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As I have posted before, when you decide to make the move from a stick-house to a recreational vehicle, there are many things to consider. Prices vary on RVs, but most are very affordable with the majority being much, much cheaper than a stick-house.

After price, the next thing to consider is how comfortable you are with driving. Are you okay with driving/towing? Can you back up? If not, you may consider contacting your local RV dealership and see if they recommend a driving school (or perhaps they offer lessons) for a newbie RVer. If that isn’t an issue, than you need to consider other driving issues such as a tow vehicle. If you decide on a fifth-wheel or travel trailer (and, of course, a truck-camper) then you will need a good pickup truck to tow your RV. If you decide on a motorhome (Class A, Class C or a van) then you may require a vehicle to tow behind (either on a trailer or tow dolly). And consider very carefully if you choose not to have a tow vehicle – especially if you decide on a larger motorhome. Every time you require groceries or supplies, you’d have to pack up everything and drive your “home” into town. Unless you have other options – motorcycle, bicycle, hiking – to get to a nearby town, you should consider having a “vehicle”. Another driving factor to consider is that your family can drive it. If something happens to you, could your spouse or travel companions drive it?

What size of RV do you need? It depends on if you are going to be Full-Timers or Seasonals, as well as how many people are living in it. If you are going to go Full-Time, then everything you own will be inside. That means you need storage, as well as enough room to function. Smaller rigs may seem to small for you, but don’t forget, the more slides you have, the larger the rig becomes. And driving-wise, how big of rig can you handle with where you plan to travel? Quite honestly, some roadways (especially in the mountains) are just not made for larger RVs. So keep in mind that although bigger is roomier, it is a lot more to handle on the road and even inside smaller campgrounds.

And let’s mention storage again. Like size, this depends on if you are going Full-Time. If everything you own is in the RV, then you need storage. And I don’t mean sticking your frying pans in an outside compartment. I mean real, functional storage space. There are extra things that will eat your storage space before you even get it home. Do you really need a washer and dryer? What about that dinette booth versus a regular table? Sure, dinette tables look nice in RVs, yet booths allow under-seat storage that you may need.

RV slides are probably the best RV-addition and the more you have, the more room adds on to your rig. Yet they have major downfalls. Number one is that most campgrounds (even those that advertise Big Rig Friendly) aren’t slide-friendly. You may find that your slide(s) can’t go out because of trees, utility posts, cement barriers and other campground obstacles. This can be quite frustrating, especially if you have wide and/or large slides like we do. Another thing to consider with slides is that they aren’t as heavily insulated as the rest of your camper. So if you are going to a colder region, you need to keep in mind that you may need to leave your slides in to stay warm. Do your slides have electrical outlets or furnace/air-condition ducts? Keep this in mind if you are in a hot-cold region. Slides can also be a pain if you can’t put them out. If you are traveling down the road and need to use the bathroom, can you even get to your bathroom? Some slides block off areas of your rig and you can’t use them. So keep in mind what your rig would look like with the slides in – could you get to your bathroom? Bedroom? Stove? Refrigerator? If you were boondocking (or dry camping) a few days with the slides in, could you still live in your camper? These are things to keep in mind when RV shopping.

How far do you plan to travel in your rig? Will you drive it across the country or will you just drive it a few states away? Make sure you can handle it and that your routes (like mountains) are something your rig can handle. We’ve driven down roads that have brought our curtains down and broke the jar of dill pickles in the refrigerator. If you are going to take your rig down the road make sure the cabinets and refrigerator have good locks, that sliding doors have snaps, etc… Also, if you travel to a colder region (or even if it gets colder in a warmer region) that your rig is well-insulated and that you have the means or the “extras” as far as it goes to protecting your pipes/hoses from freezing. Many RVs have “polar packages” that you can upgrade and get tank heaters, etc… Well worth the extra money.

Most salespeople will push whatever they have on the RV lot, but if they know you are interested in a new one (especially custom-built) they will push the extra features. You don’t need most of them, yet there are a few that you should consider. A generator is a must in my opinion – especially a propane one. It will cost extra money, but you’ll find it money well spent during your first major outage. No smelly gas tanks to drag around – just regular propane which you’ll use in your RV anyway! And make sure you get a switch to turn the generator on from inside your RV. Those stormy or cold nights you are without power, all you have to do is crawl out of bed, flip the switch and your generator is on. No fuss and anyone can do it! Another extra is the polar package (if you are traveling far or in colder regions). Flip a switch and your water tank will be heated! No wrapping hoses or dripping faucets.

Now, that being said, let’s get serious. What happens if you or one of your family members becomes ill or disabled even for just a short time? Could they be able to navigate the RV with a cane, walker or small wheelchair if they needed to? When considering our custom-built fifth-wheel the only thing that we considered might be a problem someday were the three steps leading upstairs to the bathroom and master bedroom. Just three little steps. Well, today I currently find myself dealing with cancer treatment and those three little steps might as well lead to the first base camp at Everest. Luckily, an added rail-guard has helped alleviate that big trek up the stairs. A fold-able walker allows me easy movement upstairs, while a small wheelchair allows me movement downstairs. But we never planned this – who does? Fortunately our RV had the room to accommodate me during this time. So plan ahead – consider you or a family member navigating your RV while ill or disabled. It will require some adjustments, but at least give you the peace of mind that you are together in your home.

And don’t forget to think of  everyday things you’d like to have in your perfect RV. Do you like TV and movies and want to sit and watch them from a sofa or a recliner? Do you like plants? They have optional greenhouse windows in RVs… Entertain? They have wine racks and mini-bars… Think about what you NEED and what you would LIKE to have and write them down. Make a check-list for each RV you visit, that way you see how close it comes to your perfect RV.

Before we headed out on-the-road for our winter travels, our Suburban water heater went out. A trip to the local RV store (in Florida) for a new one and a quick (okay, maybe not that quick) installation left us thinking that was the end of our water heater woes.

Imagine our surprise when we get on-the-road and had no hot water! The thermostat on the new Suburban water heater was faulty. We called the RV store where we purchased the new water heater and they told us that since it was brand-new they would contact Suburban on our behalf. Later they called us back and told us Suburban said we would have to contact them directly regarding replacement parts/costs. The RV store gave us the information and we called Suburban.

Not only did Suburban deny our new one was faulty, they even questioned whether we had a bought one! Our conversation with Suburban left us boiling – all over a $40 thermostat.

We tracked down a replacement thermostat on our own and thanks to Camping World (in Texas) we managed to repair the brand-new $600 faulty Suburban water heater we just bought! No thanks to Suburban.

So be aware if you have to replace or repair a Suburban water heater – you’re on your own because Suburban only knows how to give their customers the cold-shoulder.

Silly RVers! Always playing with their hot water heater!

After a winter storm, the beach was littered with debris and driftwood. (WA)

We have winter camped in the Pacific Northwest and dealt with wind, snow and ice storms… but we never thought we would have to prepare ourselves for winter camping in Florida. With fluctuating  temperatures this season, we have had to watch for signs of excess moisture which can lead to mold and mildew.

Each closet and storage area has a Damp-Rid (http://www.damprid.com) container which is checked (drained and refilled, if needed) every two weeks. We have talked with other RVers who prefer to not have a “spill-able” container (lower half of the container collects water, while the top half or basket contains Damp-Rid flakes) and they prefer other methods, such as placing charcoal briquettes in a shallow pan or bowl.

Some folks prefer to use a dehumidifier. We don’t use one as we have heard so many stories against – from “sweating walls” to the chore of emptying it every day and even finding the space to place one.

If you find yourself with a moisture problem, you should evaluate your storage areas. Boxes draw moisture and eliminating those by placing items in sealed plastic containers or SpaceBags® (https://www.spacebag.com) will help. Also make sure your storage areas are not too crowded to allow some air flow. Inside storage closets that contain clothes or paperwork should be left cracked open while you are settled in an area.

Check around your windows for moisture. And if you have a roll of silver sunshade shoved into each window, you should keep an eye on those for mildew, especially around the edges.

Watch your humidity inside and either run your air condition when you can or crack open a window or vent to keep the humidity low.

If you are prepared for it, you can keep moisture under control before anything develops to “dampen” your winter camping experience.

After the winter "Southern Storm" that went through the SE states. (FL)

I received a rather amusing email from a Full-Timing friend who has been workamping for several years. Her main grip was “everyone wants to be a vagabond now!”

Lately everywhere you turn there is an article popping up either online, in the print newspaper or even on the TV news, regarding living the RV or caretaker life. The reporters interview a few of us “houseless” folks and then manage to piece a story together on how their faithful readers or viewers can just give up everything and “live free” too.

These pieces promise that you too can be a vagabond. Honestly, I’ve been finding it rather amusing! 😉

One article I read said that there was no need to buy a new RV because they depreciate like cars. Okay, that is true… but did she mention that most campgrounds and RV resorts require newer models? Most places want workampers who have models no older than 8 to 10 years. I have heard of places even saying six years or newer. So before you rush out and buy that 1980s Trek motorhome that the guy “down the road” has for sale in his mother-in-law’s barn, you better do your homework on what types of workamping jobs you hope to get and what most employers require.

Another article I read said that this lifestyle was only for retirees.  Hmm… I’m not retired (or even close to it for another 30+ years!) and several of our Full-Timing and/or workamping friends are either too young to retiree or still have families of their own (who live the lifestyle with them). There is a growing number of younger folks and families who live this way and get along quite nicely. So don’t rule it out Full-Timing or workamping if you are younger than 65.

This same piece mentioned that the jobs were rather easy and required no effort. Well… I would love to drag this writer to a campground or RV resort and put them to work for a day. Yes, it takes no skill to handle 100+ check-ins on a Friday night during the summer or on a holiday. (Insert me rolling my eyes here!) Or how about cleaning several bathouses a day and operating a Kiavac machine. No skill? No effort? Okay, well then how about mowing several acres of lawn around a hundred RVs in 90 degree temps? No sweat! Yes, there are some easier jobs out there, but in outdoor hospitality – anything goes! So even a light Camp Host position may find you having to haul firewood, clean restrooms or help evacuate the campground during an emergency.

I could go on and on, as there have been so many “be a vagabond” stories lately. With recent economic changes and many people struggling to keep their home or in need of a new career, these articles and news casts offer hope and freedom. Don’t get me wrong, it can and it does for many, but before you make that leap you should do some research and speak to those who have (or are on) that road!

Everyone may want to be a vagabond, but not just anyone can be a vagabond and be happy with it.

It’s a beautiful Sunday in Texas and we thought we would sit outside in our lawn chairs and read. A few of our fellow Full-Timers came over and started up a conversation that went from books to favorite flavors of ICEEs. Just a relaxing Sunday…so we thought.

We had been talking a few minutes when a woman walked up to the group and said, “How long are you folks staying?” We all replied a few more weeks. The woman said mumbled something about it must be nice to be on vacation that long, when one of the group members explained we were Full-Timers.

Now, imagine our surprise when she said, “Oh, well you’re trash from where I come from.” Then she walked away with disgust.

We were absolutely shocked. We all watched her walk away. No one said a thing. In fact, the only thing you could hear at the time was our jaws dropping.

Personally I thought that it was a joke. I looked around for cameras – surely someone was filming a hidden-camera show and we were the next skit? No, no cameras. The woman was for real.

She knew nothing about any of us, yet she blatantly called us trash. No, excuse me, she said we were trash.

I’m not a confrontational person, but this was rather upsetting to me that someone would make such a bold judgment and not even allow a response. I was curious and decided to see where this woman was from.

I saw her several sites down by a fifth-wheel – she was sitting on a lawn chair and drinking a can of soda. I never said anything to her but glanced at the pickup truck beside the rig and saw it had Texas license plates and several Austin stickers on the tailgate.

The group was still gathered near our site and several other Full-Timers had emerged to listen to the tale of the hit-and-run trash-talker.

I mentioned what I saw and one person said, “Oh, well, if they’re from Austin, that explains it.”

Well, I don’t quite understand what that means and find myself not really caring. I mean, why should I fall into the stereotype trap as this trash-talker?

As a Full-Timer I feel that we are a benefit to society. We bring money to local communities. From buying local produce and eating at local restaurants to visiting local attractions and attending local events – Full-timers are adding revenue to each area they visit.

They also help promote communities – they either tell other travelers or share their photos and stories online about the areas attractions and help increase tourism.

When staying in an area for an extended stay, many Full-Timers contribute to the community by volunteering their time or donating money or goods to local charities. I personally have over 350 hours of volunteer time – from the State of Florida to the State of Washington.

We are big on community. People in stick-houses go years (or decades) without knowing their neighbors. Full-Timers know their neighbors, be it for a day, a week or a year. We are there for our neighbors – we don’t ask for anything out of it. It’s just something we do to help our fellow RVers.

Full-Timers may not have stick-houses, but we do pay taxes. From Federal taxes to local sales taxes to toll road fees, we are paying our share to help keep the country running.

You will find that most Full-Timers are in support of parks and environmental-related causes. We help maintain our national and state parks by purchasing annual park passes and volunteering at them.  We contribute to eco-charities and causes and encourage others to do the same. Many of us pay fees or buy permits to hike, camp or fish areas – with the money going back into preserving these areas.

We have much smaller carbon footprints than those in stick-homes. Yes, we may put more mileage on, but we also take better care of our vehicles. Most Full-Timers are aware of their vehicles needs and constantly make sure they run as efficiently as possible. Those of us who need trucks to tow our fifth-wheels and travel trailers have newer diesels that run on bio-fuels. Those who have tow vehicles (“toads”) for their motorhomes or motorcoaches have hybrids or vehicles with a better gas mileage than standard vehicles.

Full-Timers live by the code – recycle, reduce, reuse. We recycle everything we can because if we can’t recycle it back into society it’s trash. We don’t like trash! Rarely will you see a Full-Timer with more than a tiny bag of trash. Reducing is automatic for us. Needless packaging and extra “stuff” is just a waste of space and energy to us. And we reuse like you wouldn’t believe! If we can’t reuse it ourselves, we’ll find a good home for it (often sharing it with other RVers or passing it on to a local charity).

Chevy Silverado

Chevy Silverado

We also buy American-made RVs and vehicles. Drive through any campground and you’ll see the overwhelming majority of fifth-wheels and travel trailers are being towed by GMCs, Chevys and Ford trucks. Toads vary, but favorites include Saturns, Jeeps and hybrids. We take great pride in our rigs and you can usually spot a Full-Timer by the blinding glare of polish on their RV. (Currently ours has 3 coats!)

And then there are those Full-Timers who rebuild or renovate RVs. These conversions are the ultimate in recycling, reducing and reusing! These folks use their know-how to take an older RV or bus and convert into something amazing. They buy local products and use local services to achieve their custom dream.

This is just a few of the many ways Full-Timers benefit American society. You can talk-trash me, but I really don’t care. I’m proud to be a Full-Time RVer!

Double the room!
Double the room!
Our fifth-wheel has four slides, two of which are in the second bedroom.  From the back view it is eye-catching and we do receive a numerous questions and inquiries about the layout of our rig, especially “that double slide in back”.

When we were looking at fifth-wheels, there were only a few with double slide rooms. Recently we were surprised to see that double slide rooms were in several 2009 models. Several we saw where designed as second bedrooms, while a few were extended living rooms (with sofa, recliners and entertainment centers).

It appears newer designs are now geared toward practical living and the changes in the economy. An increasing number of Full-Timers aren’t just couples – they are families. Several of our friends travel with a widowed parent or their single adult child or young children.

After we first brought this fifth-wheel “home” – all our friends were surprised by the second bedroom. It wasn’t as common a few years ago. Second bedrooms were usually designed for children and they lacked practical use for Full-Timers.

I have the second bedroom and most of our friends consider it “the hotel room”. Not only do I have adequate storage, I have an incredible living space. I have a double bed, sofa, shelving, dresser drawers, closet, book shelves and entertainment and knick-knack shelves. I have even decorated it to my tastes – including custom curtains and wallpaper border.

There are drawbacks to double slide rooms. One is the fact they slide into each other during travel. So if you intend to park overnight and not put out your slides, chances are your slide layout will prevent you from using that room or getting access to drawers and cabinets. In our case, if we park overnight or boondock without the slides out, I must sleep on the living room sofa. While we travel I have an overnight-slash-emergency bag that I have in case we can’t put the slides out.

Slides are not as insulated as solid walls, so when you have a room with double slides, you have less insulation. And, because electrical outlets aren’t put in slide-outs, you will be limited to outlets central located. This also goes for heating and air-conditioning ducts.

Another problem with double slides is trying to find the perfect camp site! Many campgrounds have obstacles – trees, bushes, tall electrical panels, posts, etc… We have found ourselves in many tight spots with the double slides.

It really depends on your needs, but for us, the double slide is worth the drawbacks. Here is a look into our second bedroom with the double slides – and I won’t even ask you to take your shoes off! 😉

Most Full-Timers are friendly folks and will assist their camping neighbors anyway they can. Sometimes it is something simple, like helping them back-in their rig or helping them put up a stubborn awning. Yet sometimes it can be more involved.

The other day we found ourselves in an all-day situation. The neighbors were frantic – their black water (sewage) tank was full to the neck of their toilet despite having their tank open and directly connected to the sewer.

Their motor home is new and our first thought was a similar problem we had with our new fifth-wheel. A piece of circular plastic from the tank (we assume from where they drilled one of the openings) was wedged at the opening of the tank that releases into the sewer hose. Several attempts at auto-flush and a couple reverse-flushes managed to clear out the plastic piece. We actually retrieved the plastic piece and sent it to Forest River to let them know about the problem we had, in hopes they would check tanks for this prior to installation.

RV sewer hoseIf only that would have been the problem…

Now our neighbors are not only newbie Full-Timers, but also newbies to the world of RVs. We found they had no extra hosing and no other tank accessories that are pretty crucial for Full-Timers. We loaned them all we could and tried all the tricks we know.

Water pressure at this particular campground is a bit low, making flushing your tanks a pain. You have to really let the water run to keep your sewer hose clean of waste.

I’ll spare you all the crappy details, but after several hours the tank was finally emptied. What filled up their black water tank? They were flushing those thick hand wipes down the toilet!

Now we realize that people flush things down the toilet they shouldn’t, but when you have a RV, you really shouldn’t flush anything that is not biodegradable. In fact, you should use RV toilet paper or a thinner toilet paper that will break down. If you aren’t sure if your favorite brand is okay, grab a piece and place it in a bowl of water. See if it breaks down after a little while. If it doesn’t, then it will lay in your tank if you don’t use enough water to flush it out.

The RV neighbors also didn’t know they needed to treat their tanks and didn’t even know they had an auto-flush system. Needless to say, they were flushed (sorry, can’t help myself!) with embarrassment and are going to dig out their owner’s manual to educate themselves on their RV.

So if you are new RVer, you should take the time to find out about your rig. You don’t want to be caught with a full tank! 😉

We recently went to a RV dealership to pick up some light bulbs ( why is it RV light bulbs all go out at the same time? ) and decided to look at some of the newer models on the lot.

We have a newer fifth-wheel (2007 Cedar Creek Silverback) and are very happy with it. Our next one – we thought – would be smaller, as 38′ and 4-slides is a lot to handle, especially since the majority of campgrounds are designed for smaller rigs.

Our "bear" of a rig!

Our "bear" of a rig!

We were curious about the new layouts and options and began roaming the RV lot. Imagine our surprise when we found (and fell in love with) a newer Cedar Creek – 40′ long with 5-slides! We inquired about the price and were amazed to hear a cut of $25,000 in price. In fact, the salesman told us that the majority of RV dealerships were dramatically slashing prices.

Of course, we aren’t going to rush into anything, especially since we love our current home. But it is a good time to buy if you are in the market for a RV! However, watch the extended warranty.

Yesterday, the Campers beside us went to take in their 2008 motorhome for its yearly service (part of the extended warranty). They got up early, packed up their stuff for the journey to the service center and waited for their appointment. They were rather shocked when they found out their warranty was “no good”.

A paperwork typo – one number – caused the problem. Unfortunately by the time the error got straightened out, the service center was closing. Now they have to reschedule for another time and make another trip into the city. All because they of a typo in the  VIN number.

If you are in the market for a RV, it is a good time to make a deal. Just make sure to double check your warranty paperwork and verify information, including the VIN number.

Once you start looking at recreational vehicles you will feel overwhelmed. There are way too many choices out there! And the prices are just as varied as the RVs.

If you are going to become a Full-Time RVer and give up the stick-house, then price may not be a concern. But if you owe a great deal on your home or rent, you may not have the money to put into your new home-on-wheels. Payments on used RVs are much lower than newer ones.

Used recreational vehicles are good starters. Most RVers live by the “trading up” rule – always hoping to upgrade to something bigger and better in a few years. Although, with recent fuel increases and more people (even us homeless nomads!) trying to downsize, many RVers are discussing downsizing their Big Rigs for something smaller – even truck campers and pop-ups!

With a used RV, you can get quite a discount, especially on a really nice Class A or motorcoach. The only problem with this is, you’ll have a great investment, yet some campgrounds are really starting to buckle down on the rig-age. By that I mean, many “RV resorts” consider rigs 10-15 years old “old”. They want modern rigs, not quite frankly, those funky-looking 60s trailers. Nothing wrong with older rigs, many (esp. GMCs!) are in really great condition and most have been rebuilt and remodeled by their current owners. It is just that certain parks want to maintain that “new” image. Another thing to consider is that parks that do not mention this in their Park Rules, may still have a “we have to right to refuse any guest” policy. A quick look out the window toward your older RV may cause the “no vacancy” sign to go up.

Discrimination? Well, I say the same thing when we pass a 55+ Park! If they are private campgrounds or parks they are allowed to have their own rules – even silly ones. If they don’t want older RVs and you have one, you wouldn’t want to be there anyway, right? It would just be a miserably place to live as the people are hung-up about age!

But don’t let an older used RV discourage you. The majority of campgrounds don’t care what age your RV is. Age isn’t always a factor though. Many campgrounds will not allow “homemade” campers. Now you’re scratching your head at this… ever see a school-bus turned into a camper? They don’t want stuff like that. Some of those homemade campers are really neat, but under the circumstances, I wouldn’t want to be camped by one either as too much can go wrong. I would feel safer with a camper that had been under inspection at a factory and manufactured by people who knew what they were doing. A homemade camper make look great – but I don’t know that the thing won’t catch on fire or blow up! So you can’t blame campgrounds for not wanting homemades or “conversions” as they are sometimes called. So keep this in mind when you are shopping for a used RV.

Another thing to keep in mind is the overall structure. If it is a private seller – why are they selling? Has there been damage? Was it in an accident? How has it been stored? Like stick-houses, moisture and mildew can be nightmares in a RV. Find out what the reasons for selling are. Are there blemishes or blistering in the outside finish? Any noticeable dents or scratches? Don’t be afraid to climb the ladder rack and look at the roof. Roof damage is not something you want! Check the flooring in all the outside compartments. Has the thing been flooded? You joke – but if you’ve ever had a water pipe break in a camper (I did!) and have it flood (3 inches!), you’ll understand that your carpeting is slowly rotting away even if you got it dried-out quickly!

And don’t be afraid to drive a RV dealer nuts with questions as well! Make them earn their commission and seek out the answers you want. Also let them know that you aren’t afraid to open cabinets or compartments. Shop around as this is a “home” purchase!

Another thing to ask is how far has the camper traveled? Does it have a lot of mileage (if a motorhome)? If it has had engine repair, who work on it? When? What was the problem? Do they have paperwork on it? If you don’t know anything about engines and you are looking at a motorhome, motorcoach or van – definitely seek out your trusted mechanic or a friend who knows about these things. When your home is on wheels and it is the main “wheels”, if it requires repairs in a shop – you have to live in a hotel or some other accommodations while it is being fixed! So if it starts up and a puff of smoke comes out – don’t reach for your wallet just yet! Repair bills on larger motorhomes can be major wallet drainers. And don’t forget the tires, brakes and other essentials.

The refrigerator is another major expense. If not properly stored a closed refrigerator can smell for decades! So check it and if dealing with a private seller, ask to come back when the refrigerator and freezer is plugged in. You can usually tell by the shelving and drawers whether it has had much use. Same with the stove, oven and microwave. Many recreational campers (1-2 weeks a year) never use their camper oven. It’s a shame really as there is nothing better than a little turkey or even a birthday cake from a camper oven! You’ll be able to see signs of use. The microwave will undoubtedly be the most used item. If it is a combo oven/microwave, make sure this works as they can be expensive to replace.

Look around every faucet, vent and “hole” (where pipes and wires come through) for signs of water or other damage. Sometimes you can see repair work you wouldn’t have noticed if you didn’t look for the signs.

Hot water heaters can be fixed, but can set you back some money, especially if you are on the road when you realize it doesn’t work. Make sure they demonstrate everything for you. If they won’t – find another dealer or seller.

The air-condition unit and furnace are other costly repair items. Again, make sure these things work. If they can’t demonstrate the furnace (or stove/oven) because they have no propane – then tell them you’ll come back when they get some!

If the camper has an awning, make sure you see it pulled down. Notice if it is difficult putting up or down and if there is too much slack when they put it up. Also note if there are any holes in it as new awnings generally run $1000 and up.

Where is the fuse box? Is it easy to get to our do you have to crawl in a closet? What about the holding tanks? Do the tank sensors work? If the camper has been in storage and there is sewer odor… well, I guess I don’t need to tell you about that!

Older RVs, especially ones in storage, may not have the newer propane valves… stations won’t service older tanks! New tanks range from $40 on up depending on the size. So see if the propane tanks meet current standards. Most RVs have two propane tanks. If there is only one, question that!

I am not trying to stop you from buying a used RV, I just want you to be aware that you’ll rarely find one that was “only driven on Sundays by a sweet old grandma”. Some RVs get a lot of wear and are wore out well before you come along. If this is going to be your home, even for a short-while, don’t cheat yourself with never-ending repair bills or part replacements.

If you are dealing with a private seller and you don’t have the proper tow equipment for a fifth-wheel or travel trailer then you will have to figure how much extra you will end up paying elsewhere. Fifth-wheels and travel trailers require special hitches and brake controllers and in the case of trailers, sway bars. If the private seller doesn’t have these to include in the deal, that’s more money out of your pocket. And you will have to have the fifth-wheel hitch installed by a professional – as well as the brake controller, unless your pickup truck has a built-in tow-package.

If you purchase used through a RV dealer, they will often throw in the hitches (and even brake controller) free just to get a sale. If not, at least try to get a discount or package deal out of them on these items.

If you are a non-smoker and looking at a smokers (or just plain smelly) RV, there are ways to take care of that, but it will cost you unless you do all the work yourself. But it is possible to get that new-camper-smell again.

Notice the coloring of the seat cushions, carpet and drapes. Has the camper been opened up to the sun? Is there discoloration? Is the fabric on the stages of rotting? Are the seat cushions so wore they will need re-upholstered? Cause if you plan to leave in it full-time, you will have to have it replaced or purchase some sort of covering for it.

Dealers who offer warranties on used RVs are ones you should keep in mind. Things go wrong with RVs – new and used. As I have mentioned before – no matter what a dealer tells you – they are not made to live in year-round. So be prepared to have some issue – whether it be blowing out a fuse cause you didn’t understand the whole 30-amp speech the dealer gave you or your TV antenna crank breaks in your hand. Something will happen – just like it does in a stick-house.

A used RV can be a good thing, especially for the money involved. But be aware that cheap is not always a good thing. If it looks too good to be true, it most likely is!

When you decide to make the move from a stick-house to a recreational vehicle, there are many things to consider. Prices vary on RVs, but most are very affordable with the majority being much, much cheaper than stick-house! If you buy used, chances are you can have low payments (or even pay for it in full). The only problem with used is that you have to be very careful and look for things you’d take for granted with a new one. But I’ll get into that later if you decide on used. For now, lets consider things that should help you narrow down that perfect home-on-wheels.

1) Driving – Are you okay with driving/towing? Can you back up? If not, you may consider contacting your local RV dealership and see if they recommend a driving school (or perhaps they offer lessons) for a newbie RVer. If that isn’t an issue, than you need to consider other driving issues such as a tow vehicle. If you decide on a fifth-wheel or travel trailer (and, of course, a truck-camper) then you will need a good pickup truck to tow your RV. If you decide on a motorhome (Class A, Class C or a van) then you may require a vehicle to tow behind (either on a trailer or tow dolly). And consider very carefully if you choose not to have a tow vehicle – especially if you decide on a larger motorhome. Everytime you require groceries or supplies, you’d have to pack up everything and drive your “home” into town. Unless you have other options – motorcycle, bicycle, hiking – to get to a nearby town, you should consider having a “vehicle”. Another driving factor to consider is that your family can drive it. If something happens to you, could your spouse or travel companions drive it?

2) Size – What size of RV do you need? It depends on if you are going to be Full-Timers or Seasonals, as well as how many people are living in it. If you are going to go full-time, then everything you own will be inside. That means you need storage, as well as enough room to function. We have a two-bedroom fifth-wheel. Everyone has their own “space” – no crowding, no struggling to store things. Smaller rigs may seem to small for you, but don’t forget, the more slides you have, the larger the rig becomes. And driving-wise, how big of rig can you handle? Quite honestly, some roadways (especially in the mountains) are just not made for larger RVs. We recently towed our rig (about 53′ in length with the long-bed pickup) through Death Valley National Park and you talk about having a death-grip on the steering wheel! So keep in mind that although bigger is roomier, it is a lot more to handle on the road and even inside smaller campgrounds.

3) Price – Can you afford new? New is a better option for those who can’t handle any repairs that may come their way. Face it, RVs weren’t made to live in yearround (no matter what the dealer tells you). If the refrigerator goes out – you just can’t walk into Sears and buy one. No, it needs repaired at a dealership. Minor things do happen to new RVs. Rarely do I hear anyone not having a few problems within the first year. Like a stick-house, RVs require maintainance. The other good thing about new is that you can get one ordered as you like (colors, extra features) for either no extra money or just the “extras” you add to it. So if you love blue and want it blue – you can have it that way. Just talk to your local dealer about it. Used are a great way to get into Full-Timing and often you can get a rig that would cost a great deal of money for less. A great example is a Rexall which can cost $200,000. You can get used ones for around $40-50,000. Sounds like a lot, right? Walk into one and then you won’t bulk at the price. 😉 The only drawback from used RVs is that you just don’t know what is going to happen and what the previous owners did. If you have a mechanic or friend who knows about RVs, you may ask them to help inspect any used one you are considering buying.

4) Storage – Like size, this depends on if you are going Full-Time. If everything you own is in the RV, then you need storage. And I don’t mean sticking your frying pans in an outside compartment. I mean real, functional storage space. There are extra things that will eat your storage space before you even get it home. Washer and dryers are the worst. Yes, there is some benefit to having a washer and dryer if you don’t mind shutting down everything to run them AND the noise doesn’t drive you out of your rig. Moisture is another issue with them… but it’s things like this you should consider. Washer and dryers are placed in a storage closet – if you add them – you’ve lost valuable closet space. The majority of campgrounds have laundries (that work much faster and more quiet than yours would) so don’t feel pressured to get a washer and dryer in your rig. Dinette booths versus tables is another space saver. Sure, dinette tables look nice in RVs, yet booths allow under-seat storage! I could spend all day on storage; however, I think this is enough information to make you realize you need to be aware of storage areas.

5) Slides – Slides are probably the second-best invention of my time (spray butter being number one!) and the more you have, the more room adds on to your rig. Yet they have major downfalls. Number one is that most campgrounds (even those that advertise Big Rig Friendly) aren’t slide-friendly. You may find that your slide(s) can’t go out because of trees, utility posts, cement barriers and other campground obstacles. This can be quite frustrating, especially if you have wide and/or large slides like we do. Another thing to consider with slides is that they aren’t as heavily insulated as the rest of your camper. So if you are going to a colder region, you need to keep in mind that you may need to leave your slides in to stay warm. Which reminds me – slides don’t have electrical outlets or furnace/air-condition ducts. Keep this in mind if you are in a hot-cold region. Slides can also be a pain if you can’t put them out. If you are traveling down the road and need to use the bathroom, can you even get to your bathroom? Some slides block off areas of your rig and you can’t use them. So keep in mind what your rig would look like with the slides in – could you get to your bathroom? Bedroom? Stove? Refrigerator? If you were boondocking (or dry camping) a few days with the slides in, could you still live in your camper? These are things to keep in mind when RV shopping.

6) Travel – How far are you going in your rig? Will you drive it across the country or will you just drive it a few states away? Make sure you can handle it and that your routes (like mountains) are something your rig can handle. We’ve driven down roads that have brought our curtains down and broke the jar of dill pickles. If you are going to take your rig down the road make sure the cabinets and refrigerator has good locks, that sliding doors have snaps, etc… Also, if you travel to a colder region (or even if it gets colder in a warmer region) that your rig is well-insulated and that you have the means or the “extras” as far as it goes to protecting your pipes/hoses from freezing. Many RVs have “polar packages” that you can upgrade and get tank heaters, etc… Well worth the extra money.

7) Extras – Most salespeople will push whatever they have on the lot, but if they know you are interested in a new one (especially custom-built) they will push the extra features. You don’t need most of them, yet there are a few that you should consider. A generator is a must in my opinion – especially a propane one. It will cost extra money, but you’ll find it money well spent during your first major outage. No smelly gas tanks to drag around – just regular propane which you’ll use in your RV anyway! And make sure you get a switch to turn the generator on from inside your RV. Those stormy or cold nights you are without power, all you have to do is crawl out of bed, flip the switch and your generator is on. No fuss and anyone can do it! Another extra is the polar package (if you are traveling far or in colder regions). Flip a switch and your water tank will be heated! No wrapping hoses or dripping faucets. The central vacuum feature sounds silly, but believe it or not, it’s actually quite handy. I am amazed at how much cleaner our carpets stay. It is noisy running it, but that’s only for a few minutes at a time.

That’s some of the things you should consider when looking for a RV. As I mentioned, if you are considering used, there are some additional things to look for and I’ll get to that a bit later.

Meanwhile, think of things you’d like to have in your perfect RV. Do you like TV and movies and want to sit and watch them from a sofa or a recliner? Do you like plants? They have optional greenhouse windows in RVs… Entertain? They have wine racks and mini-bars… Think about what you NEED and what you would LIKE to have and write them down. Make a check-list for each RV you visit that way you see how close it comes to your perfect RV.

Slides can be an issue

Slides can be an issue

IN MY SITES: A Campground Mystery (Book #4)

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