Welcome to irv2
Bob, you will find a lot of help here on irv2. Good luck in your research. My wife and I have owned many RV's of all makes, the pros and cons of each. Our recent move to DP's had us asking many of the same questions you have.
I definitely would recommend a DP. Like you we looked at many dealerships and private sales in FL and TX. Ended up finding a nice used, low mileage DP with a MC rack, ramp, Brake Buddy, Tow Bar, everything from a private seller.
There are pros & cons with that vs a Dealer but in the end I think we made out much better $$ wise.
We took advantage of attending the RV Super Show in Tampa for a couple years. We have on our list some of the things that are Wants, Needs, Must haves. I would also consider a coach that has a good resale value just in case 2-4 years down the road you want to upgrade.
I would be curious to know if you have owned other RV's before? If so what were some of the things you liked most and what you liked least. This might help us better understand your needs. FT use of course is something that imo is another ball game. I would want a really good quality build.
In a previous post you mentioned 3 Categories of coaches: 1. Monaco, Beavers and Country Coach. 2. Thor, Damon, Fleetwood, Tiffin
3. HR, Winnebago, Newmar
When you look at some of these keep in mind some make all levels of MH's from the high end to the basic entry. Like Fleetwood for example.
Newmar builds some very nice high end coaches and I would not put them in cat 3. Tiffin also builds some very nice high end coaches and I certainly like the service Bob Tiffin has built and maintains down in AL. I have spoken to many of the Tiffin owners and they really praise the service and support.
Monaco, another great line. When you have a chance to visit with owners at a CG, or here on irv2. Monaco's are always a favored brand.
We really like the Winnebago Tour, 2014 or newer. Some of the older models had issues with slide outs (a real head ache). For your price point, I highly recommend you use the multiple sources on internet and even the classified section of irv2 with private sellers.
06 King of the Road 37RLQS
06 Coachman Cross Country 5.9L 300HP 382 DS
03 Jeep Wrangler, 4.0L James, Trina, SMSgt, USAF Ret