Explore the World in Comfort and Style

Physician's Money Digest, May 15 2003, Volume 10, Issue 9

Celebrities buy motor homes to travelin luxury and anonymity. Couplesand families like them for traveling instyle without having to pack andunpack daily. Some retirees sell thehouse and travel in them full time. Ahouse on wheels, or recreational vehicle(RV), is the perfect complement to anyhobby, as well as being a hobby itself.

RVs provide their owners with endlessopportunities. Take it skiing, toNASCAR races, and football games. Itcan be your home base for scuba, climbing,hiking, fishing, antiquing, birdwatching, and kayaking. During thebusy workweek, take the kids to theirathletic meets in the spacious RV. Orsimply drive it to the nearest campground,state forest, or beach for weekendescapes. It's your very own bed andbreakfast on wheels.

IMPORTANT RV DECISIONS

The first decision a potential RVowner has to make is whether to buy anRV that tows (ie, a travel trailer) or anRV that drives (ie, a motor home).Maneuvering a tow is a hassle, but atravel trailer does have its benefits.Once you reach the campground, youcan leave the RV behind, and hop intothe car for local sightseeing. With amotor home, everyone goes everywheretogether. On the plus side, you can pullover to eat, nap, or use the bathroomwithout leaving the vehicle. In addition,the largest motor home unit parks inless space than a modest travel trailerplus its tow vehicle.

Traveling in style isn't cheap. Plan tospend $10,000 and up for a used traveltrailer. Motor homes are more expensive,and start at $55,000 for small,gasoline models. If you're looking forluxury, expect to pay at least $200,000for a custom, self-contained, diesel busconversion with closed circuit TV, washer/dryer, satellite dish, and generator.Motor homes costing $500,000 to $1million aren't uncommon. Other costsinclude fuel, maintenance, insurance,and, if your zoning doesn't allow RVparking outside your home, rent for asecure RV storage spot.

If you're going to use your RV regularly,a motor home is a good choice. It'sconvenient, easy to drive, and can evendouble as the family "around town"van. If you're going to use your RV infrequently,consider a travel trailer, whichis less expensive. Check with your CPAabout tax advantages. RV mortgageinterest is deductible if you use your RVas a second home. Other RV expensewrite-offs include: Using your RV to goto conferences, do research, travel toseek medical treatment (some hospitalparking lots have hook-ups), or outfit itas a mobile doctor's office.

LIFE ON THE ROAD

If you take up the RV life, be preparedfor plenty of options. You canrough it at a primitive campsite, becomea regular at the nearest Kampground ofAmerica (406-248-7444; www.koakampgrounds.com), or go first class and visit a5-star resort. Campsite rates range fromfree (with no facilities) to $75. Resortcampgrounds are pricier.

One of the more upscale resortcampgrounds is Newport Dunes Resortin southern California (800-765-7661;www.newportdunes.com). Here RVs geta private, fenced site with hook-ups forelectricity, sewer, water, and cable TV.Resort visitors can choose from a numberof Newport attractions, including: awaterfront restaurant, food market,swimming pool, fitness center, spa, andgame room. Don't fret if you don't livein or near California. Resort campgroundsare found in every state.

The RV world is certainly a differentworld—one with its own lingo. Youlearn that dump stations are places toempty holding tanks that containsewage (black water) and water fromsinks and showers (gray water). Fullhook-ups are umbilicals that attach theRV to the campground's sewer, electricity,and water. Sometimes cable TV andphone hook-ups are also available.

The RV lingo isn't the only lessonyou'll learn. Government parks rarelyhave full hook-ups, though many offerwater and electricity. Dry camping (orboondocking), where allowed, meanscamping with no hook-ups. And youlearn about levelers or jacks. RVs mustbe parked level for comfort and toassure proper working of the plumbingand gas refrigerator. Jacks also addstability. So if you've always dreamedabout taking to the open road in styleand comfort, think RV and get youradventures underway.