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After this "epic" vacation, we'd probably sell the RV.

RV's are like new cars only worse. You lose 30%-40% of the purchase price the minute you drive off the lot. That can be a significant piece of change. Why not make that work for you instead of against?

When RV dealers sell a new one, there is usually a trade in involved, and they have them on the lot, and don't want them, because there isn't the profit margin involved. I'd counsel you to visit several of your local RV dealers and get to know a salesperson. Tell them you're thinking of buying an RV, but you're new to all of this and simply will not buy a new one.

(They, of course, will try to talk you into it, because that's where they make the most commission.) Resist. Give them your home number or an e-mail address, and tell them to notify you whenever they get something that fits your criteria - which you should spell out in some detail: length, number of slides (if you want that), gas or diesel, satellite dish or whatever.

When you see one you like, buy a service package (they're available from dealers, or better, get one that's transferrable anywhere since you will be travelling for most of the time), and have a complete inspection prior to signing. They will give you a short window to fix things (30, maybe 90 days), so take at least two trips, preferably of more than a weekend duration, to see if anything goes wrong, and just to learn the quirks of the rig.

Your van may or may not be towable. Most that are not can be made towable with the addition of transmission disconnectors or special pumps or whatever; this may add a couple thousand to the price (since you will also need a towbar and perhaps a remote braking system.)

For the record, we bought our Dutchstar used for about $72,000. It was four years old and was $160,000 new. We bought it from a private party and had a thorough inspection at the best dealer in the area, who found about $2,000 worth of fixs and repairs which the original owner paid for. We have had issues since (we've owned it since 2000) but that is to be expected when you bounce a house down the road.

Driving forward was no big deal, as I once owned a school bus (which I converted) but it was many years ago. I practiced backing up by ging to the mall on a Sunday morning before they opened and taking a bunch of empty cat food cans to "lay out" to see if I could back into spaces, and to test the turning radius with the car attached, and so on. After a couple hours there I had my confidence, never did it again. Worked great.

Find a camping world and/or subscribe to "Highways" magazine, which is owned by the Good Sam club and which will shower you with warrantee information, roadside assistance plans, catalogues and all other manner of stuff, some of which is useful. (You really do want the roadside assistance, if not from them, from someone. We've needed it three times in ten years, and when you're broken down on the side of I-95, that's not the time to figure out where to find a towtruck. Most can't tow a rig, and even some trucker tow companies won't touch an RV.)

There are other companies, but Good Sam is a place to start, anyway.

The whole RV idea is as much a cost saving issue as anything.

Get this idea out of your head. Owning an RV, and even travelling in an RV will be as expensive as your car trips, just in a different way. Your campgrounds will be $30-$50 a night, you'll have a lot higher fuel bills, and you'll do stuff on the road that will eat up any savings. And, of course, you'll buy an RV, modify the car, etc. You will NOT save money. Really. You can find cheap hotels and inns and go cheaper that way.

That said, the RV lifestyle is fabulous; we used to do car trips and loading and unloading suitcases is a total drag. You sometimes have a kitchen and sometimes don't, you can't buy the food you want because you won't have a fridge, it's harder to carry books and magazines, and we bring some of our pets along as well.

There are many advantages, but "cheap" is not one of them.

We have discovered that, as trite as it is to say, "the journey is the reward." After years of right angle travel for the corporate life (fly to a city, drop vertically down, rise vertically up, fly home), and even after a decade of car trips (fun, but exhausting), the RV life is terrific. We did six weeks to Florida this past winter; in the past we've done 5 months coast to coast, 6 weeks loop-the-loop through Alabama & Georgia, 4 weeks to Chicago, 6 weeks to Boston, Maine, and Prince Edward Island, and many others.

I like cities and factory tours, she like national and state parks - and somehow we both manage to find what we want. It's a great life. Good luck.
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