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In August 2017, Kirsten and Devin Trout decided they needed a change. Devin, a touring musician, was always on the road for work, and one day, both he and his wife had an epiphany of sorts: They needed to be in Nashville.
“I was just watching Netflix and something just told me [that] we need to move to Nashville,” Kirsten said. “I definitely think it was like a God thing ‘cause Devin was listening to a podcast and he felt the same thing … We told our family the next day we were moving.”
With their minds made up, Kirsten and Devin started researching housing options in Nashville for the two of them and their three small dogs. There was just one problem: Everything was out of their price range.
“All of our friends [either] have roommates or they’re crazy rich,” Kirsten joked. “Housing here is super expensive and so is rent.”
For a fleeting moment, the young couple thought that was the end of the road for their Nashville fantasy. However, Devin wasn’t ready to throw in the towel that quickly, and it’s good that he didn’t. While browsing the internet, the 28-year-old entertainer stumbled upon a video of a man living contentedly in his van, which inspired him to start looking into alternative housing options.
“I’m, like, at home by myself with my thoughts of wanting to move to Nashville so I’m spending all my nights on YouTube … researching all this stuff and I just [found] a video of some guy living in his van,” Devin explained. “It was like a 30 or 40-minute video. I ate that whole video up and after that … spent all night sending [Kirsten] videos of this.”
Kirsten wasn’t too keen on the idea of sharing a small van with her husband and her three dogs when Devin first broached the subject. However, Devin’s research eventually led them to an Instagram account called 188sqft, which introduced them to the slightly more spacious fifth-wheel trailer. So, in October 2017, just 6 months after deciding to upend their lives, Devin and Kirsten purchased their first RV trailer, and on Jan. 1, 2018, they made the move to Nashville.
Kirsten and Devin are part of a growing number of young people who are turning to RV living as a cost-friendly and nomadic alternative to traditional housing. In fact, according to data from Statistical Surveys, Inc., rates of RV ownership among younger age brackets grew from 2015-2018 whereas they either remained stagnant or decreased in older age ranges.
According to Gigi Stetler, CEO of RV Sales of Broward in Davie, Fla., many younger folks — like Kirsten and Devin — now opt for the RV lifestyle because it makes the most economical sense.
“Owning an RV can be [much] cheaper than paying a mortgage or throwing money away on rental payments,” Stetler explained to In The Know, adding that the average entry-level travel trailer starts at $7,000-$12,000. “Plus, having a motorized RV to drive around can even eliminate automobile payments. Even when you add in the cost of RV parks and gas, it is usually still considerably cheaper.”
Laurice Wardini, full-time RVer and founder of HikeClimbCamp, agrees that RV living “can be very inexpensive” if done right. In fact, in her own experience, she was able to go from spending $2,000 a month on rent alone to paying “around ¼ of this every month for gas and occasional overnight hookups” for her $7,000 RV.
Money isn’t the only thing that draws people to the RV lifestyle, though. As Stetler pointed out, living in an RV presents people with unlimited freedom and endless travel opportunities, all from the comfort of their “home.”
“Younger buyers love the freedom of going wherever they like, especially off the beaten path,” she explained. “In addition to the outdoors and nature, younger generations are driven by their affinity and comfort with technology. With their RV, they can enjoy time away in the woods or scenic landscapes around the country and still be ‘connected.’”
This year has been especially big for the RV industry, particularly thanks to younger generations. According to Kampgrounds of America’s 2020 North American Camping Report, 33 percent of Millennials are now considering purchasing an RV, and 36 percent of Millennials expressed interested in RVing full-time. As businesses shift to remote work indefinitely amid a global pandemic, RVs offer the flexibility, freedom and financial stability that people are craving.
“The RV lifestyle has been growing in popularity steadily over the past 3-4 years in people of all ages, but in 2020 the interest in RV life has really exploded,” Julie Bennett, co-creator of RVLove with her husband Marc and author of Living the RV Life, told In The Know. “The combination of wanting a safe way to travel, get out of the cities and work remotely has created a perfect storm, so RVing is HOT right now!”
On social media, RV influencers are becoming increasingly popular and prevalent. The hashtag #RVlife, which boasts more than 1.7 million posts, is flooded with picturesque photos of bonfires, modern minimalist campers and staggering views, all of which could make even the most content homeowner want to call a realtor and hit the road ASAP.
The online community wasn’t always far-reaching, though: Kirsten and Devin — who boast 24.5K followers on their Instagram page fifth_wheel_living and another 30K on TikTok — said that when they started out in 2018, there were “not a lot of accounts out there.”
“A lot of my close friends that I’ve made on Instagram that are RVing full-time like us, they all started the same year, almost around the same month that we started,” Kirsten said. “We call each other the OGs.”
For those twenty- and thirty-somethings thinking about buying an RV and adopting a mobile lifestyle, veterans like the Bennetts and the Trouts have some words of advice (and encouragement!):
1. Figure out what you can afford, and go to the top of your budget.
Before you even start looking at RVs, take a detailed look at your finances and figure out what you can realistically afford to spend on your first RV.
“Buy an RV you can afford. Be willing to learn, and be prepared to DIY a lot of repairs yourself to save money,” Bennett said. “Buying an RV is NOT like buying a car, so go in with your eyes wide open.”
Based on their own experience, Kirsten and Devin added that you should spend as much as you possibly can to make sure you’re getting a quality vehicle — because if you go the cheaper route, you might just end up spending even more than you would’ve more on repairs.
“Whatever you can afford to spend, go to the top of that budget and spend it on quality,” Devin said. “Get a quality RV — something that’s been taken care of.”
2. Get a professional inspection.
Before you agree to buy an RV, make sure that you get an RV inspection. Like a home inspection, an RV inspection is a visual inspection of the “life safety systems” inside the vehicle to ensure everything is in working order.
You might not think it’s important to get an RV inspection, but Kirsten and Devin learned the hard way just how necessary it is. When they bought their first fifth-wheel trailer from a dealer, they decided against an inspection — and as soon as they started doing renovations, they discovered $2,000 worth of water damage under the couch.
3. Educate yourself on RV life before you hit the road.
Once you hit the road and begin your RV journey, you are bound to hit a few snags — and if you’re not prepared, they will drain your bank account. That’s why, before you pack up and start your new life, Bennett suggests reading up on some of the many RV resources available.
“Get a solid basic understanding of what you need to know first when it comes to RVs and RV life, from a qualified, reputable source,” she said. “You will save a lot of time and frustration, and avoid a lot of (potentially expensive) mistakes. With the right information and guidance up front, you will be able to fast-track your path to hitting the road in an RV with less hassle and more confidence.”
Blogs are a great place to start when it comes to learning about life on the road. Kirsten and Devin also exchange tips and tricks with fellow RVers via niche Facebook groups and, of course, Instagram.
4. Don’t be afraid to visit less populated parks and areas.
“There is so much beauty and jaw-dropping landscape in the country, and driving is the best way to see it,” Bennett said. “Right now, everyone is heading to the most popular national parks and places, which means they are getting overcrowded. Some of our best RV experiences have been in places you have probably never heard of, so head to less touristy places (especially now during the pandemic) and discover more rural locations and hidden gems that will not only be less crowded, but less expensive, too.”
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