Making the Right Decision or being Wishy washy – Gasser vs. Diesel, New vs. Used

Gasser

Are we making the right decision?

We visited La Mesa RV in Davis, California and got all excited with the smell of new RVs.  You know that smell, don’t you?  The exciting smell of money and fresh carpet, along with thoughts of life on the road again. We could taste being on the road!

 

Excursion
Fleetwood Excursion 35 ft. DP

We first looked at a new 2013 Fleetwood Excursion 35 foot DP.  This is a slightly longer RV than the Wynns of Gone With the Wynns Blog have.   But we didn’t like the general layout and felt that the overall workmanship of the unit was not really what we were searching for, but buying new is appealing and the year-end model is close to our budget.

We have focused on used diesel pushers for the past few months, and the sales rep at La Mesa  asked how set were we on DPs and not Gassers.  As a matter of fact, I am disappointed in the lack of used smaller diesel pushers that we could actually touch and feel.  So his question came at an opportune time.

I told him that I am frustrated at not finding a used rig locally to look at that we are interested in over the past few months.  He pointed out the advantages of buying a new RV over a used unit.  And he was quick to point out the extra maintenance costs of buying used.  That is something I worry about as well, the fear of buying a used motorhome  that was close to falling apart and spending our retirement years on the side of the road and not on the road.  We then checked out the Winnebago Adventurer Gasser RV.

Winnebago Adventurer
Winnebago Adventurer

The quality difference of this high-end Gasser is noticed immediately.  The fit and finish were better than the low-end Fleetwood DP, had a king bed and nice galley.  We then checked out the Winnebago Sightseer and REALLY liked the U-shaped couch and TV arrangement.

I think if we were ready, the check would have been written.  Fortunately we didn’t have a check book, and fortunately I spent some time looking at the storage arrangement on the Gassers because the next day at work I was thinking about our vacation and retirement plans.  We are planning on taking full size bikes for both of us, and most likely a single 2 person kayak or two single person kayaks.  Add a couple of nice outdoor lounge chairs and a few key kitchen appliances along with our fairly light-weight exercise equipment and I was having problems picturing how those larger items are to be stowed away on the Gasser.  Diesel pushers generally have better storage compartments for these types of items.

We then spent some time going back through rv-trader and eBay web sites looking at some beautiful Country Coach and Winnebago Journey DPs that have a ton more storage.  Yes, they are not new and we will have to have a larger annual maintenance budget but they still seem to fit our planned mobile lifestyle better.

Seriously consider different solutions before making your final decision as this is an excellent exercise to verify what type of motorhome to meets your needs.  Buying new has significant advantages over used, and in our case that would mean sacrificing quality and/or space.  This showed me how important it is to have a good understanding of the activities and lifestyle you want when you vacation or full-time in an RV.  We could have ended up with a great RV that does not meet our needs.  See our earlier posts on New vs Used,  and the Different Types of Class A RV engines.

Motorhome Comparison Guide

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.

All the stuff you need to know about RVing

All the stuff you need to know about RVing

By Ronald E. Jones and Robert G. Lowe

Ronald E. Jones & Robert G. Lowe
All the stuff you need to know about RVing

I found this book by Ronald Jones & Robert Lowe at Ronald’s website About RVing.  Here is the bookstore on his website.  What initially caught my eye was his experiences using Lithium Ion batteries for both coach and chassis battery (more about that on another post).  The book is a larger size paperback that is professionally done.

This book is an excellent overview of using and maintaining an RV.  And I’m not just talking about engine maintenance.  Here are the major sections of the book:

  • Getting Ready to Drive the RV
    • Towable RVs
    • “Drivable” RVs
    • Learning to Drive Your RV
    • Driving Practice and Practice Driving
    • Try This When Learning to Drive Your RV
    • Things To Do Up Front for Pilot and Copilot
    • Driving Suggestions
    • Getting Ready to Drive
    • Hooking Up the Toad
    • Backup Up an RV
    • Fueling Up
    • Temporary Parking
    • Copilot Help is Special Help
    • Special Insert on RV Weight
  • Stuff Inside the Coach
    • Learning to Live in Your RV
    • Living Room
    • Kitchen and Dining Area
    • Bathroom
    • Bedroom and Laundry
    • Closets and Storage
    • Packing Your RV
    • Special Insert on Buying an RV
  • Outside Stuff While Parked
    • When You First Pull Into the Campsite
    • Hooking Up the RV at the Campsite – Part I
    • Checking Shore Power
    • Hooking Up at the Campsite – Part II
    • Unhooking – Getting Ready to Go
    • Propane
    • Special Insert – Sewage
  • All the Other Stuff you Need To Know
    • Towing the Toad
    • Supplemental Braking Systems
    • Coach and Toad Protection
    • Winter Camping
    • Winterization
    • Preparing to Use Your RV After storage
    • Maintenance
    • Accessories, Services and Extra Stuff
    • Special Insert – Boondocking
  • Border Crossing Stuff

Each section provides a detailed overview of what to expect living in an RV with literally hundreds of tips and suggestions on making it easier to live on the road.  It introduces the novice to RV language like Toad, Dolly, Dumping, Shore Power and Boondocking just to mention a few.  For the experienced RVer the over 400 tips alone are worth the cost of this book.

Some topics are more introductory – such as Engine Maintenance.  You are not going to learn how to overhaul an engine, but you will learn how important it is to do proper maintenance on an RV and when to look for expert help.

This book is a keeper for my library.  It’s already all marked up.

An Emotional Response

Downsizing and Rightsizing
February 7, 2014

An Emotional Response
Not easy getting rid of ‘treasures’

Our plan over the next few years involves downsizing our home while we are working, before full-timing in our RV.  The plan is to decide now what we plan to keep, what to store and what to give away or sell.

Our first pass at going through this is this weekend, with our daughters.  This is fun because we will be opening up boxes of kids stuff that are in the attic.  The last time we checked out the contents of most of these boxes was, well let’s just say a really long time ago.

On the other hand how do you decide which mementos to keep?  That first finger painting that I got for father’s day?  The clay figurine from third grade?  The Christmas card from a relative no longer living?  There is not enough room for us to keep all these things, and most of this ‘stuff’ is going to be taken by the kids, sold or donated.  It simply won’t fit in an RV.

So… bring in “the kids” and let them help in the decision process.    We all have our say about what goes.

I keep reciting my mantra, “I want to simplify my life”‘.  I don’t know if it’s working or not.  Let’s see if we can rightsize our possessions to fit our future lifestyle.

Saturday February 8, 2014

The emotional ties to getting rid of our children’s nick-knacks certainly does not extend to our children!  In a short order they picked a few items they wanted to keep and left the rest for us to decide what to sell or donate.  We ended up with only a couple of boxes full of items to think about and a few dozen boxes that need to go to the garage sale or be donated.  Probably the most difficult items to decide on were our Steiff stuffed animals from Christine’s grandparents in Germany.  So much for the kid’s emotional response.

Surprisingly enough, we maintained focus and have a great start on our rightsize project.  The real challenge lies ahead of us when we start going through the items we have tucked away in the corners of the house.

 

Class A Motorhome Engine Types

Class A Motorhome Engine Types –

Diesel Pusher?  FRED?  Gasser?

Class A motorhomes can have different types of engines that are either placed in the front or the rear of the coach.  Manufactured motorhomes give buyers a choice of diesel engines in the rear called a diesel pusher, a diesel in the front that is a Front End Diesel (FRED) or a gasoline powered engine (gasser)  in the front.  Each have different advantages.  Here is what we have learned so far:

GASSER

Gasoline engines are less expensive than diesel engines.   They are most commonly built on a truck chassis with leaf spring suspension and Ford is the most common engine used.  The coaches generally are lighter weight and carry and tow less than most diesel-powered motorhomes.  Because of the weight capacity difference, few gasoline powered coaches have washer/dryer units and typically have linoleum  for hard flooring and not tile.  On the other hand there are many floor plans available with prices for new units well under $100,000.

Diesel Pusher (RED – Rear Engine Diesel)

cumminsHaving a diesel engine in the back allows for a quieter ride up front making it easier to carry a conversation even when going over mountains.  Diesel engines have greater torque and run at a lower RPM than a gasser.  This allows the engine to go farther between servicing and up to 5 times the mileage (500,000 miles) before typical engine overhaul.  It also allows for greater weight capacity and better performance in general – especially through the mountains.  Diesels also generally offer better fuel economy although the price of diesel is higher than gasoline.    In addition diesel engines typically use exhaust back-pressure or air-braking to aid braking and have air ride suspension systems (air bags) that means less sway in high wind conditions or when freight trucks pass.

The conventional wisdom is that for motorhome lengths that are greater than 36′, diesel is the only way to go.

With all the great features of a diesel, what’s the drawback?  First – the initial cost of a diesel-powered coach is more than a gasser.  However recently there have been some smaller (36′ or less) diesel pushers selling for under $150,000 new.  Secondly maintenance is more expensive (but less frequent) than a gasser; and it is usually easier to find a gasoline engine mechanic than a diesel mechanic.

Here is a good article by Bryan Henke of Freightliner Custom Chasis.

FRED (FRont End Diesel)

As the name suggests, FREDs have the engine in front.  Generally they do not have air suspension or air brakes and have less carrying capacity than diesel pushers – an important consideration for full-timer RVers.   Some report that engine noise is less than a gasser, but more than a diesel pusher.  Because the coach is still a rear-drive unit the drive shaft occupies a fair amount of space down the length of the basement.

Ok, that’s it for tonight… While we have not made this decision yet – we are leaning towards a diesel pusher.  Any suggestions?

RV Buying – About RV Depreciation

 Understanding RV Depreciation…

COO-DepreciationJanuary 24, 2014

No matter what kind of an RV you talk about, they depreciate.  Quite a lot actually.  RVs with engines depreciate quicker because of the wear and tear of their motors.  There are advantages to buying new – you get to pick out the features you want right up-front, no one else has lived in the RV, you get a manufacturer warranty and of course – it’s NEW!  Used RV buyers can take advantage of depreciation on the unit, selecting from a wider variety of models covering a several years, lower cost of add-on options if they are already installed and often used RVs have very low mileage on them.

Whether buying new or used – depreciation is something you need to understand.  The National Automotive Dealer Association (NADA) publishes the Manufacturer Suggested Retail Price (MSRP), Low resale and Average resale prices each year for almost all RVs.  This gives us a quick gauge of the current value for a specific year and model of an RV.    It is important when considering depreciation over time, that it is based off of MSRP.  For example if average depreciation for a 5 year old RV is 3% that originally cost $100,000 then the depreciation for year 5 is $3,000 even though you may have purchased that RV used for $50,000 ( that makes it 6% depreciation on your used purchase price).

If you are buying new or used, depreciation is a real cost of ownership, just like buying gas and paying campground fees.  When you sell or trade in your RV, depreciation becomes very real – especially if you are financing your purchase.  Fortunately, very few purchase RVs at MSRP.  Discounts from 20% to 30% (depending on the value of the motorhome) are common – check out some of the larger RV dealerships.   Regardless, you can expect your RV to be worth about 50% of MSRP within 6 or 7 years.  While that may frighten some, you have to remember that there are many other ways to keep your overall living costs at a reasonable level compared to a brick and stick home.  This is a lifestyle choice that can provide exciting opportunities, and many want to understand what it takes to live this lifestyle.  Depreciation is only one factor – but one that can’t be ignored.  If you are looking at spending a couple of years or more touring the country RV full timing can be very attractive.

Sample Depreciation
Year Model Engine MSRP Average Depreciation Depreciation % Difference
2013 34b 340 246736 205710 41026 0.16 -0.17
2012 34Y 340 224750 182770 41980 0.18 -0.02
2011 34Y 340 211376 153190 58186 0.27 -0.09
2010 34y 340 204182 132270 71912 0.35 -0.08
2008 34h 350 198491 114330 84161 0.42 -0.07
2007 34h 300 183882 100370 83512 0.45 -0.03
2006 34h 300 166218 84700 81518 0.49 -0.04
2005 34h 300 161883 68050 93833 0.58 -0.09
2004 34h 300 151873 60480 91393 0.60 -0.02
2003 34h 300 145684 54430 91254 0.63 -0.02

RVersOnline.Org has an article about general depreciation schedules for RVs in their Archives.  It makes for good reading for those wishing to further understand the impact of depreciation.

More about RV Cost of Ownership – what we have found out – to be posted soon

Why Full Time RV

Full Time RV – It’s Human Nature

why_fulltimeMobile lifestyle is human nature.  Since the first humans have been on earth they have migrated across continents and across the world.  It’s in our nature, in our blood.  My ancestors came to the colonies from England, Ireland, Scotland, Germany, France and Switzerland in the mid 1700s.  By the early 1900’s they had migrated to Pennsylvania, North Carolina, Kentucky, Oklahoma, and Colorado with some ending up in Oregon.

Maybe the question of Why RV should be why not?  There is a human desire to find out what’s over the next hill and around the next bend of the trail or road.  Some people live the full timer RV lifestyle because they want to, others because their job or circumstances make this the best choice.  Regardless, just about anyone can live the mobile life (and I don’t mean cell-phones).

So, why are we going the live the Full Time RV life?  More than anything else, this is a lifestyle choice.  We are going to tour the US and Canada over an extended period, exploring the nooks and crannies that only Charles Kuralt and a few others managed to unearth.  Staying in motels and eating out all the time is very expensive, limits our options on where to stay and makes it difficult to travel with pets who are an important part of our family.  Every RVer – full-time or not – has their own reasons.

We have friends who successfully transitioned to a full timer RV lifestyle for several years.  This allowed them to visit and stay for extended periods of time in places they could explore, then travel on.  This appeals to our sense of adventure, wish to explore and make new friends.

How else can you go out and kayak on a lake in the morning, then return to your home and enjoy a stew that has simmered while we are gone.  Then, a few days later you are ocean-side sipping wine under your awning enjoying the gentle lapping of waves under palm trees.  There is an independence and freedom associated with RV life that only a few take the effort to enjoy.

Happy Trails

JC
JC

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.

 

RV Books Review

January 19, 2014

book_reviews

RV Books Review Page

Today I am learning more about WordPress and creating and writing an informative blog.  In addition I added a second RV Book review – The RV Buyer’s Survival Guide by Bob Randall and Mark Polk.  This adds to the first book review Buying a used motorhome – How to get the most for your money and not get burned, by Bill Myers.  The first book looks at the process of purchasing  a used RV, and the second a new motorhome.  These books are like bookends providing a pretty complete picture of the variety of ways to purchase an RV.

Why book reviews

For us just starting out, we wanted as much information as possible.  Web searches provided manufacturers websites that provide good data about new and previous RV models, various RV associations provide paper and electronic magazines, articles and blogs and many individuals have contributed information in various forms including comments and blogs on many sites.  Books however can still provide a wealth of information.  These first couple of books were purchased after searching Amazon.Com.  Other books we will review were purchased on Amazon as well as self-published through their own websites.

To view our book reviews – click here.

Ok, back to learning about WordPress!

Perfect Balance

January 19, 2014

PerfectBalance

This is the start of our Website and Blog, searching for the Perfect Motorhome… that Perfect Balance between features and cost.  The Perfect Balance between having enough room to full-time in and still be able to navigate many of the parks in the U.S.  The Perfect Balance of living green and living in a vehicle that would at first glance seem to be the opposite of environmental responsibility.  The Perfect Balance of living life to it’s fullest and keeping within a moderate budget.

We will be documenting that journey, and invite you to come along as we go through the process of determining what kind of motorhome fits our proposed lifestyle (more about that soon).

To start out, I will share the books that have helped me start to understand how to select a motorhome.  Here’s our first book review.

Besides book reviews, areas we are initially planning on discussing are our thoughts about buying New vs. Used, a Gasser vs. FRED vs. Diesel Pusher, how we hope to contain expenses, and what resources we use to educate ourselves to make the perfect choice for us (we hope).  Don’t worry about the acronyms – we will help you with that as we go along.

Join us in our quest.  We will share what we learn and invite you to share your own hopes and experiences.