Full-time RVing: What nobody tells you about year-round life on wheels

The post-Pandemic phenomenon of RV life continues to hold appeal for many folks, thanks to remote work arrangements, early retirement or simply the sheer cost of brick-and-mortar Colorado real estate.

And while there’s plenty to like about the freedom of mobility associated with an RV or a professionally camperized vehicle like a Sprinter Van, the realities of living 365 days a year in a recreational vehicle – especially in a seasonally wintry climate like Colorado – do suggest some forethought before committing to RV life.  

Stuart Aronoff, owner of Frederick’s Universal Fleet RV & Auto Collision, does major repairs on modern RVs – and not the ones found cheaply on Craigslist, but dedicated RVs and van conversions that can cost a quarter-million dollars or more. Some, like the full-sized Prevost Motorhomes, can cost nearly seven figures.

He cautions first-timers to consider some of the logistical and lifestyle challenges living in an RV year-round may pose, especially if they aren’t able to head off to Florida or Arizona for the winter.

“A lot of less-expensive RVs were simply not meant to be lived in, full-time,” Aronoff says. “I personally spend a lot of time winter camping in my RV in the mountains, and winter can be extremely difficult. When it’s -30 F, you simply can’t have any running water at all, and I need to have baseboard heaters and an electricity source, as the furnace can’t keep me warm.”

Aronoff says water issues are just one of the complications of RVs, even in the Front Range, as many are lightly insulated and designed for three-season weather. Appliances in less-rugged RVs weren’t intended for everyday use, and the necessity to winterize a rolling home on wheels may prompt newcomers to seek out more sturdy – and expensive – options for year-round living, when they first dig in to RV life. 

“My advice is to do your research on various models and get a good education before committing to an RV. You can find more information online, on RV forums or through RV clubs, or ask manufacturers directly, and make a better educated decision.”

Part of the issue, he says, is that most RVs are built by small-scale manufacturers, and unlike large automotive or trucking companies, that means that replacement parts can be an issue.

“It’s a different issue when your RV is made by a company with 200 people in Indiana, versus Ford or Mercedes and its thousands of employees. But there’s now a lot of conversions now that are based on those tried and true truck or van platforms, which can make things easier and more reliable.”

Most importantly, Aronoff suggests would-be enthusiasts carry important spare parts, especially if they have basic mechanical abilities.

“RVs require you to have a backup plan in place, which will make you feel less stressed out. We have a client who’s had to live in a hotel in San Diego for five months because we can’t get parts to fix his RV. You don’t want to have your whole life stranded on the side of the road.”

Tires are a critical component of RV safety and security, and Aronoff recommends owners carry two spares with them, especially if they’re headed off on a long journey like an Alaska trip. Tire pressures need to be checked weekly, and tires need to be swapped out every 5-7 years, even earlier on heavier RVs, even if the tread still looks okay.

Other precautions include seeking out insurance that’s specially designed for RVs, through companies including Foremost, State Farm or even AAA – which can help prevent long waits in temporary lodging in case of an accident or breakdowns.  

By Andy Stonehouse, At Home Luxe