Posts Tagged buying your first RV
I know that the gripping tale of RV modifications in Part I had you sleepless for nights on end until I provided the rest of the story! So before you lose any more sleep, here is the final shop talk of our RV modifications!
Quadra Big Foot leveling jacks
Quadra didn’t have an appointment available for a couple of weeks, so we camped at MorRyde a bit longer, then move to the driveway of some VERY gracious friends.
We met our friend Tom a year ago at the Hersey RV Show. Jeff had is bike in our hotel room and just across the hall Tom had his bike in his room. They both noticed each others bikes. Jeff and Tom got to talking and found out that they were both Ironman Triathletes, and an instant bond was formed.
We’ve kept touch in with Tom (who also works in the RV industry) and have made a point to go to dinner whenever we were in Elkhart.
Since we have been in Elkhart for so long Jeff started riding with Tom and his cycling group each morning at 4:50AM. We got to spend a lot of time with Tom, his wife Tera and their 3 girls. It was so fun being a part of their family while driveway surfing. I’m not going to lie…I’m going to miss those girls. I just might have shed a little tear when we left.
We vacated our delightful accommodations in Elkhart and headed over to Quadra in White Pigeon, MI and camped in their parking lot while they installed our leveling system over two days. We thought that Big Foot was just an exaggerated name for their system, but after seeing the plate sized pads of the levels, BIG Foot is no joke.
Bontrager Rv Surplus
White Pigeon is a two stop light town that is home to an amazing RV surplus store called Bontragers. They have axles, thousands of RV windows, RV electric and plumbing parts, lights, windshield wiper blades, appliances, furniture and even the tiniest screw, plug and spring. They even had stuff you didn’t know you needed until you saw it! It’s a very organized flea market feel with great prices.
We found a replacement porch light (the only one it’s kind) for the Domani for $35. We were having a hard time finding it online…and there it was!
My biggest find was the coveted MCD dual roller shades that every RV’er dreams of owning. We had a quote from MasterTech for $1,800 for ten windows, so pricy that we opted not to get them. I was able to find 9 MCD’s shades out of my 10 windows for $270…TOTAL. The kick is good, SCORE!
Of course, while Quadra was installing our leveling system they informed us that we needed a new underbelly cover. Most RV’s have a covering on the underbelly to prevent water and
road debre from damage. When Quadra opened up the covering water was dripping out…which meant that it has been compromised.
Quadra recommended driving to Middlebury, IN to have a new covering installed by Fox RV. Of course Fox RV couldn’t get us in until the following week. AND, since we are going to be there we will have them replace our 3 step fold up entry stairs with a 4 step.
Why a 4 step? When we raised the RV with new axles it caused our 3 steps to be raised too high. Plus, the last step was unstable from previous use. The 4 step entry was another bargain find at another RV salvage yard for $65 (reg $299).
Rise N Roll Bakery
Ok. So this was not an RV upgrade, but it was one of the most memorable stops of our trip. This is an Amish bakery with the most amazing pastries we have EVER tasted. After having their famous cinnamon donuts we were speechless. Literally speechless! Pure melt-in-your-mouth gooey dough with just the right amount of sweetness. No wonder the locals call it “Amish Crack”! Instant addiction and I want it bad!
If you ever come to this area you have to make every effort possible to stop a Rise N Roll. Really. YOU. HAVE. TO.
One thing has led to another on our RV project and we have this last appointment to make this week before heading back to St. Louis, then on to Arkansas. By then we will have missed the annual World Championship Squirrel Cook Off ), The Weiner Dog Races and Mule Jumping Competition.
We were supposed to be back in Arkansas for about 4-6 weeks before heading West, but now we are down to less than 2 weeks.
What do we have planned for 2 weeks? ONE MORE PROJECT…I SWEAR!
For 21 years Jeff and I have been dreaming and planning on buying a 5th Wheel RV. Our thoughts of camping were seeds that were planted by our Grandparents. All those trips we took as kids made a major impression on our souls.
My family started camping when I was just a baby (so the story goes) after my Grandpa converted an old, very small, school bus to a camper. He worked as a mechanic at Ford for 40 years and had some serious skills! He built it with his grandkids in mind with bunk beds for my two brothers and a crib for me. The earliest memory I have in my life was in that old school bus!
I’m not sure how long it was until my Grandpa got rid of the school bus and bought a Jayco popup camper with all the “modern” convenience. Mom and Dad slept on one end and my brothers were on the other end. Grandma and I slept on one of the tables that converted into a bed and my Grandpa slept on the other.
It was certainly cozy quarters, especially when my Grandpa’s snoring could scrape the bark off a tree. But I didn’t care. WE WERE CAMPIMG!
My Grandpa loved to fish, so most of our camping was done around lakes. One of the first things I would do when we got to a campground was to walk the shoreline looking for a straight stick and old fishing line that some poor fisherman had gotten tangled up in some brush. I would proudly run back to Grandpa who would tie on a brand new shiny hook.
I caught so many fish with that primitive setup. It didn’t matter how small the fish was, Grandpa would clean it and fry it up as if it were the catch of the day.
I could go on for days about camping stories like melting styrofoam cups in the campfire, skunks hanging out under our camp chairs…while we were sitting in them, tornados and grandpa stepping in the pee bucket (were we the only ones who had a bucket to pee in during the night?).
I saw my first mountain in that camper when we took an epic trip out west. We started in St. Louis and headed north to see Mount Rushmore. Then traveling west we stopped at Yellowstone and watched Old Faithful shoot her water high in the air.
Somewhere on that trip a ranger gave me a piece of petrified wood, we ran into a band of gypsies at a campground. Grandpa thought our tires would be stolen by morning so we quickly left. And, I saw Casper the Friendly Ghost.
After seeing the West, my wanderlust was born!
Though Jeff and I started out with tent camping after we were first married, we didn’t buy our first RV until 3 years ago. We bought a 2010 Heartland Edge 21’ travel trailer. It wasn’t the 5th wheel we had been dreaming of, but it was something to dip our toe into the lifestyle. In the last three years we have been all over the mid-west, New Orleans and on our own epic trip out west.
For us, the last three years has been about gaining confidence and affirming that we were committed to the RV lifestyle with plans to live full time on the road.
That brings us to our Carriage Domani 5th Wheel. Now that we have made it to the other side of some major heartburn of renovations, we are just so thrilled with our new-to-us Domani.
But what is even more exciting is that this 5th wheel is the fulfillment of a 21-year dream of ours. It has been our single vision all these years that we have based our major decisions on. With that single vision, we have asked ourselves through the years whether or not a major purchase, a job change, even a lifestyle would take us closer to our vision or take us away from it.
Pinch me…we are finally here!
Now that our RV renovations and upgrades are nearing the end, we are excited about our new beginning. The beginning of our life on the road in the “home” of our dreams.
We couldn’t be more thrilled!
While in Elkhart last week we got our first look at the full spectrum of our repairs at MasterTech RV for our new-to-us RV.
This will be a costly process, so I thought I would include costs on our project for those of you who may be considering an RV renovation yourself.
We purchased our 2009 Carriage Domani ($25,000 + $688 AR sales tax) from an individual in North Carolina and had an inspected by a local dealer. The inspection (shipping, inspection and some repairs $1,688) revealed a substantial roof leak and water damage to the interior. We were able to renegotiate the price on the Domani in order to help offset the cost of the repairs. Then we shipped the RV to MasterTech in Elkhart, IN ($1,220)
We were given the heads up that the full extent of the damage wouldn’t be known until they started to pull the roof off. That’s where we started last week and the news was not good.
The entire rear seam at the end cap had been leaking for quite a long time. The roof decking was rotted so badly that the wood was reduced to toothpicks. And because of deferred maintenance on the rest of the roof it was leaking along the sides as well.
Removing the roof was just the beginning that led to removing the end cap, which led to pulling out the interior cabinets, which led to the removal of insulation in the roof and rear wall, which led to removing the interior walls in the rear, which led to removal of furniture and carpet. Do you see where this is going?
Nothing like seeing the entire rear end of your coach exposed to send a wave of regret over your senses.
The walls and insulation were soaking wet, which also led to the spread of mold. Once the roof was opened up the smell was overwhelming. Jeff and I both woke at 3AM one morning thinking out loud, “Oh crap. What have we gotten ourselves into!”.
This led to a panicked conversation with MasterTech about whether or not we needed to stop the project, cap our losses and move on. But cooler heads prevailed and the guys assured us that we have a quality rig on our hands and that everything is fixable.
I have to say, that as most of the fabric, flooring and wallboards came out the smell started to improve rebuilding our confidence to keep moving forward despite some reservation.
So (deep breath) here is where we are going with this project.
Phase I: Remove roof, replace roof decking, insulation, replace the rear end cap. Run new pre-wire for solar & audio/video & technology. Cost: $10,000
Phase II: Replace all appliances, toilet, roof vents, AC’s, and awning with Dometic & Atwood products.
These are items that would not have necessarily needed to be changed as they were still in good condition. However, since we represent Dometic/Atwood and their aftermarket products we felt it was important for our rig to be a showpiece for their awesome line. I am not including cost here since this was purely optional.
Phase III: Replace halogen lights with LED’s, flooring, blinds, mattress and possibly furnishings.
There was carpeting in the living room and bedroom. We new that we would like to replace the flooring with linoleum throughout the coach, but thought we could wait for a little while. But with the smell, water and mold it was impossible to wait. Cost: TBD
Additionally, we were going to make-due with the lightly used furniture that came with the coach since it was high quality and super comfortable. But once again, the smell may be too much to overcome. MasterTech is planning on running an Ozone treatment on the entire coach, but since we are talking about fabric, the smell may not come out. Cost: TBD
We removed all the pleated shades and would like to get MCD shades. This is a pricy consideration, so I will be waiting for one of their big sales to order. And after seeing Wheeling It install some MCD shades themselves, and knowing that my husband has skills, we will install ourselves. Cost: TBD
Phase IV: Installing optional items…solar system & batteries, MorRyde stabilizer jacks, hitch, garage trey, outside & inside speakers and other misc items.
This will all depend on what transpires with Phases I-III, the costs involved and where we are on the budget.
Our goal is to have our projected completed by July 6 so that we can take it to RAGBAI (Bike ride across Iowa).
I have to say that it’s been a roller coaster of emotions so far with this project and I have not bonded yet with our Domani. When I can hug my RV (yes, actually hug it) I know I’ve fallen in love.
But since she is currently flashing us the moon with her exposed rear end I will wait until she pulls up her pants before going in for some love!
Till next time…
Jeff and I have been home now for a few weeks and we have been busy with some pressing work stuff. But the really BIG NEWS (besides me turning 50-how did that happen?) is that…
We sold our camper…the Ironman Can!
It was a hard decision especially since our 21’ Heartland Edge served us so well. Except for some insulation, we lacked for nothing on our epic trip out west. Yes, things were cozy at times especially when I wanted to stretch out my 6’ frame doing yoga on a cold morning inside the camper. But the time came for something a bit more…sturdy.
Our Edge was a “lightweight” not designed for heavy use or 4-season camping. And as we fell in love more and more with the RV lifestyle we new that our little camper would have to go. We couldn’t have had a better first camper and she served us well. Starting with a camper under $15k to test the waters was the right thing to do before investing in a more expenses “home” that we weren’t sure would just sit out in the back yard.
So what’s next? Well, we are the official new owners of a 2009 Carriage Domani 32’ Fifth Wheel. What is a Domani? It is a RV that we stumbled across on our search for a good quality, four seasons rig under 33 feet.
If you ever try to find a HIGH QUALITY RV ANYTHING under or around 30 feet, you will discover this is no easy task.
We seriously considered an Airstream after spending some time with the hip Airstreamer’s in the desert of Borrego Springs. We went so far as to use our RV business connections to try and get some vendor pricing for a 2015 Serenity. But with the hefty price tag, minuscule storage and low headroom shower compartment for our 6’ and over bodies, we just couldn’t pull the trigger.
At the same time we had found a Carriage Domani that we were able to look at on our drive back to Arkansas. After seeing her sleek modern lines, 20” rims and accompanied clearance (can you say off grid goodness?), that glorious storage compartment and big holding tanks, the Airstream lost its sparkle in a hurry. Of course the $75,000 price difference helped with the decision, making the Domani the clear choice for us.
We are still in the process of getting our new-to-us RV, as you will read in a coming post. But through this process of buying/selling /buying we have learned a few lessons about buying an RV.
Keys to buying an RV
After you decide on a budget and the RV you want, don’t be in a hurry. Do your homework and educate yourself on what a good deal looks like. NADA priced the Domani at around $65k. The Domani we looked at in Texas was originally $41k and they would have taken $38K. We didn’t pop because it was a consignment and the cheesy salesman really turned us off with his old school sale tactics. We kept looking and found another for $31K from a private seller on RVTrader.com and they accepted our offer of $30k.
Buy used…especially if it is your first RV. I’ve read to not spend more than $20k (I might even say $10k) on your first RV, because inevitably you will find what does and doesn’t work with the first RV…which then turns into a second, third and fourth one. We were so surprised by how many RV’ers trade up or down. Frequently. (Even Jeff and I are trading after 2 years) Let someone else take the hit on the depreciation, find out how much you will use it, and find out what you like before spending a lot of dinero.
Pay for an independent inspection. This will run you about $500. Since our Domani was in North Carolina and we were in Arizona at the time, we actually paid $150 to have the Domani hauled to a reputable dealer and have it inspected for $500. Even though the very nice sellers assured us that the RV had never been camped in and it was in impeccable shape our $650 discovered about $5,000-$7,500 worth of water damage and another $800 of non-working items. The inspection also confirmed that the RV was never used. Everything else was pristine…like a time capsule that had been shrink wrapped for 6 years.
Don’t shy away from a project. At first we were going to cut our losses and walk away. But after speaking with two different repair centers, we were reassured that the roof repair could all be fixed back to perfection for years of leak free use. Yes. It is an expensive process. So back to the sellers we went with a new offer of $25k, which they gladly accepted.
Use a negative to your benefit. Not only did we negotiate for a cheaper price, but we are also using the roof issue as an opportunity to run our upgraded wiring for technology and solar. This is a challenge to do when you are sealed on top and bottom of an RV. So this is a great time to run cables to make this a Smart RV for the future.
Are we happy with our purchase? That is a question for our next post….she says with a dramatic laugh! Wooohahahaha….
- December 2019
- June 2019
- December 2018
- October 2018
- April 2018
- January 2018
- December 2017
- October 2017
- June 2017
- April 2017
- March 2017
- December 2016
- October 2016
- September 2016
- August 2016
- July 2016
- June 2016
- May 2016
- April 2016
- February 2016
- December 2015
- October 2015
- September 2015
- August 2015
- July 2015
- June 2015
- May 2015
- April 2015
- March 2015
- February 2015
- January 2015
- December 2014
- November 2014
- October 2014