The Business of Work Camping: Getting on the road – initial costs

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By Sam Suva
Full-time RVing sounds like an expensive undertaking, and there are bills that full-timing incurs that one would not normally pay for in a sticks-and-bricks home. Let’s discuss those bills.

When we began work camping, we purchased our motorhome. It was a 10-year-old-plus gas-powered Class A (bus type) with about 35,000 miles on it. It had a single slide out for the living room/dining room. We purchased it in the Southwest and drove it north, in November. You can imagine the looks we got, snowbirding north … in the winter.

The costs initially were the purchase of the RV, then that escalated quickly. We took the RV for a test drive and it was mechanically sound and drove well, so we purchased it. Shortly after, and I mean like less than an hour out, smoke started to pour out from the cabinets. We stopped alongside the road and found a burnt wire that fortunately burnt through, so the problem put itself out. It turns out the previous owner wired the batteries incorrectly, putting way too much voltage into the wiring. That didn’t cost us anything on the road, so we carried on. In fact, the initial drive of some 1,000 miles cost us only gas.

Going over the motorhome in detail the following spring, we found some issues. The battery saga had caused the air conditioner and furnace control wiring to melt, along with some DC outlets. We took it to a new camping repair place that was popping up all over the “World” and asked them to look at it. A few hundred dollars later they had the air and furnace working. However, wiring had been cut, and the work had to be done over again as the shop robbed wiring from one place instead of running new wiring. Fortunately the house wiring was fine, just the battery wiring (DC) was damaged.


We had the motorhome carpet cleaned and upgraded the TVs, and we packed it for full-time living. We secured a local campground job as our first work camping experience and it was truly wonderful. At the end of that season we said our goodbyes, had a going away party for the fast friends we made over too-short a season and pulled out of the campground.

While in the campground, we had the refrigerator repaired – it had a burnt wire from poor factory installation – and the generator serviced, but the work was done by a friend of ours so the cost was parts and a dinner.

We hit the road. On the way down to our first work camping job, we lost the transmission. We had to limp it into a big rig service station and they found the transmission needed to be replaced. They also noticed that the brake caliper was dragging and causing excessive wear and resistance. When a brake is behaving improperly on such a large vehicle, it is difficult to notice. Several thousands of dollars later, the transmission and brakes were repaired and we were rolling again. They had missed the cruise control cable, but we just roughed it to our location.

The job we had secured was a bait-and-switch operation, offering pay plus site until we got there and then only offered site, so we left and had to spend a few nights out-of-pocket. Eventually we found work close by and settled in.

Remembering that the “initial run” was actually the purchase and drive home, repairs and the first drive down south, it was about a year. Total costs for the initial run including purchase?  $19,500.

More on our expenses in future articles.

Please feel free to share your experiences in the comments below or contact me at samsuvarv(at)gmail.com .

See you down the road,

Sam

Sam Suva and his wife are work campers. They began work camping more than 10 years ago and have spent a lot of time working as they traveled. In this new weekly feature, they will share their experiences with you, with an emphasis on how to incorporate work camping into a full time RV lifestyle.

Read more articles about Work Camping.

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