Five years ago, I had a crazy idea – I wanted to live in an RV, traveling the country while working. Three years ago, I decided to actually do it.
One does not simply buy an RV. But, the search has to start somewhere. 16 months ago, I started the hunt for my own adventure-mobile. I wanted something nice, something that didn’t need any work. I didn’t have time to fix one up.
Hint: I didn’t get this one.
I started looking at brand new trailers and RVs. I quickly realized those were outside my budget, unless I planned to run a very lucrative drug ring out of one. Not really my thing. So, I started looking at slightly used models.
That’s when I learned that RV owners and dealers are proud people. As with anything used, a “pre-owned” RV is worth what people are willing to pay for it. Or, it’s worth what a person will go to their grave asking for it. Hint, it’s usually the later.
And thus began my search through no-man’s land in the RV world – The adolescent-aged motorhome. Old enough to probably have some engine failure lurking, but not old enough to be cool. Complete with “Floral Turd Pattern” upholstery throughout.
These rigs were closer to my price range. I looked for months. I looked in nearly every state in the US. If I had ten dollars for every owner who lied about severe water damage only for me to find it upon basic inspection, I’d be able to afford a newer RV.
Owner honesty is just one challenge of shopping for a used RV. Everyone and their hipster poodle wants to buy a used RV to make pretty and stick in a tiny home community. This was a new development I had failed to foresee. I had no idea I would be competing with others to fulfill my dirtbag dreams.
Every promising listing I found was sold within a day. I spent 20 hours a week staying on top of listings and making plans to go see them the same day. Still, no luck.
I’d have to go older and more gritty. That would be easier to find, I thought. Nobody wants a 25 year old RV, right? Not everyone doing this knows how to work on vehicles, so I have an advantage there.
Shit, no. I spent a few more months chasing down listings. I lost several RV deals trying to get a reasonable price, fending off the trend-chasers who would gladly pay too much.
RVs aren’t worth much at that age. They do get cheaper, but now they are not as cheap as they should be. When you buy something this old, you’re taking a chance. And you’re really just choosing to place some extra money in the repairs fund rather than spending it now. It will be spent, make no mistake.
After driving to Houston to see yet another misrepresented RV, I was losing hope. I didn’t think I’d ever find one. I stopped at a coffee shop to pull up the listings that had come online during my wasted morning.
There it was, posted just 15 minutes earlier. It was old as shit, and it looked like the Winnebago from the movie Spaceballs. I had to have it. It was priced reasonably, so I called the owner.
He didn’t answer, but sent me a text. Two other people were already coming to look at it that afternoon.
ME: What time?
Him: 4 o’clock and 5 o’clock
ME: It’s 11, I’ll be there by 3, with cash.
That meetup deserves a story of its own, so I won’t go into detail. But four days later, I drove that RV back home with signed paperwork. I parked it in front of my house, and took a moment to channel my inner Uncle Eddie. “That there’s an R.V., Clark.”
What Kind of RV Does One Buy on a Budget?
“Old RVs, although slow and dangerous behind the wheel, can still serve a purpose.”
It’s a 24 foot Holiday Rambler AlumaLite XL. It’s a self-contained motorhome built in 1987. It is nearly as old as me, and has almost as many problems. No…it has more problems. Hopefully I can finish fixing those problems sometime before I’m just another old dude with an RV.
Initially I wanted something with less dust, fewer leaks, and an owner’s manual printed by something more modern than a dot-matrix. But, things don’t always go according to plan. I improvised, and I’m happy I pulled the trigger.
Where will you go in that there Recreational Vehicle?
It depends. I have a big line drawn that goes all around the US. There are fishing destinations near every stop. A lot of my stops are public land like national forest, national parks, and BLM land.
The actual route will vary based on weather and data service availability. It will vary most heavily based on when I get this beast fixed up and moving.
It also includes stops to see friends, family, and likeminded people. If you want to be on that list, let me know. If you want to join me for a leg, hop aboard. Murr-Dog has right of refusal for anyone, but he’s easy to please, so I’m sure you’ll be approved.
A hard negotiator, he’ll collect rent in head scratches, payable upon waking daily.
Is Your Dog Going With You in the RV?
Everyone who knows Murray has asked this. Of course he’s going! He accounts for at least 95% of the reasons I chose a fully contained motorhome. I love camping in my 4Runner, but Murray doesn’t get to go on long trips because he’s big and likes to get dirty. He couldn’t be left in trailer while I’m on the road, either. So, he’ll either be riding shotgun next to me or in his bed behind me while I drive. I can’t wait to see his reactions at every new camp site we roll up to. He’ll think he died and went to heaven!