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This page I wrote for my old rv website RVforSaleGuide.com before developing the Vanabode as the best travel vehicle for cheap easy long term road trips. People still like big rv's despite the much greater cost and trouble to operate, so here's what I know about them.
Buying A Motorhome
Motorhomes are not automobiles, they are houses on wheels and buying one can cause a lot of confusion. For those that do not want to travel and live in a van like I recommend, the first question asked by first time buyers is "How much does it cost to use a motorhome?". Remember motorhomes are not automobiles, they are more like homes. This is one of the many reasons some prefer to van travel instead. You have to consider that they offer a complete kitchen, bathroom, sleeping areas, 110 volt electrical systems and a complete plumbing system. They also have to be able to make daily drives through imperfect conditions, rough roads, bad rainstorms or hurricane force winds.
And through all of this they have to be able to stay together, leak free and work correctly. If you look at motorhomes in this context, it is no wonder they can sometimes cost more than your first house.
Another question that first time buyers tend to ask is about the size. What size will accommodate all of their needs and the needs of their families? Slideout motorhomes can increase the roominess of the motorhome but there will be an increase in complexity, weight and cost. Awnings, screen rooms, and even folding chairs increase living space as well. This isn't just a concern for first time buyers either, people that are going to buy their next coach also need the correct size. Everyone's lifestyle, budget and likes are different so it all depends on what you are looking for and what you can afford. The interior is an important thing to remember. If you're planning on using your coach in unpaved locations like the beach or camping in the woods, you probably won't think carpeting is such a great idea. If your use of the coach is going to be more resort-type style settings than carpeting will be perfect. Also, in the interior, seat belts are important. You need to make sure that there are enough seat belts to accommodate all passengers at all times for safety purposes.
Sleeping arrangements are another concern when it comes to the interior. Be sure that the motorhome can sleep all of the people that will be traveling in it, comfortably. Slip off your shoes and lie down on the bed in the motorhome while doing a walk through to see if it is comfortable enough for two. Most the time the beds in an coach are not standard size. So if the motorhome already has a King or Queen-sized bed it is probably not like the King or Queen you have at home. Keep the size in mind when buying sheets and blankets and when considering how comfortable it will be to sleep on. If the bed is against the wall, understand that getting in and out of bed can be a chore when the "aisle" person is sleeping.
We all wear clothes, so make sure to take a good look at the closets and the space in the closets. You will need to be sure that there is enough storage for your clothes and consider the clothes that you are trying to fit in the motorhome closet as well. Are you bringing long dresses for a night out on the town? Can your dress clothes hang freely in the closet? These are questions to ask when looking at the closet space. Also check the drawers. Make sure that they have some provision for not swinging open while the motorhome is being driven.
Coach kitchens don't compare to the smallest kitchens in a regular house, as far as size goes. So consider what kind of cooking you're going to be doing in this coach motorhome. Maybe a microwave or combination microwave-convection oven will suffice. But if not, conventional ovens and other kitchen appliances are available. Take a look at the coach galley and make sure that it has the correct amount of storage for the food that you're going to prepare and the utensils and cookery that will be used to cook the meal.
Waterfront Vanabode, RV and motorhome camping in southern Idaho offers astonishing lake and mountain views for very little money in the warm months.
Because of the small amount of time that is usually spent in the bathroom, a lot of coach owners do not need a big bathroom. Some however, prefer a larger restroom which will take a little room away from somewhere else in the coach. It's up to your personal preferences. There are families that travel with smaller kids and they usually insist having a bathtub. Remember that water heaters in coaches usually only hold about 7 to 11 gallons as opposed to a home water heater that may hold 45 to 55 gallons. You will have to be frugal with the hot water usage while taking a bath or shower. Whether you decide on a smaller bathroom or a larger one you should take off your shoes and get into the shower or tub during your walk through and test out the size. Make sure it has the headroom that is comfortable for you to take a shower. Also, sit on the toilet and see that there is enough room when the door is closed. These things are very important later on.
In smaller coaches there usually is no option for a washer-dryer unit. In the larger motorhomes and coaches there is the option though. It will all depend on the buyer and what their needs are. Some would rather use that room for something else and may not mind going to a laundry mat to do their laundry for a few bucks. While others may prefer the convenience of having the washer-dryer right there if need be.
There are a lot of other items that are important to some people but not an issue to others. These include window treatments, location of lighting fixtures and switches, and the number and placement of TVs and stereo systems.
Before you sign all the final paperwork involved with your motorhome purchase remember it is a good idea to check with the local license bureau regarding the licensing of the coach and drivers. A lot of jurisdictions frequently change their laws and it is a good idea to stay informed on that. Remember to get insurance on the coach before you even take it off of the lot. Sometimes its not even required by law but it is a very good idea to do it. Also, talk with a tax adviser to go over different tax implications.
A lot of motorhome parts including furnaces, windows, water heaters and a few others are made by various manufacturers. Regardless of the brand, parts including trim pieces, bumpers and doors can be hard if not impossible to find if the coach manufacturer is not in business anymore. So ask if the manufacturer is still around? Something else to ask about is the model year of the chassis on the motorhome. Sometimes manufacturers stockpile chassis and it is not rare for them to have a chassis from the previous model year when production for the new model year begins. This can cause confusion with resale pricing and may cause confusion when servicing. So verify that ahead of time.
While test driving the coach that you're considering, it can be a little overwhelming. Just relax and keep a clear mind. You will definitely want to test drive the RV on the types of roads that you will be traveling if you buy it. Make sure the mirrors can easily be adjusted for good visibility as sometimes the vision to the rear or the side can be a problem. Most of the time the option of additional mirrors or cameras can be added to minimize this problem. Also, make sure the copilot has a chance to drive the coach before buying it as well.
Weigh the coach while on your test drive. You should weigh it at each wheel or at the least each axle should be weighed and compared to the weight ratings for the coach. If the coach is empty while you're testing it, keep in mind that tools, fuel, food, people, clothing and other items can weigh hundreds if not thousands of pounds. So consider that when weighing it and remember that power, handling and acceleration of the motorhome will be different after it is loaded.
Like any motor vehicle, the motorhome will need servicing. It is important to find a service center near your home. You can get the preventative maintenance needed regularly and this will save you time and money in the future when you're not having to stop constantly for a break down or issue with the motorhome. Also, check the warranty date and see if it is still under warranty. Does the seller or buyer have responsibility for activating the warranty?
Some one sentence summaries of what to tell your friends to do when contemplating the purchase of a coach were, "do your homework," "take your time," and "talk to people" are normal answers when you ask coach owners. Also it is a good idea to find a good dealer, check with owners of similar coaches and get their opinions, and attending RV shows can help a great deal.
Some say that a coach is not for them. Others prefer a motorhome over the regular hotel or motel stay. There are a lot of conveniences that come along with staying and traveling in a motorhome as opposed to a hotel. You never have to worry about a gross gas station or rest stop bathroom if you're traveling in a motorhome. Also, if you're in a new town or just don't have the time or money, you don't have to stop at a restaurant, you can cook a nice meal in the comfort of your own home. These are some of the things to consider and think about when buying a motorhome.
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