Stepping into smaller spaces
While downsizing after the kids move out is a given for many couples, an increasing number of empty nesters are taking the concept to a whole new level by purchasing a recreational vehicle (RV) to replace their home or to complement a smaller living space. With greater freedom, flexibility and a desire to travel, the RV lifestyle offers a unique alternative to the traditional retirement plan.
Kent and Norma Murray of Cobourg, who have been RVing for 16 years, travel across Canada following Blue Grass festivals. Their kids have long flown the coop and with Kent now in his third year of retirement, they’re looking to purchase their third RV.
“We love it,” explains Kent. “We’ve met tons of people. Everywhere we go, doesn’t matter who you are or what you own, everyone is friendly and good calibre.”
They’re part of a growing cohort of baby boomers who want to simplify their lives by removing all the unnecessary stuff they’ve collected over the years, and replacing it with experiences. With an RV they can travel whenever they want, and wherever the road can take them.
“The actual home becomes the place you plug into,” explains Gigi Stetler, author of Unstoppable: Surviving is Just the Beginning and owner of RV Sales of Broward in Florida. “Purchasing an RV offers an inexpensive way to retire because you can see so many more things rather than fly. And you do whatever you want, on your own schedule.”
An added bonus for empty nesters that choose an RV is the mobile sleeping arrangements. When visiting their grown kids, who often live miles apart, there’s no need to disrupt the household to find additional beds. Parents simply return to the RV parked on the road for a comfortable and stress-free night.
The cost of a recreational vehicle can range anywhere from low $10,000’s to more than $100,000, making it suitable for just about any budget. The additional savings in hotel and flight costs makes the option to travel in an RV a clear economical choice over resort vacations and even cottage living. In fact, for many people, the RV lifestyle is very similar to that of owning a cottage, but without all the maintenance and costs of home ownership.
Campsites across Canada and the U.S. are filled with RVs ranging from pop-up trailers to sprawling motor homes. With the increasing variety of features and size in RV models, the accommodations are comparable to a beachside condo in both luxury and living space. No surprise, snowbirds cram into Florida’s trailer parks every year to escape cold winters.
“We sell more RV’s every year,” explains Rob Cole, a self-professed retired guy who sells part-time for Lazee Acres Park & RV in Orillia. “Last year we set a record that beat a record the year before.”
Certainly, the trend toward an RV lifestyle shows no signs of letting up. Finding the perfect recreational vehicle for the newbie can be a daunting task, however. With so many sizes, styles and features, selecting a starter RV may feel more like guesswork than an educated choice.
For newbies, Stetler has some simple advice. “Rent before you buy,” she says. “So many first time buyers make a mistake, but don’t realize it until after the first trip. Learn what you like, first. Then buy.”
FOR A QUICK PRIMER ON RV OPTIONS, HERE’S THE LOWDOWN ON THE VARIOUS MODELS AVAILABLE:
There are three classes of motorhomes. While they range in size and luxury, all motorhomes combine the driving space with living space. That means passengers can move around while in transit. All models include bathroom, shower, sitting and sleeping areas.
A class A motorhome looks similar to a bus and is the largest in size. Offering the most luxury in features and accommodation, prices can start near $100,000 and go into the millions. (Think rock band tour buses.)
Class B motorhomes are the smallest of all the classes. Comfortable for two, this is not a great choice for families who will likely be tripping over one another in the tight quarters.
Generally, class C motorhomes lack the extra features of their counterparts, but can sleep up to six comfortably. While the class A motorhomes may be too large to stay in many campsites, these models are small enough to be welcomed in secluded and reputable campgrounds.
Fifth Wheel Trailer
The fifth wheel trailer has all the amenities of a motorhome and is usually more spacious. Unlike motorhomes, however, it is towed by a pickup truck using a special “fifth wheel” hitch. This type of trailer is usually much less costly than a motorhome, even with the purchase of a pickup truck. Many full time RVers choose a fifth wheel trailer because of its spaciousness, lower cost, and the convenience of having a truck to drive separately after parking the RV.
For baby boomers looking to inject some new adventure into their lives as they coast toward retirement, the RV lifestyle may be the perfect answer. The best way to find out if it’s the right fit, is to give it a try. Thankfully, even the smallest budget can accommodate a trial run.