RV SHOPPING – FINDING THE RIGHT RV
BRAND REPUTATION & CONSTRUCTION QUALITY
So many helpful bloggers have touched on this subject that another post on the topic seems like overkill. On the other hand, perspective is everything. What is important to one person may not coincide with items critical in your decision. With that thought in mind, here is my two cents on the topic. My online research was helpful to give me a general idea of what I wanted, but it wasn’t until I stepped onto a dealer lot for the first time that my journey truly began.
You have to decide what’s important to you. What are your “must haves”? Once you have a short (and I do mean short) list of “must haves”, do some RV shopping. I am amazed at the lack of originality of the designs. The bathroom countertops often have little or no space for placing toiletries. The showers are often tiny or not designed for someone over six feet tall.
For me, the “must have” list is short but daunting. There are a few things that can quickly remove a brand or model from my consideration and some that would send a brand to the top of my list.
BRAND REPUTATION & CONSTRUCTION QUALITY
BATHROOM & SHOWER SIZE
KITCHEN SIZE AND FUNCTIONALITY
Yes, there are other serious considerations as well like solar panels, upgraded batteries, inverters as well as cellular boosting equipment but all of that can be added after your purchase.
This will be a multi-part post.
BRAND REPUTATION & CONSTRUCTION QUALITY
There are so many brands to choose from, it can be a bit overwhelming. There is no substitute for getting out there on the dealer lots and looking at as many RVs as you have the endurance for. This will open your eyes about quality and how it relates to price. The first dealer I went to had an assortment of rv classes available for inspection.
The first one I came to was a pop-up camper that had tent-like extensions on either end. I immediately thought that wasn’t for me but went inside anyway. It was much nicer and roomier than I expected. I can’t even describe the bathroom arrangements on that one if you could even call it that, so I moved on quickly. I am not interested in that level of roughing it.
I looked at some Class A RVs. Tiffin was one of the brands (2015 models as I recall). I really liked the quality for the most part but I was surprised at how much smaller the units looked compared to the pictures I had seen online. The photos you see in marketing ads are taken professionally and are intended to have the most appealing angles, etc. so this was a bit of a shock. Nonetheless, I knew I could be comfortable in the units. It was either a 43 or 45 foot Allegro bus. I like it but it’s too large for me to be comfortable driving and towing a vehicle behind it. A new one is quite expensive.
When looking at quality, inquire about the distance between wall supports. The salesman really should know the product they are trying to sell you, but don’t take their word as gospel. Do your own research. I have only found the Newmar brand to be 16 inches on center or less. That’s the same specs you would expect to see in a house. No other manufacturer I have found in that price point can match it. It certainly may exist, but I haven’t found it. If you know of one, please leave a comment and I will check it out.
If you live in an area of the country where dew patterns are visible, the wall support (stud) placement is visible in the early morning because of the morning dew. It will adhere in the exact spot where the wall support is located. This gives you a good indication of the structural quality.
I looked at some Fleetwood Class A RVs on my first day of RV Shopping. I was astounded at how easy it was to get an interior wall to move with just a little hand pressure. I would have expected a more solid wall at that price point. It was the kind of quality I saw in travel trailer models under $20K. It had some features I liked, but I was so turned off by the walls that I quickly dismissed it from my shopping list for now. It may be great for some folks. It just isn’t what I want. Their newer models are even more beautiful in the pictures online. That’s why you have to go touch them for yourself.
When you evaluate brand names, find out how many RVs they can manufacture on the production line in a single day. Ask yourself if it matters to you how much time and care is put into the construction. Find out why it takes some manufacturers longer than others to create the structure. What are they doing that makes it more durable? The extra time and effort in construction comes at a price. So, what is your intended use? Are you a weekend warrior or a full-time RVer planning to live your life of adventure on the road?
On one sunny Saturday morning, I spent several hours at Camping World where they had an incredible number of RVs of all shapes and sizes. I looked at many travel trailers, fifth wheels and Class C RVs that day. I saw some features I really like in the travel trailers. I really like the outdoor kitchen offered in some models. The living areas in travel trailers and fifth wheels are nice. I like being able to face the television in a comfortable recliner. With my knee, I didn’t like having to climb more stairs after I am inside the RV to go to the bathroom or bedroom. That’s pretty much a deal breaker for the fifth wheel. Most had tiny showers which is also a downside.
It’s rare for me not to find something I like about each unit. That’s what makes the buying decision so difficult. I suggest seeing as many different styles and brands as you can. Often this means going to multiple dealers. Dealers only carry new models of brands they have a relationship with. The dealer nearest you is only authorized to carry certain brands. Look at their website to see which brands they carry. If it’s the same brands you have already looked at, consider looking a little farther from home to find some other brands. If you don’t want to travel to a dealer farther away, perhaps you should re-think your desire to travel.
Months later, I sought out a Newmar dealer in Georgia. Newmar stood head and shoulders above all the manufacturers I had looked at in pictures online and the YouTube video tours. To my surprise, there is only one Newmar dealer in my state. They are located in Lilburn Georgia. The salesman there challenged me to look at the dew patterns. He was the person who explained that concept to me. He showed me many beautiful Newmar coaches (both Gas and Diesel) and this coach line is still by far my favorite so far. If price were no object, I would definitely buy a Newmar. I like the Amish craftsmanship in the cabinets and wood trim throughout their product line. I also love the comfort of the Flexsteel furniture. You have to see and feel it for yourself to appreciate it. Once you get above the Dutch star and into the Luxury Diesels you mostly see laminate and that’s more expensive but the natural wood looks best to me.
This dealer introduced me to the Entegra Coach line. Those are beautiful to look at. The quality appears to be very good. I immediately started to look at some older models for sale online to see how well they have aged. You should do that for any model you are seriously considering. I may review their line in more detail at another time. As for the Newmar dealer in Lilburn, I will say that he knew he wasn’t going to make a sale that day and that my timeline at that time was nearly two years away he still answered every question I had in great detail and offered some valuable food for thought. There was no pressure and it was a very pleasant experience. I wouldn’t hesitate to go back there again. I have had salesmen lose interest in my questions very quickly when they find out I am just looking. Sometimes when you can’t make a sale today, you can still lose one….
When you shop, put some pressure on interior walls. Some give way too much, suggesting the wall supports are too far apart. I have a hard time thinking these will hold up to full time living on the road. I guess the old saying “You get what you pay for” is true to some extent with RVs. There are some quality measures evident in the fit and finish, but with motorhomes a lot of what you pay for isn’t visible. It’s underneath you. The chassis is so crucial to the driving stability and the life expectancy of the coach. If it has good bones, it can last many years, through several internal renovations and the structure will still be strong.
Such coaches come at a premium. I would love to afford a bus built on a Prevost chassis or a Newell coach but it would have to be 15-20 years old for me to be able to consider it from a price standpoint. There’s certainly nothing wrong with that of course, those coaches do have good bones and are usually overbuilt. They will last a lifetime. Sadly for me, the high end coaches tend to be closer to the maximum coach length for their respective year of manufacture. In other words what was the legal length when it was made? The bus chassis was originally designed to be a passenger coach and was made to maximize profit. That’s a downer for me because I am part of what I believe to be a growing demographic that want quality in a smaller footprint. My ideal length would be less than 35 feet. I want to have a towable car of some sort.
While I confess to having some bias towards a Class A motorhomes, I may also consider a Class C. The travel trailer and fifth wheels didn’t appeal to me as much. There are however some features in those I really like. I really like having an outdoor kitchen and the WOW factor of elevated patios, both patio side and rear that you often see on fifth wheel models is really nice.
Once you have your list of potential brands and models narrowed down, check out a website called www.iRV2.com and look at the forums for your brand. The candid conversations there should give you additional perspective. There are many other such sites that you can find online. Find some that appeal to you and get acquainted with the community of RVers. You will find them to be an invaluable resource.