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Lifestyle: MHs for Shallow Pockets

Originally Published in MotorHome Magazine

Chances are that regardless of one’s age, buying an RV will be one of the largest — if not
the largest — purchase one will ever make. That’s especially true if that RV is a new
motorhome. And therein lies a problem for families just starting out in the RV lifestyle.
Fortunately for younger buyers who haven’t accumulated their “pile” yet, several
manufacturers have introduced Class C models that carry lower price tags than we have seen
in a long time. In the past year, I’ve noted several brands at RV shows that had retail
price tags (show specials) as low as $36,995. Although I have memories of Class C’s in the
late 1960s and early ’70s priced at $6,995, I have become so accustomed to the change in
the value of money that $36,995 strikes me as an incredibly low price today. Of course,
those low-enders are not only low priced, but they are very small by today’s standards.
Most are around 20 to 21 feet long, which, when compared to the most popular Class A’s that
are sold today (ranging from 34 to 40 feet), are indeed tiny. However, they are big enough
for most families. I know that from personal experience; our first two motorhomes were 19
and 21 feet respectively, and we did just fine. In those days, we, as most young families,
were much more inclined to “go camping”; that is, most of our nights were spent in public
campgrounds and our activities were outdoors. We had campfires and did most of our eating
at campground picnic tables. And we didn’t have TV. Entertainment had to be found at the
beach, in the woods, or out in the desert. Usually that meant that the kids met other kids
and they found things to do together. As for me, I could be perfectly content in the
evening beside a campfire with a lantern on a pole behind my camp chair, a book in hand
and, possibly, a snifter of brandy (snake-bite prevention, which really works because I’ve
never been bitten by a snake while camping). I’ve even seen some Class A’s with price tags
under $50,000. As with low-priced Class C’s, they were quite short (22 feet), but at that
price one shouldn’t expect more. Our first Class A was a 21-foot Shasta and we loved it. In
fact, we attended our first Good Sam national rally in it at Lincoln, Illinois, in 1975.
With a Chevy-350 engine, we got great mileage and, due to its light weight, we navigated
some roads that I wouldn’t dare venture on today with my much larger and heavier rig. Then
we followed some of the gray roads through some great backcountry and good fishing. Again,
that’s something we wouldn’t dare to tackle today. My point is that small isn’t necessarily
bad. In fact, small motorhomes can fill the bill nicely. If you are the adventurous type
who likes the freedom to travel on almost any road that a car or a pickup can, then a 20-
to 22-foot motorhome might be just the ticket for you. New motorhomes are great, not only
because they are brand-new, but because they come with warranties on both the chassis and
the coach and its components. So there’s the security of knowing for a period of time that
if something breaks it will be taken care of at no cost to you. For those who cannot or
don’t want to put out the money for a new rig — not even a very lowpriced one — this is a
great time for used-motorhome buyers. With the almost universal popularity of slideouts,
motorhomes without them are in the same category as three-bedroom houses with one bath. The
result is that many dealers’ lots are loaded with non-slideout motorhomes that are very
reasonably priced. Also, many private parties have their rigs for sale via classified ads
in various publications (newspapers, TL publications, the Internet, RV Search, RV Trader,
etc.) or parked in their driveways with FOR SALE signs on them. Shopping private owners is
time-consuming and usually involves phone calls, appointments and driving considerable
distances to see the rigs. And one must always bear in mind that when you buy from a
private owner, your guarantee usually expires at the end of the driveway. However, by being
careful and taking time, the odds of making a good buy from a private party are quite good.
Attend RV shows, particularly large ones, for information on new rigs. The fact is that
dealers are very competitive at these events, and that usually means that they “put their
best price forward.” Incidentally, many dealers have a bulletin board at shows with
pictures of used rigs that they have available. What I’m suggesting is that the person who
wants to get into a motorhome at as low a price as possible should explore all these
opportunities. My point is that you can become a motorhome owner even if your bank account
is humble.

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