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Hanging up the keys? Park models could be the answer to high living costs

Camping and RV ownership have always been a series of “phases” for those who stick with the lifestyle. Maybe your family started in a tent, moved to a pop-up trailer, then a towable, and finally that fancy motorized unit as you transitioned into being a full-timer. But when the day finally arrives when it’s time to turn in the RV keys … then what? Perhaps a park model?

Many full-time RVers go all-in on the lifestyle, selling their brick-and-mortar homes when they hit the road. When their RVing days are over, most return to their favorite regions, purchasing a small home or renting an apartment or condo for their next phase.

Park models bring more options to RVers

But the burgeoning prices of traditional homes and ballooning rents are making off-the-road living much more challenging as longtime RVers enter their twilight years. Now, some big players in the RV park ownership business are expanding their options, and that just might bring more options for former RVers.

What got me thinking along these lines was the growing role of Sun Outdoors. For most of its existence, Sun Outdoors was known as Sun Communities. Sun offered luxury park model community living—mostly in Florida. Over the years, Sun Communities purchased a few new park model properties that came along with existing campgrounds and RV parks. Sun found the campground business fit well with its expansion plans, and Sun Outdoors was born.

In just the past year, Sun Outdoors expanded its footprint in the campground ownership business in a big way. It recently purchased the Leisure Systems/Jellystone Parks franchising system, and its umbrella now covers 150-plus campgrounds in North America.

Sun Outdoors is now one of the largest campground ownership conglomerates in America, with locations in 27 states and one Canadian province. The company is also well capable of handling the “cradle to grave” lifestyle needs of longtime RVers. Still RVing? No problems there. And when you’re ready to hang it up and settle down in one location, Sun Outdoors will be right there to sell you a 400- to 500-square-foot park model to live out your sunset years.

Park model living could bring answers to rising rents and costs of housing

For many, park model living could be the answer to rising rents and the outrageous cost run-ups for traditional housing. Sun Outdoors has resale park models available for as little as $10,000. You can also purchase a brand-new, 399-square-foot park model for about $58,000. Try finding a house or traditional condo for that price.



Of course, your new park model will be placed on rented land, but you’ll also have access to all the amenities the ever-expanding Sun Outdoors resorts have to offer. Sun’s website markets their park models as “vacation homes,” but it’s up to you if you want to make it your full-time home.

Sun Outdoors is far from the only option if you find it’s time to sell the RV and move to a park model community. But Sun Outdoors has positioned itself well to be an option if you can’t afford to move back to the traditional housing market.

It’s one way former RVers can stay in the sun.

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Sunshine
3 months ago

Many, and I mean many, senior RV with deeded lot parks are restricting access to property for months at a time. They don’t want locals to be in the park, just snowbirds. Some HOA’s board members can seriously make life hard. One thought is it makes it cheaper but it doesn’t.

Mary barnhart
3 months ago

I personally would love to own a park model or even just rent one, however in AZ. It’s impossible. My husband is disabled and I’m helping him day to day. I’m looking for part time work while I drive our out of date r.v. around from stop to stop Wich believe me isn’t many and we stay over night. For two bucks my husband and I can go into to locations with casinos and play a nickel at a time to pray for enough gas to leave to get to the next place the next day. This gives a show I. So that we can stay the twenty four hours on the property catching a few Zzz till the next day to do it again. If we run out it’s sometimes hours or a special treat a towel that costs me nearly 500$ Wich would have been my gas money to make it from place to place that month. Everyone looks at us like we are junkys and don’t want to help us or understand that we aren’t trying to be this way it’s nearly that the parks expect 3 times the income of the rent plus deposit. We don’t have that.

Mike Hancock
3 months ago

I would not own a park model on a rented space. Too many people have been trapped when the park sells and the rents jacked up. I own a deeded lot in an “RV subdivision” free and clear. I might put a park model on it in the future. I am 72 and hope to have some more good years as a nomad.

Kathleen
3 months ago

Sun Outdoors, Sun communities, buys parks and jacks up the prices to twice the amount they were before they purchased the park. Good case in point, Pony Express Resort in North Salt Lake, Utah. It has a pool and clubhouse and a laundry room, this by no means makes it a resort and does not justify $900-$1200 space fees. Sadly this seems to be the way things are headed for full time RVers😩

Rhonda
3 months ago
Reply to  Kathleen

I agree! Our park rental units went up from $900 to $3,000! We have a pool that half the time doesn’t have heat. It is outdated/ always out of propane/ colerne so bad it burns your skin and destroyed bathing suits! There are no proof of why our rent goes up and were the money goes! Our manager has to put up with people in the park that should have been and have been evicted but corporate won’t back her. She has to fight for any money from corporate to do things with thing she needs for the park. Corporate puts sod in the dog park but no water! Corporate puts in brick driveways that shift and break when every time a trailer parks in them! They won’t replace with cement because they don’t want the expense of the permits! This was a 55 or older sun bought it and now it is family park. Nothing for the kids to do! We are getting gulf carts stolen/ our tiki hut is 18 and older and nothing can be left in the fridge for our Saturday afternoon jam sessions. Because parents let there kids I’m there and things our stolen of the fridge by teenagers and there parents do nothing! Our property is being destroyed/ our pool room has been destroyed/ our pool was had to be drained because parents let there kids out in the pool with out proper protection! We try and have excerise classes but parents let there children swim and yell we can’t hear the instructions! Again our manager has dealt with this over and over corporate won’t back her!

Lori
3 months ago

Anyone with any info on the state of things up here in Canada?

Thomas D
3 months ago

Please don’t confuse park model rv’s with manufactured homes that are also called park models. We sold our trailer and bought into an rv park.our home is well built with 2x4studs , a shingle pitched roof,carpeted and luxury vinyl floors. 2baths and full size appliances. The only thing that bothers me is we rent the land. This year its $4100. But it includes 2pools,hot tubs tennis and pickle ball courts and lots of craft opportunities. I kinda miss the trips we would take but at 82 it’s time to turn over the keys and give the next generation the opportunity to see our beautiful nation parks

Steve
3 months ago
Reply to  Thomas D

I agree that true park models are completely built and equipped to residential standards, but they are built in a factory. Too many people confuse them with “destination trailers,” which are just 40′ travel trailers with blunt front ends, sliding glass doors, and residential kitchen appliances and bathroom fixtures. However, destination trailers are built to RVIA standards, with fiberglass or aluminum exteriors, thin walls, RV roof materials, RV AC and heating systems, RV utility hookups, and 3 or 4 slides. Most even have water and waste holding tanks, although those may be optional. In other words, destination trailers ARE RVs, despite the intentional confusion by some dealers to call them “park models”. They may be advertised throughout the Midwest and Northeast as “park models” for season-long use in RV parks, but they are not built to the legal standards and size limits of true park models. Park models can be easily identified by their 11-12′ width and lack of slides. Due to their width, park models must be towed by a commercial hauler. Destination trailers are 96-101″ wide and can be towed by anyone with a 3/4-ton truck.

Ravenhal
3 months ago
Reply to  Thomas D

As the generation behind you, I don’t think we will be able to. It’s too expensive now. Decided to make my home a little nicer and just stay put

Dingus Dominingus
3 months ago

No talk of the ever escalating lot rent fees that owners of park models will be subject to?

CeeCee
3 months ago

From my research, a big difference between park models and tiny homes is that the park models are not designed nor warranted for full-time living. They are also built to lower specifications than tiny homes, so they do not hold up as well over time, and are hard to keep comfortable in very warm or cold conditions, requiring more energy to do so than a TH. Like the FT lifestyle, they do not measure up well against investing in real property and production of real products. RV living, though very enjoyable, is not long-term sustainable for most people, IMO.

Steve
3 months ago
Reply to  CeeCee

The park we stayed in Tucson had remodeled park models for sale that were built in 1987. They had the same building materials and construction standards as sticks and bricks homes: concrete foundations and driveways, wood stud walls, composite siding, asphalt or fiberglass shingles, lots of residential windows, residential AC and heating, sheet rock interior walls, solid wood cabinets, 4-burner gas or electric ranges with full-size ovens, full-length bathtubs or showers with glass doors, 60 x 80″ queen size beds, and full-size recliners, sofas, and 50″ flat-screen TVs in the living room. They have no water or waste tanks, so are permanently connected to all utilities, including TV cable/high-speed internet. The wheels and tongues are removed as soon as they are set on their foundations. Basically, park models are short, 11-12′ wide, 399 sq ft manufactured homes. And they come fully furnished for full-time living. They are completely different than “destination trailers”!

David Hagen
3 months ago
Reply to  CeeCee

CC,There are standards from RVIA that park models have to be built to, but there are NO standards for tinyhomes.

Steve
3 months ago

We have snowbirded in Arizona, New Mexico, Texas, and Florida. The only 50+ RV park we have stayed for a month or more without park models was in Las Cruces. Parks in Tucson, Mesa, Casa Grande, and Benson had park models and most of them, particularly in Casa Grande, have added so many that they are now effectively “park model parks”. We have even had problems fitting our previous fifth wheel into a space next to a park model because they are all 11-12′ wide, but are placed in former RV spaces designed for 8′ wide RVs.

Before the pandemic, we decided to try park model living, so reserved one in our favorite Tucson park with “Arizona room” and carport additions. It was just like being in a two-bedroom apartment, with apartment-sized, not RV-sized, bathroom fixtures and kitchen appliances. But, unlike an apartment, we had no common walls, noisy neighbors above us, or barking dogs next door (the park had “dog” and “no dog” areas. And no more expensive than a nice apartment!

Jim Prideaux
3 months ago

Are these just upscale mobile home parks? Is there a difference between a park model and a mobile home? Will the next thing to come be ‘double wide’ park models?

Ray Zimmermann
3 months ago

This is not a new idea, parks in snowbird areas like the Southwest, Texas and Florida have long consisted of a mix of RV sites and park models, with many people transitioning from RVs to park models when they (the RVers) age. Every so often a big player like Sun will decide these parks are a good investment opportunity.

Ray
3 months ago

This is a game of musical chairs and the chairs are disappearing one by one. One thing they did not mention in this slight offering of hope. Try finding a site, not in the boonies, that is not already populated with the previous owner’s model/homestead. And when you do find such a site, as implied, the Corporation who owns the land has first dibs on placing their own model on it. If this is your future, best implement it sooner rather than later. Good luck with that.

Egwilly
3 months ago

This is a bad idea for those of us who rv the traditional way. These units take up the best area of the park and are causing less and less availablility for regular campsites. Added to that are all the 1000’s of full timers taking up massive amounts of campsites now.

It is becoming very hard to reserve spaces. I am opposed to the park models. They belong in a traditional trailer park.

My opinion….yours may vary.

friz
3 months ago
Reply to  Egwilly

and Trailer Park is what those campgrounds may become. If there is more money in Park Models I would expect to see more and more.

Ray
3 months ago
Reply to  Egwilly

Many parks could be considered trailer parks. Go down to the Valley in Texas using Google Earth. Thousands upon thousands of sites, mostly populated by snowbirds with mobile homes and park models side by side. More than you can shake a stick at. It really is quite a spectacle from the air. Some parks try to maintain a few temporary sites for those pulling thru and visiting those who own or lease. It’s been a few years but like any place else, you’d better reserve in advance.

Bob p
3 months ago
Reply to  Egwilly

The resort we are in has RV spaces scattered throughout the park models, the first one we bought had a 5th wheel parked next door. Several DPs scattered amongst the park models.

DonnaB
3 months ago

We’ve joined this movement, with a modification. We’re just wrapping up our second season of work camping in a resort in Yuma, AZ. We love being in Yuma and avoiding the cold Midwest winters, however leaving my elderly mother-in-law alone for 6 months at a time isn’t feasible. We recently purchased an older park model in this park so she can come along but we can still have our privacy. Eventually, when she’s not coming down and we don’t want to travel by RV, it’s an option for us to still enjoy Yuma and the wonderful people in this resort.

Pam
3 months ago
Reply to  DonnaB

Donna,
I really love this “modification” idea. Similar situation here and this really gave me something to think about! Thank you!!
P.S.We really have enjoyed Yuma this winter, too!

Bob M
3 months ago

The only issue is you could end up paying property taxes on the park model and land. In PA they charge taxes on mobile homes in mobile home parks. In the Poconos people who own park model campers pay taxes on the property/park model campers in Eagle Lake.

Rick Edgar
3 months ago

Did this 2 years ago in Arizona. Spent 12 years in our 5th wheel in this park. Now 6 months here and 6 in Indiana. Almost like having the RV. Lot rent the big unknown.

Michael Starks
3 months ago
Reply to  Rick Edgar

I’m in Indiana. What do you live in for those 6 months in the Hoosier state? (BTW, go IU!)

Bob p
3 months ago

We just completed a purchase like this, it’s in Leesburg, FL. We bought a park model with a FL room addition expanding the square footage to 715 sq.ft. Furnished w/central heat/air, laundry room, etc.for $43,000. It’s a 1994 model that’s been well cared for, the previous owners owned it for 8 years but only used it 3 months out of the year. We love it, sold our sticks and vinyl home in TN where they got 3-6” of snow last night while we slept comfortably in 72 deg.comfort.

Gail
3 months ago
Reply to  Bob p

Can you get a loan for a park model?

Bob p
3 months ago
Reply to  Gail

If you can get a loan on an RV you should be able to.

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