Monday, July 29, 2019

Why A Different RV - Part 1

We spent part of the afternoon at Pioneer Park for a church picnic. The skies were threatening rain but only saw a couple of drops. On another note, I rode the Ural this morning as I'm still wary of the clutch throwout bearing as I don't know why the old one failed. I took the bearing our last night just to check if it was receiving oil and the whole assembly was full of oil. Maybe I shouldn't worry about it. After all, I'll need to start heading south in about three weeks and storing the Ural.

There have been more than a few inquiries about why we are switching from a 32' fifth-wheel trailer to a 41' diesel pusher motorcoach. The fifth wheel was purchased three years ago and was sort of a trial to see if we would enjoy traveling around with an RV. I have had numerous other RVs since the late 80s but never had anything that I would have wanted to spend much time in. They were an economical way to move back and forth from Alaska to the lower-48 but that was about it. The fifth wheel has around 300 ft2 of living space and sufficient tank capacity to try some boondocking. I added the solar panels, inverter, and batteries to improve its dry camping livability. Towing the 5th wheel is about as easy as it gets. Very stable, easy to back up, and setting up camp goes pretty fast.

Some of the problems with any type of trailer became apparent over the trips we’ve been taking. A one-ton crew cab truck with an 8' bed is not the most convenient vehicle to drive around in. Parking is always a challenge and the ride is pretty harsh due to the commercial tires and stiff suspension. Plus, it has a manual 6-speed transmission with a heavy-duty clutch. Not very convenient in downtown city traffic. But back in 2005, the only way to get an exhaust brake was with a manual transmission.

Last winter when it was getting near freezing, we were using a lot of propane to run the furnace. It became evident that the single pane windows and minimal insulation in the ceiling and floor were less than ideal. Compared to other RVs we were parked near, we were going through 3-4 times the propane and it wasn't even that cold. I had thought that all RVs were poorly insulated and burned a lot of propane. Not true.

After watching videos on the RV Love YouTube channel, I learned that used diesel pushers were reasonably priced and maybe a used class A was something we could consider. When new, these things are ridiculously expensive but they seem to depreciate fast. We started casually looking around while we were in Palm Springs as there was a small RV dealer next to the Thousand Trails RV park. Right off the bat, we saw one that seemed to be a good fit. We learned that units made around 2005 really were pretty reasonably priced. We shopped around a bit more when we were in Oregon and learned more.

I talked to a fellow UAF retiree, MichealS, who had recently picked up a used diesel pusher in AZ. He had many great suggestions including this book. It showed what features to look for and rated the different manufacturers but only went back to 2007. I had set 2008 as an upper threshold as I didn't want to deal with DEF or the other emission controls that were causing so many problems. Plus, price alone set an older threshold than that. I also started watching YouTube reviews of older motor coaches and ran into a dealer in Ringgold, GA, where the owner did video walkthroughs of many RVs on their lot. They only dealt in used RVs, the sales staff is all non-commission, and they have a no-haggle price policy. All things that appealed to me.

Bridget was looking on and there were quite a few rigs that also seemed like a good fit to what we were looking for and at slightly lower prices than a dealer. I was soured when trying to contact some of the sellers. Many would not respond to email sent through the RVTrader website. Some gave you the impression that you were bugging them. Many seemed to assume that if you were interested, you would just hop on a plane and maybe they would let you see it. If it was convenient. I think they were looking for local buyers only. One ended up calling Bridget a "tire-kicker" who was just wasting his time and costing him money (for the ad). No thank you. The dealer in GA stated that everything on their four-page checkout sheet (available for download from their website) works and the coach looked good in the video. And my interaction with Stephen, one of the sales staff, was very positive. I had asked about one of the Monaco coaches on their web site and he told me that it came from a northern climate and, in his opinion, had too much rust on the undercarriage. He wouldn't consider it. That behavior was welcome though unexpected.

I'll continue with the features we were shopping for in the next post.


  1. Always good to have a good sales experience, though ours was good but once the sale was done and motorhome delivered, email responses became more and more difficult to get. Oh well, luckily I don't mind fixing simple things.

    I've found using the onboard furnace is very wasteful of propane, so I use the catalytic heater, much more economical but probably not for a large vehicle such as your Class A.

    I am assuming you've sold your fifth wheel RV?

    Now if there was only a way for you to pull the Prius AND the Ural.....

    1. Nope, didn’t sell the 5th wheel. Since there were no plans to drive the motorhome to AK, we are thinking for just using the 5th wheel for Alaska trips.

      The propane furnace does use a lot of propane and electricity but it does heat the storage bays and tanks. To me, that makes it worthwhile if the temperature is anywhere near freezing. I was planning to add a low pressure outlet for a catalytic heater for when the temps are moderately cold. Like high 30s and up. Below that, I’ll probably simply use the propane furnaces.

      This has enough payload to consider a bike on a carrier. Hitch receiver is rated at 1000# tongue weight. Cargo capacity is 4400# so it shouldn’t be a problem.