When looking at RVs that might be more suitable for our full-time adventure we, like anyone who looks at RVs, were overwhelmed by choices. All this took a little soul searching to define what it was that we really wanted. Like most RVers we have been looking at other RVs for a long time on our travels. We have been trying to decide what was important for us, and what was just shiny bling.
A bigger refrigerator wasn’t a big enough desire to make a huge change in our RV. Frankly, if the bigger refrigerator wasn’t possible then the entire idea of a bigger RV would have been a non-starter. To accomplish more refrigerator space, many RVers have turned to secondary refrigerators, that could be kept in a storage compartment under the RV. That would have met the desire and kept us from shopping every 3-4 days and been way less expensive than trading RVs.
How we broke down our desires
We had a semi-clear vision of where we wanted to end up. At the same time, we also realize that you don’t always get everything you want. So we needed a method to establish how to get from one place to another. So here are the headings to the categories that we used to make into a decision model.
- Real Bad
- Don’t want/Don’t care about
- Do want
The “Real Bad” category was identified as deal-killers initially, but that sounded too harsh. One of the first items in this category was the wheels. If the RV had more than six tires, meaning that it was also more than 40 feet, this was a deal-killer. We weren’t even willing to look at any RV that was more than 40 feet. Other items that fall into that category were if the RV didn’t have enough room for a big refrigerator or a washer/dryer. A replacement RV didn’t have to have a big fridge but did need room for a bigger refrigerator.
The “Good” category was items like a bigger fridge and washer and dryer already installed.
Don’t want / Don’t care about
The “Don’t Want” category included things that were not deal killers but that we prefer not to have. The number one “Don’t Want” item in this list was a diesel-powered heating system (see explanation below). The number two “Don’t Want” item was drapes in the front window. If we were able to have roller blinds rather than drapes, this would be a big plus. Don’t want is a category of things I could live with or replace but were of low to no value and certainly no extra value.
The “Do Want” category included things that were special and would tilt the scale towards a specific RV. I would have preferred a wood floor as opposed to a tile floor. Both wood and tile are way better than a carpeted floor. Fourteen-year-old carpet – don’t want. Wood floors – do want. Tile floors are way better than carpet. So far we have not seen any RVs with wooden floors that we would consider owning. So I guess that wooden floors lie in the list of you can’t always get what you want.
I don’t want to pretend that this method of breaking down what we could have was the only way or that shiny doesn’t influence our decision making, but perhaps this method helped make some of the different features more understandable. We saw several RVs last week in Phoenix that could have been contenders and came away with some likes and dislikes of each and every one of them.
Here is the list of what we wanted when looking at RVs
Very Bad (deal-killer list)
- Diesel exhaust fluid, we don’t want the extra expense of hassle involved with newer diesel engines. Besides that, we don’t want to spend the money to get a newer RV.
- More than 40 feet long: The biggest RVs have eight tires, which hold more weight, and ride somewhat nicer. I’m just scared about parking the beast in smaller locations. I just can’t find one at 30 feet long that meets our criteria.
- Two toilets: Good RV toilets dump straight into the black tank and are very simple. When you add an extra toilet, it then requires a poo-pump, most certainly, someday the poo-pump is going to break. Better not have that potential problem.
- More than 100,000 miles: Too many RVs are driven too far. At our travel rate, we go around 7,000 miles per year and that would equal 84,000 miles over 12 years which would be about right. I’m not worried about the engine miles, but rather the miles on the entire house.
- Drive Shaft, as described in our previous post, a drive shaft cuts the amount of storage nearly in half.
- Dark Paint creates cracks in the clear coat with age. Ideal paint color matches the color of dirt and road grime.
- No Room for a full-size refrigerator.
- No room for a washer/dryer.
- Lack of air suspension: We don’t have air suspension and besides the better ride quality, when setting up at a campsite, even one that appears to be nearly level, we are much higher in the air, after leveling, than bigger RVs with air suspension. We shouldn’t need blocks under our front tires. Take a look at the picture of our RV in the following picture and you will see a stack of yellow blocks under the front tires. This site wasn’t dramatically sloped but the blocks were still necessary. Air suspension should help this issue. Air suspension won’t completely solve this problem but will correct it in many cases.
- Smaller storage tank sizes for fuel, water, and waste. Bigger is better.
- Side-mounted Radiator: A side-mounted radiator is a good investment up-front because the radiator does not need to be removed to see and service the engine. A side-mounted radiator can save up to five hours of labor on every engine-related repair. A rear-mounted radiator is much more likely to get dirty, perhaps even caked with dirt than a side-mounted radiator.
- Already installed full-size residential refrigerator
- Already installed Washer/Dryer
- Newer batteries assuming they are sealed batteries and don’t require maintenance. Large capacity batteries are a big plus.
- Big inverter. If the inverter isn’t big, it will need to be replaced.
- Warranty, we are going to buy a warranty on any RV we get, unless it already has one. One of the benefits of buying a warranty is that warranties come with an inspection. If the warranty company doesn’t want to warranty the RV then we don’t want to own it.
- A private seller with receipts for any repairs or replacements
- Location for two laptop computers (one for me and one for Tami)
- Large wheel cut on front wheels with independent front suspension and air suspension
Don’t want / Don’t care about
- Diesel-powered heating system. My problem with diesel fuel is that it doesn’t burn clean. When the wind is wrong, you will smell the exhaust inside the RV. Besides that, I don’t think you should have to dismantle your furnace every year to clean it out. I know that these diesel-powered heating systems were expensive options… not an advantage for me.
- Drapes in the front window: We would have to replace the drapes, sooner rather than later, with something different.
- Outside TV: This may be a selling point for some buyers, for us it adds no value.
- Outside front window coverings, especially with snaps: We don’t object to an outside window cover, just the idea that we might need to climb a ladder to install it makes it a not my cup of tea.
- Water and ice in the refrigerator door: This might be ok, but would require that we make sure that it is dry before moving the RV. We would love to have ice, but it doesn’t need to be on the door.
- Cell phone booster: We love our cell phone booster, but a pre-installed unit would not be as good as our directional antenna.
- Satellite Antenna: We have one and don’t use it. We don’t want to subscribe to a satellite TV service or carry this around. Besides that, it takes up roof space, roof space that I can’t use for the solar panels.
- CB Radio: Never had one, don’t value.
- Vented lead-acid batteries: This is a corrosion nightmare looking for a place to happen. It is expensive to upgrade, but vented lead-acid batteries have no value for us, don’t try to tell us how great they are.
- Electric Leveling Jacks: Hydraulic leveling jacks are much better.
- Bat-wing TV antenna: The coolest thing about this antenna is that you can lift it well clear of the roof and point it at the broadcast tower. Other TV antennas don’t work as well, but they might be acceptable.
- Two bathroom sinks.
- Stack washer and dryer: Even if it doesn’t have one — we would get one – someday.
- Full-size Residential Refrigerator: Even if it doesn’t have one — we would get one – someday.
- Wood floor throughout: Much warmer on the feet than tile.
- Newer exterior awnings and slide toppers: These things wear out with time, newer is better.
- Tire pressure monitoring system: Another thing that we wish we had.
- Twin Basement Cargo slides: One is minimum — two is better.
- Hydraulic Leveling Jacks: Much harder to repair than electric jacks, but much less likely to require repairs.
Notice that nothing in the above list mentions solar panels, that is because it is very likely that any RV that I would buy would not have enough solar to satisfy my desires. Thus a small system isn’t positive or negative.
Added to these lists were items that I needed to watch out for on every RV, which could be critical and make or break a deal.
Watch List for looking at RVs
- Un-resolved water intrusion and water damage. Water intrusion has to be fixed correctly and damage resolved. Arizona, especially Phoenix is so hot that mold is unlikely to be a problem, any RV that hasn’t spent a long period in Phoenix that has signs of water intrusion is very suspect.
- Signs of engine overheating. Diesel engines are very strong but incorrect operation, especially in the areas of overheating are critical issues. An engine that would have had a long expected life span, in terms of years and miles, can be ruined by overheating in one day.
- Wet bay floor repair: This is a Tiffin Bus/Phaeton problem that needs to be resolved. Tiffin repaired or replaced nearly all the floors under the freshwater storage tanks with material that would not degrade when wet, which was a common problem. I have seen videos of very nice RVs where the fresh water tank has fallen through the floor and was hanging out of the bottom of the coach. This is not something that we want to repair.
- Cracks in the fiberglass roof, especially in the area where the roof joins the side of the RV. Obviously cracks will lead to water intrusion & damage.
- Service Record: it isn’t enough to know when and what was done in the last service, but rather I want to know when each item was replaced. There are lots of extra parts to a diesel that are critical replacement items on an annual basis.
So we have been looking at RVs… Some of you don’t know that we sold our current RV. I am a little scared that I might jinx the deal by mentioning it. So yes we are looking at RVs very seriously. It is kind of scary that we sold the only place we have to live.