My parents, who are retired, sold their house. They're putting some of the money in the bank, and buying an RV with the rest. It's been their life-long dream. I'm worried my kids and I won't see them as much. I realize this is selfish but we've always been a very close family. I'm also worried that they're making a big mistake, and have tried, unsuccessfully, to discuss the financial repercussions of their decision. How can I get them to listen?
- Concerned daughter
As far as your parents' finances are concerned, who do you think you are? "Pull the plug and slice the pie" was a phrase coined by Douglas Coupland in Generation X to describe your kind of thinking. I'm not a financial adviser, but your parents might be able to invest the money from the sale of their house and do quite well. However, with the depreciation you're going to see on an RV, you can kiss that part of your inheritance goodbye. That said, it's their money. And you seem to be overlooking a big bonus of having your parents living in an RV: when they decide to take a break from the road, they can enjoy the great outdoors in your driveway. They might look after the place while you go on vacation. Or, stay in the house while you borrow the RV for a road trip. Maybe they'll even look after the kids.
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I don't know if you've been to any RV lots lately, but there's a chance the unit they purchase will be nicer than the home they just sold. If they have the funds, it can be a very comfortable existence. They deserve it after a lifetime of work and raising a family. If their finances are limited, there are lots of reasonable options. While there are about a million recreational vehicles on Canadian roads, there seem to be almost as many gently used units listed for sale at 30 per cent of their original asking price - with very low kilometres. This probably means snow-birders have driven brand-new RVs down to Arizona once or twice and realized motorhomes truly are a Utopian idea.
After the initial investment, there's the ongoing price of ownership to consider. Apart from the cost of filling up with fuel every time you move, like all vehicles, RVs require maintenance. But if something major happens to your home on wheels, it's not just a matter of getting a loaner car. You don't get to choose where you break down - it could be Compton, Uranium City, Saskatchewan, or somewhere in Tornado Alley.
Still, why does RVing hold so much appeal? Are nomadic tendencies buried somewhere so deep in our nature that we need to express ourselves by navigating the land in a Winnebago? If it's the real outdoor experience you're seeking, you'd be better off pitching a canvas hotel. There's a big difference between operating a motor home and the oxen cart of our ancestors - namely the options of water, electricity and sewage hookups when tying up for the night. Modern RVs can certainly provide all the comforts of home on the road. Almost every man wants to take a bathroom, couch and fridge with him wherever he goes. That way, surrounded by sheer luxury, he can drive through two provinces, pull over, take a leak, grab a beer, lay on the couch, watch TV, and make great time by enjoying the benefits of cruise control.
If your parents do decide to take the plunge, make sure they invest in lessons on the appropriate size of vehicle through the local RV dealership. Unless one of them is a retired semi-truck driver, a real concern would be trying to manoeuvre a recreational monstrosity on a crowded freeway. It's a big step up from a Honda Civic or a Mini Cooper.
Maybe after a few adventures, your folks will decide to do what some friends have done: parked a beautifully restored and customized 1947 Silver Streak trailer in the back yard. They open it up for garden parties, and their grandchildren's sleepovers. The wheels have been taken off, to eliminate the risk of any sudden impulses to hit the road.