Wednesday, February 23, 2011

To Keep or Not to Keep

Dear joe and Vicki: My motorhome is 5 years old. Things are beginning to wear out and need replacement. We are wondering whether we should keep and refurbish our present motorhome or buy a new one. What do you think?

Joe: Either way, it looks like you are getting ready to spend some money. And, whether you buy a new motorhome or refurbish the one you have, in five more years you are probably going to be faced with the same decision again.

Five years of age seems to be a mid-life crisis point for RVs, especially motorhomes. Outside, the paint is beginning to oxidize. The windshield probably has a few battle scars. The roof needs to be re-caulked (for the second time). Shock absorbers and brake linings need to be checked. Belts, hoses and windshield wiper blades are due for replacement. Tires, no matter their tread wear, are reaching the end of their safe lifespan. The engine and transmission may not be performing as smartly as when they were new.

Inside, the carpet, upholstery and window coverings are beginning to fade and show some wear. Fabrics and color schemes are woefully out-of-fashion. Outdated appliances have reached the point where, if they stop working, the repairman will probably suggest replacement instead of repair. The entertainment center (if you have one) has a television screen that is smaller than you like, does not have a DVD player, and has speakers that seem archaic.

And, if your RV is five or more years of age, you may only have one slide-out room or perhaps no slides at all! Good grief! You own a dinosaur!

Chances are your RV's loan balance is less than, or about equal to, its market value. Or maybe you are one of the lucky RV owners whose payments are just right – nothing per month. That means you have some equity in your present RV that could be applied to the purchase of a new one. And let's face it, a five year old RV is easier to sell or trade than one that is ten years old. Maybe now is a good time to trade.

Vicki: Before you do, however, consider what you will be doing with your present or new RV for the next five years. Do you anticipate any personal or career changes that would affect your RVing lifestyle? A new job or promotion might curtail the amount of time available for RVing. In that case, it might not make good financial sense to buy a new RV only to have it sit in storage. Perhaps it might be better to postpone that new purchase and, for the time being, make do with your present RV.

On the other hand, if you will be retiring soon, perhaps you will have even more time available for RVing. Buying a new RV prior to retiring can be a good decision. You can choose one that will better complement your extended travels. You will also have the opportunity to take it on a few shakedown trips and get familiar with it before you embark on those extended cross-country journeys.

One of the most popular reasons for getting a new RV is a change of RV lifestyle. Going from weekend and two-week camping trips to extended travel, snowbirding, or fulltiming frequently calls for a change in the type and/or size of RV.

However, if you are going to continue to use your RV as you have in the past, there are some other considerations. By now you have made a lot of personal changes and adjustments to your RV. Closets, drawers and cabinets have been arranged to hold all your "stuff". Pictures, pillows and decorations have been added to reflect your personal taste. You have decided where to keep the trash basket, laundry hamper and vacuum cleaner. You are familiar with your RV's idiosyncrasies and comfortable with its operation. Do you really want to get rid of this rig? If you did replace it, would you want the new RV to be radically different? If your present rig will satisfy your RVing interests and needs for the next five years or so, if you can incorporate the changes and upgrades you'd like into your RV, maybe you should hold onto it.

Joe: Look at the financial considerations. Before you refurbish your current RV, make a list of the things you would like to change. Take your list to the appropriate craftsmen and get an estimate of what the total project will cost. Then, determine your RV's actual market value – what you could reasonably and realistically expect to receive if you sold it today. You don't want to invest more into your RV than it is worth.

Look at the price of new RVs that are equivalent to your present rig. Chances are you will pay at least half again as much for a new RV as you did for your present RV five years ago. Not only will the purchase price be higher, but so will the sales tax. And, of course, the annual insurance premiums, and vehicle registration fees of the new RV will be higher than what you are paying now.

The money you spend refurbishing your RV may not add appreciably to its market value
but it will certainly be less than the cost of a new rig.

Vicki: Your choices seem to be to a.) keep your RV and spend the minimum necessary to bring it to satisfactory condition, b.) keep your RV and invest what it takes to renovate and update it to your satisfaction, or c.) buy a new RV that will better satisfy your interests and needs.

If you are unhappy with your present RV, if it does not satisfy your RVing lifestyle, if you want a different type, size, style or floorplan, then buy that new RV. But if you like your present RV and it can be refurbished to satisfy your RVing interests and needs, it might make better sense to keep it.

And, if you do keep it, there's always the chance that a silver-tongued salesman will weave his magic, and cause you to fall in love with a 42-foot, quadruple slide, Whizbang motorhome and set you up with a payment schedule that will last the rest of your natural life.

Either way, in five years you will be making this same decision again.

Joe and Vicki Kieva are the authors of a number of how-to books and e-books about RVs, RVers and RVing.

Return to RV Know How


Going to Alaska? Check out the blog entries of our Alaska trip in 2007.
Then click on RVing Alaska, Insights and observations.


Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Dinghy Protection

Dear Joe and Vicki: Do you use a cover over the front of your car to keep dirt and gravel from damaging it while towing? Have you ever used those shields that ride in front of the car?

Joe: When we first began towing a car we bought one of those fiberglass shields and a padded, vinyl windshield cover. We never experienced any damage to the windshield or front of the car while using them. After a few years, though, I did notice rub marks wearing into the paint above the windshield. Apparently this was caused by the cover moving slightly while we traveled down the road. There were also occasions when I noticed little pieces of road tar stuck on the top of the hood. They brushed off quite easily, however.

There was the question of what to do with the shield once we arrived at our destination. I usually stowed it under the motorhome and hoped the wind wouldn't blow it away. There was also the fear that I would forget the shield was under the motorhome and I would run over it. It wasn’t long before I felt that putting the shield and windshield cover on and off was a lot of bother.

After we installed some large mud flaps behind the rear wheels of the motorhome, we stopped using the fiberglass shield. Later we stopped using the vinyl windshield cover. After ten years and over 100,000 towing miles we never experienced any damage to the front of that car.

A few years ago, we purchased a new car for towing. We don't use a windshield cover nor do we use a shield. The only protection for our towed car are the large mud flaps behind our motorhome's rear tires and a solid, heavy mud flap the width of the rear bumper that almost touches the ground.

So far, we have towed that car over 20,000 miles and not experienced any damage.

Joe and Vicki are the authors of a number of “how-to” books and e-books about RVs, RVers and RVing.

Return to RV Know How


Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Expert Opinions

Dear Joe and Vicki: You could make life a lot easier for me if you would just tell me what kind of RV you and the other "RV experts" have and how they are equipped.

Joe: OK! But I don't think the answer will make life easier for you.

A few years ago, during one of the University of Idaho's "Life On Wheels" Conferences, Vicki and I were among 12 "RV Experts" who participated as panel members in an RV Lifestyle forum.

Among the panel participants were: a single, full-timing woman; a single full-timing man; two full-timing couples; a couple who had full-timed for many years but were now extended travelers and two couples (including Vicki and I) who traveled extensively in their RVs but were not full-timers.

For the sake of discussion we'll say there were three extended travelers and four full-timers; a total of seven RVs.

Two extended travelers and the full-timing woman had Class A motorhomes. Each towed a small car.

The extended travelers who used to be full-timers had a Class C motorhome. They did not tow a transportation vehicle.

The full-timing man and one full-timing couple had fifth-wheel trailers with one or more slide-out rooms. One towed with a medium duty tow vehicle; the other towed with a pickup truck.

The remaining full-timing couple had a fifth-wheel without a slide-out room. They also towed with a pickup truck.

One of the Class A motorhomes and all of the fifth-wheel tow vehicles were powered by diesel engines.

Vicki: All the full-timing RVers and one extended traveler had their rigs equipped with solar panels and inverters. The two remaining extended travelers did not see any need for them.

Interestingly, the extended travelers without the solar panels prefered boondocking and government campgrounds while one full-timing couple with solar panels favored commercial campgrounds with full hookups.

Two full-timers belonged to membership campground organizations. The remainder did not.

Preferences in overnight accommodations depended upon each RVers interests, needs and budget at the moment. None of us stayed exclusively in any one type of campground.

Only one extended traveler and one full-timing couple traveled with a pet.

Only one full-timing and one extended traveler had a washer/dryer in their RV. One full-timer claimed she washed her clothes on a rock!

As the panel continued to answer questions posed by the audience it was obvious that we all had equally diverse opinions and preferences when it came to the various aspects of choosing, using and enjoying our RVs.

One thing we all agreed on though. We love the feeling of independence and the sense of freedom we get from traveling and living in an RV

Joe: So you see, whatever type of RV you choose, however you equip it, wherever or however you camp, you'll be doing exactly what the “RV experts” do.

Joe and Vicki are the authors of a number of “how-to” books and e-books about RVs, RVers and RVing.

Return to RV Know How


Friday, February 4, 2011

Buying a Larger RV

Dear Joe and Vicki: "We are considering trading in our 24 foot motorhome on one in the 30 - 32 foot range. We particularly enjoy camping in government campgrounds. Will we encounter any size problems with the larger rig?"

Joe: Our previous motorhome was 32 feet long. We found that most major national, state and county campgrounds could readily accommodate RVs up to 32 feet. Obviously, the higher into the mountains or the deeper into the forest, the fewer campgrounds and campsites we could fit into.

Our present motorhome is 36 feet long. During the last couple of years we have stayed in a number of national and state campgrounds. While there were sites large enough to accommodate the larger RVs, there were even more sites that would accommodate a 32 foot or smaller RV.

Vicki: Think about the types of government campgrounds you are attracted to. The height and width of the 32 footer will probably be no more of a consideration than your current motorhome. The length, however, may limit the number of campsites that you can fit into. The length may also affect your ability to navigate the narrow roads and sharp turns of some older, more remote campgrounds.

Use your campground directories to look up the kind of government campgrounds you plan to frequent. See if they have any size limitations that would preclude the size RV you are considering.

You may find, as we did, that a 32-foot RV will take you where you want to go and let you do the things you want to do.

Joe and Vicki Kieva are the authors of a number of how-to books and e-books about RVs, RVers and RVing.

Return To RV Know How