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JohnT 01-03-2013 07:30 AM

Buy your last DP first
How many have done that?

It only took two years for us to determine our first 5th wheeler didn't fit our style. So now we are looking to step up and these words keep popping up.

How can you possible know what you will need on your first purchase?

We have our list of Wants, Nice to Have, Options and Budget. We have our list of why we want a DP, both Pro and Con. I've generated Cost of Ownership spreadsheets (plates, taxes, maint, fuel, camping fees, etc).

So help me out. I have this loaded dart and need to take one shot to hit the bull's eye.

How did you do it?

RickO 01-03-2013 07:38 AM

I think we did it but it was mostly luck. We were total newbies... had never owned any kind of RV. Following my retirement, we wanted to travel and we knew we wanted a DP because I didn't think I'd enjoy RVing if I had to place tight limits on how much I could carry... didn't want to be going 20 mph at the top of steep grades... and didn't want to have to scream at each other while driving to be heard over the sound of a loud engine.

We went new instead of used because the economic outlook was much better in early 2007. We knew we had to have 7' ceilings since I'm 6'6" tall and we knew we wanted an entertainment center which was mounted mid ship so we didn't have to crane our necks to watch it.

We went with a new Itasca Ellipse 40FD and have loved it. If I were to look at replacing it today, I would probably look at Tiffin but that's strictly because of exterior styling.

Best of luck.


Oscar Mike 01-03-2013 07:54 AM

Considering that you have experience RVing it should make it easier to choose your motor home. We too are new to RVing, I moved up to a Class A from a Lance 1120 Camper, so we chose to go a different route. Not knowing if we would truly love being on the road for the foreseeable future, we chose to buy a gas unit because of the significant cost difference. We found a "new" 2010 Fleetwood Bounder 33U for under 80k.
The engine noise is not as bad as you made it sound, yes I lose it on hills, but I ain't in no hurry anyway, my wife will never consent to going full time, so it didn't make sense financially to spend another 150k+/- for a DP in the size range we were looking for. We wanted a motor home that would fit easily in most National & State Park Campgrounds so we stayed under 35'.
I wouldn't be in such a hurry to negate a gas unit...

MartinP 01-03-2013 08:51 AM

We are new to this also, but I based our purchase on what I already knew from a mechanical stand point and by researching gas versus diesel. We went for a diesel pusher. We also did not by new as we had a budget to work to. When we found what suited our needs, I spent several days on a creeper under the MH looking looking at the condition of the chassis, wiring, etc. I truely believe it is a personnal choice as what ever you purchase must fit your needs. Will this be out last MH purchase? I'm not sure.

Zoafan 01-03-2013 09:07 AM

We are new to RVing and the only experience we have are the two MHs we rented to try out the lifestyle. We went diesel because of ride quality and we live on the west coast so we climb mountains. First time going over the grape vine in a gas motorhome made me cringe, I was ready to tell the wife to start throwing stuff out the windows lol.

USMCRET 01-03-2013 09:10 AM

We bought our last one first, and will probably do it again in 10 years. ;)

777 Driver 01-03-2013 09:50 AM


Originally Posted by JohnT (Post 1418555)

How many have done that?

How did you do it?

My wife & both grew up in families who had travel trailers. My family started out in a 16' trailer with an ice box and a owner installed 5 gallon fresh water tank plumbed to a hand pump that ran into a sink that drained outside to a bucket. Two adults, 4 kids and a cocker spaniel; pretty cozy living.

As we approached my retirement, we both though it would be fun to do some traveling and thought some sort of RV would be a great way to do it.

We started by attending lots of RV shows and every RV dealer within 200 miles of our home. We looked at a very broad range of RV's and talked to lots of people, particularly at the RV shows. We found the best advice from other spectators at the shows. The friends we have with RV's tended to be somewhat biased to whatever they had selected for themselves. The sales reps, although knowledgeable, were interested in making a sale (quite understandable). The RV show spectators mostly already had some sort of RV (read EXPERIENCE), but, were still looking. The anonymity of the setting seemed like they weren't trying to bias their comments in favor of what they already had or trying to influence us to buy something. They just seemed to honestly share their experience with a total stranger.

We wanted something suitable for cross country travel (cross mountain ranges) and living in for months at a time (perhaps up to 4 months). Some sort of motorhome seemed like the logical choice. With the near certainty of mountains, towing a car and long distances, a DP seemed to make sense to us.

Once we settled on a DP, we started to narrow our search. In all honesty, we let our checkbook be our guide for much of that process. We had a pricepoint in mind and looked at both new an pre-owned coaches.

Our planning started almost 10 years before I expected to retire. By the 7 year prior to date, we had settled on the DP concept. About 2 years prior to retirement (a year before we had planned to buy something) I found what seemed to be just what we were looking for on an internet ad from a nearby (about 200 miles away) dealer. It was a prior year model, new at a significant discount. The discount price was not far from the price of a similarly equipped late model pre-owned coach.

We looked at it and really liked it. We thought about it for a couple of weeks. It was still 2 years before I expected to retire; it was a lot of money to tie up in a depreciating asset that we wouldn't be able to use much before I retired. But, it seemed to be just what we were looking for.

In retrospect, purchasing it a couple of years before we would spend months at a time in it worked well. There are lots of little decisions necessary to get it all set up the way we wanted. As an example, neither of our cars were towable four down. We wanted to do that, so we ended up selling a car and getting one suitable for towing. By taking our time with that process (almost a year), we were able to get a great deal on a used car on craigslist. By taking time to carefully think through decisions regarding how to set up the tow car, we've been very pleased with the outcome. Rushing those decisions may not have resulted in the sae degree of satisfaction.

So, our first RV will likely be our last RV. A 41' DP. Seems to do everything we want, so far.

FWIW, IMHO, take your time with the process. Spend some time trying to imagine every aspect of how you intend to use it. Balance the pro's and con's of the variety of choices available.

Good luck with your decision.

We're loving ours!

Take care,

Sky_Boss 01-03-2013 11:07 AM


Originally Posted by 777 Driver (Post 1418684)

In retrospect, purchasing it a couple of years before we would spend months at a time in it worked well. There are lots of little decisions necessary to get it all set up the way we wanted. ...

Stu...EXCELLENT Post! :thumb:

Lots of great thoughts through out this thread. I think the OP has a big leg up having been in the RV life style already. Learning the DP mechanics and different aspects of it won't be that difficult.

When we bought our Winnebago we didn't know what we didn't know. The 1607# CCC seemed to be a lot. It didn't work out that way because we just didn't have a real clue about how much weight 2 adults and 2 GSDs could amass for full time use. We found out 3 months after we bought it we would need to upgrade. We will miss the Winnebago because of the outstanding floor plan and what we learned from it. Someone is going to have a great part time home with potential for something to go on some really long trips.

As Stu said, we are glad we started this journey a couple years ahead of retirement. It gave us time to learn and adapt. We are about 1.5 years out still but the ground work is set. We just bought a 2013 Honda CRV toad. It gives us time to set it up and work out those kinks too.

Also, as mentioned, budget did drive our decision. But even more so was our confidence. When we bought the Winnebago last March, we were not quite so sure how much determination we had to make the FT jump. The summer we spent in it clarified that to the point we could invest more money into our future home.

Sandee and I cussed and discussed all our TOO MANY options. LOL How long, how much, features that were a must and all that jazz. It was a tough process knowing that this was probably going to be our "last" one. We opted to go 43' because we see a fair amount of road time in the first couple years. We also felt that in the long run, coach space, storage and amenities trumped any CG limitations we might have if we went shorter.

Finally we settled on Newmar. Not that there aren't excellent options but it was just that feeling we had after studying things. We had a few musts; king bed, Cummins engine, side radiator & private toilet area. We had some "nice but not essential" items; possibility for a staked W/D, hydro heating system & residential refer. Most everything else could be added/modified after purchase including the refer.

So, take your time. Study, study, study. With what you already have learned, I bet you make a good choice.

Jon Mopar 01-03-2013 02:31 PM

Am I the only one that doesn't have to scream over their gas engine while going up a hill?? lol

bluepill 01-03-2013 02:41 PM


Originally Posted by JohnT (Post 1418555)

We have our list of Wants, Nice to Have, Options and Budget. We have our list of why we want a DP, both Pro and Con. I've generated Cost of Ownership spreadsheets (plates, taxes, maint, fuel, camping fees, etc).

You have a great list there. Many people do not understand how important a tool it is.

Our current rig is our first, and possibly our last. Bought it 3 years used for a good price, and have been very happy with it. For us, the plan of being on the road for almost a year (see my sig line) made the cargo capacity of a class A a must. Being able to carry 7 thousand pounds of cargo and tow up to 10 thousand pounds gives us many options, and allowed us to load up with 4 seasons worth of clothing and gear.

Barlow46 01-03-2013 02:53 PM

I also am one of the "lucky" ones when buying our first Class A DP. I also came from the fifth wheel world (3). I bought an 05 Dynasty 42' diamond IV just over 2 1/2 years ago. It turns out that it had at least four major options that I previously had not paid much attention to. The first was the factory residential refrigerator (norcold 1200 in my last 5th wheel). The second was the stacked Bosch washer/w/220 dryer set up. The third was the air only leveling system (love it) and last was the tag axle. (great ride) There were many other options that were very nice (aqua-hot, king bed, bath and 1/2, computer desk setup. The fuel mileage on the ISL 400 is very good considering we are moving a 40,000 + house down the road. My recommendation would be to buy larger than you think you need and try for the tag axle as a minimum.

JohnT 01-03-2013 03:03 PM

Thank you one and all. A really great read.

We just internet shop as the DW hates bothering the sales guys at the dealerships. We have one stumbling block. I want a tag and she wants less than 39'. We're planning on traveling (not FT) for the next 3 years. Looking to sell the S&B and move to a warmer climate. Then travel North and West in the summer to see the family.

I think we're on the right track.

DW's family has a Fleetwood gasser (V10). They can't run 60 mph and still pass a gas station.

Thanks again.

flaggship1 01-03-2013 03:13 PM


Originally Posted by Jon Mopar
Am I the only one that doesn't have to scream over their gas engine while going up a hill?? lol

You know, this would be fairly easy to determine some actual baselines. I have two db meters on my iPhone and a regular musicians db meter from my days of booking some local blues bands into a friends restaurant. The iPhone app meters are free and were remarkably accurate.

I don't have much experience with large gas engine Motorhomes - but the Airstream B van I drove for many years had a 460 EFI in it and we didn't have to scream over it either. I'm kind of with you on this one.

Currently my Cummins is somewhere back there between the 33 and 38' foot marks and I've never thought to pull out the meter and check either cabin or back end for db levels. I think the scientist among us should post some numbers. I'm winterized at the moment or I'd go first. I also suspect that highway noise from road poor conditions can make them all a little louder the we might think absent an actual reading. It's not a library at 60+ mph in any of them in my experience. I'm sure YMM and db MV.

Show me the money. :D

MarkofSJC 01-03-2013 03:14 PM

Our goal is to do exactly that ~ purchase our last coach first.

We're years away from retirement, but realize the full timing may be in our future. We also recognized that we'd have this coach for 10 ~ 15 years ~ maybe more.

There were a few key things you may want to factor into your consideration (as we have).

Travel vs. "Camped" - You'll hear a lot about floorplans, but you really need to consider the two variations of the same floorplan ~ slides in, traveling down the road, and slides out while camping. That can be eye opening, especially the former. Some coaches in "travel" mode are worse than any subcompact!
-- Drivers seats that barely go back enough to get behind (for a 6'+ driver)
-- Bathrooms your can't access unless vaulting over a bed (!)
-- Kitchens whose cabinets can't be accessed (fun for loading and preparing snacks on the road!)
-- Closets that can't be accessed without both slides out (Imagine suddenly needing a coat!)
-- Uncomfortable seating/no seatbelts for more than driver & navigator (where's the fun in that for family or friends?)

What's the range of use? - It's a big investment, so the "sleeps two, dinner for 4, and cocktails for 6" sounds fine...until your kids want to bring along a friend or two. And while you may plan on only traveling from park-to-park during your vacation, will it also accomodate a tailgating party of 30 on the hot asphalt? Or a skiing weekend at the local mountains? Or taking a team of 8 to the beach for a BBQ. Think of every possible way YOU would want to use the coach.

Tour the coach ~ but with your sunglasses on - By that I mean that it's easy to be blinded by the "bling" while missing some major underlying "foundation" issues. For example, I toured a coach that had some of the most stunning woodwork I'd ever seen (along with a gigantic shower). The interior was absolutely dazzeling (woods, leather, flooring), but, "putting on the sunglasses" showed us 1) The salon sleeper sofa was unusable for anyone over 3' tall, 2) The steering column came up directly between the drivers' feet, forcing you to saddle it. Fine for the first 20 miles, but a day of driving would drive us crazy, 3) While the exterior of the cabinets was amazing, the construction, hardware and mechanizims were below par and since the galley cabinets were not adjustable there was no place for a cereal box (!).

Length vs. L E N G T H - This is the #1 factor for selling one coach to purchase another (at least from what I've read & spoken to owners about to pick up their new coach). But it cuts both ways. The trend used to be purchasing a smaller coach, then graduating to a larger (and then even LARGER) coach. But if you're planning on pulling anything large (i.e. large trailer or boat), in California they'll ticket and force you to uncouple and have a tow truck take your towed item to a yard if the combined length is an inch over 65'. But also consider, is your spouse willing/comfortable to drive something over XX'? Are you okay with being the sole driver? Are you planning on camping in National Parks, or are upscale oasis parks the way you roll? Those will also help you determine maximum length.

These are just some of the things (after "educating" myself at RV rallies, walking lots of RV's and of course reading every board I could for the last year), that have allowed us to create our own yardstick to accurately measure how each potential coach stacks up for our particular interest/needs/wants.

For us, this is just as expensive as buying a house (but one that will never appreciate), so getting it "right" has been very important for us. I hope it helps broaden everyone's perspective on what the absolute "best" coach is for YOU!

Happy New Year!


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