Two months to go...

The friendliest place on the web for anyone with an RV or an interest in RVing!
If you have answers, please help by responding to the unanswered posts.

yomin66

Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2007
Posts
9
So, as the subject line says, I have two months to go before purchasing my first Class-C RV.

Why 2 months and not "within two months"?
Well, I happen to be a Canuck living in Germany (for over 15 years by now), and I've given myself a one-week-window to travel to Alberta or BC and pick out a unit. I have about ? 12,000 USD to spend, as a lic. wrencher I can assess what's needed mechanically and fix it. I have read lots and lots about RV-specific issues (especially the delaminating and tire-aging), so I SHOULD be able to avoid a money-pit. We're planning our first travels in the summer. After that, it just gets winterized and sits in a fenced lot with a hundred of its brothers.

Where to buy?
Well, before I hit this forum, I ran across the www.rv.canadatrader.com. Only about 2-3 units that matched my criteria. Same on the US-Side. So I guess I either have a very detailed idea of what my RV is supposed to look and be like or I am way too choosey. Take your pick!  :)
When I get closer to departure, I'll begin to pick viewing dates and times and contact the sellers, get more detailed pics and other tidbits.

What to buy?
24 ft. min, 26-27 ft. max., I'd love a Chevy chassis, but Ford seems to be the standard. 350 vs. 460, TH-??? vs. C-??? - trust me, I've heard them all. I just believe, that Chevy stuff remains cheaper to replace and is more universally available. 30% more cubic inches are not to be disregarded either, though. Gas or Diesel? In Germany, this would be a no-brainer. The diesels up to the end of the 80s were not all that desirable and maintenance-heavy. It'll be gas.

Interior layout / features?
When asking the sig. other, her priorities differ from mine. No problem, they differ from one day to the next, so the chances, that they meet mine at some point are good  ;D. Most of it has to do with colors and textures - oak, gold handles, clear-plastic faucet-knobs and curtians with colorful floral designs are intolerable - but can be changed forthe most part. Soon mind you, not right now.
As far as the layout is concerned, a bed in the back for the grown-ups, the bunk for the kids or the converted dinner area, if they cannot get along.
Everything else is negotiable. I'd like to get rid of the two chairs one sometimes sees on the entry side across from the dining table, and mount a big toolchest there and have maybe a folding chair (on demand) next to it. Seems with four people, that's sufficient. And for putting on / taking of footwear, the box is sturdy enough to sit on anyways. Carpet / lino / laminate: Carpet is nice (and stains easily), laminate is trendy (but not waterproof) and lino is practical. I don't really care at this point.

Questions:

While at the subject, how would one fasten such a toolchest (a twelve-drawer top-part, not the rolling stock)? My first thought was bolting it with 4 heafty bolts each side through the floor and have the bolt sets on either side supported with  some sort of steel girdle to add some strength. There can't be any way, that the thing gets dislodged during a crash and hit (flatten) the passenger.

Insurance in Canada: Any experience with certain companies, what to look for, what to avoid?

Winterizing: Read elsewhere a lot about the pink stuff, that you cannot and should not really use the RV in the winter (moisture, condensation, mold). In Calgary it can get down to -40 to -50 Celsius in the wind, does anyone have experience in the cold climates?

Wheels and tires: Read the debate here and from my point, there is not really an alternative. Tires are pricey and the need to be protected. Covers against the sun and tire pressure at its limit with wheels on the ground (2nd choice) or wheels up via lifts (can they even lift an RV straight off the ground?) or the rear axle and lower control arms jacked up, so they can be fixed in that position (blocks, wood, whatever). It's worth the effort. Time spent there will offset the time spent at the tire store, trying to balance the "set" the tires have taken. If you don't care, buy one set, leave all as is and let the next guy owning the RV worry aout it (3.5 years average ownership?) - Wait, that wasn't a question, more like a statement. Oh well...  ;)

Internet Access: How do you manage?

Well, this should be it for now - I am glad to have found this place to hopefully get some "smarts" on the subject before shelling out the bucks - I hope you can share some of your experience with me!  8)

Cheers from Bochum, Germany,

Volker

 

Tom

Administrator
Joined
Jan 13, 2005
Posts
48,840
Volker,

It sounds like you've done some research and are well on your way to becoming an RVer. On your internet question, there are a number of options and I use a combination of at least 3 of them. Here are some of those options:

  • Many campgrounds offer WiFi which requires you either have a WiFi enabled PC or a wireless card in your PC. I've seen prices for WiFi range from free to $8 per day.
  • Several phone carriers offer 'unlimited internet service' using an air card (it's a cellular phone in a PCMCIA card). There's a monthly service fee that varies between the carriers and their speeds are somewhat different. One issue is the coverage (location of the nearest cell tower so you can receive a signal).
  • Cellular phone connected to a PC via a special cable.
  • Many campgrounds offer a "modem connection", which in most cases mean you you have to take your PC to their office or a dedicated room and plug in.
  • Satellite internet, using a dish mounted either on the roof of your RV or on a separate tripod. There's a monthly fee for the service. Be aware that, depending on which satellite you're assigned to, you may not get service in Canada.
  • Members of this forum who have their own internet connection (such as satellite) will often share their connection with others via WiFi,

I'm sure I've missed a few options and others will jump in to expand the list.
 

Gary RV_Wizard

Site Team
Joined
Feb 2, 2005
Posts
74,396
Location
At our Silver Springs FL home
It appears you have done a great deal of homework and largely made up your mind, so I'm not sure if you are asking advice and stating your conclusions. 

Internet: Will you be doing most of your RVing in Canada? Because answers concerning internet access may differ substantially there, especially in much of BC and Alberta , all of Yukon, etc. Cell service is limited to non-existent outside of major cities and (last I knew) wifi is not widely available either. And satellite begins to get problematic as you move further north too.  Phone lines for dial up use are available in larger campgrounds, though.

Tool box: I'd bolt it through the floor as you described, with steel backer plates underneath unless I was fortunate enough to have a sub-floor cross member in the right place.

Chassis: There are a few manufacturers who build exclusively on Chevy/Workhorse chassis and several who offer a choice, but buying used is going to limit your choice and yes, Fords are the majority. Diesel Class C's are available too (Chevy and Ford alike), but you don't find a lot of them on the used market. Guess their owners like them and keep them!

Insurance: I cannot advise on Canadian insurers or required coverages, but definitely shop around because (in the US anyway) there is a lot of variation in coverages and prices. Look for an insurer that specializes in RVs, because auto insurers tend to treat an RV is a large, expensive car and have contract wording that is skewed against damages that may occur to living quarters and large quantities of personal effects. Imagine yourself talking to an auto insurer about  losses to a toilet or tv or wind damage to an awning.  Wherever you buy, read the policy terms carefully for exclusions that might apply to equipment and situations that are common with RVs.  We have some Canadian members, so hopefully they can suggest some good Canadian carriers. Will you be based in Alberta? I believe insurance differs by province.

Tires:  I respectfully disagree with just about all of your statement. Tires have a useful life of about 7 years, regardless of mileage or tread wear. The rubber simply dies of old age by that point and covering them and anything else you may have heard of is of little or no value in stopping the aging process. Driving the vehicle periodically, so that the tires flex and re-distribute the chemicals that keep them soft and pliable, is probably the best thing you can do. Radial construction, belted tires of modern materials to not take a "set".  The most important thing you can do with a tire is to keep it properly inflated for the load it carries. Weigh the rig (axle by axle if not tire by tire) and adjust inflation according to the tire manufacturer's load inflation table for that make/model of tire and you will be fine.

Interior layout / features?  If Momma ain't happy, ain't nobody going to be happy.

 

yomin66

Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2007
Posts
9
Hi Tom and Gary,

thanks for your input. Yes, for some things I think I've made up my mind, but i appreciate ALL advice greatly. There are so many ways to goof up, and one never "knows it all".

Bad news for the internet access, as my first few trips will indeed be limited to BC and the Rockies. Just gotta plan my visits to friends and relatives on the way as to have an internet port from time to time.  :p

Gary, you're absolutely right. Discounting the older diesels may not be valid as their present owners may just be hanging on to them dearly. Who knows. I'll still be sticking with the gas plants though.  :)

Good point on the insurance. I'll check with my bro in Vancouver, whether there are insurance companies specializing in RVs. Maybe I can get their contracts and fineprint beforehand as not having to make that choice when I am time-pressed in April. And yes, the RV will be mostly in AB. Thank you.  :)

Ahhhh, tires. You don't have to "respectfully" disagree, I'll accept your opinion even if you just disagree.  ;)
Here in Krautland a tire gets retired when it has five candles according to the DOT man.-date. But then my car gets moved at speeds close to 150 mph and one likes to have the tread stay where it is.
What makes the tire "age"? Well, aside from the operational wear and tear, there are three reasons:
  • First and foremost - rubber decomposes (dies of old age, as you correctly put it) and the intensity of the ultraviolet rays of the direct sunlight accelerate that process greatly.
  • Secondly: Cracks form between the tread and the sidewall, if a tire sits in one spot over any extended period of time. Add moisture, freezing temps and those cracks expand - quite naturally. Add the aforementioned sun to this process... you get the picture.
  • Thirdly - the rubber compound in the tire and the road have a happy-go-lucky relationship. Tires are engineered to react chemically with the surface of the pavement or concrete to increase safety and stability (so they claim at least). There are acids in the concrete, that react with the softeners in the rubber compound. The tire "suffers" in that spot over anextended "stand"-period, but that can be minimized by interrupting the contact with cardboard, some carpeting, etc.
I agree with all you write about tire pressures and load issues, and the radial construction and modern materials have indeed extended the life of the rim's best friend. But, and this is where we can certainly agree to disagree, steel belts, the heating and cooling of the tire during changing seasons in combination with the 3 aforementioned issues causes the tires to take a "set". Physics (and some chemistry).  ;)

So, covering, taking the load off (will those lifts work?) or at least increasing the pressure to minimize the contact. I'll send pics and everyone can have a chuckle...  ;D

My sig. other and I are not married and if I should call her "momma", I'd have a brandnew set of problems. What makes a woman happy? You find out, you let me know...  :D

Cheers from Bochum,

Volker
 

yomin66

Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2007
Posts
9
Update:

I have made good on my threat to buy a used RV about three weeks ago and it was an experience for sure. To reiterate the 10-day-trip (in blog-style):

Preliminary:
Contacted a bunch of ads from Germany - big interest on two units: One for CAN$ 9,000 (26-foot something) and one for CAN$ 14,700 firm (1990 24-foot Triple E), the latter seems out of my pre-set price range so I left that one alone for now. Got pics for the other unit upon request, my brother goes to look at the unit and takes more detail pictures. Then we talked on the phone and he reports on a "musky" smell while entering the unit. Well, it's Vancouver, moist and - in this case - moldy. No further questions, your honor - this unit is no good at any price.  :-\

April 21st:
Flight to Calgary from (Duesseldorf) Germany (be there by 04:30) via Heathrow (with a five hour layover there). Had some brekkie at the Heathrow airport. Do you ever wonder why there's Italian, Chinese, French and even German restaurants but no British? Have some breakfast and find out for yourself.  :p Security is tight, they even want you to take off your shoes. Managed to talk to the nice airline assistant at the Heathrow gate and got an emergency exit seat for some legroom. Very appreciated. Arrival in Calgary at 15:30. My bags are o.k. and the rental car is where it's supposed to be. I meet with a long time friend for some chow and get the Petro-Canada cell phone, he purchased for me a couple of weeks earlier. The Flames lost todays playoff game. Calgary is depressed  :'(. I stay at another friend's house overnite to catch my plane to Vancouver at 07:00. I'm bushed but no rest for the wicked. ;)

April 22nd:
Westjet flies me to Vancouver for $ 11 plus fees. Less than $ 60 in total. The steward is highly entertaining and has a comical way to make announcements (...welcome to today's service to Honululu...) and tell us about smoking rules (...go ahead and smoke, if you're caught - and you will be - you will be immediately ejected...)  :D  :D  :D. My bro picks me up at the airport and holds a current copy of the bargain finder for my entertainment. Once at his house, I try some ohine numbers without much luck - hey, it's Sunday. So I call it a day and relax a little.

April 23rd:
Found a unit for $ 13,500 (exc. condition). Nice enough guy, we get the addy and drive out. 1987 vintage, clean on the outside, a mess on the inside "...me and the boys go hunting a lot..." - it actually looks like they skinned a deer on the lino. No cruise or tilt. Small puddle forms under the driver's side front while unit is running - power steering. Testdrive - no thank you. He'll take offers. He may be very disappointed. Took a drive by some RV places. Nothing really suitable.

April 24th:
Called the gentleman with the $14,700 Triple E (see: Preliminary). Can't really afford it ( ;)), but would like to have a look nonetheless. He remarks, that we could meet pricewise somewhere halfway if I was really interested. We'll see. My German GPS finds the place no problem. We see the unit - NICE! Well taken care of, no plywood / tin walls, but smooth fibreglass sides - and claims for no leaks whatsoever. The smell test - perfect. Factory order sheet, maintenance records, manuals - all there. No bunk bed though - Triple E apparently had an optional cupboard kit available and this was installed with folding doors to the left and right and a small rollshutter cupboard in the center housing a TV set. I open the hood - Propane hoses. "It's been converted and runs on either fuel, the 2 70-liter tanks have been hooked together, so you can spend all the LPG on the engine to extend the range if need be". Cool  8). We start it up and run it for a while - no leaks, no funny noises. He turns on the dash A/C and it seems cool but not really cold. Another look under the hood - the compressor clutch does not kick in. Fuse o.k. He says, that he's never serviced it and it's never been colder than that. He's had it for three years and it still looks like an R12 system. Big $$$ to convert and fix. Testdrive. Amazing, no rattles or squeeks unless you hit some heavier bumps in the pavement. 17 years old. Not bad. Vibration at around 70 km/h, subsides at 80 km/h. Not a big worry. Rubber and brakes good, motor strong. Transmission not C6 but E4OD - the overdrive is a fuel saver. Steering a little loose but not a problem. All accessories work. "It's also winterized and has polyurethane undercoating and heated waste tanks. The awning is new." I like it. Due to the A/C problem, I offer him $ 12,500 as I have no idea, how involved the repair can be (conversion is around $ 600, add a compressor and other goodies...). We settle on $ 13,000. Done  ;D.
I need a transfer sticker and insurance. An agency provides both for $ 190 and until April 30th. Ample time to get to Lethbridge / Alberta. A quick stop at IKEA (heaven for Europeans) to get some bedding (blanked, pillow, covers, etc.) and a stop at Safeway for some food and cleaning inventory. I take lotsa pictures and send them to the better half. After viewing them I get 2 comments: "There's flowers on the walls" and "There's rust underneath". Different priorities, I guess  ???.

April 25th:
My brother started for Lethbridge in his car at 06:00 (he's doing the trip in a single day) , I slept in and started around 09:00, planning to take two days through the rockies. Propane is good for flat areas, when there are only moderate loads on the engine. In the mountains on steep climbs, reg. fuel is the way to go. Why? Propane has no lubricants and the valves pound themselves into the seats. That makes for lotsa noise, especially when you hit the kickdown and scream up that hill. The seats on this unit are hardened, but it still hurts your ears and heart. Easy does it - this engine has already spent 135,000 km under unknown conditions. First campout somewhere in the BC mountains, pouring rain all evening and through the night and pretty cold. Leaks? None. Heat? MORE than sufficient. Everything works the way it's supposed to. it's 21:00. Good nite.

April 26th:
I wake up with lots of condensation on the windows. My soaked jacket from the night before, closed windows, etc. So this is what it's like during the colder months.
I team up with my brother at the Crowsnest pass (his daughter lives there) and we spent the evening and night.

April 27th:
Breakfast in the MH and off to Lethbridge. I stop at the Ford dealer (I know the management and the technicians from the distant past) to say hello and check my unit in. No appointment and no luck. I just wanted the A/C checked, but apparently you now need a complete technical inspection on vehicles coming from outside Alberta to be registered and insured there. OOPs (Out-of-province) inspections ($ 200) can be done, but not before Wednesday next week (short on staff). Same for repairs to the A/C. I get referred for the A/C service to another shop, then to yet another one. Everythings full - Alberta is booming. So it's back to my pals at Ford, here I can pick the mechanic, leave him keys to drive the MH to storage once done. I pay for the OOP in advance and leave my Credit Card number for whatever else comes up. I would NOT have done this at another garage, but I can trust these people as I have known them for close to 30 years. Workorder is signed, I will return the MH on Sunday just before I leave for Germany again. My quest for insurance begins. My brother's buddy refers me to his agency. I get my OOP application there and get hooked up with one of the agents. Turns out, we worked at the same place about 20 years back. I could hardly remember him, his recollection was better than mine, and perhaps not as fond. Regardless, he did not see too many options for my insurance, since I have not had a car insured in the last 5 years and my German driving record was moot. In addition, insurance companies will not cover an RV, unless you have a "normal" car insured with them. So I'd need to buy a  $ 200 jealopy, insure it for $ 900 and get the MH insurance for $ 350. Or go to the "residual" market and have the MH insured to the tune of $ 2,500 + depending on coverage. I thought the Germans were nuts but this was getting ridiculous. He promised to call me with details by 17:00 and never did  :mad:.

April 28th:
I visit with friends, buy some basic tools to keep in the MH for emergencies and do some souvenir shopping for the family. A lax day.

April 29th:
I drop the unit off at the Ford dealer and my brother picks me up to drive me to Calgary airport (car rental). It's now 12:30 and my plane does not leave until 18:30 the next day. Calculate 3 hours lead time for check in, and I'll need the car for about 27 hours. I rented from Budget at my arrival - hence it was my first choice. "No, fullsize cars are no longer $ 30 but $ 59.95 per day, we have SUVs on special at $ 49.95." Oops. "Late return? You pay an additional day." So, this long time Budget customer grabbed his credit card and driver's license from the young man's fingers and left the area wordless but highly irritated  :mad:. Avis - no cars. Hertz - no cars. Meet the very empty counter at Enterprise rent-a-car. A nice young lady jumps up to meet me. "Got any cars?". "Yep. $ 39.95 or $ 20 if you're willing to take a pick-up". A pick-up for $ 20? Thoughts of a rusted late 70s Chev Scottsdale with a missing tailgate came flashing through my mind. "It's a twin cabin optioned out Dodge Dakota 4WD. Red or silver?" Late fees? "By the hour, sir. But with Calgary traffic - we're flexible." Sold. I was so excited, I went by the budget counter waving the contract shouting "Twenty bucks at Enterprise!"  ;D  ;D  ;D. Drove out to a friend's place and spent the Sunday there.

April 30th:
Breakfast and a quick check with some Calgary insurance companies. One is on the way - hey, let's stop there! Again, same story - they'll call back. But at least this one and the other phoned companies have some advice: Sell the unit to your niece for a buck and have her insure and license the thing. You don't even have to be listed under her policy but you can drive it. Naturally, if you cause a claim, her premium goes up, but this is the cheapest route. Go figure - you want to do it right and can't. Use the workaround and everything is cool  ???. We'll see. Phone a company in Lethbridge with my bunk-bed problem. They'll make up a folding matress for about $ 350-400 but need about 5 weeks leadtime.
I do some more shopping and sightseeing in Cowtown and finally head for the airport. Car return. No problem and no additional charges. They have my business from now on. Call back from the insurance companies in Lethbridge and Calgary? None  :mad:. I switch off the cell phone at the gate. Mission accomplished. No luck with emergency exit seating this time. Welcome to the 9.5 hour phone booth  :'(.

Conclusions:
Buying a MH from overseas has it's very unique challenges. Time restraints, mobility restraints. You cannot check back a couple of weeks later to see if it's cheaper now, you don't have lotsa time to inspect to the nitty-gritty. I got lucky. The OOP turns out o.k., it just needs a rear tire (seperated belt, that's also where the vibration came from) and a marker bulb. A/C pending but promising (conversion needed, but compressor and accessories probably o.k.). I have a valid Alberta driver's licence, an address, local phone number and bank account. Yet, I cannot get insurance at a fair price. Without those prerequisites, I would not be able to get any insurance at any price. Would I do this again? Probably. Was it worth it? Definitely. Will my better half deal with the flowers on the wallpaper? We'll see but it looks promising  ;). The flights for July are booked and everyone looks forward to the first trip in the MH.

If you have not fallen asleep or become bored out of your minds by now, there's even pics to the unit here: http://ca.pg.photos.yahoo.com/ph/tismirror/album?.dir=/1b62scd&.src=ph&.tok=phf3PuGB87W4kkZu

Cheers,

Volker

[edit]To make link live.[/edit]
 

KodiakRV

Well-known member
Joined
Aug 19, 2006
Posts
1,820
Location
Florida
Thanks for the saga.  When do you get back to use it?

One thought -- did you check the date code on the tires?  If they are over 6 years old, you should replace them...
 

ArdraF

Well-known member
Joined
Feb 12, 2006
Posts
10,681
Volker,

An enlightening experience I'd say.  Congratulations on your purchase.  Hope you have many enjoyable trips in it.

ArdraF
 

yomin66

Member
Joined
Feb 6, 2007
Posts
9
KodiakRV said:
Thanks for the saga.  When do you get back to use it?

One thought -- did you check the date code on the tires?  If they are over 6 years old, you should replace them...

Well, July 13th ( a Friday!  :eek:) is our departure date and we have close to three weeks for the family's aquaintance with the appartement on 6 wheels.

The tires have DOT markings dated 2004, there is still lots of meat left and the ride is satisfactory.

We're all excited about the trip!  :)

Cheers from Bochum, Germany,

Volker
 
Top Bottom