By Janet Groene, F47166
In April 2004 this column contained a survey that brought in 300 replies from full-timers. Of these, approximately 15 percent of the responses came from people traveling alone; the rest were sent in by couples, plus a few trios or quartets. Therefore, the answers reflect the opinions of almost 600 full-timers. In last month’s column, I reported on ages, income, and what size motorhome our full-timers consider to be just right. Now we continue with more results from the survey.
The next question asked concerned the age of the full-timer’s motorhome and whether it would be replaced. Most said their motor coaches are only 1 to 3 years old and, while we didn’t ask, some respondents volunteered the information that they have had as many as six or seven previous motorhomes. Sixty-six respondents said they have coaches 4 and 5 years old; 75 said their motorhome was 6 to 10 years old; and 17 respondents indicated that their coaches are 10 to 15 years old. Five full-timers responded that their coaches are 21 years or older.
The next question asked was whether they expected to replace the coach “soon,” “eventually, when needed,” or “never.” Less than one-third replied “never” and, surprisingly, these respondents were scattered through every age group. Many who are in their 70s report that they’ll keep buying new coaches “eventually, when needed,” while some younger full-timers say they will “never” replace their motorhome, because they plan to move on to other lifestyles. More than two-thirds of respondents said they plan to buy a new coach “soon” or “eventually, when needed.” In fact, many seemed excited about the prospect of getting a new coach every few years until, as one respondent noted, “they have to carry me out, feet first.”
In reporting how long they have been full-timing, about one-third of the respondents said they have been on the road for up to five years. Most indicated that they have been full-timing between six and 20 years, which makes them seasoned veterans of this lifestyle. Four have been on the road for more than 20 years, including one person who claims to have been full-timing for 63 years! Many of those who have been full-timing less than a year indicate that they were part-timers, some of them for many years, before going full-time.
The next question asked was whether survey participants have an exit strategy when it’s time to hang up the keys. Less than one-third answered that they haven’t decided what to do when they come to the end of the road. Of those who do have a plan, many already own a lot, pad, house, mobile home, or condominium. In most cases, the structure is being rented or leased out until needed. One respondent said that they will live in the motorhome while building a house on land they already own, while another said they will sell the land they own and move to the city. Some said they will retire to a campground or CARE center operated by the Escapees. Others mentioned that they have set the money from the sale of their stationary home aside in safe investments and will use that to relocate.
Yet others plan to live in a park model (or two, moving seasonally). Many full-timers commented that they never again want to live in conventional housing. Some say they will remain in their motorhome but will stop traveling, while others will buy or rent a house or apartment but will get a smaller motorhome and travel seasonally. Several said that they plan to settle down with or near their children, while others indicated that their next move would be to a retirement community or assisted-living facility.
One younger full-timer wrote, “We have narrowed it down to several communities where we want to settle when the time comes.” Another younger respondent answered, “Full-timing is part of our 10-year plan.” For these full-timers, RVing is only one of many dreams they plan to make come true.
Because household appliances are becoming standard equipment in so many motorhomes, our survey asked about energy preferences. The RV industry has found that today’s buyers want the comforts of a stationary home in their motorhome, such as refrigerators with through-the-door water and ice dispensers; full-feature washers and dryers; automatic ice makers; thermostat-controlled wine coolers; entertainment electronics; full-time Internet access; and much more. Regular household appliances are also less expensive, even though the piper has to be paid later in the form of dependence on 120-volt-AC power through the use of a generator, an electric hookup, or an inverter.
How willing are today’s full-timers to be reliant on household power? Answers rained in from all over the spectrum. Basically, the survey asked whether full-timers’ next motorhome will be “more dependent” or “less dependent” on 120-volt-AC power from a generator or shore power. The second part of the question asked whether they would rely “more” or “less” on energy from solar, propane, and 12-volt-DC equipment.
Then we asked which alternative power sources they would prefer. Some respondents confused a 120-volt AC generator with “alternative” power, so our results may be skewed. By alternative power, we meant alternatives to 120-volt AC, such as solar, propane, or 12-volt generating equipment to recharge batteries that run inverters. (One respondent also mentioned that he is buying a wind generator.) Generally, the results showed:
- One-third of respondents said their next coach will be more dependent on 120-volt-AC power, while approximately 40 percent said they want to rely less on 120-volt-AC power in the future.
- Almost two-thirds indicated that they will depend more on alternative power sources, while approximately 25 percent said that they will use alternative power sources less.
Surprisingly, many replied that they want both more household power and more alternative power. One couple commented, “We love our toys.” Only a few said they will want less of all types of power.
Of the alternative power sources listed, 43 percent put solar at the top of their list, although one respondent wrote, “Not solar! We never park in the sun if we can help it.” Propane was the preferred alternate power for approximately 25 percent of respondents who love its silent service and low cost, especially for refrigeration. Reflecting the increasing popularity of inverters, one-third of the survey group listed 12-volt generating equipment as a preferred alternative. Some voted for more than one preferred alternative; some voted for none.
These results were borne out later in replies to questions about what equipment full-timers expected to add soon, or what items they recommend that every full-timer should have. We’ll cover those in next month’s column.
The next question asked how often FMCA full-timers move on. Only a handful checked off “rarely.” The largest number of respondents indicated that they move every week or less, truly enjoying life on the open road. Almost as many move every few weeks or once a month, reflecting the reality that most government parks have a two-week limit and many commercial parks offer attractive monthly rates. Many FMCA full-timers stay put during one season, then hit the road for six months or so, moving on every few days. Clearly, our full-timers are experienced, enthusiastic road warriors.
Another question asked whether full-timing appears to be “less popular,” “as popular as when we started,” “increasingly more popular,’ or “too popular.” Even though almost everyone said “increasingly more popular,” very few said “too popular.” Still, a follow-up question asked about the most vexing full-timing problems, and it’s clear that increased crowding is definitely adding to full-timers’ stress and expense. Next month, I’ll reveal the final results of the survey.
Expecting company in your motorhome? Light a candle or spritz a spray to mask pet odors that you don’t notice, but guests will. Fresh Wave, available in candle, spray, or continuous-release gel, neutralizes odors rather than masking them with cover-up perfumes. It’s said to be safe for humans, animals, and the environment. For information, call (800) 662-ODOR (6367) or visit www.fresh-wave.com.
Absolutely the best foreign language dictionary on the market is The Firefly French/English Visual Dictionary ($29.95, Firefly Books). If you travel in French Canada, Cajun America, or any French-speaking areas overseas, this sturdy, hardcover book is essential “” even if you don’t speak French. Everything is pictured, with French and English words for everything from a stove or an engine to every small part of that item. Can’t find Brazil nuts in the market? Want to buy a bread knife or a fan belt? Need new shock absorbers for your towed car or a drive chain for your bicycle? You’ll find a picture and the corresponding French and English words.
The book is divided into sections, such as sports and games, where you can find the name for every part of an artificial fly. Under hair dressing, find words not just for comb and brush but for every type of comb and brush. Want to be sure you ask for a traffic circle and not a circular route? See the cartography section.
Firefly Books also publishes a Spanish/English visual dictionary ($29.95) and a five-language visual dictionary that covers English, French, Spanish, German, and Italian languages ($49.95). In addition, The Firefly Visual Dictionary ($49.95) can be used by anyone searching for the right word in English or when communicating with people who are hearing impaired. Find the right picture, then point. It’s also the only dictionary that works for people who “can’t look it up because I don’t know how to spell it” and for those who want to look up names for obscure things such as airport terms or parts of a cathedral.
Clueless About Cars ($14.95, Firefly Books) is about car maintenance, but much of it also applies to RV drivetrains. Save a bundle by maintaining, troubleshooting, and even repairing things you never thought you could tackle yourself. The book will pay for itself the first time you change your own oil or coolant. However, even if you never do a thing, the book will help you have more intelligent, money-saving conversations with your mechanic.
The books above are available at bookstores, through online booksellers, or from the publisher by calling (800) 387-5085 (U.S.) or (800) 387-6192 (Canada).
Look into www.1stopmove.com, an online change-of-address service, as one way of supplying your new mailing address to as many contacts as you like. You select from a database of 50,000 magazines, businesses, and organizations. The site also enables you to inform your personal friends and family of your address change and promises not to give your information to spammers.