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Author Topic: Looking for first RV  (Read 350 times)

dsplaisted

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Looking for first RV
« on: July 14, 2020, 03:04:32 AM »
Hi folks,

We're planning to buy our first RV.  In my first post, you gave lots of useful feedback which dissuaded us from purchasing an RV that had some significant issues.  Now I've got a bunch of questions I'm hoping you can help with.

Background
We're hoping to go full-time for at least a few months.  I'm a software developer currently working from home during COVID, so we'd like to take the chance to work from the road and see the country.  We've got two kids aged 4 and 9.

We are most interested in a class A RV, as the overall size and storage space seems like it would work better for full-time.

Washer / Dryer
We've been thinking of a washer / dryer as a big plus in an RV if we're full-timing.  How important should that be to us?  Do most RV parks have laundry machines available?  There are of course a lot more options without washer / dryers.  If we go without, are we likely to regret it?

Towing a Jeep
We also think it's important to be able to tow a car along with us, so we don't have to take the RV to go shopping, or to the beach, or into national parks that may have length restrictions, etc.  We have a 4 door Jeep Wrangler, which my research seems to indicate is a good option to tow.

What do we need in order to set up our Jeep to be towed?  The dealership referred me to a place which never responded to my email.  I think you need a tow bar, a wiring hookup, and the bumper of the jeep replaced with something that connects to the tow bar.  Where should I look to get that all set up?  And what is a reasonable price?  One RV shop quoted about $4,000 for everything.

Also, do I have to worry about a class A RV having enough engine power to tow a Jeep over the mountains in the western US?  I think most of the ones we've seen are either 10 cylinder or are diesel.

Searching for RVs for sale
In my searches, I've mostly been looking for RVs being sold by private parties and ignoring the ones being sold by dealers.  Does that make sense?

I've been looking on craigslist, RVTrader, and OfferUp.  Someone on my previous thread suggested looking at EBay.  I looked on EBay, and there's lots of listings with reserve prices, so there's no way to know how much they're really asking.  How do you filter out all the junk?

Also, folks mentioned travelling across the country to buy an RV.  I'm not opposed to doing that (though COVID makes it harder), but how do you know for sure (or close) that you want to buy an RV without inspecting it yourself?

Self-inspecting an RV
Speaking of inspections, I paid about $1000 to inspect the RV we didn't end up buying.  That was money well spent, but hopefully I can avoid spending that kind of money on another inspection just to uncover other problems.  So if I go look at an RV, what are the things I can look at myself to give me confidence that it's worth buying?  Here's what I have based on what I've learned so far:

  • Seals, and evidence of leaks or water damage
  • Tires - and check age
  • Batteries
  • Rust

Price
So far, I've been using nadaguides.com to try to understand what a reasonable asking / offer price is.  Also I suppose if I keep looking at listings eventually I'll get a feel for typical prices.  Is there anything else I should be looking at?

Thanks a bunch!

Rene T

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Re: Looking for first RV
« Reply #1 on: July 14, 2020, 03:13:58 AM »
You’d make it so much easier to respond if you started a new post for every question you have. Less confusing.
Rene, Lucille & co-pilot Buddy
AKA  Pep N Mem
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From the Granite State of NH
& Florida Snowbird in Lakeland FL

Ex-Calif

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Re: Looking for first RV
« Reply #2 on: July 14, 2020, 05:22:36 AM »
Overall Search Filtering the junk is a problem no matter what you are buying on the internet. Only practice and experience will make you better at that. You need to look at a lot of RVs. Even if they are not the RV you want go look at ones close to home so you get a sense of what people say vs. what the RV is. Then when you are dealing by phone or eMail you know better what to ask about.

washer/dryer Most RVs wont have them and requiring one will limit what you can look at. But maybe you can look at RVs with adding a washer/dryer in mind. I found the unit I want to install and have been doing research about it. I have figured that it will fit in the current vanity space, can be plumbed in easily there but will require the sink be raised a little and I lose the vanity storage. Don't make that a huge factor. Many places you stay will have a coin laundry and millions of folks still use laundromats - You may want a solution to that but it doesn't have to be immediate.

Self inspecting You have a pretty good template of what the inspector you hired looked at. If you are disciplined and can understand what and how he looked you could self inspect first and then get an inspector again if you find one you want to pursue. If you are inexperienced I would not "close" any deal without a good inspection.

Towed Vehicle Somewhat agree with Rene. As this is not specifically about buying an RV you may want to break this question out separately.  There are a lot of threads already about toads you may be able to research as well. What you do need to consider is the Max towing capacity of the RV. Bigger engine, diesel engine maybe. Whatever you get make sure you have "margin" on the CVGW - Everything will perform less well if it is at its limits.

Price There are two campls IMO. 1 = YOLO - Pay whatever it takes to make you and the wife happy.  I do not subscribe to this camp for toys and never have. It's a good way to be broke and stay broke. 2 = What's my budget?  If you establish a realistic budget that sets up some boundaries on what you can buy and for how much.  It can also set the year range vs. condition vs. features.  It's all a trade off.

I personally based on all factors would not buy and RV for more than around $20k - primarily because I will likely only use it 30-60 days a year right now and secondly because it's my first foray into RVs and I expect to make mistakes on needs/wants and missing important items. I like a class A and I like about 30-32 feet. Slide outs and space are not critical for me as there are just 2 of us 90% of the time and we have always been boaters and have no issues with futon couch beds and dinette beds for guests. Based on Kentucky windage that probably bounds me to looking at 1995-2005 vintage RVs.

At retirement in 2-3 years I may trade up to something newer and have a chance to get features I didn't know I wanted.
« Last Edit: July 14, 2020, 05:24:42 AM by Ex-Calif »
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Gary RV_Wizard

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Re: Looking for first RV
« Reply #3 on: July 14, 2020, 09:17:59 AM »
Quote
We've got two kids aged 4 and 9.  We are most interested in a class A RV, as the overall size and storage space seems like it would work better for full-time.
You need space for kids to entertain themselves & do school work, space for work, and space for living (cooking, meals,, relaxation, etc).  We all have different thresholds for "adequate space", but err on the side of larger.

Quote
Washer / Dryer
We've been thinking of a washer / dryer as a big plus in an RV if we're full-timing.
I think a washer/dryer is a indeed a big plus, especially with children. RV park washer facilities vary anywhere from non-existent or dismal to elegant laundromats. Running back & forth to the laundromat is a hassle.  Much easier to throw a load in at the coach and do other things in parallel.  However, be aware that RV-style combo washer/dryers do small loads and you wash & dry serially. It's not like the separates at home. Also dryers are 120v and much slower.



Quote
What do we need in order to set up our Jeep to be towed?  The dealership referred me to a place which never responded to my email.  I think you need a tow bar, a wiring hookup, and the bumper of the jeep replaced with something that connects to the tow bar.  Where should I look to get that all set up?  And what is a reasonable price?  One RV shop quoted about $4,000 for everything.
I'd buy the components myself online and hire a handyman or independent mechanic shop to install, but it's simpler to go to a hitch shop and pay them to do everything. More expensive, of course. Rv dealers are the most expensive on both parts & labor.
You need an auxiliary brake (toad car brake) system as well as the tow bar and lighting. Figure $3000-$4000 unless you do some or all yourself.


Quote
Also, do I have to worry about a class A RV having enough engine power to tow a Jeep over the mountains in the western US?
No. Some may get to the top faster than others, but they will all get there.

Quote
How do you filter out all the junk?
Carefully, whether buying privately or dealer, online or in person. Take nothing at face value - always verify.  For remote units, get lots of picture but remember that pictures can be highly misleading.



Quote
what are the things I can look at myself to give me confidence that it's worth buying?
You have a decent starting list, but I'd add more things:

All appliances in working order, especially fridge, furnace & a/c
Plumbing & electric working
Generator runs 30+ minutes and provides power
You are buying a furnished house, a water & electric utility, and a vehicle, all in one package. It ain't simple!
« Last Edit: July 14, 2020, 09:20:18 AM by Gary RV_Wizard »
Gary
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Isaac-1

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Re: Looking for first RV
« Reply #4 on: July 14, 2020, 10:43:05 AM »


Washer / Dryer
This is a personal choice, some people have an ick factor of using communal laundry rooms, we travel only part time, on average of about 75 days per year for the last 4 years (excluding this year), with our longest individual trips being around 30 days.  We don't have a washing machine, and have no issue doing laundry at rv park laundry rooms.  We tend not to stay in one place too long, at most 5-7 days, doing a mix of dry camping, public campgrounds, and full hookup rv parks.  Occasionally we will run into the ick factor upon seeing an RV park laundry room, in which case we wait until we are at our next stop to do laundry, though this has only happened a couple of times.

Towing a Jeep

We have a smaller 28 ft class A, and so far have managed without towing a car, by careful selection of destination, use of public transportation, Uber, renting a car a couple of times, etc.  Having said that we are in the process of setting up my wife's Jeep Cherokee to be flat towed, just to give us the option (we have all the parts, I just need to get them installed).  You mention having a 4 door Jeep Wrangler, depending on the exact model you might be at the max tow limit of all gas class A's.  Which is generally 5,000 pounds or less depending on the model.  As I recall depending on the model year 4 door Wranglers can weigh in between 4,400 - 5,200 pounds, by contrast our Cherokee weighs in around 4,300 with a few odd and ends in it.

As to what is needed, you will need either a towing base plate, or an aftermarket bumper with tow points, I don't know about Wrangler bumpers, but base plates retail for around $450, plus installation, which I think is fairly straight forward on the Wranglers.  You will also need a tow bar, there is much debate on which brand is best, this will cost you $750+ (I would suggest one with at least 6,500 -7,500 pound rating, not a 5,000 pound for your Jeep), in addition to this you will need a supplementary braking system, I have the Roadmaster 9400 Even Brake, but only because I found a nearly new one dirt cheap on ebay (I paid about $380 for a 1 year old unit, which retails for $1275).  There are a number of other brake systems out there, pricing starts in the $1,000 ballpark, some are easier to install than others.  You will also need some brake light wiring done,  but again I think this is easy on a Wrangler, as well as maybe a charge line kit to keep the Jeep's battery charged ($75 or less).  With some creative shopping, I have managed to buy everything for our Cherokee for under $2,000 with a planned DIY install.  Etrailers has lots of good install videos, if you would like to see what is involved

On the topic of gas vs diesel, and power in the mountains, a diesel is always going to be nicer to have in the mountains, though unless you live in the mountain states I would not be overly concerned as you are usually talking about 5-10 miles here and there out of hundreds of miles of driving.

On the topic of gas motorhomes, the Ford F53 chassis with the V10 has been the only choice since Workhorse got out of the RV chassis business in the 2009 economic downturn.  Prior to that Workhorse was generally considered the preferred gas chassis with the 8.1L V8, at least until the upgraded Ford F53 came out in 2006.

Searching for RVs for sale

I generally feel dealers bring very little to the table, other than one stop shopping when looking at such used coaches.  As to filtering out junk, you build up a skill at it, look closely at the photos, lots of faults can be seen with a keen eye, though low res photos also cover up lots of issues.  Talk to the sellers, see if they sound like they have maintained the coach, ask why they are selling, has it sat disused, ...

In my case I had narrowed down to a specific model or two that I wanted, then spent 5 months shopping, before buying one a thousand miles from home.  In the process of shopping there were a couple that got away, a couple that were over priced, and at least one I would not have taken if it were free.

Self-inspecting an RV

As a person that has been through the NRVIA level 2 inspector class, though have not hung out a shingle, my advice is pre-inspect yourself, then hire an inspector if it passes your pre-inspection.  Checklist help, but unless you know how picky to be about details, and how closely things should be inspected, chances are you will miss stuff.  Taking the NRVIA inspector class, really opened my eyes to just how small of details one has to look for to detect water intrusion.

So download the check list, go and look for yourself, if it passes your pre-inspection then hire a professional inspector to give it a second look, and see if they spot anything you missed.

Price
NADA is at best a ballpark depreciation schedule figure, and is not based on real world sales, don't be afraid to pay over NADA if you find a coach in great condition, as it may be a long time before you find another one.  Another source for pricing is PPL's sold coach listing https://www.pplmotorhomes.com/sold-rvs  which list actual selling prices, though having spent an afternoon killing time a the PPL consignment lot in Houston a couple of years ago, we differ on our opinion of condition.  Generally if PPL calls it good, I would call it fair, though probably on the low end of fair.  Maybe 10-15% of the motorhomes I saw on the lot when I was there I would call good condition, and none were great.
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