Buying an RV on a Frugal Budget

If you remember from my last post, we spent our first week here in Florida making Mom and Dad comfortable with us and recuperating from all the craziness during the month of February. We did do research online looking for a 5th wheel during that week. Didn't really find anything though which was probably a good thing as we had no energy to go look at something.

By that first weekend here in Florida though I was starting to get antsy about finding something in decent shape in our price range. So the beginning of our second week here, we got serious in our search. Friends had offered to come keep an eye on Mom & Dad while we were out looking so we started contacting dealers and private party sellers in earnest.

Monday, March 7th, we drove up to the Tampa area to a huge dealership that had been recommended to us. Mike had called first and was told by the salesman that, yes, they had quite a few good units in our price range. The place was gorgeous! 130 acres owned by the dealership which included RV's for sale, an RV park, a restaurant, a Campers World. The place just went on and on. There was even a security guard at the gate checking RV's that were coming and going.

When we met with our salesman though, disappointment started to set in. He wanted to spend a huge chunk of time 'selling the dealership' instead of showing us RVs. That got old quickly! Finally, he put us in a golf cart and started taking us on a tour of the RV's for sale - mostly Class A's - which isn't what we wanted. When we did finally get to the 5th wheels, he kept showing us things that either didn't have what we wanted - or were way over our budget. Finally he showed us one that he said they just wanted to move quickly and were willing to come down to meet our price. It was lovely. We went over it with a fine tooth comb then Mike made an offer.

Basically he laughed at us - and then we realized we'd been taken for a 'ride'. He thought by getting us in there, that he'd be able to get us to either raise our price range - or be willing to take out a loan. Nope, not going to happen! We don't have a lot of money, it's going to be our only place of residence, and we're trying to not run up debt! We're retired and on a fixed income now and have to make do with what we can afford on what we have. Period. The salesman was shocked - don't imagine he runs in to too many people who stand as firm as we did.

So nothing positive on Monday.

Tuesday and Wednesday were occupied doing more research and making a ton of phone calls. We were learning that when the cheaper units were advertised, you had to act fast cause they were snapped up quickly. Mike was able to get appointments to look at 3 on Thursday when some other friends were going to come parent-sit for us.

The first 2 were at another dealership. This salesman wasn't nearly as nice as the one on Monday - he was definitely a 'used-car-salesman' of the old school. It rained off and on that day and the first unit he showed us positively reeked of mold when we stepped into it. There was a huge puddle in the middle of the floor in the living area - and he acted so surprised! Bolted out of that one in a hurry. The second unit was much nicer and we saw no evidence of leaks but it had more than 1 dead mouse in it somewhere. Nope, not for us. If you can't stand to stay in it when you're just looking at it, why would you want to buy it? That salesman argued with us all the way back to our truck. Was so happy to get out of there.

The last appointment that day was a private seller. We'd seen 2 pictures of the outside and 1 of the inside in the listing. What we could see looked very nice. It was described as being in excellent, brand new condition (refurbished) and had all these nice things - including brand new wood floors (not laminate). It was a disgusting piece of junk! The thing had been stripped of all essentials (propane tanks, hoses, electric connection cord, etc., etc.) and ALL the furniture was missing. The 'new' wood floors were horrible. Stained and scarred up. Someone had put a very thick, uneven, fresh coat of polyurethane on them without sanding or re-staining them first - which just highlighted the blemishes even more. As we were getting in the car to leave, the guy offered to drop his price by about $1500. Nope, still not worth it. We wasted our time and gas to get there.

Needless to say, we were both getting a bit discouraged. Mike kept saying, "We've got a few weeks yet." which was true, but, being a woman, I needed to know that I was going to have a roof over my head that was 'ours' when March 31 came along. So we spent Thursday evening and Friday doing more research and making phone calls.

The problem was that all those great deals that we'd been seeing while we were still in MO had pretty much dried up because the season was ending here in FL. Timing is everything, isn't it?!

Friday, I took a break at lunch time & had a nice chat with Mom and Dad after lunch. Then Mike and Dad ran out to do an errand. About 2 I decided to check Craigslist one last time and up popped a new ad for a decent looking 5th wheel in our price range. At a dealership. I shot off an email asking questions and got a call back within 10 minutes from a salesman. He actually went out to the unit while we were talking so that he could answer any questions I had because we were 1-1/2 hours away and didn't want to waste another trip. He was extremely nice and very helpful.

Mike and Dad came back while I was still on the phone with him so Mike chatted with him for awhile, too. Next thing I knew, all 4 of us were in the truck on the way to Bartow, FL to look at the unit in person. We got there a little after 4 pm and by 6 pm papers were being drawn up for our purchase. It was 6:45 by the time we got out of there and Dad likes to eat at 6 on the dot. So the first thing we did was stop at a Perkins Restaurant for dinner. We'd had fun together driving up to Bartow because we took back highways and saw a lot more local scenery then we would have seen on the Interstate. Dad loved seeing all the cows & orange groves. But coming home it was dark and they just wanted to get home. Finally rolled into the driveway at 9 pm and they went straight to bed.

It was fun having them with us to look at just one unit (don't think they - or us - could have handled a full day of looking at units together). Dad follows Mike around like a shadow and wants to help him with whatever he's doing so he was enjoying poking around the mechanics of the unit. Mom climbed up into it and gasped, "OH! If our camper had been like this, I wouldn't having minded spending the summers in it so much!" She really liked it!

So, what we bought on our frugal budget was.....a 2000 Fleetwood Prowler, model 32-5D. It's about 34' long and has 3 slide-outs. It does have a little damage in the back but Mike's pretty sure he can fix it. It doesn't have as much storage as we were hoping for but we've lucked out on the hitch situation. Our truck already has an in-the-bed gooseneck hitch. After 3 different guys and Mike crawled all over the truck at the dealership, we found out that we only need a gooseneck extension on the 5th wheel and we're all set! That frees up a ton of room in the bed of the truck for storing more stuff. We'll just have to get a cover to go over stuff and around the gooseneck.

We take possession next Friday, March 25th. That will give us almost a week to get it cleaned and polished on the outside, make some repairs in the back, and do some cleaning on the inside. The dealership is even going to get us temporary plates to get it back to MO. We are very impressed with this dealership and would recommend them. Dusty's RV (Camping World) in Bartow, FL. I think we met all the big muckity-mucks there as well as most of management in the service department and were very impressed. Very straightforward and down to earth.

I'm already thinking about little things we can do to get more storage inside but already I'm happy with the homey feel it has. A little nervous as we start this new adventure in our lives but also excited about getting on with it.

And, I have made a pledge of myself. We still have family and friends who think we're nuts for doing this - nuts to be full-timers, nuts to buy an older unit, etc., etc. I don't want to be rude with them - although it does really bug me when people think they have the right to tell you what to do when they haven't walked in your shoes. Anyway, I have decided that when any more negative comments or questions come up, I'm just going to smile sweetly and change the subject. Constantly, until they get the message that I'm not going to talk about it. We're not expecting to not have any problems...we're alive and breathing and have been so for 62 years. There's always problems around the corner. But there's also adventures and excitement as well as calm and contentment. We just do the best we can. :)

Oh, another good reason for buying an older, cheaper unit.....If in a year or 2 we decide full-timing isn't for us, we won't have invested a ton of money.

Next time I'll tell you about my two cheap finds and our insurance adventure.

Gloria - The Internet GADabout


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