To RV or not to RV—that is the question: Adjustments in Life Podcast (E 13)

In this episode, co-host Jason Dyson returns to discuss with Alan the pros and cons of using an RV or paying for a hotel room while on deployment as an adjuster. If this has been on your mind or you have been contemplating buying an RV, this will be an episode you don't want to miss.


Alan: Alright guys, well, welcome back gain! This is another episode of Adjustments in Life. And guess what—back in the studio today with Jason Dyson joins us again. 

It’s been a couple weeks—actually it’s been a month. What’s been going on? 

Jason: Thanks for having me Alan. I’ve just been keeping my head down and work some claims and just lining.

Alan: well I kinda told a tale on you in the last episode that you actually were out playing a little bit—fishing. How’d that trip go? 

Jason: It went with fantastic. Caught a few fish. I just had a good time. It was a good break after a hard run on that little hail storm there North Texas. It was nice to have a little break and now back in the swing of things. 

Alan: Well we work hard at what we do and that should earn us the right to play hard little bit once in a while, shouldn’t it. 

Jason: Absolutely, you know that’s what we do this for.

Alan: That’s right. It was a few episodes back, I told all the listeners to start responding to us by Facebook and email if they can get a hold of it—which is posted on The Adjuster Guy website. 

But I wanted to start getting some feedback and some things that everybody wanted. Some good content that they they want from us and common questions that I’m hearing when I’m out in the field. 

And so man they did. They responded great. So we’re gonna hit back on those things that everybody continues to ask about. And this is a common question that I got for us today. It is always asked. It’s asked by adjusters that have been in it for 5-6 years; but primarily the new adjusters are always wondering: what should I do? 

Should I invest in an RV or should I just grab a hotel room and run with it? And you and I both have done it both ways, so we have a little bit of inside and a little bit of experience on which direction to go with it or whichever one we prefer. 

So let’s break that down a little bit for them. Let’s start with giving a little bit—if you will—give a little bit of a background history on your usage of an RV versus hotel. 

Jason: Yeah, so when I first started this as an IA, went up and was running a storm—it was also the first storm for a really good buddy of mine—working going to hail storm. Realized real quick that it might not be a bad idea to do the RV thing. 

And then he had an opportunity to purchase a hail damaged RV that was brand new and gat a smoking deal on it. So he bought that and we lived in that thing through the 2005 year. 

It worked out good. It was a little 26 foot bumper pull; and this is back in the day of the straight paper files and the big scanners and the big printers; so it got a little tight. We made it work. Made good money and life was good. 

One of the things we did run into that was unforeseen, down in Florida—we headed down there for Wilma—we had a hard time finding campgrounds along the coast that would let us stay because a lot of them were 55 and older communities.

So we basically had to go in and beg saying “Listen guys we’re not here to party. You’re never gonna see us. You’ll see that our trucks leave first thing in the morning. You’ll see them come late in the afternoon, the door closed, and we’re pounding on the computer. 

Alan: Yeah for sure. 

Jason: I found a park that said “we will give you guys a try.” And of course, everything was fine; but it was an obstacle. It’s something to think of. It’s not something you’re gonna run into all of the country; but it is an obstacle.

So ran through that. I didn’t have my own RV the rest of that year. Started into an auto deployment actually and was there for—I was probably there for a few months with another buddy of mine—doing hotels. And during the summertime, they were like “hey we got this festival. We’re already pre-booked, so we had to do this bouncing around the hotels thing. 

And it became a real challenge. And I said “well I’m gonna start looking for an RV.” Started looking into it and found one. In ‘06 I bought my first fifth wheel. It was nice. It didn’t have every creature comfort, but it was a big fifth wheel, and it was very utilitarian. 

It had a room to set up desks and chairs, and we made it work. That camper served me very well. I bought it in ‘06, ran that thing, and then in 2011 my wife came on the road with me. When we did that we purchased a brand new fifth wheel—one with a little more creature comforts. 

We decided—we actually sold our house and sold everything we owned and decided to full-time it—so we decided we are going to buy something a little more comfortable, nicer. 

And we did and it worked out great. The nice thing was—and this is just by sheer luck; this happens never happens—but I traded that camper—I bought in ‘06 and I traded it in in 2011–and they gave me what I paid for it.

Alan: Wow! Yeah that never happens.

Jason: Yeah, don’t ever expect that to happen—especially with an RV, because you have to understand it is not a house. It is a depreciating commodity like a car or anything else. 

Alan: Absolutely! 

Jason: The minute you drive it away, it’s worth less money. But it worked out good for us. In 2011 bought a new one, ran around the country with it, took a management job, settle down, bought another house, and decided “hey this is probably where I’m gonna stay,” and decided to get rid of the the camper. 

It was too big for even to enjoy. It was a 40 foot, 5 slides, it was too big for us to go camping in on the weekends. We tried to sell it. It took a long time to sell it. We finally got rid of it. And even after all that time, I still had to write a check to get out because they are depreciating item.

But it served it’s purpose; and back in those that time—that ‘06 to ‘14 kind of timeframe there— the deployments seemed to be longer. It was nothing for me to hit a deployment and be there six months or nine months.

The deployment i bought my first one, I was there nine months. I’ve been on the road straight when I bought the second one. I’d been on the road for 2 1/2 years straight. 

So they just seem to last a lot longer. It was a great experience for my wife and I traveling together. And there’s definitely pluses—having the RV loaded. I had mine loaded with all my adjusting gear. Literally, when the phone rang, all I had to do was grab the laptop and back the truck up and then takeoff. 

It worked out very well. But there’s definitely negative sides to it too. There’s some obstacles in running the RV; and I’m sure we’ll get into some of that. But during that time frame it worked out very well. 

Since I’m now back into the field, my wife and I discussed purchasing another RV. And I just don’t think for my situation—in the current climate of the adjusting industry—I don’t think it’s the right thing for my particular situation and how I handle my business as a claims adjuster.

Alan: So mines a little similar in some of the ways that you described. My experience with the RV was when I got into this trade—of course I have five children—so my wife was not going to sit at home while I was gone 6-7 months out of the year working. 

She wanted to go with me. We already owned an RV, so we all loaded up. And we did the same thing—we sold the house and full timed it for the first few years of getting into this trade because I felt I needed to be gone to make my mark and get somewhere—which paid off for me well. 

But we had a very large RV—matter fact we have several very large RVs and they served us a fantastic purpose in order for our family to stay together during those initial years of learning the trade, getting to know everybody, building a name and reputation in the industry. 

So now, that worked for the first 4-5 years. We spent all of our time—I very seldom even bought a hotel. Every once in a while, we would cover such a large area that I would have to stay out a night or two and I grab a hotel. But primarily we made it work with the RV. 

And again I was similar to you. I was staying on deployment generally a minimum of 2 to 3 months sometimes longer if I could; because I knew with the rig that I had, I needed to be there for an extended period of time in order to justify the cost to haul that big RV around and to drive it a pickup that got 10 or 11 miles a gallon versus an economy vehicle that I can get 21 plus with. 

Jason: Absolutely. 

Alan: Now in the position I’m in now where the family doesn’t travel with me, I’m on the road and off the road. I can choose which departments nowadays that I want to be on and so it’s out of convenience, for one, that I choose the hotel rooms. 

And really and truly for just me alone it’s more cost-effective to jump in my Volkswagen with everything loaded on it and drive that around at 35-36 miles to gallon and get a a fair hotel. I’m not I’m not staying at the Ritz Carlton, but I’m not staying at the dunes motel either. I’m getting a decent hotel room at a good price.

And it’s more cost effective for me to do it that way. But like you say there’s a lot of pros to for me in the beginning of having the RV; and now I’m starting to see the cons to it when I’m just traveling alone. 

The biggest question is that I see to be getting is should I—if I like the RV—should I go buy one and invest in one? And I have a couple different answers to that and you could respond with your thoughts on it. 

Yes, I can answer that in a yes and no. And my yes would be if you established yourself and you’ve had it, you got a couple years under your belt, and you’re getting to where you’re working steadily, you’ve built a reputation with at least one firm possibly two, and your steadily working as much as the claim volume will allow. 

And you want to have your home away from home per se that’s your space; and you’re not dealing with in and out of a hotel and everything that goes with that. 

Yes, even if you want and if you’re making payments on it—I would prefer that after a couple years you’re paying cash for these items—but even if you’re financing and making payments on it. If you can afford to do that and that’s your preference, I would say, “yes.” 

There’s still a debate on whether it’s cost-effective for you depending on the location you’re going to go to.

Jason: I would just chime in on that and say that if you’re thinking of purchasing one for work and you decide you do want to, there is no need to run out and buy $100,000 fifth wheel and be strapped to the payments that that causes to get that. And then on top of that now you got to have a truck to pull that. 

So now you’re rolling down the road in a $180,000 rig and your finance to the hill. If you think you want to go that route and it’s just you, just go buy a used bumper pull. 

There are a lot of options out there. You don’t have to jump into $100,000 rig.

Alan: Absolutely, absolutely. So that’s more speaking to the adjuster that’s had time to get his feet underneath him. And like you said, as nice as they are, what are you buying it for? 

Are you buying it strictly for work or do you do you want to use it for work and play? Does your family like to go in it? 

My family would go in the RV even when we weren’t. They wanted to go camp, they wanted to go see national parks, we would use it for vacation, we would cater our vacation around using our RV.

Jason: And we were different. when my wife and I came off the road and purchased a house that RV went into storage and we used it like once in a couple years. We were so sick and tired of living in that RV. No, we were done with it.

Alan: Well and you know me. I mean I’m still talking about buying. I’ve bought and sold several; and I’m still talking about buying another one. I’ve had all of them from a 9 and 1/2 foot slide-in pickup camper to a 45 foot diesel pusher motorhome. 

If you really want to get down to brass tacks; financially, none of them really work out unless you can afford to pay cash for them in the beginning and you’re going to use it for an extended period of time. For the adjuster that wants to go and sit on location running day claims or whatever, it’s a great opportunity to have a home away from home. 

And this is all my opinion on it; but what about—and you brought this up to me a couple years ago. I was leaving for—well, I was on the management team all that time—and you and I were working together. And I was headed out to California to oversee a storm. 

I was gonna take my RV, and he said “well hey what if you’ve got to be in a different town or a different location with different adjusters every night? Are you gonna drag that RV with you all day long every day to the next town that could be four hours away from where you started that morning?” 

And I think that rings true; and adjusters that are taking deployments where they have to cover a large area or the deployment isn’t big enough to last for 2-3 months. They’re gonna work there for a week and then they’re gonna move to the next place for a week or three days. 

That can make a big difference in how economical having that RV is at any point in your career.

Jason: For sure. It just seems different. The deployments—at least the stuff that I’m running and working with—they’re shorter. You’re not on site for the extended period of time. There are opportunities for lotta guys doing cleanup work and stuff after storms or deployments for daily that are long-term. 

And I think that works out good in those situations. So for me, what I found kind of works out better for what I’m currently doing now is utilizing Airbnbs. It’s easier. It’s not your place like a camper, but you still have a washer, dryer, the kitchen, all the comforts of home—Wi-Fi etc.—and I have my network of friends and other adjusters I can reach out to. 

“Hey, who’s running where and can we split a room together?” And those work out great—especially for the deployments that I’ve returned to since getting rid of the RV. 

I’m not really the guy anymore that’s going to sit and do cleanup for 6,7,8, or 9 months a year. It’s just not my business model anymore. But the Airbnbs can be good, but they can hold some challenges as well. You roll up to a hurricane in Florida and good luck.

Alan: Yeah they’re not gonna be accessible. But on the same token, that’s where I believe that the use or having to use or owning an RV, can give you an advantage over being hotel or Airbnb—especially if you have one that’s self-contained. 

If you’ve got a motorhome or an RV that’s got an onboard generator—quite often times in a catastrophic hurricane situation, it’s easier for you to get in, to get to moving on your claims than those of us that are waiting for hotels to open up or having to drive from a hotel that’s four hours away, drive up, do two claims, and drive out because that’s all you can get done in that time period of the day. 

Jason: The other thing that I found that I didn’t really think about when I was purchasing the RVs was I knew I needed a truck to pull it; but now I’m running claims every day in a Dooley pick up and my burning diesel. 

And even though on my last Dooley truck, I really liked my truck. It was a nice truck; but riding around in a Dooley all day long, 100 plus miles every single day, running city streets—it will beat you to death. 

I’ve beat up computers, I’ve beat myself to death, and some places—I worked in New Orleans this past year—I don’t think I could’ve done it in the Dooley. Some of the streets I had to go down, I couldn’t get down there.

So there’s different things to think about. It’s not just analyzing the pros and cons of the RV and the cost of the RV itself. You’ve got a look at the big picture of the operation of the RV. It’s not just the RV, now you’ve got the insurance for it it’s not just the payment, now you got another truck, now you’ve got to look at your all the problems.

When we were full time, one of the problems also was “how do I insure my stuff?” Because that RV insurance doesn’t ensure your stuff that’s in that RV. So we had to get creative and some insurance—pay some good premiums for full-timer policy. 

The RV cost me a mortgage basically. And the only reason why we were really ahead with it was because I already had it. And I was already running claims with it. And when we sold our house, we basically dropped the cost of a whole mortgage. 

Don’t think you’re going to buy it—you’re not gonna substitute the RV for a house and save a lot of money. 

Alan: No you’re not. 

Jason: Because there is—I don’t care if you buy a brand new one—there’s maintenance. You’re always gonna be—tires and air conditioners and it’s always something.

Alan: Well and it’s an RV. If those of you listening have owned an RV maybe before—anybody that has owned an RV knows that RVs whether they’re new, old, or whatever, they are going to have problems. You’re constantly working on your RV; there’s always something going wrong with it.

Jason: We see what happens to a house on a daily basis. Now let’s take that house and put it on a trailer and drag it down the rod for 1000 miles. You’re going to shake it apart.

Alan: That’s right. That’s 100% right. So let’s go back to the original question. If there’s you’re brand new to the industry and you’re just getting involved. And you’re contemplating “well I see all these adjusters that are in camp trailers and RVs and they’re going all over the place and then I see all these adjusters that are doing a hotel.” 

“And these adjusters over here with the RV say this is the way to go and these adjusters over here staying in the hotel say this is the only way to go.” What’s your advice to a brand new adjuster? 

Jason: For a brand new adjuster stay in a hotel. Don’t run out and buy an RV. If you already have one, great. But don’t go purposefully buying one if your brand new in the industry. Get some time under your belt, get your name in there with the firms, get to the point in your business career that you’re working—you’re not hunting the work.

Once you’re working and you’re staying out—you’ll know when you realize that point that “I’m out a lot.” Go buy one. Go pay a cash for a small RV and see if you like it. Because if you go buy a big expensive fancy one and you don’t like it, you’re upside down big-time money in that thing because it depreciates the second you drive it off the lot.

Go purchase a small one and see if it works out for you. After a couple years in the small one if you like it, go buy that big RV. But I learned early on my career—cash is king.

I financed one of my RVs just because it was a different—the numbers and on the way it worked out right for my time in my life with how the numbers worked. But don’t get in over your head, guys. I see so many guys go out and work one hurricane and “oh I need a new RV and I need a new pickup.”

It’s not guaranteed every year. There’s not always gonna be that big storm, and if you can’t make the payments—don’t be poor to your stuff.

Alan: That cash is king means a lot. I mean folks if there’s anything you get from this podcast, the financial side of this. If you set yourself up right from the get go with the right mindset, you can pay cash. You will be able to set yourself up that way as long as you take your time and fill it out. 

I am 100% in agreement with you on brand new adjusters. Not just because you don’t want to get sucked into payments; you need to fill it out. You need to get out there and it’s going to be less stress and financially more secure for a brand new adjuster to go out and stay in the hotels first. 

Because yeah they may be depending on what type of RV they would want and what kind of pickup they would drive and all old all the things that go along with owning an RV, it may be a little bit more expensive for them to have to pay hotels; but when they’re done with the deployment, they’re not still making payments on that RV or having to pay for upkeep or insurance or licensing tabs or any of that. 

When you’re done on deployment, you close it down and go home; and you don’t have any overhead along with your business when you’re sitting at home.

Jason: And one of the things that a lot of guys don’t think about when there are deployments, they want you there in forty-eight hours . And when you’re pulling that RV, it is not running like you are when you’re empty and you’re in your your truck or car or whatever you drive going down the road. 

I’ve had some very, very long, long, long days putting miles behind me and then it never fails—you’re tired go or something happens. Most of these firms, they don’t care that you had a flat tire, they don’t care that the axle broke, they don’t care if anything happened. They care that you’re there for their orientation and you’re running their claims. 

And if you can’t make it there, they’re giving the claims to someone else. “We’ll catch you on the next one.” So it’s something to think about. I mean we’ve all done I’m sure—I know you have—made the long, cross country hauls. When you hook up to the trailer and you know you’re taking off for 1500 to 1800 mile run, it’s a hard run to do pulling that trailer. 

You’re not running 75-80 miles an hour pulling a 17,000 pound trailer. I know you’ve made some long runs longs. The longest one I did was Sacramento, California to Charlotte, North Carolina. I don’t know if it’s another one was McAllen, Texas to Mitchell, South Dakota. That’s a hard, hard drive. 

I think, well I mean I’ve done from here to New York and back. And that’s speaking terms of Central Texas to New York and back. I’ve done Central Texas to Seattle, Washington; Los Angeles; all of those.

Jason: Your travel time is basically double.

Alan: Even in the newest, nicest model of pickup or motorhome—whichever style you liked or you prefer when it comes to an RV—20 hours behind the wheel, you’re driving that whole 20 hours. It’s not a kick back and relax in the seat kind of a situation. 

Jason: There’s no cruise control.

Alan: That’s right. I mean you’re driving that rig the whole time and that wears you down. 

Jason: I mean in the early days, we talk about the good ole days, when you get 100 claims and leave the house and they needed to be called yesterday. Not exactly the safest thing and I do not condone this—don’t try this at home kids. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve been doing 65 miles an hour pulling an RV with computer sitting on the ram mount in the front seat of the truck and your making phone calls to homeowners as I’m going down the road. 

It’s just out of necessity because I know it’s gonna take me almost double the time as if I didn’t have the trailer. And it’s not just the miles an hour now I’m looking for truckstop to get into because I can’t just pull up to the JiffyMart and get gas. 

It is what it is. It severed my purpose well at its time.

Alan: Yeah, absolutely! And I agree; and I guess if you wrap it all up together I mean we can sit here and bounce ideas back-and-forth. We can throw advice for either way.

There are pros and cons to staying in the hotels—right now after the whole Covid deal—it’s actually quite cheap to go stay in a really nice hotel. So adjusters this year are benefiting well. Their overhead costs are probably lower than normal because the hotels are needing people to come and stay in them.

Jason: And you know I got rid of that Dooley pickup and bought me a half ton gas truck with the smaller option V8, get good gas mileage, and it rides like a Cadillac with a bed on it, it’s comfortable, and I just I enjoy the smaller car. 

I know you run a Volkswagen car. I’m looking for the day-to-day economical and still be sure I got a ladder rack and a bed cover, I can lock my stuff up, and—if I do go to a hotel—I can lock my bed cover and my big ladder up. And it’s easy. 

That’s just what works for me right now.

Alan: Where I was going with that is, is really and truly we’re making recommendations to those of you that are listening on what we think you should do. I think were in agreement that if your brand new were recommending feel it out a little bit, get your feet underneath, don’t jump into a payment situation. 

If you already have one, you can try it early on and use it. For those of you that have been in the trade, really it boils down to what do you want? What’s your personal preference? Do you want—do you enjoy using the RV and want to do it that way? 

I can tell you again, it was really never cost effective thing for me. It was strictly convenience

Jason: Cost-effective for me, it was because I had the house and the RV already.

Alan: Same here.

Jason: Staying in the RV and selling the house was basically getting rid—essentially I had two mortgages and insurance and payments—so it worked out financially for me in that regard only because I already have it. But I don’t think that going out and purchasing—at least a high dollar brand new one—you’re not going to see any monetary return. 

It is a cost; and I keep mentioning the depreciation. And it’s not just the normal depreciation of them; but if you were going to run that camper around the country on a consistent basis, you’re gonna tear them up. If you see this camper, “the resale on it’s this.” Understand that grandma and grandpa are using it for 2 to 3 weekends a year or they’re making their trip here and there. 

You’re going in and out of that thing. You’re running the A/C all the time. They just get torn up.

Alan: Yeah well and just on a side note, if you’re in the market—if you do decide you’re going to get an RV—I’ve experienced this myself and I want to bring this up because I didn’t realize until it was too late, you’re going to contemplate do I get a pick up and a fifth wheel? Can I get a smaller motorhome and pull my car behind it and then I’ve got the efficiency of my car when I’m on site, but I’ve got my motorhome that I can drive to get to and from? 

There’s a difference in pulling a trailer and driving a motorhome when it comes to resale value. And that only major differences is that when you go to sell your motorhome they can obviously see how many miles are on that motorhome than that trailer that you’re pulling.

So if you’re trying to utilize it to get some type of return out of it if you perhaps do go to sell it or trade it in on another model, that’s going to be something that you need to take into consideration because I didn’t see it till after the fact.

Jason: yeah, you went to sell it and realized actually how many miles you had on it.

Alan: Well as I was using it, I’m thinking “OK well yeah this particular motorhhome could sell for such and such amount on the resale; but the common users gonna have 5000 miles on it at that point and I’m already sitting 15,000. And I’ve still got a lot of miles to run this year.” 

Jason: Another thing to take into account, there’s a lot of work going on up north in the winter time. And most of the RV parks up north—whether that be the Midwest, whether that be New England area—they close. So if you find yourself out all year long in your camper and now you’re going to the next deployment, you may be looking for a place to store the camper in some northern state while you work a deployment.

Now you got it “OK now I’m done and I’m going home and it’s January now I got a drive to go get that camper and try to haul it home, etc.” I’ve been caught in that situation where I was out and the y come to me and say “hey we’re closing the campground.” “OK now what?”

Alan: Yeah that’s a good point. I’m an advocate of the RV. I enjoy it. That’s the way I preferred doing it—not so much at this point in my career—but up to this point. I would still go use one again without a doubt. 

And if you’re that adjuster that’s only going to work the fall hurricanes, it’s not a bad idea to have. It’s actually it could work out better for you because you have that accessibility to get in and out and not be waiting on hotels or not have to worry about trying to find hotel. 

But again at the end of the day guys it’s just a matter of can you afford it and if you can afford it, is it feasible for you to do without being a nuisance to your income. What do you want? It’s your personal preference.

Jason: My wrap-up, I guess, is if your first year adjuster don’t go purchase one. Make sure that this adjusting gig is what’s right for you. Make sure you enjoy it. Make sure you talk to the other guys and gals out on the road that are in one and get their input on it. 

When you do decide that that is something you want to do, there’s no need to go buy a brand new, fancy, state of the art and get indebted to your tools. You gotta look at it as, it is a tool—purchase utilitarian. 

Of course you’re gonna want some creature comforts. I mean we don’t want—my truck is a tool and I don’t want to run on vinyl seats and a stick shift. But purchase what you can afford and what you need. You can always trade up. 

But if you get strapped into that high dollar one and realize that you don’t like it, you’re going to have a rude awakening when you go try to get out from underneath it.

Alan: Absolutely! I agree 100%. Well hey man, thanks for coming back on. We‘ve missed you. So hey guys, we’re gonna get out of here; but I hope that the information we’re bringing you helps. I hope that we answer the questions that are being asked. 

If you guys have any more questions for us, don’t hesitate to reach out to us Facebook is a good one. You can reach us by the email on the website—on

Let us know. We’re here to answer your questions and help you to be successful. 

Jason: Well, appreciate it Alan. Thanks for having me as always and look forward to doing it again.

Alan: Yes sir. We’ll see you again.

Jason: Have a good one.

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