We moved from an “idea” to rent an RV to purchasing one and a tow vehicle and all the accessories to leaving on our first trip, a cross-country 8,000 mile trip in just 50 days.
It was a whirlwind, but we skipped no details. Our initial research began with two Fleetwood brand Class A motor homes. We drove 6 hours up and back to St. Augustine to look at a 2011 Expedition and then 3 hours down and back to Ft. Lauderdale to look at a 2011 Discovery, both with twin bunk beds.
It was a bit overwhelming but what overloaded us the most was how badly cared for both units were. This didn’t look like poor construction but instead, poor maintenance. Holes in the wall from the bunk ladder, rust on every exterior screw/hinge and chipping of the mirrors, poor cheap interior lights (on the “upgraded” Discovery) in addition to mediocre and aged appliances and finishings. We were turned off by the brand but decided to look at brand new 2015 units which impressed us. Aside from that, I don’t remember how we settled on Fleetwood so quickly other than price range and layouts.
There was, of course, an increase in cost for new models over 4-year-old models but not significant. Add in the warranty/peace of mind plus the advancements in technology and it was an easy to decision to go with new. The older units had two smaller inverters – one dedicated to the refrigerator. New models have larger, single inverters which translates to more power, more space and fewer parts/pieces to go bad. So we started hitting RV lots and dealing with sales reps. We were still ignorant but familiar enough now to battle sales motives pitted directly against ours and we quickly ran into impatient sales guys who assumed they were going to manipulate our first-timer emotions and needs.
No, I was serious when I said we could do this in 2015, 2016 or never. We certainly could be creative with our money and time.
The sales reps mentioned that we were jumping into the deep end of the pool for a first-timer family with young children. But the diesel-pushing Fleetwood Expedition/Discovery had a feel that we wanted. While even nicer luxury brands we looked at were more suited for empty-nester retirees with so-so floor plans and an extreme focus on finishing touches that weren’t practical for our investment.
So the question for us quickly came down to a new Fleetwood Expedition. But which floor model? We narrowed it quickly to three floor plans and put it to a vote with the kids.
We listed four criteria (balanced between work and comfort/entertainment) and gave each priority and even though the 38B model was nobody’s first choice (except for sleeping), in the end, we determined two things. One, sleeping was our top priority and the bunk beds worked the best for 7 of us. Another model had bunk beds that extended into the master bedroom and, let’s face it, Mom and Dad want some privacy from time to time. Two, we went back to the RV dealer having realized that we had only looked at all of the RVs wide open, in parking/sleeping position but not once had we seen something that would be our second priority – riding comfort and space. So we closed them up and sat in them, again the 38B was the best layout for seven passengers.
So that was how we did our due diligence and made our decision. And we felt great over the two weeks of back and forth negotiating that we had the price in the country. We checked. For the same model and treatments, we were $10,000 lower than other dealers with the exact same model. There was nothing left to squeeze from it.
Keep in mind, however, we still didn’t fully understand inverters and power needs, nor had we ever driven a Class A motor home, nor did we understand the generator or overall maintenance needs. It was all a blur that we decided would be best left to figuring out along our journeys. A few days after making our decision, we scheduled our first test drive – with me at the wheel. It was a non-perfect day with 20mph crosswinds along our route. I was white-knuckled and uptight as hell with driving someone ELSE’S quarter-million investment and I was all over the place. I wasn’t pleased even though the salesman reassured me that I did pretty well and that for some drivers, he has them pull over and he takes over. So I felt a little better but still, not good. So what did we do? We walked straight into the office, signed a deal and wrote a fat check.
Now the one thing we did that we would not change – we found a very nice RV resort just 5 minutes from our home that we never knew existed. It was off-season (early summer), so it was near-empty. We parked it there for the two weeks we had before our scheduled trip and we lived in it off and on making several trips to pack things up and organize. And we lit Amazon up with order after order. We had a great time learning and adapting despite a huge windstorm that blew over 50-pound planters. So we felt the full reality of what we were getting into before driving off.
And it worked. Our first trip was 8,000 miles to Canada and over to the West and Southwest before coming home. And aside from feeling stupid several times in driving, in operating and in understanding what the hell we were doing, we wouldn’t have changed a thing. We didn’t need to know everything to set sail. We just need to be open to exploring and adapting. That we were, and six months later, we are still learning and adapting.
But we wouldn’t change our brand or model selection. On our second trip, just a month after our first, we nailed another 4,000 miles which included a warranty trip to Decatur, Indiana where the service center turned us into huge fans. That, after all, is the ultimate factor in satisfaction.
When we arrived for our walk-in (short notice) service appointment, they notified us that they can fix up to 3 warranty items for unscheduled walk-ins but also noted that they could, if their schedule allowed, look at a few more. All in all, after 5 days where we stayed in their lounge or IN our RV while they worked on it, they fixed 27 items. Five of those items THEY found, noted and fixed. And a few times on the road, we’ve had some issues and they promptly sent the part/item or reimbursed us for well-documented service. We couldn’t have asked for more, nor would we have been more pleased.
So if we do buy another RV will will stay within the Allied (now REV RV Group) family if not Fleetwood, then Monaco or American Coach.