Buying the right RV – Done!

Our Journey – Maiden Voyage

We did it!  We’ve gone from looking to buying the RV.   In August we purchased a 2008 Winnebago Journey from La Mesa RV in Davis, California.  Prior to purchasing this RV we had placed offers on RVs in Oregon and Southern California during the first week of August.  Getting information about an RV that was remote was a real challenge.  On August 8th we got an email from La Mesa and saw they had 3 Journeys along with some other brands that we are interested in at the Davis dealership.  So we gathered information from NADA and  J. R. Consumer Resources so we could have some idea what price ranges would be proper.

Buying the right RV!

On August 9th we drove to Davis to check out several RVs including a 2014 36 foot Journey, a 2008 and 2007 40 foot Journey (actually 39 1/2 feet) and about 10 other RVs that fit our requirements.  We had originally been looking at the 32 – 36 foot range and thought that the new 36 foot Journey would be great (See this post for some of the decisions we have wrestled with).  We loved the fireplace and the fact that it was brand new.  But with our long-term plans for full-timing in the RV and going back and forth between the 3 finalist RVs we settled on the 2008.  First, it only had 17,000 miles and was in near-perfect condition.  Second, the price was more attractive to our pocket-book than the new RV and third, the extra space really makes the decision of which RV to buy easy.  Since it’s a used RV we opted to buy an extended warranty and La Mesa offers a 15 day warranty on specific items.  With the 2008 Winnebago we felt we were buying the right RV.

We purchased the RV on August 9th, and picked it up on August 25th.   Between the 9th and the 25th I spent some time each evening reading the various manuals from Winnebago, Freightliner, Cummins, Norcold, etc.   On the way home from Davis after getting our 2 hour orientation and signing the final paperwork we practiced driving, turning and even doing 3 point turns around Sleep Train Arena.   We then loaded a few things into the RV then drove it to storage.

Camping!

We are so excited about our RV!  We were able to take it out on her maiden voyage on August 29th – September 1st.


For our first trip we drove to Thousand Trails’ Lake of the Springs near Oregon House California – about 20 miles east of Marysville.  I could not believe how smooth it rides and how easy it is to drive.  With the rear engine, it’s quiet in the front cab.  I must admit I was a little nervous at first, but we had an older Suburban and Prowler Trailer several years ago and this was much easier to drive.  It didn’t take long before we were more relaxed – especially once we got out of the Sacramento city traffic.

 

Once we arrived at Lake of the Springs our first challenge was to find a spot large enough for our Journey and the 10 person tent we were setting up for our daughter & boyfriend.  The first few places we tried to slide into would have been OK for just the RV, but not an RV and a large tent.  We finally located a double space that was available and set up camp.

We wanted to check as many things as possible during this first trip out because of the 15 day dealer warranty.  We extended the slides, hooked up power and water, got the awning extended then took our dogs for an orientation walk.  Both of our daughters came up with family and friends to inaugurate this milestone.  What a great weekend.  2014-08-30-1805-03-LOTS Journey-2

Our laundry list of things not working was fairly short.  On Saturday I go to make some brownies for daughter C, and could not get the convection part of the Microwave/Convection oven to work.  I downloaded the manual and tried every which way to get it to do something and other than the fan going on for a short time, no heat.  Our electricity usage  bumped up about 1 amp while the fan was running, then went back to flat line.  So we microwaved the brownies; which was not exactly the way they are supposed to be baked.  But, they did get eaten.  When I tried to get the DVD player to work I got audio but no video on the front room TV; but the bedroom TV worked so the grand kids watched Disney in bed while we prepped dinner on Saturday.

Our grey water tank for the kitchen filled up quickly and after doing some searches on some blogs found out that the two grey water tanks are not connected.  There is one for the kitchen and one for the bath.   A simple gate valve can combine the two so they will balance out.  Also, the grey water gauge for the bath holding tank never registered past empty. And on the way back home it was hot, and the dash A/C quit working.

We reported these and a few other issues to the dealer and took the RV back in for the warranty work on September 25th.  They are also installing a new replacement bedroom window that is stained between the dual panes.  La Mesa has been great to work with.

We have made a lot of purchases since buying the RV, so in the next post I’ll share what we purchased and why these items were first on our list.

as Dale Evans and Roy Rogers sang… Happy Trails!

 

Motorhome Comparison Guide

How to get the RV details you didn’t know you needed!

A company called JR Consumer run by Randall Eaton manages a website called RVReviews.net where I purchased the book Motorhome Comparison Guide.  Randall’s company publishes customer satisfaction data for many companies that manufacture motorhomes, trailers and 5th wheels.  What I find interesting about this information is several companies have either gone out of business or have merged or been bought out since the ‘Great Recession’.  A few companies have even risen again either with different owners or part of financial restructuring.  This and the satisfaction information about the manufacturers is very helpful information to the new RV buyer and the guide provides information on all the major RV companies.

Why is the information in the Motorhome Comparison Guide Important?

Motorhome Comparison Guide

Motorhome Comparison Guide by Randall Eaton

Especially since we are most likely going to buy a used RV, I want to know if I can still get replacement parts and/or repairs done on the RV.  I also value having an understanding of the current financial situation of the company, what types of RVs are they getting into or out of business building and what are the trends of their satisfaction surveys.  In addition the guide provides editorial advice on models that seem to have the best customer satisfaction.

There are different versions of Randall’s comparison guides.  I selected the Motorhome Comparison guide and he also publishes a Trailer and 5th Wheel comparison guide.  The edition I purchased was for 2006-2014.  In addition he also publishes model specific reports.  I purchased  a bundle that includes 3 additional booklets and a 3-pack of reports that I plan on using when I get ready to make some offers.

The guide covers the top Class A, C, B+ and B RVs built between 2006 and 2014.  Individual reports cover all motorhomes from 2000 on.  Even though the book is full of tables and data Randall presents a lot of useful information in a readable format.  Understanding the groupings of the various types of motorhomes helps readers understand their options and helps to define what features are desirable for your specific situation.

In doing research looking at motorhomes in RV lots and shows as well as online I wondered about which companies manufactured good product.  Do buyers have more issues with one company or model over others?  What’s the resale value of a specific model of RV?  The Comparison Guide along with the single model reports offer a third-party review to help in the decision-making process.

Main chapter topics include:

  • What type of Buyer are you – such as Camper, vacationer, full-timer or something between.
  • Construction Techniques & Methods
  • Customer Satisfaction
  • Dealer Ratings
  • Resale Values
  • Rating Charts separated by class of RV and year range
  • RV Manufacturer summaries

 Summary

Probably the most important chapter for me was the RV Manufacturer summaries because of the number of companies that are no longer in business or under different management.  Sometimes the motorhomes produced by a company no longer building RVs  have very high satisfaction ratings.  A good example of this is Country Coach (CountryCoach.com) that has been re-purchased by the original owner and is manufacturing replacement parts with plans to manufacture new motorhomes in the future.  This company would rate higher for my choice over one that is out of business with no parts manufacturing ability.  You may not be able to get replacement parts for motorhomes where the manufacturer is purchased by another company.  Information showing this complexity is time-consuming and challenging to gather – that is why this guide is well worth the $60 charged.  I recommend getting the reports as well.

I do think that for the price paid customers should be able to get updates to the guide for a few years.  On the good side there is no expiration date for the individual model reports so you can take advantage of the bundle like I did.

Deciding on the type of RV

What type of RV is best for you?

What type of RV is best for you?

Trailer? 5th Wheel?  Motorhome?

January 23, 2014

One of the many difficult decisions that we need to make is the type of RV to full-time in.  RV decision-making is complex.  Over the past 4 months we have been able to narrow down our choices.  To do this, we went to 4 RV shows and visited a couple of dealers in Oregon and California over this period.

One thing to consider is resale value.  Currently resale values for Class C motor homes are higher because of the demand for these mid-sized RVs.  Trailers and 5th wheels also are attractive and since they have no engine their resale value is greater and maintenance is less (until you factor in the pickup or other vehicle to tow the trailer).  Check out Buying a Used Motorhome and not get burned by Bill Myers.  I think it was the best 3 bucks I spent in a long time.  He has a great discussion about the different types of RVs.

How do you FEEL?

Probably the most important consideration is how you feel in the RV.  Does it feel right for you?

The Types of RVs we considered

5th Wheel Trailers

We find that 5th wheels have some big living areas that feel more like a traditional front room that we really like.   The 5th wheels that meet our needs are large so we need a big heavy-duty dual wheel pick-up truck to haul it.  We also need a king cab so our big dogs can travel up front with us.  We do not like either of these options, so 5th wheels are out.

Class B Motorhomes

We had lots of fun times back in the ‘80s in our VW Vanagon Westfalia camper, but every time we decided to go someplace, everything gets stowed away for each side-trip and errand we go on.  Current Class B motor homes are larger and have more amenities, but they don’t fit our proposed lifestyle.  They are great for weekenders, but they are just too small for us now.

Class C Motorhomes

Class C motorhomes range in sizes up to small Class A range.  This is closer to what we like.  But we face the same problem as class B – still not enough room for us to comfortably live in with us and the dogs.  Sound like the 3 bears?

Trailers

Trailers are another consideration and we spent many weekends camping with a Suburban and an old Prowler.  However, like a 5th wheel we would have to get a heavy-duty dual wheel pickup truck with extended cab for us and the dogs.  Too cramped and we are not interested in driving around in a big pickup when we go sightseeing and exploring.

Class A Motorhomes

Type A on Dirt Road Web-rvbuiltfortwoClass A motorhomes are what our friends Judy and Jan retired in, and that was what we pictured all along.  After reading about so many people selecting the wrong type of RV the first time, we want to make sure that we don’t fall into that trap.  Class A just seems right for us.  With a slider or two the motorhome opens up to give plenty of room when camping.  Closed up, many provide enough room for the dogs and even the grandkids can buckle up when they go trippin’ with us.  Plus we can pull a small Jeep that will get us around more conveniently than driving a pickup.

 Recommendation

We spent 4 months looking before our decision was firm to go with a Class A motohome.  We used the last RV show we attended to test our assumptions.  We walked through trailers, 5th wheels and motorhomes again.  We feel good about our decision and are looking forward to the next step to narrow down our choices further.

Here is what we did:

  • Walk through as many RVs as possible to get an idea of the variety of layouts and options.
  • Look at both new and used units since there are differences in the same model over different years.
  • Write down our likes and dislikes because there are so many things to keep in mind.
  • Spend some time in the units that we like and envision living there cooking meals, watching TV, reading.
  • Check out the storage and think about where you will fit your things – such as is there space for your kayak, fishing gear and bikes?

Resources

  • RV Shows – sponsored by a single dealer or several
  • RV Dealerships – both brick and mortar as well as web inventory
  • Manufacturer websites – you can download brochures and get video tours – often for prior years too
  • Websites such as eBay, RVSoodle, YouTube, RVTrader and of course general Googling are especially good to research new and used units.  Many include videos, pictures and layout diagrams
  • Blogs and Reviews – we have found the following very helpful: FMCA, iRV2, Gone with the Wynns and RV-Dreams
  • Magazines such as Motorhome, Trailer Life, FMCA Magazine
  • Books – search online and view our expanding reviews.

Your RV is home.  Have fun with your RV Decision Making, and don’t rush.  Remember – write a list of features that you do and don’t like as you tour the various RV types and models and keep track of those that meet your needs.