Tuesday, January 12, 2010

Selecting and Buying the RV

Once we decided we were serious about taking time off to travel throughout the US and Canada, the next big step was to select, purchase and provision a suitable RV. As much as I love my 19ft Class B camper van, there is no way the two of us could live in it for 5-6 months, much less with two big dogs along for the ride. So the hunt was on for another RV and the important factors were price and living/storage space.  Who knew the search would be such a big thing?

NEWSFLASH: RVs are like shoes - lots of categories, lots of styles in each category, many colors to pick from, what kind of material would you like? And on and on. For example, here are common categories of RVs:
  • Class A Motor Coaches - resemble a bus and are built on specially designed vehicle chassis
  • Class C - built on cutaway heavy duty van and truck chassis
  • Class Bs and B+s - conversion vans
  • Truck Campers - the camper rests in the bed of a pickup truck
  • 5th Wheel Trailers
  • Pull behind Trailers
… and for some of these categories, there are styles or sub-categories such as:
  • Class A Diesel Pushers (diesel engine in the back)
  • Class A Gasoline
...and there are a host of other things to think about:
  • Length
  • Number of slide outs
  • Construction materials
  • Interior furnishings and fixtures
  • Gear and gadgetry
  • And so on
Although all this was a bit overwhelming, we quickly ruled out Truck Campers and Class Bs and B+s - in terms of living and storage space, these are just too small for extended RV living. Too bad because Class Bs are great for maneuverability and offer some real conveniences. Then we ruled out trailers of any flavor because I am intimidated at the idea of hauling around some big ole' trailer… sure, all is fine when we're moving forward but what the heck will I do when I have to back the bloody thing up?

So, we were left with Class A RVs and Class C RVs. At first we did not consider Class As because we thought they were all 35 feet or longer, which I did not think I could drive very well, and Lynda did not care for the idea of living in a “bus”. But the more we looked at Class Cs the more we realized they just do not provide as much living and storage space as Class A coaches, except for the really big Class Cs - and then we might as well look at Class As.

We were watching Craig’s List, eBay and a host of other online RV sale sites. And we also drove around East Tennessee with our friends, Judi and Gary, and stopped in at some RV dealers to look at pre-owned units. I can honestly say that most of the folks we dealt with were very nice. There was one place, however, that I would not have bought anything from no matter how good the deal. I won’t say the name of this RV dealer… if you come across them, you’ll know it right away. Trust your instincts and go somewhere else.

Where was I? Oh yeah… trying to find the perfect RV in the right price range. The more we looked at RVs, the more I realized there are too many things to think about and keep track of without writing them down. So, I put together a checklist of features and equipment to ask about. You can pull this up and use it if you want but bear in mind that it does not cover everything and you’ll need to tweak it so it reflects the items that are important to you.

Anyhow, with Judi and Gary's help we came to be very interested in getting a late '90s Safari Trek 24 or 28 foot coach.  The Treks, although no longer made, are considered to be well built, good value coaches.  The older ones are not particularly fancy but are better quality than most in a similar price range. The Trek floorplan includes the patented MagicBed (hold the jokes people) which lowers from the ceiling in the living area... and cancels out the need for a bedroom.  This saves at least 10 feet in length.  So, what you end up with is a nicely appointed motor home that is only 24 or 28 feet long and much more manueverable than her longer cousins.
I must say a huge Thank You and send many hugs to Judi and Gary… these folks really helped open our eyes to looking at Class A RVs. And they have spent who-knows-how-many hours helping us learn the systems and figure things out. 
It must have been fate, because Gary and Judi spotted a 1998 Safari Trek at a Nashville dealer, Cullum & Maxey, and told us about it immediately.  They went back to Nashville with us a few days later to look at the coach and test drive it, and again the next weekend to help us bring it home.  The photo below was taken of the four of us on the day I bought the Trek.

And that's the saga of how we came to have the Safari Trek. This Class A motor home was in my price range (cheap!), has good living space and storage space, includes almost all the features that are important to us, and is in great condition for her age (like me).  I think we made an excellent choice!

Click here to look at some more pictures of the Trek, inside and out. Any ideas on what we should call it?  The little stubby bus is a mouthful and not very flattering.

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