About this blog
A chronicle of our adventure into the realm of RV ownership and traveling in retirement....
Having spent the majority of our (my) 37 year career overseas, ownership of a recreational vehicle was not feasible during that period of time given the distance between our somewhat in-frequent and short term returns home for visits with both family and friends. Yet, having always dreamed of doing so "one day", we penny pinched and saved putting away monies that would enable us do so one day.
That day came forward in the Spring of 2016 when we retired and moved back home to the USA and shortly thereinafter commenced our pursuit to purchase of our first ever motorized recreational vehicle in the form of a Class A motorhome. This Blog is about our experience of becoming RV enthusiast and all that which comes with it.
So Now what?
That didn't happen overnight. In fact, ahead our our purchase we spent months educating ourselves through various forms of research and learning as potential buyers about motorhomes that included both print and web based reading. We also spoke with other RV owners & enthusiasts, visited numerous dealerships and pre-owned lots, as well as looking at many one off private sales to gain an appreciation for the various makes, models, floor plans, and options available or at best, to be considered when making such a decision. Which by any means we learned, can be a large expenditure that comes (like it or not) with additional expense along the way in the form of ongoing maintenance and upkeep. Something that needs equal and due consideration.
Having determined a Class A motorhome was within our financial reach and would suite our desire to become our own form of nomads, Our "studies" led us down the roads of purchasing a pre-owned coach as being an opportunity to achieve the "best bang for the buck". To that extent, we even engaged a private "Buyer's Advocate" whom himself stated he could help us find the "right" coach at the price point for a small commission fee. Having previously determined the form (type) of RV we wanted together with amount we wanted to spend, we felt engaging such a resource could would aid us in finding the perfect deal. His view being that as first timers, we should buy an older, large Class A something along the lines of a 2003-2008 model Country Coach or similar quality built brand of that era which could be found at very reasonable pricing and further, that could be remodeled to our liking including both interior upgrades or even repainting it if desired. He further went as far to suggest that we should by an older used coach as our first and then use it to learn more about the features we really liked (or didn't want) whereby we would be better educated to use such information in the future when purchasing a newer coach in the years to come.
At that time, We thought that his advice was a resonably good approach and commenced working with him only to become disappointed later in the the process as our "Advocate" began to show evidence of being affiliated with the sellers of the used coach deals he was steering us toward, (i.e. brokers, wholesalers and some certain dealers in the region of S. Florida) as his words implied he was more generously familiar with. Our "Advocate" was from S. Florida and had admitted he had prior experience both as a coach owner as well as having sold them for some of the "major" dealers in his area. Something just didn't "feel right" about his "network" and besides, we were still not convinced that buying such an older model coach would suite our desire.
Ok, so what next?
We then "walked away" from our Advocate by discharging our agreement with him and stepped out into the pre-owned marketplace on our own.
From there. We began our own search using both print and web-based advertising such as RV Trader, RVT. com, and countless other market avenues including private ads, craigslist, on and on all the while becoming some what overwhelmed in the form of information overload. Too many to choose from, while feeling we were still in absence of enough information to make an informed purchase. Still yet "in the game", we found ourselves reaching out to the "RV Buyer's Guide" to include subscribing to their database which provides un-biased metrics in the form of ratings, performance history, pricing, market depreciation, and overall ranking of motorhomes by manufacturer, make, model, floor plan and year. We found the RV Buyer Guide and tools published by JD Gallant to be very informative and non-biased.
Now we have it!
This additional information and learning helped us narrow down our selections to 3-particular manufacturers of which included American Coach, Newmar and Tiffin.
Ok, we got this, we wanted a 45' DP with all the "bells and whistles". Why not. We worked hard for many years, raised and educated our child whom is now an adult and successfully on his own. So off we set again, just the two of us still striking the keyboards and hitting the road in search of once again "the perfect coach for us at the perfect price point". This became a new venture in the form of our making the rounds looking, touching and feeling numerous pre-owned coaches which we now thought had us close to finding the "right one". We figured, we're retired so why not hit the roads and go find our deal.
3-4 months later and we're still on the hunt!
As this progressed, now 3-4 months later into our purchase endeavor, we found two pre-owned coaches that we felt were great bargains. They were both late models from one of the manufacturers on our short list (Newmar). Both had all the features we wanted (and then some, owing to optional equipment we had not targeted as a "must have" but certainly agreed would be "nice to haves") and from our previous learnings. And, thus while being still naive about the process, we hired the RV Inspection Connection to conduct two separate per-purchase inspections on those coaches we were interested in at that time. Disappointingly (but more good learning for us in the end) both inspections revealed that those particular coaches were not in as good of shape as their advertisements lended them to be. Both were late model i.e. 2014 Class a diesel pushers at relatively acceptable "asking prices" but had certain issues we did not want to have to deal with. So again, we walked away even after spending upwards of to $1,600 on each inspection which we considered at the time was an acceptable investment when contemplating what was now appearing to be a potential spend of $300-400k and upward.
One thing for certain is that pre-purchase inspections (PPIs) are value adding and can reveal many issue that "newcomers" like us may not recognize going into such deals. Lots of moving parts, components and parameters to be considered together with knowing that most pre-owned coaches were were looking at including those were well beyond their OEM warranty periods albeit some were found to have transferrable aftermarket extended service plan (ESP) coverage (but that's another topic all together).
Now we get it!
So now its late 2016 approaching 4-5 months into our endeavor to find a coach, and the new 2017 models are rolling out of Indiana or elsewhere which led us to thinking there had to be some remaining new inventory on the lots right? There were, and once again using our information at hand we were off again but this time, it was to search for a new 2016 coach albeit a last year's model. Why?, we moved away from the pre-owned market likely due to the uncertainties we came to experience. If we were going to do this, we wanted it to be a "no regrets" purchase and something we'd feel good about, the right decision (but now beyond the earlier learnings and advice we'd taken in the form of buying a pre-owned). Now, with that even though we had generally moved onward toward the purchase of a new coach, we agreed we were still acceptable to buy a pre-owned should we come across one to our liking but at that point we were really more interested in trying to buy a new existing unit in the form of a prior year model. We came to a conclusion, right or wrong, that a new vehicle warranty was important to us. Remember, we were by all classifications at that time still very much "pre-newbies" having never owned a Class A motorhome before and still not owning one. With regard to purchasing a new motorhome, others' may argue that there is depreciation to be considered. True, but in the same discussion, depreciation can be realized up front or at the end of ownership irrespective of the purchase prices paid be it for a new or used motorhome, again another separate topic.
But where to find it?
Being from the South, (State of Louisiana), and as already exampled by our previous attempts, we had firmly decided that our search would span the entire US, not limiting ourselves to only buying locally or within a designated regional market area like most of us do when it comes to automobiles, homes, etc. after all, an RV is an RV and where it is purchased from does not imply that that is where its going to stay (locally). So we soon found ourselves once again "out there" and this time we're running the roads from as far West as Littleton CO to the East coast of North Carolina as well as down South into lower FL looking at existing 2016 inventory as well as all parts in between. Then we found our coach or at least we thought we did. Yes, A brand new 2016 Newmar Essex that as we later learned had been on the dealers lot for 298 days at the time (and it's now Sept. 2016, 5 months into our search for the right coach and the right deal). We looked it over, test drove it and decided that's the one. Next was the "deal" so we set down with our salesman and began negotiating. Having looked at so many coaches together with the information we'd gathered through the entire process, we felt we knew what we'd should be looking for in terms of final pricing including discounts and margins on that new coach.
But what about the new 2016's, It's late and the '17s are already coming out?
Before going forward with this story, let me add that during this phase of doing our latest "sweep" across the US for the right coach at the right deal, we had come across a brand spanking new 2017 Newmar Essex which, "oh my" was the perfect coach in the form of standard and optional equipment, floor plan, color schemes, etc, etc, etc. Yes, it was perfect for us and so we elected to tendered an offer on it right then and there which of course was "reasonably" countered by the Dealer before we left. Yes, we left. we'd offered, they'd countered but we were still not convinced that was the best deal for us. More to come on that.
Again, We'd (my wife and I) agreed, we did not want to have buyer's remorse and realized we were steering ourselves away from our target of buying an existing 2016 model which was already "a move upward" in terms of cost. This whole process of buying a new motorhome, and particularly one's first can be overwhelming and I suspect can lead to regrets when allowing "buyer's fever" to strike simply due to growing tired of looking at so many. After all, they do tend to look the same after you look at so many. The ordeal can become frustrating so keeping one' self "on target" is important. Some might see that as our having already given up our target having moved away from buying pre-owned vs. new but we knew and accepted that.
We left that dealer armed with the information of what we could by the new 2017 unit for while knowingly still pursuing a lower price point when considering new 2016's would be a better bargain for what we felt would be the impact of year one depreciation and new 2017's rolling out of the factories. At that time, the new 2017 deal we were walking away from was 30% off the MSRP and seemed to be a good one if nothing more than an additional data point.
Onward we go, still searching, still looking.
Shortly thereafter, we find ourselves at the table of negotiations with a dealer in North Carolina on a new 2016 Essex. This is it. Its a new '16 Essex and they have got to want to sell it at a good price owing to the new ''17's already being out right? Yes, This was going to be the one for us and quite frankly we had become tired of the entire process having put ourselves through the previous 5-months of searches. In fact, my wife had somewhat "given up", saying lets just do this and get it over with, i.e. this one will be fine, while I was still not convinced we couldn't find a better deal. Anyway, we're there, the coach was there, we liked it, we were ready and it should be a good deal so we'll soon be new Coach owners. Not quite. We were wrong!.
As our negation with the Dealer commenced, we were soon flipped to the "GM, i.e. general manager" of the dealership who warmly expressed that "this is the best we can do"....ah, how quickly both confusion and uncertainty set in once again. Yes, its true he said, we're owned by a conglomerate who's corporate purchasing department is responsible for all our inventory and final sales pricing and although we can agree the new '17's are out, I'm afraid this is the best we can offer. Those were some of the words I recall him having told me. Their their best deal, was still close to $50k above what we felt was our reasonable offer on the particular coach while they actually had 3 other new 2016 Essex's on their lot. They have to be motivated right? As well, through the process of purchasing that coach, we'd learned that it had been on their lot for 298 days. We felt certain, they would be prepared to discount it and in fact, might even have Manufacturer's money behind the deal to help them move out some of their '16 inventory but sorry, that apparently was not the case..
So We ran!, actually we politely left telling them there was no way we'd pay what they were asking. I'm now figuring at this point he or someone else from their Dealership or Corporate offices will shortly be calling us very soon to make a new final offer.
Let's have a Pizza.
So, we decide it's time to leave again, This deal is not going to work but yet again, we've become armed with even more info (i.e. what they are willing to sell a new 2016 when the '17's are available). Whereby shortly afterwards while having a late lunch at a pizza restaurant nearby in Asheville, NC, I decide to call the dealer in Texas with the new 2017 Essex back.
Remember, we'd made an offer which was countered by them but we never called back afterwards. I called and spoke with the sales representative we'd worked with previously on the new 2017. I told him where we were and what we were preparing to do (purchase the 2016) to include disclosing what we had tendered as our final purchase price offering. He confirmed they still had the new 2017 Essex and asked if he could call me back. He did so 20 minutes later with and a revised counter offer to us on the same 2017 Newmar Essex which was a better offer and to our surprise actually only $3,000 more than we had been willing to pay for the 2016 in NC.
A Brand New Coach.
Done! We agree on the new price, gave a $2,000 hold deposit via CC, returned to our local hotel, spent the night and pulled out of N. Carolina the next morning...we're now heading back to Texas (which by the way, was the second dealer we visited and the location of the first pre-owned coach we'd had inspected back 3-months prior). National Indoor RV Center, Lewisville, TX. What we've become to know as a superior Dealership both before and after the sale.
Two days later, were there and the coach is there. My wife then asks me why did we put ourselves through all this when we both agreed a week or so ago the new 2017 was the perfect coach to our liking. I didn't have an answer but she knew as I, we'd given it all a good "go". So, we walk it down once again and shortly thereafter sit down with our sales associate to hopefully finalize the deal based upon the price we'd agree to over the phone. All smiles now.
The following morning, we became the proud new owners of a brand new 2017 Newmar Essex.
It sure is pretty and it's our's!
As stated at the beginning of this blog, We'd been dreaming (and saving) for many years to do this and the day had finally come. We were no longer going to be pre-newbies, just newbies. We were excited and scared at the same time.
Having planned to pay cash for a pre-owned coach, we'd chosen to up our game by spending more that we'd planned to but we were both ok with that. But having earlier reached that decision when we moved away from purchasing a pre-owned unit toward the possible purchase of a new existing 2016 model, we had further consulted with our personal Financial Advisor (FA) who advised us to finance our purchase and allow our savings investments to remain earning interest to which we mutually agreed (owing to the principles that we could borrow at a cheaper rate than we were realizing in the form of investment performance gains).
With that, we had also obtained prior loan approval from our lender so the process of making our final purchase went seamlessly well. Still not comfortable borrowing the entire amount we opted to make a cash downpayment of 40% of our purchase price and finance the remainder. This also made the financing much easier in the eyes of our lender and while not exactly what our FA recommended, she agree it was a good compromise that would afford us some equity up front and lessen the loan amount. Everyone's was happy now.
What do we do now?
So, day 2, maybe day 3, we're doing our Pre-delivery Inspection with our dealer and at the same time shopping for bright orange vest to announce to the world we're RV newbies (not really) asking ourselves what do we do now? We started by hiring the RV Driving School to send us an instructor who will teach us the in's and out's of safe driving what was clearly the largest vehicle we had (or will ever) own. Let me mention here, at the time, I'm 62 and my wife is 66 so while we were both experienced "drivers", operating a Class A 45' diesel pusher was a "whole new ball game". This all being part of the being "scared" I mentioned earlier, our apprehension or better the alarm toward owning and operating our new coach quickly set in but quickly subsided within a 2-day period of personal driving instruction and practice we obtained. In fact, if I were to jump ahead here, say 12 months later (now) I can tell you my wife started out during the first year of our RV'ing adventure by saying "do you need me to drive" to what has become her more common language of saying "I want to drive" and she does so very well. In fact, I'm no longer considered a back seat (or copilot) driver as "she has this" including her recent driving us all the way back from New Mexico to Louisiana.
You go Girl!
Now we're drinking from a Fire Hose.
The learning process involved with the first time purchase of Class A motorhome is like drinking from a "firehose" each and every day at the beginning. So much to learn, so many moving parts, the much needed preparation and attendance needed both when rolling down the roads or even when docked at a camping site but oh my, what a joy.
This endeavor of being new RV enthusiasts, and having the freedom to roam in the conveniences of our own home on wheels has become an whole new chapter in life. We both look forward to each and every trip and everyday meet others who have already experienced both the same anxieties and joy.
Not being full-timers and with no outlook for becoming such, we did manage to cover 7-1/2 months and 13,000 miles on the "Roads That Await Us" last year and have another 7-8 months planned beginning on April of this year. It's been great and there is so much more to come we know. Wow, what fun it is as we now have 450 square feet of living area that came with 3 million square miles of backyard!
So many places to go, so many things to see and do which leads us to....
Finding the Roads That Await Us!
Our motto, We'll be back here soon to populate some more information on our newest venture in life, including our travels and experiences.
In the meanwhile if you're already an enthusiast remember to "keep the wheels turning" and enjoy it all. If not, and your reading this blog don't let the thoughts and process of becoming one overwhelm you. Take your time, find what's right for you and go for it. To Us, each and every form of the Recreational Vehicle lifestyle is a great one and the adventures we can all share are the same be that in whatever form of RV one chooses.
We are Lydia and Rick Williams, and we look forward to meeting all our fellow RV'ers on the roads that await us all.
Our new 2017 Newmar Essex 4519 Motorcoach. We bought our last one first!