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Retired RVers make travel a way of life

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On the other hand, says Zyetz, an author who has written numerous books on RVing, including "Taking the Mystery out of Retiring to an RV," you'll have to factor in RV-related expenses you didn't have before -- not least of which is the RV itself.

Homes on wheels come in almost as many varieties as the stick-built kind -- a variety that can be daunting to the uninitiated, Kenny says. "They fall into two general categories," she says, "towable and motorized."

For the owner, the biggest practical difference is that if you tow a conventional or fifth-wheel trailer, you have to get out of your truck or car to enter your living space, but if you travel in a motor home it's right over your shoulder.

Heading for the highway, looking for adventure  

There's also a hefty price difference. The price tag on a new travel trailer ranges from $8,000 to $65,000, Kenny says. Fifth wheels, so called because of their special fifth-wheel hitch, are roomier and may have slide-outs that can be opened out to expand living quarters when the vehicle is parked. They run $13,000 to $100,000 or higher. Motor homes, which look a bit like luxury buses, generally come equipped with slide-outs, full kitchens and other conveniences, and can cost from $100,000 to as much as $900,000, she says. Class B and C motor homes range from $40,000 to $200,000.

Hitting the open road
1. Buying your home on wheels
2. Living expenses
3. Practical matters
4. Support groups
5. Assisted RV living

While gas prices certainly need to be budgeted generously to allow for price increases, they're not as prohibitive as people sometimes think, says Kevin Broom, a spokesman at Recreation Vehicle Industry Association. Large motor homes average about 10 miles per gallon, he says; the smallest compact versions can average as much as 18 mpg.

Even for the most expensive motor homes, Broom says, a recent study showed fuel prices would have to triple for RVing to lose its economic advantage over the cost of the same trip made staying in hotels and eating at restaurants.

Tempting as it may be, Kenny says it's not a good idea to sink all the equity from the sale of your home into an RV. You need to have a nest egg to cover unexpected expenses and finance your future when age or illness demands that you park your rig for good.

Next: "New technology has made the RV lifestyle a lot easier ..."
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