Last weekend, Kim and I moved from casually browsing RVs to searching in earnest. We spent much of Friday and Saturday touring coaches, both used and new, trying to learn more about what we do and don’t want in a rig.
Part of the problem is that everything is theoretical at this point. Neither of us has extensive RV experience — in fact, I have zero RV experience — so there’s no way for us to make a decision grounded in reality. “This is tough for me,” I said on Saturday. “You know how I wrestle with perfection. How can we can possibly make a perfect decision?”
“We can’t,” Kim said, “and you shouldn’t try.”
She’s right, of course. I have to let go of the idea that we’re going to find the “perfect” RV. It’s not going to happen. We won’t even really know what we want until we’ve bought one and used it for a week or two. Still, I’m scared of making a bad decision.
But we have to start somewhere, right?
Our first stop on Friday afternoon was a consignment lot. We visited “Steve and Sons” out on 82nd Avenue to look at a 37-foot Class A 1998 Fleetwood “Bounder” ($21,500 and 51,000 miles) that I saw listed on Craigslist.
We didn’t like the Bounder, but we did like the little 30-foot Winnebago (a “Minnie Winnie”) sitting next to it. It was in our price range ($37,000) and relatively new (2003 and 33,000 miles). Plus the layout looked great and the quality seemed good — as far as we could tell.
Next, we dashed off to meet Sam and Donna. This couple is selling a 38-foot Class A Newmar Kountry Star. Their coach is gorgeous and in great condition. Plus, their price is reasonable: $27,000 (and 49,000 miles). In fact, they probably had the best price we saw all weekend. The problem? Well, 38 feet is a lot of feet. Driving the Kountry Star really is like driving a bus.
Plus, the Kountry Star had a problem. While we were chatting with Sam and Donna, I noticed that something seemed…wrong. There was some discoloration on the ceiling. When I poked a ceiling tile, we found out why. The sagging tile seeped water down my arm. Sam went outside and climbed onto the roof, where he was shocked to find the cover to the air conditioner had blown away. Yikes. Water had been collecting in the attic. (Turns out this wasn’t an act of god. A prowler had been trying to break into RVs at the lot where this was stored. They caught him, but not before he damaged several vehicles.)
To finish our Friday, Kim and I drove out to Sandy to look at a couple of used RV lots. Nothing really struck our fancy, though. RV lots tend to take in only recent models, and they mark them up by outrageous amounts. (It’s not uncommon to find an RV at a dealer for $10,000 to $15,000 more than you can find it from a private party.)
On Saturday morning, we drove to Vancouver to look at two used RVs.
- The first was a 29-foot 1996 Gulfstream Sun Voyager with 53,000 miles for $26,000. This Class A wasn’t bad — and we liked the owner — but it just didn’t seem to be a good fit for us.
- The second was a 30-foot 1996 Gulfstream Conquest LE with 25,000 miles for $20,000. This Class B seemed ragged around the edges. Plus, the price seemed high.
We met the owner of the Gulfstream Conquest in the corner of a Costco parking lot. He offered to let us take the rig for a spin, and we accepted. I drove the RV around local surface streets — my first time behind wheel of any recreational vehicle. It wasn’t bad. It felt like driving a U-Haul.
Next, we dashed down to Tigard to meet a fellow with a 28-foot 2004 Fleetwood Tioga. This was a beautiful coach in tip-top condition. Plus, the owner seemed like a nice guy. But he’d purchased the unit new from a dealer three months ago, so his asking price was high ($40,000 and 29,000 miles). We like this vehicle, but not at this price.
By now, we’d honed in on what we think we want. We want a class C RV (for a number of reasons, Kim’s not keen on the bus-like class A profile) between 28 and 32 feet. At this length, we’d get a back bedroom that separates from the front end of the vehicle, which would allow for one person to sleep while the other read or wrote or cooked. Based on our budget, that probably puts us in the 1998 to 2004 range.
After a quick stop to taste some sparkling wine, we visited another RV dealer. We were severely unimpressed with the options, so we returned to the place we’d started. We drove back to Steve and Sons to look at the Minnie Winnie we’d liked on Friday.
We spent half an hour examining the vehicle, and there’s no doubt we like it. But a couple of things happened that really turned us off from the dealer.
First, we had called to say that we wanted to test-drive the vehicle. But when we reached the lot, it was buried behind several other trucks and RVs. No effort had been made to allow us to run the rig. The obvious question was, “Why not?”
Next, we were under the impression that the dealership was selling consigned vehicles. That’s not the case. The salesman confided that the dealership places ads on Craigslist in the “for sale by owner” section because they think people will trust the ads more. But they’re not for sale by owner. Nor are they consigned. The RVs are bought at auction and then put on the lot. Whoa… Huge red flags!
Kim and I decided to call it a day. We headed home (well, actually we headed to a champagne bar) better-educated but no closer to purchasing an RV. After a weekend of RV shopping, I’ve let go of my need to find the perfect coach. But I’d dearly love to find a quality rig at a reasonable price.