Renting vs. owning a travel home

Justina Ziegler


An education is expensive, but it can never be taken away from you.

Many students work extra hard to afford one, with rent being their next highest expense.

Every year they pour thousands of dollars into renting an apartment or home that they will never own. It can be taken away quite easily, whether they are late on rent or another issue arises.

I got tired of my paychecks dissolving into a home that would never be mine. I was stuck, with just enough money to stay afloat while renting an apartment and working 2 jobs. College was out of my financial reach, and I was always at work so I had no time for it anyway.

According to, as of December 2017 the average rent of an apartment in Tucson is $740, which is a 4.46% increase from last year. According to Arizona Public Media, Tucson rent increases are well above the national average. also said that the average monthly cost of all utilities added up in a Tucson apartment is $188. The average security deposit upon moving in equals 2 months of rent. Not to mention that the regular wear-and-tear of life in it is commonly taxed as damages.

If you have a dog that usually requires a hefty pet deposit too, if they even allow your breed. According to, if pets are allowed in a rental, the fee is up to the landlord but trends towards a $500 additional fee added to the security deposit.

My buddy is a male Pitbull/Doberman. Unfixed, only because I don’t want to disassemble a healthy friend or have him look at me sideways when he gets really tired. His appearance narrowed down any potential places I could flush rent money down or increased the cost.

Craigslist is always flooded with travel homes and 5th wheels, with the older ones costing as little as $1,500. That is about the same as 2-3 months of rent minus the security deposits, for a lifetime ownership one foot off the grid. The total cost of the utilities varies, but averages half of the total in an apartment.

For about $600 a month including free utilities and a beautiful 360-degree backyard full of nature, you could live in a state park in a travel home that you own.

For under $500 a month, you could call a national park home.

You can rent land in lots that have hookups all over town to place your trailer, even near college campuses, with some places costing as little as $200 rent. Fairview Manor has lots available for $166 a month right now, and Prince Park has lots at $295.

There are deals for rent-to-own land as well, a lot are available in Marana.

If times really get hard, and there is no-one in your circle with space for you to park, there are always truck stops, walmart parking lots, and some camp-sites you can hermit crab to legally for free, until you get back on your feet.

For the low price of an older trailer you will be doing home repairs, which is actually an advantage.

What better way to learn how to take care of your own home yourself, than by learning to fix the Play-Skool-sized systems in a 5th wheel? Any problems you encounter can’t possibly extend beyond 28 feet or so.

Plus, if someone tries to break in from any part of it and you are home, they are automatically in your sights. For when you are not home, you have the liberty of installing any kind of security system you please.

It was important to me to have a consistent home of my own and a financial safety net. I felt like there had to be a different way to go to school and accomplish those goals.

I bought a 5th wheel from 1977 at that bottom price.

Clearly, elderly vandals had installed all of the décor. The roof had almost as many leaks as Julian Assange or the Foothills Mall. The water pipes were put together like the old computer pipe screensaver, and in a couple small places the floor consisted of termite carcasses holding hands. Everything else was in good condition.

All I saw was potential; a canvas to create something great, how much money I’d save, and how much I would learn about home repair. And the fact that the value of it could only go up despite when I made mistakes fixing things, or “fixed” them with broke-McGuyver skills.

Now I can afford school (with aid), save money, and still buy the materials to fix the trailer over time and reconstruct it into my idea of home without needing two jobs.

Every dollar invested in my home is well-spent because it stays with me. Those dollars aren’t dissolving, they are adding to my foundation. When I finish with school, if I want to move to another area or state for a job, I’m already packed home, garden and all.

And when I do move into a regular house after I graduate and get a career going, I’ll have an awesome travel trailer,money saved up and the skills necessary to do my own home repairs.

Education is expensive, but invaluable and permanent.

One thought on “Renting vs. owning a travel home”

  1. Agreed! Renting has been such a waste of money and working 2 jobs with animals can be difficult, Good for you! Some people get stuck in a cycle and can never escape or just don’t know how to. I someday hope to have a tiny home and live off grid, that’s my idea of happiness!

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