It's been a wild year, and the first five and half months were extremely busy for us. Just in the last two weeks have we gotten into more of our regular travel mode.
Much of the craziness was planned - flying to and presenting seminars at seven RV shows (3 in January, 3 in February, and 1 in March), and putting on three rallies ourselves (Boondocking, Reunion, and Spring Educational) in March & April.
But if that wasn't enough, we suddenly decided to sell our 39-foot fifth wheel and Ford F450 truck (our home for all of our 13 years on the road) ....
and downsize to a 29-foot Class C motorhome ....
between the Reunion Rally and the Spring Rally.
Here are links to our related entries about the decision, making it happen, and how it happened so quickly.
We Don't Mess Around - April 10, 2018 (Class C purchased and fifth wheel/truck sold)
And we decided to change domiciles from Kentucky to Florida.
And we had a solar system installed by Bill Murray with RV Solar Solutions. By the way, the system is working beautifully. When boondocking, the electrical side is the least of our concerns. With the smaller unit the smaller holding tanks are more of an issue, but we're getting that figured out.
And then, after delivery of the fifth wheel and truck to the new owners, we made a cross-country trip from Nevada to Indiana and back to Oregon (over 4,000 miles) in the space of three weeks. We made the trip to replace the dinette in the motorhome with theater seating from Lambright Comfort Chairs and have a Truma AquaGo water heater installed. We never want to travel like that again, but at least the small motorhome made it easier and we knocked out a couple of "musts" quickly.
And to make that three-week trip even more hectic, we flew to Florida in the middle to complete the process of changing domiciles.
Here's the link to the post that explains why we changed domicile, why we selected Florida and the mail forwarding service, and our step-by-step process of getting the RV registered, getting driver's licenses, and registering to vote.
So, with two and half months in the Winnebago Aspect 27K motorhome, how are we feeling about the change?
Linda asked me yesterday "Do you miss the fifth wheel?" and my response was "Not at all" to which she replied "Me neither".
We both have said "I'm not sure we could have started out full-timing in the Class C". From the beginning, we considered the RV our home on wheels and something that we might "live in" someday when we would either decide to or have to get off the road. But now, with our experience, and a change in mindset the last year, we know we can live in a smaller unit even if it were to just sit on a lot somewhere (but probably not any smaller than this).
Linda's biggest concern was the smaller kitchen, less storage space, and smaller refrigerator. But she's already gotten past all of that - no big deal.
A concern for both of us was the tiny bathroom and shower. It's small and there is little storage, but with the addition of the Extend-A-Shower we installed, ....
the shower is much better - I no longer dread getting in the shower. Do we miss the big corner shower of the fifth wheel? Absolutely. But, we've gotten used to the difference.
Removing the dinette and replacing it with the recliners/theater seating was something that we said we would do from the beginning of even considering a Class C. And that has been a major factor for comfort.
Our biggest issues with the smaller rig have to do with boondocking. As we talk about in our seminars, you can boondock and park in more places with a smaller rig, but a smaller rig comes with smaller holding tanks so you may not be able to stay as long or you may have to conserve more.
Our smaller fresh water holding tank (a third of the size of the fifth wheel) and our tiny gray water tank (also a third of the capacity of the fifth wheel) have been a challenge, but we're adjusting. Before, we could boondock a week easy without conserving much. Now, we have to conserve more to make it four to five days without needing to dump the gray and before we run out of fresh water.
And Linda misses not having her gas oven while boondocking. She's getting used to the convection oven when on hook-ups, but we won't use it while boondocking. The microwave for a few minutes will run fine off the inverter and batteries, but we would have to use the generator for the convection oven, and we prefer not use the generator any more than necessary. It's really loud.
And because the generator uses gas from the motorhome's tank, we have to remember that when the tank gets down to about a quarter full, the generator may cut off as it's plumbed into the tank so that using the generator won't run us out of gas.
It's also a different mindset thinking about keeping the propane tank filled as opposed to being able to just removing propane cylinders to take them to be filled. It's something we have to plan for a little bit more.
Finally, attaching and detaching the Jeep is becoming quicker and easier, BUT it's still nowhere near as fast and easy as hitching and unhitching the fifth wheel. Motorhome owners would tell us it takes about the same amount of time, but we can tell you from our own experience that's not the case. It's not a big deal and only takes five minutes, but it is NOT as easy as the thirty seconds it took us for the fifth wheel.
With all that said, the little annoyances and changes in thinking are offset by the nimbleness and agility of the motorhome. Linda wanted the Class C because it is lower to the ground and feels more like driving a van. She is extremely comfortable driving it and does almost all of the driving now. She has no problem taking it into a gas station even with the Jeep attached (although we are careful to make sure we can get out without having to unhitch the Jeep).
As a side note, I really like that the front of the Aspect is more of a Class B+ than a true Class C (with the bunk area sticking out way over the cab). It improves the visibility, the lighting, and makes it more aerodynamic. The downsides are that the cab is more exposed when parked, so it gets hotter, and there is less over-cab storage space, but I still much prefer the way it is.
We have no problem just pulling in somewhere during a move knowing that there is little chance we will get stuck, and if we do, we'll likely be able to wriggle our way out (although it may require disconnecting the Jeep). And being under ten and a half feet, we have less concerns about overhead clearances.
Linda is now backing it into all our campsites while I give quick, simple directions. It's really easy to park.
It's so nice not to have to pre-plan as much for driving routes, campground access, and campsite size. Even though Linda rarely drove the fifth wheel, she still had a great deal of travel anxiety with the big rig. That's all gone now.
The bottom line is that we are very happy with our little motorhome, and just Linda's statement that it "will likely extend our full-timing years" makes me even happier.
On to other updates.
A main reason we hadn't changed domiciles in the past was because we wanted to retain our national, reasonably-priced coverage through Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield of Kentucky. It was a grandfathered plan so the premiums were lower, partially due to it being a high deductible plan ($10,000) with a Health Savings Account (HSA) feature. Under today's laws, it would be considered a catastrophic plan available only to those age 30 and under.
If we had changed domiciles, we would automatically lose the plan, and all similar plans were double to triple the cost under the Affordable Care Act. In the past few years, we were making just enough money to keep us from qualifying for a subsidy to help reduce the cost.
But last year, our income was less and we've cut back a little, so we are now subsidy-eligible. With that and the fact that the person that handles our mail in Kentucky is moving and we would have to change addresses anyway, now was a good time to change domiciles and get new health insurance.
Changing to Florida allowed us to stay with the national Blue Cross Blue Shield network, and Florida Blue had a plan similar to what we had before. In our search, there were only three PPO plans (national coverage) with an HSA feature (I'm a huge fan of Health Savings Accounts). The prices reflected are the monthly premiums from the website today (without subsidies).
- BlueOptions Silver (HSA) 1409 - $2,204
- BlueSelect Bronze (HSA) 1735 - $1,160
- BlueOptions Bronze (HSA) 1705 - $1,615
Through an agent, we determined we were eligible for about $1,100/month subsidy.
The BlueOptions Silver (HSA) 1409 has a lower deductible and max out-of-pocket ($3,600/person, $7,200/family) but that premium would leave us paying $1,100/month (even with the subsidy applied) which is double our current Kentucky premium of $525 .
The BlueSelect Bronze (HSA) 1735 and the BlueOptions Bronze (HSA) 1705 both have a deductible and max out-of-pocket of $6,000/person, $12,000/family which is more in line with our Kentucky plan, plus we have funded our HSA account over the years to cover those amounts if necessary.
The big difference between the BlueSelect and BlueOptions plans is that the BlueOptions plan has a larger network of providers in Florida. Not needing that extra network for our purposes, we were able to choose the BlueSelect. And, it turns out that our eligible subsidy is actually slightly higher than the premium, so we will have zero premium due each month (at least for the rest of this year).
Now, because it is mid-year and outside "open enrollment", we had to show we had a "qualifying event" that allowed us to get coverage now. One of the qualifying events is moving to a different zip code or county, so our change of domicile qualifies.
Now, though Florida isn't on the national exchange, the agent had to go to the national "Marketplace" to determine our subsidy. She opened up multiple applications to get it done, and then we got mail that was automatically sent for each application opened. We must have gotten 30 pieces of mail all saying the same thing although we had only one application that was official. All the mail said we had to upload documents to the Marketplace to prove our move.
Again, although Florida is not on the federal exchange, I still had to set up an account with the "Marketplace" in order to upload the documents. Of course there was a glitch in the system causing me to get locked out of my own application, but after we got that resolved, I completed my part fairly quickly.
Now, we're supposed to have our new coverage starting tomorrow, July 1. I've verbally confirmed we are good to go with the "Marketplace" and with our Florida Blue agent, but I'm still getting letters stating we won't get ID cards until we pay our first premium. But since we don't actually owe anything, I'm not sure what will prompt the system to send us ID cards. At least we have a policy number and a letter stating our coverage begins July 1.
I have to say, I've never had so much trouble trying to buy insurance in my life. What a pain. So far, I'm not impressed with the administration of Florida Blue, but hopefully the Blue Cross network will work as it always has in the past for us.
Cost Savings Going Forward
For now anyway, we will be saving on health insurance to the tune of about $7,000 a year due to our change of domicile and new eligibility for a subsidy.
Though Florida RV insurance is a bit expensive, the cost for our motorhome is less than the insurance we were paying in Kentucky on the truck and fifth wheel combined, saving us about $300 a year.
Changing to Florida from Kentucky will save us around $2,000 a year on state income and personal property taxes. Those taxes were worth paying as long as we weren't eligible for a subsidy on health insurance. With no subsidy, we would have been paying at least an additional $6,000 a year for health insurance had we given up our grandfathered plan in Kentucky.
With the fifth wheel, we had a Jeep Liberty as a chase vehicle, so we had the cost of fuel, maintenance, and insurance for it on top of the fifth wheel and truck. There were a lot of benefits to that set up that I won't get into here, but now that we are towing the Jeep, we won't have the costs of fuel for getting it from one campground to another. That'll save us about $1,000 a year.
Fueling the gas motorhome rather than the diesel truck should save us money, but I have a feeling it won't be that much. I'll be figuring out what kind of mileage we're getting and see if we will be plus or minus on the difference in fuel costs.
We cancelled our DirecTV service, and we haven't been watching TV at all. So far, we are both perfectly fine with that change, and I'm actually quite happy to have removed that distraction from my life. That change will save us about $1,800 a year.
That all adds up to about $12,000 a year, or a $1,000 a month. Now, hopefully, we can put those savings aside for at least one big, annual excursion each year. Of course, that will likely be reduced as soon as we purchase a 2018 health plan.
Now that things are settling down, perhaps we can get caught up on our 2018 financials and re-work the budget a bit.
Before I get too excited about our cost savings, here is an area where the motorhome will cost us much more than the fifth wheel.
I mentioned recently that we had the motorhome inspected for an extended warranty. Since 2012, we've had a partnership with Wholesale Warranties and based on the web page we've written on extended warranties about 50 people a month are getting free quotes through the RV-Dreams RV Extended Warranty Quote Page.
Note: We don't earn anything on quotes submitted, but we do get a little referral payment on sales. We can't actually provide quotes or provide detail about the warranties, but we do answer general warranty questions and we do try to assist if one of our readers lets us know that they are having issues with the claim process. So, if you get a quote through us, purchase from Wholesale Warranties, and then have problems, please let us know and we may be able to help. We certainly can't help at all if we don't know.
Now, having had extended warranties throughout our time owning the fifth wheel, we underestimated the cost of a warranty for the motorhome. Even through Wholesale Warranties, it was more than we expected. Of course, the motorhome warranty is supposed to cover engines and drive trains and the more expensive things that can go wrong.
Our prior cost for the fifth wheel, when averaged out, was about $450/year. We easily had enough covered repairs to make up for that cost. But the annual average for the motorhome will be about $1,200/year. That's much harder to justify, but having had to replace a truck engine a few years ago that wasn't under an extended warranty makes us a little more gun shy and more desirous of wanting to protect against the most expensive repairs.
The inspection is done to identify any pre-existing conditions with the RV because pre-existing conditions aren't covered under the extended service contract. It just took us a long time to settle down long enough to get an inspector to us. With that now complete, we can finish up the paperwork and get our coverage.
Whew. Well, that's enough for now. We have more updates for you coming soon! Stay tuned.