No, we’re not moving to Detroit, we bought a motorhome.
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.
So 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!
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.
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.
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:
- 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.
- Even “small” motorhomes are really big. People will tell you our 24 ft Winnebago Minnie is “small”: it’s not, it’s gigantic.
- 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.
- 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..