Budgeting Part Two – Initial Start-up Cost for Trailer and Truck

This is the second part of three posts regarding our budget for fulltime RV living. You can hit the back button or go here for the first part. Thank you for the comments on the last post. 

And happy new year to all!  Karen and I are looking forward to 2018 for many reasons. One is the vacation time I’m able to store-up and roll into the following year is maxed out. Finally, in 2018 we will be taking all the vacation earned that year.  My fellow employees may not like it, but 2019 is going to be the year I’ll be able to take the equivalent of one week of vacation each month breaking in the future RV.

My first post on budgeting included a few comments of how we got to this point in the process. This next post is about the budget for initial start-up costs for the truck and fifth wheel. I’m working on the final post which is our draft expense budget. I’ve learned from others the first year on the road is most likely the most expensive time, so you will see I’ve planned accordingly.

I’ll be including just a few key points as explanations when writing about the truck and trailer budget.  

This budget includes purchasing the truck/RV, equipping it and all associated taxes, and licensing fees. At the advice of others, we are avoiding a few initial purchases for furnishings until we get on the road and figure out what works for us.

Earlier, I came up with a list of accessories to furnish the RV or truck. Landed a few Christmas gifts off that list. Thank you family!  But the real purpose was to establish a possible budget for equipment depending on how extravagant we might be. Here is a link for Items to Purchase in a spreadsheet you might want to purchase over time. Another blog post to refer to might be the summary as of May 2018 regarding the truck and RV purchase decision. Here is the link to that post. I should also point out, once a year I go back and look at our financial planning, which was first updated to include going fulltime to an RV in September of 2014. The plan includes our expected income at “retirement” and net assets. To get to what amount of cash we wanted to spend on a rig was a challenge. I suppose the best way to summarize that process is I came up with a conservative net worth, meaning I tried not to overestimate what we could sell stuff for and the return on our retirement savings accounts. I looked ahead to our retirement date and added on inflation costs for a truer picture of what it would cost to buy more stuff and how much less our old stuff would be worth. Karen and I had to talk – a lot – about how much we wanted to keep stashed away for when we eventually come off the road or whatever. I’ve had a financial plan since 2001 and have grown to trust the numbers.

I’ll get to the topic at hand. These numbers are accurate as of 3/2/17:

 Truck and Accessory Budget:  $65,000 for the truck and $1,700 for accessories.

  • I’ll not get into it much as to why, but I’m leaning towards a Ram 3500 dually. With 4.10 gears and air suspension. Our max trailer weight will not exceed 18,500 pounds and this truck will also handle the pin weight.
  • We hope to get the best transmission offered in whatever  brand truck such as the Ram Aisin. Ya, I know Chevy probably builds a better transmission even if their warranty is no better than Ford’s or Ram’s.
  • You can refer back to the decision on trucks by going to this page.
  • I’ve not given up on a Ford but generally believe the Ram is the best value when furnished the way I’d like it as a 2018 model.

2018 Truck Pricing

  • I’ve been shopping online for nearly a year, mostly to come up with pricing and typical availability. Same as others, I’m finding it hard to locate a truck within reasonable driving distance from home equipped the way I want it. Hopefully I’ll not need to order a new one. We are also not against buying one used if it has under 20,000 miles on it. These trucks hold their value, so we will have to consider the difference closely if not bought new.
  • If we keep our color choices to a few and bend on leather vs cloth, the selections of what are parked on dealer’s lots increase.
  • This time of the year and a bit earlier, I’m finding with incentives the new trucks are priced anywhere from around $8,000 to $12,000 below MSRP.  You might be able to save up to 22.24% off the original MSRP if you can find a one year old used truck with less than 20,000 miles on it.
  • We are buying the truck before the trailer, maybe as early as next summer. Ford made major changes in the 2017 heavy duty. Rumor is  Ram is making major changes in their 2019 models, having already added few minor improvements in 2018. Maybe we can find a 2018 priced to sell just after the 2019s hit the dealers lots! Also Chevy/GMC made some engine upgrades in 2017.
  • We are going to the February 2018 car show in Kansas City to check out the trucks in more detail. Yes Karen, we will also look at the cars. She is from Michigan and car shows are a big deal up there.


RV and Start-up Accessory Budget: $74,655 for the “luxury” fifth wheel and $10,000 for accessories:

  • It took a long, long, time for Karen and me to come up with or short list. We continue to fine tune that list as new floor plans and construction details change at least twice a year.
  • One of the tougher decisions has to do with what construction methods you prefer, especially for suspensions, tires, frames axles and more. Go here for my post on heavy vs lighter trailers.
  • Another good way to eliminate fulltime trailers from your own short list might be to consider cargo capacity. For us, we are looking for 3,000 pound cargo capacity and above. Just remember, added options take away from cargo capacity so look for the sticker on the trailer that lists the actual cargo capacity. Often, you will find dealers post a photo of the sticker in their adds.
  • Establishing a budget for the trailer is a big first step in deciding what price point you want to spend your money in. Unfortunately, this first step includes a ton of research and I hope being able to follow my own research has helped. As always, the details include what Karen and I want in a trailer, your expectations will be different.
  • We remain somewhat open to a used trailer, maybe as old as three years. But are leaning more towards a new trailer in last years model. The new trailers are announced around February and arrive on dealer’s lots beginning around July or so. Prices start to drop on current year trailers in October or so according to my own online research.
  • The new trailers announced in February will most likely have changes by the time they hit the dealership lots. And then more changes later in the year. For example, the 2018 Keystone Montana 3120RL is a recent new floor plan and just came out. That trailer caught our eye as a 35’ option that retains the same foundation construction as the longer units but with greater cargo capacity.

Montana 3120rl

  • I think we can reasonably expect a new trailer to be discounted 25% off MSRP. And if purchased as last years model, anywhere from 30 to 35% off MSRP. That’s my goal anyway. I’m not sure, but dealers may be able to manipulate the “MSRP” price so shopping around to get a better idea on starting price is a good idea. Either way, the deal has to be fair for both the seller and buyer.
  • We have been hitting the local RV shows hard since 2015, often spending two days touring. In 2015 we used the show to decide on a fifth wheel because we want to be more comfortable when parked. If we planned to move a lot more and wanted to be more comfortable when traveling, we would have gone with a motorhome. Between the 2016 and 2017 shows (and dealership’s lots) we were able to finalize a floor plan which is the rear living room model. We also learned a few of our must have items.
  • The 2018 RV show, considered a holiday around here, is next week. I’ve got my list of questions done by manufacturer. We plan to spend a lot of time checking the details such as do the kitchen and other storage areas work, shower size, electronics, seating and more. Thankfully our short list of brands to select from is down to a few and will most likely become even shorter after next week. All the brands we are interested in come to our local show other than one. A new RV friend toured that one for us earlier this year and reported back.
  • We expect to buy as earlier as next fall. I’m open to holding off to early spring of 2019 as a last resort. We want to use the trailer for vacation before “retirement.” And to a lesser degree the trailer might become our go to home in the event our current sticks and bricks sells quickly once we put it on the market in the spring of 2019.

I’m looking at the RV and truck budgets as a sum total. We might save a little on the truck and spend it on the trailer. Or we might try and beat the budget and put the extra in our account for travel. Some might think this is too much to spend for something that depreciates and especially with a big chunk of one’s lifetime savings. I’ve come to believe RV living and travel is a calling. It’s something we got to do.  I’ll leave it at that.

Budgeting Part Three – Draft Expense Budget and Details by Line Item (coming soon)

9 thoughts on “Budgeting Part Two – Initial Start-up Cost for Trailer and Truck

  1. Hey Mark. Happy New Year. I was looking at your list of start-up items and I thought I might suggest a wireless security system. We haven’t really researched yet what works with an RV, but it’s a way to keep an eye on your 5th wheel when you are out exploring the area. We have also started our list; just got the truck in December (Ford F-350 Dually). Unfortunately the truck we bought (we wanted a certain interior and it was the only one we could find locally), didn’t come with a 5th wheel prep package. We have the “Camper Package” which includes a heavy duty hitch and the electrical hook-up for a trailer and we got a drop-in bed liner. I am going to a local truck accessory place today to get recommendations and pricing on a tool box, Tonneau cover and 5th wheel hitch (we are leaning toward the B & W Companion or the Curt). I have followed your research and read other blogs as well. There is so much information out there it can be daunting! We are also going to the RV Super Show in Tampa later this month. We want to get our 5th wheel sometime this year so we can travel within the state for a year to get to know the rig before we make it permanent. Thanks again for all your info.


    • Hi Lori,

      Not sure on the entire wireless thing when we are gone from the camper yet. Would love to have a system not only for security but to monitor the dogs. Assume there would have to be internet access.

      Good selection on the B&W or Curt hitch, leaning that way myself. Lots of positive reviews and forum posts on both. Reinforces my opinion with you all leaning the same way. Hope to get our truck with the fifth wheel prep and make the hitch decision shortly after buying the truck.

      Exciting to be getting your fifth wheel this year. Makes all the planning suddenly seem shorter. Those years of research seemed like a long time in the beginning 🙂

      Lucky you to get to the Tampa show. A guy I trust suggested the same for us. Assume an added benefit, other than just being in the sun, is viewing several floor plans from the same company. It’s so hit and miss to find one on a dealer’s lot.

      If you want the name of a good contact at the show, email me at mseneker@hotmail.com. I’m sure he would welcome you guys and show you around. This guy has 100,000 miles towing a fifth wheel. He is a bit richer than myself, so I’ve had to consider my own finances when considering his recommendations. (he has one of those New Horizons and a Dodge 5500 to pull it.)

      Thanks for the comments!


      • Well Mark, it’s amazing to me how similar your plan is to ours, timing, budget, TV and RV. We are also looking around for no more than 2 years old for truck and prefer end of season new RV. Our top picks are RAM or Chev/GMC 3500 dually. As to the 5er… pretty much sold on the Montana 3811MS with the Legacy pkg. and full body paint. Once we get the Mor/ryde IS, disc brakes and GY 114 “H” tires, we should be golden for this combo or at least so says our “mentor” (I suspect he might be “advising” you also) and many other valued opinions. I trust their input in our decision process.

        We continue to follow along with interest. Excellent reading.


      • Caught your email also Brian. Sounds like you are decking out that Montana – nice!

        Toured the master suite floor plan I think it was last January when it came out. Very unique and comfortable. For tall guys I could see the bathroom arrangement working well. Having the couch arrangement in the bedroom, and fireplace, would surely make for a nice area if someone wanted their own space for awhile. I know a guy looking at the same floor plan. My memory sucks so I’ll have to look on one of the forums for him and pass the name along. Heck, it could be you:) Update, just checked, it was you that said you were looking at the Montana with the master suite… told you my memory sucked. Good thing I keep good notes.

        Bill got me to thinking about the H rated tires, IS and disc brakes. Looking at the Montana at a dealership got us interested in a Redwood 340RL which comes out in price like a loaded Montana Legacy.


      • Mark,
        I will email you regarding your friend. I wanted to update you on our hitch choice. Because we bought a truck with no 5th wheel prep package (unfortunately we were not knowledgeable enough when we bought it and we let the salesman convince us we could easily put a hitch in, which is true however our options are now limited and more costly) we were told to look at the Andersen Ultimate 5th Wheel hitch. Our Ford has an aluminum bed and we learned that we don’t want any steel to be in direct contact with the aluminum which is why the factory installed puck system would have been our best option. The hitch guy Bob at Lazy Days suggested the Andersen because it is aluminum and also acts like a gooseneck hitch without the additional stress that a gooseneck puts on the trailer. It also only weighs 35 lbs which will be much easier for us to take in and out. This hitch will most likely be our best choice. Also I will ask my friend about the camera security system he uses. I can’t imagine he pays for internet for the 6 months he lives in his other home but I will verify.


      • Sorry to hear about missing out on the fifth wheel hitch prep option. I’d heard about those Anderson Ultimate Hitches. WildOnTheGo blog has one: Here is a link to their video: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=YyD4d2g3x9U

        Looking forward to hearing back about your friend’s camera system. I was thinking there is a camera that has a build in 3G service at no cost. You can go online with your phone or the internet to view images stored, I think on their server. Really interested in this topic! It would be awesome to have the security and to be able to check on the dogs.


  2. Mark,

    Big Truck Big RV and Mr. Truck teamed up to do a YouTube video on the Andersen hitch. We are totally sold on it. Since we will continue to age :-), the thought of having to only move a 35 lb. hitch is a done deal. Here is the link if you want to watch their review (I did watch the one you recommended as well). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=r4xBBCFdj5w

    Also, my husband went to the General Manager of the Ford dealership to complain about the hitch situation and he agreed to install the Ford Factory puck system for the cost of the parts only so that’s a small win, I guess.

    Have you seen the new Heartland Landmark Louisville? I am hoping to see it at the RV Super Show next week. I’m also hoping to look at the Van Leigh Beacon 39FBB. We have narrowed our three choices (at least I think we have) to one of these and the Luxe Gold (they stopped making the Ambition but the Luxe Gold may still be too pricey for us). We are definitely not rushing into anything but hope to purchase this year.



    • Lori,
      I have seen the Louisville on the computer but not in person. We preferred the Oshkosh floor plan and toured that last year in person. The only concern we had with the Oshkosh, other than being at the top of our budget, was if we could get to the bedroom with the slide in.

      Sucks, they are expecting ice here tomorrow which is the first day of the local RV show. We may put off the trip until Friday:)

      I was hoping the Kansas RV Center would bring the Beacon to the show but right not it appears they may not be making the Kansas City show this year. There have been some changes with the Vilano which I had hoped to see also.

      We are not rushing either. I told Karen we should sell one of our cars and more in the spring before we going looking for the truck. So I guess that’s our next deadline.

      Keep in touch, especially with the details about the Tampa show.



  3. Pingback: Budgeting Part Three- First Year Draft Expense Budget | Our Future in an RV

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