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Old 11-04-2015, 11:58 PM   #1
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Looking for advice - wannabe RV owner w/ family

First post....be gentle.... Long time lurker, time to get serious.

First order of business was where to post this. I'll apologize now if there was a better area, but since I'm pretty much settled on a motorhome (vs. trailer, 5th wheel, etc), I figured this was as good a spot as any.....

On to the particulars. Never owned an RV, but rented a couple Class C's (Winnebago). Did. Not. Like. Them. Underpowered, noisy, lots of rattles/squeaks, and with some string and a tail, I would have been a full-on kite in the cross-winds. Spent some time in a Class A DP and found it to be much more in line with what I'd be looking for. Use would be taking the family (2 adults, 1 kid, 2 large dogs) on 5-10 trips per year. Both wife and I still work and will for many years to come (sigh....), so weekend trips and summer vacations when kiddo is off school will be our plan. I'm not, at all, interested in the big "RV campgrounds" (aka large RV parking lots), so keeping something in the 35'ish foot range seems like the best way to get into state parks, etc. Ideally, I'd like to boondock as much as possible. So...that seems to say Class A, DP, 35'ish feet. Oh...and I live in California, and most of our travels would be in the west, but I do have relatives on the east coast that we could invade during the summer....

Now the big question: which one!?!?! And this is where I could really use some help. Here's my thinking, let me know all the places I've gone wrong: I've been reading this forum for about 2 years, been looking at RV manufacturer web sites, spent countless hours watching YouTube videos, been to RV sales lots and shows, and over time, it all just starts to run together....BUT, I have come away with at least some good info. Armed with that, my thought is the following: First, don't buy new. Too expensive, huge depreciation in the first few years, typically many small (or large) issues, and frankly what I've come to learn is most new coaches today just aren't built very well. They seem to be built to a price that all points to CHEAP unless you are willing to drop $500k+ (which I'm not). So what I'm leaning towards is an "experienced" coach that has had all (or most) of the kinks worked out, much of the big depreciation hit gone (at least on a less steep part of the curve), but is still clean and dependable. Most important for me is "good bones" (good chassis, good motor, good transmission, ideally steel frame with lots of REAL wood, etc). This points me towards names like Country Coach, Foretravel, Beaver, etc. I'm fine with "updating" them with things like LED lighting conversions, flat panel LED TVs, satellite, solar, etc over time (I'm an electrical engineer by trade). Time is ticking by, and my daughter is growing like a weed, so I think it's "now or never" to start building some great memories. I get a case of the eye sweats just thinking about how fast she's growing up and that before I know it the house will be much too quiet.....

So....that's where I am and what I'm thinking. Would love to hear from folks who have "been there, done that".

Thanks in advance.

-Pete
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Old 11-05-2015, 12:17 AM   #2
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Wow, wish you had been looking when we traded the '02 Dutch Star 4090 in! Had the flat panel TV's, 43,000 miles, Banks kit so 435hp and 1200 ft lbs, two year old tires, LED's etc.
But it's gone somewhere I guess as I never saw it on the lot or in their advertising.

And frankly the Magna we replaced it with is much more trouble and costly! Wish we had kept the DSDP or gotten another Newmar.
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Old 11-05-2015, 09:28 AM   #3
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One point that would help everyone wanting to give you advice is... budget ??

How much are you willing/wanting to spend?

Now my two cents...

I am very much like you.. except I have three kids.. I'm what most would call, a weekend warrior.. we typically take one long trip (maybe two) per year, scattered with lots of weekends.. We are very fortunate to have a wonderful state park system here in Wisconsin and we've been to just about every one of them.. well, one's we can fit in..

While I get the want/need/desire to have a DP (I'd really like one too).. the fact of the matter is.. IN MY OPINION... we just don't put the miles on to justify purchasing a DP.. We've been averaging about 6,000 to 7,000 miles per year.. and yeah, sometimes when we did our week long trip out to Yellowstone, it would have been nice to have the DP, but my gas'er was adequate and did the job..

In a few years, when the house gets quiet and we're able to go on longer, more extended outings.. I will be looking to upgrade into a DP.. but until then, I thought I was better off purchasing a newer gas coach.. I figured I could save the money now and buy what I really want in the next one..

Besides, since you've never owned an RV.. you will learn a lot about what you want, and don't want, once you actually have one and use it.. thankfully there are a plethora of floor-plans out there to choose from..

Finally.. one piece of advise I'll give you in my experience RV'ing with kids.. seriously look at the 1-1/2 bath floor plans.. I REALLY like the fact my kids don't have to walk thru/into my bedroom to use the bathroom..

At the end of the day.. it's your money.. and if you have it to spend as you wish.. do whatever makes you happy (although, you should know, happy wife = happy life).. bottom line... get out there and have fun with the kiddo, you've already waited 2 years !!
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Old 11-05-2015, 10:02 AM   #4
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There are lots of very low mile DP's on the market. It won't be hard to find a 5-7 yr old mh with less than 20,000 miles at a very good price. I think most had flat screen tv's after 2008.
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Old 11-05-2015, 12:30 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by oakcreekeric View Post
One point that would help everyone wanting to give you advice is... budget ??

How much are you willing/wanting to spend?
Thanks for the reply.

Good point re. cost. I'd like to keep my payments <$1,000/month. I know a lot can alter that (down payment, interest rate, etc), but that's the ballpark I'm in.

Re. the gas rig vs. DP, I thought a LOT about that. I also know that's a pretty sensitive topic around here so I think for now I'll just say that for my reasons, which in large part revolve around the terrain where I'll spend most of my time (i.e. mountains), I think the DP would perform better, especially if I end up pulling my SUV behind it (4k lbs).

Also, can someone who's been to the state parks out west confirm what I've read which is it's a LOT easier to get a spot with a 35ft rig vs something larger? What I see online is some campgrounds have a 35ft max (or even less), while others state they allow larger rigs, but the number of spots for 40ft+ rigs is much lower so the likelihood of just pulling in and finding something is pretty slim. While most of our camping trips will be to places that are dry, I do anticipate going to many of the state parks over time.

Thanks! :thumb
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Old 11-05-2015, 12:53 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyFishinRVr View Post
Thanks for the reply.

Good point re. cost. I'd like to keep my payments <$1,000/month. I know a lot can alter that (down payment, interest rate, etc), but that's the ballpark I'm in.

Re. the gas rig vs. DP, I thought a LOT about that. I also know that's a pretty sensitive topic around here so I think for now I'll just say that for my reasons, which in large part revolve around the terrain where I'll spend most of my time (i.e. mountains), I think the DP would perform better, especially if I end up pulling my SUV behind it (4k lbs).

Also, can someone who's been to the state parks out west confirm what I've read which is it's a LOT easier to get a spot with a 35ft rig vs something larger? What I see online is some campgrounds have a 35ft max (or even less), while others state they allow larger rigs, but the number of spots for 40ft+ rigs is much lower so the likelihood of just pulling in and finding something is pretty slim. While most of our camping trips will be to places that are dry, I do anticipate going to many of the state parks over time.

Thanks! :thumb
Well it sounds like your mind is made and a used DP is your route. Like Rodz says you can find a used DP 35-39 with low mileage and in good shape if you don't mind where you have to go to get it. My problem ( and I have a gas rig for many of the reasons you stated, but do not live out west where mountain pulling is a constant) I have never liked buying used. You can do all the due diligence you want but there is no guaranty the engine wont blow out of the drive. No warranty, no recourse for major issues, new tires alone on a rig of the size you are talking about is near 5K. The other thing you should really consider is if you are serious about doing a lot of boondocking is the power set up. Adding solar is more than just adding panels, controllers, batteries, monitors, plus you have the wiring of an older coach that may have a very limited availability to the outlets and the appliances. Not that you cant find it or do it after the fact, it just limits your used market. Most every thing I looked at anything under 39 foot will get into a state or public camp area, only when you hit 40 or over do you run into extreme limits, not to mention most of the places you appear to want to go make maneuverability with a toad a serious consideration. I have seen some very nice DP's on this forum for sale, but most would need a serious electrical upgrade to handle a good solar package for dry camping. JMHO

Good luck and whatever you decide, I agree get it and start enjoying good OL family road trips and time away from the masses.
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Old 11-05-2015, 01:02 PM   #7
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Floor plan is the critical issue IMO. Once you have a floor plan look for the coach the fits your budget.

Gas vs diesel - Hmm I have been passed by a number of gas and diesel coaches and passed a few in my time as well. All seem to get to their destination.
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Old 11-05-2015, 01:27 PM   #8
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I bought my first MH in 2014. We were 5th wheelers for 8 years prior to that. I shopped RV Trader.com and RVT.com for about a year before I found our coach. As been said, FIRST thing, find a floor plan that fits you and your family. You can look on most manufacturer websites and find that. Then shop those coaches on the web. It may take a while, but you'll get what you want in time. One other piece of advise, use NADA book value, low retail, as your top $ and most of the time you can negotiate down from there.
Best of luck and happy trails!
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Old 11-05-2015, 03:28 PM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by FlyFishinRVr View Post
Thanks for the reply.

Good point re. cost. I'd like to keep my payments <$1,000/month. I know a lot can alter that (down payment, interest rate, etc), but that's the ballpark I'm in.

Re. the gas rig vs. DP, I thought a LOT about that. I also know that's a pretty sensitive topic around here so I think for now I'll just say that for my reasons, which in large part revolve around the terrain where I'll spend most of my time (i.e. mountains), I think the DP would perform better, especially if I end up pulling my SUV behind it (4k lbs)
NO problems... I completely understand about the sensitive nature of the DP vs Gas debate on this forum.. I just wanted to give you some additional food for thought.. As I said.. I am in a similar situation as you, and thought I could lend you my two cents worth of advice..

I wish you nothing but the best of luck on your endeavor !!
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Old 11-05-2015, 06:17 PM   #10
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Floor plan is the critical issue IMO. Once you have a floor plan look for the coach the fits your budget.
That's been one of the challenges. With kiddo and big dogs (that often need to go visit a tree in the middle of the night), having someone in a sofa-bed that is blocking the path to the door isn't ideal. Plus, I have to admit, packing up a bed every day is a PITA. These things seem to point towards a coach with bunk beds, or what I think is a brilliant change in some of the Class A's ("borrowed" from the cab-over class C's), which is the drop down loft bed over the driver's area on coaches like the Winnebago Forza and Fleetwood Excursion. What a great way to make use of wasted space! :thumb

Given that, of the newer coaches, my favorite floorplans are the Forza 34T and Excursion 35B. Both seem to get away from the typical "opposing sofas" layout and can be configured to be much more "homey" and less "RV'ey". But then we are back to the inherent issues with newer coaches that I was trying to avoid like high cost, high depreciation, all the stuff that needs to get fixed, etc. Since I'm still working, my time is extremely precious, so the absolute last thing I want (or will tolerate) is spending that time waiting for someone to fix a broken coach.

So I seem to be stuck (hence the 2 year search): Do I look for an older coach with the bugs worked out but doesn't have a layout I like, or a new(ish) coach that has a layout I like but may also have a lot of problems. Which do you all find more important? Seems layout is #1, since you can't change that, but reliability is still very important because I can't tell you how many stories I've read about people having their vacations ruined because of coach problems.

Why can't this be easy......
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Old 11-05-2015, 06:31 PM   #11
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Reliability is relative. What some folks take as a catastrophe others just get the screw driver out and tighten the screw. Bit of a exaggeration but you get the drift.

We have had some issues. The big ones have been taken care of by our dealer. The small ones I take care of myself. It takes less time to get the tool, fix the problem than it does to write it down and dictate a list to the service writer.

No coach new or used is going to be without problems. You pay your money and take your chances. If you follow a bunch of threads you will find many instances where the owner trades off his unit in frustration. You might be in line for one of those. Will the owner tell you all of the problem? I will let you use your imagination for that one. My answer is NO!

Regardless you are going to have to do maintenance on new or used. This is a box traveling on rough roads.
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Old 11-05-2015, 08:20 PM   #12
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The saying goes, " buy your last MH first" but that's almost impossible to do. We bought our third MH new after two used models. We learned a lot from the first two so that we could make an educated and experienced decision on the third. My third was going to be a used diesel pusher but ended up being a new gas coach. A gas coach is not going to drive as well as a DP, it's not going to ride as smooth or as quiet. They are just completely different animals as far as that's concerned, but park them and they are not that different. We spend 2-5 hrs driving in order to camp 48-192 hrs each trip so the floor plan is more important to us than the drivetrain.

That being said, every bodies circumstances are different, we still work so most of our trips are short, we live in the southeast so mountains are not an issue. We tow a Wrangler at just under 4000 lbs and don't know it's there from a power standpoint. When we retire, I see a DP in our future because I want to see those mountains through my windshield but wouldn't hesitate to see them from our present gas coach.
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Old 11-05-2015, 08:54 PM   #13
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I think the saying "Buy your last Motor Home First" was developed by a salesman who always tried to sell people the most expensive rig on the lot! How do you know what you want unless you try one out?

Anyway, that aside, another point. People are way too wrapped up in "low mileage" when it comes to vehicles in opinion. Especially with diesel engines. I believe that proper Maintenance is MUCH MORE important in trying to figure out future reliability than just Low Mileage! Also, PROOF of that Maintenance is almost as important as the Maintenance itself! If the seller doesn't have receipts, I don't add value to supposed maintenance that he says he did or had done.

Last of all, once you settle on a floorplan (# 1 priority), find a rig, drive it and get REALLY serious about it, HAVE IT INSPECTED! NOT by the dealership or individual selling it, by an independent inspector, have BOTH the Coach, AND the Chassis inspected, if necessary by two separate individuals or shops. I felt comfortable enough when purchasing our motor home in doing the Coach inspection myself, but on the Chassis inspection, I took it to the a repair shop (Freightliner in my case) and had them a thorough DOT inspection including pulling codes on the engine and transmission. Also CHECK THE TIRE CODES for age. Over 3 years old in my opinion, and you need to be figuring a discount. Seven years or older and you need to buying new tires and adjusting the purchase price.
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Old 11-06-2015, 08:29 AM   #14
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having bought a new one, I agree with your thoughts on buying used. When we went from a 37' to 45' coach we were much more limited as to where we could get in so my one suggestion would be to decide where you want to camp (NP's, SP's, etc) then select the coach length that will allow you go there.
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