case, who knows? In short, in a few months we’re going to be jobless and homeless, without a definite plan, and will be living out of a 25 year old vehicle. I think I need to work a bit more on how I phrase that…

This has fallen into place quickly, and we’re a little surprised ourselves, excited, looking forward to the new adventure, and scared and anxious all at the same time. If we turn out to not like RV’ing or something else doesn’t work out, we’ll sell the RV and be done with it. In the worst case, we get the scrap value and call it a day, we’d only be out the cost of a couple of months of mortgage/rent payments, and then we get to figure out what we’d like to do next instead. Low overhead and flexibility are key!

About Minnie

What does $6,000 get you in the used RV market? A lot: Minnie is 24 feet long, 8 feet wide, sleeps 6+, and is, strangely enough, considered on the small side for a motorhome…

There’s a queen sized sleeping area in the loft above the cabin, a random club chair for some reason, a dinette that converts to more sleeping if needed, a full kitchen (even a kitchen sink…), bathroom with shower stall and toilet, separate vanity area in which to pretty our selves up featuring another sink, and a double bed in the back completes the setup. I think we will be plenty comfortable.

Where-in I try to impress you with my diagramming skills

Where-in I try to impress you with my diagramming skills

Left: From kitchen, looking forward at professional driver Right: View looking back from loft bed above cabin

Left: From kitchen, looking forward at cabin with professional driver
Right: View looking back from loft bed above cabin, dog gazing serenely out window

Clockwise: Kitchen, Rear Bed, Vanity, Bathroom

Clockwise: Kitchen, Rear Bed, Vanity, Bathroom

Minnie has a stove, oven, fridge & freezer that run on propane. There’s a dedicated battery to run the water pump and lights, which the previous owner quite nicely upgraded to LED lights throughout. If we’re plugged in or running the generator (which we hope to avoid) we’ll have regular 120 V AC power to run any appliances we bring along and also the built in air conditioner and microwave; we may try to augment with solar, time willing.

As far as downsides, mileage is a big one: 10 MPG if we’re lucky. That will be incentive to drive less, drive slower, and spend more time parked enjoying the sights instead of moving from place to place. The size of the RV will also be a problem depending on where we want to go. Even though we clock in on the “smaller” side, we’ve already found at least one destination we would be over-sized (limited to 20 ft). We were initially looking for something smaller because of these concerns, but for the price, this seemed like a good compromise between size and space/storage for living out of full time.

Dogs getting comfortable. The dinette converts into yet another bed if needed.

Dogs getting comfortable. The dinette converts into yet another bed if needed.

How We Ended Up Buying an RV

If you hadn’t already guessed, buying an RV wasn’t a long premeditated decision. In fact, it all started with a random encounter during a walk.

We knew we would be moving, and have at least one cross-country drive ahead of us. We were also playing with the idea of being a bit nomadic, bouncing between short term rentals and hotels until we found a new place to hang our hats. One day, while walking the dogs, I came across a camper van parked on the street with a for sale sign. That got the gears turning, and since then we have been idly looking at a variety of RV’s on Craigslist including trailers, camper-vans, and different kinds of motorhomes. We learned a few things along the way:

  1. Used motorhomes are really cheap! Presumably, there are reasons to buy one brand new, the only one I can think of is that you like being able to hear the sound of depreciation as you stand next to it.
  2. Even “small” motorhomes are really big. People will tell you our 24 ft Winnebago Minnie is “small”: it’s not, it’s gigantic.
  3. Trailers are interesting, but to find one that is tow-able by a normal sized luxury car, you have to go “retro”, and you pay a premium for retro.
  4. Campervans / Class-B RVs are reasonably sized and don’t have a lot of disadvantages of their larger cousins, however there are fewer of them available on the used market, and thus they seem to  end up being comparatively more expensive.

I have some guesses about why used large motorhomes are so cheap on the secondary market: they are big, unwieldy, and a pain to store. In our case, even after measuring two or three times to verify that Minnie would fit on the driveway, we got it home to find out that it didn’t quite work out: I measured the width of the driveway correctly, but forgot to account for how tall she is, and the fact that roof juts out over the driveway…

You don’t have to look at used motorhomes for too long to find someone who obviously needs to get rid of it because they are in financial straits and finally realizes paying storage for an RV they never use is not a good idea. Similarly, you come across quite a few people who were “gifted” RVs from elderly relatives and are subsequently left with the white elephant. Even if you don’t end up buying from one of these cases, the glut of motorhomes that people don’t use puts downward pressure on prices overall.

The only reason we think that a large motorhome makes sense for us right now is because we are more than happy to sell her whenever we are finished with her. Buying used and then selling seems like a great way of renting from Craigslist, and we avoid all the storage issues (except on our driveway).

Minnie’s previous owner was not one of the hard luck cases thankfully. She used to belong to a nice retired couple who had loved and cared for her, and were looking to move onto something bigger. When we found her, it seemed like a good fit for our purposes, at a great price, and we were very comfortable with the sellers, so we jumped on it.

And now, the open road awaits..

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12 Responses

  1. Congrats! $6k is less than most people pay for a car and you bought a home with it! Can’t wait to hear more about the plans/journey.

    • The MC says:

      Will let you know. I think we have some work and planning ahead of us. I was really surprised by how cheap, and relatively low mileage used RVs are. I think it goes to the fact that when people can buy something “cheap” on financing, they will, but it doesn’t mean they will use it 🙂

  2. Wow, you guys, big news! We are definitely contemplating a small class C like the one you guys bought ( hoping for a little smaller, actually) but haven’t envisioned that as a full-time dwelling. But will be curious to know your review of living in the space after you’ve spent more time in it. So please update us! Also, does this mean that you’re selling your luxury car??? Also also, does this mean that you’re actually retiring now? Or is this more of a fluid thing, and you’ll see how it goes and whether it makes sense to go back to work?

    • And PS, I think the reason that people look at newer models or even brand-new ones has a lot to do with gas mileage, efficiency of the appliances inside and safety features like airbags and better seatbelts that you get in post-2000 RVs. (At least that’s true for us!) 😉 But you certainly pay a premium for all of that, so kudos to you guys for finding a pretty amazing deal.

      • PPS Come visit us!! (Okay, I’m done.) 😉

      • The MC says:

        Will be curious to see what you’ve been looking at. Have you consider a “B+”? I think that might be a decent size, but we didn’t come across any. I’m wondering if newer models do get more efficient, of if manufacturers use the improved engine technology to just make things bigger and more luxurious for the same MPG.
        If I have time, I might write up a bit more about what we found during our search, but we also were in a weird spot where it was slightly convenient not to have airbags in the front, because of the carseat. Carseats and RVs are a weird combination, but I think the short answer is that they don’t really mix…

    • The MC says:

      Fluid is a good way of putting it, I was going to use the term “sabbatical” since we haven’t quite reached our original target number yet. We will see what happens. We both have work commitments through the fall, it coincides with when we have to be out of our house by. The plan is to be done working after that, for whatever amount of time works (including indefinitely). I’m currently enjoying work, so if they made the right offer, I’d consider working a bit more, it would have to be a very good offer though. I’m flexible.

      We’re probably selling the car. There’s a chance we’d keep it tow behind the RV, but I don’t think we need to, also, it would be more complicated since we have an automatic transmission on the car.

  3. zeejaythorne says:

    What will you do for your official address during this time? This is a thing that worries me about a nomadic life, but I am far away from that being a thing I should worry about.

    • The MC says:

      That’s something we’ll have to figure out, but there are options. We’ll probably either use a mail forwarding service, or a relatives address. Somewhat will depend on what we decide to do about healthcare (different can of worms), and what that necessitates.

  4. Great post! This trip is going to be AMAZING! If you’re coming through Asheville, NC be sure to let us know!

    Also, see if you can make it through Southern Utah (the Canyons will blow your mind).

    When we bought our 4Runner in San Francisco last year for our trip down to Costa Rica, we registered it in Reno, NV with a mail forwarding address (we’ve been using TravelingMailbox and have no complaints). With this strategy, you become residents of Nevada and have no state income tax while you RV around the country.

    Also, if you can handle the occasional night without electricity, I recommend sleeping/camping at State Rest Stops. They’re amazing, free, secure, generally have private picnic tables for camping, and good washroom amenities. You may need to park on the “trucker” side of the parking lot, so ear plugs may be needed.

    Congratulations, I look forward to following your journey!

    • The MC says:

      Thanks Travis. Southern Utah is part of the plan, and we can find an excuse to visit Asheville ?

      We’re looking forward to some nights off grid, West of the Rockies BLM should have some good options. We might have to be more creative on the East Coast.

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