Are you buying an RV or boat to live in full-time? You probably have lots of questions—buy new or used? Use a broker or search on your own? Finance or pay cash?
Luckily, there are good resources online to help you out (here’s some practical advice for buying an RV and for buying a cruising sailboat). But what’s more likely to cause you to make a purchasing mistake? Lack of knowledge? Or lack of self-knowledge?
Buying A Bed (with a boat attached)
They were setting out on their cruising life in their 70s—neither having any experience on large boats. The husband had owned a small fishing boat, about 18 feet long, with an outboard engine. So at least he had some experience with wind, water, and current.
But everything about living on a boat was new to the wife. And the stress of moving the thing was really getting to her.
The boat they bought? It was very nice. And over 40 feet long.
They hadn’t to intended to look at that boat. But they arrived at the dock and saw this boat for sale. The owner invited them on board.
He made his sale the instant the wife saw the large cabin with a bed you could walk around on both sides.
It looked like home. But they were terrified to travel in it.
Buying An RV To Live In Full-Time
Steve and Nikki Wynn live on a sailboat now. But they made their reputations traveling by RV. They even appeared on an episode of House Hunters RV.
Yes, House Hunters is heavily edited and some say, quite fake. But it makes an important point about the psychology of buying a home—viewing three options may change your thoughts on what you want.
It’s a common sales tactic for a dealer to show you a vehicle far out of your price range as well as one that’s not up to par to make the one you eventually buy look nearly perfect.
You see, you may think you’re using logic to buy an RV to live in or a boat to sail the world in. But psychology wins out.
And it’s why I stayed away from catamarans at the Annapolis Sailboat Show when I was shopping for my own boat.
Protect Your Eye When You Buy A Boat (or RV)
As a newbie, I had never sailed a boat longer than 35 feet. I knew that larger boats would be more challenging to handle (larger sails mean more powerful forces). I also knew they would be more expensive.
And knowing that many cruisers had sailed around the world on vessels under 30 feet, I didn’t want my eyes to be bigger than my wallet.
So when we visited the Annapolis Sailboat Show to start looking at boats, I stayed away from several. For instance, catamarans.
The only thing I know about them is that I can’t afford one.
I also stayed away from boat models famous for being particularly comfy at the dock. My reading told me that a narrower boat would be safer underway—giving plenty of handholds as we made our way below.
But I also knew that a roomy saloon (what boaters call a living room) would be irresistible when I saw it in person. And I also knew that once you get used to seeing vessels of a certain size and shape, your eye changes.
You see, science tells us that the more you are exposed to something, the more attractive you find it. Heck, with enough time on a catamaran I might even find them more beautiful than the traditional monohulls I’ve always loved.
While it might be fun to shop for nomad homes that aren’t on your buying list, it can make you feel dissatisfied with the vehicle or vessel your research tells you is right for you.
Besides protecting your eye when buying an RV to live on full-time or a cruising boat, is there anything else you can do to keep your brain in the driver’s seat when your heart goes shopping?
Buying A Home; Not A House
In sailing and cruising groups, I hear the frequent refrain, “It’s not camping; buy a boat you can live in.” It makes me crazy.
No, I’m not recommending you buy the smallest, simplest nomad home possible. But remember that while you are buying a home, you’re not buying a house. When you try to buy something that lives like a house, you’re going to struggle to travel.
Remember to think about
How you’ll use your traveling home
If you dream of boondocking in national forests or anchoring for weeks at a time, you’ll love having lots of tankage for water or waste. A stoutly built bluewater boat will be more sea kindly and a compact RV will fit better in state parks.
Of course, if you intend to tie up to a dock or move into an RV resort, buy the most house-like vessel you can find. You can always hire someone to help you move it.
How will you move it
I passionately believe that you can build your skills and learn to do things you never imagined. Backing up a 37-foot rig will become second nature with practice. Managing massive sails becomes easier the stronger you get.
But if you buy an RV or boat that’s so big that it’s scary, you may never allow yourself to gain the skills you need to move it. And even worse, you may miss out on some wonderful places you find too challenging to travel to on your own.
If you buy an RV to live in full-time as if it was a house, it may never be anything but a house.
Where will you use it
If you can afford to travel from private resort campground to private resort campground, you’ll find more spots for your large rig. But you may be out of luck in state parks.
Right now, I’m cruising the US east coast and Intracoastal Waterway. My seaworthy, bluewater vessel is far better built than many of the boats we meet. But we’re much more comfortable crossing Hampton Roads during a small craft advisory or anchoring in a squall than beamy boats built for a dock and nausea-producing in rough conditions.
I don’t know what happened to our new friends in the trawler with the nice bedroom. Luckily, some kind people on the dock mentored them, taking them out to practice anchoring and docking the boat.
I spent quite a bit of time sharing my best tips for picking up a mooring ball. I’m sure other people have helped them along the way.
But the tension-induced anger I heard from the husband and tears I witnessed from the wife don’t make me hopeful that they’re still cruising, over a year later.
I understand the temptation to buy a nice bed. I really understand it every time I get up to pee at 3 a.m. Especially since I have to swing my leg over the dog without kicking my husband in the teeth when getting out of the v-berth.
But if I feel a little cramped at anchor, I don’t regret my boat even a little bit when we’re sailing nicely in the Albemarle Sound with square waves. Especially once we chat with the boat owners who traveled in the same conditions with less happy results.
And when a full-time RVer is dealing with the seventh straight day of rain, it can be tempting to wish you had bought a much bigger vehicle. But when your rig is parked under a shady canopy and you’re sitting in your lawn chair outside on a 75-degree day, I bet you don’t miss that extra slide or roomy bedroom even a little bit.
So if you’re buying an RV or boat to live on, remember that traveling comfortably will probably benefit you more than an extra few feet when you’re watching television or reading a book. And listen to your brain when your heart pushes you the wrong way.