Fixin to jump in, need some advice

Discussion in 'Beginning RVing' started by crees, Apr 23, 2009.

  1. crees

    crees New Member

    I am looking to purchase a Class A diesel motorhome. I have an opportunity that is presenting me with three choices fom three different manufacturers. I am looking for people who currently have these three coaches. I would like to know the pros and cons on them. I am having a hard time choosing. They are all nice coaches. One is a 1997 Fleetwood American Dream. I like this one the most. The only drawback of it is that the couches are not that comfy to me (easy fix: replace them). Absolutely love the bathroom! The next choice is a 2000 Country Coach Allure. This one is amazing on cabinet storage and closets. Furniture is sooooo soft. The last one is a 2005 Newmar Kountry Star. It has 2 slides.

    All have at least one slide. All are 40 feet in length. All are basically equal in amenities. Mechanically they are similar in HP, transmission; hauling capacity. No major flaws. I would feel comfortable living in any of these coaches...that is what is making the decision sooo hard. Any advice or experiences with these particular coaches or experiences with these manufacturers would be GREATLY appreciated.

    Just for your info: there will be 2 adults, 2 teens, and 2 dogs living in this coach. We homeschool now, have for 2 1/2 years. Had problems with local school system not protecting my son. The area that we are in is not the most friendliest place in the world so children do not have friend here. They have made friends on the internet (kids I found for them through homeschooling and pen pal forums...not just blindly finding them on the internet) in other areas of the world. I am so anxious for them to get out and actually meet some their own age that they can keep in contact with.

    But first step...pick that coach!
  2. utmtman

    utmtman Senior Member

    Re: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    Welcome to the forum and good luck to you on which ever of these rigs you decide to run with.
  3. H2H1

    H2H1 Senior Member

    Re: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    As lee has stated welcome to the forum. Here is something to think about, Fleetwood is gone out of business. I don't know about the others but would check on that also. If I could get either one I would with the newest one and you may get better service out of. But do a search on all and see if there has been any major problems. Good Luck
  4. rjf7g

    rjf7g Senior Member

    Re: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    Welcome to the forum. I am sorry you had a difficult time with your son's school. As Hollis said, Fleetwood has gone out of business so if you find yourself wanting something from the manufacturer (wiring or plumbing diagrams, for example), you are out of luck.

    Have you all packed yourselves in to each of the coaches and imagined what dinner on a rainy night would be like? All floor plans have pros and cons and a pro for you might be a con for me!
  5. gunderso

    gunderso New Member

    RE: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    If you’re indicating that you have an “opportunity” to purchase three units, it sounds to me like you’re looking only at dealers and/or private parties fairly close to where you live. I think that would be a big mistake. In this market, which is probably the best buyer’s market that’s existed for decades, you’re really hurting yourself if you don’t allow yourself to really utilize that bargaining power that you have right now as a buyer. Allow me to explain.

    I personally wouldn’t consider paying more than wholesale price as listed in a current NADA price book. In that regard, the first thing that I would do is spend $132 to order a 2009 recreation vehicle appraisal guide from NADA. ( I did that when I bought my used coach a year ago, and it’s the best money I ever spent in my life. I view having the hard copy (not the CD) in hand as indispensable. It made me an informed buyer who was in the driver’s seat whenever I was talking to anyone about purchasing a motorhome, whether an RV sales person or an RV owner. Most RV sales people are really quite ignorant about motorhomes, and the old saying that “the best way to tell if a salesperson is lying as if they’re moving their mouth” is certainly true with most RV salespeople. Sadly, most of them don’t even know that they’re uninformed. That’s why you must take responsibility as a buyer to make sure that you verify everything yourself rather than taking the word of an RV sales person.

    I believe most private party owners on the other hand tend to be fairly honest. These units aren’t cheap, so owners are usually very proud (and knowledgeable) about “their baby”. A person who owns one of these top-of-the-line motor coaches typically is very well informed about their unit and in most cases will tend to give you the straight scoop, in my judgment. That doesn’t mean that there aren’t owners who will mislead or purposefully not mention things that are bad, etc., but I personally feel a lot better buying from a private party than I do from the typical RV sales person at a typical RV dealer. Yes, I know many people feel better buying from a dealer because they feel the dealer will “stand behind the unit”, but I’ve heard many more horror stories from people who’ve bought from dealers than I have of people who’ve bought from a private party.

    If you set it as your goal to try to purchase a unit at or below wholesale price, you’re going to have a lot more likelihood of being able to do so when buying from a private person. A private owner who takes it to a dealer will get wholesale price (at most) for it. In a down market like exists now, very few dealers are going to want to purchase any used motorhome unless they can buy it for a very good price, probably even below wholesale, because most are just totally strapped for cash. When you offer a wholesale price to a private owner (and I’m assuming that you’ve already gone to a bank and prearranged your financing with a bank rather than going through a dealer which is typically in my judgment not the best thing to do unless you have no other alternative), then you can have a great deal of leverage because that private owner has “a bird in the hand” with you rather than “a bird in the bush” and most of these private owners have seen very few serious viable potential purchasers for their motorhomes even though they may have listed them months and months ago! So if you’re standing there willing to sign an offer to purchase and put down money on a unit, most private sellers are not going to want to have you walk away without an agreement.

    Because I brought my NADA Price book with me whenever I went to look at a unit, I could open the book and show the seller exactly what the book says. That gave me a great advantage of being better informed than the seller in most cases. Another thing to be aware of is that many sellers will have used the NADA website to attempt to get a price for their unit, and the website necessitates a person checking off those “extra options” as that the unit has in order to reflect the price of added options. The problem is that this list of options often includes items that are actually included in the base price of the motorhome unless you actually have a spec sheet for what the base price includes. With the Country Coach website, you can go to the archives and find out what is included in the base price and which items actually are “options”. Then you can validly use the NADA book to calculate a true wholesale and retail value of a motorcoach. I do not know if Fleetwood and Newmar have the capability to access archives stating the features included in base units, but that’s critical to determining a valid wholesale and retail price. Because many owners don’t understand that many items on the checklist are often included in the base price, they check them off and that artificially inflates the price so the buyer gets an unrealistic expectation of what their unit’s worth.

    Another problem that you have with every owner is that they believe that their unit is “above average”. I have yet to find one owner of a motorhome who feels that their unit is “average”, not to mention the possibility of somebody thinking that their unit is “below average”. When you deal with motorhome owners, it’s like being in Lake Wobegon where “all the children are above average”.

    So most private owners are quite unrealistic in their asking price, and that’s why having the NADA price book and knowing exactly what features are already included in the base price and bringing the book along with you is key to helping that owner understand that they’re unrealistic and what a realistic price is. It may mean you need to do a little education of the seller, but that effort is well worth while in terms of getting them to accept a price below or at wholesale.

    In contrast, few dealers will sell at a wholesale price. I don’t think I’d waste my time with dealers (nor do I have enough money to waste it on spending more than I have to). Besides, the typical sales techniques they use on buyers are too frustrating for me. I’d much rather deal one on one with the long-term owner rather than a salesperson with minimal knowledge about the coach and who has no authority to accept an offer.

    When I bought my 36 foot1997 Country Coach Allure with no slide (49k miles, 200 hrs on the gen) last May, I flew out to Oregon from Wisconsin (NADA book in hand!), rented a car and drove to look at the unit. I had been searching to whole country via internet. Before I made the purchase, the owner and I took it to a Cummins engine shop with a certified Cummins mechanic to check over the engine, etc. As I recall, it cost me either $80 or $120 for that inspection. That was very important for me to have the confidence of having an evaluation done by a Cummins mechanic. I also spent something like $150 to have an inspection done by a Camping World facility associated with a dealership. I was very disappointed in the quality of the inspection done by that person, but I think it helped me to feel more confident. I actually made an offer and it was accepted as we were waiting for Camping World to complete its evaluation, so I actually had bought the coach before that inspection was finished. I felt confident enough in the buyer’s expressions about the coach and having had it inspected by a Cummins mechanic that I felt confident enough to offer $40,000 which was accepted by the seller. The purchase price of $40,000 was $2000 over wholesale (as of a year ago) but was about $9,000 less than retail, as I recall. That purchase was made in May of 2008, and the market has plummeted so much since then that I think, if it were happening today, I don’t think I’d offer anything over wholesale (or maybe a couple of hundred dollars over wholesale just to make the seller feel better). Remember, there are hundreds of DESPARATE private owners out there who would LOVE to get an offer at wholesale! You just need to find only one! It will save you THOUSANDS of dollars!

    Before deciding to fly out to look at this Country Coach, I had planned to locate five or six privately owned premium units within about a 500 mile radius and making a trip to look at those units, tell each of the owners that I planned to make an offer at wholesale on one of them after I had completed looking at each of them, that I would not anticipate any negotiation beyond simply giving the offer. If that seller rejected the offer, I would then go to my next choice and give a wholesale offer to that owner, etc. until I had purchased one of the five units. By doing that, I was being very honest with the sellers, they knew what I was willing to offer, that I would be offering only wholesale, and they knew that my offer was a valid cash offer, and that I would have other options to go to, so they didn’t have a lot of leverage over me. I talked to several people on the phone and indicating that that was my intention, but I never got that far because this Country Coach came up where the owner was already at a reasonable price (had dropped asking from 55k to 45k) and I felt that I really wanted this Country Coach which had a very rare unusual floor plan with huge windows that appealed to us. I think I did about as well as I could have done had I went with my previous plan.

    I restricted my search to Country Coach, Monaco, Beaver and Newmar. Since I was looking for something shorter than 40 feet, that ruled out American Coach. If I was looking for 40 footers, I would certainly include American Coach in my list of “acceptables”. I decided that in order to use my dollars in the best possible way, I was better off buying a top-of-the-line coach that was older in preference to going with a more middle-of-the-road or bottom-of-the-line coach that was newer. I did feel especially confident in my decision to go with Country Coach. I also would’ve felt comfortable going with a Newmar. Monaco, or Beaver, but I must admit that my preference leaned toward Country Coach after an extremely extensive research process. In retrospect, I’m pleased that I did go with a Country Coach.

    Someone stated earlier that Fleetwood was out of business, but that’s not correct. Several companies including Country Coach and Fleetwood have filed for protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but hopefully both will continue to function and hopefully prosper as the economy improves. Country Coach shut down for a couple of months pending renegotiating their financing during Chapter 11 and recently reopened with new financing and a new marketing plan whereby they are selling direct to the customer from the factory instead of selling through RV dealers. I just read where Fleetwood has obtained some new financing under their Chapter 11 process as well, and that hopefully bodes well for Fleetwood. A number of RV manufacturers have gone out of business during the last couple of years including National RV, Western RV, Alpine, Alpha SeeYa, and perhaps there are some others that I can’t recall right now. Even Monaco closed down their factory operations for awhile to let inventory balance better, so I think the whole industry is teetering on the precipice.
    best to go with a

    If I were in your situation, I would automatically rule out any unit that had a kitchen slide rather then a dinette slide. In other words, be sure your slide has a sofa and dinette rather than a sofa and kitchen in the slide. The typical kitchen slide only extends about 1.5 feet whereas a dinette slide typically extends about 3 feet. With there being four of you, I would definitely want the additional floor space. There’s absolutely no question in my mind that if I had two kids, I would automatically rule out any unit with a kitchen slide. And that’s an absolute with two kids! My first question to any seller would be, “Does the unit have a kitchen slide or a dinette slide?” If the answer is “kitchen slide”, I would say “Sorry, but I’m only looking at units with a dinette slide”, and hang up! Don’t even waste your time talking to people who have kitchen slides! You’re going to need to have the flexibility of space provided by having a dinette slide which gives you that whole distance of an entire slide to enable reasonable living accommodations and workspace for your children. That extra 1.5 feet of floor space provided by a dinette slide will really make a critical difference for you, in my judgment.

    Also, please remember that you can always change furniture. We removed a sofa in our motorhome and replaced it by two Lazy Boy recliners. As you may know, the back comes off from Lazy Boy recliners so it’s easy to get them into a motorhome. Many 40 foot motor homes have two sofas, and I doubt that you’ll want to go that route although that is important decision for you to make in your selection of a motorhome, keeping in mind that it’s easy to pull one out and replace it by one or two chairs or desks or whatever.

    Another important thing for you to decide is do you want a bench dinette or a table and chairs. My guess is that you decided to go with a bench dinette because it makes into a bed. However, it’s easy enough to have an air mattress and blow it up with a compressor and take it down every day and put it on the floor for a child.

    We made other changes in our unit as well. We replaced the mattress with an expensive top-quality mattress because comfortable sleep is so important. We also replaced all of the day-night shades with room-darkening dual–cell cellular shades. They provide a lot more privacy, provide total darkness to provide quality sleep, and provide better insulation in both hot and cold weather. We attached wire shelving onto the walls under the dining table to hold canned goods. Our approach is to buy older for less money so we can spend some to improve it in ways that meet our unique needs. We also spent $1000 to add some steering stabilizers that I’d planned to add to any unit because I live in fear of loss of control with a flat, going through a construction zone, if I get off the edge in Mexico, etc. It was worth it as great control became excellent! Very relaxing to drive now.

    My point is – You can make changes to a unit. Many prospective buyers don’t consider that.

    My guess is that the net carrying capacity of the Kountry Coach you mentioned would be on the low side for your situation. It’s frustrating if you need to watch your weight limits all the time.

    If you have questions, my cell is 715-797-9198. I better stop – sorry about the length of this post!
    Harv Gunderson
  6. *scooter*

    *scooter* Senior Member

    Re: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    Oh my !!
  7. TexasClodhopper

    TexasClodhopper Senior Member

    Re: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    Harv, I'm welcoming you to the forum! I sure hope you hang around. You get the reward for the most informative first time post in history. Good job! :laugh:
  8. crees

    crees New Member

    Re: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    First of all, let me say thank you to everyone for the welcome and the advice that you have given. I especially want to thank Harv for his very lengthy, thought provoking and informative response...I will be calling you! But your response has made me realize that I need to give more information about my unique situation so that if anyone else has ever done something similar, they can tell me how it went. I am not trying to purchase a motorhome, I am trying to trade my house for one. I am dealing with a company that has some motorhomes for consignment. I am not in a position to purchase as the economy is not very kind in my neck of the woods.

    I posted ads on the internet and had response. This guy contacted me. He has three coaches to offer (they are on consignment; however, he is a salesman and we are not getting any clear answers from him. I went to look at them (all beautiful coaches that I would have no problem living comfortably in). He showed them to me but when asking specific questions about each one he lumped it in all together..."they all have an onan generator either 7.5 or 8.0. They all have Cummins 330 or 350 (can't specify which on any) and Allison 3000 series (but can't tell what speed). They all have satellite. I think one maybe in motion(but couldn't be for sure which one if any it was). One might have solar panels." These are important details. I emailed very specific questions so that he would have some time to get the answers but haven’t gotten answers yet. We have asked what the asking prices for each are and he just responds that he doesn't want money to influence our choice, that it should be the last thing to think about. I am sorry but all of these are important questions that need answers so that I can do my research properly.

    I really want this deal to go through. I really would like to know if anyone else has gone this route to obtain their motor home. I have so much more to do after this has been taken care of. We also need to purchase an enclosed trailer as we have four wheelers and mini choppers and need to purchase and haul a gas economy tow car a well. We also intend to use this as a bedroom for the flip down beds and have their own space. So we have to know exactly what kind of money we have to work with to accomplish everything we still have to do.

    I am just getting anxious and feel like I am going around in circles. I plan on going back to see the coaches at the beginning of the week and do more intense inspections on each. Even though I don’t want to rush into anything, I still feel like it is dragging out. The dealer wants to work on one deal at a time. He wanted us to rank them in order of interest so that he could talk to one owner to see if they are interested, if that falls through move to the next one, and so on. I think it may help me out to know which one is truly interested in this type of deal. At least I would know which avenue to explore.

    We are just so ready to get on the road. We have started to hate where we live and want to show the kids the world. I am going to keep looking in case all three fall through. I like to have a back up plan. If the real estate market were different, we would just sell and then find the perfect coach with cash in hand but realistically that could be from 6 months to a year before it is an option… we just don’t want to wait that long. Any way, just wanted to clarify my details more and see if there are others that have done this... :laugh:
  9. gunderso

    gunderso New Member

    RE: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    Thanks for the welcome and “award”, TexasClodhopper!

    Crees, your description does clarify. However, I fear that taking the approach of trading is going to really hurt you on both ends, the first, in your ability to get good value in disposing of your house and, second, in your ability to get good value in the acquisition of a motor home. You’re drastically limiting the number of potential buyers by saying that you only wish to trade for a diesel pusher motor home. If you were to put your home up for sale, and you think about all of the potential people that might be possible purchasers of that home, how many of those people are eliminated when you say you only want to trade for a diesel pusher motor home? You probably eliminate 99.9% of the market.

    You didn’t indicate what type of area you live in, but the number of diesel pushers differs substantially around the country. I live in Wisconsin where those who own recreational vehicles primarily own travel trailers, next most common are fifth wheels; next most common are gas motorhomes, and extremely rare are diesel pushers. In contrast, if you’re in an area like Arizona or Florida during the wintertime, diesel pushers are quite abundant.

    But even if there are a fair number of diesel pushers in your area, how many of those diesel pusher owners might be interested in your specific home and why? I see three possible types of customers. The first is a person who would want to actually live in your home. The second is someone who wanted it as an investment and rent it out, which probably means they need to live fairly close by. A third person is an investor who simply wants to get it cheap and turn around and sell it at a profit. Your chances of finding that rare someone in the first or second group who’s willing to recognize and give you the actual value of your home in a trade is very low. Anyone in the third group is going to really cheat you out of money that you could’ve obtained had you sold it.

    Would you rather be trying to sell a house or a diesel pusher right now? If I had a diesel pusher and could trade for a house, the main reason I’d consider a trade is to get into something I can likely sell faster than my motorhome! A diesel pusher is a luxury good for most people and that’s why I’d hate to have one for sale right now!

    With a trade, you’re also very likely going to wind up not being able to get the best value in your purchase of a motor home because you‘re not able to exert your leverage in a buyer’s market. The best likelihood is of you (as a desperate buyer) finding a person who also is desperate in wanting to get rid of their motor home, but the likelihood is that BOTH of you are going to wind up with a very suboptimal situation, you owning a motorhome that you paid a lot more for than you could have, and the other person more than likely owning a home that doesn’t meet their needs like they would have found if they’d simply entered the market as a normal buyer.

    If it were me, and I was really desperate to sell my house so that I could then turn around and use that money to purchase a motorhome and trailer, etc., I would put my house on the market and price it on the low side to sell it in a hurry. If you get an independent appraisal which will cost you perhaps $300 (which I would trust more than a market assessment from a self-interested real estate agent), at least then you know how much of a REAL dollar loss you’re taking in your effort to sell your house quickly. If you do this in a trade for a motorhome, because you really don’t know the value of motorhomes very well (it sounds like), you won’t ever know how much of a “bath” you took on your house sale or how much of a “bath” you took on your motorhome purchase. So I would want to do a cash deal on both ends so at least I know exactly what I got from my house and exactly what I’m paying for my motorhome. With the trade you’re envisioning, and being as desperate as you are to get it over with, you’re too likely to make a very bad situation even worse.

    I know you’re anxious to move to get into an environment that’s better for your family. I know what that’s like because my wife and I’ve been in conflict with our community for the last seven years. We often say that we’re “the most hated people” in our community, with a person last year even writing a letter to the editor saying that we should “pack up and get out of town”. You’re right, it’s no fun living in an environment where it’s not very hospitable, but don’t allow them to cause you to make a decision that hurts you. I fear that’s the direction you’ll be going if you do this as a trade for a motorhome.

    I think you’re better off dropping the price below market if you really want to sell quickly. That way, you’ll know how many dollars you have to work with in purchasing a motorhome and trailer.

    Just my ideas, which are worth exactly what you paid for them! ;>)

    No more long posts in the future, I promise! :)

    Does it look like I have too much time on my hands? Hey, I'm retired! That's how it's supposed to be, right? ;-)
  10. crees

    crees New Member

    Re: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    Just wanted to get back to you andthank you for you detailed advice. I don't want to jump in toofast but at the same time I am very anxious to just get going. I am going to see how this deal pans out (I absolutely don't have to settle for anything or go through with the deal if I am not satisfied). I am also looking at auctioningmy house verses putting it on the market. I just want to make a well informed decision on what is right for my family. :) I do appreciate your words of wisdom as well as your words of caution. I definitely have something to think about after reading you responses so don't you dare appologized for their length. I apprciate every word and if someone else isn't that interested, they can skim through. Thanks again and I'll let you know what I end up with WHENEVER I finally get it.
  11. brodavid

    brodavid Senior Member

    Re: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    Nice ansewr,
  12. gunderso

    gunderso New Member

    Re: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    You're very welcome, Christie. Any time! You've also got my number in case you want to bounce ideas around. Good luck!
  13. brodavid

    brodavid Senior Member

    Re: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    EMAIL US we are homeschoolers also, second batch , 5 gone to college and finished, and a 7 year getting in to it
  14. rjf7g

    rjf7g Senior Member

    Re: Fixin to jump in, need some advice

    I'm with Tex...welcome to the forum.

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