December 12, 2011

How To "Home" Shop

For us, picking out a new rig is no small thing. It's the same as "ordinary" people shopping for a home and we have to do a lot of the same research.

First, think about what you need from your new vehicle.
  • How much space? 
  • Will you be traveling a lot? 
    • If so, what MPG are you comfortable with? 
  • Sometimes bigger is not better but seriously think about what you can live with long term.

Second, do some research. Now that you know what you want you can start looking for the vehicle that's right for you. Find something that matches your needs as much as possible, but be flexible.
  • Uhaul Vehicle Specs
    • Who knows more about vehicle specs than a company whose job it is to rent vehicles? Check out this site for all the dimensions, MPG, tank capacity, and towing capacity of your favorite van or box truck.
Third, you know what you want and what vehicle will best accommodate you, but before you can start searching for that perfect rig think about how much you're willing to spend. Have realistic expectations, think about the sedentary life and how much you would be spending on an apartment.
  • In New Hampshire I was paying about $700 per month for a one bedroom which  works out to $8,400 per year. Figure you will have this vehicle for at least five years, that's $42,000. 
    • Yeah, you read that right. If you are paying $700 per month for an apartment with heat, hot water, and electric included you will be shelling out $42,000 over the next five years. The worst part is that at the end of five years you will be walking away with nothing. nada. nill. 
  • Now that I have your attention, start thinking of your vehicle as an investment and realistically budget for the expense. Yeah, you can get a box van for $2,000  but keep in mind that you're going to have this for a while and even a $10,000 truck will save you $32,000 in the long run.
  • Think about financing. Ok, so we don't all have great (or even good) credit, myself included, but one of the great things about the whole country having lousy credit is that the dealers still have to sell to someone. That means they are dropping their standards and we have half a chance at a loan.
    • Think of a vehicle loan like rent or a mortgage. Remember: a five year loan with a minimum payment of $200 is still $500 less than that apartment would be costing you.
      • Note: My mother use to tell me that you should be spending 1/3 of your income on rent. While this is ideal, times have changed and it's hard to find an apartment to fit that percentage of our income (mine would cost about $200...). While sticks and bricks don't come this cheap, you can use this to figure out what you can afford in terms of a monthly payment.
Fourth, start shopping. You are now an informed buyer with a rough idea of what you're looking for and how much you are able to spend. Don't settle, this is your home, but don't be too ridged either. 

Thanks to everyone who has given me great advice over the past few months. I'm going to start some serious vehicle shopping in the next month so stay tuned and see this process in action. PS: Advice and suggestions are always welcome!


  1. I love this post its so what I need to read for me now. Im getting my 1st old new van named Frank in 2 weeks. A 1993 Chevy G20. The body not so great on the bottom but they kept up with all the important things inside. I could get a newer van but heck Im not going any where but work with it. Next van with more money I'll do it. I'm having a friend who is good with these things (mechanical) check it out and if he says yes ..well it yes then!
    Good luck with YOUR vehicle shopping and thanks for the good read.

  2. Wow, those statistics are scary but oh so true.
    Advice to kick around. I will be boondocking on state and federal lands. Sure wish I had a 4 by 4 instead of 2 wheel drive truck. I have high enough clearance with my truck but don't want to get stuck. Do you realize you can get caught in desert sand and dry riverbeds? Does not just take snow or mud to be part of the landscape.

  3. Being older than you are, MY mother (who was in real estate) said one FOURTH of your income for housing. Once upon a time that could be done.

    The size of my motorhome was determined by the length of my older daughter's driveway.


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