Gang. I've received far more from the IRV2 comment then I've ever been able repay by sharing input to others. I hesitated sharing this info, but time after time over the years, I've seen the same sort questions and research come up on what my wife and I have just completed. So, I wanted to share our (Mostly my.) thought process.
To be clear, this is what I decided to do, after my 12-18 months of analysis and research. I totally understand that many of you make different decisions, and that is fine - as we all have differences in what is important to us. And I respect the right to differences in opinions!
I also want to be clear, that in no way is any of my comments intended to pick on any Manufacturer. But they were my honest assessment.
(Skip over this info, if you only care about 'What we did!'.)
My wife and I travel 7-10 months per year. So very close to full-time. In 2008/9, we elected to pull forward our retirement rig coach purchase by a few years. Post 2007 economic downturn, placed many higher end RV's into the market from those who had to get out from under them. We kept our same planned budget, and got much more coach then we had anticipated.
We also thought the early years of our retirement, we'd be 'traveling' pretty extensively. Want to be able to stay in some State and Federal Parks, as well as extensive boon docking. So wanted to size a coach that would be a compromise on fitting, as well as living.
I wanted DP, Tag, Side Radiator, at lest 2 slides. Late 2009, purchased 2010, we found a low miles, but consistently drive throughout the year, 04 Country Coach Allure 40', High Cascade, 2 Slide, 40' coach. Paid a fair, not killer price, considering the times. But to me, paying a bit more for a well cared for higher up the food chain (Nope, for sure not the top!) coach that matched our Must Have's and Like to Have shopping list well - was more important then rock bottom price. We budgeted about $25K into suspension, solar, HiFi (Got Tubes?), Communications, Interior mod's, etc. And for the next 4 years, we budgeted and prioritized $5K each year, for other customization. (We wanted to go live with the coach, but had learned from other's here and on other boards, that modifications to make a coach 'your coach' was normal. And we wanted to really get a feel for some of those things. Two of which we dropped off our list, and replaced with others, in year 3 & 4 - so glad we did not go 'all in' on these mod's when we bought the coach
We ended up due to family member medical issues, not being able to travel as many of the places we had expected to the the first 10 years. Electing to remain usually within a two-three day drive of the Southwest to get home rapidly if needed. But, we did have one 17K+ year of travel - but most were between 7-10K per year.
Our Allure treated us very well. Never left us stranded, and we confirmed that we really like the experience of RV'ing.
So as my wife and I came up on our 10th year, 7 after retiring, of travels - we sat down over a few month period, and thought over what we wanted to do the next 10 years? Sell the RV and go take cruises? Or fly and travel on different continents? Or, whatever. We decided we were going to do a bit of both. But we figured over the next 10 years, we'd especially in the early years, again due to family member care dynamics, probably do 50% RV'ing, and 50% a mix of the other options. With the expectations that the first 5 years or so, would be heavier RV traveling.
So then we started to do the math on keeping our Allure, and making modifications for the next 10 years. Which is a fine coach, and young at 80K miles, and more then capable of we felt safely covering the next 10 years! Or. Look for a different coach, to reinvest in for the next 10 years.
The wife really wanted to keep the Allure. As we knew it inside and out, and it was very livable. I wanted to have the ability to safely pull either a heavier Toad and or possibly a Stacker Trailer. Yes, the Allure with ISL370(400) could do this. But it would struggle in the mountains, and I'm an advocate of more reserve power capacity provides a safety edge via better acceleration capability. My wife left the final decision to me, which I appreciated. (And, admit now in less then then our third/forth week with the new coach, I get looks at from her from time to time - WHAT DID YOU DO!! Looks
And those of you who know me, know this background info was a short bit of sharing from my normal volume of word choices. I shared it, as it might help others starting out, or making similar 'What do we do now?' decisions.
What we did!
> First. We chose a budget range.
-Used with upgrade, for older coach (Max $300K)
-Used with less upgrades, for mid teen years coach (Max $450K)
-New (Or mostly new) later year coach, with even less upgrades (Max $850K)
(For the first two, we'd have gone all cash. For the last one, we would have financed a portion. Specially pulling equity out of a home with a 1st ReFi, due to the current low interest rates.)
> Once we had these three buckets of budget ranges. We went and kicked tires over a 6 month or so period. Looking at many different manufactures. But I'll share we reviewed Country Coach, Monaco, Newmar, Entegra, Foretravel, Prevost Based Marathon and Liberty and Country Coach.
> We also anticipated these next 10 years of usage, we'd be doing a higher percentage of going to a RV Park, and staying for one to two months at a time, to immerse our self in a region. Still some boon docking, but not as off road as before. And still some State and National Parks, but were OK with missing those that a 45' coach would not fit. (45'? Well, I had determined 42-45' vs 40' would be our target replacement coach.)
> As we looked at the mid teens, and newer coaches. Only the Prevost based coaches we felt gave us comparable quality of our Allure, which in 2004 was called the 'Entry level to CC higher end coaches. At that time the Inspire was slotted and built to a different price point in their model line up. And the Tribute was on the drawing board. I will not single out a specific coach, but will share we were targeting the Newmar Essex/London Aire/King Aire with Spartan K3 chassis. The Entegra Cornerstone, Spartan K3 chassis, Foretravel Phoenix, Realm (And IH45). Monaco Executive/Signature (And Holiday Ramble equivalent.). (And while not a targeted coach, I did also again look at Beaver Patriot Thunders and Marquis on my initial search of the older coaches.).
> Engines considered were Detroit DD60, Cummins ISM/ISX (Pre DPF, CM870), X12/X15, CAT C13/C15 (Pre 2007 Emission level.). My preferred engine was the DD60. My least preferred engine were the newer X12/15 with DEF and other smog items. ISX with CM871 builds in 600 & 650 HP config, as well as the CMXXXX generation of ISX's with Ceramic components, were avoided.)
A bit of a flashback to our first choice of the Allure. We targeted pre hey smog changed engines when we bought our Allure.
While on engines. IF buying a ISX525 or ISX600 Pre DPF CM870 build, I would budget and factor $20-25K on preemptive new improved Heads, and related items upgrades.
I wanted to avoid Regen's, etc... (And looking at the new coaches, my thought process did give those coaches a minus score due to higher smog level engines 'stuf'.)
> Chassis considerations. Dynomax, Roadmaster RR10, Spartan K3 or K3GT were the target chassis. I gave plusses to Newmar for Comfort Steer, and Foretravel version of the TRW steering assist (Basically one in the same.). I gave a plus to the Foretravel Retarder Allison's too.
> Prevost based. Well this was tough, as mechanically I would have liked the Prevost chassis, most with DD60's. But, the majority of the interiors did not match our personal interior tastes. Buying older, maybe cheating a bit on budget, we could have customize the interior to our liking. But then I factored in another level of learning curve, shifting to Prevost coaches. So early in our search, nudged away from Prevost based.
> Interior Construction Quality and Interior Paint Quality.... Again, not signaling out any of the above coaches. But in general, we found the mid teens and newer coaches, with the exception of Foretravel, did not have the quality level we were looking for. They were nice looking, many had great floor plans and livability factors. But we found cabinets to be less 'stout' then we were accustomed to. Interior doors that we could hear rattling while while driving. On the new coaches, not impressed with the paint work. Was also not impressed with some of the OEM included house battery choices of some of these coaches. Digging a bit deeper, on both new and mid teens. Looking under the coaches, and inside of the access panels, the quality of finish work on wiring, plumbing, hydraulics, etc. - well, lack of assembly line attention to detail is all I'll say. (On one 2016 private sale coach, crawling under the chassis, I found a chaffing hydraulic line, near a hot exhaust pipe... Let the owner know of this potential fire hazard.).
I'll stop here, on the mid teens and new coaches... And share an opinion. That at the upper end of the manufacture food chain models, no excuse for not having the assembly line craftsmanship and attention to detail on build for these coaches. They certainly are pricing them a a higher level, and I would not accept or expect to need to spend months sorting out and redoing items at the high end of the food chain.
> Misc Info: I gave Newmar plusses, with their Emergency Exit Doors. (Real like this feature. And would like to see it mandated as required on all new coaches. It has, and will save lives ahead ---- I gave plusses to all coaches with two baths. ---- I saw in the mid teens and new coaches, more options that included communications consideration as part of the packages. That is especially nice for non geeks, as it can give them an edge in useable internet. --- Oasis vs Aqua Hot. Well, I know Hydro/Aqua Hot well. They're not perfect. And like the Oasis, will need ongoing diligence and maintenance ahead. I did note that on some of the mid teens coaches I researched, that Oasis had some problems. --- Smart Electronics Controls. Well same comment, different generations of these type controls, had some teething pains.
--- Micro Checking. Many of the coaches on our Older listings, have Micro Checking considerations. Darker the color, and outside vs inside storage when not infuse, also impact this. Many of the Monaco, Newmar, (And I did look at, respected, Travel Supreme Select's) had Micro Checking issues. Some were light enough colors, that I could have risked the Micro Checking ahead. But, it remained a factor
> Ongoing Maintenance - We usually are on the West side of the country. So returning to East of the Mississippi periodically for factory related visits, was a part of the final decision process. (Not that we could not get help elsewhere, but if new. I'd take factory delivery, and expect at least one return to the factory while still under warranty. Warranty? Well with most warrantees being so short house coach wise - not much of a factor. Chassis/Engine warranty, a bit more of a factor, but not enough to offset smog complexity.
What we purchased, and why:
> 2007 Country Coach Magna Rembrandt 45' with ISX600 Pre DPF CM870 build, 40K miles.
- I consider the Dynomax Magna/Affinity Chassis to be one of the most solid 'foundations' in the industry, short of Prevost.
- I like the look and design of the 2005 and newer Magna/Affinity exterior. They were a design that I feel influenced other manufactures.
- I know the family of Country Coach owner's, and knew I could get ongoing help as needed. (And note: Foretravel, Monaco, Newmar, Entegra - the same!! Very strong owner clan's and participation. Many I 'internet know' from several boards, and meeting many as we travel over the years. So while I know more CC owner's, I'm positive that any of these coaches owner's would help as much!)
- West coast factor, and ongoing maintenance. As mentioned, we are more on the left side then elsewhere. This gives me many excellent businesses that know Country Coach well. I won't list them all, but share that we currently do use Premier RV Service for our yearly maintenance on the majority of our chassis, and all of our coaches, systems. I have a good rapport with Service Manager Jim Cooley, Owner's Louie and Gary are decent straight shooting people. I know and respect the majority of the Tech's (Learning the group that recently came over from when Winnebago closed the Junction City Country Coach and Winnebago facility. (THIS trust of Premier, was one of the key decision points.)
- The Magna itself. No coach is perfect!! And I knew the Magna would be a more complex coach to maintain over the years ahead. But it hit the marks on quality of construction/design, components and materials, and craftsmanship of assembly. It was an older interior generation of design, and I did give the new Newmar's and Entegra and Foretravel the nod as being a fresher livability design.
- The learning curve to transition from the Allure (A previous generation design.) to the Magna, would be lower.
- We do have two smaller paint 'swooshes' that are black paint. And those will be painted a complementary lighter color to reduce risk of Micro Checking ahead. (Micro Checking, even in lighter colors, was one of the biggest negatives on choosing this coach.)
I hesitate to share this, and will do this high-level and easily + or - a few thousand or so. But thought it could help others in their decisions on coaches ahead...
$170K - Purchase (IMO a fair price.)
$22K - ISX600 New Revised Heads, EGR. (Could go $5K higher.)
$12K - New air bags, refresh other suspension components
$12K - HWH Active Air
$44K - Paint, cabinet and interior modifications, MCD's, electronics
(Note: Coach had $25K of TV/Entertainment/Two new 3K Inverters/Road Kings/X's 6 Fullriver AGM's and other modifications within the last 18 months from the previous owner.)
~$250K for the above. I'll also note, that I have not yet decided if we will add solar to this coach like we did our Allure. And am positive when the Fullriver's need replacing, I'll go with Lithium house bank. So potentially another $25-35K investment within the next 5 or so years.
> Just as with our Allure. We amortize the coasts of the purchase and upgrades over a 10 year usage period. We receive 'dividends' from this investment in hopefully safer less problem traveling, and 'smiles by the miles' of usage.
> Resell is not as much of a factor. When were planned for retirement. We worked, and invested, enough to factor these kinds or expenses. And still 'cement/anchor' our financial security for the retirement years ahead. (Personal info, but I again share this. As I feel it is important to not overextend in retirement.)
For lets just say $250K with the budgeted year of modifications ahead, nothing else met our desired level of quality and comfort and safety.
All of this is subjective. And again we all come at this RV'ing thing from different perspectives, with different backgrounds. My choices for my wife and I, will certainly not align with everyone else's choices. And that's OK. Very much respect everyones right to disagree with what we've/I've done.
And again to be clear, no intended slighting of any other manufacturer. I shared my honest assessment and opinion. But do sincerely appreciate that many prefer 'new and warranty', and heck, where would good quality used coaches come from, if new ones were not ordered!!!
My best to all, and if this helps anyone in the future, great! If I ticked off anyone, my advance apology!!
Be safe, have fun, and best to all,