Going from towable to MH

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MI.MARK

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Feb 25, 2009
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We have been RVing with towables for a number of years. Now on our 4th rig. This  winter we began thinking of moving to a coach. It would be an older used one between 32'&35' W/slide. I've seen some around Grand Rapids,MI in the range of $25-35k. for years up to 2003.  My Dad owned both a Southwind & Pace Arrow in years past and drove the wheels off both. Some of the blogs here make me think I'm opening a whole new can of worms . Aren't the basics of construction & amenities about the same as I'm used to? My latest trailer is a 2009 Gulfstream Kngsport, so it"s not like I'm used to high end luxury. Any thoughts/suggestions are welcome.
 
In December we went from a 2011 Coachmen 39' Brookstone 5er to a 2002 Fleetwood 38' Revolution DP. We are full timers and needed more storage. We have made one move from Tennessee to Florida and love the improved ride. The revolution has some nice features and is a very good quality coach. If you have specific questions, please ask them.
 
I've spent many a nights in trailers, but decided to buy a 99 MH and am very pleased with my purchase. 

I just finished a 2800 mile trip in it to FL.  Several times the rain fell fast and furious.  It was nice to just pull into a rest area or parking lot, and just walk to the back to fix a meal, take a nap, or just watch TV.  Traveling with a trailer, one has to get out and traverse the rain to get to the trailer, then if one forgets something, a trip back to the PU is in order.

Another thing is the higher roof, wider body (102 inch) and big windshield provide a much more open feel.  Mine is a 37 foot unit, and in CA some of the parks have a 34 foot limit.  Other parks may have a different limit, but I think a 34' unit would be a good compromise. 

My friend is still full timing in a 28' trailer, and is loving it.  He pulls it with an SUV, but spends most of his time parked in S Texas.  He prefers the smaller unit as it's easier for him to get around with it.  He loaned it to me right after he bought it, so I could see if that is the type of home I would want.  After he sold his house, he moved into it and loves the lifestyle. 

I also borrowed a class C before making my decision.  They like the Class C, as they say it's easier to drive for them.  After having my Class A, I definitely think it's easier to drive the A, as I believe it provides better vision around the coach.  In addition, my A has a rear camera, I find it indispensable.  The C I borrowed did not have a rear camera.  A rear camera would be a necessity for me.

From what I've seen, there are different levels of quality among all classes of units.  So actually being in one, opening and closing the doors, using the accessories; the look and feel, should make quality of the unit apparent.  If you have reservations about any MH your looking at, I'd keep looking.  There are plenty of good MH's out there in that price range.

As the many different units all have their proponents, and having tried the towables, the question becomes; What do you want out of a MH that you are missing from the towables?
 
i found going to the mh from the tt a big difference. none of tts i owned had a built in generator. i dont know why because as you stated they have almost the same features. nice to be able to hit the starter and fire up the generator for ac or heat, microwave ect. also travelling in the mh is a far better way to travel than in the pickup. the wife has back problems so if she wants she can just stretch out for a bit while we are travelling. also kind of nice to pull into your campsite , hit the levelers, put out the slide and your done setting up. dont think i will ever go back to the travel trailer. another thing as well. we went to our family reunion this summer, about four hour drive. i took my 37g and my cousin took his 26 ft tt behind his 2112 dodge 4x4. we burned the exact same fuel to get there and back.
 
One thing the OP did not mention is his family size (number of people regularly in the RV) and planned usage... fulltiming, part-timing, weekend/vacationer, etc.

Without generalizing TOO much, I think it's safe to say that the majority of large motorhome owners are of the "mature" aged, retiree demographic.  ;)  However my clan doesn't fit that category at all (see my sig for family stats).  We owned a '94 35-foot Class A motorhome for 5 years, and it was great for our family size and shape at the time.  Younger kids, shorter trips, occasional weekend and vacation traveling.  But as our # of kids increased and they continue to get older/bigger, I realized that our MH (although quite large) was not set up to sleep that many people.  It was becoming a chore to set up and break down temporary beds every day when camping.

We sold our MH this past summer (to a single retired guy who will be fulltiming) and I plan to go to a larger TT or mid-sized 5th-wheel sometime in the next few years.  Eventually when my wife and I are again camping on our own, I'm sure we will gravitate back toward a MH.  There seems to be a "season" for every type of RV.
 
Yes - amenities will "feel" about the same cosmetically, but you'll get some more 'conveniences' with the Class A.

Key thing with that vintage is what condition the prior owners are leaving it in, and has any outstanding recall work been done. I wouldn't get too hung up on brand name. Make sure the floorplan works for you both in-transit (closed up) and opened for camping.

A good second opinion by a qualified mechanic would also help for peace of mind for what you can't "see". Look at the DOT codes  on the tires - anything around that 6 - 7 year mark (even it if looks OK) should be replaced, which you'll need to factor in to your overall budget. Check out this link to see how to do that: http://www.pjrider.com/TireCodes.htm

Are you planning to use your current rig as part of a down payment? If so, you'll want to be extra savvy as far as how pricing works (which we can help with). Also, if you plan on financing, you'll have to stay within about a 10 year model range to be able to so (some lenders will allow 12 years). Just some thoughts there.

If you see a good rig in your price range, I would totally go for it! We just moved up from TTs this past year and it really is SO worth it (and we're not retiring anytime soon - I wish!!!  :)!

Hope this helped - best of luck to you!!
 
  I guess I did leave out some stats. My better half & I are both retired & will be parttiming by ourselves (hopefully),& sometimes with grandsons now 5 & 10. My father-in-law might also be joining us for some shorter trips.
  The layout while moving will be quite important. I know with the tt there is no room with the slide in. Is it the same with most coaches. Dad would run the gen. on the road to power roof ac, etc. Don't know if thats a good idea  or not.
 
 
scottydl said:
Without generalizing TOO much, I think it's safe to say that the majority of large motorhome owners are of the "mature" aged, retiree demographic.  ;)  However my clan doesn't fit that category at all (see my sig for family stats). 

I guess I don't fit that demographic either, a single guy, not "mature, aged, or retiree."  Just someone that likes big windows, and lots of space to move around.

 
MI.MARK said:
  I guess I did leave out some stats. My better half & I are both retired & will be parttiming by ourselves (hopefully),& sometimes with grandsons now 5 & 10. My father-in-law might also be joining us for some shorter trips.
  The layout while moving will be quite important. I know with the tt there is no room with the slide in. Is it the same with most coaches. Dad would run the gen. on the road to power roof ac, etc. Don't know if thats a good idea  or not.

That was something I didn't like about my friends towable, one couldn't get even to the bathroom unless the slide was extended.  So that was one of the things that was a deal breaker for me.  The MH I have allows me full use of the unit without the slide extended.  If I'm boondocking I leave the slide in many times, as that leaves me less space to heat/cool. 

Sometimes I run the generator for the A/C units going down the road.  But when I'm the only one in the unit, I don't find that to be necessary unless it's over 95 outside.  Also in the winter time, the engine heats the entire MH so the generator doesn't have to be run for heat.
 
MI.MARK said:
  I guess I did leave out some stats. My better half & I are both retired & will be parttiming by ourselves (hopefully),& sometimes with grandsons now 5 & 10. My father-in-law might also be joining us for some shorter trips.
  The layout while moving will be quite important. I know with the tt there is no room with the slide in. Is it the same with most coaches. Dad would run the gen. on the road to power roof ac, etc. Don't know if thats a good idea  or not.

Unless the MH has slides on both sides of the living room (and in your budget it won't), you should have a fair amount of room with the slide in.
 
my 37g is fully functional with the slide in. my first two tt didnt have slides. huge difference with slides. wouldnt go back to no slides.
 
  Thanks for all the response. I thought I as fairly knoledgable about rving until I started doing more research in the MH side. WOW!  I wonder now if I'm being reasonable with price vs. size. I'm also learning that any financing might be hard to come by for a unit older than '05-'06. Oh well, rv's are all about adventure. This is just a new road. :)
  I will be seeing my Dad soon & plan to get some hands on advice. He will love that.    Ramble on!
 
 
MI.MARK said:
I wonder now if I'm being reasonable with price vs. size.

What do you mean by this?  I think most motorhome owners will say that you should go as big as you can.  You'll want the extra space.  Also, don't get hung up age in terms of model year.  Maintenance and condition is a MUCH more important aspect.  Also, features have not changed all that much in RV's for the last 15-20 years... except for perhaps in the late 90's when slides became the norm.  You'll find different levels of fit & finish (cabinetry, fixtures, furniture, etc.) depending on the model you choose, but otherwise the important basics (generator, roof air, lighting, appliances) are still the same today as they were in 1990.  And the price difference with older rigs can be SO much less, that you should seriously consider a nice, older rig if you find that "diamond in the rough" while looking around.
 
I believe what he is concerned with is financing an older unit. Regular RV loans which can go to 20 years are only possible with units typically less than 10 years old, but since I have been out of this circle for some time, and it may have gotten to a lesser age. 

For the OP, there are other financing sources, from a second mortgage to credit union loans.  Typically not the 20 year terms though.  My advice to any of my customers was to put down as much as comfortable, maybe even a little uncomfortable, but finance as little as possible.  In my own case, I bought the age I could pay cash for. 
 
As PankakeBill noted I would check on your financing now to see what you can get financed. I found several exceptional older coaches when I was looking but couldn't find find financing longer than 60 mo which made the payments more than I wanted.
Bill
 
I would strongly discourage anyone from buying an RV if it had to be financed.  Our society encourages this bad behavior, which is more like trying to catch a falling object from the sky.  It usually pulls you down, and most everyone I talk to laments about depreciating assets they bought on credit. 

I suggest people come up with the largest monthly payment they are comfortable with, then make that payment to yourself in either a bank account, or a good "no-load" mutual fund at Fidelity.com (for those comfortable with risk) every month.  Keep shopping on ebay, through the items sold, to find out what items are selling for, to continue to keep one focused on the goal and know true market prices.  Find all those other items you have that you couldn't live without, so now you're paying to store somewhere, or haven't used in years, and sell them on craigslist or ebay, for extra money to put towards your new toy.  When you have the money to pay cash, then go get it.  When people have a well defined written down goal, they are many times more likely to achieve that goal.


If one insists on making the unwise choice of financing a depreciating asset, a good rule of thumb is to never finance any more than the NADA low retail value of the same item 5 years old.  The advantage of this is that if the unthinkable happens, this helps to prevent being upside down on the item.  So one could get out from under the yoke of financial slavery at a predefined loss.

As my grandfather taught me, "If you can't afford to pay cash, you can't afford it"

Just my two cents.
 
  I'm not of a mind to wait long enough to save enough cash to buy outright, but I agree with the rationale of not being upside down when it comes to financing. Hopefully I can get enough on my tt,either by trade-in or selling private, plus cash, to make some downpayment. As I see it this is the same as buying any vehicle, know the price of what I am buying, know the price of what I am selling and know what I can afford to spend.
  There is sure to be a creampuff out there somewhere.
 
PancakeBill said:
In my own case, I bought the age I could pay cash for.

Same here, and I couldn't say it any better than this:

99WinAdventurer37G said:
I would strongly discourage anyone from buying an RV if it had to be financed.  Our society encourages this bad behavior, which is more like trying to catch a falling object from the sky.  It usually pulls you down, and most everyone I talk to laments about depreciating assets they bought on credit.



MI.MARK said:
As I see it this is the same as buying any vehicle, know the price of what I am buying, know the price of what I am selling and know what I can afford to spend.

The problem with that rationale is that most financed cars are used almost every day, compared to RV's which are used very infrequently by comparison.  A part-timer use would be an exception during some of the year, but what the rest?  You'd pay monthly on something that is getting no use and has no financial return.  Also motorhomes depreciate at a much higher rate than cars. 

My previous Thor Residency motorhome (35' Class A) sold new for $73,000 in 1994.  Bought by 2nd owner in 2006 for $19,000 and sold to me in 2007 for $12,000.  Sold by me in 2012 for $8500 (about 11% of its original value), and I felt lucky about that sale price.

[Debt + depreciation + non-use] = a losing battle in many ways.  BUT it sounds like you know (and continue to learn) the risks and understand what you're doing.
 
finance as little as possible.

Sage advice.  Just like the people who bought houses they couldn't afford when the economy tanked, many people also lost their motorhomes.  There are a lot of motorhomes out there that were returned to the bank when payments couldn't be made.

ArdraF
 
We went from a 34? 5th wheel to a 33 foot A Class.  It is just the wife and I plus our two cats and dog.  We love the MH as to the ease of getting to things and not having to pull over to get to any of it.  I especially like asking the wife for a sandwich and soda and she just walks to the back and gets it.  And of course when Mother Nature calls (calls her more often than me) it is a no stop function when it is her.  The rig is a Winnebago Voyage 32H (Winnebago now does the floor plan under the Adventure 32H) with two slides.  With the slides in it is a bit of a squeeze to go to the back but even for a big guy like me (6?2? 380lbs) I have no problems.  The big down side is with the 5th wheel we got 13 MPG and had lots of power to go over the mountains.  The MH gets 5.5 MPG pulling a Jeep JKU and 8MPG not pulling.  Hills slow me down to about 45 MPH with e dingy in tow.  If we ever trade up the next will be a diesel for the power.  For now the gaser is fine for us to learn in and get use to MH travel.  We paid $70K for it and it only had 16K miles on her.  It was a fair price I think.  We could have paid less for an older unit but I wanted something less than 5 years old that was treated well.  Would I still make the same move now that we have had it for a while?  Yes, plain and simple.  Hope this helps
 

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