I suspect the biggest serious question we’ll hear from our friends (“Are you nuts?” is not a serious question) is “Why?”
Well, why not?
As I mentioned previously, we’ll save over $36,000 a year that we currently spend on our house. That includes the mortgage ($26,794), property taxes ($5,544), utilities ($4,272) and costs like pumping the septic tank and maintaining the lawnmower and snowblower. See, there’s one advantage right off the bat: no more lawncare. Granted, I only mowed about twice this year since some of the kids are old enough to run the tractor and push mower. But that’s a couple of hours a week that we can use for other things.
I’ll admit that property taxes irk me and my wife to no end. I usually get taxed on goods when I buy them, and I don’t really have a problem with that. I do have a problem paying a tax every year on something I own. Can you imagine the uproar if we had to pay a tax on our computers, dishwashers, or refrigerators every year? I know some states charge an annual tax on motor vehicles, but Ohio doesn’t yet, although I don’t understand why it costs me $158 every year to re-register the same two vans and motorcycle. Shouldn’t the renewal rates be cheaper since I don’t need a new plate every year? It’s been said by some real estate tax protesters that you don’t really own your property, since you pay taxes every year, and you’ll lose your property if you don’t pay your taxes. But I haven’t come up with a reasonable alternative to funding government services yet, other than downsizing the government, and I really don’t see that happening any time soon, especially in Ohio.
So part of the decision is obviously financial. In fact, that’s the primary aspect of the decision. Everything else seems to support or be supported by the money side of it. We want our kids to see as much of our country as we can show them, and it’s expensive to transport nine people. I flew to Seattle at the end of September to visit my brother. My ticket was $218. Take that for nine people, and you’re looking at just under $2,000, and that’s just to get us out there. Then you have to add in lodging and food. Figure about $800 per week for an average room in an average hotel, if we can find a place that will let us use just one room. Most don’t. Without spending a large chunk of change for a suite with cooking capability, we’ll have to eat out three meals a day. There’s at least $75 a day, and McDonald’s gets old pretty quick. My rental car was a Chevy HHR; for five days I spent $285. We need 9 seats to carry us all, which means a large van or SUV. Those run $750+ per week at most rental companies, if you can find a 9-seat vehicle. I would guess we’d spend over $5,000 for a weeklong trip to Seattle to visit and sight-see, and that’s just getting there and getting around and getting a place to stay.
Now let’s look at that from a different angle. What if we carried our lodging with us? That hotel expense gets cut dramatically. We can stay at some RV parks for less than $150 per week. Having cooking capability means we can prepare our own meals much more economically. Most RV parks have the same amenities as hotels: cable TV, internet access, pool. Many have kid-friendly activities available as well. Suddenly, that whole idea of being in an RV doesn’t sound quite so crazy, does it?
I had a friend ask me “How is this more practical than just renting?” Renting ties us into a lease for a certain period of time, and forces us to stay somewhere we may discover we don’t like. If we decide we don’t like the campground we’re staying at, it’s pretty easy to pick up and leave. Plus, we’re in a position to buy the rig outright, so there won’t be ongoing rent/mortgage payments, although we’ll still pay site fees in some cases. We’re going to look for places that let us stay for free, by working at the campgrounds, either as office staff, or camp hosts. Amazon hires a lot of FTRV families for seasonal work at their warehouses, and your campsite is part of your compensation package. Basically we’re going to be reducing our expenses a lot, to the point that a short-term $10/hour job can actually cover most of our living expenses. Utilities are usually included in campsite fees, so that’s not going to be an issue.
Fuel? Yes, we’ll be spending more on fuel. Our rig has a GVWR of over 14,000 pounds, which means we need a 1 ½ ton truck to haul it, and diesel fuel is more expensive than gasoline. But you can’t figure fuel costs from Columbus to Seattle, because we could be anywhere in the country when we decide to go visit my brother. Maybe we’ll be in Texas, visiting other relatives. Maybe we’ll be checking out Little Big Horn. Maybe we’re making the trip anyway to take in some of the learning activities available at Seattle’s fine museums, and we’d be there anyway.
That’s one of the benefits of this lifestyle. We’ll be opening our homeschooling up in a big way. Why just read about the Battle of Gettysburg when we can go to a nearby RV park and spend a couple of weeks there, walking the city and the battlefield at our leisure? We can watch the movie, then step out of the RV and go recreate some of the scenes we just saw. Maybe one summer we’ll do a Civil War tour. Having the RV gives us that flexibility.
From our research, we’ve learned that the families that make this decision do it for the money, and do it for the family. Everything we’ve read tells us that families on the road end up closer and stronger. That cannot be a bad thing.