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Around the Campfire: How old is too old to RV?

We were a bit late joining last night’s campfire. Other campers had already gathered around the welcome warmth and were in the middle of a discussion. The topic? “How old is too old to RV?” As we joined our chairs to the circle, I took a quick glance at the other folks there. Whew! Hubby and I were safely within the age range represented: 30s through 80s. (BTW, I’m terrible at guessing ages. This was my best estimate for the ages of people gathered.)

Recent changes in the RV world

Settling into my chair, I thought about how things have changed just in the past five years. We’re seeing more and more younger, working full-time RVers than ever before. It used to be that only retired folks with a solid pension could enjoy an RV lifestyle. That’s changing. And changing quite a bit! What’s driving younger working people to a life on the road? Opinions differed around the campfire.

Claudie commented: “I think younger folks just don’t want the responsibility of owning a home, raising a family, and committing to the betterment of a community. On the road, they’re only responsible for themselves. They’ve opted out of the norm, like irresponsible hippies did, back in my day.”

T.J. had something to say about that: “Wait a minute! Just because I’m working remotely doesn’t mean I’m somehow opting out of community improvement. My RV is my home and I do act responsibly by taking care of it. If my wife and I decided to start a family, we might make a change. But for now, this works best for us. Did you ever stop to think that maybe this is the new norm?”

Another 30-something, single gal added: “COVID pushed me into RV living. So far, I’m loving it! This might be the only time in my life that I get to travel, meet new friends, see new places, and earn a paycheck—all at the same time!”

There are many, many reasons why so many more folks are joining the RV life. COVID and having to isolate, the lack of affordable housing (to rent or own), and the growing ability to work remotely are just some of the reasons for the uptick in RV ownership. Young families now know that their children can learn remotely, and many other parents have decided to home-school, as well. RV manufacturers have taken note and are working to add RV offices and work-stations along with other new configurations to appeal to the new and changing faces of today’s RV buyers.

The internet is also helping people get into the RV lifestyle. Folks of all ages can now buy older RVs and fix them up. You can find step-by-step directions for how to install or repair almost anything on YouTube. And Pinterest has countless ideas for designing and decorating your RV to reflect the way you and your family want to live.

A dramatic shift in RVers’ ages

80-year-old John said: “It’s best to RV when you’re young. I think this will be our last year RVing. Travel days really get to me. I get really nervous now when I drive our Class A. I never used to feel that way. Plus, my wife has trouble getting in and out of our RV. The steps are getting to be too much for her.”

John is not alone. Many of our “more experienced” RVing friends are calling it quits. Others are looking for viable solutions. Take John’s scenario for example. If he and his wife still enjoy escaping the cold Minnesota winters, perhaps he can hire someone to drive his RV to southern Florida. I see many permanent stairs leading up to RVs in our current park. These steps feature handrails on both sides for stability and ease of maneuvering. Maybe some kind of alternative step configuration or a ramp could be a solution for John’s wife.

“Well, we’re only 59,” Julia commented, referring to herself and her husband. “I’d love to keep on RVing. It’s the reason we retired early. But I figure that with today’s used RV prices, we can sell now, bank the money, and buy a better RV in a year or so. We’ll get back into RVing then.”

As with most of life’s major decisions, choices remain distinctly individual. We all act on decisions in light of our current circumstances and future goals. The brutal truth is that circumstances change. Goals sometimes need to be modified. So, I finally asked the question that everyone seemed to be carefully tip-toeing around: “How do you know when it’s time to hang up the RV keys for good?”

How old is too old to RV?

A hush fell over the circle of RVers. Old Timers seemed to lean in to learn the answer. Younger RVers hesitantly made eye contact with others in their age group, but offered no opinion. At least not at first. Then:

Bonnie, age 69, finally said, “Well, we plan to keep our rig. We’ll travel until failing health puts a stop to RVing.”

Several people around the campfire nodded in agreement. It makes sense to me. If you no longer feel safe or confident in your driving skills, it’s definitely time to put up the keys—for your own safety and the safety of others on the road.

Here are a few additional health considerations to think about:

  • Eyesight: Have your eyes checked at least once each year, and renew your prescription as directed. Tell your eye doctor about any concerns. Always wear sunglasses when needed to protect your eyes from glare.
  • Strength: The “set up” and “take down” of common RV routines require a certain amount of body strength. For example, if you have a fifth wheel, you or your travel buddy need to be strong enough to climb up to access the RV hitch inside your truck bed.
  • Balance: Troubleshooting RV problems may require you to access your RV roof or climb a ladder to access your exterior refrigerator panel, for instance. The ground around your campsite may be uneven, feature trip hazards like rocks and branches, or otherwise pose challenges for someone who does not have adequate balance skills.
  • Agility/flexibility: Maneuvering your RV requires a good bit of agility. Think: twisting around to back up into your site, cornering a rig on narrow roadways, wrangling water and sewer hoses, and more.
  • General health conditions: If you must see a doctor or receive health treatments regularly, you will need to plan your trips around those important visits. Or research places along your planned route that can accommodate your ongoing health needs.

Can you ever be too old to RV?

“No.” At least that’s what 90-year-old Carl says. He and his wife plan to keep on RVing until they “Either run out of money or good sense—whichever comes first.”

Todd seemed to summarize the conversation best: “You’ve got to be honest with yourself or pay attention to your travel partner, kids, or doctors. They might see things you don’t see for yourself. If you are healthy, have good reasoning and reaction skills, and can handle the physical parts of the RV life, go for it!”

What do you think? How long do you plan to enjoy the RV life? Travel on over to my forum and we’ll continue the conversation.

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STEVE
7 months ago

When it’s no longer enjoyable is when you’re too old to RV. When the pain outweighs the pleasure, Hang it up.

Skip
7 months ago

First, thank you Gail (and RV travel staff) for this feature. I hope the many many full timers, and the rest of us, find options to get around the rising costs. Unfortunately, the cost of everything is rising and we will all have to be creative to continue to enjoy RVing.

Oscar Thomson
7 months ago

We Can’t get on the roof. The dealer has a free inspection. We can’t get under the fiver. I made some blocks to set under the self leveling Jack’s without pulling the pins. We have electric awnings. I’m not bragging but saying the good old days are now.

Deborah Johnson
7 months ago

My husband and I, each 69 years old, subscribe to the idea of our Go years, Slow years, and No years. We are in our Go years now, but I expect in 8-10 years or so we’ll be in our Slow years where we take a couple days to drive 300 miles. Our No years will see us possible getting a park model and taking day trips.

Bob Weinfurt
7 months ago

I’m turning 65 and my MH is 44. I’ll pack it in when one of us croaks.

Paul
7 months ago

We are both 79. Neither of us is in perfect health. We have been full time in our current 36 foot DP for 10 years. This was after 10 years of most time RVing. I am currently planning a cross country trip from SoCal to NY state. It will be our 21st such crossing. We have reduced drive time to 2 hours each per day so the trip will take a while. We will get off the road for at least 2 nights every so often, what’s the hurry? We have full medical coverage at both ends of the trip and we have had the misfortune to need to find excellent care along the way a couple of times. Life can be like that. Once I had to call a son to come bail us out as we needed to drive from El Paso to Charlottesville and my wife was in no condition to drive. The lesson is fairly simple when one of us can no longer drive this big rig (for us) we will park it, hang up the keys and resort to Plan B. We haven’t decided what plan B is!

Mark W
7 months ago

Access to health care the older you get is everything. If you have a medical emergency in a remote location it could be fatal, but, having said that it’s impossible to predict and prepare for this.

Get annual physical check ups and watch your diet and exercise to ward off problems. Enjoy your life, but, be practical about your limitations. Age catches up with everyone and you can’t avoid it.

There’s no easy answer here and it’s all based on individual’s health conditions. There’s no generalizations here; every person is unique and it’s impossible to make any assumptions.

Bob Palin
7 months ago

I’m 65 and hope to RV for the rest of my life. The one thing I think will become increasingly difficult is putting a full propane tank into the fifth wheel. It’s a PITA now, not just because of the weight but because it’s such an awkward job to do. No problem with the weight (yet) but the angles and contortions needed to get it in there.

Oli
7 months ago

Interesting post and comments. Not the question raised but I agree with Claudie – you should be raising kids in your 30s. A society which doesn’t value this is a society with an expiration date.

John Koenig
7 months ago

Simply NO “cut & dry” one size fits all answer. #1 question; are you HEALTHY enough to SAFELY drive and manage an RV? If you are, do you still enjoy the RV lifestyle? I started RVing 11+ years ago and STILL have not seen everything I’d like to. Not that many years ago, I remember a serious bedbug problem in some (many?) hotels / motels. That’s not a problem in my RV. The places I’d like to see more of are often more accessible to RVs than to folks in motels. At an RV rally, I met a 92 year old gentleman who was still RVing. I hope to reach that age and still be healthy enough to safely drive my rig! When you stay in a motel, you’re basically living out of a suitcase (not something I’m wild about). Bottom line: EACH person / couple has to decide what’s best for them based on THEIR circumstances.

Bob p
7 months ago

My DW and I are 82&79, we are in excellent health according to our Dr. We gave up our 38’ Class A because I didn’t feel I was competent to handle the responsibilities of such a large vehicle. We downsized to a truck and 23’ travel trailer which I’m much more comfortable handling. We will continue as long as our health holds out. We don’t go as far as we use to, but we still enjoy our trips.

Jesse
7 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

Good 👍 for you both! Adapt and “keep on trucking” as we spoke in the 70s ..

james summerville
7 months ago

I want to know how to handle all the requirements of not having a mailbox or physical address,

Jeff Craig
7 months ago

‘Changing Lanes’, ‘You, Me and the RV’ and others on YouTube have numerous episodes on things like mailing services, taxes, medical and vehicle insurance and other issues facing full-timers.

Cheryl Bacon
7 months ago

Check out Escapees RV Club https://escapees.com/

Albert
7 months ago

I will say that I am glad I retired at 55 and started going full-time then. Later we half time RV’ed up until I turned 71, not that I was not able, but because the wife got tired of it. I thought about getting another RV, but the prices are too high and I read where getting into parks is getting to be too difficult. I can Foresee the market getting flooded with used RV’s in the next couple of years and values way down.

Jesse Crouse
7 months ago

I agree with Todd.

Terry
7 months ago

There is so much more to think about than age. I am 74 and could drive to almost any larger city in this country without looking at a map. East of the big river show me any town on a map and I could drive there and never look at a map again. I am able to do anything that is needed around a camp site. This said I have sold my motorhome and gave up RVing because of the cost. The last trip in the car after selling motorhome was from Florida to CA then to OR east across the country back to Florida. A trip of about 2 months staying with friends and relatives. The trip cost less than it would have been in our motorhome. Having spent several years traveling and work camping it would have been great to have our home with us if we could have afforded it but we were able to see and do so much more by car and mooching off people, LOL. But if we win the lottery we will be back on the road. So I think money causes more old people to stop than just age.

Mark W
7 months ago
Reply to  Terry

I agree completely that the cost of maintaining an RV is extremely expensive. People are always told that staying in hotels is more expensive, but, I’m not sure this is true especially when you consider that on a cost basis for the actual number of days you’re using your own rig the cost is extremely high. Remember that every day you’re not using the RV it’s still costing you money. Why is that? Insurance, registration, maintenance and replacement for items that fail over time. You are only paying for the use of the hotels as you use them. None of those other factors exist.

The only “cool factor” is owning your own rig is exciting….. it’s like being your own “Captain Kirk” on the highway……. people love that….. but, it’s an expensive ride.

Ann
7 months ago

Although we had been camping a handful of times while our kids were at home, we didn’t start camping more than once every ten years until we were 67 and 69, bought our TT a year later. We aren’t full time, and some might even consider that we don’t camp often enough to justify owning a TT. We’re now 72 and 74 and are heading out for a week next month. As we plan our first trip of “the season” (for us it is a season – it’s changed a bit since we moved from the desert of Colorado to the humidity and heat and bugs of the southeast) I think a lot about when we’ll decide it’s time. I think we have a few years left though. Heck, we didn’t even know we were considered “elderly” until the pandemic called us that.

Jerry X Shea
7 months ago

Great article and comments below.
Into our 16th year of RVing with the first 8 fulltiming in a 40 foot motorhome and went to all 49 states. Then we downsized to a 33 foot for 5 years. Now we have a 25 foot Leisure Travel Van. Easy to drive, park and maneuver. We do 6-8 months RVing a year.
We work off a 5 year plan when we re-evaluate if we want to do another 5 years. I am now 79 and my wife is 81. In 2026 at 84 & 86 we will “re-evaluate again. We love the RV lifestyle.

Traveler
7 months ago

Another article like “gray is the perfect color to paint your house”.
There is no perfect- just judge mental people! You can listen to others opinions of perfect, then go do what works for you.

Ozzie
7 months ago

We’re 67 and 63. We said when we started fulltime we would go until we can’t or don’t want to anymore. I think we will know when to quit. We started because tomorrow isn’t guaranteed and still feel that way.

Mike Whelan
7 months ago

We reassess RV travel every season. I do not see the “when to stop” as a function of age but a function of health and practicality. If I cannot physically or mentally function well enough to safely travel by RV …. I will stop. We have been at RVing in one form or another for going on 50 years now. In many ways I think we are far safer now than when I was young and stupid. Like most things in life it is time to stop when it is no longer fun. Keep RV-nnn!