After months of searching, Kim and I finally purchased a motorhome that seemed almost ideal for our needs: a 29-foot 2005 Bigfoot 30MH29SL. On a rainy Saturday morning in mid-January, we drove to the previous owner’s house to take delivery.
“I guess I didn’t fix that leak as well as I’d thought,” Mike said, pointing out a damp spot in the front corner. “But I don’t think it’s too bad, especially if you get it home and get the cover on.”
“No worries,” I said. “We’ll get it fixed as soon as possible.” I’d mentally prepared myself that leak would be an issue to be addressed before we started our cross-country trip. Sure, I felt some panic as I watched the water stain spread, but I also knew there was nothing that could be done at this point. No use freaking out.
I drove the RV back to our condo while Kim followed. This short clips shows the RV on the way home (plus a bit of the roof leak):
After a month of RV shopping, Kim and I took a breather for the holidays. We continued to chat about the subject with friends and family, fishing for feedback on our our plans, but we only casually browsed Craigslist. We didn’t venture out to the used RV lots.
After the new year, though, we got back to work. We found a handful of listings that looked promising, including a 23-foot Born Free Class C motorhome.
The Born Free motorhome we looked at…
As Kim and I continued on our quest for a quality Class C RV under $40,000, we resorted to research.
As with anything, the world of RVs can be overwhelming. There’s a lot of vocabulary and terminology to learn. There are a multitude of models and features. There are plenty of things to look at when you inspect a rig. If you’re a perfectionist like me, panic can set in.
To cope with this onslaught of information, I sought out advice online. I read through RV websites and forums. I downloaded a couple of ebooks about selecting and buying an RV. (None of these ebooks was particularly helpful, so I’m not linking to them.) As our search progressed, I came to rely on a handful of tools:
- The RV Consumer Group offers a downloadable database of recreational vehicle data. Their info includes typical depreciation costs, as well as safety and reliability ratings. This app costs fifty bucks, but is well worth the peace of mind it provides. Any time we found a coach that looked interesting, I printed its report.
- NADA Guides provides info on RV prices and values. These estimates are only guidelines, of course, but they can provide context for asking prices in ads. Also useful was RVT, an online classified service for RV owners. When we found an RV we liked in Portland, we’d compare its price to similar rigs on RVT.
- Carfax allows you to search a vehicle’s history, including registration info, past accidents, and certain maintenance records. This is useful when you find an rig that you think you’d like to purchase.
Armed with these weapons, we were better able to analyze potential purchases.
Last summer, Kim and I hatched a plan to leave our lives here in Portland to traverse the U.S. and Canada by RV. After several months of research and contemplation, we’d reached a few conclusions:
- We’d spend six months to a year traveling backroads, visiting friends and family, exploring National Parks, and documenting our journey along the way.
- We suspected a Class C motorhome would be the best fit for us (but we were open to other options).
- We had a budget of $40,000 to buy a used vehicle, although we hoped to spend less.
In early November, we spent a long afternoon at the Portland fall RV show. This was the perfect introduction to the world of recreational vehicles because we were able to tour dozens of different models at the same time, which allowed us to get a feel for the sorts of features we liked and which were irrelevant.
At the Portland fall RV show, we looked at dozens of RVs…
“I think we should buy an RV,” Kim announced one morning late last spring. “We spend a lot of money traveling around the world. If we had an RV, we’d spend less and we could explore our own country for once. I think it’d be fun to take six months or a year to see what’s out there.”
“That’s a great idea,” I said. “I’ve always wanted to drive across the U.S. I want to see the National Parks. Plus, I want to explore all of the places I’ve never been. New England. The South. I don’t know anything about RVs though.”
“Me neither,” Kim said. “But we can learn.”
“You’re not worried about too much time in close quarters?”
“Nope,” she said. “We travel well together. Plus, we’re both good at giving the other person space when needed.”
“Let’s do it!” I said.
Despite our initial enthusiasm, we didn’t take action for a long time. Deciding to leave your normal lives to travel across the country for six months (or a year) is a major life decision. We had to stew on the idea, to savor it. We had to consider the pros and cons. We both chatted with friends and family about their experiences with RVs and trailers. We read websites and watched videos.
After a few months of research and contemplation, we were ready to put our dream into action.
Kim and I have traveled the world together; now we’ll explore the U.S.