How not to buy a motorhome
World's most expensive sunset (hyperbolically speaking)
This is our view of sunset over the Atlantic Ocean/Caribbean Sea from our camp site in Marathon, Florida - about half-way between the mainland (Key Largo) and the tip of the Keys (Key West). Aside from home, Marathon is our favorite place in the world.
It's gorgeous. It's relaxed. It's home to some of our dearest friends and the most amazing dolphin facility - the Dolphin Research Center.
Getting here wasn't easy. It was a miserable, stressful, traumatic experience, and I hope other people can learn exactly what not to do when buying an RV/motorhome.
Look before you leap!
I wish we'd had this book before we started our adventure. Learn from our mistakes! Arm yourself with knowledge.
The bane of our existence
My sister and I (two dog-obsessed, middle-aged single ladies) decided it would be a fine idea to buy a motorhome. No, we weren't actually drinking at the time - that came later.
We thought it would be a convenient way of travelling with our dogs - to dog agility trials, obedience trials, visit long-distance friends and see the country. It seemed brilliant at the time.
So we did some research, asked RV-owning friends and set about finding the perfect Class C motorhome for us.
New was pretty much out of the question - the dollars involved were staggering. And we were warned that dealerships were notorious for asking top dollar for used RVs - the smart way to go was either online classifieds or auction sites.
Fool me once
The first camper/RV/motorhome that sounded perfect was local - discovered through an online classified website. A friend and I went to see it. It was filthy - used for dirt bike hauling and racing by a man and his three sons. A bit of elbow-grease and it would be okay, as in everything worked. It wasn't too old and there was even a whole room for the dogs and their paraphernalia. So - drum roll for stupidity - I put down a deposit on the thing and made arrangements to come back in a couple of weeks to get it.
During those two weeks a friend who works in a car dealership offered to get a report on the vehicle's Identification Number. It came back with a "Salvage Title." My friend advised me to run away as fast as I could. Needless to say, the not-very-nice man and his three sons refused to return the deposit.
Expensive lesson learned: always check the vehicle's title before spending a dime.
Fooled me twice
Our next "find" was on an auction site. The vehicle seemed perfect - the description even included the VIN number, so I could get a report on the title before making a bid. It came back absolutely clean.
We anxiously watched the auction and pounced at the last moment. We won! Yay!
Of course it was located halfway across the country, so I flew out to get it. The seller met me at the airport, took me to the vehicle, informed me the generator was broken, handed me the keys and drove off.
No, I'd never driven an RV before - except for the first one in a vacant lot for 15 minutes.
One point of view has it that I'm incredibly brave, spunky, and intrepid. Or stupid, depending how you look at it.
Fortunately, I got home two days later. I discovered that the generator wasn't the only broken bit. The furnace didn't work either. We found an RV mechanic and discovered wasps in the furnace, mice in the generator, and an urgent need for a new exhaust system. Which would explain why I couldn't hear after driving for two days.
A little respite
After extensive time in the shop - we were ready for our first adventure. We chose a local campground and discovered something wonderful - we love camping!
Camping our way, that is. With our own refrigerator, television, comfy beds and private bathroom. And the dogs had a wonderful time - long walks in natural surrounding with many wonderful new scents.
We dared to hope our travails were at an end.
Hit me again
We live in the northern part of the U.S. and knew enough to have the RV winterized before the cold weather came. We didn't know it would leak like a sieve in the worst winter we'd seen in years.
We had to have the entire interior treated for black mold and rebuilt in the spring. It was not a pretty sight.
On the road
We forgave our RV for betraying us again and costing us umpteen thousand dollars. And yes, it had occurred to us by then that purchasing a dealer-used RV would have been less expensive by now. However - this was the RV we had and the prospects for any other were slim. And none. So we made lemonade and had a lovely summer of adventure, a weekend at a time. We learned how to use all the RV stuff and were, once again, convinced we'd made a decision we could live with.
Once more unto the breach!
Of course we couldn't be content with tootling around the area enjoying our new phenomenally expensive toy. Of course not!
We decided that celebrating an event at the Dolphin Research Center would be a perfect cross-country trip for us, our dogs, and the RV. Because we're just that optimistic.
I got in the RV with the dogs and the GPS and headed out.
This adventure included new and exciting experiences for a flatlander like me. Thrilling things like driving through the mountains in the pouring rain in a 7 ton vehicle and seeing a "runaway truck ramp" for the first time.
And then the RV started making not-so-good noises. It turns out that it burns oil, inexplicably and in huge quantities. To the tune of filling up every 100 miles. Not with gas. With motor oil.
Home at last
I finally got to Marathon, Florida in one piece. And found paradise.
The RV lives there now - we were lucky to find a campground that has storage. So we go and visit our little piece of heaven whenever we can.
We always look at the bright side. It's much more fuel-efficient to drive our cars down to the camper. And storing it there is actually cheaper than at home. And whenever we want to run away from home - we have another waiting for us with a view that can't be matched.
Right where we belong!
The behemoth survived months without us - but I got to visit her again. Don't we look right at home?