This is my first post on this site. Sorry for the length. I wrote this to consolidate my thinking but it strikes me that many of you folks have been at this decision point before, and I’m wondering what you decided and why.
First, I’ve been lurking here for a while and learned a great deal, so thanks to those willing to share their experience.
Here’s the situation. I have just retired. DW will follow within the year. We have a wide range of camping experiences. As kids, DW’s parents had a small TT. My family had a pickup camper. Later DW’s parents retired and traveled extensively in a class C. DW and I have done a little tent camping from the pickup, some backpacking and we borrowed the Class C for a week in the Keys. We have a couple of kayaks and usually carry them with us. However, vacation time being limited, our typical trips have been to fly to the destination, rent a SUV, stay at a park lodge and to drive the wheels off the rental, trying to see everything in a week … not exactly relaxing.
We love the national parks, especially out West. Our goal was to one day to visit our favorite places, and to enjoy them more intimately and at a more leisurely pace. We will probably take three to four major trips a year of three to six weeks in duration, so we need something that’s livable.
We are now in the research phase. We are not in a hurry and plan to take our time and make the right decision. We’ve hit most of the RV dealers within a day’s drive, including Lazy Days in Tampa. We live in North Florida, BTW. We also attended the Hershey, PA RV show, and will attend the Florida supershow in a few weeks.
Originally I thought a Class C with an off road capable toad would be the ticket, but DW likes the living space in a towable so that’s what we’ve been focusing on.
We like remote high places. We know campsites are sometime limited at the parks and national forest campgrounds. We also know that sometimes facilities are lacking as well. So, we need a rig of modest size, but still livable, that can do some boondocking, is four season certified, and is capable of withstanding some off road conditions.
We are a Ford family so the planned TV is a slam dunk, F150 Ecoboost, Super Crew, 4x4 with tow package. I’ve driven Rangers for 20 years with good results and lusted after a 150 but could never justify the size and cost of the full sized truck for day to day use.
TTs seem to be the most practical towable. Fifth wheels are mostly too big and seem to focus on luxury features that we aren’t interested in. Arctic Fox and Nash TTs first attracted our attention but those are pretty heavy and we wanted to keep the rig half-ton towable.
We’ve narrowed the search to light weight TTs in the 22-26’ range. Gross weight and bumper weight are well within specs of our planned TV with a good margin of safety. These seem plenty livable yet small enough to be an enjoyable tow. We like a strong separation between the bedroom and living area. DW is an early bird; I’m a night owl. The rear living and rear kitchen designs both work for us. The Skyline Koala, the Heartland North Trail and Lance have models that meet these requirements, and are on the short list. The Lance 2285 is the front runner although we haven’t actually seen that model. We’ve looked at the 2385, liked the quality and features, but the floor plan is a little odd. On paper the 2285 looks perfect. Lazy Days has one on order so we hope to see it soon.
It seemed we were close to nailing things down when we made the mistake of checking out a small 5er, that was supposedly half ton towable. Having eliminated 5ers early, we didn’t even know such a thing existed. The cabin size was essentially the same as the TT we were considering, yet it seemed to be more roomy and had a lot more storage. The overall length is actually shorter than a TT, they are supposedly more sturdily built and easier to tow. DW was sold on the idea and I am leaning that way as well. I did my research and found all the threads on whether 5ers are actually half-ton towable, pin weight being limiting issue. But, looking at the specs, there are a few models that are truly within the half ton limits. One of them is a Fox Mountain by Northwood (the same manufacturer that makes Arctic Fox and Nash, which I like). Upon further study, however, one would have to be very diligent on the cargo placed in the TV or the payload capacity might be exceeded. I like a wide margin of safety and there wasn’t one here. Also, as DW says, we might just run across a dinosaur bone that we just have to have and really don’t want to be restricted by any weight limitations … it could happen.
So, I start looking at the F250. I get a little more towing capacity and a fair amount of extra payload but I also have a big gasser and there goes the mileage. This led to me to thinking about diesels. Yes, they are the way to go, especially in the mountains, but I have reservations. I’ve always thought they were a little on the obnoxious side, noisy and diesel stinks, plus it adds $8K or so to the bottom line. I also happened to look at F350s. There is little extra cost over a comparable 250, payload and towing capacity is much greater, and mileage would likely be the similar with the diesel.
With that much capacity it opens up a whole world of new options including a small Arctic Fox TT or 5er, which seems to be the gold standard for off road, four season travel. What was once achievable for under $70K is now coming in at over $120K. It’s affordable but I also hate to spend money I don’t have to and I have other hobbies that need funding as well.
So, I’m trying to decide between the modest and more affordable yet plenty capable half ton with a light TT, or maybe a one ton TV in case of a future upgrade, or the one ton plus dream rig.
To further complicate things the nearest Northwood dealer is 1500 miles away. How smart is it to buy an RV when the nearest dealer is half way across the country? I’d love some feedback on that.
When we first started our search, we did a quick cost analysis. At $70K it was a wash between RVing and, flying, renting and lodges. Moving to the $120K mark blows this out of the water. Having someone else do the housekeeping and cooking is not without appeal.
So all of this is what we are pondering at the moment. I thought after retirement the hard decisions were over. Any advice would be most appreciated.
You will get lots of responses so I'll just throw out a few random thoughts...
If you go with the Ecco Boost get the Max Payload package which is not the same as the Max Tow package (which I would also go with). In a 250 or 350 I would take a good long look at the 6.2 gasser . Weigh the loss of mileage, not all that much more if you gently drive the speed limit vs the significant extra cost's associated with a diesel. The additional fuel costs make the mileage almost a wash and the higher maintenance costs will buy a lot of gas. If I was replacing my truck tomorrow it would be a tough choice between the F-250 6.2 or the Ecco Boost, both in a SCab, just get all the payload you can.
I agree with the DW in that you will get far more useable room for less money with the right TT vs a C with a toad, cheaper to operate as well. Your dollars will go far farther with a nice clean lightly used TT. It is a tremendous buyers market and with the internet you can shop nation wide right from your computer. Like they say buy your third TT first and you'll never look back.
Despite what many say you really do not "Have" to have that walk around queen, multiple slides, outdoor kitchens etc. If you want them by all means but they add weight, cost and complexity to what should be (IMHO), a simple equation. If you will be actually be camping most of the time a little smaller trailer will serve you well enabling you to get down roads and into sites that the maddening crowd can only dream of.
Have fun shopping and keep us posted and as always....Opinions and YMMV.
A bumper pull leaves room in the TV for your kayaks.
I don't know how often you will be going off road but when we leave the trailer for a day trip you don't nead a jeep to go off road an F150 with 4 wheel drive will get you off the road quite a ways.
What ever you buy it won't be your last one.
It's awfully difficult to justify the RV lifestyle in terms of saving money. Few of us find it to be the least expensive way to go, but its the lifestyle that matters more than the cost analysis.
If you are going to tow a lot of miles, my advice would be to re-think the option and seriously look at a 5th wheel. They tow so much better. If cost is an issue, look for a well maintained, lightly used model. There's loads on inventory around these days.
Beyond that, it appears you are focusing on finding a floorplan you both like, which is absolutely the right strategy! good luck with the search and remember, it can be half the fun!!! ;-)
Paul & Sandra
New Bedford, MA
2014 Heartland Cyclone 4100 King
All anyone can do is give you there experiences, so here is mine. We still have the TT in my signature. We started out pulling it with a new 2007 F150 with a towing package. The truck pulled the weight fine, but it always seemed to be a bit of a struggle on hills, and the mileage under tow was in the 8-9 mpg range. Traded the F150 in on a used 2006 F250 diesel a couple years later, and the ease of towing is immediately noticable. Big rigs passing us no longer push us off the road, and the mileage improved to 13-14 mpg. We are happy with the upgrade. As for the rest of your questions, I am not sure that it is possible to justify RVing from a strict financial perspective. We are not using the TT enough to do so. We purchased for the memories that we are making. I'll leave it to someone that has owned TT's and 5'ers to discuss the pros and cons of each. However, I have been studying rear living 5'ers for a possible future upgrade.
Good luck in whatever you decide.
06 Ford F250 Lariat Crewcab Powerstroke
04 Jayco Jay Flight 27BH
It seems more and more are asking the same questions in planning ahead. More are looking at skipping the RV route for some of the same reason you mentioned I expect too. One can not justify RV ownership often because it seldom is the cheapest way to travel in the long run. It is more like buying a bass boat, etc. For most it is just an optional expense/hobby that one decides to support out of retirement funds. In time it will come clear as to what to do and hopefully before you burn a lot of cash first.
I will be repeating things you have probably read. First, unless you are exceptionally insightful, most likely your first RV will turn out to be not quite what you want. At least you have your prior experiences to draw on. Used RVs can be a crapshoot but it's a good way to get your feet wet.
Since you are narrowed down to trailers, I'll say that the more days you pull the rig, the better a fiver is. I have no experience with the best TT hitches, and some people report they make the TT pull as well as a fiver. But for ease of hitching and overall pulling, a fiver is hands down more enjoyable in my book.
OTOH,it is not out of the question that DW and I could have a TT someday. But if so, I would be looking at something small, like a 20 footer. I'd be looking at an Airstream first, but that's just my personal thing. The benefits of that are a smaller truck, possibly better MPG, and having the truck bed for storage. Once I see the need for a trailer getting up to the 3/4 ton truck range, I still think a fiver is the way to go.
Half ton towable fivers usually aren't. Now if you said you are only going to tow it a couple hundred miles to your favorite spot, then you can get away with a marginal situation. But towing all across the continent, you want some overkill. Trust me. It's no fun towing at the limits.
Today in my town, diesel is 3.99, gas is 3.09. I love my diesel truck, but if I had it to do over, and especially buying new, I'd be hard pressed to buy diesel. Fortunately I bought mine used and happened to get the best deal I've ever gotten on a vehicle, because it was literally a day before GM got bailed out, and the Chevy dealer was very desperate. But at new prices, oh my, I don't think I could do that. You may feel differently.
Even though you are a Ford guy, don't buy a used 6.0L Powerstroke diesel. But otherwise, a good used diesel might be a nice compromise.
You would think having fun would be easy...NOT. As several have kind of said, it's hard to buy your last RV first. Having had everything but a toy hauler over the years... once you have enough time to use a RV a lot... it's a DP with a toad for us.
Since you are starting from scratch, I think you are starting out too small (like I did with a 36' DP) as it did not take very long to realize while more difficult, it was not impossible to find a site big enough for something longer... just do not try on Friday afternoon. I now post "Buy more RV than you think you need... ONE TIME, not like me.
Friend recently bought a new F150/eco/max tow/4x4 with the idea of getting a 30' Airstream. Fortunately he figured out that he did not have enough truck and had to settle on a 26' which once you've looked at 30' is a big step down. Doubt it will be a year before the truck and the 26' are history and he gets a real truck and a 30' trailer which is going to cost him a LOT OF MONEY. I hope you get my point and did I say "Buy more RV than you think you need...ONE TIME!
Might want to search for my posts on how we boondock 5 out of 7 days for 3-4 months out West without reservations staying in SP, NP, USFS, COE, and free CGs in a 42' MH. Here are some of them and some more. I'm not suggesting you get a MH, but I would look at larger trailers and then buy a truck that's big enough to pull it, not like my friend.
* This post was
edited 12/27/12 01:36pm by Ivylog *
This post is my opinion (free advice). It is not intended to influence anyone's judgment nor do I advocate anyone do what I propose.