Oilfield Housing Shortage Solution: an RV?

Posted in Fracking Controversy

Oilfield Housing Shortage Solution: an RV?

Do enough research on moving to the most active fracking “boom” areas, like those in North Dakota or Texas, and you’ll eventually come across stories about oilfield workers living in recreational vehicles (RVs) on a full-time basis. RVs have popped up near some shale boom areas as workers have flowed in and overwhelmed the local supply of housing options. In some areas, RVs have become the only viable housing available. However, can an RV work as your oilfield housing shortage solution? What if standard housing can be found for a decent rate? What are the costs, and will you save money compared to living in a motel or an apartment? These are complex questions, and they should be explored in depth. Let’s take a look at RV life…

  • Necessity – Yes, if you’re planning on looking for work in the Bakken region of North Dakota, you’ll want to consider living in an RV as a potential housing solution. But it’s far from the only option, and it may not be the best one. There are plenty of drawbacks to RV living when compared to apartment living, to be sure. On the other hand, RV life has advantages for some, even when standard rental housing options are abundant, like they are in oilfield regions located far from the Bakken. The housing shortage in North Dakota is slowly being addressed by civic leaders in the state as well as new construction projects being undertaken by private interests. So, in time, the advantages of RV living in the Bakken will be reduced.
  • Costs – Full-time RV living does offer some cost advantages over more standard housing options. But this isn’t always the case, and you’ll also incur expenses while living in an RV that you won’t have if you simply rent a room or an apartment. You’ll still have to pay space rent to park your “house”, for example. In addition, campgrounds won’t always allow full-timers and may put a time limit – say, two weeks or so – on the duration of a full-timer’s stay. Living in an RV might allow you some savings on such things as utilities; but you’ll likely spend those savings on things like hook-ups or maintenance costs. Don’t forget: your biggest expense will be the RV itself. While there are plenty of used trailers and coaches on the market for reasonable prices, you’ll still have to shell out a big chunk of money to purchase your new home. Financing the cost is an option, but only if you’ll know you’ll be able to handle the monthly payments. Because you’ll be purchasing an item that most banks consider to be a luxury item as opposed to shelter, you won’t find agreeable interest rates.
  • Vehicles – What kind of RV to buy? A self-propelled unit, like a Winnebago, won’t be practical as you’ll need wheels just to get to and from your job and to run errands in town. A trailer makes the most sense, then. However, you’ll need a powerful pick-up truck to pull your trailer to its space, and then move it when necessary. This will mean that you’ll need a truck with a beefy engine, perhaps even a diesel engine. So, you’ll have to think about fuel mileage, which will be an issue even when you aren’t pulling any trailers. If you purchase a truck without a hitch, expect to spend a few hundred bucks for the tow package and wiring harness.
  • Convenience – There’s something to be said about having the ability to take your home with you when and where you want to go. But, as mentioned, there are expenses like fuel, tires, repairs, and insurance that comes with the mobility an RV provides. Still, there are some folks who work in one region of the country for a season or two, and then move to another region when the seasons change. “Snowbirds” have been traveling back and forth between the icy Midwest and Northeast and the sunny Southwest and Florida for decades. (These are the folks who know the most about full-time RV living, by the way.)  Once the novelty of the “romance of the nomadic life” wears off, there are practical issues like storage space to think about. Since the space in an RV is at a premium, you’ll be forced to pare your life’s possessions down to the bare necessities. You won’t have giant closets for big wardrobes, or a garage where you can store all of your “toys” or collectables. In addition to campground fees, you may have to shell out money for storage space rent on a monthly basis for the items you can’t take with you.
  • Comfort – Of course, RV living isn’t really an option for families. Most full-timers are retirees or single folks who only have themselves, and perhaps a spouse, to share their home on the road with. If this is you, then you’re a candidate for full-time RV living. If you have kids, however, they aren’t going to be too thrilled about living full time in a camper, no matter how luxurious it is. This will be especially true when it’s raining for the third day in a row or the temperature hasn’t climbed above freezing in weeks. Even for those who are living solo, RV life will offer comfort issues. Staying warm in the winter, especially in the Bakken region, will be a challenge. (However, plenty of folks living in RVs in North Dakota manage just fine.) If you’re living with one other person, cabin fever may be a far bigger issue than if you share a house or large apartment. Some folks make sure that they are working alternating shifts if they are sharing an RV, thereby allowing “alone time” for each other to relax and unwind when a shift is over. Some have opted to live solo in an RV as the preferable alternative to living with roommates in an apartment!

There are numerous considerations to keep in mind if you are thinking about using an RV as your primary home while you hold down an oilfield job. This brief post only provides a quick overview of the pros and cons of RV life. A “home on wheels” is one alternative to high rents in some of the more popular fracking boom areas, but living in a trailer or glorified bus isn’t for everyone. If you have some savings and can maintain a lifestyle that doesn’t require a lot of space, RV living might be something worth considering. Remember, you may be better off sharing a house with other oilfield workers or zeroing in on employment with companies that offer housing arrangements. On the other hand, there are companies in some of the busiest boom areas that will only hire those who have a local address. If you have your RV parked in a semi-permanent location, you’ll have that address!

Ready to find a fracking job located near your future RV parking spot? Start here…