We're now 6 months and 17 days away (thanks for asking!) from officially beginning our retirement journey, and it's beginning to get very, very real. Partly because we are just 2 months and 17 days away from having to order our Tiffin Open Road 36LA to be built (when crunch time really begins), and partially because I have now realized that there is an intricate ballet that I, and others, are now producing, directing, choreographing, and starring in.
Little things, big things and everything in between.
Was speaking with our sales rep at Marlin Ingram the other day on an unrelated matter, and find out that if you're going to do a custom color scheme (which we are), you must officially request it from Tiffin (which we knew), and Tiffin has to send you a rendering of it on paper and electronically and then you have to approve it before things get started (sorta knew that), but that it takes about a month to get everything finalized on custom colors (did NOT know that). Good thing we talked, because if we didn't get the ball rolling on that this month, we'd be behind the 8-ball on something that would have delayed the delivery date for our coach. Here's a photo-shopped look at what our color scheme should look like on a 36LA:
Which fast forwards us to the delivery date. We are set to retire on September 2, 2019. That's our last day of work. Our lease for this apartment ends on or around August 25th. The Open Road models at Tiffin are taking about 14 weeks to order, build and deliver to the dealer, and since you don't just walk onto a lot and pick up your motor home (although some people actually do this, and regret it later), we have to have our order ready and PERFECT for submission to Tiffin by May 1st. And hope that no delays occur in the build or delivery process of more than a week. We'll spend a day and night at the dealer getting acquainted with our new home, then a couple of days nearby in a local RV park to work out any kinks we didn't find at the dealer, and then it's back to Georgia for our last week or so of work.
But how do we get the Mini Cooper back to Georgia? Not like I'm going to be driving our new home around without Barbara sitting next to me, now is it? We'll be dolly towing the Mini across America in retirement, and the tow dolly we'll be using is the American Car Dolly – made here in the good ol' USA. There are many reasons why we will be using their product, but one of them is that they deliver their product to you, and set it up and train you on it's use! This is key for a towing newbie like me. It also means they have to be at the dealer with you when you're picking up the 36LA, or otherwise Barbara will be following me like a little puppy in the Mini as we leave to head back to Georgia. So six weeks before picking up the motor home, we have to order and schedule delivery of the tow dolly for the PRECISE DAY we'll be there.
And hope that all this happens without a hitch.
Did I say hitch? We need to get a drop hitch for the RV that is low enough to ensure that the dolly is level to the ground for towing, and bring that with us to our dealer.
Other need-to-haves that will be packed in that seriously undersized Mini will be an electrical surge guard type product to protect the coach from bad power, water pressure regulator, fresh water hose, a black tank sprayer hose, sewer hose and protective gloves. And that's just for the wet bay and electrical bay. Don't forget a cable and lock for the surge protector. Oh, and the tool bag and emergency kit – just in case. Check, check and check!
In between the ordering date and delivery date is not just sitting back and waiting, either.
We have to head out South Dakota for a few days in early May to establish residency there before the coach is delivered, then schedule 3 or 4 days in Red Bay, Alabama in early to mid-July to take the Tiffin tour so that we can catch a glimpse of our 36LA being built each day (since they no longer allow you to watch your build from the factory floor), and then be back in Red Bay in early August to be able to walk through our completed coach during the final QC process, where we'll be able to catch the (hopefully) few items needed to be fixed before it is sent off to our dealer for delivery. And we won't get any of these dates until the build schedule is set by Tiffin around June 1st. I'm reminded of those early Apollo astronauts who, after traveling a quarter million miles to the moon and another quarter million miles back, had to hit a tiny re-entry window just a few feet wide at a precise speed and angle or they would never see Earth again. I now have an appreciation of what they had to do to make that happen.
I figure our respective employers will be happy to see us leave once we start taking all this time off in such a short timeframe.
And did I mention that we'll be retiring? Barbara will need to apply for Social Security in early May, and I'll need to apply in mid-July for mine.
There are many nice-to-haves that we've been collecting and storing that will be transferred into our new home once we get back to Georgia, and many more we'll be buying before we start traveling in earnest beginning in January of 2020, but since we'll be retired, we can take our time doing some of these things.
All this to say that I'll be developing our own rather lengthy production schedule in the next week or two, in hopes that nothing falls through the cracks or gets missed during this very crucial time in our lives. Stay tuned, because I'll probably share it on this site.
Today was the annual Atlanta Camping and RV show in Jonesboro, just south of the city. Barbara and I have been to this show at least 3 times in the past, and while not one of the better shows to go to (the location and venue have always left a lot to be desired), it's at least been acceptable
Today was a big disappointment.
I mean, it's always fun to walk through lots of RV's just to see what's new, even looking at models or types of RV's we aren't interested in getting - nothing wrong with travel trailers or 5th wheels, but they're just not what we need for full-timing beginning in 7 months and 8 days (thanks for asking!). It's also a lot of fun following our grandson Jace as he runs from one to the other, saying' "I want to go in THIS one"! Truth be told, he wants to go in EVERY ONE, but that's another story . . .
What struck us this year was a couple of things. First, the quality of vendor booths, while never really focused on all things RV, was even lower this year. I mean, how many home improvement companies truly think they're going to get any significant business from people looking at RV's? Gutter replacement, siding contractors, bathroom refinishing - you name it. OK, I guess that maybe if someone was going to sell their house before going on the road, MAYBE they might need one of these companies to get their home ready to sell, but that's a real outside shot. And knife sets? Most people are looking to GET RID of things before going RVing, not add more stuff. I'll bet fully half the vendors there would be better served at a home show, not an RV show.
Then there's the RV dealers themselves. It just seemed as if they really didn't give a good damn what their products looked like. Only one dealer, NIRVC, took the time to present their high-end class-A diesel motorhomes as "dressed". Placemats on the table. Bowl of fake fruit or a plate with fake food on it; bedspread and pillows neatly arranged on the bed.
It's as if none of these dealers ever studied or practiced marketing to consumers in their life!
Look, I don't care what your "show special" price is (and most prices were typically not that special), if the motorhome lists for $150k or higher, dress it up! No bedspreads on most models, no presentation in the living or dining areas, doors that wouldn't close properly, one stove cover that wouldn't lay flush with the counter top; the list goes on and on. How much would it cost a dealer to get a couple of dozen fake bowls of fruit for the kitchen counters? Place settings for the kitchen tables? All these higher end units ship with pillows and bedspreads - where did they all go?
And there's no shortage of worker bees at these shows, so how about sending them through each high-end coach every hour or so to make sure someone hasn't messed up a sliding door because they thought it pulled opened like a regular door (ouch!), or to make sure that bathroom door closed without problems? Isn't the goal to sell one of these things to an interested buyer? And maybe these dealers should hire people who actually KNOW something about the products they sell. We asked the guy who was responsible for setting up the display at Campers Inn where two particular model Tiffins were supposed to be shown, and he didn't even know that they never sent them to the show!
So besides the above, why was this show so disappointing, when it was at least acceptable to us in the past? Two words:
"Hershey" and "Tampa".
Those two supershows have set the bar so high for us that the others just pale in comparison. Bigger dealers, more manufacturer participation, and more competition means folks need to do more to stand out against their competitors, and it shows. There's also a glut of third-party providers of actual RV-based accessories at Hershey and Tampa. Today we saw a lot of "trinkets and trash" kind of vendors in addition to the ones mentioned above, but not a single, solitary RV accessory provider at this show. If I've learned one thing over the past 3 years of research, the right accessory can make or break that $200k-$500k purchase once you get on the road, and this show either ignores them, or the spots are taken up with these other non-RV vendors and no more are available.
But yeah, we've been spoiled by the best. Thanks a pant-load, Hershey and Tampa!
OK, so just last month I proudly announced that "there's pretty much nothing left we must do" before ordering our future Tiffin Open Road 36LA motor home.
The one thing I've learned in life, and in researching RV-ing, is that you are never actually done learning or doing. And I should have known better making that announcement when it comes to Tiffin and their ability to produce game-changing upgrades and features into their product line. Now, understand, the 36LA model we've got our hearts set on has been out since 2012, and every year Tiffin finds new ways to enhance that model, even when you think there's nothing more they can do with it. Even in the 3 years we've been looking closely at it, Tiffin has managed to add significant improvements to the 36LA; from a slide out pantry, to slide out house batteries, to a stackable washer / dryer combo, not to mention a really cool kitchen window and a new Spyder control panel. We thought that there was literally nothing else they could do to make that unit better.
Boy, were we wrong, and this one is truly a game-changer in the gas chassis RV world.
Enter the Liquidspring suspension modification. Beginning January 1, 2019, Tiffin will be offering this rear suspension upgrade to it's entire gas line of coaches as an orderable option to be installed BEFORE Tiffin gets to add the motor home components onto the chassis. Today, it is a after market modification taking a few days of removing existing pieces of the rear end and installing a whole new replacement suspension that smooths the ride out considerably - almost to the point of having an air-ride diesel motor home. Liquidspring is also almost ready to release their front-end suspension mod as well, and it is expected that Tiffin will offer this too as an option, just in time for our 36LA to be ordered and built.
What this in essence does is take a very rigid and unforgiving truck chassis suspension and turn it into one that is much more responsive, and able to absorb the problems our bad roads throw at us. There will still be the engine up front and under our feet that will be louder than a rear-engine diesel, but the ride will be nearly as smooth, and likely better responsive in porpoising and side-to-side sway as that diesel coach.
It puts Tiffin ahead of all other major manufacturers of gas products, and for us, it allows us to finance the options over the life of our loan, rather than pay for them outright; making them much more affordable and possible. So while I knew a bit about Liquidspring beforehand, and thought it would be a very nice modification for us considering we'll be full-timing and on the road much more often than the average gasser owner, it also seemed a bit too expensive to add and might not have been done until some years down the road.
Now, we might be driving a game-changer down the road next September. Who knows?
The learning never stops. And that's a good thing.
So as I write this, we are officially 10 months and 19 days away from retiring to full-time (or any time for that matter) RV living. And except for feverishly trying to sock away money for the down payment, there's pretty much nothing left we must do.
Don't get me wrong; there's plenty of things we CAN do, but there's not a lot left we HAVE to do to start this journey on the right foot. We can (and likely will) head on over to some local RV dealers to take a couple of final measurements on certain things, and to drool once more at the prospect of living in one of these Class A RVs. Frustrates the dealers, I know, because we tell them up front we're not there to buy that day, but I hate to lead these people on in thinking they're getting our business that day. I still owe a couple of vendors a call or two directly to finalize delivery or install dates for next fall, but those calls can come in about 6 months or so.
And, of course, there's the all important ordering date 7 months and 23 days away.
But now that virtually everything is answered and researched, I was reflecting on all the time, effort and travel Barbara and I have made since that day in April of 2016 when Barbara asked me if I wanted to go to an RV show that weekend. And it's been a LOT!
Major RV shows - 3
This is where the glamorous part of RV living comes from - the shiny, new RV's all lined up in neat and tidy rows, virtually calling to you to take them out on the road. Even the front ends of these behemoths are designed to look like a smiling faces with their headlights and grillwork, just looking at you and saying, "Buy me! Buy me!". It's the sizzle, but not the steak. Hershey 2017 and 2018 were both eyeopeners and better shows overall, but I'll always remember Tampa 2018 as the show that convinced me I could do this journey by allowing me to nail a test drive of a virtual twin in size and handling to our future 36LA.
Local RV shows - 6
From the first manufacturer show at the Georgia World Congress Center where we first learned the difference between Class A's, B's, C's, fifth wheels, travel trailers and pop-ups, to dealer shows pretty much twice a year, these were where we compared and contrasted styles and quality of the different RVs. Which ones deserved a second look, and which ones to stay away from; some because they were just poorly made, and others because they just didn't fit our requirements for size and amenities.
Visits to RV dealers - 9
Barbara and I have become RV voyeurs - we admit it. Multiple visits to Camping World (we'll never, ever buy anything from them), Campers Inn, NIRVC, RV World, Lazy Days and Marlin Ingram RV. And while we're likely to order our 36LA from Marlin Ingram RV in Montgomery, AL, we still drop into the others from time to time. The Ingram folks are known for doing business the old fashioned way, and everything we've seen from them in a couple of visits looks as if they've earned that reputation - and our business.
Trips to Red Bay, Alabama - 1
Once we were about 90% settled on Tiffin to be the manufacturer of our future RV, we took advantage of their open nature and took their factory tour. Talk about opening the kimono! They show you everything from the woodworking shop to the fiberglass cutting area to the assembly line where multiple coaches were being built - Tiffin shows you everything. Then they leave you alone to walk into any completed coaches waiting for final inspection.
Hours of internet research - countless
From iRV2, where you can learn about all things RV-ing, to TRVN where you have the expert advice from real and long-time Tiffin owners who have gone through it all, to each and every third-party provider site, to dozens of blogs written and videoed by fellow RV-ers like 'Less Junk, More Journey' and 'RV Love', the amount of information available to people like us who have never done this before is virtually limitless. In short, there's no excuse to not do the research needed to begin a life on the road.
So now we enter the lull before the storm that truly begins in June of 2019, when we establish residency in South Dakota and order our Tiffin Allegro Open Road 36LA on the way back to Georgia. Then the longest 14 weeks of our lives begins as we wait for our home on wheels to be built.
This is not to say that there won't be updates along the way. Let's face it; I have no trouble writing about the beginning of this journey. Stay tuned.
Let's face it; sitting in an RV for 5-6 hours in a given day isn't conducive to good health. Muscles aren't worked, and the only cardio you might get is driving down a series of 7 degree mountain switchbacks in your Class A RV dragging a toad.
But once you get to your campsite, it's time to stretch those muscles and see the world around you. National Parks offer lots of ways to do that, with hiking trails and attractions that may require stairs or steps. Campgrounds also offer ways to keep in shape. Some have full-fledged fitness centers, or RVers can simply take a stroll around the campground, which is a great way to say "Hi" to your new neighbors, and maybe meet some new friends. Riding a bike is also great exercise in and out of campgrounds, but bikes can be a problem when it comes to storage in an RV, where space is at a premium.
Barbara and I have been researching bikes for about the last year or so, mainly to improve our overall fitness as we get older, but also looking at what would work for us traveling full-time in our future Open Road 36LA motor home. There are a few ways to travel with bikes; bike racks can be attached to a two-way trailer hitch right above the attachment for your toad (towed vehicle). With road conditions being what they are today, and weather issues along the way, you have to find a good, sturdy bike rack and a quality cover to keep them clean and safe. Some folks will also install a bike rack on the roof of their toad, which would be an impossibility for us with our Mini Cooper convertible. Finally, others will opt to simply attach their bikes to the ladder used for roof access on the motor home. Not only does it look bad, but the jarring the rear end takes on some highways can weaken the attachment of the ladder to the RV, potentially creating an accident on the road, or when trying to perform some simple maintenance on the roof.
Enter the folding bike.
Now, there are lots of folding bikes on the market today, and they have their benefits and drawbacks. Many you will find are what are called "campground bikes", which have smaller wheels and limited speeds, since they are designed for riding on primarily level surfaces. Some of these style bikes are being modified to also have battery power, which extends their range and uses, but these come with a weight cost as batteries are heavy. And weight is a big safety concern for motor homes. One recently reviewed by a friend of ours came in at over 40 lbs!
We opted to look for a more traditional bike that could fold down relatively small; something with lots of gears for riding on roads and trails, but small enough to pack into the back seat of the Mini if we wanted to take them somewhere, because there is NO room in the boot (Mini refuses to call a trunk a trunk) to throw a bike in the Mini. But you CAN put things in the back seat.
The only choice for us was a product from Montague, specifically, the Montague Urban. It's a full sized bike with 21 speeds, slightly wider tires to handle some off-road riding, but narrow and smooth enough to be comfortable on the road. Weighs only 25 lbs. It also has an innovative "rack stand", a storage rack which releases and rotates underneath the back tire to keep your bike upright without a kickstand. And the best thing is that it folds into something half it's size, and just 12" deep, so it can fit inside one of the basement compartments going down the road where it is secure from those who might wish to relieve us of our cycling burden. It also has a convenient carrying bag which will protect the interior of the Mini from grease and gouges when we want to take them places outside of where we're staying.
I had forgotten how much fun riding a bike can be. The Montague Urban reminded me of it. Below are pictures of the bike open, closed and all bagged up.
For more information on the Urban, and the rest of the innovative line of Montague bikes, click here.
Many of you who know me, know that I am counting down the days to retirement. I'm so focused on things related to RV living, information, and retirement finances that I have a countdown app on my iPhone. Most people would have the one significant date they're keeping track of on the app; me - I have two dates. The furthest one out is, of course, the date of Barbara's and my last day of work, and first day of retirement living (September 2, 2019). The closest one is another significant date: the day we order our 2020 Tiffin Open Road 36LA to be built. I'm noting this occasion because we're just under 1 year (11 months and 23 days - thanks for asking!) away from that life-altering event.
You see, it takes about 14 weeks from the day to get your Tiffin ordered, confirmed, scheduled, built and delivered to your dealership, so you've got to plan ahead. We could always take the chance that another 36LA might be available on a lot somewhere on September 3rd of 2019, but since we're going to be full-timing, we want ours a bit customized in color and configuration, so ordering is the way to go.
A year away from a pretty big event. For me it's exciting and pretty cool, but it's also a bit daunting.
The order date also triggers another task to easier full-time RV-ing, which is establishing a legal residence in a state which is both retiree and RV friendly, so that no taxes have to be overpaid and that no state gets revenue it doesn't deserve.
We've researched three different states that are full-time RV friendly; Texas, Florida, and South Dakota. Many of you reading this are saying "South Dakota?!?!?!" Yeah, South Dakota. And they're actually our state of choice. All three states have no income taxes; key for retirement, but especially for residents who don't actually reside in the state. Registration fees for vehicles (and we'll have one big, honkin' vehicle) are a fraction of many other states, and they have little or no inspection requirements that might drag you back at a certain place and time each year.
We're choosing South Dakota, mainly because they have the smallest infrastructure to support, which means they'll be less likely to pass legislation to grab more of our money. So right before swinging by our dealership to order our Tiffin, Barbara and I will be motoring north and westward to the great state of South Dakota to become residents. Takes a day. Stay a night, bring your receipt for your hotel to one of the many mailbox providers in-state to fill out the paperwork, bring those to the local DMV, and get your license and registration.
But this week was another significant date. We signed the last lease we'll ever sign on the apartment we're living in.
Finally, while Barbara and I were discussing our upcoming trip to Massachusetts this coming June, we were looking ahead to the date for this year's Hershey RV show, as this will be the date we'll use to plan our September trip up north, just as we did last year. It dawned on us that we'll be less than a year away from full-time RV-ing retirement while we're perusing new coaches in Hershey this year.
One one hand, it seems as if this whole thing is taking forever, but on the other hand it seems like it is careening towards us like an out of control freight train. This is getting very exciting . . .
Seems odd that someone so focused on not only getting a Class A RV in the future, but going full-time in it has never driven the object of his retirement before, but that's me. Maybe it's the three parts analyst in me, and the one part crazy, but I've never been behind the wheel of a moving RV before. That changed this week.
The thought first occurred to me after leaving the Hershey RV last year. On the way out, we spotted the area where lots of manufacturers demos were parked just waiting for test drives. Since we were newbies to the Hershey show, we didn't know that test drives were even offered, and since we had to head further north to visit family and friends, going back just wasn't in the cards.
Enter the OTHER "World's Largest RV Show" - Tampa, Florida.
Since our visit to Hershey last year, I had come across some Tiffin employees who actually go from show to show to lend their expertise and advice to prospective owners, and got in contact with the guy who handles pretty much all the Tiffin test drives at all the RV shows across the country. He not only confirmed that there would be test drives, but let us know what models would be available in Tampa. An Open Road 36UA was going to be used for test drives, which is about as similar to our future 36LA gas model as you can get in length and weight. So we signed up at the Tiffin booth at 11:30 and waited for the 2:00 appointment to arrive.
Longest 2 1/2 hours of my life.
Let's face it; I was pretty nervous. Oh, sure, I had watched many YouTube videos and read everything I could on what you needed to know about driving these rolling behemoths, so I thought that I had the basics down. Plus, I figured the drive would be in a rather controlled environment like a large parking lot cordoned off so that nothing would get scratched and no living thing would get crushed. No, my nervousness stemmed from the potential that either I wasn't going to be very good at this, or worse yet, wouldn't like it. Given our desire to full-time, the worst thing would be if I didn't like to be behind the wheel of our home for 5-6 hours a day going from place to place, killing our dreams of a retirement we could enjoy.
Two o'clock arrived and so did our driving instructor, Marvin Carlton and his lovely wife Celia. Marvin is extremely experienced in driving Tiffin motor homes, as he used to take the finished product from Red Bay, AL where they are made, and deliver them to dealerships across the country for new owners to pick up. I think he also got the job because he's very patient with people and must have some of the lowest blood pressure known to mankind. We talk on the way to the test drive parking lot, where he finds out that the guy he's taking in a golf cart is an Class A virgin. Doesn't seem to phase him one little bit.
The test drive parking lot sits next to a small access road. Marvin says. "If you don't mind, let me pull this thing out onto the road, because they've really squeezed us in tight here". "Heck yeah!" I'm thinking, because the entry to the access road looks just slightly big enough for our Mini Cooper to go through, let alone a 9' wide motor home!
He stops and we switch seats. Barbara is going to be in her future navigator seat on the passenger side. They want BOTH of us to get used to the view and handling from where we'll be. Marvin has me check the two large mirrors on both sides, has me hit the left and right turn signals to see the side camera changes (a very neat feature, btw), and gives me his one and only tip. "See the lines on the road in the lower part of your mirrors? Make sure you have equal distance between them on both sides, and that way you'll know you're centered in your lane".
I had already told him about my knowing to wait for my hips to clear the point needed to make turns. Unlike a car where the wheels are in front of you, your front wheels on an RV are BEHIND you, so you have to turn later than when driving a car. So that's his only tip - keep it between the lines.
Marvin is the epitome of the KISS principle.
Driving down this winding fairground road, I realize that this Tiffin doesn't handle like the U-Haul trucks I've driven using the same Ford chassis. In fact, turning is very easy and responsive. We come to a stop at the end of the road, and now we're leaving the fairgrounds. I make a pretty darn good right turn (if I say so myself), swinging wide and turning at the hip point, when we come to a stop light. First impression, these brakes need a lot of time to make a stop if you're not going to shift things in your cabinets from back to front. And now Marvin is taking us onto a busy state road which cuts through Tampa proper. Tells me to stay in this lane, because we're going on the highway up ahead.
Tiffin. as with everything else they do, doesn't skimp on the test driving experience, either. So engine revving, we head onto I-4 and get her up to speed. Before I know it, I'm up to 70 MPH, a speed I have always vowed to never get to when driving my future motor home; it's that responsive as far as acceleration is concerned. Drop it back to 60-62 MPH, and notice how much easier it is to keep centered in the lane. Marvin gives me one other piece of advice; keep it in the center lane. That way I won't have to worry about people cutting me off at on and off ramps.
Now, during our waiting time for the test drive, a cold front had moved into the area, and it had gotten very windy. On the way out of the fairgrounds, I had a tailwind. On the way back it was a headwind from the right corner trying to push me to the side. Full disclosure, I used my previous experience as a pilot to "crab" into the wind like I used to do on a crosswind landing to keep the 36UA centered. Not to brag (OK, bragging a little bit), but I handled the quartering wind and passing trucks like a pro. Marvin also remarked that he never would have known that I hadn't driven a motor home before. In short, I NAILED the test drive, so much so that when we got back to the parking lot, I pulled into that narrow parking area like I had been doing it for years. Even Barbara was impressed (not an easy thing to do, let me tell you).
So what did I learn from this test drive?
1. The Tiffin product is very quiet, even with the motor sitting between and under your feet. Sure, it will scream at higher revolutions, but quiets right down once it hits fifth and sixth gears. The cockpit was quiet enough for normal conversation pretty much all the time.
2. You really have to anticipate braking on these gassers. Hitting the brakes earlier and creeping to a stop is much better than trying to stop on a dime. Because you can't stop on a dime.
3. Sumo springs minimize the rocking of the motor home on the chassis to an almost unnoticeable level.
4. That Ford V-10 has some serious acceleration.
5. Focusing on a point about 1/2 a mile distant keeps you from having to make minor corrections as much as when you are focusing just a few car lengths ahead as you would with a car.
Bottom-line, I LOVED the experience, and am now sure that I can do this on a daily basis if needed and still have fun driving. It's now full speed ahead onto retirement in 1 year, 7 months and 14 days!
"No one has a higher opinion of the value of their RV than their owner does."
- Dave Richard 2017
RV owners get very emotional when discussing the value of their RV. I get it. For many, it's been their home (or home away from home) for years. Memories have been made. Payments have been made. Some people are actually trying to get their investment back, maybe due to a change in lifestyle or a lack of proper due diligence in buying the right coach for themselves. But an RV is a DEPRECIATING asset, even more so than a car Far too many people don't know the ins and outs of buying an RV, nor do they approach the purchase dispassionately. Many are impulse buys made without even a hint of research on the brand, model and their respective reliability (far lower than cars or fixed homes).
But we buy them anyway. And many learn to love them over the years and get attached to them, so when it comes time to upgrade to something new, the quote above comes into play.
It creates sometimes heated discussions amongst those in the RV community, mainly because many people don't understand the free market principles of supply and demand, or of profit and loss. It's easy to take your older RV to a dealership in order to use it as a trade-in for a newer model, because you don't have to go through the hassle of listing it and showing it, but RV owners still think they can, and should, get retail value for their RV, even when trying to use it as a trade.
They forget two important things: No one else thinks your RV is worth as much as you do, and they forget that anyone taking the RV in trade has to make a profit. And that dealer is making that profit you could have realized because they're now assuming the risk that your RV will sell for a reasonable retail price. Profit that YOU are never going to see. But if someone's going to assume the risk, there has to be a reward, and many RVers want that reward for themselves.
Case in point: There are any number of Tiffin Allegro Open Road 36LA used models for sale out there - the model Barbara and I are pretty much settled on. Depending on the year and how it's optioned out, list price on that coach can run from $165k-$185k. At the most, one of the big 4 dealers who sell the most Tiffins will discount from list about 28%, putting the out-the-door price at between $120k-$133k. Driving it off the lot reduces it's value further by about 3% per year for the first 5 years, then drops even further after that. Doesn't keep from having 36LA's with $5k-$7k higher asking prices out there on the internet.
I'm not saying these coaches aren't worth their asking prices, but I am saying they'd better be in pristine condition if someone is going to pay those prices. And if it's a dealer selling those used models, you can bet they got them for under $100k, because they have now assumed the risk of selling those units.
It's OK to love your RV; just don't take it out on the dealer when they low-ball you because they want to keep their doors open. After all, if they close, who are you going to buy your next RV from?
The new year is almost upon us, and with just a little over 18 months before we make our final decision on the make and model of our future full-time land yacht, these pilgrimages to local and national RV shows become much more important.
In 2017, we made our first trip to the Hershey, PA RV show, billed as the world's largest. Being newbies at this, we didn't realize that setting aside just one day was not even remotely enough to see everything we wanted to see, nor did we realize that there are a host of RV's just waiting for prospective buyers to test-drive in a remote parking lot. Since we were still in search mode for the RV itself, we paid little attention to the hundreds, if not thousands, of third-party accessory providers that are vitally important to safe and carefree RV living. Hershey was an eye-opener, but Barbara and I realize we can and should do better if we want this transition to be a smooth as possible, given that neither of us has ever RV'd before.
Now, we don't know if the Tampa or Hershey shows are actually the largest (we'll let them fight over bragging rights), but all that really matters is that they are both pretty darned big. So in January, the place to be is in Tampa FL for their annual RV extravaganza. And this time, we're going to be better prepared than we were at Hershey. Don't get me wrong; we'll still be drooling over every motorhome that strikes our fancy, and spending an inordinate amount of time in the Tiffin section, but we'll continue to take objective looks at new offerings in our size and price ranges up to the day we finally order our dream RV. That's the big picture.
But this time, we'll dedicate a full day to speak to and investigate all those ingenious third-party vendors and their almost endless supply of innovations for the RV community. From tow dollies for the MINI, to power management systems designed to protect the electrical health of the RV, to tools, accessories and must-haves to help keep the RV up and running, and campground memberships that make living on the road more affordable, we're going to explore all who have decided to be at the show.
It's a tough job, but somebody's got to do it.
And we'll report back if there are things that are cool and interesting to us.
This is a debate that will go on until the end of time.
Most diesel owners are convinced they already know the answer, and there is little room for debate from their perspective. There are a few, however, who are enlightened enough to see the virtues of both arguments.
Gas models cost significantly less than diesel models - on the order of $80k-$100k less when similarly equipped and sized. For instance, the similar in size and featured Tiffin entry-level RED (Rear Engine Diesel) comes in at $95k more than the upper-end gas model we are pretty well set on. For that $95k, you get diesel power and a smoother ride, and two additional slides. So while the extra power and comfortable ride might be nice, we don't want the extra slides. Given that, are the above features worth $95k?
Our answer is no. Your mileage may vary.
The Case For And Against Gas
For: Cost of ownership is much lower. Regardless of the initial purchase price difference, annual maintenance is much cheaper on the gas chassis. Most shade-tree mechanics can do their own oil and filter changes and lube their chassis without having to bring the motorhome into a large truck shop. Oil is measured in quarts - not gallons as the diesels are. A typical oil change will run anywhere from $50 to $75 max on a gasser.
There is also no fuel filter to change on the gas chassis. Gas is usually anywhere from $.20-$.50 per gallon cheaper than diesel fuel.
Gas models are quieter in the campground when coming and going.
Against: Gas models lack the power and torque that some diesel models have. That being said, depending on how heavily loaded each vehicle is, sometimes diesel motorhomes are passed by gas motorhomes going uphill. It depends on a lot of factors.
Which brings us to engine noise. On gas motorhomes, the engine is up front, and there is a "doghouse" assembly sitting between the driver and passenger seats. In essence, the doghouse is an engine cover, which can be well insulated for noise and temperatures, or badly insulated. Either way, having your engine underneath your feet will make for a fairly noisy ride at high RPMs.
Gas engines do not have the lifespan of a diesel engine. It's not uncommon for diesel engines to run well, even after a million miles. Gas engines are typically good for upwards of 250,000 miles, depending on how well they are maintained.
Gas chassis ride harder than diesel chassis. There is no getting around the fact that these are basically truck chassis, with typical shocks and leaf springs.
Braking power can sometimes be limited when the gas motorhome is going downhill, especially at max weight.
There is sometimes (but only depending on model types) less storage in the basement of a gas motorhome due to the driveshaft running from front to back. However, some models like the 36LA we're sold on, have more overall storage than some entry-level diesels, only suffering in the size of the pass-through bays.
The Case For And Against Diesels
For: 450 or 600 horsepower engines provide a LOT of power and torque for going up mountains. Diesels also have an engine brake (sometimes referred to as a jake brake) that helps to slow the motorhome down dramatically and assists in stopping the unit much quicker. It's that throaty growling sound you hear many big rigs make when decelerating.
Diesel brakes are air assisted for shorter stopping distances.
With the engine in the rear, diesel owners do not hear a lot of engine noise when driving down the road.
Diesels have independent suspensions and air bags underneath to smooth out the ride.
Because the engine and transmission are in the back, the center basements of diesel motorhomes are large, pass-through storage with pullout trays for easier access to larger items.
Diesels will have higher-end finishes and amenities, like better woodwork, heated tile floors, dishwashers, and more seating and sleeping space due to their longer lengths.
Diesels generally have towing capabilities up to 10,000 lbs, instead of the gasser's 5,000 lb limitation.
Against: Typical maintenance of a diesel coach will be in the thousands of dollars annually - if you want to make it last for as long as possible. And there's more of it.
Diesels make a LOT of noise coming and going in campgrounds, especially those who want to get an early start to the day and like to idle their motors before moving (something they don't really need to do, and actually harms their engine more than if they just drove off).
Bottom-line: As with everything in life, there are trade-offs. And it all depends on what you're going to do with the motorhome, and where you're going to go. If you're going to spend a lot of time in the mountains, maybe that diesel is the way to go. If you're full-timing and don't have to be at a certain place at a certain time, that gas model will work just fine for you. If the ride is too bumpy for you in a gasser, there are suspension mods that might cost as much as $12k that will make it better, but will never get you to the comfort of a diesel ride.
Oh, and every motorhome sounds just the same with jacks down and slides out sitting in a campground.
Barbara and I decided that we can do a lot of sightseeing and glamping with that $80k difference (we'll be doing the suspension mods) between the diesel and gas models we like.
We're Dave and Barbara Richard, and we're planning the ultimate retirement experience - travel the U.S. and Canada in style in a Tiffin Open Road 36LA Class A motor home, play golf and stop at every weird and wacky roadside attraction we can find.