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.

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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.

(9/3/17) Another update: I’ve been zooming in on the labels for various trailers as I pull up photos. I’ve found a few that advertise X amount of cargo capacity on the manufacturers website, which I know is an average figure. However, the actual labels of any given trailer might show less cargo capacity. I assume this is because of all the options such as heavy dual pane windows. It still remains reasonable, I’d think, a trailer that starts with a larger cargo capacity will be left with the greatest capacity after the options are installed.


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.

Trip to Kansas and Purhased a New Popcorn Popper for the Road

Work took me to Hays Kansas a few weeks ago, unfortunately I was not able to make any stops along the way nor while in town. Later I found a website listing I-70 roadside stops in Kansas. This would have been a great reference if given the time to stop. All my work partner and I could do along the way was to view the sites out the car window. These include having to pass the New Horizons RV Plant – twice – without stopping! We ended up working 28 hours out of 48 and had no energy to tour anything.

I was fascinated by a large windmill farm, especially at night when the red warning lights on each tower flashed on and off like a 10-mile-wide Christmas tree.

flint-hills-map

Drove Through the Kansas Flint Hills

I used to bird hunt in Russell Kansas (home of Senator Bob Dole) but never paid much attention to the scenery while driving west from Kansas City. I’d heard the term Flint Hills but never did figure out their location until this trip.  Viewing the history of the land area on my cell phone helped pass the time. The Flint Hills is a region in eastern Kansas and north-central Oklahoma named for the abundant residual flint eroded from the bedrock that lies near or at the surface. It consists of a band of hills stretching from Kansas to Oklahoma. The Flint Hills has the densest coverage of intact tallgrass prairie in North America. Due to its rocky soil, the early settlers were unable to plow the area, resulting in the predominance of cattle ranches, which are in turn largely benefited by the tallgrass prairie.

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I took some interesting photos out the window of our moving car. I imagined how other areas of the country must compare to the Flint Hills where I’d seen desert and hilly areas while following RV’er blogs.

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And somethings never change like when we passed Fort Riley. I was stationed there for a short time as an Army Military Policeman in relief of the garrison MP’s who were tasked out of country. That was many years ago. The Post looked the same from the highway as it did way back then. It’s the home of the Big Red One – 1st Infantry Division. Originally the Fort was one of many spread across the prairie to safeguard settlers, having been established in 1852. General Custer and the 7th Calvary called it home for a brief time as did Wild Bill Hickok as a scout. Not far west of Fort Riley is Abilene Kansas. I’ve always wanted to stop there and check out the Dwight D. Eisenhower Presidential Library and Museum.

If you find yourself wanting to make a trip to Kansas here is a string of blog posts worth reading by the On the Road of Retirement blog.

Our air popcorn popper broke. So we went shopping for a new one. We replaced it with another that would be usable in our future RV.  After several weeks of usage we find this collapsible microwave version to produce better tasting popcorn than our older one.

 

In terms of planning for our future in an RV I’ve shifted to learning about one ton pickups.

Bought an Inflatable Kayak

Karen and I decided to brave the Labor Day crowds at the local state park to try out our new inflatable kayak. Having a portable hobby will be nice while we travel as it will provide yet another way to explore. Paddling should also be a great way to exercise.

I spent loads of time researching inflatable boats and accessories such as life vests and water proof bags. Here is a link to my notes if you’re interested.

The boat dealer suggested we inflate the kayak overnight to check for any problems before we took it to the lake.  Of course, photos were in order even if it’s at dry dock (our basement).

Although the Sea Eagles FastTrack 385 is rated for class two whitewater, we plan to stick with open lakes while we learn to paddle. Fortunately, there are two lakes within 30 minutes of our home. I found a nice map with descriptions of places to kayak at Paddle.net.

Sea Eagle FastTrack

We left the camera in the car so we did not get any photos while on the lake. The boat performed like a champ! Took 20 minutes to set it up and then another 45 minutes when others at the dock wanted to look the boat over before we could got it in the water. We were amazed at how fast we could go with two people paddling.  We were also able to quietly move up to a few birds who were busy fishing which was awesome.

If you have any questions, please post them in the comments. We are totally new to kayaking and would appreciate any suggestions you can offer.

RV Batteries – An Update

I had forgotten to report what RV batteries we might go with once we get our rig. I had mentioned this within an earlier blog post. Shawn at ktmissouri.blogspot.com, recommended we start off with two batteries which is what we will do.

Here is a link to my notes on batteries if you’re interest.

 

Tour of the Columbus Fifth Wheel

Karen and I met friends at a local restaurant that happened to be down the street from a Liberty Missouri RV dealership. We are hoping to find a couple floor plans we like which is step three out of seven in our search for the nearly perfect home. So we drifted over to the dealership and spent time looking at Palomino’s Columbus fifth wheels.  Palomino has been around since the late 1960’s and is now owned by Forest River.

On a side note, I had figured the last step in purchasing our rig would be buying the truck.  I’m now leaning towards getting the truck first knowing the trailers we are considering are under 20,000 pounds in gross weight and by then we should have a couple trailers in mind that we would buy. I’ll explain this decision in a future blog post related to transitioning from a stick and brick home to a trailer. My seven steps to selecting a trailer are:

  1. Decide on budget.check-mark-md (2) (update 11/20/16 – we are considering increasing the budget)
  2. Fifth wheel vs Motor Home?check-mark-md (2)
  3. Then decide on floor plan and basic needs (such as 4 season rig) of a “full time” unit.
  4. Then decide what manufacturers build the floor plan or close to it.
  5. Then decide which of several manufacturers appear to have best quality for price and the best after purchase service.
  6. Reduce selection to one manufacturer and buy new or used depending on budget.
  7. Select a truck capable of pulling the rig with a safety margin.

I’ll get to my notes about the Columbus shortly.  In the rating system I’m using it comes in at 167 points out of a possible 260 which makes the Columbus, for our wants and needs, one of the lowest rated.

Last Christmas I bought a family member one of those gifts that you want to keep for yourself. Well, after nearly eight months thinking about it and at least a few incidents needing one, I bought a portable jump starter power pack for myself. What took so long to decide is the notion Karen and I are limiting what we buy knowing we will be disposing of our stuff and hitting the road in a few years.  I also try and avoid buying camping gadgets thinking we will need them later.  A friend at work bought a similar power pack more than a year ago and highly recommended getting one. He has jump-started several cars and never recharged it. This included a diesel engine. I checked the specs on his power pack and went a couple sizes larger in terms of battery capacity and cold cranking amps. Two weeks after the purchase Karen’s car would not start. Not a problem. I opened the engine hood and 30 seconds later she was on her way to the store. I threw the power pack in the back seat after showing her how to use it.  No more having to fetch an extra vehicle to jump start the car. No more having to worry about getting close enough to jump start a car. And as a bonus we can charge our phones, have a handy flashlight and a very bright blinking LED light as a warning devise. I bought the power pack at Amazon because Walmart had a limited selection.

Regarding the Columbus fifth wheel. It comes in two variations, one being the better equipped Columbus and the other being the Compass model.  Frankly, in this price point the Forest River Cedar Creek or Cardinal may be a better option for full time living. Here are my notes on the 2017 Columbus 320RS 38’ rear living room (video) for those interested:

Continue reading

Life in Kansas City – A Spring Snow Day

Happy Easter Sunday all: “And that he was buried, and that he rose again the third day according to the scriptures:” (1 Corinthians 15:4)  Thank you Lord!

I can’t remember a time when it snowed in Kansas City on Easter Sunday while the grass had already turned green. It was coming down hard this morning but thankfully not sticking to the ground.  Our daughter came out to the house with her husband for a Sunday dinner. This reminded me of the times our family gathered on Easter Sunday when I was younger. Last night I feel asleep watching “The Bible” series on television. Late this morning I turned the television on. The exact same episode was playing at the exact same spot in the movie which was during the Exodus as God was parting the Red Sea. Weird….

 

Snow on Easter 2016 (800x446)

Large Snow Flakes on Easter Sunday – 2016

 

Karen and I went grocery shopping yesterday for a few items she needed for the dinner. Nearly every egg on the grocery side of Walmart was sold out. AND, even more discouraging was they had nearly no remaining Folgers Coffee. There must have been a lot of kids jacked up on coffee coloring Easter eggs this time of year.

 

 

Karen took a few photos last week of all our fruit trees in full bloom. I might keep these photos for an album. In a few years, or maybe less, when we sell the house we want to have an album which potential buyers can look through to see all the wonderful views of the property which might not be obvious for any given time of year.

I got a few things accomplished regarding planning for our future in an RV.  Researched RV toilet paper and met with my financial guy regarding investments. Both were equally interesting topics – not.

It appears buying expensive toilet paper made for RVs is an overkill and may not even be the best solution. We have a septic system at home so we decided to switch off to a different brand of toilet paper which is more digestible through the septic system and an RV. We plan on trying out two brands. Here is a video of the toilet paper test where Charmin Ultra Soft came out on top as a good brand for RV usage while Angel Soft came in second.

I may throw-up a blog post regarding a few topics I discussed with the finance guy as we prepare for retirement in a few years. It’s probable not a good idea to wait to make financial changes until a few months before retirement.  More on that later. If you’re interested here are a couple links back to posts regarding a few financial considerations.

Best RV Tips
I purchased an E-Book through Amazon that is packed full of information that’s usable for those of us learning about the RV lifestyle as well as for those of you with a lot of experience.

RV Best Tips by Steven Fletcher (2012). He also has a website called RV Tip of the Day.

RV Construction Methods – Slides

The digital notebook is taking shape with added pages where I’m capturing information as I learn about it.  Thought I’d take a quick moment to point you to a few of the new pages.

Under the Construction Methods Page:
nuts-and-bolts-th
Added Slide Research
.  This topic is going to take a long time to research. Here you will find a long list of notes I’ve taken as well as a few links to where I’ve been finding some of the information. I intend to write a blog posting at a later date to summarize the research.

Under the Parking Lot Page:
Parking Lot
I added a few sub pages.  While reading the Tumbleweed Blog (five years worth) it became apparent I need a place to “park” all the wonderful information I learned from their blog as well as others.

Fifth Wheel Manufacturers is the page I’m parking links to full-time trailers I’ve researched.  Rving Gadgets and RV/Truck Maintenance Items are also two new pages. Again, like other pages, these are a work in progress.  And lastly, I added RV Parks Near Kansas City. I’m nearing the opinion that Kansas City is not a popular stop for full-timers. In future blog postings I’ll report on a few of the wonderful places to visit.  We intend to spend longer periods parked near home to visit family.  I decided to research and evaluate all the local RV parks, focusing on which ones we would want to stay at for extended lengths of time.  I decided to also report on a few parks for the benefit of others. Wish I had this page done last night. Someone in the Escapees forum is moving to town and needed a good spot to stay for 30 to 60 days.

At the bottom of the RV Parks Near Kansas City page are a few good links for trip planning.  I searched through these finding placing to stop in Kansas City.

I also took some time to get outside. We have lived in the same sticks and bricks home for about 14 years. I got a start on removing some of the over-grown bushes and pruning back some trees. The new plantings are ones that will look good in four to seven years when we sell this place.