I Purchased a Motorhome RV!

$14,000. How long would it take to make $14,000 again? That was my bid amount on Ebay in November 2010 for a used RV motorhome. What the hell was I thinking?

A year ago, I came across the blog of a man named Tynan. He was a successful “gambler” during his college years, was featured in the NY Times Best Seller, The Game, as the character Herbal, and most interestingly, a digital nomad.  If you base it off Google, digital nomad was invented in 2009 because there are dozens of articles dating back to 2009 from the Washington Times to the LA Times. However, Tynan has been living in his RV since 2007, first in Austin and now in the heart of San Francisco. Thus, the seed was planted, I wanted to live in a RV. And here’s why and how it happened.

February 2010

At the time, my Masters program was coming to an end, and I was thinking about my future. I knew academia was out of the question for the near future. I still wanted to live in a city. But I didn’t want to pay the premium to live downtown. I also didn’t know where to go. My friends are all scattered throughout the world.

Living in a RV would meet all my desires. I wouldn’t be paying rent. I could live just about anywhere in America for however long I wanted. My entire home could literally move from one city to the next. A week in Boston, a month by the beach in Florida, a weekend in Vegas. It was the fulfillment of every young American’s dream to travel the country by car, bike, or in this case, RV. But, obviously, a RV costs a good amount of money.

When my lease expired in August, I moved back to my home state to save money and months later moved back in with my parents. But the prospect of living with my parents frightened me deeply. I mean they are lovely people. Hi Mom! Hi Dad! But, I need my own space. Thus, I renewed my search for RVs searching through Ebay and Craigslist. I didn’t seriously think I would buy a RV until the Spring at the earliest.

Buying the RV Online?

But then, I found it. A 1995 Winnebago Rialta located in South Carolina at the bidding price of $10,000. It was the exact year and model as Tynan’s. Its mileage was at 87,000 miles. After a year of searching, I knew that this RV was worth at least $15,000. At $10,000 it would be a steal!

I placed my bid with a maximum of $14,000. At $10,000, the buyer’s minimum reserve still hadn’t been meet. Therefore, I wasn’t obligated to purchase the vehicle if the minimum wasn’t meet even if I was the highest bidder. Anxious days followed as the auction lasted a few more days. Half of me desperately thrilled at the idea of winning while the other half of me hoped I didn’t win.

On a November Friday evening, the auction ended. I was in a coffee shop with two friends, frantically clicking refresh.

It turns out my prediction turned true. I was the highest bidder, but I hadn’t hit the minimum reserve. So, I immediately called the seller and tried to buy it anyway at $14k.

I should note here. During the auction phase, I figured out that the seller was also a Tynan fan who was similarly inspired. Also, the RV is the same year, make, and model as Tynan’s although it’s a slightly different inner floor plan.

Talking to the seller, Jessica, she was very nice and willing to part with the RV for fourteen thousand but needed to talk to her bank. She also hinted at the prospect that I might even get it for less!? I didn’t understand that point but was elated either way. What was once just a dream was now a reality.

Wait, What Do You Mean Pay a Collection Agency?

I was elated that weekend experiencing a joyous peak state. But matters quickly became complicated and a little suspicious. I never heard of her bank before. The RV itself was located in a mechanic’s lot in South Carolina while Jessica had moved to Hawaii. There was an unpaid invoice for the mechanic that I would be responsible for. The bank wanted me to pay the loan balance to a collection agency instead of the bank directly. It was unclear who held the title and how I would get a copy. There was no legal, signed document verifying I would be the owner after payment. There was Jessica, her bank, the bank’s collection agency, and a mechanic who physically had the RV.

Paranoia and fears of a scam started overwhelming my mind. I wouldn’t be able to face anyone, let alone myself if I lost my life savings in a scam. After all, I had never seen these people. I didn’t know them. I didn’t even know if the RV existed. And I’ve never even been inside a RV; let alone live in one. And yet, I was buying one without even seeing it. What was I doing?

A Month Goes By

I ended up talking to one of my best friend’s dad about the entire transaction. He’s very well versed in buying and selling expensive items, doing negotiations, and working with banks. We talked for a hour, and he gave me some great advice and suggested negotiating the price down.

Weeks went by trying to make preparations until it was nearly Christmas. At several points, I was mentally exhausted and on the verge of just giving up. Luckily, some of my friends and my roommate pushed me to keep going.

I got the RV inspected from a mobile, auto inspection company for around a hundred dollars. In turn, they inspected the RV for me and sent me a full report with photos within 24 hours. At least, I knew the RV was real. I got written guarantees from all parties involved. I spoke with Jessica several times, her bank manager, the collection agency, and the mechanic holding the RV.

In the end, I offered $11,000 which the bank to my surprise agreed to. After paying the mechanic, accounting for air fare, gas, and other expenses, I ended up getting the RV for around $12,000. By far, the most expensive purchase I’ve ever made.

Around Christmas on a Thursday morning, I flew down to Myrtle Beach, South Carolina. Picked up the RV, and drove it hundreds of miles back to Delaware. On the way, I got stuck in a snow storm, the engine gave off false overheating signals, and I stayed a night in Richmond and then Washington DC.

And then nothing. I parked the RV at my parent’s driveway and waited for the warm weather to arrive. In the past four months, I’ve worked on getting the paperwork straightened out, getting insurance, familiarizing myself with a RV, washing & waxing the exterior, removing rust, and much more.

Today, I received my solar panels and equipment from Oregon. I’m hoping to install them this weekend or next.

Solar panels still in their boxes

The entire ordeal has been quite a challenge and labor intensive. There’s been a lot of unexpected costs involved. I’ve probably spent more time reading and researching than actually with the RV so far. But I’m happy to spend the time educating myself.

Batteries die if you don’t run the engine and go on a ride

And I’m really happy with it. My new car, my future home. It’s surprisingly easy to drive. I’ve got a car, a kitchen, a bedroom, and bathroom all in one.

In May, I plan on hitting the road. North to Boston. South to Florida. West to California?

I’m not sure if I’ll enjoy the experience or how long I’ll last. Maybe, I’ll really hate it. Or I’ll absolutely love the adventure. I honestly don’t know. And I am scared sometimes at the thought of essentially living on the street in a metal box. In the worse case scenario, I’ll sell it back on ebay and recoup most of my money. In the best case, I’ll travel America, meet amazing people, and have a bank of memories for a lifetime.

Guess I don’t need my Nissan anymore


Tynan has a number of videos showcasing his upgraded RV.  Here’s just one.

Living inside a RV is also called boondocking, ie without hookups for electricity. In the past, RVs were mainly the niche for retired old people. And…it still is. But, it’s catching on with the younger crowd. Another Rialta full timer was Tom, who is globe trekking now . And tynan’s forums are filled with young dreamers living or planning on living in a RV.