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Want to Be a Work Camper?

Take these 7 steps before you start looking for work on the road

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    1. Outfit Your Rig

    En español | Start-up costs vary, depending on the size and type of camper, how elaborate you want it and whether a tow vehicle is necessary. A common combination is a three-quarter-ton pickup truck and fifth-wheel trailer, which cost about $45,000 each if new.

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    2. Dump Your Debt

    The stipend you earn at minimum-wage jobs may cover food, sundries and some operating costs, but “if you try to go into this with a lot of monthly payments, it’s going to be really tough,” say Bill and Jan Gross. The couple sold their home to finance their rig.

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    3. Calculate Expenses

    “You have to really budget,” says Bill Gross, a former software consultant who was working at a Kampgrounds of America (KOA) campground in Fort Collins, Colo., before heading east and south for a job in Miami. “To get there, our fuel alone will be $1,200.”  

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    4. Add Insurance and Operating Costs

    Full-time living in your rig can raise the cost of insurance about 20 to 25 percent, says Lisa Hansil, owner of REC Insurance in Concord, N.C. Premiums can range from as little as $300 to more than $4,000 a year. Figure 8 to 12 mpg for fuel. Routine maintenance runs about $50 to $100 per month for a trailer and a similar amount for the tow vehicle if you’re staying put for months on end, says Howard Payne, co-owner of RV-Dreams.com, who, with his wife, Linda, runs educational seminars about life on the road. “Most of us full-timers don’t travel as much as people think we do,” he says.

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    5. Consider Your Health

    Be sure your health is up to work camping, especially for jobs that require manual labor. At CamperForce warehouses, for example, the work can involve a lot of heavy lifting, and standing for long periods of time. Plus, the shifts may be irregular.

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    6. Talk to Your Accountant

    Income taxes can get complicated for work campers, especially those who earn wages in multiple states in a single year. Work campers in some cases are considered employees, not contractors, and receive W-2 forms from employers.

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    7. Be Nice (and Unafraid to Work)

    Campground managers like people who have skilled trades, but a friendly, can-do attitude may get you hired. “I can teach you to run a cash register or clean up a site,” says Ken Shupe, who, with his wife, Iris, owns the KOA campground in Bay Center, Wash.

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