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Select a motorhome


Recently my wife and I were talking about our upcoming long term tour of the country. I’m turning 62 and we’ve both dreamed of traveling across the country and seeing everything we’ve always wanted to see. We have a 32 ft. travel trailer and a double Dodge 3500 diesel we would pull it with. For some reason, I was starting to think it would be nice to get a grade A. Apparently she had thought the same. So off to the dealers we went.

Having no idea what to look for, what kind of budget would be needed for the installation, or even the running costs, we decided it would be a good idea to ask as many questions as possible. We are not new to the RV world, having lived in a fifth wheel full time for 10 years taught us a lot. We know the problems of freezing water pipes, dumping the tanks, setting up and breaking down. How to save on storage space and shopping while living on a budget. So we knew what we wanted inside. But a class A is completely different from the outside than a fifth wheel.

Along the way we had to look differently. Our current fifth wheel is 42 ft long. It is a toy transporter or garage box. The aft 14 ft. was used as an office instead of carrying toys (motorcycles, ATV etc). Storage on the outside was just the basement. With a Class A you have much more storage space. But even that seemed to raise questions. Why were some models allowed through and others not? Why do some models have a lot of storage space and others don’t? Also, almost all class A motorhomes have a generator, why? What kind of maintenance do they need? How big would we need? How long does it take, etc.? It seemed like the more we started looking, the more questions we had. Then the really big question, gas or diesel.

We really needed to narrow down the selection and get an idea of ​​the cost of a Class A. If you’ve looked around at Class A’s, you know that diesel engines cost more than gas engines. Sometimes much more. But are they worth it? Our first problem was actually justifying a grade A on the setup we already have and paid for. My son more or less answered that. His feeling was that a Class A offered more options. If you were on the road and had a breakdown, you had your TOAD (car you dragged behind the Class A to get around town) that you could unhook and drive to get help. Second, there was the storage. Regardless of the Class A type (gas or diesel), you still have a lot more storage space than a travel trailer. The operating costs of a class A compared to the truck and trailer are also better. My truck gets an average of 8 MPG with the trailer. A diesel class A is about the same. But once camped, my car (TOAD) gets 30 MPG and the truck 16 MPG. Gas is currently 30 cents a gallon cheaper than diesel. Our total travel costs would be cheaper.

Next was the size of the rig. We found that if you want to keep your camping costs low, it’s best to opt for national and state parks along with dry camping. Many parks have a limit on the size of the installation they allow. The closer you get to 40 ft, the more parks you will limit. 36 ft. seems to be a good place. Lots of storage space and comfort and small enough to get to the maximum number of places. It’s funny how a little bit of information can go a long way. Just knowing we wanted to stay around 36ft helped eliminate a lot of the rigs.

So now tackle the big problem, gas or diesel. At first this seemed like a simple problem. Gas is cheaper, motorhomes with a gas engine are cheaper. All Class A’s offered a comfortable ride. All Class A’s offered ample storage space. Having worked on engines in my youth, I knew that a petrol engine wouldn’t have the lifespan of a diesel, but I also knew that you could rebuild or replace them fairly cheaply when the time came. SO petrol it was…but why was there so much demand for diesels? That bothered me, so I started asking questions. It seems that diesels have better mileage, go up and down the mountains more, have more towing capacity, have better basement spaces (storage) and generally last much longer. When I applied my math skills to the numbers, it turned out that diesels had lower running costs, had a better resale value, and lasted longer than the gas-powered RV. Now I was really torn, petrol or diesel? Enter my son-in-law, a mechanic. He had a simple advice… buy a diesel. They’re quieter (the engine is normally in the back), have a bigger generator (more electric to run things), and last forever. Now we knew where to refine our search. A diesel plant about 36 feet long.

Living space has always been a concern for me. I get a little claustrophobic at times. Add a few people in a small space (think elevator) and I sometimes almost lose it. So living in an 8 ft wide house on wheels can be a problem. The answer is slide outs. Diesel RV can have many slide outs. These expand the interior space considerably. But the more slides, the more expensive the device and the more potential problems. After thinking about it, we decided that two slides would be enough and one large slide in the living room would be our minimum. After all, we only sleep in the bedroom. But we eat, read, entertain and relax in the living room.

We no longer have children living with us so a single room was our next thought. Then the mother-in-law said that she would very much like to travel around the country. My wife also mentioned that she would like the grandchildren to travel with us from time to time. I know some of you also have kids that you can’t leave at home (although sometimes you wish you could). We did see a few Class A’s with bunk beds and they were actually really nice. That might be an option.

It was time to look at the budget. We had a basic idea of ​​what we now wanted in a motorhome. The issue became how much we wanted to spend and could we afford to buy what we needed.

I’ve always had expensive taste. When I went to RV shows I quickly learned that if the price of the RV was under $300,000 I really didn’t like it. I also knew we couldn’t afford to pay $300,000 for a new RV. With the budget and financial information, we figured out what we could afford. We have a situation that’s a little different from almost all of you and that’s a pending settlement of an insurance claim for my wife. For us, the settlement will be a determining factor for how much of a rig we can buy. But for now, we knew a new rig was out of the question, was going to be used.

New set of problems. Used means someone else’s problems. Now there are all kinds of things you can do to mitigate the problems you encounter. Insurance and aftermarket warranties, proper pre-sale inspections by a qualified mechanic, talking to the previous owner, buying as new as possible, reading reviews on the forums, asking questions of professionals and users. In short, do as much research as possible.

So how used is used? If you search the internet, you can find all kinds of used Class A rigs. Some with very low mileage. All different sizes and all different ages. When I took my list of requirements, I started looking at the local dealers, then eBay, then Internet searches. I can tell you this; there is no shortage of Class A Diesel RV for us to look at. Good Sams covers a rig up to 14 years old. But every year it gets more expensive. This way you can cover yourself for major problems.

So there you have it, how to select a motorhome. With a lot of research and a little luck, you can find the perfect rig for your travels. Determine what you need, what you want and what you can afford. Then search the local dealers so you can see what you say you must have versus what you want. Then search the web for units in your price range.

There are many good quality checklists on the internet that you can use to view the motorhome of your dreams once you have narrowed down a few. Use them too. Do you know a good mechanic? Take him/her with you; it never hurts to have an unbiased view on a major purchase.


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