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a used RV

Shopping for our first RV

Buying our first rig has been complicated by the variety of options and choices. Deciding what kind of rig – a Class A? A travel trailer? A 5th wheel? -will work best for us has been a process.

Before we were ready to seriously start shopping for our first rv , we window shopped for over a year. We spent a lot of time considering what we really wanted, not to mention what rig setups would work with our intended lifestyle.

We knew that we’d need room for both of us to work on board. Brandon needs a good bit of desk space for multiple monitors and I prefer two monitors but can often just work on my laptop.

RVing had been my dream and plan before Brandon and I got together. I figured I’d be going solo. So my initial thought was a smaller Class A . I thought I’d feel safer in one of these traveling on my own as I could easily go from the driver cockpit to the living area without exiting the vehicle.

The only thing I wasn’t willing to sacrifice was a real shower. A decent shower and a decent bed are my two non-negotiable requirements.

Could a 5th wheel work?

When Brandon and I started considering doing this together we went out and began just looking at what was available. His thoughts were that a Class A would be too small for the two of us to have office and living space. So, we started looking at 5th wheels as an option (or even travel trailers).

We went window shopping at the local RV lots and when looking at 5th wheels and trailers we came to the conclusion that the to make it work we needed to find one with either a bunkhouse or a toy hauler that we could convert to an actual office. It would be tight but it would work.

One idea that we really liked was a toy hauler with the happy jack system. Our plan was to remove the couches and replace them with wooden boards that would be used as back-to-back desks. The other option was converting a bunkhouse to a dual office space. I felt that technically I could work from the kitchen table, but it wasn’t really what I wanted to do.

But, maybe a Class A could work

Long before we were ready to begin we went to the Workamper convention in Arkansas. While there we went to the RV open house. This is where people who are attending open up their homes (on wheels) for an open house.

This was the perfect chance for us to really see how people live in their various RVs, and how different people use different space. The last two homes that we looked at were Class As and what a surprise. We were both shocked at just how much room was in some of these – even some of the smaller ones. In fact, it seemed like the smaller (36′) of the two we looked at seemed larger than the larger one.

At one point we were standing in the living area of a Class A and counted the number of people in this home. There were 15 of us comfortably fitting in this thing! WHAT! That’s when we realized that we should reconsider looking at Class As.

Time to get serious about shopping

We didn’t (couldn’t) really seriously shop until I sold my house. Once that was out of the way everything changed. It’s quite amazing the difference in how you look at things once you actually have money in hand. That said, we still didn’t really know what we wanted.

At this point we still had all our options open, and hadn’t ruled anything out. We found several RVs online that we thought could work and made appointments to see three. A travel trailer with a large rear bunkhouse, a 5th wheel toy hauler, and a Class A. All 3 appeared to be in excellent shape and were within our budget.

This is when our way of thinking really shifted.

The Travel Trailer With a Bunkhouse

The travel trailer (TT) was a bit small but it would work. It was well within our budget and we could two it with our existing truck.

It would be some work converting the bunkhouse, though. And, after looking a little more we realized that the outdoor kitchen – an option we didn’t really care much about – would potentially get in the way of really doing what we wanted in the bunkhouse. We were also concerned that making major changes like we were considering would make it more difficult to resell the TT if we decided it wasn’t working, or we wanted more space.

In the end, we decided the TT would work if we just wanted weekend fun but didn’t feel it was the best option for our goal of full-timing.

The 5th Wheel Toy Hauler

The 5th wheel was beautiful. Exactly what we’d been looking for as far as 5th wheels go. It was in great shape, and the toy hauler area was HUGE. It had a second half bath, and the main bathroom was nice and large. The living and kitchen area were combined (tons of kitchen).

But, after really thinking about our plan of converting the toy hauler we were concerned that the back-to-back desk idea would cause issues as we’d be right up against each other and bumping into each other. Maybe there really wasn’t enough space. Later on I saw this video from Changing Lanes where they dealt with this exact issue, and resolved it.

The price would have pushed our budget after we bought the truck to tow it. But, we could have made it work.

The Class A

We found a really well-kept class A being sold by an older gentleman who was no longer able to drive it. It had been kept in covered storage and appeared to be in great condition for the age (20+ years). It was a diesel pusher, which is what we wanted if we got a class A, and generally seemed to have what we’d want.

We met the gentleman and he showed us everything about the vehicle. My first feeling when I saw the inside was that I’d want to remodel the whole thing. It very much looked it’s age – in a very well kept way. There weren’t major issues, it was just cosmetic. As he showed us around he did point out a few small things that didn’t work correctly, or were broken.

The really positive thing that came out of this visit was really seeing how we could and would redo a class A to make it work space wise. This unit had a couch on one side and on the other had a small table, a large chair, and the dinette. I imagined that we could remove the chair and dinette and convert that area to one long desk for the two of us.

We came very close to purchasing this RV. The price was great for what it was, but in the end the knowledge that we’d instantly want to redo it, and the worry about what all those little thing would add up to. The real deciding factor was the fact that when the generator was running you could smell propane inside and that would end up causing real headaches.

We walked away from that weekend of shopping pretty sure that we wanted to go with a Class A if we could find one that worked for us. We knew that with minor modifications to the right RV, we could make the space work for us. We also realized that doing so would be the fastest way to get us into an RV and out on the road.

After that weekend, we focused our search entirely on Class As. We looked online at Facebook marketplace, Craigslist, as well as local dealer sites. Over the next few weeks we looked at several different ones and learned something from every experience.

A few things we learned:

Some RVs are just very photogenic. We found one that looked like an amazing remodel at a dealer about two hours away. However, as soon as we walked inside of this unit we realized it was just very photogenic. That sales person did her job in taking pics. But, this thing looked awful in person. Add to that soft floors and there was just no way.

Dealers may not know more than private sellers. While at the dealer mentioned above with the photogenic RV, we learned quickly not to expect much of dealers. Every question we asked about their used RVs was met with a “I don’t know.” Basically, we were told they didn’t know anything about their used inventory (couldn’t even tell us what engine/transmission was in the one we looked at). This is basic info that can be googled if you know the model, so that they’d not bothered was a bit off-putting.

Not all dealers are the same. We have a local dealership – Bankston Motor Homes – that is nationally known. Everyone we’ve talked to locally has had great things to say about them. It appeared they had a couple of RVs that might could work, so I decided to stop by and check them out – on my own. A female walking in alone is a test of any dealer.

I was impressed.

They were surprisingly (to me) busy for a Tuesday afternoon. I’ve often commented on how these places seem to have bankers hours, and it’s made it difficult to really check them out. But, they aren’t hurting because of it. As Brandon said, they cater to the retired, so their hours work.

I asked the front desk if someone could show me a couple of class As and she called Brent over. He was welcoming and quickly looked up the ones they had available in my price range. We walked over and he talked to me about them – never talking down. He was amazingly helpful and explained their buying process and the training they provide new buyers, which I really liked and encouraged me about buying through them.

I gave serious consideration to both of the Class As that he showed me, but the cheaper of the two was going to be a struggle in regards to space, and not the living space. My issues there were the size of the shower – it had a weird inset (seat/shelf) that really cut into the shower space. It also had the very small rv fridge. I felt like it could work for short-term use but long-term it was going to be problematic.

The second one was a little larger and it showed. I could definitely make that one work, as I couldn’t find any major things to make me say no. However, the batteries were dead so I couldn’t attempt to adjust the drivers seat to make sure I could actually drive it. So, I decided to come back the next day with Brandon.

When we returned we started with the larger one. Unfortunately, it turned out the batteries weren’t dead, someone had stolen them! So, we still couldn’t start the coach and really go over it or check the seat positioning.

This coach was also priced about 20% above my price point. The thought in looking was that perhaps they would come down to where I needed. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen and about all they were willing to do was to throw in an extended warranty.

We left the dealership feeling a little down. Maybe we couldn’t find a Class A in our price range that was all that we wanted.

We discussed maybe we should go back to the 5th wheel idea. With the 5th wheel we’d be trading in one of Brandon’s vehicles which would help with the cost a bit. But, that would send us back to having to find both the 5th wheel and the truck.

We had just about decided to take a break from looking. But, there was one more still on my mind.

The same morning I visited Bankston, Brandon had sent me a Craigstist add for what looked to be a beautiful American Heritage class A. We really liked the way it looked and after talking to the seller it sounded perfect.

Sadly, after a two hour drive (check in hand), we arrived to find the rig not all that we’d hoped. Between the (albeit minor) de-lamination on the outside and the variety of smells (cooking and potential mold/mildew) we decided to opt out.

Back to the 5th wheel plan

The drive back home from viewing the Class A we discussed that we might need to revisit looking at 5th wheels. Even though we’d have to get a truck as well as a 5th wheel, we could subsidize the truck by trading in/ selling Brandon’s jeep and existing truck.

Five minutes later Brandon had found the perfect truck on Autotrader. Although it was two hours from home, it was in a city we’d be driving through on the next day anyway.

So, we stopped by Adamson Ford in Birmingham to look at the truck and six hours later, left with a 2014 Ford F450 Lariat. This thing is loaded and really nice.

The best part though is that I can drive it comfortably – which was an issue/concern in the Class As as I struggled to find one where I could get up close enough to the pedals without having to have my leg hovering in the air. The amount of pressure needed to break was also an issue.

Next Stop – buy a 5th wheel!


Julie grew up making cross-country road trips, and has always loved to travel. She dreamed of one day retiring and living in an RV while traveling. Finally, she realized that you can't wait to live the life you want, and there was no reason to wait. As a freelance writer and marketer she realized as long as she had internet she could live anywhere! So, she did.

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