WHO WE ARE?
We’re a family of 3, with an elementary school age child. Having a little one really changed our priorities and what we wanted out of life.
This shift sparked something in us to change the way we were living.
Reducing expenses, finding a side gig that can pay all the bills, and basically go where we want, when we want.
Having a school age child made some hard decisions. While we are apprehensive about home schooling, we’ve opted for a different approach. Having a small RV that would enable us to journey on a moments notice without the hassles of booking air travel, reserving hotel rooms, and all of that mess.
What We Have
Class B: Roadtrek Adventureous CS
Details of The Roadtrek CS
Rather than spell it out, here’s the build sheet, for those of you not familiar with buying a Roadtrek:
Why A Class B?
Roadtrek built on a Mercedes Sprinter Chassis
While there are a lot of RV’s available to buy, we had a very specific list of what we were looking for. They were:
- Had to fit in our driveway
- Had to be acceptable to our Homeowners Association (HOA)
- Had to be something my wife would feel comfortable driving
- Get good gas mileage
- Had to have 3 captain’s chairs with shoulder seat belts
- Had to be boondock capable. We didn’t want to be dependent on campground hook-ups.
- Had to sleep 3
- Had to have separate compartments for refrigerator and freezer
- Be as low maintenance as a home on wheels could be
Why Not A Class A?
A Class A, especially a bus, would be awesome. But … that definitely wouldn’t fit in our driveway, be acceptable to the HOA, nor be something my wife would feel comfortable driving! And do I need to mention the mpg issue?
If we were going full-time with 3 people, then we wouldn’t have to solve #1 and #2. But at our stage of life, we still planned on living in a house and using the RV as a weekend escape vehicle.
Why Not A Class C?
We really like Class C’s. They are very similar in size to a Class B, but many of them are based on a Ford or Sprinter Van chassis. Except they cut the back off and slap on a fiberglass box on the back.
They are bigger than a Class B because of the fiberglass box on the back, but being an engineer by degree, that stitching together of metal front and fiberglass back just didn’t seem structurally sound for the long haul.
Why Not a Towable?
Now that’s a great question! We struggled with this one a lot. I mean a lot. Most of our requirements fit in with a nice pickup truck towing an Airstream towable. We love those Airstreams!
One of the big gotcha’s we heard from other RV’ers was towing isn’t trivial. While it is easy to do, it’s not easy to do safely. You have to be aware of a lot of things when you’ve got a heavy, non-aerodynamic box attached to your rear bumper.
Since we’re really “city folks”, not accustomed to pickup trucks or towing things around the farm, neither my wife nor I felt we were ready for a towable situation.
The other thing, it would have taken 2 parking spaces in our driveway, whereas a Class B would only take 1 space.
Why New and Not Used?
I’m frugal by nature. Okay, most will say I’m ‘cheap’. When we went looking for an RV, most of the RV’s we found had ‘old’ technology. Let me explain:
Generator (old technology)
Generator’s suck. They’re regular generators strapped to the underside of your RV.
They’re loud, other RV’ers hate when other RV’ers fire them up. Being attached to the RV, they send vibrations thru the RV and smell. So you really wouldn’t want to have the windows open when they’re running.
A big item on our shopping list was ‘new’ technology that didn’t rely on recharging our motorhome batteries with the use of a generator.
The solution was an RV that had a high-power second alternator under the hood. Benefits are:
- No maintenance
- No oil changes
- No noise
Lead Acid Batteries (old technology)
All of the used RV’s we found used older battery technology. You know, the batteries you need to check all the time to make sure there’s water in them.
The newer technology we were interested in, especially since we were looking for an RV that had 4-8 batteries in them, were AGM or Lithium.
- AGM: maintenance free. High amps. Very affordable to replace. Proven in the boating industry and rock solid.
- Lithium: maintenance free. High amps. SUPER EXPENSIVE. Bleeding edge technology five years ago in RV’s. And even today in 2020, they are still bleeding edge. I could have bought a new Roadrek with the Ecotrek Lithium Battery package, but I just felt it was too soon and unproven. Boy was I right!
Shore Power (old technology)
We didn’t think (what turned out to be true), that we would be the kind to go to camp grounds, hook up to electricity, sewer, and water and sit there for a week.
We were and are the more the exploring type. We never stay in a spot more than 2 nights. In fact, we’ve never hooked up to shore power (camp ground power), even when we’ve stayed in campgrounds. We just didn’t need to.
We have 4 AGM batteries in our RV good for 400 Amps of power. That has been more than enough power for us to go several days with the refrigerator and heater or Fantastic Fan running.
OK, so we had to use the AC a couple of times. While we get a little over an hour of air conditioning with just our batteries alone, that’s not enough to get thru a sweltering night. So now we don’t go to hot places :-)
Solar (new technology)
And lastly, solar. I don’t even have solar on the roof of my house but wanted it on my RV. Why?
It makes a lot of sense. The reason for solar in a home is to reduce your costs and have a supply of power in case of power outages.
In an RV, solar helps you preserve your battery power.
In an RV, solar trickle charges your batteries and helps keep them topped off. This is really geeky stuff, but charging a battery isn’t as simple as it sounds. Most have 4 to 7 stages of charging algorithms to do it right and extend the life of your batteries.
It’s a major reason why I think it helps us go days without hooking up to the grid or running our engine (that runs the second alternator).
Why I Wish We Could Have Bought Used
RV’s depreciate just like cars. Ours is now worth about half of what we paid for it. Like a car, it’ll probably stay at this value for years to come as long as we do factory recommended maintenance and keep everything in tip top shape.
If we could have bought a 3-5 year old one, we could have had an RV, used it for years, and probably sold it for 70 – 80% of what we paid for it 5 years later. If we sold it now, we would lose our shirt!
A little discussed topic are ‘shakedown’ issue’s with new RV’s. A RV salesman will never tell you about this.
Every RV is custom built. It’s not like buying a Toyota Camry where nearly every single one is built 99% like each other.
RV’s are custom, hand built, one-by-one. With that, there are variations between every build. Let me say that again, these are built one-by-one.
They are also houses on wheels. There’s plumbing, 110 AC electrical, kitchen appliances, toilet, shower, HVAC, etc. Then throw in the factor they are using mobile and light weight components that are built on a small scale.
All this to say, that every new RV is going to have issue’s. Doesn’t matter which manufacturer or model.
As an example, here’s our list of major grievances with a new RV:
Heater: Radiant heater didn’t heat. It uses a glycol fluid and plumbing lines throughout the coach and the floor to heat the RV. Super awesome. That is until it doesn’t work. We had to have the glycol fluid bled and then it started working awesome. We suffered thru several cold nights until we figured it out. Ever since that fix, it’s been perfect.
Alternator Belt: These alternators put underhood are super high power and demanding devices. They also take precision when installed. Ours worked fine, but about a year later the second alternator belt shredded itself, tore up the radiator hoses, and other drive belts. In the middle of nowhere. We were stuck. A new alignment kit and repair of the thrashed parts and it’s never been a problem ever again.
Refrigerator: It worked great for about 2 years. Then it died. Repair shop said it needed to be replaced and was out of warranty. Couple thousand bucks and we had a new one. But … it still didn’t work right. Further investigating discovered it was a wiring installation mistake at the factory. Fixed that and refrigerator has worked perfect ever since. Makes me think it never needed to be replaced in the first place!!
Those are the big ones. There are plenty of little ones I probably don’t even remember. The key point to note here is, our ideal RV would have been:
- Age: 3-5 years old. They’ve had all the new RV shakedown problems fixed by now.
- Technology: Have new technology such as a second alternator, no generator, solar, and AGM batteries. I would love lithium but even in 2020 I feel they’re more like a science experiment.
- Price: Buying used with our specs, which would be fairly easy to find in 2020. We would get the most advanced ‘proven’ technology on the market at half of what a new one would cost.
We keep on trucking. We are at the five year mark with our Roadtrek and had to replace wear items this year such as:
- Engine battery (Interstate is highly recommended, done under warranty for free and I lost the receipt!)
- 2 AGM batteries for the coach (the other two test out fine)
- 6 new tires (2019 actually but they have very low miles on them still)
We are considering changing to a pickup truck and Airstream combo, now that we have thousands of miles under our belt driving a 9,000 lb vehicle. We feel we are more than ready for a towable and since our kid is almost a tween, a little more space would be nice.
It all depends….
Until next time, thanks for stopping by and chatting!