Picking up the Motor Home

Covered Wagon

Well we are home. We purchased our 2007 Safari Simba 38SDD from Vacations To Go RV via eBay and picked it up in Williamston, SC over the weekend. Allen (Daisy’s Brother), Daisy, Shirley (Daisy’s mom) and I rented a car and drove to Fuquay Varina NC to drop the ladies off to see our new Great Grandson while Allen and I continued onto SC for the RV.

No issues getting down there other than a LONG drive. Returned the rental car to the airport on Saturday Morning and got a shuttle back to the hotel. Michael picked us up around 11 AM. Allen and I did our inspection of the rig and only issue we found was the horn. It worked once and then quit. Some troubleshooting and still couldn’t get it to work. First item on the list for maintenance. Other than that we were ready to go. Paid the balance off and hit the road around 1 PM.

Things were messed up from the start, hehe. Our GPS decided we needed to go South in order to go to North Carolina. After about 20 miles, I decided to fire the GPS and return to North Carolina the way we came down. Turned around and headed north. We got maybe 80 miles when the RV started to buck and slow down to a crawl going uphill. We pulled off the exit and our guardian angel was sitting there working on another broken down vehicle. I asked him if he could take a look at the rig and he said NO. But he did have some friends that could and would escort us to the truck stop.

Called his friends and about 2 hours later they showed up. During that time we had discussed with them what happened and they felt it was a fuel filter. Brought one with them and did a little remove and replace. Oh BTW, by now it was raining, heavy. I kind of felt bad for the tech that had to crawl under the RV to change out the filter. He was soaked.   But $450 later and we were on the road again.

Heading up North and driving in the pouring rain. Started to get dark and decided to call it a night. Just as we decided that it was time to pull off… you guessed it Murphy shows up again. The bus started bucking and slowing down going up hills. So we pulled off into a Cracker Barrel for dinner and to calm down some. Upon leaving I asked the manager if we could leave the RV in the parking lot. Long story short, he said yes, kind of.

Spent the night in the rig and in the morning got on the phone with my son-in-law and decided we needed to get some diesel additive. Something called Diesel 911. No one knew what it was. But Allen found this stuff that was supposed to remove water from the fuel. Added it to the tank, started the engine and ran it for about 30 minutes. Then drove around the empty parking lot a few times and head on our way to NC, only 60 miles away.

We made it! Yes we were in NC. The sky was blue, temperature was in the 70s and life was good.

Murphy returns, just outside of Greenville NC, the RV starts bucking again going up hills. Pull off the side of the road and called the son-in-law. We checked the fuel filter no water in the line. Decided it was time to call Good Sam Roadside Assistance. They were great. It took several hours and being a Sunday, no repair centers were open, but they could get us towed to a shop to be looked at first thing Monday morning. We spent several hours waiting for a tow truck. I must say if you have to be broken down on the side of the road, a Class A is the way to go. While we were waiting, we checked out the TV, antennas, generator etc. Watched some McHale’s Navy and a football game. When the tow driver showed up, he was quick and very professional. Hooked us up and off we went. During the time we were waiting the wife and Mother in law drive out from the other side of the state with blankets, clothes and some food. We had a quick dinner and they returned to our granddaughter’s house. We spent a second night dry camping.

Monday morning, we awoke to people arriving to work. You would think that they never got to work on a Class A. Seriously we had like 5 mechanics going over the rig. Computers hooked up here and there, mechanics in, under and around the RV. Finally they say we have a bad fuel filter! I tell them it was just replaced and they said not that one, this one and show us a second fuel filter back by the fuel tank. Thirty minutes later and we take it for a test drive. It seems fixed. Return back to the shop and wait for the bill. Seriously, this guy is working on it for 30 minutes. I’m thinking 5 mechanics and computer diagnostic, this is going to be expensive. Finally, he is done. I ask him much? He starts by saying well the first number is a 1! Here it comes one thousand dollars. Next number is a 2, now we are at 1200 dollars. Third number is an 8. That will be $128 please. WHAT! This can’t be. One mechanic comes out and replaces a filter and it cost me $450. 5 mechanics come out and replace a filter and it only cost $128. I paid it quick before he changed his mind. We are on the road again.

Now we are going to pickup the wife and mother in law. The whole way I am waiting for the engine to bog down or something else to happen. Nothing! We get there and not one problem. After a quick meal with the baby and mommy, we hit the road.

Make it to just outside of Washington DC and pull into a campground, Americamp, for the night. First night with full hookups. Everything works! Took a little bit to get the sewer, water and electric hooked up, but no Robin Williams moments.

Ordered some pizza and took a walk around the park. Nice way to unwind from a very stressful day.

Morning comes and time to hit the road. Pull in the slides, disconnect the water, electric and sewer. Sit in the driver’s seat, start the engine, turn on the lights and go make my walk around inspection…. HONK! The damn horn works! Cool I think one more thing off the list of repairs. Walk outside and find out now the marker lights don’t work. I have headlights, turn signals and brake lights but no marker lights. Oh well, I won’t need them as the weather is great and we will be home before dark.

Onto Interstate 95 we go. Plans are to by-pass the major cities with 495 and 695. Well best laid plans of mice and men… we miss the 495 ramp. Then we miss the Interstate 95 and end up on 395 going into Washington DC. Having never been this way, I figured that 395 should be a major route. First sign of possible problem is a flashing sign that says our rig is over the height limit. I am thinking, what height limit? But before I can do anything here is a tunnel at 13 feet! The RV is listed at 12 ft. 8 inches. I ducked, but we made it. Not sure how much room we had. Before I could relax, we are dumped onto the city streets of Washington DC at 11 AM on a Tuesday morning. Bumper to bumper traffic at 30 miles an hour with cab drivers weaving in and out and EVERYONE wanting to be in front of me. My hands are sore from holding onto the wheel. Some fool cuts me off and I lay on the horn. Nothing! Add the horn back onto the list.

We make it through DC and back onto 95. BREAK TIME. Don’t you know the first two rest stops in Maryland are closed for repairs? Finally, get to pull over and all I want to do is collapse. I am a nervous wreck on the inside.

We have some lunch, walk around a little and then head back up 95. Thankfully, the rest of the trip is pretty uneventful. Only two more people decided they wanted to die and try to use me for that purpose. But I have watched the videos and keep my distance. Then Murphy returns. I find that I am having more and more problems seeing out the driver’s side mirror. It seems to keep moving off to the side. By the time we get to Wilmington, the mirror is resting alongside of the rig and totally useless. One more thing to the list. I am so thankful that this rig has cameras. We were able to stay out of any major issues and we made it home!

Maintenance has been performed. The lights work, the mirror is fixed and as soon as I can get an air horn release valve that will be fixed. Oh by the way, I am feeling a lot more at ease with driving the RV.

Selecting Our RV

 

Recently my wife and I were talking about our upcoming long term tour of the country. I will be 62 and we both have dreamt of traveling the country and seeing everything we have always wanted to see. We own a 32 ft. travel trailer and a Dodge 3500 diesel dually that we would be towing it with. For whatever reason, I started thinking that it would be nice to get a Class A. She had apparently been thinking the same thing. So off to the dealers we went.

Having no idea of what to look for, what kind of budget for the rig would be needed or even the operating costs we decided it would be a good idea to ask as many questions as possible. We are not new to the RV world, having lived full-time in a fifth-wheel for 10 years, has taught us a lot. We are familiar with the problems of freezing water lines, dumping the tanks, setting up and tearing down. How to economize the storage space and shopping while living on a limited budget. So we knew what we wanted on the inside. But a Class A is totally different from a fifth-wheel on the outside.

We had to look at things differently when getting on the road. Our current fifth-wheel is 42 ft. long. It is a toy hauler or garage unit. The back 14 ft. was used as an office instead of carrying around toys (motor cycles, ATV etc.). Storage on the outside was simply the basement area. With a Class A you have a lot more storage. But even that seemed to raise questions. Why were some models offering pass through and some not? Why do some models have a lot of storage and some don’t? Also almost all Class A RVs have a generator, why? What kind of maintenance do they need? How big would we need? How long will it run, etc.? It seemed the more we started looking the more questions we had. Then the really big question, gas or diesel.

We really needed to narrow down the selection and get an idea on the costs of a Class A. If you have looked around at Class A’s at all you know that diesel units cost more than gas units. Sometimes a lot more.   But are they worth it?   Our first problem was actually justifying a Class A over the rig we already have and paid for. My son kind of answered that. His feelings were that a Class A offered more options. If you are on the road and broke down, you had your TOAD (car that you towed behind the Class A for getting around town) that you could unhook and drive to get help. Second was the storage. Regardless of the type of Class A (gas or diesel), you still have a lot more storage than a travel trailer. The operating costs of a Class A versus the truck and trailer are also better. My truck gets about 8 MPG average towing the trailer. A diesel Class A is about the same. But once camped, my car (TOAD) gets 30 MPG and the truck 16 MPG. Gas is currently 30 cents a gallon cheaper than diesel. Our overall cost for travel would be cheaper.

Next was the size of the rig. We found out that if you are going to keep your camping expenses low, your best bet was National and State parks along with dry camping. Many parks have a limit on the size of the rig that they will allow. The closer you get to 40 ft., the more parks you will be limiting yourself to. 36 ft. seems to be a sweet spot. Plenty of storage and comfort and small enough to get into the maximum number of places. It’s funny how a little bit of information can go a long way. Just knowing that we wanted to stay around 36 ft. helped eliminate a lot of the rigs.

So now to tackle the big problem, gas or diesel. Up front this seemed like an easy problem. Gas is cheaper, gas engine RVs are cheaper. All Class A’s offered a comfortable ride. All Class A’s offered sufficient storage. Having worked on engines in my youth, I knew that a gas engine would not have the lifetime of a diesel, but I also knew you could rebuild or replace them fairly cheaply when the time came. SO gas it was… but why were diesels so much more in demand? That bothered me, so I started asking questions. Seems that diesels get better mileage, more get up and go in the mountains, have more towing capacity, have better basement areas (storage) and in general last a lot longer. When I applied my math skills to the numbers, it turns out that diesels had a lower operating cost, better resale value and lasted longer than the gas RV. Now I was really torn, gas or diesel? Enter my Son-in-law, a mechanic. He had simple advise… get a diesel. They are quieter (engine is normally in the back), come with a bigger generator (more electric to run things) and will last forever. Now we knew what to start narrowing our search down to. A diesel rig around 36 feet long.

Living space has always been a concern for me. I get slightly claustrophobic at times. Add a few people in a small space (think elevator) and I am close to losing it at times. So living in an 8 ft wide home on wheels could be an issue. The answer is slide outs. Diesel RV can have a lot of slide outs. These expand the interior room quite a bit. But the more slides the more expensive the unit and the more potential problems. After thinking about it we decided that two slides would be enough and one big slide in the living area would be our minimum. After all, we only sleep in the bed room. But we eat, read, entertain and relax in the living area.

We don’t have any kids living with us any more so a single bedroom was our next thought. Then the mother-in-law said how she would love to travel the country. My wife also brought up the fact that she would love to have the grandkids travel with us from time to time. I know some of you also have kids that you can’t leave at home (although you may want to at times). We did see a few Class A’s that have bunk rooms and were actually very nice. That may be an option.

It was time to look at the budget. We had a basic idea of what we now wanted in an RV. The issue became how much did we want to spend and could we afford to buy what we needed.

I have always had expensive taste. Going to RV shows, I learned quickly that if the price of the RV was less than $300,000 I really didn’t seem to like it. I also knew that we could not afford to pay $300,000 on a new RV. Sitting down with the budget and financial information we figured out what we could afford. We have a situation that is slightly different from almost all of you and that is a pending settlement of an insurance claim for my wife. For us, the settlement will be a determining factor on how much of a rig we can buy. But for now, we knew that a new rig was not in the question, used was going to have to do.

New set of problems. Used means someone else’s problems. Now there are all kinds of things that you can do to limit the issues you run into. Insurance and aftermarket warranties, good inspections before the sale by a qualified mechanic, talking to the previous owner, buying as new as possible, reading reviews on the forums, asking questions of professionals and users. In short do as much research as you can.

So how used is used? Researching the web, you can find all kinds of used Class A rigs. Some with very low mileage. All different sizes and all different ages. Taking my list of requirements I started looking at the local dealerships, then eBay, then web searches. I can tell you this; there is no shortage of Class A Diesel RV for us to look at. Good Sams will cover a rig up to 14 years old. But each year it gets more expensive. So you can cover yourself for major issues.

So there you have it, how to select an RV. With lots of research and a little luck you can find the perfect rig for your travels. Decide what you need, what you want and what you can afford. Then search the local dealers so you can see what it is you are saying you have to have versus what you want to have. Then search the web for units in your price range.

There are a lot of good quality check list on the web to use to check out the RV of your dreams once you have a few narrowed down. Use them as well. Know a good mechanic? Take him/her along; it never hurts to have a unbiased eye looking over a major purchase.

Author Box

Raymond Laubert and his wife Daisy live full time in a fifth wheel recreational vehicle and love it! Married for over 40 years, they have four children and 13 grandchildren and a great grand child. Camping has always been, and remains, a large part of their lives. If Ray isn’t camping with his wife, you can find him cooking or playing with his two dogs, Misty and Princess