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Old 05-27-2019, 06:59 PM   #1
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Advice for 1st Time Buyers

Hello Folks,

I wanted to offer some humble advice for those 1st timers considering buying an RV regardless of brand and manufacturer.

1. Take your time! You are not in a foot race to buy an RV. Use social media, read what others are writing. Learn about the pros and cons BEFORE you buy.

2. Carefully evaluate your specific wants and needs. How often will you go camping? Evaluate your tow vehicle and its towing capacity. Evaluate your own technical skills with towing and repairs.

3. Figure out the actual costs of ownership. Don't let a dealer talk you into a "deal of a lifetime". There are on-going costs of ownership that include storage fees (these can be higher than $100/month), insurance costs, maintenance warranty costs, costs for upgrades and tires, repair costs, fuel costs, and campground fees. This is not a "poor persons" hobby. Regardless of what anyone tells you....it would be ORDERS OF MAGNITUDE less costly to book a nice hotel room every time you travel in lieu of owning and maintaining an RV.

4. Breakdowns, repairs, and leaks: The first thing we all have to come to grips with as new RV owners is that the repair and warranty scheme does not work like a car dealership. Do not expect to pull in to your dealership with issues and have your repairs done immediately (or even that month in most cases). There will always be exceptions (as you will read in these forums) but for the most part, RV warranties are not holistic. That means, the owner is responsible in most cases (especially after the 1st year) of contacting each manufacturer of each component for repairs. RV repairs can be costly and time-consuming.

5. Leaks - remember, unlike a stationary home or dwelling, an RV is bouncing down bumpy roads, making sharp turns, and being jostled about. Seams will loosen with sun exposure, movement, and temperature changes. Maintaining your sealants and roof and extrusion/window seams is the responsibility of the RV owner. After the 1st year, most dealerships will not honor any water leak claims and indeed even during the warranty period you will find that the manufacturer's warranty often will not cover water leaks. Make SURE you learn how to properly seal your roof. If you are unsure about climbing up on the roof to periodically check and apply sealant than make sure you hire someone who knows RV sealants and roof care to do this for you.

6. Hauling- It's not as easy as the dealers will tell you to haul, back-up, execute tight turns, or even pass on a highway. Class A, B, B+ and C all have their unique issues in hauling and hitching. Familiarize yourself with anti-sway hitches and make sure you understand the basic physics of pulling a load, weight distribution and passing at highway speeds. Changing a tire can present a host of other issues if you are not prepared and familiar with how to change a tire on the rig. Make sure you have insurance coverage to pay for a tow and a tire service on the road.

7. Propane, hot water heaters, 3 way refrigerators, and AC units - The entire notion of learning how these appliances operate can be daunting. It's not that difficult to learn, just take your time, ask questions, use YOUTUBE, use this forum, learn as much as you can BEFORE you take your maiden voyage. Make sure your maiden voyage is long enough to iron out bugs (at least 3-5 days) and make sure you are very close to home in case you need to retreat and huddle.

8. My final piece of advice which I myself wish I had taken is this.......BUY USED!!!! This goes back to suggestion number 1....don't be in a hurry. Going to a dealership during a "sale", or in an excited and enthusiastic state of mind can be very dangerous. It has been my experience that most seasoned RV owners take VERY GOOD CARE of their rigs. I have found that retired engineers seem to be the best former owners! RVs lose about 40% of their retail value the second you sign on the dotted line. My advice is to do your research FIRST, test drive or rent the model you think you like first.......then go home and WAIT! Look online for good deals for used models in very good condition. The savings can be ENORMOUS. Life gets in the way of a lot of RV folks with good intentions. A spouse may change jobs and they may have to move, a partner may die or become seriously ill, someone may want to upsize or downsize their current rig, etc. If you can take a certain period of time to research and settle on your first model.....then familiarize yourself with their current retail value. Dealership markups are HUGE (they have to charge more to pay for the brick and mortar and for the employees...so I am not knocking them.......but YOU don't have to be the sucker who pays for it). Instead, be patient and wait for a very gently used model to appear. It can happen as quickly as a week or even a few months. Don't be afriad to travel a bit to find the perfect deal. Remember....don't buy from a dealer unless you absolutely understand that you will be handing over much larger sums of money for the same gently-used rig you could have purchased from a private seller.

Final advice- Learn how to repair and maintain your rig yourself. Read the manuals, watch YouTube, buy the tools you need to fix the rig, and expect for things to happen. That's just the way of the world with RVs. Things BREAK. Don't freak out when the water heater stops working or if the slide jams and stops moving, or if you discover a water leak. Learn how to troubleshoot your rig. The more you do, the more you'll learn, and the more expertise you will develop.

If you do buy from a dealership make sure they are LOCAL. This is particularly important during the warranty period. Find out if water leaks are covered in new units and GET IT IN WRITING that the DEALERSHIP will fix the water leaks. The sneakiest things manufacturers do is they do not cover water leaks in the one year warranty period. Read their warranty carefully and if the dealership insists it is covered ask for it in writing with a signature BEFORE you buy.

I hope this advice helps others because I feel like I learned from the school of hard knocks. I know their will be a flurry of people responding with their experiences good and bad, that's to be expected but in general........I wish I had followed all of this advice.
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Old 05-27-2019, 11:28 PM   #2
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Hi John,
That is a very extensive list, and you make many fine points. I would like to expand upon a point you made in Step #8, and that is renting first. My Engineer friend Chris and his wife decided to buy a motorhome, so last Fall, they booked a flight from Seattle back east somewhere to attend an RV Show. They looked for a couple of days, and Chris narrowed it down to four different models. After returning home to Seattle, Chris was making the final optimized selection when his wife dropped a bomb on his plans; she decided that she did NOT want to go camping in a motorhome!
I asked Chris how many times had he and his wife rented or gone out in a motorhome, and the answer was none! I explained to Chris that my wife and I first rented from Cruise America the 19', the 25', and the 30' motorhomes, as well as the Cruise America Truck Camper. In this way, we learned:
  • Do we like camping in a motorhome?
  • What size motorhome is best for sightseeing?
  • What size motorhome is big enough inside?
  • Would we use it often enough to justify purchasing one?
  • Can we tow our boat or haul my motorcycle with it?
Here are three things that we Engineers have learned:
  1. It is very difficult to get a date when you laugh on the inhale and wear a pocket protector.
  2. If you are lucky enough to get a date, it may be the only one you get, so you tread lightly.
  3. If you actually get the girl, you quickly learn that the man is merely the technical consultant to the marriage. It is the woman who is in charge!
As you may have deduced by now, Engineers don't make terribly good comedians, but we do love traveling by motorhome! Ha-ha-ha.
Thanks, Eagle5
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Old 05-28-2019, 10:08 AM   #3
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I'm with you all the way, John, especially with regard to buying used and maintaining it yourself.

I would add that, if you're purchasing a motorhome, find a good, local truck repair shop experienced in your brand of chassis. Don't rely on RV dealerships for non-warranty "truck" service.
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Old 05-29-2019, 02:57 AM   #4
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Investors - pay attention:

Buy hotel stocks and short WBO.

Just kidding of course, for many the decision to buy an RV has little to do with spreadsheets and thoughtful analysis. Nonetheless, there is lots of truth in the post.
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Old 06-02-2019, 06:32 PM   #5
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We bought our first motor home because we were on our way from Point A to Point B and passed it being delivered to a used RV dealer's lot. Dirty, not a lot of information about it, but it had low miles and a look that said, "come get me".

I am a DIYer that likes to fix things, so this was just like the cars, boats, trucks, motorcycles that I've bought; make it work right and learn from it.

Two years later the thing worked as new and we sold it, Why? BECAUSE you will never know what or who suits you on the first dance.

Not knocking the OP, but depends on your lifestyle and the way you think things over. I'm ADD but I also like to fix things, so not worried about a dealer's location. I like used for a number of reasons that you all know what they are.

BTW, we made money on the sale two years later. That didn't happen without the coach being put into great condition, and the Buy didn't happen without advance internet searching that told us when a deal was a DEAL.

Yes, we missed the aged-out tires, but that's just part of everybody's story.
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Old 06-02-2019, 09:37 PM   #6
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Yup, good points by all. A couple of thoughts:

Much of the purchase decision can be influenced by the area of the country you're in. If you're in the north as we are there are not many dealers and not many service companies so you may be more on your own than if you live in the warmer areas. The selection of good, used units may also be a lot less than the south.

We bought new for a variety of reasons, mainly that we're older and this likely will be our only Class A ever. It is possible to bargain and one issue we had was that we could not get some automated insurance quotes because their NADA lookups said the price we paid was too low. I'm pretty sure that won't happen after Year One, though.

We ended up changing away from the insurance company we've been with for many, many years because they would not insure anything over 35' and our new one is just over 35'. Going to a separate insurance company for RV insurance would have cost us almost double the dollars and we would not have our umbrella liability coverage. So we switched the house, the cars and added the RV.

Dealers on new units are kind of like car dealers on new cars. They're not supplying the warranty or dictating the warranty terms. It seems one place where many dealers fall down are warranty authorizations. They either delay calling or filing and say they are waiting for a response instead. Be proactive and tell the dealer that you will be calling the manufacturer's warranty department to find out what the hold up is and do it sooner rather than later. Put the fear of God into the dealer whenever you have a warranty issue. Some dealers may actually be stuck in Authorization Limbo and welcome the push from the owner. Either way your personal involvement should either speed up the process if the dealer really is waiting for a response, or improve your relationship with the dealer.

As the OP noted, there is a LOT to learn. If you don't have the time to learn before you buy you'll be paying someone else after you buy and you may be stuck somewhere until assistance can arrive. For example, tonight I watched about three hours of YouTube videos on how non-residential refrigerators work, what can go wrong and how to resolve problems yourself. If nothing else I'm a more educated consumer as I go to bed tonight. I'll bet I've spent dozens of hours reading forums, articles and asking questions and I'm still picking up tidbits of useful information.

One question to ask is WHY you are thinking about doing this. Our purpose is two-fold: To get the heck out of the snow and cold during winter and also to visit different parts of the country to search for our final home. As well as have some fun. While it is dramatically cheaper to do hotel rooms, we want to be in the different places we're considering for a month or two to get a real feel for the location and the things that go along with it (taxes, costs, different weather, etc.) For example, while our winters suck we don't have hurricanes, earthquakes, levees, astonishingly high property and sales taxes, massively unfunded government pension plans sucking up tax dollars, etc,. to be concerned with. But the roads generally suck due to the winters.

There were a few things I learned about purchasing while I was working so I'll pass them along for whatever they are worth:

The best behavior you will ever get out of a seller is before you sign on the dotted line. It only goes downhill from there. You're now "old money" and they chase "new money" for the sales and commissions.

Every time a verbal representation is made respond with "How can we word that so it's part of the contract?" If the response is "We do this for everyone so we don't need it in the contract!", ask why it's such a problem if they already are planning to do it. If they still won't do it, ask yourself "Why?" and consider it a red flag.

If it's not part of the contract, it's not part of the deal.
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Old 06-02-2019, 11:14 PM   #7
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I done over 3 years of research on what I wanted , a Minnie Winnie 31 K . We rented a rental Class C in May for 11 days ( wasn't a Winnebago and over 2 foot less length than a 31K ) The outcome of it all was I've given up on my retirement dream of having any RV !
: If I got my own RV , according to 3 years of research ; it's the initial cost , then all the gas cost , the RV camping site costs every night , the maintenance & equipment upgrade costs . insurance , registration costs . Storage costs & issues . Then an additional whole list of towed vehicle costs . Then food & other supplies. --- meanwhile America's horrible roads are beating everything apart , trying to destroy it all , all the cost - wasted ! ---- I can no way justify all that expense for only a tiny bit of maybe enjoyment ! I have kissed off my dream , nothing to look forward to now ...
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Old 06-03-2019, 08:35 AM   #8
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Final advice- Learn how to repair and maintain your rig yourself. Read the manuals, watch YouTube, buy the tools you need to fix the rig, and expect for things to happen. That's just the way of the world with RVs. Things BREAK. Don't freak out when the water heater stops working or if the slide jams and stops moving, or if you discover a water leak. Learn how to troubleshoot your rig. The more you do, the more you'll learn, and the more expertise you will develop.

If you do buy from a dealership make sure they are LOCAL. This is particularly important during the warranty period. Find out if water leaks are covered in new units and GET IT IN WRITING that the DEALERSHIP will fix the water leaks. The sneakiest things manufacturers do is they do not cover water leaks in the one year warranty period. Read their warranty carefully and if the dealership insists it is covered ask for it in writing with a signature BEFORE you buy.

I hope this advice helps others because I feel like I learned from the school of hard knocks. I know their will be a flurry of people responding with their experiences good and bad, that's to be expected but in general........I wish I had followed all of this advice.[/QUOTE]
and get the phone numbers and identities of coach repair people in the various places you intend to stay
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Old 06-03-2019, 08:49 AM   #9
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Think about co-ownership

We have owned a 2011 Profile View with another couple for 6 years now with out any problems. We bought the unit together and have a detailed contract with eachother about itís use and buy sell agreement.
It cuts all costs by 50%. I think more first timers should give that a serious consideration. Iíll be glad to share our co ownership contract with anyone whoís interested.
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Old 06-03-2019, 09:19 AM   #10
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Couple other issues would be the huge depreciation on a new RV as soon as you title it.
Elect/LP fridge or a residential?
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Old 06-03-2019, 01:56 PM   #11
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Specifically to TourNut: Like you, I dreamed of owning an RV for many, many years and eventually retiring and traveling and seeing the national and state parks. I bought my 07 Outlook 32H 3 years ago and I have had it on the road at least twice a year since then. My first trip was Houston to upstate NY and I was shocked by the terrible gas mileage and the costs of running an RV. That trip sat me down and after everything was recalculated, I'm still waiting for the next 4-1/2 years to retire and live my dream. I have upgraded many things in the Outlook, added solar, a residential fridge, new sine wave invertors, new hydraulics for the levelers, and a whole new entertainment system above the cab. I will continue to put a few thousand dollars a year into it until I retire, and I may not live a life of abundance after I retire, but I will definitely be living my dreams. You only live once, so live your dreams!
Just to add to the main discussion, I am also an Engineer, an Electrical Engineer and if you have no mechanical aptitude, don't even think of buying an RV, either new or used. They can be the most awesome "home" in the world, but if you don't know what you are doing, they will be your worst nightmare.
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Old 06-03-2019, 06:05 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by jimkamery View Post
Just to add to the main discussion, I am also an Engineer, an Electrical Engineer and if you have no mechanical aptitude, don't even think of buying an RV, either new or used. They can be the most awesome "home" in the world, but if you don't know what you are doing, they will be your worst nightmare.
I heartily agree, that is, unless money is no object. The good thing is that most of the "house" maintenance and repair items are well within the skills of the average home DIYer. On the "truck" side, things can get a little more complicated and, just like with our other vehicles, most of us will need to defer to the experts for engine and other drivetrain issues.

One of the most time-consuming and therefore expensive tasks is electrical troubleshooting so a good understanding of both 110V AC and 12V DC systems and the use of a multimeter in troubleshooting is a definite plus. The truck repair shop I use to service my MH even has a higher hourly rate for electrical troubleshooting.
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Old 06-03-2019, 07:59 PM   #13
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We bought a new 2018 intent in January,first timers,this thing has had so many things break that we are beyond frustrated.Roof ac ,dash ac,leak on front dash,both captains chairs have broke,decal has been replaced on passenger side,front grill has broke loose,and several other things,called Winnebago and all they say is it’s under warranty,get it fixed,were 65 miles from the dealer,they got my Money and dont care,,well I’m going to be the biggest a hole and nitpick everything on this thing ,it’s been so many things we have thought about trying to sell it,it has 2000 miles on it,brand new when we bought,quality control sucks.
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Old 06-03-2019, 10:01 PM   #14
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Originally Posted by BROAD ST View Post
We bought a new 2018 intent in January,first timers,this thing has had so many things break that we are beyond frustrated.Roof ac ,dash ac,leak on front dash,both captains chairs have broke,decal has been replaced on passenger side,front grill has broke loose,and several other things,called Winnebago and all they say is itís under warranty,get it fixed,were 65 miles from the dealer,they got my Money and dont care,,well Iím going to be the biggest a hole and nitpick everything on this thing ,itís been so many things we have thought about trying to sell it,it has 2000 miles on it,brand new when we bought,quality control sucks.
And, so, what's your advice to first time buyer? Buy used? Don't buy an RV? Or...?
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Old 06-04-2019, 07:40 AM   #15
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Traveled 6,000 miles last Fall (2018) from Minneapolis to Nashville and then West to New Orleans, Rio Grand Valley, San Antonio, Tucson, and Phoenix. The roads weren't that bad, there was a section on I-10 in LA that was rough, otherwise good all the way. I am wimp on bad roads and would remember a bad trip. We spent significant chunks of time in all these areas and had a great time. I don't want to sit at home. I don't want to stay in motels. And I would otherwise accumulate funds that would go to a bunch of spoiled kids! Yes, the maintenance is a challenge, but I am learning things like changing my generator oil on my own, doing my own winterizing etc. I enjoy the challenge even though there are a lot of things I will never be able to do, and yes we do have 1 or 2 service visits a year beyond the regular Ford oil changes. The Ford E450 is a bright spot, handles great, very reliable and fun to drive. I knew about the 8MPG long ago when I got into RVing. It's just part of the program. Why accumulate millions that you will never use? And I don't want to own a 2nd home anywhere, 1 is enough. (That is another story).I suppose living under a bridge would be cheaper the DOT would maintain it for me.
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Old 06-05-2019, 05:35 AM   #16
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Absolutely

My feelings exactly. The fun is in the journey as in life and in RVing !
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Old 06-05-2019, 07:40 AM   #17
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My advice is to start small... and simple. We went tent camping one year. 2-months later we bought a 16í Travel Trailer and did some more camping. The next summer we traded for a 22í TT and went camping some more. 5-years later we bought a 25í TT. 5-more years down the road we bought a 30í Class C which lead to a 37í Class A.

With each step we learned. We learned how to camp, how to travel and yes, how to fix things. We learned about the buying process, the selling process, and the true cost of RVing.

I see stories of doom and gloom from folks that jumped in at the deep end of the pool with zero experience and they are ďshockedĒ that there is more to this whole thing than beautiful sunsets and coffee in the morning. The reality is that itís like everything else in life - a mixed bag of good and bad.

Like sushi and home ownership itís not for everyone.
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Old 06-05-2019, 08:39 AM   #18
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Quote:
Originally Posted by sunvale1 View Post
Don't freak out when the water heater stops working or if the slide jams and stops moving, or if you discover a water leak. Learn how to troubleshoot your rig. The more you do, the more you'll learn, and the more expertise you will develop.
Absolutely agree. When we went to the local dealer we looked at two new 2019 units, a Vista LX and an Adventurer. BOTH had slide failures because the dealer doesn't do the PDI until after the unit is sold. On both of them, the rear slide, rear wall, both "stuck". On both it was on extension.

On the Vista the "10-years of experience" salesperson did not hold the switch down until it was all the way out but "milked it" a bit. With the Schwintek slides you must hold the button down until the slide is all the way out or all the way in and then continue to hold it for a few seconds for the motors to sync up. It's in the manual. On the Vista the rear-most wall of the slide actually jammed hard against RV wall and the mechanism kicked out. On the Adventurer he watched it as he "milked it out" again and it started moving asymmetrically so he stopped. I have no doubt he caused at least some of the issue.

Needless to say we became gun-shy of slide failures. It turns out that there is an app called "MyLCI" from Lippert, the manufacturer of many, many things on RVs including the Schwintek and Power Gear slides. They have all of the owners manuals and troubleshooting guides as part of the app.

So I read through them and they even list the procedure and the tools needed to manually retract or extend the slides. There were some things I did not have in my toolkit, namely two 3/8" deep well sockets and two 3" extensions so both sides can be moved manually at the same time using two people.

They're now in the tool bag so I am now confident I'll never have a slide failure. Or if I do I know how to handle it myself.

The lengthy dissertation above is just an example of how good preparation can help you get through most issues and failures. Even if you don't have the expertise someone at the campground will. If you have the necessary tools for your RV life will be less stressful.

Ray
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Old 10-20-2020, 12:36 PM   #19
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Oh yes, everything that was said is true and I did most of the wrong things.
This advise is worth a million dollars.
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Old 10-23-2020, 07:30 PM   #20
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Quote:
Originally Posted by TourNut View Post
I done over 3 years of research on what I wanted , a Minnie Winnie 31 K . We rented a rental Class C in May for 11 days ( wasn't a Winnebago and over 2 foot less length than a 31K ) The outcome of it all was I've given up on my retirement dream of having any RV !
: If I got my own RV , according to 3 years of research ; it's the initial cost , then all the gas cost , the RV camping site costs every night , the maintenance & equipment upgrade costs . insurance , registration costs . Storage costs & issues . Then an additional whole list of towed vehicle costs . Then food & other supplies. --- meanwhile America's horrible roads are beating everything apart , trying to destroy it all , all the cost - wasted ! ---- I can no way justify all that expense for only a tiny bit of maybe enjoyment ! I have kissed off my dream , nothing to look forward to now ...
I was sad to read that. Of course, you make good points - RVing can be VERY expensive relative "nights stayed".

BUT, it can also be a lot more affordable than you might give credit to, using some sacrifices and alternatives. For example, a way more affordable scheme for you would be 1/2T pickup (used, of course), with a 24 - 28 foot used travel trailer. Forget the luxuries of fancy new units - which are mostly glitz, you can get used TTs for very affordable prices and they will not be as expensive to maintain as CLass C.

Consider a sturdy 1/2T truck for $10K and a $5K TT. For $15k, you have a go anywhere rig that gets 12MPG or so, is very cheap to insure, and really easy to do DIY maintenance. Get a portable gennie and you can camp for free on some nights.

I hate to see anyone give up their dreams!
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