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The RV dilemma: Is it time to buy an RV or not?

To RV or not to RV, that is the question. Each of us has dozens of questions that abound and surround as we try to make intelligent decisions regarding our desire to RV. The answer to the initial question is more complex than the question itself.

Answers of yes, no or maybe often lead to even more questions and decisions. Let’s explore a few of the options and the possible results.

Answer 1 — No. Millions of Americans select “no” as their best answer. There are dozens of reasons for selecting “no.” This answer may save you the cost of an RV, fuel costs, camping fees, travel time and reduce or eliminate the number of decisions that must be made regarding the wonderful sites and sights that you could visit in the United States. You may decide to travel by car or even tent camp, rather than use or buy an RV. This raises additional questions and options that you can surmise.

Answer 2 — Maybe later. This nebulous answer leads to further questions such as: If not now, when? Why delay? When is the right time to get an RV? What are the places and things you will miss by postponing the purchase and the accompanying travel? Will you save money, time, effort or reduce stress by waiting for the right time to RV? Will you be able to travel and see the parts of the USA using other modes of travel? Perhaps traveling is not what you really desire in your life.

Answer 3 — Yes. This is the most difficult answer because it raises even more questions than the “no” and “maybe” answers. The plethora of questions and options includes the following. If we RV do we rent, buy, borrow or steal the RV? What type of RV will be best suited for our current situation? If we can assume that we will buy an RV rather than borrow or steal it, think of these questions: What is the total cost, payment costs per month or year, insurance costs, maintenance costs? How many steps are required to enter and exit the RV? How easy is it to hook up and unhook?

Four basic questions to ask yourself

Winnebago suggests that we consider four basic questions before we purchase an RV.

  1. Will it meet my needs?
  2. Is it built to last?
  3. What happens down the road?
  4. What kind of company stands behind the RV?

Today, I face that dilemma and am facing a decision. At age 80, the decisions are a bit different than for those much younger. How many years (or days or weeks) of fulltime RVing are ahead of me? How long can I continue to drive an RV and pull a toad? Will my good health and adequate eyesight continue? Can I be happy with a downsized RV or should I invest in a more spacious RV with slideouts and storage space?

Should the fact that I now own two vintage motorhomes prevent me from buying a modern, new motorhome? What RV is best for me? for my wallet and bank account? For my driving ability or lack thereof? What if my current situation changes? How flexible is the RV floor plan? How many people can ride, sleep and use the RV in comfort? Where can I get the best deal? What is the probable resale value? Interest rate? Monthly loan costs?

There are numerous good books, blogs and postings on buying the right RV. Checklists to be used for a detailed inspection and evaluation of both new and used RVs are also available. We won’t attempt to duplicate them at this time. Online in various chatrooms we can find personal evaluations of dealers, services, sales personnel, warranty service, etc. When one makes any purchase that might put a bit of stress on their mind or financial budget a great deal of care should be taken to consider every aspect of that purchase and subsequent effects on one’s life.

If you are buying directly from an individual rather than from a dealer a thorough inspection by qualified mechanics and a knowledgeable RVer are necessary and advised.

Let’s get a bit more personal and analyze my motivation for writing on this subject of buying an RV. My long experience with RVs began in the 1950s and continued with some interruptions over the past 55 years. During this time I have owned more than 55 RVs of one type or another, including eight different motorhomes since March 2007. I have also personally advised several friends and helped them select their first RV.

In May, 2013, a friend and I went to Camp-Land in Burns Harbor, Ind., to look at the used motorhomes in their inventory. As we talked to Jon Shoemaker, a product specialist, who mentioned that a new Vista, 26-foot motorhome could be purchased for less than $70,000. We thought that the cost of even a small Class A would be out of that price range. We liked it, the price seemed reasonable and my friend became more serious about a purchase. I had absolutely no intention of buying, but enjoyed looking at the new rigs. Apparently I like them too much.

Comparing the features of the 2013 and 2014 models with those of my 16- and 23-year-old Class A motorhomes caused me to see the deficiencies in my old RVs. We moved from the Vista to the Thor ACE models 27.1 and 30.1. We talked for hours and I walked away from the 27.1 to the 30.1 more than a dozen times to compare their size and the amenities. I succumbed to the lure of a brand new motorhome — something that I have told others to never do!

With my 1996 Airstream Land Yacht as the down payment my loan on the remaining $70,000 will be about $600 per month plus another $150 for insurance and appliance coverage. This is a workable equation for me. The Land Yacht is paid for and I have driven approximately 5,000 miles over mountain roads in Utah, Colorado and Arizona and across the plains to Indiana since the purchase in January 2013.

Most important to me is the fact that I can now drive a new motorhome with safety features that my two old motorhomes do not have. The insurance coverage will protect me from roadside breakdown costs. Additional insurance will save the cost of replacing appliances, an awning and other RV repairs. At age 80, it seems wise for me to focus on the positive aspects of RVing and not have to be concerned about the negative possibilities.

Another positive aspect is that the bank has extended the loan for 180 months — that is 15 years! WOW!! At the time of my final payment in 2028 I invite each of you to attend the party that I will sponsor when I receive the title free and clear. I have now been driving and living in my 2013 Thor ACE 30.1 Class A motorhome and actually like it better every day.

My friend really liked the Thor motorhomes and made a down payment on that day, but is in a different situation than I am. That purchase was never made and she bought a condo in Florida instead.

Usually I do not rave about RV dealers and am sometimes hesitant to recommend a specific dealer to my friends. In this case, I must make an exception because Camp-Land RV exceeded my expectations for friendly, honest and dedicated service. Each person that I contacted in every department of the store had a kind word and smile. Many, including, but not limited to, the sales manager, vice president, business manager, receptionist, parts and service all spent extra hours working to obtain the best pricing, loan terms and insurance rates for my benefit. I do recommend Camp-Land RV.

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Why a new RV?

Today, as I drove from the Camp-Land RV dealer in my ALY (Airstream Land Yacht), I tried to determine the positive aspects of the purchase of a new, 2013 Thor ACE. Assessing the condition of ALY helped solidify my decision.

The weather has been quite cool and the cold air seeped through the floor and chilled my feet. A bit of the falling rain eased through the top of the driver door and spilled onto my left leg. The heater was unable to reduce the chill surrounding my upper body and legs. The old curtain flapped in the breeze and water appeared on the dash — where it came from I do not know. This is a small sample of the actual deficiencies of ALY because it does not begin to list the age and condition of the appliances, chassis, tires and other components of the motorhome.

ALY is in fairly good condition for a 16-year-old motorhome and is actually good enough for me to live in for several years — if nothing ever breaks or gets damaged.

There are some problems and some deficiencies with this older motorhome that now cost and are likely to continue to cost significant amounts of money during the next few years. A new motorhome will help avoid these deficiencies and overcome many of the foreseeable problems that loom in the near future.

It is not possible to obtain complete insurance coverage for the motorhome, appliances and all other components for an older motorhome like ALY. The insurance companies will not provide complete coverage regardless of the premium I am willing to pay. The simple fact is that I have been driving older, vulnerable motorhomes for the past seven years. My finances are now in a condition that I can “afford” to buy a new or nearly new motorhome that is not as vulnerable as is ALY.

However, there is a certain mystic and I take considerable pride in driving older, good quality motorhomes that I have purchased at low prices. Although I really enjoy driving ALY I know that I will also enjoy driving the 2013 ACE.

Briefly, it is time for me to drive and own a new motorhome. Most of my days are spent in a motorhome. Although I have a nice patio home in Sun City, Ariz., I spend very little time living there.

When I am in Sun City, I can’t wait to be out in nature in my motorhome. When I am out in the motorhome, I have very little desire to go back to Sun City. My children certainly support my RVing lifestyle, but they see the feasibility of my patio house in Sun City.

Whereas I do not dispute those thoughts, I would rather RV than stay in Sun City, especially in the summer heat of more than 100 F. In my motorhome, I am able to go to cooler temperatures in the mountains or in northern states.

The safety factor in a new motorhome is paramount to me. The tires are new and are unlikely to have blowouts. The coach components and equipment are new and should be safe for years to come.

There is absolutely no sense, or very little intelligence, in expecting an 80-year-old person to save enough money to pay cash for an $80,000 RV. Rather, it seems wise to me to spend as little of my money as is necessary to buy a new or nearly new motorhome. It is wiser to use borrowed money to pay for the motorhome.

  1. The Airstream Land Yacht is paid for and the title is free and clear.
  2. The Land Yacht will serve as a down payment for the Thor ACE.
  3. The person buying my farm property is paying $801per month at 5 percent, for the next 9 years on the loan on that property. He has recently offered to double the payments per month.
  4. The payment for the farm property will cover the ACE loan payment plus insurance coverage.
  5. Essentially I am trading a 16- to 17-year-old motorhome on a new ACE motorhome with no additional funds from my accounts.
  6. With proper care and attention, this new ACE motorhome should be the last RV that I will ever need.
  7. When my use of the ACE is finished, it can be sold and the price applied to the loan payment.
  8. Additional funds, if needed to pay off the remaining loan, may be taken from the sale of my patio home in Sun City, Ariz., and from the remainder of my estate, if any money is remaining.

That is my line of reasoning for the purchase of a new motorhome. Please note that this is a very reasonable price for a new motorhome from a dealer. In fact, it is at the low end for any Class A and even for most Class C and Class B or B+ models. Based on my experience of having owned and driven approximately 50 motorhomes, both new and used, this is a lot of motorhome for the price.

About Dr. Bob Gorden

Dr. Bob Gorden is an RVer, hiker and writer. He has a PhD in microbial ecology from the University of Georgia in Athens. He is a retired research scientist from the University of Illinois Natural History Survey. He has owned and operated more than 55 RVs of various types, and has visited every state, except Hawaii, in his RV. He also traveled by RV in New Zealand, Canada and Mexico. He currently owns and travels in a 1978 GMC 26-foot Class A and 2013 Thor ACE 30.1 Class A motorhome. He has a compelling desire to be “On the Road Again!”

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