Short Motorhome Update:

Well, during the systems checks, there was an issue found with the furnace in our Country Coach. It had air in the diesel line. To fix it, they had to drop the fuel tank which, if I remember correctly was about 3/4 full putting it at about 75 gallons or so. Then there was an issue with some coil in the heater so they have ordered a new part for that. Today they say we will have it tomorrow, but we have heard that a few times now.
On one hand, it makes me feel good that they are being thorough. On the other hand, it concerns me that it has been almost 3 weeks since we bought it and it has been in the shop the whole time.
On a side note, our weekend plans fell through so we don’t have to have the motorhome as soon as we anticipated.
We went crazy buying all the weird necessities for the motorhome this week. Things like drinking water hose, fuses, water pressure regulator, 50a-30a power adapter, etc… So since we don’t have the coach yet, we just have a huge pile of stuff for it in the kitchen and foyer. Not excited at all are we? Alas, the adventures have yet to begin.
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Fixing up the Motorhome

So we bought the coach 2 weeks ago. We still have not taken possession of it. I don’t know if it is common practice in the world of motorhome purchasing, but after we bought our coach, they wanted a week to go through it, do a systems check, clean it up, do the emissions and safety stuff. We also had them add an awning during this time.

As it turns out, it took a little over a week for the awning to arrive. Also, we had made a short list of things that needed looked at like locks on storage doors, and the back-up camera. Well, during the systems check the hydraulic motor (I assume the electric motor that drives the hydraulic pump) went out and they needed to replace it. I am glad it happened on their dime, not ours, but it delayed getting to take our coach home.

The wife was itching to work on it, so the first weekend after we bought it we went down and pulled 3 panels out of the bedroom area. They were this terrible mauve color. One of the things showing its age in there. So we threw them in the truck, took them home, and got to work.

Here is what the panels looked like stock:

Before-1

Factory panes

One panel was the headboard for the bed. The other 2 were on the walls. We went down to the local fabric shop and found enough material to do the headboard and maybe some throw pillows out of the brownish grey faux leather. But there was not enough to do all 3 panels. We were unable to find anything we liked that complimented the brownish grey so we went home to see what we had in storage. Luckily, the wife had some leftover material from a previous project that looked great. Catch is, it has stripes. And stripes are pretty critical for alignment. But I think we did OK:

After-1

Factory panes

Those studs on the leather piece are a brushed stainless decorative nail. That really will no go with anything in the coach just yet. But some day, all that brass will be changed or covered.

BTW, tomorrow is the day we are supposed to finally go pick up our new to us Country Coach. So maybe I will be able to get some decent pictures of it.

RV Adventures Volume 2, Narrowing Down The Search:

Last time I discussed where we were at prior to choosing an RV. And some of the priorities we had for said RV. In this installment, I will discuss our budget and experiences shopping around and maybe even some lessons learned through that process.

Budget: Our budget actually changed several times during our shopping. At first it was dependent upon the age of the vehicle. Then it came down to whether or not we were going to finance it. Then we finally settled on a monthly budget. I of course had some input on the budget, but really it was mostly on the wife. She recently paid off some of her vehicles which put her in a position of being able to afford to have some fun. So when we first started looking, I asked her how we planned to pay for it. Her response was “I’ll pay for it; you pay for the fuel and insurance.” OK, sounds great to me. But that is why the budget fell mostly to her. And in the end, what we finally decided on was $350 per month, plus or minus a bit.

It turns out, that the price of the vehicle will determine how much and for how long you can finance. The older it is, the shorter you can finance easily. At the same time, once you go over $25,000 purchase price, the length of the loan increases. Also, as the length of the loan increases, so does the interest rate. And, once you get to a certain point, which honestly did not seem to be a consistent number, you can go with a balloon payment which I hear used to be a popular option on houses. Basically, your payment is sized for a 12 year loan, but you only pay on it for 7 years then have a 5 year balloon you have to pay at the end. And again, depending on age, price, quality, or number of birds in the air, that balloon loan type can be 10 years, 15 years, 20 years, or others I’m sure.

As I mentioned in the previous post, we eliminated the class B motorhomes from the very beginning. They were too small, not enough power to tow, and insanely expensive. At the same time, we eliminated diesel class C motorhomes from our search since those appear to all be based on semi-truck chassis and even when 10 years old, they are still bringing in north of six figures. And not too far into our search, I mostly eliminated any class A motorhome with gas engines unless they had the 8.1L GM engine, as that thing seemed to be the best for power and reliability. And if we got a motorhome, it would need to tow the racecar.

Pretty much from the beginning, we also eliminated trailers. We had looked at some before, but without the ability to tow the car, they just are not what we wanted. Therefore, that leaves us with class A diesel, a narrow allowance of class A gas, and class C gas motorhomes. Given our decided on budget of $350 per month, that still left us with a wide array of price ranges to consider given the variety of finance options available to us. I figured setting a budget would help us narrow our search. It did not. We did have a mental threshold we did not want to exceed, even if we could get it and stay in budget, just because the large numbers involved, knowing you have that much debt can make you nervous. So, we tried to be as frugal as we could as this was something we would have in the family for years to come.

We started out by looking at a class C rental that they fix a bit and sell. These are newer units with extremely high mileage. The ones we saw were 2011’s with 130,000+ miles on them. I balked at the 130,000 miles on a gas engine, but the interiors on these looked great for the mileage they have endured. With the V-10 engine on the Ford E-450 chassis, they are rated to tow 3,500 lbs. which is barely enough for our car, but may be sufficient if we decide to go that way. But a 130,000 mile transmission concerns me when towing. They are available in 23’ – 29’ and go for about $30,000. People were trying to sell these same things that were 5 years older for the same and more money. So on the plus side, if we go this route, we likely would not lose a ton of money provided the drivetrain didn’t bleed us dry keeping it going. The smaller versions of these were on the E-350 chassis with the V8 and are only rated to tow 2,500 lbs. That eliminated all E-350 chassis class C motorhomes from our shopping list. Great, we have at least made some progress.

Next we looked at older class C motorhomes that we figured we could pay cash for and not worry about financing. This obviously put us well below our previous budget. It also provided some disgusting vehicles to choose from. My wife likes a project. And I like her to have a project. But some of these old ones are really gross and I don’t want to breathe the air they contain. And due to the disgusting factor, old and cheap was thereafter eliminated from the search, more progress.

That brings us to the discussion about dealers. There are big chains, that used to be privately owned and now they appear to all be part of the Camping World conglomerate. And there are small private dealers of varying levels of virtue. We went to one small dealer that was so tightly packed in to their small lot that it would take an hour of maneuvering to test drive any of their vehicles, the grounds reeked of cigarette smoke, and their knowledge of the motorhomes seemed very limited. We went to one small dealer that we had to drive an hour to go see, online their inventory seemed vast. Once we got there we found out nothing they list online is actually available for sale, even things they relisted just minutes after leaving their lot. Very dishonest place there in American Fork, which claims to be the biggest used motorhome dealer in the state yet didn’t have a single one for us to see unless we were in the market for a $250,000 land yacht. We went to a couple of the big dealers which had amazing machines if you are looking for new, but their used selection was somewhat limited. One lesson learned there though, is never pay sticker. While shopping for a used car you figure offering $2,000 below asking is an OK starting point, maybe $4,000. Without even trying to negotiate at the big dealers they were dropping the price $12,000, $15,000. And that’s before we said we were even interested in the product. Unfortunately, the ones they had, even after dropping almost $20,000 off the price were just too much for us.

Early on in our search we looked at a diesel pusher at a small dealer that was just under 36’, gets good mileage, was on a Spartan air chassis, and appeared to fit our needs. It was one of the first ones we looked at so we dismissed it knowing we wanted to shop around. Well, everything we saw after that seemed to be worse in several ways. So after shopping around for a few weeks, we went back and drove it. What a disappointment. It had the 5.9L Cummins. The same one Dodge trucks have. It had an Allison transmission that was only 5 speeds and is about the smallest they offer in motorhomes. And it just wasn’t enough for that big motorhome. It felt like I had to be full throttle all the time just to maintain the speed limit. The waiting continues, but at least we know now that we don’t want a diesel pusher with that small of an engine. I think it was rated at just 260 HP and 500 lb-ft torque. A little more progress made.

Throughout this process I had been consulting with my dad as he has had experience in the diesel industry and had a big gas motorhome at one point and countless trailers in one form or another. After a little more waiting a new listing showed up at the place that had that first one we looked at. This time a 36 foot Country Coach Magna. I did some checking and it sounded like Country Coach made some good stuff. I called up my dad to see what he thought and he seemed surprised that I could find one for the price we were looking at. He basically made it sound like Country Coach is the best of the best. And this bad boy has the 330 HP Detroit Diesel Series 40e engine (this is a re-branded Navistar DT-466) with 1050 lb-ft torque in it with a 6 speed Allison transmission designed to handle at least 1600 lb-ft of torque. This thing is a beast, I must see it. It was a little more money than the other diesel pusher we drove and it was a couple years older, but appeared to be a whole different class of coach. Yes, at this stage we will pretend we are elite and dealing with a coach instead of a motorhome even though the terms are interchangeable and those that says they aren’t are typically douchebags with no friends. Looking online at the same model and year, this one was priced on the very low end of what was available.

So we go drive it. It is very nice. As anticipated, it was in a whole different category. It drove and rode like a quiet bus rather than a motorhome. And exceeding the speed limit was not a problem even given the coach’s nearly 30,000 lb weight empty. For reference the previous diesel pusher we drove weighed about 10,000 lbs less. That is significant. This thing is a tank. It has one big slide out. And even though it’s a 1998, the outside does not look as dated as many of the mid 2000’s we looked at. The interior has the typical ‘80’s and ‘90’s brass fixtures. That needs to go. It has laminate wood flooring that is somewhat weathered combined with marble tile. Yes, you read that right, freaking marble tile in a motorhome. Excuse me, a coach, tehehe. It has a ton of storage. It’s rated to tow 10,000 lbs. It has a huge generator, at least it is supposed to, but we were unable to inspect that at first. It has 50-amp power, two TV’s, two couches that both make into beds, snazzy rope lighting around the windows (the wife is stoked about this feature), a good size bathroom, etc. It’s great. Then we measure it. It is not 36’ long. It is 40’. Great, that won’t fit in our back yard. Now what do we do? And 40’? Do we really want something that big? I know this is a mental block, as it actually felt smaller driving it than the 35’-8” pusher we tried out earlier. The problem is we already fell in love with it. Screw it. The fence can be moved or we can find somewhere else to put it. So we are the proud new owners of a 1998 Country Coach Magna 40’ with slide out. It has just enough things that need updating to keep the wife busy and happy and just enough pimp factor to satisfy me. Unfortunately we will be relegated to mostly camping at private campgrounds. The downside being they usually cost a little more. The upside being they usually have full hookups, more space, and more availability. And the sheer vastness of this beast will possibly keep us out of a few national forests, but at least we know that going in.

And without further adieu, here she is:

Country Coach

Terrible cell phone picture of our Country Coach

To be continued…

 

Adventures With Our New To Us RV:

First of all, much has happened lately, but nothing I felt like writing about on the blog. However, I do miss writing on here so I decided to start a new series on the blog focused on our experience with buying a new RV. I have never had an RV prior to this. Of course family members have, but that of course is not the same. The wife had an old trailer she did some work on to fix it up. But overall we are fairly new to this.

We were looking for something used due to not only the initial cost seeming astronomical to us, but also because the value of new RV’s seems to drop very quickly and we were not willing to take the loss that quickly on our first RV experience. Besides that we had a fairly low monthly allowance we were giving ourselves to play with this new RV. I will cover that in more detail in later installments.

For this first installment, I will cover where we were prior to purchasing an RV which will also lead to the thought behind why we wanted an RV. Also, what types of RV we were considering. I will probably cover what we decided on in the following post as this has grown to be a bit longer post than anticipated.

The wife and I are both from families that enjoyed going camping when we were young. As adults, we have our kids that we want to provide those same experiences for. We also have a couple big dogs, as seen previously on this blog. We had a small SUV (Honda Pilot) that we use to take the family around town in and also on camping trips. As you can imagine a Pilot is fairly small for 6 people and 2 Great Danes. At first we took the kids camping with just a basket in our receiver hitch that carried coolers and the tents and other supplies. That worked out OK, but it really limited how much stuff we could take. No guns, or fishing poles, or outdoor games would really fit. And even with just that setup, the rear suspension on the Honda was reaching its limit.

So we bought a trailer. Not a camping trailer mind you, but a cargo trailer. The thought behind this was I had a kart that I was racing and if we got a trailer I could stop paying for a garage at the racetrack and have the added bonus of being able to carry more stuff when we go camping and also be able to use it as a tent if weather got bad. It’s an 8’ x 12’ with the tall ceiling so that it has more head room and the longer ramp for the kart. I think we took it camping just a couple times. It was handy for the racetrack, but once I got out of karting to autocross with my wife, it became obsolete. For camping, it was nice being able to haul more stuff. And it was not bad for finding a spot to park as it is fairly short. But we had a couple catastrophic incidents with the dogs that kind of turned us off of camping in a tent. Packing up a tent full a Great Dane diarrhea is not a lot of fun. And without a hose, cleaning it out before hand is not an easy task. So that, combined with our new hobby of racing the wife’s car, my resurrection of wanting to train with guns more, and no longer racing a kart, the cargo trailer was relegated to being our storage unit where we store the saw, seasonal yard equipment, and various other seldom used items to save room in our garage.

Later, we upgraded to a larger SUV that was capable of towing 9,000 lbs rather than the 3,500 the Honda was rated to tow. It not only gave us more room, but got almost the same mileage, and should be able to tow much more easily. The Honda showed signs of that trailer being a bit too much for it when we were moving into our new house across town. The transmission started acting odd, and we never exceeded what it is rated to tow, so it should not have been acting up. But that told us, we should get something bigger which might allow for us to get a camping trailer someday. But the camping trailer was pretty low on the priority list at the time; we really just wanted something bigger and stronger than the Honda.

That leads us to where we are today. We are now proud new RV owners. So what did we decide we needed an RV for? Number one was taking kids with us to races and having a place for them to stay cool and safe and being forced to participate a bit more than they do now. Yes, forced, because somehow we managed to have kids that have no interest in cars or racing. Not that we force them out of their box often, but those kindles and laptops are becoming a problem in my mind. Number two was being able to take the kids on vacation. Every year my kids go over 500 miles away to see their mom for the summer and we could make a vacation of it. Also, there are many other places we would like the kids to see. I think this may have been kicked into gear by our trip to Alaska this summer which made us realize again, how little of this amazing country our kids have seen. And number three was my gun training. When I do these events, the wife either stays home with the kids or they stay at relatives’ houses while I am out playing. Having an RV would allow for the family to be close by, and allow us to do a bit more together in my downtime. It may even allow the wife to have some fun shooting with me. And again, if the kids had any interest in it they could as well.

So we have an SUV capable of towing a reasonable amount. But fifth wheels are out since it is not a truck. That leaves us with a bumper tow trailer, or a class A, B, or C motorhome. Class B motorhomes are out because they cost more than class C and sleep fewer people. That left our choices to trailer, A, or C.

Advantages of a trailer: we would be able to drive our truck into town while on vacation. It would sleep enough for a reasonable price. Also, at camp sites we could disconnect and park the truck next to the trailer if necessary for shorter spots. The downsides are: we could not tow the car to races, so either me or the wife would be in a different vehicle. The water and propane capacities are really limited on bumper tows, as is storage space. Mileage on the truck would be fairly low while towing. Camping is not highest on the priority list, racing is. So that hurts the trailer.

Advantages for the class C motorhome: The whole family could travel together. They are short enough to fit in most camp sites if you get a shorter one. If we buy a high mileage one you can get them for a reasonable price. Most of them can tow 3,500 lbs which is more than the car weighs. And they have decent storage. They also have a ton of sleeping space due to the bed above the driver’s seat. Disadvantages being: To be affordable, they have to either be old or high mileage. They get about the same mileage as the SUV does towing. They have the same small water and propane capacity as the trailers. Even though they have a lot of sleeping space, the overall space is limited. And when camping, you have to break camp to drive into town or go do anything unless you towed a vehicle along. This is a disadvantage for all class of motorhomes.

Advantages of the Class A motorhome: The whole family can travel together. Most can tow the same as a class C, but if you go a diesel pusher they can town even more. They have even more storage than the Class C. They can have a ton of water and propane capacity in them. When configured right, they can sleep as much or more than the class C, but also have more room while traveling. Diesel pushers get reasonable mileage, gas ones do not. They can be had in a huge variety of lengths from 24’ all the way to 45’. Disadvantages being: like the class C, to be affordable they are either old or high mileage. If you get a big one, it won’t fit in most public camp sites. Our back yard is only 38’-2” deep, and the highly desirable diesel pushers are usually too long to fit in that space.

Of course this did not cover all advantages and disadvantages of each type, but it covers what was high on our priority list. We have already made our decision and our purchase, so we are not looking for advice on the choice of vehicle, this series is just about our experiences and some insight into our thought processes that help produce said experiences. Right or wrong, we are in it for the long haul, and hope that our family has some fun and educational experiences because of it. I am sure it will be a huge learning experience for me. And I hope that we did not bite off more than we can chew. The wife is happy to have a project to fix up and I am happy to have something else to write about in detail on here.