It’s All About the Travel – Cost to Equip a Rig

It would seem to be common sense that one should know there are additional costs beyond just buying a trailer and truck as part of a new full time RV lifestyle. I had not actually written down a specific list of additional equipment costs until now. A long time ago I simply came up with a budget based on how much of our net worth we would be willing to spend on a rig, guessing we might use it for six years. That became the budget.

I had little to no real idea which trailer and truck we wanted and therefore what the true cost would be. Heck, I didn’t learn what the dealerships were referring to as a “price point” until well into my research. Of course, the “budget” should have quickly become more of a limiting and necessary factor as Karen and I began to tour trailers and learned what the anticipated discount off the listed price might be.

I should go ahead and apologize for the sarcasm that you are about to read. It has a point in that it demonstrates how I can become ridiculous in my quest to find a simple trailer and truck.  I’m also not intending to criticize anyone that has the means to purchase whatever rig they want. And hope I don’t loose any readers over this one as I depend upon your comments and suggestions. I am hoping this post helps others in a similar position come closer to selecting their own rig.


Luckily it did not take but a few hours at an RV show to know a big Newmar diesel pusher was not in our future. Internet searches taught me there were specific categories of fifth wheel trailers lumped together within any one manufacturers list of products. In our case this category was the luxury full profile trailers. Simply put, these are the ones that are nearly 13′ tall in the front. Examples being perhaps the Heartland series to include the Big Country, Bighorn and Landmark.  Or the Keystone Montana and Alpine. The choices for a new trailer are overwhelming. Especially if one throws in the idea used trailers from several higher price points might be within a budget. So I kept them on one large list within this blog site thinking I’d eventually know the pros and cons of each trailer.

For some sadistic reason, I also decided to learn about all the nice options one could add to a trailer, pushing the base model into a higher price point.  I had to go out and read a dozen blogs about what others had added to their campers, sometimes a short time after buying the trailer. Such as a MorRyde independent suspension, heavier axles, H rated tires, full body paint jobs and disc brakes. What to do? I guessed just check them all out and see how much the stuff, I mean excellent equipment, costs added at the time of initial purchase. And then dream as if the budget could be increased to a magical level. As if my pension and savings would grow to the necessary level by the time I retired six years early.  Hmm – that seems reasonable…. for about 10 minutes when you think about it.  At least that mindset took less time to flush out of the decision process compared to the “let’s spend more of our savings now on a depreciating asset and buy a shed to live in later.”

Then a voice came out of heaven (actually from a blog follower’s comment). That comment was “it’s all about the travel” and not the trailer. Thanks Ingrid! I have thought about that comment for many months and it truly helped. I should have included the concept from day one when the initial budget was created.  To me “it’s all about the travel” includes a long definition. Among which at the very least might be the trailer and truck get you from point A to point B so you can enjoy the scenery. Intuitively we all know a new car, boat and RV will someday loose its luster and become just another object to get rid of or replace. Just like the homes many of us are now downsizing and selling off.

All this being said, for us we still don’t want to take the fun out of travel by moving into a new home we will not enjoy. Or worst yet, perhaps be the deciding factor why we give up the lifestyle. I’ve owned a popup camper and there is no way that would work for us. Nor do I have any dreams of quickly mastering backing into a spot with a 45’ trailer towed by a Volvo semi truck after avoiding the trees, vehicles and other objects next to the campground roadway.

I was thinking it would someday be nice to go back to a few ideas mentioned in prior blog posts and let the reader know if the idea or plan worked once we had been on the road for a period of time. I think I can attempt that now even without having spent a day in our future fifth wheel. At least when it comes to developing a truck and trailer budget. And I might add I am taking to heart and very much appreciate all the great advice I’ve learned from experienced travelers . There are so many ways to travel in an RV and all methods offer great points of reference.

I think I did it right in September of 2014 when I dusted off the old financial plan for retirement and brought it up to date. Also later when I took an inventory of financial assets at the time and future in the case of investments. I’ve got a fairly good idea of what will be our net worth at the time of retirement. Karen and I have discussed ad nauseam what our expectations will be for purchasing a home once we come off the road and how much cash to hold back for that. It’s not fun for Karen but is amusing to me that some of the conversations include her telling me we already talked about that three times. Someday I’ll be able to tell her “don’t you remember we talked about that three times” should there be a flaw in the plan. I do like it when she suggests we may not need to worry about a new place to live beyond buying a new trailer to continue the journey. I however like plan B’s that allow us to change course 180 degrees if necessary.

I’ll get to the point now.  And that is I should have taken the time to come up with a close list of extra costs to equip a trailer and truck rather than just assuming it would fit in the budget. Because that would have helped narrow the selection of a rig even further. Admittedly, much of these costs would be learned perhaps after finding them on someone’s blog, an article or through my own study. Others appeared to have figured out the real costs rather quickly, having bought their rig in a matter of months.

I’ve been compiling lists on pages in this blog as I learned about equipment others are purchasing for their trucks and trailers over years of travel. I’ll never have those lists complete with every possible item to choose from. In about four hours I wrapped that research up using a large Camping World catalog. And had fun dreaming about all the cool junk, I mean important equipment, one might need that was not already on the list.  I then took 30 minutes to go to my States Department of Motor Vehicles website to get an idea on what the taxes and fees would be to register a new to us rig.

I don’t have this perfectly worked out and don’t intend to even attempt that. But I’m assuming we will spend 5.25% for State and local taxes on the truck and trailer purchase which could be in the neighborhood of $5,400.

For equipping the new truck and the trailer that could start out as low as maybe $2,517 to drive it off the lot and plug it into full hookups at a campsite. This includes a fancy fifth wheel hitch. But more likely we will want to spend about $6,367 on new equipment initially to include more costly items Karen and I have talked about, apparently during at least three individual conversations.

Yup, I did a spreadsheet with all those items listed using the catalog price, my notes or taking an educated guess.  If I’ve linked it correctly you can look at it here: Items to Purchase

I went a step further and ranked each item in order of priority based on what we might purchase at the start and at various increments.  In total that list came out to $25,308 if one was to add all the previous mentioned upgrades, solar, built-in surge protection, a truck bed cover and much less expensive items.  You can look at the list for ideas. I could see us spending up to $9,775 in the first year or two of ownership to equip the trailer and truck on top of the $5,400 to license it. That’s a $15,000 bite out of what we have decided to be our rig budget. That pushes several trailers out of our budget by price point.  To include many if bought used that I’d want to own.

I do want to make one very important point that I learned from those more experienced than myself.  For the most part, we will do our best not to purchase any of these non-essential items until we have lived in our trailer for a period of time. Yes, we did buy an inflatable boat and use it now. Karen has an Instant Pot and uses it now. I guess I must also admit we bought a $15 grill top and a new light on a camping trip. But I did pass on the 50% off Weber Q 1200 grill at Walmart.  Bet I’ll regret that one.

It has been fun researching and dreaming because I had the past three years to do it. Kind of my right now RV fix I suppose. But realistically, deep down it surely must become all about the travel rather than the junk we will someday want to sell off. Especially for most of us who are on a budget. And for those who are not on a budget, it might be safe to assume they already bought their rig and spent the $25,000 for extra stuff. And it’s all been parked in their driveway at home for at least the past six months. For me, I’ve been there, done that and have a motorcycle to sell to prove it.

Thanks for reading and commenting. I hope you found this post amusing yet beneficial.

 


R.I.P Officer Gary Michael of the Clinton Missouri Police. Last call August 6, 2017.

Cargo Capacity

One specification that will get a fifth wheel knocked off the short list of what we would buy are those with a lighter cargo capacity. Since first starting to research trailers in late 2014 I consistently read 3,000 pounds of cargo capacity or more is suggested for fulltime RV living. A quick check of nine full-timer rigs, who weighed their trailers and posted results, averaged closer to 3,448 of cargo capacity.  Some say their next trailer will have way more than that. I would really appreciate your opinions on the matter!

For us we might be hauling around the following “extra” items:

  • Full grey and black tanks at times: We plan to boondock at times so I could see hauling in fresh water and adding to that tank from jugs. If we are looking at trailers having in the range of 75 grey water capacity and 45 black water I suppose just the water in these tanks if full would be 996 pounds. What’s the chances of having to haul that any distance outside a camping area to dump? I have considered we might purchase a blue boy. We have stayed at electric only sites and found not having to worry about water or sewer connections for shorter stays is a bonus.
  • Hobby items for entertainment: We are not yet sure of what hobbies we might haul around with us. Board games, bikes and tent camping equipment. We already own an inflatable kayak and love it. I’d think all that could add up to less than 200 pounds. And Karen loves real books she can hold in her hands so we are going to haul a few around.
  • Extra battery and maybe solar someday: Although we are leaning towards an RV gas/electric refrigerator we might go with a residential. For sure we are starting off with at least two batteries. If we add a solar system we could see adding several more batteries. At 60 pounds apiece or so that can add up. Six batteries could be around 360 pounds plus the solar panels and components.
  • Washing machine: Karen wants at least a combo washer/dryer for smaller loads of laundry. We have used the ones in campgrounds and she is thinking it would be convenient to have a unit in the trailer. I’d rather just have two weeks worth of clothing and haul it to a laundry twice a month. That adds 148 pounds. I don’t view any compromise as reasonable if both persons can’t live with it. In this case if she wants a combo unit then we are getting it.
  • Generator: For sure we will have at least a portable setup that can power up to one air conditioner. That adds about 94 pounds. And if we were to go with a full size 5500 watt propane unit that would add about 279 pounds.

These above items total at least 1,973 pounds. We could see having a few other lighter weight amenities we read about such as solar shades that hang from the edge of the awning, a screened room for the picnic table and such. From what I understand when an RV manufacturer lists the estimated cargo capacity in their advertising the weight assumes what comes with the basic build. The advertised cargo limit does not include optional equipment such as a second outside awning, backup camera and more that are of lighter weight. But what about upgraded insulation packages, larger propane tanks, a heavier pin or whatever?

Realistically one should be able to compromise and just be willing to give up what would not fit within the weight limits. We can do that. But I’ve read where people can’t fill half their cabinets because of weight capacity limits. Or they found out they enjoyed Rving so much they were going full time and only had a couple hundred pounds capacity remaining, having used their trailer for extended stays.  In one extreme I read where a motorhome technically did not have the carrying capacity to haul all the passengers.

I started this year looking at 38 trailers with the basic floor plan we were interested in which is a rear living room fifth wheel. The list is now 24, chiefly because the floor plan comes with less than 3,000 pound of cargo capacity. More importantly, this knocked out a few serious brand names which are trailers commonly used for full timing.

We are going with a dual wheel truck and I suppose one needs to research methods of storing items on the truck rather than the trailer.

Am I thinking in the wrong direction on this one?

(8/17/17) Update: The more I read about possible upgrades to a trailer and the stories people tell about being over weight, the more I want to go with a high cargo capacity trailer. For example, for those of you who might want to upgrades your suspension, tires, axles brakes and such, read this forum thread.

 


July 13, 2017 the 100,000th Keystone Montana rolled off the factory line.


Good video compilation on what we wish we knew before we started Rving from seven full-timers.

These Things Break – Do You Really Want to Buy One?

This blog post may turn out to be just another summary of the bad side of RV repairs as reported by so many other writers.  I’ve thought about the topic for the past several months and had started research well before that.  I found myself asking why post it at all? I thought surely everyone has read about the potential for catastrophic RV repairs blamed on poor manufacturing. I suppose the best reason to write this is to make sure my wife has an idea of what can go wrong with our future RV and maybe readers would appreciate sharing this information with their spouse.

It is no secret that RV sales are at a historic high and the forecast for next year is even more units will be built. Record production has the potential (that’s a safe way to describe it) of putting an increased demand on repair shops and manufacturers/dealerships completing warranty service.  Unfortunately, my research has been focused on fifth wheels so you will have to bear with me if you own another class of RV.

Most have surely read how RV manufacturers can be terrible at handling after-sales service. Even if we have not owned a unit for years, it does not take long to drift through the forums and read even owners who have few problems will write “they all have issues.”  If you look back in the recent history of RV manufacturing you will discover many of the existing companies are not that old. Many have closed their doors and many have had their brand names bought out by another. All this causes management change and perhaps a step back in customer service.  A short list of what I’ve seen in the past three years include; NuWa stopped building the Hitchhiker then Peterson (builders of the Excel) produced the Hitchhiker only to shut down operations a short time later. NuWa invented the fifth wheel so what a shame they could not stay in business. Lifestyles Luxury RV was said by many to be a dependable brand but suddenly closed their doors.  Some say because of losing financial backing and others said they were so intent on fixing every warranty problem they could not stay in business. Management came from another defunct company to run Lifestyles. What about the Carriage brands which were also popular by full-timers as late as 2010. Gone – sold the brand names to Crossroads who has stopped building the Carriage and the Cameo is just another among average fifth wheels (in my opinion). I could go on. The point is even todays companies who care about the customer may be gone when RV sales eventually decline. And especially if management does not think long-term, guiding a company in a better position for the future.

Now for the meat of this blog post. I want my wife and others to know there is a chance so many things will be defective in an RV that you might decide to leave the road, be injured or take a financial hit.  Personally, I believe the chances are relatively rare as a percentage of RVs that are on the road today. But then again, they are not all used as full time living quarters.

I have been following full-timer’s RV blogs since October of 2014. So far, I have read or talked personally with four of the 23 RV owners I follow who had significant issues with their unit. The brands include DRV, the original Carriage Carri-lite, Lifestyles and Forrest River Cedar Creek. In one case, the person left the road disgusted after trying other brands.  Another had their RVs frame welded and eventually continued on their journey. Another sat in a motel room for months, even working a part-time job, until the manufacturer built them a new trailer. And finally, another has sent their trailer back to the factory for 70 or more issues to be addressed.  Yes, they “all may have problems.” Yes, these may be just a few unique examples. And yes, they may have eventually been repaired. But, these four examples represent 17% of this small sampling. Each was built by what are considered good companies. But most of all – what if we become one of the percentage with major issues? And is it ever satisfactory that any single purchaser, much less these 17%, should have to worry about it. Especially when manufacturers can get banks to finance these things for 20 years which to me implies they will last that long. Of course, if you buy a vacation travel trailer for a lot less than a $60,000 – $120,000 fifth wheel which is built as a “full time or extended stay” unit, most would not expect to get the same longevity.

Okay you can stop reading if you agree or feel warned there could be major issues with an RV that could cause major inconvenience when you are on the road – Or dare read on-

Please don’t get this blog post confused as only a rant, because it’s not. The chance our RV will breakdown in a major way is really a concern of mine. I’m personally willing to risk it and buy a trailer for the likely chance we will not be hindered with a catastrophic repair. If you want to read about the true nature of these issues then click here. This is the only place you will need to go to learn about what is truly behind the problem with RV manufacturers.  Greg Gerber is the past Editor of RV Daily Report and wrote this series of articles titled “RV Industry Death Spiral.” To me, he is a whistle-blower and I appreciated his candor.  Mr. Gerber may have correctly forecasted 2017 would be the year of lawsuits for the RV industry. If his research is correct, there are more than 2,500 active lawsuits by customers after the time he wrote the articles. He predicts 2019 will be the legal turning point for the RV industry as state and federal officials look to pass consumer-friendly legislation. I’ll leave out the politics of his prediction relative to if or if not government is willing to push forward with legislation.

I first became aware of government influence when reading in 2015 Forest River got themselves into a little trouble with the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration for not sending out prompt recall notices for safety issues.  Later Forest River announced positive changes potentially effecting the timeliness of RV repairs and certainly response to recall notices. Now their dealerships are taking issue with the new warranty policy per an RV Daily Report article written May of 2017. Why is this example so important? Because Forest River is among the top producers of RVs and is one of only a few competing against fifth wheel brands, and others, owned by Thor. And just think, Forest River gained that market share during their short 11-year history.  Personally, I view Forest River’s initiative as a good thing in that they are trying to introduce a system to better supply parts to customers in immediate need. RV Business published an article by June of 2017. Called a Parts Initiative in which they wrote; “An all-industry working group led by members of the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), the Recreation Vehicle Dealers Association (RVDA) and RVDA of Canada continues to quietly work on a series of parts delivery issues that could ultimately help improve dealers’ abilities to expedite warranty and other consumer repairs in the field.” Is this the start of RV manufacturers finally taking responsibility for producing sometimes inferior products?

Yet other manufacturers are taking a slightly different approach to better avoid major repair issues in their new units. During my research, I’m finding Grand Design, founded in 2011, is a company where potential customers are looking to provide exceptional customer service. Grand Design recently sold the brand to Winnebago. The founders came from Keystone which is a company claiming to be the #1 builders of recreational vehicles in North America. Keystone is another relatively new company founded in 1996. By 2001 they were owned by Thor. Talk about management changes!  Now back to the Grand Design’s business model, designed to catch flaws before they leave the factory. They built a huge facility where all their products pass through an inspection – after construction.  In their own words;

“Following construction, every Grand Design product goes through an initial quality inspection process. This is usually the final step other manufacturers take before shipping their units. We at Grand Design RV believe that this “industry standard” process falls far short of producing what we would regard as a quality unit. So, at this point in the manufacturing process, we send each unit to our dedicated pre-delivery inspection center where it is meticulously taken through a rigid point-by-point inspection process and final finished.”

I am not qualified to tell any RV manufacture how to run their business. I’ll let my purchasing dollars influence that – to a tiny degree.  But Dr. Deming is qualified!  And I’m not sure Grand Design’s model would be part of the way Deming would suggest the business be run in terms of checking for problems after the fact. How about building quality into the process to start with! In business college, I learned where during World War II Dr. Deming worked in logistics with the US Air Force. Deming would eventually draft what he called the 14 points for management. From what I was taught, Deming took his skills to Japan after the United States drifted into an economy based upon, in rather simple terms, why build it good when you can throw it away and buy another. At the time it might have been easier to get away with poor quality when most of the worlds manufacturing overseas was bombed into oblivion, while ours went untouched. But not for long.

US business management would not listen to Dr. Deming’s ideas. Well, the Japanese listened and with Deming – trashed the US auto market. Legend has it one Japanese executive was in the audience during a day Deming presented his principles. Kaoru Ishikawa listened and later was noted for his own quality management innovations. If you have studied the topic you may have heard of an Ishikawa Diagram which some refer to as a fishbone chart. This is a process of breaking down a problem into its root cause to truly fix the problem.

Dr. Deming believed in erasing anything wasteful. I was taught his motive was not to increase profits, but to rid the world of waste. This included wasteful human effort that could be better spent building something with zero imperfections rather than checking something later to make sure it is built right and if not, build it again. But I get it and I’ll bet Grand Design management gets it better than most. Sometimes things are currently out of one’s control. Perhaps the labor shortage in Elkhart Indiana is having even more of an impact on business. Perhaps Grand Design can’t trust their employees to build it right. Or maybe they have given up during prior attempts.  Who knows for sure.  Maybe they are driven by short term profits because the next recession or major gas price increase will bring an end to them. After a few short years of research, I’ve come to my own opinion of the current RV labor market. And I don’t blame the majority of the employees. If I must blame someone, then I think I’ll blame management because that at least goes with the salary!  I suppose there might be an argument that the consumer could be blamed because they are not willing to pay more for a better built trailer. Personally, I would have to disagree with that, especially since a lot of the parts that are installed into one particular brand of trailer are the same as another brand’s.  More on that later.

Certainly, the way employees are over-worked and paid in a manner that encourages speed over quality could have a little to do with it. Here is a  Reuters article on RV construction labor in Elkhart. Sorry in advance as portions of the article discuss politics. One model is to pay employees by the “piece” where in the employee can go home after producing X number of units with the same pay as if they were there all day. Some manufacturers do not subscribe to this “incentive” and still elect to pay by the hour. Augusta RV and New Horizons come to mind.

I’ll near the conclusion by saying there has to be hope the RV industry will improve either through increased competition, their own initiatives, or hopefully not – through government regulation. Seventeen percent of the 23 full timer’s RV experiences I started off writing about is not going to cut it. Perhaps there will be an awakening in this industry just as there was in the US auto industry brought about through stiff competition by the Japanese. Can you guys remember when one could buy a foreign car at a fraction of the price that lasted a lot longer than a domestic built car? Thank goodness those days are over.

I’m not ready to say the issue is profit driven although it might be. A reader posted this link to See Dealer Profit (thank you Ryan). If what the website is reporting is accurate, RV manufacturers sell to dealerships between about 35% to 50% less than manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP). That would mean an RV manufacturer producing an RV with an MSRP of $100,000 is building it, with included cost and profit, for maybe $50,000.  Some may say “these things go through an earthquake everyday” when they are pulled down the road as if to make excuse for repairs even in a new unit.  Well, is that not what they are supposed to be built for? To me $50,000 is a lot of money and is more than most earn in a year.

Why can’t we ask that at least when an RV manufacturer installs another’s part such as a slide motor, water tank or refrigerator as well as their own plumbing and electrical runs or whatever, can’t they do it right the first time. And why would you pay an employee for doing it wrong to start with? And why would you pay a vendor for furnishing defective parts? That makes no sense, especially if it might be at the root of the problem.  And if they cover themselves with short one-year warranties and only build something to last that long well then shame on them. Because that RV might be financed through a bank by an unsuspecting family. And if the management and owners of these companies don’t care beyond a year then there might be a good seat in hell for that attitude.

I’m still buying one!  I’m taking my best shot at finding a good one and crossing my fingers from there on.  Maybe that sums it up as to why they are still selling so many. Maybe my second full-time RV will be a Toyota RV. I hope not.

RV Depreciation

As usual, this blog post turns out to be a long one. If you’re just interested in quick RV depreciation opinions then scroll down to the text in red.

Karen and I decided to make a run to Grain Valley Missouri which for us is only a 45-minute drive. The town is home to three RV dealerships.  It was also the first time in a week Karen could get out of the house for an extended time. She had cataract surgery and received a new lens. She has had very bad eyesight her entire life. Those days are over. It was wonderful watching her excitement as we drove through the rolling hills which are in full bloom with green trees she can see at a distance.  Karen took a book to read for the drive as she normally does. She never opened it. The best part of the trip for me, now that I think about it, was watching Karen’s excitement. She gets the next eye fixed in a week.  Glad we have the time and money before taking off in 2019 to see the rest of the country together. Money well spent!

Speaking of money well spent what about depreciation on an RV purchase? I recall a conversation I had with a person when I was 18 years old regarding the need to purchasing a new television. Back then the selection of televisions was not as complicated compared to today’s models in varying sizes, resolutions and technical capabilities. Although I still don’t know what they mean by a “smart TV” because the darn things still require someone smarter than me to figure out how to set them up and use them. When I was 18 I hated spending money on something that might have to be replaced and still do. Because spending it reduces your net worth, a concept I had way back then. Perhaps the attitude came from learning the value of a dollar as a child, especially when you don’t have a lot of those dollars. The value of a dollar was further ingrained in my personality perhaps because I was a business major in college.  I spent some time in the corporate world, earning an income above our monthly needs. I kept the attitude to live below my means. I moved into public service as a law enforcement officer and the hourly pay became once again barely enough to save for a future. So, I found myself once again comparing expenditures as reducing my net worth, like I was 18 again. I compare the costs of large purchases against the hard-earned hourly rate for my time at work.

I’m sure these attitudes about the costs of things are shared with each one of you, regardless of income or life experiences. There is much evidence of this. The cost of living full time in an RV is front and center in much of what I read in your blogs, forums and articles.  It’s evident the ability to finance a retirement through savings and pensions may well be among reasons most of us do not retire a lot earlier. Especially for those of us who are in a hurry to move on to retirement, having already lived two thirds of our life expectancy.

I’ve not found the depreciation costs of an RV listed in other’s posted budgets.  It’s not in my estimated monthly budget either and will never be. It is however listed in my long-term financial plan. I know what our budget is for the RV and the truck purchases. I know my net worth and what it should look like if we stay on the road for six years beginning in October of 2019. I have an educated guess at what the value of the RV and truck might be worth when and if we sell it and move back to a stick built home. All the planning might not work out but I do have a couple plan Bs to cover possible changes. Although I can’t control most of what would affect Karen and me in the event of a financial catastrophe. Short of staying on the job until I’m much older, retiring and dying in what could be a short time later. I’m not willing to do that. Neither is Karen.

As part of long-term planning I researched what others had already figured out for RV depreciation schedules. I hope you would agree the variables for what might affect depreciation are considerable. What someone paid for the RV to start with and what the economy might be at the time of sale are a couple big variables. Especially if they overpaid for the RV or sell it when the rest of the baby-boomers finally sell theirs, saturating the market.

Speaking of the baby-boomer generation who will eventually sell their RV’s, assuming they don’t kept them until they have zero value. It’s a little off topic but should be a concern for anyone who might want to buy a used RV or attempt to sell one in the future. I did a study back in the mid 1990’s as part of preparing for a presentation. I was assigned to work in the crime prevention unit at the time. I have a passion for protecting the elderly which developed after a terrible event involving an elderly person. I wrote a research paper trying to win a federal grant to fund a crime prevention program. Working with a local Rockhurst University professor, part of the grant had to do with estimating the average age of persons in my jurisdiction in various future years. What I discovered was that here in Missouri, the percentage of persons turning 60 years of age, as a percentage of the population, would change significantly in 2010 and peek in 2020.  This was based on census data. If I recall the figures correctly, our state would be moving from an annual rate of .7 percent of our population turning 60 years of age to 1.7% beginning in 2010.  It was a significant shift in our demographics. Birth rates might have changed some of those figures, regardless you can see the point.  It’s effecting RV purchases now with record sales of new RVs and may cause a future record for used units on the market. Hmm, this might even present an opportunity for those that have the time to find the right used unit.

You know I can’t stop from writing a desertion about anything RV related. I started just wanting to write out what I’ve researched regarding a simple RV depreciation schedule. Sorry, can’t do that. I write like I think and to this point I believe the above information must be considered when estimating what our rigs will be worth in the future. And more importantly how do any of us justify spending hard earned money on any large purchase that does nothing but depreciate? You already know the answer to that question but I’ll still give you my opinion in a few moments.

If you scrolled down for quick information on RV depreciation then start reading here.

In my own financial planning, I’m figuring a new  high-profile luxury fifth wheel RV will depreciate 54% in 6 years.  I’m using 50% for the depreciation on a new one-ton diesel truck over a six-year period. Right now, my total budget is $84,655 for the trailer and $66,700 for the truck to include taxes and some of the items needed to equip the RV and truck. Although I suspect we will purchase some of the RV/camping equipment with current income rather than out of savings as we plan to purchase our rig up to a year before retirement. I’ve got just over eight weeks of vacation to use in 2019!  I have already decided it is most likely we will buy a one year old truck with well under 20,000 miles on it and save an estimated 22.24% compared to a new truck.

I found an interesting article written at Camper Reports.com. The writer’s conclusion is on average a new RV loses 21% of its value when it leaves the lot. The best value is found in buying a used five-year-old RV based on his depreciation schedule research. He believes there is “no significant difference from year one since model years are announced a year in advance–helping resale of a two-year-old trailer which seems to be only one year old to a potential buyer.” You can check the trailer label for the date of manufacture. The author’s research goes on to estimate depression off the purchased price on fifth wheels at 25% by year three, 29% by year four, 37% by year five and 38% by year six. Depreciation begins to level off at year five. So, if I’m reading his article correctly, total depreciation by year six off the manufacturer’s suggested retail price is 59%. That assumes you lose 21% when you drive it off the lot and another 38% by year six.

I can’t find the link but have it in my notes the writer at RV Research.com estimated the depreciated in general for RV’s at 50% by year five. This guy at Axleaddict.com has done a lot of research on motorhome depreciation where he compared two specific units. His research estimates total average depreciation at 58.9% through year five.

It’s okay to stop reading if you were just after a few opinions on depreciation schedules.

There may be other cost considerations as part of this. Such as inflation rates and what one loses in interest by not keeping the money in the stock market (or whatever) rather than spending it.  The “old me” might have considered that! I’m planning not to think so much about the money details someday which will be the “new me”.

For my planning, the estimated depreciation only tells me what I might be able to sell everything for and then use the money to buy a home or whatever should we ever come off the road. OR elect to buy another RV and continue on.  The old me sees the depreciation in our budget as something costing on average around $7,618 a year or $634 a month. Add the truck and the monthly expense becomes $1,097 given our budgeted purchase prices over a six-year period. I know some of you are going to figure it up on your own – it comes out to $78,984 for six years.  At 7% earnings that money would generate $33,178 if invested rather than spent. Sorry – the old me chimed in at the last moment.

So how does one justify the expense of it all. The old me says; the hotel rooms for a year could cost over $27,000 or maybe $162,000 in six years, the food would be expensive if not cooked at home and you have to own a car anyway.  The new me says; what price does one place on looking out over a view that photos can’t capture, what price do you place on spending time with family and friends, what have you been saving for, is it really that important to work until death and I hope we can do this before the North Koreans figure out how to launch a long-range missile. If you want more opinions on if the depreciation is worth it, go to this 22 page forum thread.

Karen, with her new eyes, and I are going on an adventure. I’m not giving a second look at depreciation because it does not matter short of how much will we have left for our next adventure.

Updated Summary of Trailer and Truck Purchase Decisions.

Karen and I started touring RVs in January 2015 with a visit to the local RV show. In time, I came up with an outline of seven steps we might consider leading to the eventual purchase. As usual my personality provokes me into over-thinking every aspect of the decision. It has been a fun process as I enjoy research and meeting others who have gone through the process of selecting their rig. Karen and I agree with the concept of buying your third trailer first. In other words, whatever we get we are planning to keep for a long time and avoid taking a hit on depreciation should we trade out the trailer within a couple of years. I have read several times where others estimate trailers depreciate quickly in the first five years.

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Final Truck Research

Five weeks ago, I posted an article regarding my initial truck research. Because of the trailer weights we are considering, our truck will be a one ton dually. A second article was posted a couple weeks later.  Readers passed along the pin weights of their fifth wheel trailers were running between 19 and 21% of their total trailer weight. That’s also consistent with what others are reporting in forums. The pin is the front of the trailer that rides on the truck’s rear tires and is a reason we are going with a one ton dually.

I found all three manufacturers can handle the weights we are interested in. I researched the 2016 and 2017 truck models. Base prices on their least expensive trucks were within $720 of each other. The manufacturer’s suggested retail price (MSRP) for 18 new truck builds, with the options I was initially interested in, varied as much as $18,435. And of those new trucks, 12 were over our budget.  In a roundabout way, it helped to further narrow the list with our decision that we wanting leather interior. None of the new truck models were within our budget with leather interior. The decision then became what used trucks we could afford that had the options we were interested in.  There were huge changes from 2016 to 2017 in Ford heavy duty trucks. The Ram was unchanged between those years and there were a few changes in the Chevy/GMC. It took some time but I was able to locate used trucks with most of the options we are interested in.

Research showed an average discount of 22.24% off the new MSRP for trucks if bought one year old. And those are compared with ones located on dealers’ lots at their asking prices. Many had mileage of less than 10,000. Several were even at local dealerships.

2017 Used Truck Prices_LI

All things considered and for what are my preferences, the Ford F350 Lariat and Ram Laramie 3500 were the two trucks I am most interested in. As a side note, I was surprised to find the Ram is the only one of the four brands that’s available in 2017 with factory air suspension.

Another point I want to make is about brand loyalty. I get it. The last three trucks I’ve purchased were Fords. On several occasions folks have suggested they wished they could buy one companies engine paired with another’s transmission. ALL four manufactures have the same powertrain warranty. So, if they think their truck has a better setup then why not show it in the warranty? Personally, I’m hoping that having a couple trucks in mind to purchase will at least double the chances of finding a fair deal.

2017 Truck Warranty

We should purchase our truck next year and will most likely trade-in one family car at the time. Most likely we will keep Karen’s car to be sold sometime before we leave in 2019 on our future in an RV. We are discussing selling it earlier if she is comfortable driving the larger truck. I posted about going to one family car.

Because I’ll have at least three specific trailers selected and know their critical weights, I have no problem buying the truck first.

I put together a spreadsheet on the topic.  Sorry, I only knew how to post the spreadsheet link as a PDF. If you have trouble loading the spreadsheet and want a copy send me an email at mseneker@hotmail.com. I’m happy to send it.

Truck Comparisons PDF  (click here to see the spreadsheet). The nuts and bolts of the research is outlined in the spreadsheet which was easier than repeating it all within this blog post.

Here are a few internet links of more interest than others:

  • From the Big Truck Big RV YouTube site: 2017 truck of the year opinion. He owns a 2016 Ford and selected the 2017 Ram. Here is the link. He adds all three manufacturers can handle a 20,000 pound fifth wheel and believed no engine/transmission is better than another.
  • Roads Less Traveled blog has several postings regarding their 2016 truck upgrade. They test drove all of them!
  • Side by Side Video: 2017 one tons by MrTruckTV and another guy I’ve seen in a lot of videos. Towing around 22,000 pounds. Pin weight in this test is at 19% or over 4,180 pounds. Max tow for the Chevy is 23,000 pounds so they had to limit in order to compare. Chevy won the race with Ram coming in second place.

If you find any details in this post to be incorrect, please let me know. I’m no expert and don’t want to put out any bad information.

After writing this blog post I’ve kept looking at truck adds each day. I’m finding some wonderful trucks around the 20,000 mile mark. Found a 2015 Ram 3500 Laramie Longhorn Limited Edition for an asking price of $51,700 at a local dealership. And a loaded 2016 Ford F350 Lariat with less than 10,000 miles at another local dealership listed at $55,000. There are newer dually Ram Tradesmen Editions out there in the mid 40’s in great condition.

Sales Chart for 2015/2016 Fifth Wheels

At the local RV show I took a photo of this chart on the side of a Keystone Montana fifth wheel:

trailer-sales-2016

A factory representative had posted this chart.  He also had a list in a file comparing the Keystone Montana’s features against the Grand Design Solitude. He would not let me take a photo of that! I nearly missed it on the chart but noted it represents the top 20 models by sales. The charts source of information is listed as Statistical Surveys Inc, Grand Rapids Michigan. Per their website, Statistical Surveys (founded in 1958) is a provider of market research for marine, manufactured housing, trailers and recreational vehicles. They report an impressive list of publications where their research has been posted to include RV News, Trailer Life and the Wall Street Journal.

From what I could gather at the Statistical Survey’s website, companies can purchase the data. It might be reasonable to assume those companies would then present the data in whatever light they feel might shine brightly on them. It is however common knowledge the Montana has been the best-selling fifth wheel for years. The above chart combines three different full profile trailers from Heartland those being the Bighorn, Landmark and Big Country.  I thought it important to note the Montana full profile line includes the High Country which was not listed next to the Montana. Nor was the Cedar Creek Silverback listed next to Cedar Creek. To me, it’s important to note the High Country has a drop frame basement and the Silverback does not. I understand drop frames are more expensive to build and the basement space is considerably larger. One obviously needs to keep these construction variations in mind when comparing trailers in each price point. It is good to see some of the relatively lighter weight trailers on the list such as the Forest River Sierra and Sandpiper. The

Here’s what else we have been up to: I’ve been busy studying up on one ton trucks. Real glad the selection is limited to the big three. The hard part has been trying to figure out all the equipment options available that influence their towing/cargo capacity.

Karen and I are steadily working on downsizing. At this point selling larger items on Craigslist and trying to fill the trash can each week. I just ordered three large capacity CD/DVD wallets to reduce the footprint of our music and movie collections. I’m also getting close to having important personal and business documents completely scanned as part of going paperless. My photos have been scanned and Karen wants to get her’s finished up soon. It’s been very convenient to view old photos on the computer that I’d not taken the time to look at for years as prints.

And for the first time I’m working with a financial planner and may write about the decision and how it has been going in a future blog post.

 

new flash  Today Show video about workampers where the average age of workers is 53.

new flash  Highland Ridge fifth wheels recently put out a new factory tour video.