My wife and I are considering getting an RV in the next 3 to 5 years for an extended vacation (maybe a couple if we really like it). Growing up, her family used their trailer for many trips, so she'd like to get back into that. I've never done much RVing, but I'm willing to give it a try.Our plan is to take an extended vacation - 6 to 10 weeks - and travel around the country, with an emphasis on things east of the Mississippi, as that is farther from us and has lots of places we haven't seen. We'd probably set up in one spot for a couple of days, visit the local sites, then move on to the next place.We've done many driving vacations - that's our preferred way to vacation - but have always stayed in hotels or with friends/family. But for a long vacation like this, that can get expensive in a hurry.Our son will be along with us, and he's the one that brings the issues. He uses a wheelchair - ideally we'd be able to take along his motorized chair. And that isn't something you can just pick up and toss in - it weighs over 150 pounds and doesn't disassemble easily.My thought is to tow our minivan and carry his wheelchair there. It is set up to carry the chair, and will make getting from the camp site to the sightseeing sites much easier. It also means we can set up the RV and leave it at the camp site and not have to use it to do the sightseeing. And it avoids making any expensive modifications to the RV.I think a Class A motor home makes the most sense. Class C's might not have the towing capability, and frankly I think I'd feel a bit cramped in the smaller space for so long.After this "epic" vacation, we'd probably sell the RV. We can't store it at our home (no room), and storage costs here are significant. But that plan might change after the trip, you never know. At any rate, I'd like to minimize the depreciation for the 12 to 18 months we plan to own it. The whole RV idea is as much a cost saving issue as anything.I was thinking we'd look for something used and purchase 6 months to a year before the big vacation. That would give us time to check it out, take some shorter weekend trips, and get used to traveling in an RV.Any thoughts on this? Any ideas to share? Feel free to tell me I'm nuts or crazy or on the wrong track. ;-)--Peter
Any thoughts on this? Any ideas to share? Feel free to tell me I'm nuts or crazy or on the wrong track. ;-)If it weren't for dealing with your son' I'd say you're nuts or crazy to sell the RV and keep the house - you should do it the other way around. ;)More later, gotta run.
After this "epic" vacation, we'd probably sell the RV.RV's are like new cars only worse. You lose 30%-40% of the purchase price the minute you drive off the lot. That can be a significant piece of change. Why not make that work for you instead of against?When RV dealers sell a new one, there is usually a trade in involved, and they have them on the lot, and don't want them, because there isn't the profit margin involved. I'd counsel you to visit several of your local RV dealers and get to know a salesperson. Tell them you're thinking of buying an RV, but you're new to all of this and simply will not buy a new one.(They, of course, will try to talk you into it, because that's where they make the most commission.) Resist. Give them your home number or an e-mail address, and tell them to notify you whenever they get something that fits your criteria - which you should spell out in some detail: length, number of slides (if you want that), gas or diesel, satellite dish or whatever.When you see one you like, buy a service package (they're available from dealers, or better, get one that's transferrable anywhere since you will be travelling for most of the time), and have a complete inspection prior to signing. They will give you a short window to fix things (30, maybe 90 days), so take at least two trips, preferably of more than a weekend duration, to see if anything goes wrong, and just to learn the quirks of the rig.Your van may or may not be towable. Most that are not can be made towable with the addition of transmission disconnectors or special pumps or whatever; this may add a couple thousand to the price (since you will also need a towbar and perhaps a remote braking system.)For the record, we bought our Dutchstar used for about $72,000. It was four years old and was $160,000 new. We bought it from a private party and had a thorough inspection at the best dealer in the area, who found about $2,000 worth of fixs and repairs which the original owner paid for. We have had issues since (we've owned it since 2000) but that is to be expected when you bounce a house down the road.Driving forward was no big deal, as I once owned a school bus (which I converted) but it was many years ago. I practiced backing up by ging to the mall on a Sunday morning before they opened and taking a bunch of empty cat food cans to "lay out" to see if I could back into spaces, and to test the turning radius with the car attached, and so on. After a couple hours there I had my confidence, never did it again. Worked great.Find a camping world and/or subscribe to "Highways" magazine, which is owned by the Good Sam club and which will shower you with warrantee information, roadside assistance plans, catalogues and all other manner of stuff, some of which is useful. (You really do want the roadside assistance, if not from them, from someone. We've needed it three times in ten years, and when you're broken down on the side of I-95, that's not the time to figure out where to find a towtruck. Most can't tow a rig, and even some trucker tow companies won't touch an RV.)There are other companies, but Good Sam is a place to start, anyway.The whole RV idea is as much a cost saving issue as anything.Get this idea out of your head. Owning an RV, and even travelling in an RV will be as expensive as your car trips, just in a different way. Your campgrounds will be $30-$50 a night, you'll have a lot higher fuel bills, and you'll do stuff on the road that will eat up any savings. And, of course, you'll buy an RV, modify the car, etc. You will NOT save money. Really. You can find cheap hotels and inns and go cheaper that way.That said, the RV lifestyle is fabulous; we used to do car trips and loading and unloading suitcases is a total drag. You sometimes have a kitchen and sometimes don't, you can't buy the food you want because you won't have a fridge, it's harder to carry books and magazines, and we bring some of our pets along as well.There are many advantages, but "cheap" is not one of them.We have discovered that, as trite as it is to say, "the journey is the reward." After years of right angle travel for the corporate life (fly to a city, drop vertically down, rise vertically up, fly home), and even after a decade of car trips (fun, but exhausting), the RV life is terrific. We did six weeks to Florida this past winter; in the past we've done 5 months coast to coast, 6 weeks loop-the-loop through Alabama & Georgia, 4 weeks to Chicago, 6 weeks to Boston, Maine, and Prince Edward Island, and many others.I like cities and factory tours, she like national and state parks - and somehow we both manage to find what we want. It's a great life. Good luck.
My wife and I are considering getting an RV in the next 3 to 5 years for an extended vacation (maybe a couple if we really like it). Growing up, her family used their trailer for many trips, so she'd like to get back into that. I've never done much RVing, but I'm willing to give it a try.Our plan is to take an extended vacation - 6 to 10 weeks - and travel around the country, with an emphasis on things east of the Mississippi, as that is farther from us and has lots of places we haven't seen. We'd probably set up in one spot for a couple of days, visit the local sites, then move on to the next place.We've done many driving vacations - that's our preferred way to vacation - but have always stayed in hotels or with friends/family. But for a long vacation like this, that can get expensive in a hurry.So can driving an RV. We rarely drive as much as 200 miles in a day, but I figure that every day we move the RV costs $100 (vehicle costs & space rental) whereas a day we don't move the RV is almost always under $30 and frequently under $20.(If you were talking about renting an RV then I would say to fly, or take your van and drive every day, to somewhere interesting east of the Mississippi; and then pick up an RV there. You would of course reserve that RV somewhat earlier.)If you can arrange things so that you stay in one campground for a week at a time, that usually will help lower the (average) overnight rate; a month is even better. But details vary.Oh, and stay away from KOA campgrounds and parks with "Resort" or "Motorcoach" in the name. They tend to be priced like hotels. And not cheap hotels.Memberships: Passport America and Good Sam's strongly recommended; Camping World may be a good idea too. All three can be bought at Camping World. All others are optional, most of them in the same sense that sauerkraut is optional on chocolate ice cream. (For fulltimers I also recommend Escapees, particularly if using a Texas mail-forwarding service as your mailing address is viable for you... but I am not convinced it's a good deal for vacationers.)My thought is to tow our minivan and carry his wheelchair there.Since you need a small (compared to a motorhome big enough for three) vehicle that can carry the wheelchair, and your minivan is probably already equipped with a lift or ramp for it, this is a good possibility to consider.First check if your minivan is four-wheel towable. Otherwise you'll need at least a tow dolly (lifts two wheels off the ground) and possibly a flatbed trailer (your minivan would be parked on the trailer).If your minivan is still under warranty and you want to keep it that way, the manufacturer is the definitive answer on whether it's towable - and if they don't say, the default answer is no.Otherwise, check http://remcotowing.com as there are quite a few vehicles that require no modification but the manufacturer hasn't signed on. Unfortunately, there are also some vehicles that require several modification$ to make towable. Then there is the question of weight. Go look at the door jambs on the van. On one of them, probably the driver's door, you'll find a plate that lists - among quite a few other things - the van's Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). Now load up the van as it will be when you're driving it, including with your son's wheelchair, and find a place you can weigh it. The state of Washington and several other states leave state-run highway weigh-station scales turned on when the weigh stations are closed, so anyone who wants to check weight can do so for free. Or maybe there's a weigh station that is open but not very busy and will unofficially weigh you in order to have something to do. (Avoid being officially weighed. If you're overweight, they may feel obligated to cite you. Or demand that you fix it on the spot.) If necessary, pay. You have ONE question here: is the weight of the vehicle, as loaded, less than the GVWR? If not, there's a problem; find a way to fix it. If you're good, then assume the fully loaded vehicle will weigh the GVWR.Now you want a motorhome with a GCWR (Gross Combination Weight Rating) bigger than its GVWR by at least the GVWR of your minivan. Ask the dealer to show you the rating plate on the motorhome BEFORE you sign anything committing you to buy it.Some "Super C" motorhomes may have the towing capacity, but you have a better chance with a Class A.Next is braking. Trailer brakes are legally required on all trailers over a certain GVWR which I don't know offhand, and your van counts as a trailer when it's being towed. There are devices (some intended to be permanently installed, some easily removable) designed to fit into a towed car and respond to either momentum changes or brake-light current by applying the towed car's brakes. With one of these installed, your motorhome will stop BETTER while towing the van than without the van. I believe I've read that Canadian customs is in the habit of checking for the presence of one of these devices on cars being towed behind motorhomes, and not letting people into the country if they don't have it.Expect to spend a couple thousand on a good quality towing rig to connect the minivan to the motorhome. DO NOT accept a ball hitch. Stock spare locking pins. (The locking pins do not take any load; they simply make sure the load-bearing parts don't bounce out of place.)There also needs to be a place to connect a cable from the motorhome to the minivan, to power such things as lights.One other bit of advice: if the instructions for prepping your minivan to be towed include pulling any fuses, make sure you have a spare of each pulled fuse in the glovebox (which means that if you pull two identical fuses, you stock two identical spares). If you do this, you will never need those spare fuses; if you don't, you'll lose or blow at least one.Now for the motorhome, you have a few things you must specifically look for. One is that there are sufficient seats that are passenger-rated, which among other things requires seatbelts. Another is that there is a good place for your son to sleep; since he's in a wheelchair I doubt that a bunk above the cockpit will work. And another is the toilet facilities. Be sure to look at them (and particularly the ability to get TO them) both with any slides extended and with all slides pulled in.
believe I've read that Canadian customs is in the habit of checking for the presence of one of these devices on cars being towed behind motorhomes, and not letting people into the country if they don't have it.I've been back and forth through Canada multiple times, at different checkpoints, and have yet to be checked. With one of these installed, your motorhome will stop BETTER while towing the van than without the van.That's probably true, but for me it seems to make no difference. That is likely because we have a 38' diesel rig, and the "towable" is a Geo Tracker, so the difference in momentum is minimal at best. We have a BrakeBuddy, an old one and it works fine but we never use it anymore. I carry it in the vehicle, but I might as well leave it in the garage at home for all the use it gets. Still, in case we were ever questioned, I'd at least have it with me.DO NOT accept a ball hitch. At Camping World you will find a selection for towing cars, none of which use a "ball" hitch. I think all of their towbars are slide-in hitch mounts. (I'm not pimping for CW, I find their prices high, but it's a nice place to shop and, in an emergency, get service.) Each car takes a different set up to attach properly to the frame; those are custom to the car model. I ordered and installed it myself; it's not rocket science but you do want to do it right and be confident in it if you're going to go that route.I strongly recommend the kind that attaches to the rig rather than the car. (You've seen the cars driving around with the big "Y" tilted back up over the hood. Awful. And you definitely want one with adjustable legs, which means you don't have to be perfectly precise positioning the car. You get it close, then the legs do the adjustment where necessary, then "lock" into place as you pull away.The towable needs remote lights. Some people get fancy with the install; diodes and using the same taillights and all. I chose to add a set of separate lights on the back and run a cable up to the plug which was already there. Much cheaper, and it doesn't interfere with the car system in any way, so no mysterious problems to detect.f you do this, you will never need those spare fuses; Good advice. They're cheap, just buy an assortment pack. Then if you blow one, go buy a pack of that particular amperage, as it is probably the one which will blow again.First check if your minivan is four-wheel towable. Otherwise you'll need at least a tow dolly (lifts two wheels off the ground) and possibly a flatbed trailer (your minivan would be parked on the trailer).This tends to really limit your options because it takes much longer to mount/dismount than a 4-down towing setup. So you tend to stay longer, travel less just to avoid the hassle. Or you find campgrounds that only have a pull-through for you, and those generally go first and sometimes cost more.Memberships: Passport America and Good Sam's strongly recommended; Camping World may be a good idea too. Good Sam's is now Camping World and vice versa. They merged. I would recommend both the KOA card and the Good Sam's card. If you're going to be out for any length of time they will pay for themselves with the nightly discount. Yes, KOA's are pricier. They're also nicer. There is also a National Parks membership which might save you, depending on what kind of camping you're going to do.We rarely drive as much as 200 miles in a day, but I figure that every day we move the RV costs $100 (vehicle costs & space rental) whereas a day we don't move the RV is almost always under $30 and frequently under $20.I don't know where you're staying that it's "under $20", but more power to you. We generally travel 3 hours, maybe 4. Once in a great while it'll be 5 or even 6, but that's a rarity and is usually driven by external events (calendar, weather approaching, etc.) We tend to pull out between 10AM and 11AM, drive for a few hours, pull into a campground at 3PM or 4PM (which usually puts us there before the rush, so we get a better choice of spots), and then we can disconnect the car, walk the dog, and go out for dinner or grocery shop and make it back at the RV, and still have a bit of time to reconnoiter the area. Then we'll stay a full day, maybe two, then pack up and pull out the following morning and repeat, repeat.Others like to drive like crazy, plant themselves for a week or two, then drive like crazy again. Not for us, but different strokes and all...
Thanks for the comments.Any particular reason to prefer flat towing over a tow dolly? It seems to me the tow dolly has the advantage of requiring no modifications to the towed car (a FWD in my case), plus I'm sure some dollies provide the braking assist you suggest. The lighting is on the dolly as well, although I'd probably rig up some kind of simple light that attaches to the back of the van, as that's where people expect to see brake lights.Further, the tow dolly has an advantage to me in that some of it's cost could be recovered after this planned trip. Modifications to the car would not.The main advantage I can think of to flat towing is weight. A dolly is going to add something around 1000 pounds to the rig. It would be nice not to have to drag that extra weight around.As far as backing goes, that's basically impossible with a dolly. (I've tried once in the past - out of necessity due to a wrong turn in a parking lot.) And frankly, it's pretty stupid to try with a motor home flat towing a car. The dimensions are all wrong for backing. Long tow vehicle, short trailer - that's a recipe for failed backing. (Look at 18 wheelers for the opposite - short tractor, long trailer, easy backing.) Besides, the towed vehicle is going to be darn near invisible from the driver's seat. Unless there's a backup camera system, which is probably something to look for anyway.I certainly wouldn't try backing a towed car into a campsite. Mainly, you want the car available for use while the RV stays parked. Just (he says like it's simple!) get the car off the dolly and the dolly off the RV before settling in. Some clever planning would suggest a tow hitch on the minivan to simplify moving the dolly around if needed.Then again, except for a small bit of experience towing, I really don't know much about what I'm rambling on. So I may need some education here.--Peter
Thanks for the warning on costs. I wouldn't consider anything but a used motorhome for this adventure. I don't doubt that there would be some depreciation over a year or two of ownership - but it would be nice to minimize that if possible. I was planning to deal with private parties for both the purchase and later disposal, but am open to suggestions.You also mention modifications to the car for towing. Any reason to avoid tow dollies? I used them for a couple of moves many years ago, and was quite satisfied. The car required no modifications for towing that way.we used to do car trips and loading and unloading suitcases is a total drag. Tell me about it. On car trips, aside from being the chauffeur, I'm also the porter. Having done it many times, I can load/unload our standard kit of overnight stuff pretty efficiently. But it gets tiring quickly. We usually carry an electric cooler in the car, so have some refrigerated storage available. Well, except for when the car is parked. I drained the car battery once leaving it plugged in to the "always on" outlet in the van. It certainly would be nice to have a small bit more, and have it in a way that's designed to work all the time.Any thoughts on diesel vs. gasoline for the motor? Rear vs. front engine? --Peter
For a one-time-only trip, I might consider a tow dolly, only because of the cost of modifying the toad (towed) vehicle. In just about all other ways, the dolly is more inconvenient. There's the weight issue, there's having to find a place to put it while parked, and there's the load/unload process. Hooking up a four-down rig is faster and easier than loading a car onto a dolly and tying it down.In either case, NEVER back up a four-down rig. As soon as the wheels turn to the side, you will immediately jack-knife the rig and possibly damage the tow-bar. It's possible to back up a dolly rig, if the connection between the car and the dolly is rigid (the car can't twist on the dolly). There's no way to do a four-down. And don't try to put someone in the car holding the wheel straight - that's a recipe for a broken wrist or worse.For 95% of the RVs out there, if you get gas it will be a front engine, diesel will be a rear engine. Diesel rigs are heavier, carry more, more power for hills, etc. But they're bigger. The break point is somewhere in the mid-30s (feet, that is). Shorter will be gas, longer will be diesel. My personal preference is for diesel, because they have more carrying capacity.iRV2.com is a good site for all things RV-related.joe
It seems to me the tow dolly has the advantage of requiring no modifications to the towed car (a FWD in my case), plus I'm sure some dollies provide the braking assist you suggest. The lighting is on the dolly as well, although I'd probably rig up some kind of simple light that attaches to the back of the van, as that's where people expect to see brake lights.Further, the tow dolly has an advantage to me in that some of it's cost could be recovered after this planned trip. Modifications to the car would not.The main advantage I can think of to flat towing is weight. A dolly is going to add something around 1000 pounds to the rig. It would be nice not to have to drag that extra weight around.Forget about the lights on the tow dolly; they can't be seen from behind, and don't matter from any other direction. You'll still need the hookup for the lights. Fortunately that's pretty cheap. I don't know if tow dollies have brakes or not.If you have to hook up or unhook in bad weather, from what I've seen - I only have personal experience with flat towing - the tow dolly is the worst and flat towing is the easiest (possibly not so good if you have to mess with hubs on 4WD). On the other hand, for ability to fit in older smaller parks, a complete trailer is the worst (you're dealing with three vehicles) and flat towing is the easiest.Neither front wheel drive, four wheel drive, nor an automatic transmission automatically means the vehicle is not manufacturer-approved for flat towing. In fact there's a good reason you see a lot of Saturns behind RVs: almost everything ever sold under that brand was approved by the manufacturer as flat-towable, most models from day one.Flip side, rear wheel drive and a manual transmission does not automatically mean the vehicle IS approved for flat towing.You really do need to look in the owner's manual for the section on towing (particularly if you care about voiding the warranty) and then maybe check at Remco (link in my previous post). Even if you plan on using a tow dolly, because there are a few vehicles that you'd think would be pretty straightforward that way but actually require special handling.
I was planning to deal with private parties for both the purchase and later disposal, but am open to suggestions.Harder to find, harder to sell, but if you can find the one you want it's the way to go. (That's how we did it, quite by accident.)Any reason to avoid tow dollies?Convenience. I can hitch/unhitch the car in the time Mrs. Goofy is inside registering. With a dolly you have to make it to the campsite, drop the car, drop the dolly, wheel it out of the way, then get into the site. Triple, quadruple the time. However if you're not sure if this is going to be a more-than-one-time deal, then I'd forgo the modifications on the car, which as you point out, won't be recovered.(We actually tried it with a motorscooter for the first year, but that wasn't sufficient, so we bought a used Geo Tracker and pull that behind, and moved the scooter up to the front end. Now we have two modes in case she wants to do one thing and I want to do another, which happens. (Some people just drive the rig, then rent an Enterprise when they get where they're going. Not awfully practical if you're hopping every two days, but if you're somewhere for a week...)Any thoughts on diesel vs. gasoline for the motor? Rear vs. front engine? Diesels are more sturdy and last longer. Probably not a compelling issue for you. They are more powerful, so if you have a lot of load that could be important. You'll find them on larger rigs, gas on smaller (and cheaper.) Diesel fuel costs more per gallon, but has more energy (I'm told) so the price differential is not as big as it may seem.My favorite part: diesel engines are in the rear, so you don't hear them. I like that a lot when we're driving, driving, driving. We have a diesel rig, which also has a 7.5kw Onan generator (which is heavy) and we haul a scooter on the front, a car on the back, and a full load, so we need the power. That said, our engine is at the low end of the spectrum and we labor going up hills, but then I'm not a speed demon about this, especially with 27,000 pounds under my foot.You won't find a gas engine in the rear, nor a diesel in the front, except in unusual circumstances. (They do exist, but it's a 99% rule.) Gas rigs are *significantly* cheaper, like by $50k at least. $100k cheaper is not uncommon, and $250k and $300k less expensive isn't out of the ballpark. Go to an RV show. The upper end is exclusively diesel, the lower end gas, some mixture in the middle.We usually carry an electric cooler in the car, so have some refrigerated storage available. Well, except for when the car is parked. I drained the car battery once leaving it plugged in to the "always on" outlet in the van.There's a gizmo you can buy which monitors the usage and cuts off the fridge if the voltage gets too low. From Koolatron, about $30. I have one. It works.http://www.amazon.com/Koolatron-Battery-Saver/dp/B0001MQ7FO/...I have both a minicooler for the car (holds about 8 soda cans) and a much larger version for the basement in the bus. Here's a pic; you can get it for about $80 at WalMart:http://www.amazon.com/Coleman-PowerChill-Thermoelectric-Cool...The fridge in our rig is small, and since we went on diets we cook a lot more than before (and needs lots of veggies & fruit) so this has worked out very well for us. Not powered when driving, but when plugged in comes down to temp quickly and holds it for a decent interval...
Convenience. I can hitch/unhitch the car in the time Mrs. Goofy is inside registering. With a dolly you have to make it to the campsite, drop the car, drop the dolly, wheel it out of the way, then get into the site. Triple, quadruple the time. OK. I can see that. Makes some sense. Although I don't see why you still couldn't drop the car while Mrs. G is registering. Then it would just be the dolly to deal with at the camp site.There's a gizmo you can buy which monitors the usage and cuts off the fridge if the voltage gets too low. Interesting. I might have to look into that.Here's a pic; you can get it for about $80 at WalMart:Yep. That's the one I've got. We carry along extra bottled water. The 1 liter and 1/2 liter bottles will fit into small spaces all around the van. Then we keep the cooler filled with water bottles. Several good things come of this:-drinking water is a whole lot healthier than drinking the sodas I'd otherwise buy.-Keeping the cooler full of bottled water adds a bunch of thermal mass. Get those cool, and they'll help keep everything else cool when you need to unplug the cooler-There's plenty of water available in case of emergency, and bottles to refill if needed.--Peter
Newmar's Canyon Star has a wheelchair accessible option and I've also seen an Essex which was wheelchair accessible:https://www.facebook.com/media/set/?set=a.270118169686029.72...http://www.newmarcorp.com/models/motorhomes/Canyon%20Star/23...http://www.newmarcorp.com/uploads/floorplanpdfs/canyonstar/2...Sue
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