First Timer and Clueless about what to buy!

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Jul 8, 2012
My husband and I are interested in buying our first Class A but are absolutely overwhelmed by the choices we have to make.  Not knowing much about RVs other than what we've learned here and through friends who own and rent one, we find ourselves more confused the more we search.  We recently attended a local show as well as the large show in Hershey Park, PA.  We have rented our friend's RV and loved it so much we decided we wanted one of our own.

We have a 7 year old so we're looking for something to accommodate the three of us easily.  We have a spacious home and I'd hate to feel claustrophobic so at least one slide out would be nice.  I do like both a couch and a dinette.  We have an $80K budget.  We don't care for the extremely dated look of older, used models, but would consider a used DP in our budget that we could update ourselves over time if it were in great mechanical shape.  In the 'under $100K' category, we looked at new Thors, Coachmans, Fleetwoods and a few others, but really weren't very impressed with the quality of the interiors.  They all had vinyl coated cabinets that were already starting to peel, and overall, very cheap materials throughout.

Our local dealership is very pricey and has very little in the way of new or used inventory.  We found much more reasonable prices online, but then again, everything looks great in pictures and who knows what we'd be getting into.  Our ignorance could end up costing us a great deal!  We are worried that since we know nothing about mechanics, and even less about RVs, that we may be making a huge mistake by buying something used.  On the other hand, I'd hate to spend so much money on something new that won't stand up to normal use for at least five years. 

I can't help but wonder...

Are there people we could hire to check a used vehicle out for us? 

Any suggestions as to what we should consider in making our decision? 

Is it feasible to travel to some of the very large dealerships to check out their online specials?  I've read some of the fine print on some of these ads and they are very misleading.

Any advice, suggestions, and thoughts are greatly appreciated!  BTW, we live in Maryland.

It can be overwhelming for sure!  We had a B+ for a little less than a year before we decided that a Class A would be much more comfy for the 2 humans and our 2 boxers.  We looked at several floor plans including the first Thor ACE and settled on a Georgetown 280DS.  Since we bought ours, the ACE has had some improvements and we'd have a hard time deciding between the 2 now but we are very happy with our G'town.  We have 2 slides, one in the front which gives an incredible amount of room between the couch and kitchen and a smaller one for the bedroom.

Look at the floor plans.  Think about having to stay inside for a day if the weather doesn't cooperate.  A lot depends on how you want to use your moho too.  Are you going for short trips or planning long trips?  Will you have company and need a floor plan that is suited for conversations?  What does your 7 year old like to do?  Does he/she spread out toys and play in the floor a lot or is he/she more into video games or reading?

Another thing to consider is if you're going to tow a vehicle or not.  You'll want something with enough power to haul a car over a mountain if you plan to tow.  Not all cars can be towed though so if you're considering towing, you might need to factor in a vehicle and tow system.  We spent the first year "toadless" and didn't have another vehicle to use to sight see or haul wood or go to the grocery.  Life is much easier with one!

You've got lots of choices but the main thing, IMO, to consider is the floor plan.

Good luck and have fun!  Be warned though....RVing can be adictive!  ;)
Yes there are mechanics who will check your RV out before you buy it for a small fee, usually between $100 and $300. Well worth the money.

Yes, buying your first RV is an overwhelming experience. Here is my advice. You have a budget of $80k and that is excessive for your first RV. I would suggest spending no more than $20k on your first RV. The reason is that virtually no one gets it right with their first RV purchase. It is a Catch-22. You don't know what you really want in an RV until you actually own one. So you must own one first to figure that all out. Generally speaking after you have been using your first RV for a year or so you will have a much better idea of what you really want. If you start off with a cheaper RV first then you won't loose an awesome amount of money when you upgrade.

Here is a sample of what $20k can get you in a used Class A. I am not recommending this particular unit, this is just an example.
I hear what you are saying, SellerBird, but I don't think I would want to spend any time whatsoever in an RV that looks like that!  I know I'm being really picky, but it just turns me off too much.  My husband is the same way.  I'd be instantly inclined to tear everything out and remodel it and that would defeat the purpose. 

I do understand your point, and believe me when I tell you I've looked and looked and looked.  And then looked some more.  The more I see, the more turned off I get.  What I end up finding 'palatable' ends up costing nearly as much as a new unit.  The vicious cycle continues and I feel like a dog chasing it's tail.  Very frustrating!  I think it has to do with our preference for modern interiors, as this is how our home is decorated.  I really want to enjoy our unit and most importantly, to make it feel like a home away from home.  Doesn't have to be exact by any means, but just comfortable and appealing.

I'm tempted to attend the next Good Sam rally on the east coast and just spend time checking out all the RVs parked in the lots.  I'm sure there will be anything and everything and the owners most likely happy to share and answer questions.  Then again, it may make me even crazier than I feel already, lol.

Here is a nice site for comparison shopping. They have some very nice units in your price range. A good looking Monaco gas class A in the Gasoline RV section.                                               

If you're looking at new gas rigs, a little bit more $$ may give you that look/feel you're after.

If you're willing to spend a little bit more to get yourself into the mid to upper $90s range (of actual price paid; not MSRP), your options of new gas motorhomes opens up significantly. Even more if you want to move closer to that $100k mark. If that's possible, you can then consider the next tier up of the brands you've already written off (plus some more) - and there is a fairly good difference in interior quality which you'll notice right off the bat when you walk in some of them.

To get a basic estimate, a good deal is as close to ~25% off of MSRP (sticker price) that you can get. So, when doing your estimating that way, you can get a larger field of vision of what new rigs may now be in the running. (For example, if I take a sticker price of $120,000, then take 20% off of that, the price paid would be $96,000. Don't forget taxes, etc., which increases your out-the-door actual price. Of course that goes up or down depending on the actual discount you can get, which also will vary depending on the dealer, the rig, etc.)

I'm in in the northeast too, and the dealerships around this neck of the woods aren't as competitive price-wise as others seem to be further south and west. There aren't as many of them either. If you do travel to get the great deal, make sure you have somewhere back closer to home to do any warranty and maintenance work that you will surely need. Not impossible to find, just do your homework ahead of time here.

If you have to stay at that $80k (out the door price), you can get a full body paint Thor ACE with a lot of bells/whistles; maybe a nice Georgetown too if you do some homework. Some leftover 2012s of other brands may also get you there as well. Use the Internet to "see" a lot of these brands at some of the larger dealers around the country (some examples: General RV; Lazy Days; Motorhome Specialist, etc.) to view their online inventory.

Take your time; do your research, and you'll get there!

Hope this helped - best of luck to you!

Good morning ginger and welcome to The RV Forum.

We are a friendly bunch that enjoys helping others.  Our library has a lot of information that should be useful to you.  If you don't find answers there or need a bit of advice just post here and we will get back to you, as you have already experienced.  Additionally, The RV Forum is a great place to make friends with other RVers.

The most common advice given to RV shoppers is floor plan, floor plan, floor plan.  Stand in the kitchen area and imagine preparing a meal.  Is the salon area conducive to the way you would relax in the evening?  How about showering?  Etc.  Once you have found the floor plan that suits your needs you are half way there.

$80K can buy you a lot of pre-owned, RV that is a few years old.  Most/all new RVs take a while to shake down.  Pre-owned units will have the mfg. bugs worked out.  Find a model that you like and take it to a mechanic that you trust for a checkout.  Beyond the normal vehicle checkout such as engine, brakes, tires, etc. you will want to run everything................ does the refrigerator cool, does the generator gen, etc.  Be sure to open all awnings and check them for tares. 

Lacking mechanical skills you are at a disadvantage.  All RVs are tinker toys.  However there is no reason that you can't take care of a lot of the things yourself.

Good luck on your shopping and don't hesitate to ask more questions and openions.

Welcome aboard! 
Look at a Newmar Canyon Star; Nice! A used one may fit your needs

Good luck Dan
Hi Ginger and welcome to the RV Forum,

Because you're interested in motorhomes, I recommend joining the Family Motor Coach Assn.  Not only do they have a very nice magazine that is chock-a-block with interesting articles, but they also have a couple of large rallies every year where manufacturers display their motorhomes (like the Good Sam rally only all motorhomes).  When we're in the buying mode we attend every rally with display coaches for about a year.  Because you can peruse the units, sit in them, and drive them, these shows help narrow your choices.  The show at Hershey was good start, but it's only one.

Probably the most important criterion is finding a floor plan that suits you both.  Can you see yourself living in it when it's raining for several days straight?  Does it have enough closet and storage space?  Can you sit in the bathroom comfortably?  Is the bed long and/or wide enough?  Is it well made?  For example, diesel engines are often under the rear bed and you want to make sure that the piece of wood on which the bed sits is well insulated and sealed tightly.  You really don't want to lift the bed directly to the engine (fumes, heat, etc.)!  There should be something in between the two.  It takes quite a while to shop for your first motorhome so don't rush it.  We've met people who retire, go to their first RV show, fall in love with a unit, buy it, and THEN start asking the questions they should have asked before purchasing.  Before long, their first RV is for sale and they're buying a second one.  In one case, the couple bought three motorhomes in about a year because they kept "falling in love" with the unit without doing their homework first.  That's an expensive lesson in depreciation.

With today's economy many people have lost perfectly good motorhomes either to the bank or because they needed to sell at a too-low price.  It may take a while but you'll eventually find the perfect first motorhome for your family.

First Timer,
You need to look at about a dozen different M H to get a feel for the layout and options you would like.  Talk to a good salesman and see what they say about particular units.  I think $80K is plenty for your first unit.  Look at the Hurricanes, Forrest Rivers etc, or even Fleetwood Bounders & compare the quality with the Winnebago's.  Have you been camping before I hope?
We just purchased our 2nd motor home - a 2007 Winnebago Adventurer 35A (36 ft Class A) with only 14,000 miles off the original owner for $79,000.  It is in absolutely mint shape.  We owned a 2000 Winnebago Adventurer 35U (a 35 foot Class A) with 40,000 miles for the past 5 years and had NO issues with it (sole it in August to the 1st person that looked at it for $32,500 - they did not even try to talk us down).  Winnebago to me is the way to go for the money.  Ask around, they make a quality motor home.
Good luck,  Bob
Fun Times!

Check out the Tiffin 35QBA.  After years of looking and research, that's the one we decided on.  With 4 slides, it has the wide open spacious feel you're looking for, as well as nice bunks (with DVD player) for your 7 yr. old.  You may be able to find one used in your price range.  We got ours new for $100k in 2010.  It's a gas chassis, but in terms of value, it's hard to beat.  You mentioned the Hershey show.  We live in the area (Lancaster, PA), so if you're nearby and wanted to see one, let me know.

You mentioned a  modern interior.  Most of the interiors I have seen, (older or newer models) tend to have a "traditional" decor.  I'd not get too  hung up on decor as  many things can be changed to suite your tastes.  We have changed  carpet, tile, window valances, sofa recovered more than once.  When I purchased I  did not  see past the immediate.  Now I know if the BONES are there you can make the cosmetic switches to make it your " home."

Then again maybe for a get away it  should be different than your home.  Don't get too frustrated in your search.  It can be so stressful!
Hi Ginger and welcome to the RV Forum,
Well you said, ?We have rented our friend's RV and loved it so much we decided we wanted one of our own?. I would start looking for one that is like your friends RV. I would look at a used Diesel pusher you can find some great higher end units in your price range. Let some one else take that big hit on depreciation.
You can find people to check it out before you by.
Good luck
caveat: everyone likes what they have. Including me.

I love my Blue Bird Wanderlodge. never thought I could afford one, but the market now is a buyers market. Suggest you spend some time on this forum:

You will get a ton of info and help there. There are also a number of places you can buy them used. A very nice one can be had for under $40k, now, although a slide will end up costing you closer to your $100k.

if Blue Birds don't float your boat, suggest looking at some of the very nice coaches offered at PPL motor homes in Texas. They will have 100s in stock, enough for you to justify a trip to look at them.

As always,

As stated already, take your time and do lots of research.  You certainly seem to have certain wants/needs, so you should be able to narrow down your choices the more you look.  And of course, a lot of the looking/eliminating can be done online.  But you'll certainly want to spend some time here and there actually climbing in and around real motorhomes (which is sounds like you've already done).

Even if you're nowhere close to Texas, check out the PPL Motorhomes website.  They are a large dealership/consignment lot that has a quickly rotating inventory, allowing you to see lots of makes/models week to week AND the selling prices of the sold units.

Unless you are planning on spending months at a time camping, towing heavy loads, and/or driving 10,000+ miles per year in the motorhome, you likely will not need a Diesel Pusher.  Replacement tires and annual diesel maintenance are considerable costs to owning a DP.

I'll throw in my two-cents here, but i won't make any brand recommendations - there are a lot of great coaches out there. For the money you're talking about spending, you should be able to buy a nice Class A - new or used. Personally, I think buyers get a lot more for their money when they buy a coach that's one or two years old. It's hard to find anything that depreciates as fast as a new RV but buying something new has its own perks too.

Don't be in a hurry - besides, shopping for RVs is fun (at least I think it's fun). Do a lot of internet browsing and go to some RV shows to compare coaches and prices. After a while, you'll start to get a pretty good idea of the features you like and dislike, and the "real life" prices you could expect to pay. I don't think I would ever hire anyone to help me select a good coach, but I'd definitely hire an experienced third party to go over a used coach that I was considering purchasing.

Pay close attention to floorplans. People are different and we all have our own individual likes and dislikes.
That's why there are different floorplans. But here's something I've learned... If you come across a feature, or something in a floorplan that you don't like, but you think it's something you could "live with," look twice (no, look three or four times), and then think about it real hard. Those "little things" can sometimes become a real PITA when it's something you have to live with every day. I've experienced this with both of my Class As and now we're shopping for our third Class A. Believe me, this is an issue that we are VERY cognizant of.

Other than that, you're doing the right thing - you're asking questions. There are some pretty sharp people on this forum, helpful people with tons of RV experience.

Good luck and keep us posted. (By the way, welcome to the forum!!)

You have said you are interested in a motor home, but have you considered a van/truck and trailer?  For your budget you can buy some pretty nice trailers and a decent tow vehicle.  The advantages are better safety when traveling (child in a real seat securely belted in) when parked the same vehicle available to travel and see the local sites. more for your money, and lower maintenance costs.  What I am trying to say is there are far more choices than a Class A motor home.  Just don't get yourself locking into a single option.  Look at all options.  Heck, you might find a truck camper would fit your needs better.
Hello Ginger
First time poster here myself, just wanted to share something I haven't read yet from others.
When you find a floor plan you like be sure to use it with the slides in, sometimes they are not very user friendly when on the road. I would suggest a diesel pusher the engine is in the rear very quiet, air ride suspension and better carry capacity. I know it is very tiring looking but take a break until it is fun again, looking and dreaming is half the fun and a lot cheaper  ;)

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