The Importance of Goal Setting
One of the main issues new RV full timers face is that they didn’t take some time to map out what they needed in advance, and are left without it, or left scrambling to try and find it. Goal setting is an important tool you can use in order to achieve the things you want out of life. Remember, goal setting only truly works if you have the desire to create change. If you’re setting goals just to set them, you’re wasting time.
I suggest you write out a list of your goals before getting started. Once you know what you’re trying to get out of the RV lifestyle, you’ll be better equipped to find ways to make it happen. Personally, I set new goals for myself each year. These goals are fluid, and they often change or get altered depending on new experiences, needs, or wants.
Questions You Need to Answer Before Buying
In this section, I’ve compiled a few questions every newbie should answer before purchasing an RV and heading out.
Congrats! You’ve decided to join the growing ranks of individuals leaving their life behind and are determined to hit the open road. Do yourself a favor and answer these questions before making your next move. The more questions you know the answer to in advance, the better decisions you’ll be able to make come purchase time.
- Are you going to RV full time or RV part time?
- What is your budget for the RV?
- How will your savings look after purchasing an RV?
- Are you going to work on the road to earn additional cash?
- If so, what kind of job do you plan on working?
- Are you looking for a towable RV, or are you looking for a motorized RV?
- What size and class RV do you need? What are your storage requirements?
- Have you gotten your license upgraded, and attended any courses on RV safety?
- Do you know the legal considerations regarding operating an RV?
- What RV features are a must need, and what RV features are wants?
- Have you figured out a monthly road budget or estimated monthly expenses?
- What are you going to do with your current residence? If you own, are you going to sell or rent out your property?
- How do you plan to send and receive mail?
- Are you going to place your stuff in long term storage, or sell and give it away?
- Have shopped around for estimated prices on RV insurance plans, or RV roadside assistance plans?
As you can tell there are a lot of important questions that need to be answered before leaving. There will many more questions to ask yourself along the way, but these are a few you’ll want to think over before making that initial purchase.
Where to Rent and Buy An RV
Once you finished the first two processes I mentioned above, it’s time to stall your search in earnest. Take it from me, you want to rent before you buy. I would schedule a few weekend trips with different class RV models, and different feature sets, in order to give you a broad idea of what you want while out on the road. You’ll find some of the things you thought are important, really aren’t. You’ll also find the opposite to hold true.
This is essentially going to be your new home, only on wheels. When you went house or car shopping you didn’t buy site unseen, you checked each property, or car out and did your research. With RV’s not only is the interior important but you’ve got to be comfortable driving it all over the country, across every terrain imaginable. If it looks pretty but is a nightmare to drive, you’re going to be unhappy, and the whole point of the RV living is to get the most enjoyment out of life.
Here is a list of some the top places you can rent an RV:
- Cruise America RV Rentals
- Recreation Vehicle Rental Association Rentals By State
- Canada RV Rentals
- All Motorhome Rental
- Blue Travel RV Rentals
- Bates International Motorhome Rentals
- Oregon RV Rentals
- Colorado Camper Rentals
- El Monte RV Rentals
- Road Bear RV Rentals
- Moturis RV & Motorcycle Rentals
- RV Rentals Of Orlando
- Texas RV Owners’ Rentals
- Neff Brothers RV Rentals In Ohio
Still looking for more places to rent an RV try these two sites for more options:
- RV Net Linx
- RV Zone
Once you’ve had the opportunity to rent an RV, take it out on the road, and actually experience the RV life a little, you’ll have a clearer understanding of what you require in an RV. Many of you will want to jump right in and skip renting first, but I hope you reconsider. The last thing you want when making a large purchase is regret.
So you’ve done all your homework and you’re finally ready to buy. The only question left is where to buy from.
Here is a list of some of the top places to buy an RV:
RV Trade Shows – Hands down my favorite way to shop for an RV. First off, you get a ton of RV’s in one place, sporting all the latest features. On top of that, you also get representatives of many of the top RV manufacturers, who are willing to answer any questions you may have.
- RV Dealerships – Not as much inventory, and you have to deal with sales people trying to pressure you into a sale. Otherwise, if you have a firm idea of what you want this is a good way to pick out your new RV
- RV Manufacturers – I’ve never done this personally, but I’ve had a few of my friends who are fellow travelers purchase their motorhomes this way. They all seemed quite pleased with the experience.
- RV Trader – This is my top pick if you’re looking to find an RV online. A lot of options to choose from.
- RVT – Another large online site, however not the size of RV Trader.
- RV Registry – Has a good amount of online inventory.
- Classy RV – Online site with decent inventory. Not a fan of the navigation.
- National Multi List Service – Good online site. I enjoy the ads with video tours.
- Cranky Ape – This online site is a bit different on that you need to bid and compete with others on the vehicles in their inventory.
Some other good sources for finding RV’s include:
- Local papers
- Facebook Groups – ex. RV Classifieds.
As you can see there’s a ton of options out there. Now all you need to do is answer the questions I laid out earlier in this chapter, and determine what features you want and how much you want to spend.
Some Key Features to Consider
Having the right set of features in your RV can make or break your experience. You want to ensure you have the things you need in order to survive and thrive while out on the road. RV living doesn’t mean you have to rough it. If you want to lead a minimalist lifestyle you can, but if you still want all the comforts of home on the road, you can have that also.
Here are a few key features to consider when buying your RV:
- Space – If the amount of room available is a key element to your happiness on the road then having an RV with higher ceilings, more leg room, and deeper cabinets might be up your alley. Just remember the more space you have the more expensive it can get. Also, a larger size RV will be harder to drive and navigate than smaller RV’s. Some RV parks and roads have size restrictions, so you’ll want to take that into consideration.
- Connectivity – Do you want access to the Internet for business and pleasure. Do you want a satellite dish for your TV? Are you looking for a home theater system, an LCD television, satellite radio, or maybe iPod & Mp3 hookups? One thing to consider getting, if you want a lot of these high tech toys, is a Powerline energy management system. It will help to ease the electrical load you’ll be putting on your RV.
- Earth Friendly – Do you want the ability to run off of solar power, have energy efficient appliances, or maybe use wind turbines to power your electronics. If you put a premium on earth friendly options then paying for some of these features might be something you want to consider.
- Safety – For many of us with families, safety is a priority in our RV. If you feel the same way, then you may want to look into RV s with a strong chassis construction, and higher resistance to the elements and rust. You may want to also make sure your RV comes equipped with air bags, circuit protectors, and electronic monitoring systems that can keep an eye on things like tire pressure and vehicle stability.
- Driver Convenience – You want as smooth and enjoyable a ride as possible when driving all over the country. One of the areas I focused on in my RV hunt was making sure I had things like GPS, rear vision cameras, reclining bucket seats, and emergency start assistance switches.
- Floor Plans and Furniture – This will serve as your home, so having a footprint that works for you and your family is crucial. Are high-end finishes and high-quality furniture something that’s important. Do you want more or fewer appliances for cooking in the kitchen? How many beds do you need? These are all questions you’ll want to answer before purchasing.
- Slide Outs – Just like the name implies, these are extensions that slide out of the side of your RV to give you more room. Some examples of slide-outs include extra bedroom space, extra kitchen space, and extra living room space. Some things to consider with slide outs is they can fail mechanically over time and cause other issues like leaks and electrical issues. Slide outs offer a lot of conveniences and extra space, but they do present the likelihood of future issues, it’s just an issue of what is important to you as a buyer.
- Fuel Efficiency – RV’s are notorious for how much gas they consume. Over the past few years, manufacturers have begun adding more fuel efficiency features that you’ll need to consider. For example, you can go with a regular RV, or a hybrid model RV that can get as high as 40% better fuel mileage. You can also go with an RV that weighs less and has a good aerodynamic front profile in order to achieve more fuel efficiency.
The First Timer’s Checklist
You’ve picked our RV, and made a purchase! You’ve also answered many of the questions I posed above and have worked on your general overall budget and expenses. You’ve taken a safety course and upgraded your license. You’ve also decided on whether you’ll be working, and if so what your plan for that entails. You’ll also know what you’re doing about things like mail, storage, and your current property. If you still haven’t answered those questions, stop and do so now before continuing on.
Great! Now that you’ve figured those things out, what’s next? Well, in this section I’ll go over what I like to call the “First Timer’s Checklist”. This is basically a list of things you need to do and prepare for before actually hitting the road full time.
Stocking Your RV
Before you head out, you’ll need to initially stock your RV with everything you think you’ll need while stalling out on the road. Here is a list of some essentials to inspire you. There’s no way to make a complete list, everyone is different. Think of what is important to you, and you’ll probably come up with a bunch of other items you’ll want to bring with you.
- Pillow’s, pillowcases, blankets, towels & sheets.
- Plates, pots, pans, silverware, cooking utensils, cups, glasses.
- Paper towels, tissues, RV toilet paper, garbage bags, storage bags.
- Shampoo, conditioner, body wash, soap, toothpaste, Q-tips.
- First aid kit – Any medications you’re taking, bandages, thermometer, aspirin, tweezers, antibacterial ointment, compress, first aid instruction book, a list of emergency contact numbers.
- Deodorant, cologne/perfume, hair brush, hair dryer, razors, scissors, tape, rubber bands, post-it notes, carpet or fake grass for outside steps.
- Flashlights, batteries (different sizes), bug repellent, pocket knife, nylon cords (different sizes), candles, lanterns, ant spray, ant traps.
- Coffee pot, toaster, serving tray, kitchen gadgets, pot holders, spatula, small trash can, paper plates and cups, table cloth, measuring cups & spoons, aluminum foil, zip lock bags.
- Radio (battery and AC operated), broom, dust pan, small vacuum, travel clock, folding chairs, playing cards, games, umbrella, sponge, rags.
- Propane grill, smaller propane bottles, dish drainer, bungee cords (different sizes), disposable rubber gloves, bubble wrap ( for delicate items you don’t want to be broken).
- Level, light bulbs, garden hose, fire extinguisher, matches, lighters, shovel.
- Electrical adapters, wheel chocks, black water chemicals, leveling blocks, file folders (hold loose paperwork), awning tie downs, lubricating oil.
- Fuse puller, extra fuses, electrical extension cord, sewer hose/fittings 14- Water filter, fresh water hose (at least 25 foot), cleaning supplies.
- Water filter, fresh water hose (at least 25 foot), cleaning supplies.
- Tools (for example, socket sets, wrenches, hammer, screwdrivers, screws, nails, pliers, jack. Ohm meter, jumper cables, tire pressure gauge, axe).
- Food (coffee, sugar, salt, pepper, condiments, etc), shoes (multiple pairs).
- Clothes, personal items, books, magazines, pen, paper, stapler, paper.
- Proof of insurance/roadside assistance plans, drivers license, other ID, RV & towing registration, maps, owners manuals for RV and appliances).
RV Maintenance Checklist
Before heading out you’ll want to make sure you’ve read and studied your RV owner’s manual. Don’t be afraid to make some notes of things that will need to be addressed on a routine basis.
Whenever I’m about to leave for a trip, I always run through this list first. I had to learn this one the hard way. I had a few instances where I ended up in a jam because I wasn’t checking some basic things in advance. Not only do I check these all before leaving on my trip, I continue to do a thorough inspection at least once a month.
- Visually inspect all your tires. Check tire pressure on all your tires. You don’t want to drive an RV on a flat tire. That’s just a recipe for disaster.
- Start engine. Check idling noise. Check brakes
- Check all of your clamps and hoses. Look for signs of leaking, and make sure they’re all tight and firm. This check also includes any connections that are between your fuel tank and engine.
- Check your refrigerator flue before beginning it with propane. If you’ve left your RV stored for awhile, birds or insects could have gotten in and clogged it with a nest. These clogs can lead to fire or carbon monoxide poisoning.
- Test out smoke detector.
- Check the power level in batteries.
- Check fire extinguisher.
- Test front/ rear lights, door windows, door locks, headlights.
- Test signal lights, emergency flashers, brake lights.
- Test air conditioner, window defroster, heater, windshield wipers.
- Check and clean engine compartment.
- Check all your towing connections.
- Check to make sure everything is disconnected and stored away properly. For example, the water and sewer hoses.
- Make sure slide outs are slide in.
- 15- Make sure the antenna is down.
- Make sure your awnings are in.
- Make sure manual / hydraulic jacks are up.
- Make sure everything loose in your RV is secured properly.
- Make sure wheel chocks are removed (if used).
- Make sure solar panel is flat (if used).
Preparation And Planning
You’ve stocked up on your supplies and food, you’ve learned your owner’s manual and you have a solid maintenance checklist in place. Next, you need to finalize your budgeting and first trips itinerary. This step can be crucial to your success. Improper planning and budgeting can ruin your dreams of RV living quickly. I’ll go more into depth about budgeting and planning in Chapter 4.
Campground Arrival, Setup & Leaving Breakdown Checklist
You’ve done all the above and are finally stalled on your first trip. Now it’s time to stop overnight at your first campground. Here is a list of things you’ll want to go over and accomplish for the best experience possible.
- Park near the office or entrance.
- Check yourself in. I always check to see if there’s a discount for RV club members like Escapees or Good Sam Club.
- Ask for a park map and best ways to drive in. Also, ask for directions to the park facilities.
- Check to see if the Internet is offered and any details needed to use it.
- If after hours look for after hours instructions on how to check in. Normally posted by office or entrance.
- Once checked in, find your RV slot on the park map. Figure out the ideal paths for both entry and exiting.
- I suggest either walking or taking other transportation to your slot first in order to check for potential issues like tight turns, narrow roads, low trees.
- Confirm your slot has the facilities you were expecting.
- Test the water faucet out (especially during winter).
- If your slot doesn’t have sewer facilities then drive over to the dump station to empty out your tanks if needed.
- If your slot doesn’t have water, then drive over to the water source in order to till up your water tanks.
- Drive your RV into designated slot. Position RV as you want it, but try being courteous to vour new neighbors and don’t crowd too closely to their slot.
- Confirm you can reach all your hookups from where you’re parked.
- Deploy all the slides.
- If towing, unhitch it off your RV.
- Set your parking brake.
- Make sure your level. Get level by using either stabilizing jacks or blocks.
- Put on wheel chocks.
- Connect yourself to electrical hookup and be sure to switch over the appliances, so you’re not draining your own propane or batten.
- Wearing gloves, hook up sewer hose to the available drain hook up.
- Lower the stabilizers.
- Let down your steps and your fold out rail.
- Tun your AC on (Wait 5 minutes before using).
- Set up bedroom, kitchen and living room.
- Uncover the kitchen sink and put away the cover.
- Turn on your water heater and your water pump.
- Set up and secure awning.
- Set up outside items (patio mat, rugs, chairs, tables, etc.). Raise TV antenna (if using).
- Set up satellite (if using).
- Set up solar power (if using).
- Bring inside your outside items.
- Lower your TV antenna (if using).
- Secure satellite (if using).
- Secure solar power panel (if using).
- Turn off your water pump and your water heater.
- Make sure the stove, oven, and your pilot light are all out.
- Turn off the radio.
- Turn off exhaust fan.
- Attach cables and sway bars.
- Make sure that all the water is turned off and nothing is still dripping.
- Close all your windows.
- Cover the kitchen sink.
- Secure and put away all loose items in the interior.
- Make sure that all doors and cabinets are closed and secured.
- Check that refrigerator is switched to auto and closed.
- Turn off the lights.
- Turn off the AC unit.
- Put your steps up and be sure to fold in your hand rail.
- Close and secure the awning.
- Close the exhaust cover.
- Disconnect water, sewer, and power.
- Raise all stabilizers.
- Store the wheel chocks.
- Store blocks and jacks (if used).
- Lock doors and all storage areas.
- Make sure campsite is cleaned up, garbage is taken care of, and any fires are doused.
- Double check all your work.
- Do a quick safety inspection.
- Make sure you have everything you’ll need for the drive.