Wednesday, February 23, 2011

To Keep or Not to Keep

Dear joe and Vicki: My motorhome is 5 years old. Things are beginning to wear out and need replacement. We are wondering whether we should keep and refurbish our present motorhome or buy a new one. What do you think?

Joe: Either way, it looks like you are getting ready to spend some money. And, whether you buy a new motorhome or refurbish the one you have, in five more years you are probably going to be faced with the same decision again.

Five years of age seems to be a mid-life crisis point for RVs, especially motorhomes. Outside, the paint is beginning to oxidize. The windshield probably has a few battle scars. The roof needs to be re-caulked (for the second time). Shock absorbers and brake linings need to be checked. Belts, hoses and windshield wiper blades are due for replacement. Tires, no matter their tread wear, are reaching the end of their safe lifespan. The engine and transmission may not be performing as smartly as when they were new.

Inside, the carpet, upholstery and window coverings are beginning to fade and show some wear. Fabrics and color schemes are woefully out-of-fashion. Outdated appliances have reached the point where, if they stop working, the repairman will probably suggest replacement instead of repair. The entertainment center (if you have one) has a television screen that is smaller than you like, does not have a DVD player, and has speakers that seem archaic.

And, if your RV is five or more years of age, you may only have one slide-out room or perhaps no slides at all! Good grief! You own a dinosaur!

Chances are your RV's loan balance is less than, or about equal to, its market value. Or maybe you are one of the lucky RV owners whose payments are just right – nothing per month. That means you have some equity in your present RV that could be applied to the purchase of a new one. And let's face it, a five year old RV is easier to sell or trade than one that is ten years old. Maybe now is a good time to trade.

Vicki: Before you do, however, consider what you will be doing with your present or new RV for the next five years. Do you anticipate any personal or career changes that would affect your RVing lifestyle? A new job or promotion might curtail the amount of time available for RVing. In that case, it might not make good financial sense to buy a new RV only to have it sit in storage. Perhaps it might be better to postpone that new purchase and, for the time being, make do with your present RV.

On the other hand, if you will be retiring soon, perhaps you will have even more time available for RVing. Buying a new RV prior to retiring can be a good decision. You can choose one that will better complement your extended travels. You will also have the opportunity to take it on a few shakedown trips and get familiar with it before you embark on those extended cross-country journeys.

One of the most popular reasons for getting a new RV is a change of RV lifestyle. Going from weekend and two-week camping trips to extended travel, snowbirding, or fulltiming frequently calls for a change in the type and/or size of RV.

However, if you are going to continue to use your RV as you have in the past, there are some other considerations. By now you have made a lot of personal changes and adjustments to your RV. Closets, drawers and cabinets have been arranged to hold all your "stuff". Pictures, pillows and decorations have been added to reflect your personal taste. You have decided where to keep the trash basket, laundry hamper and vacuum cleaner. You are familiar with your RV's idiosyncrasies and comfortable with its operation. Do you really want to get rid of this rig? If you did replace it, would you want the new RV to be radically different? If your present rig will satisfy your RVing interests and needs for the next five years or so, if you can incorporate the changes and upgrades you'd like into your RV, maybe you should hold onto it.

Joe: Look at the financial considerations. Before you refurbish your current RV, make a list of the things you would like to change. Take your list to the appropriate craftsmen and get an estimate of what the total project will cost. Then, determine your RV's actual market value – what you could reasonably and realistically expect to receive if you sold it today. You don't want to invest more into your RV than it is worth.

Look at the price of new RVs that are equivalent to your present rig. Chances are you will pay at least half again as much for a new RV as you did for your present RV five years ago. Not only will the purchase price be higher, but so will the sales tax. And, of course, the annual insurance premiums, and vehicle registration fees of the new RV will be higher than what you are paying now.

The money you spend refurbishing your RV may not add appreciably to its market value
but it will certainly be less than the cost of a new rig.

Vicki: Your choices seem to be to a.) keep your RV and spend the minimum necessary to bring it to satisfactory condition, b.) keep your RV and invest what it takes to renovate and update it to your satisfaction, or c.) buy a new RV that will better satisfy your interests and needs.

If you are unhappy with your present RV, if it does not satisfy your RVing lifestyle, if you want a different type, size, style or floorplan, then buy that new RV. But if you like your present RV and it can be refurbished to satisfy your RVing interests and needs, it might make better sense to keep it.

And, if you do keep it, there's always the chance that a silver-tongued salesman will weave his magic, and cause you to fall in love with a 42-foot, quadruple slide, Whizbang motorhome and set you up with a payment schedule that will last the rest of your natural life.

Either way, in five years you will be making this same decision again.

Joe and Vicki Kieva are the authors of a number of how-to books and e-books about RVs, RVers and RVing.

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