First Time Renting or Buying
Arizona Resort Park Models
The Arizona RV Resort Park
There are few places that offer the winter climate available in
Arizona. The desert location provides winter weather that is
conducive to outdoor life.
Relatives of ours used to spend three months each winter in a
Phoenix area park. Family would comment on their return that they
always looked healthier in April than any other time of the
Our first experience in a trailer park was amazing and
I have never seen so many older people golfing, playing tennis,
shuffleboard, in a swimming pool, and generally out-and-about.
A common mode of transportation in the parks is bicycles.
Almost everyone has one and I had to get back on as well. (No you
never forget but those seats do seem a little harder than I
The biggest surprise was probably the weather and lack of
bugs. I had always imagined winter in Arizona like (say) May
at home. Some nice sunny days, some calm days, some rainy days,
some cloudy days, some windy days, and such.
I was pleasantly surprised that maybe 90% of the days in
February were sunny and calm. Most days in February
were around 20-25C (or 70-75F) with little if any breeze.
And the bugs. I never thought that critters would also
hibernate in warm climates, but they do. During a six week period
I saw exactly two bugs. I never realized before how pleasant it
can be to have nice summer days outdoors without bug spray
or swatting the critters off the food. It is quite pleasant.
What you Need to Know!
you haven't spent a winter in Arizona before
There are a lot of people who are looking for a way to spend
their winters in a climate more conducive to an active and
The problem is that if you have not experienced any of the
various options for that lifestyle it can be difficult to
decide what to pursue.
There are a few things you need to consider before you
decide whether the RV Resort Parks and a Park Model are for
Take the time to read about the lifestyle and
experience, the parks, the trailers, the weather, and ... Don't think of it as a Trailer!
A strange statement to make on a site that is all about
trailers. But it is important to realize that, while called
trailers, you will probably feel more like you are in a cottage
in a resort rather than in a trailer in some 'old style'
We have had some complaints about our name
and the use of the word 'trailer'. "They are called Park Models
... not trailers!" we are told. We can understand the concern. It
certainly can be. But those who are looking at this lifestyle for
the first time tend to look for a 'trailer'. (And they are a park
model of the 'trailer' family.)
You are not only in a resort you are in a 'community'.
And a community that really does have some of that 'small town
The park models are set up in a way that looks and
feels very permanent, and really almost is. The driveway,
patio, storage shed, and maybe an Arizona Room and even small
garden area all add to the feeling of a more permanent residence.
Many of the facilities in your home are also available in
the park models but some of it is outside or down the
street. As described in the section About Park Model Trailers
your living space really extends to the outside and
beyond. The pool and hot tub are down the street instead of in
the backyard. The craft area, woodworking shop, laundry, music
room, and other facilities are there for your use but just not in
your house or yard.
About the RV Resort Parks
Important - Resident-Owned vs Privately
Before doing any park shopping make sure you
understand the differences, advantages, and disadvantages of
choosing a park that is resident-owned or one that is privately
owned. (see the section on private vs resident-
RV Resort Parks for the
The whole focus of this site is the experience of living in a
Seniors RV Resort Park in a warmer climate through the
There are literally hundreds of these parks in the state of
Arizona offering a wide array of amenities and lifestyle
experiences. But there are also some important differences.
The size of the park is a primary determining factor.
The parks range considerably in size from the very smallest of
maybe 25 unit lots to parks with 2,000 spaces.
It doesn't mean there is anything wrong with a smaller park but
naturally the larger parks can afford more activities, amenities,
and central facilities.
The medium and larger sized parks are pretty standard in terms
of layout, security, and central facilities. Some smaller parks
are more for the very budget conscious and those who are not
interested in paying for a lot of things they don't use. It is
all about individual choice.
Most of the parks are about 70-90% 'park model' homes.
(With the rest being mostly motor homes and travel trailers.)
These park models are all about the same size. The lots they
sit on are about the same size.
Most parks separate the 'pets allowed' area from the 'no pet'
That 'Small Town America'
We all know that model small town doesn't really exist outside
of Hollywood. But these parks have come about as close to that
imaginary feeling as I have seen.
The clean paved streets with mostly bicycle and pedestrian
activity combined with the friendly greetings present a very
Nearly all the parks are designed with a similar layout.
Streets of units surrounding central facilities.
And they are truly 'communities' onto themselves. There
is a strong community feeling in most of the parks as people live
together in a type of small town atmosphere. Everyone is very
friendly and quick to help a neighbor.
"We knew about these parks
and had considered trying it out to see if we liked that
experience. I was quite reluctant because I didn't feel quite
ready for 'what I perceived to be' the lifestyle. To my surprise I
felt quite at home and very comfortable. And my privacy was very
well in hand. Sure everyone is friendly and says 'hello' but no
pressure to join or participate. Or, lots to participate in if
that is what you want. And I was shocked that I actually enjoyed
living in a 'trailer'. Never thought that would happen."
It's interesting how all these people from all these different
places and backgrounds come together with the common bond of
just wanting to live life as enjoyable as possible. There is
not a lot of discussion about who you 'used to be'. Really not
that many actually care. Whether you were successful in your
career or just survived it doesn't really matter.
Status seeking is not very evident. It's like there no longer
is any value in trying to impress the neighbors.
Choosing a Park
"It may be hard to change later"
A major consideration when deciding to 'try out' a park is that
you may be choosing a new 'home town'.
It is noticeable how many park residents would find it
unthinkable (well almost) to move to a different park. It
becomes a home and it is sometimes hard to leave because you
have become part of a community.
Of course those with bad experiences will be happy to leave.
But once you develop a bit of a community social life it can be
difficult to start over again in another 'community'. You make
friends and develop relationships with neighbors. You get involved
in group and club activity and that can be hard to leave.
While some people have spent their lives moving to different
communities and don't worry about making new friends and such,
many of us get attached to our location and find a move more
difficult. And, to some, the older you are the less you search for
the new adventure associated with moving from your community.
- Choose carefully ... you may not want to change later.
Check out the Park Facilities, Services, Amenities, and
You should make sure you are moving to a park that has the
facilities, services, and the things to do that meet your needs
Most of the larger parks have websites
and we have listed them in the parks listing and links sections.
The parks do a good job of listing their facilities and usually
show pictures so you can get an idea of what is available.
The park facilities include both the functional (laundry,
office, security, etc) and those related to park activities such
as swimming pools, hot tubs, workshops, and the like. And of
course basic services such as mail service, access to the internet
and cable TV, as well as maintenance and support.
- There are a huge assortment of facilities in some of the
parks; Recreation Centers, Exercise Rooms, Laundry, Swimming
pools, Hot Tubs, Libraries, Workshops, Card Rooms, Tennis Courts,
Computer Rooms, and on and on. Very large parks will even have
Grocery Stores, Restaurants, Driving Ranges/Putting Greens, and
maybe a Golf Course.
You want to know that the facilities are in good condition and
things work as they are intended. You also want to know that the
park is clean and well maintained.
The Activities - "What is there
That old clich� ... 'You can be as busy as you want to
be' ... certainly fits the concept of the RV Resort trailer
Tennis, Dancing, Golf, Billiards, Pickle ball, Concerts,
Shuffleboard, Horseshoes, Lapidary, Silversmithing, Wood Working,
Quilting, Card Games, Ping Pong, Ceramics and Pottery, Book Clubs,
Service Clubs, Church Services, Movies, Water Aerobics, Yoga,
Pilates, Painting, Computer Club, Choirs, Musical Groups, and
The last thing you need to worry about is having enough to do.
When choosing a park location the activities are critical if
you want to match your particular interests and lifestyle. If
playing horseshoes is your thing then look for horseshoe pits. If
tennis is your game then make sure there are adequate tennis
courts. If you are a 'lap swimmer' then make sure the pool(s) can
"We blew it on this one. We like
playing tennis and bought a park model in a park without
tennis courts. But thought it was such a good deal and we can
drive to tennis courts. Now we are sorry. But love the 'old' park
model and love the neighbors. Now what?"
While you may feel you can travel outside the park to
participate in activities (and certainly you can) you may not be
so inclined once you take up residence. It seems that park
residents develop a lifestyle that becomes more 'small town'. It
becomes habit to walk to things and/or ride your bike. You may
strongly regret that you chose a park where you needed to fire up
the family vehicle and head off into the city traffic to
participate in your favorite activity.
Of course some activities, like golfing, normally require
outside travel. But even with golf, there are some parks with (or
bordering) golf courses. Generally the larger the park more there
is to choose from. But it may not always be 'the more the
better' for everyone.
It doesn't make much sense to contribute (and you usually will
either directly or indirectly) to an expensive recreation facility
in a park if you have absolutely no interest in that activity.
More about Park Activities
Most park sites will list at least the most common activities
and you should check out the list. If information is not
shown or your interests don't appear but other park attributes are
appealing then you may want to take the trouble to contact the
The parks have someone in charge of activities. This is often a
volunteer resident but could also be a park employee. Contact
them to discuss your interests. If their name and contact
information is not shown on the site then contact the park office.
They are usually more than anxious to accommodate and promote all
they have to offer.
In some cases the parks are hungry to have residents that like
to organize and spend their time getting people together for new
activities. If you are that type of person then you may be able to
start your own 'unique' activity. Ask if that is allowed
Location - Location -
There are a lot of considerations regarding the location of the
park. Most of them are personal and depends on what appeals to
you and how you like to spend your time outside of the park.
The larger parks are really quite self-sufficient and you will
probably be surprised how little you travel out. But of
course you will want to shop, eat out, golf, and take in the whole
array of adventures and entertainment in the area.
Keep in mind that you are actually having to
consider TWO community locations. (1) The location of your trailer
within the park 'community' and (2) the location of your
park within the larger community.
Check out the park security.
We all care about the safety and security of our homes. And of
course your winter home is just as important. This is even more
important to those of us who come from smaller or rural
communities into a strange place and maybe even find big cities a
A huge huge
advantage of having a winter residence in the (larger) parks
is the 24 hour security. These parks are gated and most
have a security person at the gate checking who comes into the
This is also important because you don't live here year-round.
The comfort of knowing there is an emphasis on security helps you
to relax and enjoy the lifestyle.
The Park 'Paper'
Many parks have regular (usually weekly) publications
describing park news, events and activities. Usually done by
resident volunteers. They are a good source of resident
information but also provide a bit of the 'flavor' of park
Getting a copy(s) of these journals can contribute to your
information package when deciding on a park location. Some parks
place the copies of the park paper on their websites. Worth
Watch out for the Rules!
Before committing to residence
(especially if buying a trailer) make sure you get a copy of the
park rules and even take the trouble to (at least) phone the park
office to discuss arrangements and clarify rules of residence.
Rules are important and you should want the park to have them.
But within reason.
You should look for a park that has rules that you
appreciate if you are making it your (part-time) home. You
will want to feel some comfort in knowing that security and other
aspects are important to the park management. But you will also
want to make sure you do not lose your lifestyle independence with
over-zealous park management.
It is common for parks to have rules governing security,
cleanliness, quiet, and general good conduct. And most parks
do an excellent job of maintaining these standards.
If you are not moving into a 'resident owned' park then you
will be at the mercy of the park owners and management. They get
to make the rules and of course rules are important. But, some are
more reasonable than others.
"Our bad experience had to
do with renting out our park model. We felt we could rent it out
for a month or two when we were not using it. After considerable
roadblocks put up by the park management (i.e. need the renters
credit report with a high rating even though the renters were
paying us) we had to tell our renters that they could not come.
Our sense was that the
park management really didn't want to encourage residents renting
out their trailers. Whether that was an overzealous attempt in
trying to maintain more control over who was staying in the park
or an attempt to limit competition for the park owned rentals I am
Unless you invested in a
resident-owned park ... Remember that you are Parking
Your Park Model on a Rented Lot
There is a tendency to think you have bought a residence just
like buying a house back home. But you need to remember that
you only bought the trailer. And you parked that trailer in an
RV park. It may have already been parked there when you bought
it but it is really no different than when you rent a spot at a
campground ... just a much, much longer stay.
When you pay for the annual rent of the lot that is the only
timeframe you have agreement for. The park owner can refuse to
rent it to you the next year and then you have a problem. That may
be rare but it is legally possible.
The Importance of
Rules about Park Model Age
A park model is not a house. A park
model is legally a vehicle and is likely to
depreciate rather than appreciate.
Many parks have a rule on the age (and condition)
of park models being moved into their parks. And some
requirements regarding the upkeep of the units. It is very common
that parks will not allow a park model older than (say)
ten years to move into the park.* They of course want to maintain
high standards. This is understandable but also is an important
issue to consider when you buy a unit.
While you are just parking on a rented lot (with generally a
one-year term agreement) you also can't just move it to another
park. If you buy an older unit you are taking some added
risk that you need to consider. You are probably stuck with
that unit in 'that' park. You are quite limited in the choice of
parks you can move to. (Not to mention that the cost to move can
be as high as the value of an old park model.)
It is certainly rare that park operators refuse to renew
rental agreements because of unit age. But it has
This doesn't mean to suggest that an older budget-
priced park model is a bad buy. In fact, it can be
quite the opposite. But you do need to view your purchase
similar to buying an old car compared to a new car. It will
depreciate and it will require some more work and maintenance. And
when you are done with it you may not recover your original price.
An old car may have to be sent to the wrecker when you are done
with it. An old park model could have the same fate ...
probably not, but possible.
Rules regarding 'First Right of
Some parks will require that you do not sell your park
model (while parked on their lot) without offering the park
owner a first right of refusal. You come up with a buyer at a
price and then are required to inform the park operator of the
deal. The park operator may decide they want to buy it at that
price ... and have the right to do so as long as it is being
parked in their park.
Limiting Park Model Ownership
Another rule that is worth knowing about.
Some parks will limit you to renting only one lot. What
that can mean is that you cannot buy that nice, newer, place next
door and then decide to rent out your older unit.
It can even mean that when you buy a different park
model in the park you need to immediately have yours sold or
you could end up breaking the rule of limitation to one rented
Of course park operators will generally be reasonable but it
can also be a rule that hits you by surprise.
Planning to Buy a
'Fixer-Upper' and Rebuild it Yourself?
Many parks will have rules that do not allow you to do any
major renovation work yourself. If the work involves anything
that requires a municipal permit they may insist that you hire a
Of course most park model owners will do smaller jobs
themselves and that is not a problem, in fact it is probably
encouraged. But it is worth checking for these rules if you
have any plans to redo that older unit. It can be a real unhappy
surprise later on.
About Park Models
It is quite difficult to find good information on park
models. After a lot of searching we have located some
sites that provide information but even those tend to be more
generally about motor homes and/or recreational vehicles.
The average park model is really very inexpensive. (see:
how much will
A basic new unit can be purchased for as
little as $35,000. Many used units on
are available for anywhere from $5,000 and up. Most are priced in
the neighborhood of $15-35,000 but can range much higher with a
lot of extras.
In resident-owned parks the whole cost
changes because you
are now buying not
only the actual unit but also your
in the park itself.
They are all about the Same
Size 400 Square Feet
that can be Misleading -
The park models all start out at about 400 square
feet. But then a storage room gets built and maybe an Arizona
Room. There are all kinds of creative modifications done to
enhance the living space. The climate allows for some pretty basic
enclosures to be added that functionally serve as an addition to
living quarters. But still generally retain the legal status as
Park models in Arizona cannot exceed 399 square feet if
they are to benefit from vehicle status and not be subject to
We eventually learned why that is. It seems that there was a
municipal taxing issue of how to tax a park model if it is
essentially permanently parked on property. At what point is it a
trailer (classed as a vehicle) and at what point is it a permanent
residence. It may still even have wheels and can be moved.
It was decided to use square footage. Under 400 square
feet is a vehicle and legal ownership titles are handled
The diagram shown here is a very typical park
model design. This layout is very common, at least before any
modifications or additions.
standard layout consists of a
bedroom, bathroom, and open
The front door is
typically patio doors and the rear door opens to the patio or
Arizona room. They are well designed and make good use of the
The common width is 12
feet so the length is normally just over 30 feet. But there
are still some that are narrower.
Some very old units are only 8 feet wide and tend to resemble a
standard older traveling trailer. Then additions were designed to
expand to a 12 foot width. That resulted in what is called
'slide outs' or 'tip outs'.
The basic unit is 8 feet
but there are sections expanded
by (usually) an additional
four feet. Some run the length
of the trailer and some less.
The unit shown here is an early '80s model. In the
'80s and early '90s the manufacturers began making
park models a full 12 foot wide.
The most common trailer in the parks are the standard 12 foot
width and are designed to
appear more like a permanent
dwelling with standard pitched
Windows and doors are more like a
house and interiors also
A very typical park model may be
10 to 15 years old. The
at the left are commonplace.
Then there are the 'higher end' units that have been added to
These tend to be more common in the resident-owned parks (but
The owners in these parks have a much higher investment and
monies spent adding to the unit represents a far smaller
percentage of the unit total cost and possibly less risk.
A variety of modifications and additions have added a lot more
space and may even include a regular attached garage.
The end result is some pretty elaborate set-ups for what began
as a 400 square foot park model.
Front Living Area
Probably more than half of the space is the front
living, dining, kitchen area.
The open design adds both spaciousness and versitility. It is a
very practical layout.
Most units have ample windows and combined with the front entry
patio doors they are very bright and open.
The kitchen setup makes
good use of space
and generally there is ample cupboard
Most units also have some type of china cupboard and
The appliances are pretty well what you will have at home with
possibly one exception. Propane is fairly common for cooking and
The dining area is usually set up for two or four people. There
is often a second china cupboard and possibly additional storage
in this area.
The dining area can be quite small but is really all that most
need. Most units are only occupied by two people and most of the
entertaining is done outdoors in the patio area or Arizona room.
Bathrooms are pretty standard four piece.
Usually quite small, at least compared to todays large facilities
in many homes. But they have come a long way from those tiny old
travel trailer bathrooms.
They are certainly very functional and are getting a bit larger
in newer units. They also have pretty reasonable storage space.
Bedrooms tend to have quite a bit of closet and other storage
space. Usually one wall is dedicated to double closets and
The standard bedroom is probably in the range of 110 to 120
square feet. They are quite adequate. Although a king bed may be a
The Outside Living Space
Nearly all the park models sit on a lot that provides anywhere
from about 15 to 25 feet of side yard. Normally that side
yard is covered 'patio style' and serves outdoor living and
Some parks have deeper narrower lots allowing parking in the
front while others are wider and allow parking at the side.
The climate is so conducive to outdoor life that the patio
area can become like an added living room. It is possibly the
most common area used for entertaining and maybe even regular
dining. (No bugs remember)
The Storage Shed - More living
An important part of the trailer unit. When you consider the
limitations on trailer size the storage shed becomes far more
valuable than your old shed in the back yard at home.
A storage shed is common fare and they are usually about 8X10
feet or larger. They are extremely valuable, especially when you
consider you have no basement and the trailer size is limited. In
fact I don't know what you would do without one.
The storage shed is rarely just a place for storage. Of course
they are used for storage but the creative uses are pretty wide
ranging. They are a natural location for a workbench and a
common use as a place for your own washer and dryer.
But sometimes larger sheds are almost used as extra living
quarters ... TV or computer rooms and even the odd one with a
mattress for extra visitors. Although probably against some
rules they do tend to serve in an emergency.
The Arizona Room - Even more
Many people add a room at the side of the trailer to provide
some extra living space. These rooms are known as 'Arizona Rooms'.
They are constructed in varying sizes over part or even all of the
side or patio area. (Apparently in Florida they are known as a
There are many different
layouts, some quite basic and others much
They serve a variety of purposes including
space for guests
with some even adding extra
But probably the most common is for the
Arizona room to
serve as a type of 'family
room' ... similar to
the one in your house
Extra Room for Guests
It seems every trailer has a sofa bed (or whatever they
are called in your area) to accomodate extra guests. They are
pretty well standard fare in the living room. And just as common
in the Arizona Room.
In addition, some storage sheds will have means to accomodate
guests sleeping quarters with a Murphy Bed or some other
Visitors are common in the parks and it is easy to tell
when it is 'spring break' or (naturally) Christmas and other
holidays. The kids and grandkids come to visit. And of course
friends from 'back up north' will visit to experience some winter
Most parks have a variety of plants and some lots may have
small growing spaces. And of course there are the Citrus Trees,
Palm Trees, and the Cactus.
Breakfast in the Back Yard?
The citrus trees are commonplace throughout
the parks. It is quite common for a park model lot
to have mature grapefruit and orange trees. They are a very
special treat for us northerners who can't imagine going out in
the morning and picking off some grapefruit and oranges
breakfast. But that is pretty normal for many park
Palm Trees - the unofficial
emblem of RV Resort Parks
And of course a symbol of the south to us northerners are the
trees, a common site in the parks.
They epitomize a warm holiday place for those of us who only
them in pictures. And that is probably why they are used
attraction for the northerners.
If you can't find the park just look over the landscape for a
Palm Trees and that may be it.
And the cactus is also a symbol.
It is a symbol of the desert. There are many varieties, some
only found in desert locations. They are a common fixture on RV
There are wonderful cactus blooms in the spring and they
certainly add to the flavor of the desert location.
The larger cacti often take on the role of Christmas
trees when that season roles around. (The picture on the right
was taken last Christmas in an RV Park in Apache Junction.)
- Air Conditioning
- Swamp Coolers
The condition of the units will of course vary widely. Older
units can have some real serious problems. They are generally not
constructed to the same standards as most houses so judging the
expected condition of the unit by age is different than for the
typical house. (A twenty year-old park model is
viewed as much older than a 20 year-old house ... also see watch out for the rules
section about impacts of park model age.)
A couple key items to look for are the condition of the roof
and the floor. Roofs are most vulnerable. They can
certainly be prone to leaks and weakened by previous water damage.
Older park models came with metal roofs and a
common site is an old roof with patches over patches.
Newer units have traditional shingled roofs and are really
not much different than your normal house roof.
Floors can become weakened from previous water or
termite damage. What seems like a simple floor squeak can be a
sign of bigger problems. It is a good idea to have a look
underneath to see the condition of the floor.
Electrical wiring can be somewhat less than up to normal
household standards as well. Again, this can be more of an issue
in older park models where modifications may have been
made over the years.
Plumbing is often done using plastic water lines and
over time some of this older plastic becomes hardened and can
easily break, especially at or near joints. Plumbing is usually
not that hard to access and lines can be repaired and even (quite
Another common issue in the Phoenix area is the
termites. They can really wreak havoc with a trailer. They
are common and if the owner hasn't done proper prevention they can
infest the trailer.
If you are not familiar with what to look for it may be a good
investment to have an inspection by a pest control company.
Heating equipment is similar to a regular house with the
possible exception of the common use of propane in the older
units. Many of those are equipped with propane for both heating