Carolina: Cruising Past 70: Buying Our New Home

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Buying Our New Home

I know this is a common occurrence for RVers but, for us, it was a brand new experience. And in just 8 months, we have already had 2 purchases! The first one was Star and Vino. Star was our white/beige 24-foot Class C motorhome, Telstar by Firan, and Vino, our electric blue Yamaha 125 scooter. Bill and I made the decision to run around North America visiting family (6 kids and 3 siblings) and friends. Back from the Philippines and Taiwan on the second week of June, we wanted to start in 2 weeks.

We decided on a small RV to save on gas, easily maneuver and park, and give us time for the major decision. We only compared 3 options: a 21-foot Class B+, a 22-foot Class C, and Star. There was no complex decision matrix. We liked Star the instant we saw it: there was enough storage space but the clincher was that the bedroom/bathroom could be closed off from the living/eating/driving area! Vino, on the other hand, has been so useful for going around town and campgrounds.

In 8 months we had taken Star and Vino through the Canadian Rockies, the Alaska Highway, around Alaska, the Top of the World Highway, up Dempster Highway to the Arctic Circle, down British Columbia, through Washington, Oregon, California, and into Mexico, then across the Gulf States, and into all of Florida, including the Keys and the Everglades. We had added 21,000 miles to Star, visiting 5 kids, 1 sibling and 1 cousin and going to 2 reunions.

We loooooved it! So much that, by the time we were in Palm Springs luxuriating in a mineral spring spa, we decided to be full-timers, RVers who choose to make the RV their permanent home. We will still be going around North America, and possibly Europe and Australia later, but we would also now like to stay at places for longer periods of time, to finally do some nesting. Whereas our average stay at a place was 4-5 days, we will now move to an average stay of 2 weeks. And we needed a new home.

The decision loomed larger when my youngest daughter joined us for more than 2 weeks from Mazatlan to New Orleans. It became too cozy for comfort. So we started knocking on RV doors at campgrounds in mid-December in Alabama, only 6 months after beginning our journey, asking the owners to give us a quick look-see of their rigs. And, by the time we reached Florida, after our first 21-day stay in mid-February in Wildwood, we had formulated a good idea of what might want.

It was during our third stay in Orlando when we got to view a 27-foot fifth wheel at the RV show on the lot. That was the size we thought we could afford. The salesman surprised us with a quote of only a $10K addition for the rig plus the truck minus the trade-in of Star! Financed it would mean just $140 a month! Bill could not believe how affordable a bigger RV could be! So I looked at 2 other fifth wheels on the lot and fell in love with a 32-foot Outback-Sydney edition in a predominantly white theme inside.

But we were slated to go to Lazy Days the following day for a complimentary stay arranged by Kurt Beachler who was referred to us by a couple (Charles and Evelyn Kuchta) whom we met at the potluck dinner in Orlando. What was originally supposed to be a 4 day/3 night stay turned into an 11 day/10 night whirlwind. When we left, Bill was ‘nervously’ driving a 37-foot fully equipped motorhome, Mountain Aire by Newmar, towing a dinghy, a red Saturn SL1!

Lazy Days is the largest RV dealer in the country, selling more than 7,000 rigs in a year. The motto on the main building says, ‘Lazy Days. If you love RVing, this is home.’ Their unique business model is based on the premise that the only really profitable relationship in the industry is a long-term one, looking at supplying all the RVs one may need in his lifetime. The 500-acre grounds are always busy with hundreds of RVs coming and going.

There are 270+ service bays and an inventory of thousands of rigs. On the lot is a branch of Camping World, Cracker Barrel, Quality Inn, and Flying J. A card-carrying member is treated to day-long Starbucks coffee, meals at the CafĂ©, a site at the campground, newspapers at your steps in the morning, a heated pool and spa, tennis courts, and free seminars about RVing and RV maintenance. Each staff greets anyone he sees, ‘Welcome to Lazy Days.’

So it was a foregone conclusion: when one goes into Lazy Days, he would leave it with a new RV! Our overall requirements were: maneuverability, drivability of the other vehicle, layout, airiness, and classiness. Our needs were: a big enough sink, ample kitchen counter space, refrigerator, microwave/oven/stove, a study desk/dresser, an entertainment center, bathroom suite, and a queen-size bed for the ‘queen’. We also wanted a dinette instead of dining table and chairs, a sofa bed instead of a jackknife sofa, a washer/dryer combo, a light neutral color/trim, more flooring instead of carpet, and bedside tables/lamps, high definition TV/DVD with iPod connections, and HDTV antenna.

Only the items in script were not there! Since it was much longer than what we originally wanted, I was very nervous during the test drive. But, Bill said he and I will get used to it as others have. I dropped the dresser idea since I don’t put too much make-up anymore (doesn’t help much at this stage), we bought a washer/dryer combo and a Vizio LCD HDTV on sale, and swapped our car radio which had iPod connections. Voila! The rig was made perfect. But the clincher was, Bill couldn’t possibly see me driving a pick-up! He had better hopes for a small compact car dinghy.

We formulated a decision matrix for evaluating the following 5 options: a 27-ft Designer by Jayco , a 32-ft Outback Sydney edition, 34-ft Paradise Pointe, a 34-ft Coachmen Royale fifth wheels and the 37-foot Mountain Aire motorhome by Newmar. It won hands down with a 2.6 score against 0.6, 2.4, 2.2, 1.8, respectively! The combined score was obtained from a 60-40 mix of quality and financial scores. The quality score was a weighted combination of scores for overall requirements, needs, and wants while the financial score was a weighted combination of one-time and recurring expenses and salvage value.

And now we have a new matrix…of things to buy for the new home! And in a week, we had already entertained 2 couples on 2 separate occasions and invited a host of others from around the world. The lifestyle is on! Our RV is our new home!