Should you buy an RV?

RV at Nashville ShoresSometimes it seems like senior citizens have all bought RVs and have all hit the road, including myself. But… should you join us?

The answer is very dependent on you and your circumstances — social, medical and financial.

If you are a single woman, don’t stop reading — you may be surprised at the benefits of owning one. I certainly was. The only reason I got one originally was because my dad’s wife suddenly banned animals inside her house. Which meant I couldn’t visit her or my dad, unless I was willing to get a local hotel room and leave my two small dogs inside for hours.

Instead, I got an RV and parked it on her land by the house. Win for my dogs, win for me, and win for her. 

Technical concerns

You do not have to be mechanically knowledgeable to be the single owner of an RV. It would help, no doubt. But if you can “handle” owning a car, you can do the same with an RV. I take mine for a checkup before any big trip. Most RVs are built on a Mercedes or Ford chassis so you can go to your Ford dealer, or your Mercedes dealer for the “vehicle” part of your RV.

You don’t have to learn the grimy, tough work of a mechanic. You DO have to learn a lot of switches, levers and procedures. Once you buy an RV, the dealer must spend the time to walk you through everything — how it all works. I warned them up front I would be taking a long time with this. I took videos on my phone of step-by-step directions for every procedure. We opened every panel that existed, and with pointed finger and instructions — I recorded exactly what to do for what — and how. Happily, much of it is intuitive, so I only had to look at my videos three times when I ran into a problem.

Medical constraints

Obviously if you have a serious medical condition and need to be by your doctor — this is not a good idea for you… unless traveling the USA is on your bucket list and you’ve been told the sooner the better(!)

If you are in “normal” health, which means nothing too constraining and nothing imminent — you might wonder just how you would handle sickness or a broken bone on the road. Good Sam Club (the gorilla in RV insurance, roadside assistance, and RV parks) has a Travel Assist program that for $59/year will cover emergency travel for medical purposes, plus (if you can no longer drive) return your RV to your home. It will also assist you in pet care and return as well as eye prescriptions and glasses replacements.

Financial constraints

Let’s be very frank here — buying an RV is a big financial mistake, unless you fit into one of three groups:

  1. You’re wealthy enough to buy for cash and not miss it.
  2. You’re very technically proficient and can evaluate a used RV and be sure of what you’re buying — and can fix anything you missed(!)
  3. You’re planning to live in your RV for at least a couple of years

While I didn’t fit into any of above, I especially didn’t fit into #2. As a result, I was too worried to buy a used RV. No surprise, you lose thousands (or tens of thousands) of dollars when you first drive a new RV out of the dealer lot. And you lose more each year you drive it. Putting this much money into an “asset” that depreciates substantially each year instead of appreciating is not financially savvy. Dealers make the monthly payments really easy, but consider what it means to have this payment due for the next 15 (or more?) years. It may well mean you can’t retire when you would like. And if you get sick and can’t work — REALLY not good!

The “ick” factor

A number of women and a few men have asked about handling the toilet dumping in an RV. Let me assure you, it isn’t a big factor. You attach a large (3″ diameter) flexible hose to your RV, with the other end going downhill into a dump tank in the ground by your RV. Then you pull your RV’s black lever out. This lets all the contents of your toilet tank leave your RV. There’s a noticeable, but mild, odor. Once the tank is empty, you push back in the black lever and pull out your grey lever. This dumps out all the water from your shower and faucets. What it also does is wash out the inside of your flexible hose and remove any smell.

Traveling Pairs

I’ve seen lots of different “couples” traveling in RVs together. Spouses primarily, but also friends, uncles with nieces or nephews, grandma with granddaughter, and many more. I haven’t met anyone else traveling alone, but I know I’m not “alone” in this because of people I’ve “met” on the RV travel boards.

Traveling Alone – Security concerns

Everyone has different levels of security concerns. Mine are pretty high having grown up with a criminal attorney father whose stories about his clients scared the heck out of me, and later having lived in New York city.

There’s a great set of discussion forums at I asked about personal security there. One woman told me she parks her RV at National Park campgrounds and feels totally secure. Another woman actually parks hers in the middle of nowhere in national parks and also feels secure.

Myself — I stay at high-rated Good Sam RV parks almost exclusively — which fits my higher security level needs. I also, once, spent the night parked at a Flying J truck-stop gas station — which also seemed secure. However, I did walk my dogs at a previous stop so I didn’t have to get out at all when I pulled into the Flying J. I figured in the morning when I got gas and food was soon enough to alert anyone I was old and female. Some guys on the forum suggested turning back to my RV as though talking to a spouse and saying, “OK, but next time it’s YOUR turn to walk the dogs!”

You will hear a lot about parking overnight at WalMart for free. I do NOT recommend it. Fights have been reported in the parking area at night among people doing this. Also know that many cities forbid Walmart to allow overnight parking because they figure it’s taking money away from their hotels.

What do you DO with your time when you’re traveling alone?

I get asked this a lot from other campers. But the answer is “whatever I normally do, plus more.” I spend hours on the computer, writing this blog and doing work. I read books. I play with my dogs. I watch my (sigh!) Mets games on AND… I visit with family and friends along the way. AND I take in whatever the local area offers. For example, today in Nashville my nephew, who I haven’t seen in a couple of years, is coming over and we’re going to go jet skiing. (That’s my RV in the photo, parked at Nashville Shores.)

And… if I ever retire, I’m taking my RV to Port St. Lucie in Florida for the month of March and getting season tickets to the Mets’ Spring Training games there. At least in March, the Mets can look forward to a GREAT new season!

Author bio
Jen008_smallMarlene Jensen is a 71-year-old full-time marketing professor. Previously she was a VP at CBS and ABC and spent decades as an entrepreneur and pricing author/consultant. Sadly, none of these prepared her for the onslaught of marketers who now think her daily interests/needs consist solely of hearing aids, wheel chairs, adult diapers, medi-alert buttons, medications, and bath tubs you walk into.

Leave a Reply