One post that people request occasionally is a post about how I go about finding the best of something to buy. It's a bit of an obsession for me, as you may know.
I'll write that post some day, but right now I'm on an airplane so I don't have the necessary internet to get all of the links and such.
Today will be a sneak preview of the steps I took to decide which RV to buy and how I will get the best price on it.
Ebay is always a good place to start. They don't always have the best prices, but they do have pretty much everything. Also, they always have tons of pictures, especially for vehicles.
I was very happy with my old RV, but if I'm going to do it again I may as well start the whole process again. I have now actually lived in an RV so I have a better idea of what matters and what doesn't.
I went to the Ebay motors section, which lets you browse all of the RVs. On the left there are little selectors that let you choose attributes to filter the vehicles by.
16-25 feet. I wouldn't want anything larger than that. My last one was roughly 22 feet.
Motorized. There's no way I'm getting a truck to pull this thing around.
That's about as specific as I want to get now. Sure I'd rather a diesel, but I also know that I'm not going to pass up a good RV just because it uses gas.
Next I go through the entire list. I middle click links to open them in a new tab in Firefox. Some get skipped over, for example really crappy looking ones from the 70s. I don't filter by age, though, because you never know if someone restored a 60s one and now it's a really unique RV.
I also skip over RVs that are exactly like other ones I've already clicked. I think about it and decide that for the absolute perfect RV I'd be willing to spend 25k. Less would be nice, but I can swing that much without screwing up my finances.
I go page by page, clicking and then checking out the RVs.
I see some like my old one. Now that it's a year and a half later, there are slightly nicer versions available in my price range. I see a lot of van conversions. I wonder if they're too small to really be comfortable in, but I like the 15mpg they get.
After a page I stop clicking on the bigger 24 and 25' RVs that look like shrunken down buses. They're more than I need and probably can't be parked in a single parking space.
Then I see one called a LeSharo. The buy it now is only $5000 and it gets 20mpg. That's insane for an RV. Most get around 10-11 at best.
The inside of it is disappointing, though. It's plastered in dark woodgrain and thick fabrics. It's still a contender, though. Good price, great gas mileage, and it looks like a spaceship from the outside. Maybe I could get into it and redo the inside a bit.
Then I see one that looks similar, called a Rialta. I remember seeing this one last year but deciding that it was too small. Now that I have way less stuff it's more appealing. It also gets 16-20 mpg.
Hmm... it looks really nice on the outside, and the inside is a good size too. It has retractable bathroom walls, which I'd never seen in an RV before. The bathroom literally compresses to make more room. That's a good idea.
In the front are two captain's chairs behind the two front seats. The back has a dinette that collapses into a bed. That's not ideal. I have no use for the four place seating in front. The price is around $20k which is a bit much, but not totally unmanageable.
After seeing the LeSharo and Rialta I stop looking at anything bigger. Soon I stop looking at the straight van conversions. They're just a little too small to be comfortable.
I see another Rialta, a 95, with a much better floorplan. The front has a kitchen and a comfy looking barrel chair. The front passenger seat swivels around and a table pops up between the two chairs, making a nice little area to eat for two.
In the back is a full sized bed (also known as a double) with a REAL mattress. Wow! I'd never seen a real mattress on such a small RV.
Now I'm really excited. It has a great place to sleep that I don't have to fold up every morning, plus a good area in the front where guests can sit or use their laptops.
At this point I pretty much have my mind made up on the Rialta with the full bed in the back. I go through the next few pages and briefly consider a Mercedes Unimog that has been converted and a rare RV with a cult following called the Phoenix. Both are weirder and cooler, but less functional.
Now that I know I want a Rialta or maybe a LeSharo, I start reading everything I can about them. I search for all of the Rialtas on Ebay and read the whole listing. I go to all of the forums and read what they have to say about them. I go to Winnebago's site and download the PDF brochures for every year. I then read them sequentially up to 2000 (when they start going over $25k) and make note of the yearly differences.
So by the end of all of this I've got my mind made up. I want a 95-96 Rialta with the full sized bed in the back.
Next I search for places to buy the RV. I find a few classifieds sites as well as 11 RVs on ebay. I search big city craigslist sites for them.
The best one I find is one with 95k miles on Ebay. After reading so much about these things and probably viewing 80% of the ads for them across the internet, I have a very good idea on the pricing.
The one on ebay is priced with a Buy it Now for 20k. That's a bit steep for so many miles, although the RV really does look great. If I can get it for $17.5k I'll probably take it.
The auction ends before I learn enough to make a reasonable bid, but it didn't reach it's reserve. I e-mail the owners privately, but they won't budge their price down low enough that I'm willing to buy. I'd like to get it for $16.5-17.5. They won't get below $18.5.
They relist the RV again. I'm hoping it doesn't sell and maybe I'll have a bit of leverage to get a better price. In the meantime I'm looking at other sellers. Most have them listed at around $15k for a similar model, but they don't seem to be as immaculate and well maintained as the Ebay one.
Many of those people don't write me back for some reason. Those that do often tell me that the RVs are already sold.
To be continued...
A short while I ago, as an aside, I mentioned that I might be buying an RV to live in. It seemed like a good idea, so every day I checked ebay to see what sorts of deals were to be had. I wasn't ready to buy, but I figured it would be good to know what's available for when the condo sold.
I sat in my living room chatting with some friends on AIM when one of them brought up the RV idea. While I explained it to them I opened up ebay. By default it shows the most recently listed RVs on top. The very top one was an R-Vision Trail Lite, one of the few models I'd really liked. I glanced over at the price and it was $14,000, less than half of what they usually go for. There must be something wrong with it.
I opened the listing and read through the description. The front "shotgun" seat was missing. No big deal. They'd backed into something and the fiberglass around the tail light was cracked. No big deal. The couch wasn't the one specifically made for the RV. No big deal.
That was me circa 1990 right after I graduated from the University of Colorado. My focus was to get "On the Road to Find Out" and decide if not what I wanted to do with my life when I grow up, where I wanted to settle down at least. Purchased a 1976 VW Westfalia pop-up with the idea that the window in my life I was currently in was a fleeting one and if I was ever to go on this wild adventure this was my one opportunity to do so. I had no immediate need to work, a few thousand in savings, two empty credit cards to get in serious financial trouble with, and plenty of time yet until I entered "the real world"... saddled by the monthly mortgage payment, meager paychecks that would leave me with more month than money, and all that comes along with a wife, children and raising a family.
My original plan was to leave Boulder and take a figure eight journey around the country, traveling as far North as Quebec, the French Gaspé, Turtle Island and Vancouver, and as far South as Key West, Pony Island and Baja California. I planned on following every inch of the US coastlines that I could, seeking out as many new adventures and experiences as possible. The estimated time table the trip would require was approximately 2 months to complete from start to finish, with many different family members and friends to stop in and visit along the way.
As one of my favorite quotes from John Lennon goes - "Life is what happens to you while you're busy making other plans."