Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Nomadic life while living a lot smaller.

I have been exploring the nomadic way of living smaller.  IT's called "fulltime RV living" and a lot of people have been doing it for decades.  I personally have been exploring it as a "plan B" if I lose my job and everything get's turned upside down.  The problem is if you go looking at  sites about fulltime RV'ing you find it's only old people that have $2million and are driving a $600,000 RV around blowing their money left and right. or you find the other end of the spectrum, the vagabonds that live in a van that looks like a homeless shelter.

There is a in-between that is affordable, but it takes some prep and money.   First, you need to get a "rig" or a house to live in.  Many look at a Class A or B RV.  I look at that as a mistake.  Why?  well if you break down, you get to move into a hotel while the RV place fixes your home over the next few days.  Also this means you get to pay 2X - 3X the repair prices because it is a RV.  I suggest looking at a  trailer and truck combo.  IF the truck breaks down you can leave the trailer in a campground while the truck is fixed. Also the truck can be fixed anywhere, not a special RV repair shop.  Disadvantage is that when you stop driving you have to get out of the truck and go to the camper, and you cant travel down the highway with someone sleeping in the camper.

The other advantage is that $10,000 will buy you a nice truck and nice 27' long camper. While that same $10,000 will buy you a worn out RV.  RV owners tend to think they are still worth more than they really are.  Campers lose their value fast so you can pick up a lightly used 10 year old one for less than $6000.00 that still looks great.  This is a huge advantage over the RV as you are saving money on the purchase, and saving up an extra $6000 over the next 4 years is easily done so you can upgrade your home later. Upgrading your RV at the tune of $20,000 on up is a lot harder to do.

Campers come in a regular trailer and Fifth wheel type.   Fifth wheel trailers require a pickup with a truck bed hitch, this makes them easier to tow but requires a pickup truck.   This makes them lose value faster than a regular trailer as it limits the number of buyers for that trailer.  A regular trailer can be towed with any SUV or truck making them more saleable.  you can get a small 14' super light camper that can be towed by a minivan or mini SUV.   I personally would go with a regular camper and a midsized SUV like a 1st generation duarngo.  You could buy both for a total of $10,000 spent and have money left over for adding the brake controller to the SUV.  Plus a SUV lets you store things in the back using it as more storage space.

I am investigating this further and trying to find real stories by people that have done it and the problems they have faced.   It is an interesting take if you can find a mobile income source.  I would love to be able to meander across the country over the course of a few years at my own pace.  I'll share links and information about this interesting idea as I come across it.

Power when away from an outlet...   Solar is one of the only choices other than running a generator.  Solar panels on the roof and a battery bank will fill most electrical needs for when you are parked where you do not have any electrical power available.  A typical full-time RV solar setup is about 6 golf cart batteries and a 240watt solar kit.  Around $3200.00 if you can install it yourself, more if you have to hire an electrician.

This Solar sizing worksheet will get you an idea of how much solar to add to the RV for your electrical habits.

Basically a solar charger, battery bank, solar panels and inverter are all needed to make a complete system.  the batteries are huge so you will lose some storage, but the trade off is certainly worth it for the ability to simply set up for the night or for a week just about anywhere and not worry about electricity.  I can see this significantly reducing the cost of living if you chose this nomad life, or even adding solar to a micro home to further reduce your impact on the world!

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