The Mindful Family did something crazy last week. We purchased a motorhome! Yes. A giant camping shelter on wheels that costs almost $200 to fill up the gas tank. Today I’ll try and rationalize why it was a good decision and share our strategy for buying one and what purpose it will serve.
As many of you will know, camping is an important part of our lifestyle. We have camped for over 30 nights per summer in the last few years. Always in a tent and almost always with no electrical or water services. A few summers ago we went on a camping trip that covered the entire east coast of Canada and part of Northeastern US. This Spring and Summer we are organizing a 60-day west coast camping trip. This trip was all booked last year but had to be cancelled due to a
four-week sixty-four-week lockdown.
The idea of an RV has always intrigued us but I always avoided buying one because of two reasons:
1. I hate depreciating assets. An RV is typically a classic depreciating asset depending what type you buy. This means that it loses value every year. In contrast, a house is not a depreciating asset because it typically goes up in value every year.
2. I hate owning items that don’t get fully used (especially if they are a depreciating asset). For example, a few times per year, I would really benefit from owning a pickup truck to haul things to the landfill or to pick up a large item I bought on kijiji. But I would never buy a pickup truck or upgrade my perfectly usable small SUV for a pickup truck just so that I can benefit from it a few times per year. This logic applies to RVs as well. I don’t like the idea of owning an RV to only use it for 5-10 nights per year. If the vehicle depreciates at $5,000 per year, then every night could cost $500-$1,000 each.
Why did we buy an RV?
A motorhome will present three main benefits for us in the short term. First, we can plan to start camping much earlier in the spring now that we will be inside an enclosed unit with a heat source. Second, driving will become so much easier. The kids will be able to sit at a table and face an adult who can play board games with them during the long drives.
The third benefit is that I have always wanted to become a snowbird. Especially now after living through the last year of lockdowns in our province. I envy all the snowbirds who are enjoying much more freedom in Florida and Texas this winter. This point may be controversial, but look up the facts and the stats yourself. Many states still see double and triple the amount of COVID cases per capita than Canada but have essentially learned to live with it, and allow their residents to live a normal life (did anyone watch the Superbowl...). There are many possible and legitimate strategies to handle COVID long-term. The one in Ontario and Canada is a valid one. ZeroCovid is another one. The Great Barrington Declaration is another one... All these are “legitimate” or “batshit crazy” ideas depending on who you ask. More open debate on the matter would help but we will have to just wait for time to tell which one was the correct approach.
My honest opinion is that Florida has the right approach and that is why we want to be there… They seem to have followed a “flatten” the curve strategy and figured out a way to handle surges in healthcare needs, while protecting the vulnerable who are the ones actually at risk of this particular virus.
So yeah, with an RV we will now have the flexibility to go on a winter camping trip in the future. We probably won’t spend 6 months south of the border but I could see us spending 8 weeks exploring Florida campgrounds to get away during the coldest months. Because we are retired, instead of complainging about or breaking the rules in our region, we can just travel to regions where we agree with the rules.
This would help solve reason #2 for why I always stayed away from RVs. This asset will get plenty of use from our travel-loving family. If that ever changes, we will sell it. We will not hold on to the RV if we see ourselves only using it a few weekends per year down the road.
RVs did see a surge in demand last summer because more people were looking to travel domestically. But during the winter months, the demand as well as the prices naturally declined. We started looking at RVs about a month ago and researched every model for sale on kijiji. When we found one we liked I searched the whole country to see what the comparable prices were to make sure we would be buying at a good price.
What did we buy?
We bought a 2014 Thor Majestic 23 foot motorhome. We got it for $33k with all new brakes and certified. Because we bought the unit off-season we paid less than peak pricing. So my comparable analysis told me we could probably use it for one full year, while maintaining it properly, and still be looking at a similar resale value (I found 2013 models of the same unit selling for $35k to $40k).
This was important because now reason #1 for not wanting an RV was solved. Or at least temporarily. By making sure we got a good price, we sort of built in a “trial year” to see if we like having a motorhome.
I really love the motorhome we bought for many reasons: