Getting Serious about the “Pipe Dream”

On and off for the last couple of years MsBoyink and I have talked about the “Pipe Dream”.

What is it?

Hitting the road full time for a year with the kids in an RV.

Writing and reading that sentence just now it strikes me how simple of an idea it is to communicate, but oh how many discussions and decisions it will take to actually happen.  So much so that we’d just kind of stopped talking about it this year, resigning ourselves to our simple life at 407 First Avenue, Holland MI 49424.

But this past week the idea came up again in a number of conversations, and someone on the forum actually posted a thread asking if we had ever done it.  He’d been around a while ago when I had talked about it.  So the conversation is alive again, and we’re taking it more seriously this time.

The big decision is - do we sell off the house and most of our other possessions or is there a way to do it and keep the house? In order to answer that question we had to get an idea of what a full time RV that would accommodate us would cost.  In order to do that, we had to go look at some RV’s.

So we traveled down to the large RV dealer in Wayland, MI, told them what we were thinking to do, and pretty much asked for their input.  I’d always thought of doing this thing in a motorhome pulling some sort of tow vehicle, but decided to throw everything on the table and just see what mode of RV seemed to fit our needs the best.  Our two main requirements were dedicated beds for everyone (so we’re not having to setup beds every night and take them down every morning) and there had to be a spot - however small - where I could setup a desk to work.

The main question was - would we be driving every day, or staying in one place for weeks at a time.  After a few other questions we toured a number of 5th wheel trailers, travel trailers, and one Class A motorhome.  What really struck us is how much more livable the 5th Wheel trailers are - they have floorplans with rear bunkhouses where both kids could have their own space, living areas, and the master bedroom upstairs.  I could setup a desk either by removing one bunk (they often have 4) or possibly squeezing into a corner of the master bedroom where there’s a cabinet that accommodates an optional washer/dryer.  Some even had a bath and a half - which I totally didn’t expect.

Costs were $30-$48K, which along with figuring a $25K truck of some sort to pull is still under the $100K I had expected (and which the Class A was).

So overall I see the following for the “mode” decision:

5th Wheel
The advantages of the 5th Wheel mode: Best living arrangement, way better storage than the travel trailers we saw, towing supposed to be easy.  One drive-train to worry about.  Disadvantages are no small Jeep toad to go four wheeling in, setup will likely require two loans to purchase. Tow vehicle of choice looks to be a 4 door diesel short bed truck - which aren’t cheap and are big to drive when not towing. 

Salesman thought it would be harder to find a nice bunkhouse model used but seeing a small number of eBay.  The trucks are somewhat popular so shouldn’t be a problem finding something there.

Travel Trailer
Advantages are: Bigger choice of tow vehicle (suburban, full size van, large SUV) (so something we might still use once off the road), less expensive hitch.not as tall, and with no drivetrain in them I’d be willing to buy something older than I would in a motorhome. Disadvantages are the same as 5th wheel.

In looking around online it appears there are a few bunkhouse style motorhomes, but prices are likely higher.  The main appeal of the MH approach is one purchase, and whatever we buy to use as a tow vehicle could be something we’d keep once off the road.  Having a Jeep Cherokee or Grand Cherokee would allow us to do some four wheeling with the folks I’ve known online for so long. Disadvantages are we’d have two drivetrains to maintain and worry about repair with.

So overall the mode decision still isn’t a clear one.  Even if we buy a used truck and 5th wheel or trailer the costs are likely to be the same as a decent motorhome.  Economically the cheapest route is likely a used travel trailer and full size van.

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