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List of Desirable Motorhome Features

by Jerry Fitzgerald

This is a list, updated on June 18, 2002, of features that you may want to consider when purchasing a motorhome. The list is very detailed, so some of the features may be more than you want or need. In many cases there are explanations as to the pros and cons or an explanation of the feature.

MISCELLANEOUS CONSIDERATIONS

  • Length and floor plan are personal choices. Check state laws for length because many states and/or provinces have driving restrictions on motorhomes over 40 feet.
  • Width (96 or 102 inches). Most diesels today are 101 or 102 inches wide. Check state laws for width.
  • Is a spare tire included? This is not very important with 22.5" rims because the tire is too heavy to handle (200 pounds) and the torque on the lug nut will be 400-450 pounds/inch on aluminum wheel rims so you will have to call for road service anyhow.
  • Is there an extra charge for factory pickup of a new coach? Factory delivery usually is worth the extra charge because you will be at the factory for several days (most have parking with hookups near the delivery area) and they will immediately fix anything that is not right. Just think of it, no appointments with a dealer who may not have someone who actually knows how to fix specific problems. As one who has taken factory delivery of three coaches, it is worth every penny of the extra cost!
  • Coach manufacturer warranty, one year or 3 years. Is it bumper-to-bumper? What kinds of warranties exist for other major components not covered by the manufacturer's warranty?
  • Can you buy an extended warranty? Consider extended warranties, if available, on the chassis, engine, transmission, air conditioning units, refrigerator, furnace, water heater, generator, and so forth.
  • Take some factory tours. They're fun and interesting without pressure from sales personnel! See how your prospective MH will be built. Compare quality factors between manufacturers. Don't hesitate to ask lots of questions. Take pictures.
  • If possible, custom order your coach so you get the EXACT features you want. This even can be done at RV shows and you often get the discounted RV show price with a special order. You are not obligated to purchase a show floor coach if it does not have the features you require (although dealers really dislike driving coaches back to their dealerships). Most manufacturers will make reasonable changes on factory orders. If something they usually provide will absolutely drive you crazy, order the coach without that feature. If you attend a show, you often can get show discounts even with special orders. In other words, you may not have to take a model from the show floor to get the same discount. Special orders may take longer (90-120 days), but you will have greater long-term satisfaction.
  • Make sure you get ALL the coach's manuals and any other documentation when you take delivery of the coach. If any manuals are missing, make a list and get the dealer/factory to sign that they will get you a copy. This is important!
  • Check the manufacturer's reputation. Read RVing magazines, talk with other MH owners to find out how well they have been treated by the manufacturer (do they feel they have purchased a quality product and has the manufacturer addressed their quality concerns promptly, fairly, and courteously), and subscribe to MH reviews to determine whether specific manufacturers produce safe and quality products. (NOTE: A MH reviewer addresses product quality and safety concerns such as whether the coach is strong enough to sustain an accident.) Be cautious of web sites that are nothing more than gripe sessions about one manufacturer; they may contain comments from just a few disgruntled owners who may or may not have gone through "proper procedures" to get their problems fixed (most manufacturers outline what procedures you should follow when there is a problem). You will seldom hear positive comments on such sites; the manufacturer actually may produce a quality product but satisfied consumers stay away from such.
  • sites so you won't hear their opinions to balance the negativity. Ask yourself if the site has balanced comments from both happy and unhappy customers.

EXTERIOR CONSIDERATIONS

  • Roof: Domed roof (curved) so it drains moisture off when the MH is level. A rubber roof requires extra maintenance, tree branches can cut through the rubber if you scrape them, molds grow on the rubber in high humidity areas, and water run-off streaks the sides of the coach. You must wash rubber roofs and put a special "sealer" on them several times a year. Walking on a rubber roof when wearing hard-sole shoes can damage the roof. Solid fiberglass roofs require much less care. It's best if they are painted to resist ultraviolet sun damage to the fiberglass gel-coat. Front-end and rear-end fiberglass caps reduce leaks. Check to determine whether the end caps are fiberglassed to the main roof at the seam between the two or if they are caulked at the seam. Fiberglass is better and most of the higher end MH manufacturers now use it. Is the roof insulation adequate? Ask questions!
  • Side walls: Check the manufacturer's warranty on delamination (specifically, how long will they cover it and will they cover replacement if the glue fails). Is the insulation adequate? Ask questions! What type of exterior side walls: fiberglass or aluminum or what?
  • Sealed or closed underside (the bottom). Is it undercoated? More importantly, find out if the bottom (under the storage compartments) is insulated. Good insulation is mandatory under the bay where the water and waste tanks are located to prevent freezing in cold weather.
  • Roof-top antennas. You should get any you want factory installed (aftermarket is much more difficult). Satellite dish, regular through-the-air TV, CB radio, AM/FM radio, cellular telephone, GPS, and ham radio antennas are the ones you might want to have.
  • Screen door on main entry door. Does it lock in the open position so wind will not blow it around and possibly damage the seals causing warping and air/noise leakage?
  • Automatic electric entry steps are MUCH nicer than manually operated steps.
  • Windows: Dual-pane insulated windows (quieter and better insulation), tinted windows (dark enough - 60% tint so people cannot see in during the day), bronze coated to reflect heat and provide privacy (these are best for daytime privacy). Large windows that open wide for airflow and provide an airy and open feeling. Louvered windows have good airflow in rain, but their small openings do not let much air through and they cannot be double-pane insulated. Unless you live in a rain forest, skip louvered windows because they have air leaks and also transmit more outside noise.
  • Mirrors (rear view) with electric adjusters and defrosters. The best ones have one flat and two convex mirrors. Each mirror should be adjustable electrically.
  • Side door on driver's side on a Class A MH (NOTE: May not be worth it because it's a LONG step down and up).
  • Windows should be able to be opened next to both the driver's side (you can't pass cash at toll booths with non-opening windows) and passenger's side driving seats. Make sure the horizontal window frame on the passenger-side front-seat window does not block the passenger's view when seated.
  • Lots of outside storage: Dual extender slide trays on pass-through bays that slide either direction and pull out 60-70% on both sides. This is best in any pass-through bay that is below a room slide-out because it makes it easier to get at the "stuff" stored in the bay below the slide-out. Full-suspension slides that pull out all the way in one direction on non-pass-through bays. Insulated storage bays to protect fluids. Storage bay doors should have insulation and gaskets to keep out dust. Secure locks on storage bay doors. Try to get electric locks on the bay doors so you can lock and unlock all the bay doors from inside your coach. Both a 110- and 12-volt plug in the main storage bay. Heat in the bay containing the water and waste tanks. Is the bottom of the coach insulated under the heated storage bay? Do storage bay doors go up far enough or close enough to the coach side walls so you do not hit your head when the storage bay doors are open? Pantographic doors go up and out of the way next to the coach, whereas hinged doors angle out when open which can be hazardous if they do not hinge up high enough.
  • Awnings: One large side patio awning is good for shading a large portion of the side of the MH. Get separate window awnings under the large patio awning (these small awnings can be out during windy conditions when the big one can't). Awning over the front entry door. Individual awnings for each window. Awnings keep the MH cooler, are good when it rains, and keep the bedroom darker for sleeping at night (especially in higher latitudes where it may be daylight almost all night). If the coach has a separate toilet room with a window, get an awning there too because the small toilet rooms can get quite a bit hotter than elsewhere in the coach. Do you want a power patio awning? They eliminate cross arms that cause a lot of banged heads, but there are other issues with automatic awnings, not the least of which is their higher cost.
  • Mud flaps on the rear dual wheels to keep debris from hitting the transmission and engine on a rear pusher and to protect the tow car. Should be on front wheels too. A full-width mud guard across the rear of the coach may trap engine heat under the rear bed on diesel pushers and it also may cause a slight increase in engine operating temperature by restricting air flow. On rear radiator MHs, full-width mud flaps have been known to cause dirt and oil to block the radiator. Check the radiator location to see if it would be susceptible to this problem.
  • Rear ladder and perhaps a roof rack.
  • Deadbolt on exterior coach door plus the regular snap-type lock. Some MHs now have digital keyless entry pads.
  • Full paint: Sides, roof, front, and rear is best, especially with fiberglass.
  • Is the MH undercoated? Is any wood protected from puddles, mud, and the like?

TOWING A CAR

  • Tow dollies are a burden in campgrounds. Avoid them if possible. Tow dollies are heavy to push around and there often is no room to store them at a camp site.
  • Is the rear tow hitch receiver 5,000 or 10,000 pound capacity?
  • Is there a 4-pin or 6-pin wiring plug at the rear of the motorhome for tow car lights (a 6-pin plug permits addition of speedometer disconnects, transmission pumps, etc.).
  • Consider installing a tow-car braking system. A 4x4 tow car provides much more flexibility and potential for FUN.

CHASSIS AND ENGINE

  • Check the GVWR (gross vehicle weight rating). Is there enough capacity for passengers AND payload when all the tanks are full. Overloaded motorhomes are dangerous! It is desirable to have at least 3,000 pounds of payload (commonly called "stuff") for casual campers and at least 4,000 pounds payload for full-timers. Remember that items like tools and canned goods are heavy.
  • Coach wheelbase: A longer wheelbase provides a better ride. There should be a minimum of rear overhang because of swing-out when turning. Excessive overhang means the coach was built on a chassis that does not have the proper amount of wheelbase (e.g., too short a distance between the front and rear axles). There should be NO chassis or frame cutting or lengthening; it weakens the frame. Tag axles lead to very, very slightly lower gas mileage (extra set of wheels on the ground), they increase the GVWR, and the tires can skid when you turn or back up unless the rear tag axle raises when you turn. Tag axles are used with a chassis that cannot handle the rear gross axle weight rating (GAWR) or the coach exceeds the legal maximum rear single-axle GAWR of 20,000 pounds. (By law, no axle should carry more than 20,000 pounds. If it does, you have an overloaded axle.) Tag axles give the coach a better ride and usually another set of brakes.
  • Larger/wider tires provide better handling. Larger tires give a better ride because you do not inflate them to as high a pressure as with a smaller tire. Tires and proper air pressures are VERY important; don't skimp here!
  • rakes: Disc brakes always adjust automatically; drums may not automatically adjust quite as well. Other choices are hydraulic, air, or air-over-hydraulic. Air drum brakes work very well, but they may need periodic adjusting. ABS anti-locking is a very good safety feature. Disc brakes handle heat and water better than drum brakes. Is there traction control? Is there ABS?
  • Power steering.
  • Chassis suspension can be air bags (4 or 8, 10 with a tag axle), metal springs, or rubber torsion bars/springs. Location of the air bags (inboard of tire vs. outboard of tire vs. even with the tire) may affect ride stability. Independent front-wheel suspension provides a smoother ride and allows sharper turning.
  • Levelers: Four-point leveling is more stable (when parked) than 3-point levelers. Three-point leveling puts more twist on the frame than four-point levelers, a condition that is magnified when you have a 700-1,200 pound slide-out that is in the "out" position by 16-20 inches. Four-point levelers can twist the frame if you lift only one corner; always use two of the levelers to lift one side of the coach at a time. Levelers can be hydraulic pistons or air bags. With air leveling you do not need to put boards under the hydraulic piston pads to keep them from sinking into the ground when it is wet or sandy. Leveling can be manual or automatic (air leveling is always automatic); automatic is much nicer, especially during bad weather.
  • Gas engine: Get the most powerful one available, especially if you tow a car. Check the GCWR (gross combined weight rating) to be sure the weight is adequate for towing a car.
  • Diesel engine: Get the most power and torque that you can. When you lift the bed, is the rear under-bed area well-sealed with gaskets to reduce diesel fumes, heat, dust, and noise (this is very important). The newer electronically controlled diesel engines are preferred. An exhaust brake, jake brake, or transmission retarder is a MUST when driving downhill with a diesel engine. If you are going down a 3-mile long 6% grade and have a 30,000 pound MH plus a tow car, you don't want to use your service brakes any more than necessary. These supplementary brakes save your service brakes for emergencies and reduce "white knuckle" downhill driving! These brakes can be activated by a button on the floor (you step on it) or the brake comes on whenever you release your foot from the fuel pedal. Does it have an engine block heater? Engine block heaters are preferred for starting when outside temperatures dip. Is the rear engine access convenient to check the oil and so forth. Also, is there a grill type opening on the rear access door for heat to escape when you stop and park? You may want to put an extra engine oil cooler outside the radiator if you drive a lot in very hot climates. Can you start the diesel engine from the rear engine compartment? Use the following to compare performance between different coaches (higher numbers provide better performance).
    - HP/GVWR = Horsepower per pound of GVWR
    - Torque/GVWR = Pound-feet of torque per pound of GVWR
    - HP/GCWR = Horsepower per pound of GCWR
    - Torque/GCWR = Pound-feet of torque per pound of GCWR
  • Allison 6-speed World Transmission with diesel engine is the best combination. The new Allison 5-speed should be very good too. You may want an extra transmission fluid cooler outside the radiator (good for hot climates and mountain driving).
  • Alternator rating - 200 amps or 160 amps hot-rated like police cars. More amps are better.
  • Aluminum wheels are better balanced, lighter, have more air holes to cool the brakes, and they look nice.
  • Weight ratings for both the GVWR and the GCWR: There are many ways of calculating this, but what you want is a GVWR capable of handling 4,000 pounds of additional "stuff" with the fuel tank, water tank, and propane tank full. You want GCWR capacity for a 5,000 or 6,000 pound tow car. Determine the front and rear axle ratings. Remember that 20,000 pounds is the federal maximum limit for any one axle and that is why you see more tag axles today. Check the tire ratings. If the tire sizes are too small, you will have to inflate them to 115-120 pounds to carry the GVWR capacity. The next size larger tire may reduce the air pressure required and give you both a smoother and safer ride. With the two passengers in the front seats plus fuel, water, and propane tanks FULL and your coach loaded with all your "stuff," obtain the coach's left front (LF), rear front (RF), left rear (LR), and right rear (RR) weight at each wheel to determine tire pressures and to help you balance the loading of "stuff" in the outside compartments. Remember that slide-outs add anywhere from 700 to 1,200 pounds on one side of the coach and the manufacturer may not have moved anything else to the other side of the coach to compensate for this added weight. At the minimum, get the actual front and rear axle weights and gross vehicle weight for your coach. You can obtain axle weights at truck weighing locations and wheel weights at national rallies where they have portable scales for weighing each tire.
  • Fiberglass should be painted to protect the gel-coat from ultraviolet sun damage. Is the roof painted?
  • Side-mount radiators do not get plugged up with oil and dirt as much as rear-mount radiators.
  • Ability to fill fuel from either side of coach is a nice feature.

DASHBOARD

  • 1. Trip odometer.
  • 2. Intermittent windshield wipers.
  • 3. Dash air (separate from roof air).
  • 4. Ability to tilt and extend steering wheel for the comfort of multiple drivers.
  • 5. Cruise control.
  • 6. Sun visors (some are quite fancy with numerous adjustments that are worth it when you have a large windshield as in a Class A MH). Pull-down, see-through shades on each side window next to the driver and passenger are desirable when driving.
  • 7. Gauges to consider:
    - Volts
    - Fuel
    - Oil pressure
    - Temperature - engine cooling
    - Tachometer (engine RPMs)
    - Pyrometer (diesel). Not required but might be nice if you learn to use it.
    - Turbo vacuum boost (diesel)
  • - Transmission fluid temperature gauge
    - Vacuum gauge (gasoline engine)
    - Silverleaf, Cummins, or CAT display of vital engine/transmission details (not required but very useful).
  • CB radio, especially if you travel in caravans or want to hear about local traffic conditions from other CBers.
  • AM/FM radio (stereo).
  • CD player (stereo).
  • Plug for external rooftop cellular telephone antenna.
  • Backup video monitor with sound, if possible, and also color.
  • Backup audio alarm on the outside.
  • MH security system.
  • Daytime driving lights for two-lane roads (eliminates need to have all running lights on which usually requires about 40 amps of 12-volt power). NOTE: If you constantly run all your lights when driving (40 amps) and let your alternator charge your coach and engine batteries after each night's use, you may have to replace alternators fairly often.
  • Adjustable pedals. Some MHs have adjustable brake and fuel pedals for the comfort of shorter and taller drivers.
  • Are there drink holders for the driver and passenger when driving?

TANKS

  • The under-bay containing the water tanks should be insulated and HEATED to protect the tanks in winter. The bottom of the coach should be insulated, at the minimum, under the heated bay containing the water and waste tanks.
  • Interior gauges that show levels of propane, fresh, gray, and black water.
  • Clean-out flush connections for BOTH the black and gray water tanks.
  • Is there a fresh water faucet at the dump valve area on the MH?
  • Is the dump valve area convenient?
  • Is the dump valve area heated and insulated (you cannot dump a heated tank if the valves are frozen).
  • Tanks (reasonable sizes):
    - Fresh water - 100 gallons
    - Gray water - 65 gallons (minimum 55 gallons)
    - Black water - 55 gallons (minimum 45 gallons)
    - Propane - 40 gallons (80 if you have a LPG generator)
    - Fuel - 100+ gallons.
  • Do you want a diesel heating system? Hurricane, Aqua Hot, and Wabasco are three different water heating systems. The heated water is used for sinks and showers and to heat the coach. When you have one of these systems, it takes the place of a propane furnace and you may not have a separate hot water heater.
  • If you have a separate propane hot water heater, is it six gallons or ten gallons? Are bypass valves installed so you can properly drain the hot water heater for winterization and to clean it out?

ELECTRICAL

  • Generator - 6,500 watt, 7,000 watt diesel, Onan 7,500/10,000/12,500-watt quiet diesel. Some coaches need 10,000 to 20,000 watts. The more electrical gadgets you have, the bigger generator you need! Some generators use propane fuel; these generators tend to be "smellier" and noisier than diesel generators. Diesel generators use the diesel from the MH fuel tank and have a built-in feature that stops the generator when the fuel tank level reaches one-quarter (this is done to prevent you from getting stuck somewhere without enough diesel to get to a refueling stop).
  • You may want at least a 2,000-watt inverter with a 100-amp-hour, 3-stage battery charger with a digital control panel so you can see the electrical usage. There are larger inverters.
  • Four (SIX preferred) 6-volt golf-cart batteries. MHs use lots of power! Even though you may think you'll be using only campgrounds, camping with friends in out-of-the-way places or at rallies can be fun IF you have enough power. Most rallies are dry camping. AGM batteries are closed cell and do not need to be filled with water.
  • Solar cells: One to four 90- to 120-watt solar panels which is 5-20 amps output with a controller panel that offers a 3-stage or taper-charge ability. Solar cells can greatly enhance your battery power.
  • Interior gauge (load meter) that shows the amp-hours being used. The shunt should be on the negative battery post, not in the inverter.
  • 30- or 50-amp shore power. 50-amp preferred, especially for larger MHs. An automatic cable reel is very helpful because 50-amp cables are heavy to handle.
  • Remember that everything you run electrically requires a larger generator, a larger inverter, larger batteries, and even more solar cells. This may not be a problem if you always are in full-service campgrounds, but most of us dry camp at rallies, when visiting national or state parks, or when visiting friends and family. It is better to have too much power available than not enough! The Duchess of Windsor's comment "you can never be too thin or have too much money" can be translated for motorhomers to "you can never have too much electrical power or too high a Gross Vehicle Weight rating".
  • If you have an all-electric coach (no propane), it will be necessary to run the generator more often. Even a 50-amp RV park connection will not provide enough power to run two or three A/Cs, the electric heat, a stovetop, an electric refrigerator, and a microwave simultaneously. Evaluate the coach's power requirements. Also, you may need to run the generator in areas where you shouldn't! There are places like national parks or when visiting family in a residential area when running a generator is frowned upon. Each day an electric-only refrigerator uses the most power. You may need to have more batteries. I have seen all-electric coaches with 14 6-volt batteries.
  • Three on/off water pressure pump switches are best (bathroom, kitchen, and outside dump station).

INTERIOR

  • Get power driver and passenger seats so each person can adjust the seats for her/his own comfort. Multiple adjustments are VERY important if more than one person drives. A power foot rest for the passenger seat may be available. Seat belts with shoulder restraints should be on both the driver and passenger seats. Many MHs do not provide shoulder belts! You may want an air-ride driver's seat.
  • Driver and passenger side see-through window shades can block the sun when driving.
  • Good front sun visors. Power shades are available for front windows. Consider their placement for nighttime use; some are too narrow and leave a gap in the middle of the front windshield through which light can enter the coach and annoy sleepers.
  • Front lounge: Recliner chair, space for a small table behind the passenger seat for a computer, couch with a drawer under it and one that makes up into a bed. A "J couch" may be available; some people like them and some do not. A drawer under the front couch is mandatory once you have had one (they're great for pencils, tape, batteries, small inside-usage tools, and other necessary little "stuff").
  • Dinette table - 2 or 4 chairs. If four dinette chairs are provided, check how well two of them fold for storage. You may not be able to carry them with you if they are too large and take up too much room in the storage bays. Consider whether you really need to store them below if you may not use them more than once a year.
  • Two or three exhaust fans (Fantastic Fan or Kool-a-Matic). It may be best to have a Kool-a-Matic in the front over the kitchen/galley area and two Fantastic Fans, one in the separate toilet room and one in the hallway near the shower/sink area. Some people prefer Fantastic Fans with moisture sensors that close if it starts to rain; others do not like this feature because an electric motor opens the vent which makes it more difficult to control how wide the vent opens. Also, you may want to be able to open the vent from within the shower; check the switch placement to see if you can reach it from there.
  • Lots of inside storage, such as cabinets, full suspension slide-outs on drawers, closets (cedar for clothing), good counter space in the bathroom for grooming aids, good counter space in the galley especially on the left and right of the sink for washing and drying dishes, one large cabinet or wide drawer for baking pans, large mixing bowl, and skillets, perhaps a tip-up shelf in the galley (next to the sink) to provide more work area, space for a wastebasket, and a cabinet or drawer near the driver or passenger that is tall enough to store atlases, maps, and other travel aids that are bulky or taller than 8.5 x 11. The galley counter should have enough space next to the sink to accommodate both dirty dishes to be washed and clean dishes to be dried.
  • Double sink in galley - BOTH sides the same size, one for washing and one for rinsing dishes (this is very important when dry camping because you need to conserve water).
  • Stove/cooktop vent fan should be 12-volt (120-volt requires inverter to be on which drains the batteries) and it should vent to the outside of the coach (many return the hot air and cooking odors to the inside of the MH).
  • Do you want a full stove with a propane oven? Some cooks use microwave/convection ovens only. Others prefer propane, especially when dry camping in areas where they do not want to start a generator. Having both is great! If you get a propane stove/oven, have it installed high enough to include a wide drawer underneath it to hold baking pans.
  • Nicely matched interior colors. Are the colors realistic for dirty or muddy areas, kids, pets, etc.? White carpets and upholstery do not do well in Utah's red dirt or Alaska's mud! Some RVers ask all visitors to remove their shoes before entering their MHs (which may offend the visitor) while others leave their shoes on because they prefer to look upon their rig as a recreational vehicle that will get dirty and can be cleaned.
  • Carpet tends to cut road noise. It generally is not put in the kitchen/galley area and may or may not be put in the bathroom. Other options may be tile or wood floors. Each has disadvantages. Carpet may be more difficult to keep clean in muddy areas; do you really want to remove your shoes and have guests remove theirs each time you enter the MH? Tile is noisier than carpet and may chip or crack if you drop something heavy or pointed on it. Grouting may be difficult to keep clean; if you have tile be sure the grout is well sealed. Motorhome manufacturers usually do NOT put sealer on the grout. Wood also may be noisier than carpet and can be dented if you drop cans or utensils on it. In any option, you may be able to specify exactly where you want the tile or wood to start and end. Some want carpet in the entire bathroom; others do not want it in the toilet room. Some want carpet except in front of the kitchen sink. Some want carpet only in the lounge and bedroom. Some do not want carpet at the entry. Consider your choices from a practical standpoint. How are you going to use the MH, who will be using it, and where do you plan to use it?
  • Window coverings: In the bedroom, do the window coverings block the light (blackout) adequately? This is very important if light keeps you awake (it is daylight at midnight in Alaska and RV parks often have lights next to each site so people don't get hurt walking at night). In the rest of coach, do the window coverings prevent others from seeing in at night and do they block exterior lights that might be alongside or in front of the coach? Select carefully. Venetian blinds (mini-blinds) allow better airflow and enhance your ability to look outside, whereas day/night shades stop airflow when down but may be easier to keep clean. Mini-blinds can be either plastic or metal. Plastic does not block light, therefore metal is better for motorhomes.
  • Is the coach pre-wired and pre-plumbed for a washer/dryer? Is the washer/dryer vented to the outside?
  • Arm rests on both sides of the driver and passenger seats are more comfortable.
  • Is the MH wired with RJ-11 jacks for your telephone and/or computer and are there extra jacks if there is more than one place where you might use the telephone and/or computer?
  • Are there adequate 12-volt plugs for computers, hand-held 12 volt-vacuums, etc.? There should be a 12-volt plug at the front of the coach and a second one in the rear. Have a 12-volt plug installed in the bedroom or bathroom so you can use a 12-volt vacuum in a bedroom closet or other tight area at the rear of the coach. Without the rear plug, you may need to purchase a 25-foot 12-volt extension cord to have enough power cord to get into hard-to-reach places.
  • TV - Get stereo and surround sound. Consider placement of the front TV. Will everyone who walks in the MH hit their head on an overhead TV? Can the TV be seen whether the slides are in or out?
  • VCR/DVD and radio/CD. Can you use the new MP3 format on the CD? Does the CD have a shuffle capability between disks?
  • Is the MH wired for cable TV hookup?
  • Is there a TV hookup in the bedroom? Is there a TV in the bedroom? Do you want a bedroom TV or would you rather have the extra storage?
  • Can the TV audio be connected to the stereo speakers throughout the coach?
  • Is there space for a DSS or Dish box in the front overhead cabinet? Does the DSS or Dish use RF so you can change channels by using a remote control? Consider the cabinets containing the entertainment equipment. Are there solid doors that will necessitate leaving the doors open to allow heat build-up to escape (excessive heat ruins electronic components).
  • Propane gas detector is required except in all-electric coaches.
  • Carbon monoxide detector is required.
  • Smoke detectors are required. Make sure you have one in the galley and bedroom.
  • Are there fire extinguishers and are they adequate (most provided by MH manufacturers are NOT adequate for MHs)? Make sure you have several fire extinguishers on board before your first trip. Many RV rallies have seminars that will teach you what type of fire extinguishers are needed in a MH and the areas of the MH in which they should be placed to provide maximum safety for its occupants. Plan to attend one of these seminars; it may save your life and your expensive motorhome!
  • Interior lights: Fluorescent provides more light for less electrical power. Incandescent may not be adequate for reading, but are less harsh in appearance. Quartz are brighter, produce more heat, and take more power. Do you like and/or want "party" lights around windows, floors, ceilings, etc?
  • Is the bed's mattress comfortable? Is the bed long enough (80 inches), especially if you are tall? Lie on the bed to check its length. Will the sheets and blankets tuck adequately (some beds have an overhang at the foot or extra thick mattresses that make it difficult to keep sheets tucked in) and does it leave enough room for your toes to move around when linens are tucked in? Yes, we are talking about linens because most motorhomers prefer sheets and blankets instead of sleeping bags (most of us are no longer "camping" and we're certainly not "roughing it" in today's motorhomes).
  • Is there a separate toilet room with a privacy door that separates the toilet from the rest of the bathroom or is the toilet in the middle of the hallway? Does the toilet room have a window to the outside so moisture can escape after showers or when wet clothes are hanging in the shower to dry? Does the toilet room have a Fantastic Fan (exhaust fan)? By now you may wonder if I own stock in Fantastic Fan. Well I don't, but I have put them in every MH we have owned because they're a superior product - very quiet and adequate blade size that actually moves air (the ones generally installed in many new MHs are irritatingly noisy and the blades are so small they cannot move air). We recommend one in the bathroom because you may be in a warm area where you want to sleep with both bedroom windows open 3-4 inches and with the toilet room fan on low so you have a nice airflow with VERY little noise from the fan. Does the toilet room window have an awning to lessen the heat buildup in the room when outside temperatures rise? Is the toilet fixture placed high enough for you to rise if you have knee or leg problems? Sit on it to find out! (Veteran RVers try everything before they buy!)
  • Is there enough surface area around the bathroom sink to place cosmetics, mirrors, eyeglasses, etc.?
  • If bathroom counter space is minimal, is there a tip-up shelf to provide extra counter space while dressing? Consider how much space you need at home. It won't be that much less in the MH!
  • Three water pump on/off switches are useful (galley, bathroom, and outside dump station).
  • Does the toilet have a hand-held spray attachment to aid flushing action? Even vacu-flush toilets need a sprayer. These sprayers help clean the toilet bowl better and also save water.
  • Are bathroom mirrors adequate and well-lighted.
  • Are there too many or too few mirrors in the coach? Some people prefer no mirrors on shirt closet doors, behind the stove, behind the dinette, and behind the bed because they are too hard to keep clean (fingerprints, dust in dry areas, food spatters, and liquid splashes) and may be too distracting visually. Others want more mirrors added. Keep in mind that mirrors can reduce privacy if your shades are open (your image may be reflected outside the coach in ways you may wish to avoid). Manufacturers often make such changes.
  • What is the material in the countertops and are all countertops made of the same material? For example, show models may have Corian counters throughout the coach, but cultured marble may be standard in the bathroom and something else in the bedroom. What material is standard for the dining and/or cocktail tables? Ask about countertop options that may not be outlined in brochures because you may think all the counters will have the same surface and be surprised to find several kinds of surfaces when you take delivery of the coach.
  • What type of wood is used in the cabinets? There generally are several options; one dark, one medium, and one light in color. Solid woods are nicer for the long-term because nicks aren't as obvious as with a laminate.
  • In a Class A with a stepwell, is there a sliding stepwell cover (power or manual) so the passenger has a flat floor to stand on during travel?
  • Refrigerators come with two or four doors. Four doors are nice, but you may give up pantry space to have one fit the available space. Some have ice makers, but they take up a good portion of the freezer and use electricity.
  • Is the MH wired for satellite TV hookup? Is it wired for two-way satellite Internet access (this requires two RG-6 cables)?
  • Do you want a washer/dryer or a separate ice maker? Consider the space lost for storage if either is installed.
  • Does the shower have an on/off button to conserve water? These buttons also are useful when "soaping up."

SLIDE-OUT ROOMS

  • At the front of the coach, is it a kitchen or dinette slide? Dinette slides give 14" more interior width than kitchen slides because dinette slides go out approximately 30" and kitchen slides go out approximately 16" (kitchen slides are more limited because they contain a lot more weight).
  • Is there an awning to keep debris off the slide-out roof and help prevent water leaks? Choose for yourself, but I like the slideout awning that does NOT pull down to also become the side window awning. This type of awning does not sag as much in the middle so water and debris runs off it better. Also, with this type you get separate window awnings that, like all small window awnings, can be opened and closed easily from inside your MH.
  • Is the slide roof itself sloped to drain water away from the coach like on Safari and Beaver coaches?
  • The exterior storage bays under the slide are extremely difficult to get into when the slide is out. In this case, an underbay slide drawer that slides out 70% can help. If the storage bays slide out with the slide and you fill them, you may be adding several hundred more pounds to the slide mechanism when the slide is out, so put lightweight items in those compartments for better balance. The weight placed on the slide mechanism can be considerable if the refrigerator with its extra weight and most of the canned goods are in the slide. Also consider that access to a 30" dinette underbay storage area is more difficult than access to a 16" kitchen underbay storage area.
  • Are the slide-out seals adequate to prevent AIR, WATER, and DIRT/DUST leakage, both when extended and retracted. To check the seals, look during daylight and use a flashlight at night. If you can see lights or daylight through any area, the seals are deficient and may present later problems. It is advisable to talk with people who have slides. Everyone loves the extra space slide-outs provide, but they do not like spending time at the factory to have various kinds of leaks corrected or slide-outs adjusted. Usually dealers cannot adjust slide-outs; this is a factory repair.
  • Does the slide automatically LOCK IN PLACE when it's in? Are there upper slide locks or do you have to install a bar to lock the slide in place for traveling?
  • Is there a manual mechanism to move the slide in and out to augment the automatic slide mechanism should it fail?
  • A slide-out adds 700-1,200 pounds to one side of the coach which affects your payload capacity.
  • If you cannot extend the slide because of where you're parked (older RV parks often have narrow sites), can you comfortably use the coach with the slide in (not extended)?
  • Can you live with the size of the slide's overhead cabinets? Some are very small; will the items you plan to store in them fit?
  • If you have a propane stove, check to see how well the propane line clears the slide mechanism. This is a safety issue that has the potential for serious problems.
  • Some of the newer MHs now have slide-outs on both the driver and passenger sides. Not all RV park sites can accommodate slides on both sides of the coach. Also, campsite patio areas designed for middle of the coach usage might not be usable if a slide on the passenger side interferes with outside seating space. You may decide that two slides on the driver side is best. These triple-slide designs make it very difficult to get into your outside bays..

APPLIANCES

  • Propane hot water heaters come in six-gallon or ten-gallon sizes. It should be both gas and electric so that it automatically switches to electric when you have shore power. You also need to be able to turn off the electric from inside the coach. The electric water heater element should not be connected to the inverter because it might totally discharge your coach batteries. Some coaches have an optional electric hot water switch that can be used to supplement the propane heater so you have hot water all the time when the propane water heater is turned off. These supplemental water heating switches are for use when you are connected to shore power. Turn it off if you do not have a 120-volt electric hookup because it may discharge your batteries if it goes through the inverter.
  • Furnace: Forced air propane furnaces with wall thermostats work well, but they are noisy when running. An alternative is a hot water furnace that runs from the diesel burner and is augmented by electric and sometimes the engine coolant. These furnaces are very expensive when compared to propane models, they require annual maintenance (they emit diesel odors if not maintained properly), and they use more electric power, but they are VERY quiet and heat the coach more evenly. They also provide unlimited amounts of warm, not hot, water. For example, an Aqua Hot will heat water 55 degrees above the current temperature in the water tank. If it's cold outside and the water's original temperature is 40 degrees, is unlimited amounts of 95-degree water acceptable for a shower?
  • Refrigerator: Options are one-door, two-door over-and-under, two-door side-by-side, or four-door. Two-way 120-volt and propane gas is best for most RVing uses (12-volt uses too much battery power and generally are not put in newer refrigerators). Some coaches now have 120-volt-only house-sized refrigerators that require TOO much power in the motorhome environment (unless you never dry camp and always stay at first class RV resorts with 50-amp hookups). An icemaker usually requires 120-volt electric power.
  • Do you want a propane stove WITH oven and three burners (one burner with high output). Some MHs have only a two-burner stovetop and a microwave/convection oven.
  • Convection microwave requires 120-volts electricity for long-term cooking. If you do not have a propane stove, you may need to turn on your generator at times or in places where generator usage is undesirable. An example is at a rally where close side-by-side parking is the norm and you need to bake something for a potluck; you might need to borrow someone else's propane oven to avoid annoying your neighbors with generator fumes and noise if they are sitting outside and nearby. Also consider that some national and state parks prohibit generators entirely or limit them to specific areas which may be filled when you arrive.
  • Electric coffee maker mounted on the wall (requires a flush-mount wall plug).
  • Water filter with a separate drinking water faucet on the galley sink. Many folks use an exterior filter on the hose to filter out larger particles and to make the water taste better. The inside filter is to purify local water (VERY important in some areas like Mexico or in RV parks using well water) and to make drinking water taste better. Consider a small Reverse Osmoses (RO) filter for the drinking water. Filters provide peace of mind to those who are sensitive to water changes and they eliminate the need to purchase and carry bulky water containers.
  • Air Conditioning: Rooftop or central AC. Central A/C uses up storage space in one of the coach's underbays. Is the A/C ducted? Check to see if you can run only the front A/C and close all the front AC ceiling ducts to direct all the cool air to the bedroom/bath area at night. This method is quieter for sleeping. The reverse (running the rear A/C) may be preferable for evening TV viewing in the lounge area.
  • An electric heat strip or heat pump in the AC is nice to take the chill off when you have shore power (it requires 120-volt power). Heat strips provide more heat than heat pumps in 30-degree weather.

FINAL COMMENTS

Motorhoming is a wonderful lifestyle in which you see our magnificent land and one in which you meet many amazing and helpful people. You may be at a point in your life where you think you can't go motorhoming because you can't afford an RV or you don't have enough vacation time. Obviously retirement provides more flexibility, but don't wait until you're too old or have health problems to travel. As 30-year motorhomers, we advise you to purchase a smaller, less expensive MH and use it every chance you get, whether it's a weekend or a two-week vacation. Later you can work up to more expensive and comfortable models - just as we did. Although practicalities may enter into your RVing decisions, don't wait so long that your dreams are never fulfilled. As the world has learned so painfully over the last year, life is too short to waste on dreaming instead of doing!