Finding an Affordable and Amazing RV

Glass Chihuly, RV adventures sightseeing in Arizona

 

In 2014 the RV Adventure Plan was in the brainstorming phase.  By 2015 the search for an RV had begun, yet we still didn’t know what we wanted.  Initially we wanted to keep it as small as possible and we were looking at Class C motorhomes.  After I spent time looking at numerous smaller Tiogas and Minnie Winnies, I stumbled upon some Class A’s.  The additional size and amenities seemed to fit our newly envisioned life style better than the Class C’s.  We sat in a few different models and fantasized living on one of these.  However, we both felt as though we might get claustrophobic in the smaller C’s.  This isn’t a judgement against Class C’s or anyone who owns one.  This was our current mindset after already cutting our living space down by more than half only six months prior.

Fear was definitely guiding our decision to choose a larger rig.  If we end up feeling claustrophobic early on in this adventure, the trip could end shortly after starting.  Yes, we could’ve sold and purchased a larger one if this scenario would have happened.  I didn’t say we were being rational, this is just how it went down.  So, at this point we wanted to set ourselves up for success so we began to consider Class A’s as the front runners, but had yet to rule out the Class C’s.   Everything in life has some give and take.  For example, would we be okay with skipping some areas because the rig was too large?  Would the additional comfort and amenities offset that?   

The larger rigs have additional amenities and comfort but won’t be able to go everywhere a smaller rig can.  How important is this comfort?  I was placing a high value on comfort and durability, the extra amenities didn’t matter, although they were a nice perk.  Wouldn’t a washer/dryer combo come in handy while we had hookups?  Everyone needs to wash their clothes.  If you can’t tell by now, we have no idea what we’re doing.  But we’re doing it anyway, we’ll figure things out eventually. 

After looking at 10-20 different makes and models you’ll realize that (1) they are definitely not created equal and (2) pictures online are horrible at showing the actual condition.  After speaking with the many owners, they weren’t created equal either.  Some owners were very meticulous with maintenance and records, others not at all.  The majority had water stains from prior or current leaks with severe wood rot. The standouts of this group were the older high-end diesel pushers.  Also, the build quality was far superior and they seemed to have weathered the years better than the others.   I believe this was in part due to the average demographic that was purchasing this type of RV over the years.  Most of the owners I spoke with in this group showed pride of ownership and took good care of them.  They also stored them in garages instead of leaving them outside in the elements for the last 20 years.   

When dealing with 14 to 20 year old rigs, what updates if any have been made?  The fully remodeled ones were nice but the price tags were typically outrageous. Some were all original, except for the 20 years of wear and tear.  Others were varying  combinations of old and new.  We were avoiding anything that was smoked in or with original run down interiors.  A few wanted the value of the RV to increase with the cost of the updates.  There is additional value with some updates but it’s nowhere near dollar for dollar.   

By now we have determined a few things about what we’re looking for.  Our search criteria included: 

Class: A 

Floor plan:  Table with chairs, couch w/room for a recliner. 

Gas or Diesel: Diesel 

Year Range: 1995-2001 

Preferred Makes/Models: American Eagle, Beaver Patriot or Marquis, Monaco Dynasty or Signature, Holiday Rambler Navigator,  Foretravel 270, 295, and 320.  These are only models that we looked at, others are similar. 

Preferred Options: Solar panels, Large Battery Bank, Updated Electronics, No Slides. 

Preferred Length:  32 ft. Would be best, but up to 40 ft. would work 

 

After we narrowed down our list criteria, things got easier.  I made offers on three separate occasions between May 2015 and June 2016 and was turned down by all.  The first was a fully remodeled 96 Beaver Patriot, this person did an amazing job and had records for everything.  He disassembled all the cabinets, sanded them down, and restained the wood.  He did almost all the work himself but wanted 33% more than our offer.  While this person did great work on the interior, the exterior could have used some help.

Buying a Affordable RV for Full time RV Living

Buying a affordable RV for full time rv living. 99 Monaco DynastyThe second was a 99 Monaco Dynasty, now this was the only one we considered with a slide.  It had low miles, was in immaculate condition inside and out, and had the Country Club edition interior.  The owner didn’t work on it himself, he always had a company fix it for him and had most of the paperwork.  He was a character, I enjoyed negotiating with him.  But we couldn’t come to an agreeable price.  He had a nice one and he knew it.   He sold it for 46% more than our offer, although he had offered it to us for 13% more than our offer.  

 

 

 

 

 

 

The third was a 98 Foretravel 295.  This was also my first encounter with a transmission retarder, that was a nice feature.  The downside was a small shoddy repair to the fiberglass on the front end and a cat had clawed at multiple pieces of the furniture.  This was all cosmetic though, everything else was in great shape.  Brand new tires, average miles, upgraded electronics, all records, and only minor rattles on the test drive.  We made an offer in June and a few days later he called to say he sold it to someone else.  Turns out our offer was only a couple thousand less than the offer he excepted.   97 Foretravel 295, buying RV to live in full time.

Then in August 2016 I ended up calling on a 97 Monaco Signature on Craigslist in Seattle.  I’d been watching Craigslist for awhile, so I’d seen it on there for months but it was priced 60% more than what we wanted to spend. The owner was very pleasant to deal with and it sounded like it was in great condition, I’ve heard this before though.  We decided to drive to Seattle and check it out.  Instantly we could tell that this one was better than the others we have seen.  It was an all-electric model with a large battery bank and the original owner added 4 solar panels.  The second owner added 3 new Samsung LED TV’s and a Blu-ray player.  The carpet looked new and all the furniture was reupholstered with ultra-leather.  Plus it had a newer sleep number bed.  It had higher miles than the previous rigs we looked at. However 144,000 miles in 19 years isn’t bad for a diesel engine.  It was good that it was being used, that’s way better than sitting there rotting away.  The upgraded Cummins M11 450 hp engine is known to be very reliable and last a long time.  I wasn’t looking for the larger engine but the power is nice.   

There was a few minor issues that would need addressed, this thing is almost 20 years old.  Water had damaged some of the floor in the battery bay, the batteries needed replaced, and the tires only had a couple years of service life left in them.   

Time for a test drive. 

Test drive before buying an RV

The test drive went well, it was the most quiet we had driven (zero rattles) and drove great.  We thanked him and left to mull over our decision for awhile.   

 

After some back and forth negotiating with the owner, we came to terms at our original budget.  When we went to pick it up, the owner had loaded all the bottom compartments with spare parts and accessories that he had for it.  I was amazed, there were spare a/c covers,  circuit boards,  extra belt and filter for everything, marker lights, light bulbs, a/c condenser, alternator, water pump, and the list went on and on.  Boxes upon boxes stuffed full of random spare parts.  He showed us how everything worked and told us to give him a call if we needed anything.  The previous owner he bought it from helped him out on multiple occasions and he wanted to extend that offer to us as well.  Something I have used a few times already, we are very grateful to have purchased from someone willing to be available.  We will extend that offer to the next owner when that day comes.

Curlew Lake State Park

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