Early Decisions For A New Journey
by Jon H
My wife Kari and I have been considering a life on the road for a few years now, and we are creeping closer and closer to that becoming a reality. We've been RV owners for some time and love every minute we get to spend in our 35' Fifth Wheel during the summers here in Colorado.
We are in our early/mid 40's and our youngest child will graduate high-school and head to college in three years. This may seem like a long time to go, but we feel we are in a position to make many really important moves that will make our dream a reality while there is still time. Moving from a brick and mortar home into an RV full-time will be a big change- and we are starting early enough that we hope to be able to get as many things right as possible!
The current decision we are wrestling with revolves around rig type. Motorhome? Or fifth-wheel? Even though we won't be full-timers for a few years, the best time to purchase our rig is now, while we can leverage our higher incomes against the expense of the rig. If we were to wait until we sold the house and quite our jobs, we would find it very hard to purchase the kind of RV that we can spend the next 10 years plus living full-time in.
First, a bit of background. One of our biggest priorities is to carry with us our two 49cc Honda Ruckus scooters. It may seem silly to some, but the joy we feel when cruising around on our little scooters, coupled with the ease of parking, super low gas cost, and overall convenience makes them a very desirable piece of the puzzle for us. Additionally, we plan to spend three months every year in Mexico during the winter, and the scooters are the ultimate means of transportation along the beach and around town.
So, whatever setup we decide on we need the following components:
-An RV home
-A passenger friendly vehicle of some kind for local running around
-A means to carry the scooters with us wherever we go.
This leaves several possible combinations:
1. A truck and toy hauler 5er or bumper pull
2. A toy hauler motorhome with a towed vehicle
3. A motorhome with a towed truck, putting the scooters in the towed truck bed
4. A bumper pull trailer behind a truck and put the scooters in the tow vehicle bed
Here are our thoughts on each of these combinations:
Truck and Toy Hauler:
This combination checks all of the boxes in terms of providing the necessary components for our travels, but we have pretty much ruled this out for several reasons. First there is no bumper pull toy hauler we have ever seen that gives us the kind of full-time living quarters we find acceptable. So that is out. As for 5ers, similarly, we have never seen a toy hauler 5er that gives the kind of interior living we like. The garages on 5er toy haulers are excessively large for carrying two 200 pound scooters, and this comes at the expense of the primary living quarters. In addition to that drawback, my wife just doesn't like the interior design of toy haulers. They tend to be very dark and masculine. In her word, they are "cold."
Toy hauler motorhome with a towed vehicle:
There are several toy hauler motorhomes out there that would carry our scooters and allow us to tow a 4 passenger vehicle in addition, meeting all our requirements for components. However, we found the toy hauler motorhome selection to be much like the toy hauler 5ers: uninviting design choices, and sacrifices that are made on interior living spaces and layout. Additionally, these motorhomes are very expensive! Starting points on a good quality model are 120K and up. This exceeds our desired budget significantly. We are also concerned about the registration, taxes, maintenance, and fuel costs associated with a large motorhome. For us these are all obstacles that put this option somewhere just short of last.
A motorhome with a towed truck, putting the scooters in the towed truck bed:
This has been a very attractive option as we weigh our decision. Having a motorhome who's primary function is living opens up some very nice floorplans and design choices. Because of cost, we have limited our search to gas models and have come upon several floorplans that we find attractive. That being said however, it is still easy to spend over 120K on the motorhome and then add the expense of purchasing a towable truck with a six foot bed to accommodate the scooters. This places the package at 150K or higher and really stretches our budget. It also requires two drive-trains to maintain and insure, and incurs higher fuel costs associated with a large gas motorhome. Still, this package is high on our list of possibilities IF we could find the right deal.
A bumper pull trailer behind a truck and put the scooters in the tow vehicle bed:
This checks all of our boxes, however, we simply don't like the bumper pull offerings. Bumper pulls are not as well made as motorhome and 5th wheels, and in the size we are interested in (35' plus) can be very unruly on the road. They don't offer the space and ammenities of a similarly sized 5er, and just don't feel like home. They feel more like camping.
So what to do? If there is one thing we have learned in our search it is that there simply is NO PERFECT choice when it comes to RV's. There will always be a trade-off somewhere when you have the kinds of requirements that we have. Choosing requires prioritizing and deciding where we are most willing to sacrifice.
Right now, we feel the Solitude 374TH fifth wheel is our best option. You can see it HERE: https://www.granddesignrv.com/showroom/2017/fifth-wheel/solitude/floorplans/374th-374th-r This is a fresh and exciting floorplan that delivers a true residential fifth wheel experience, coupled with a minimal garage situated UNDER the rear bedroom that doesn't eat any living floor space, but will easily accomodate our scooters. The tow vehicle becomes the passenger friendly vehicle for running around that can't be accomplished on the scooters. At about 40 feet length it is big, but I think the compromise of a larger unit is offset by the functionality this unit offers. With price points in the high 60's to 70's we can purchase the trailer and a newer truck for right at 100-110K making it budget friendly as well. As a bonus, we can purchase a diesel truck giving us better performance, fuel economy, and longer life expectancy out of our tow vehicle when compared to gas. Yes, the truck will be a dually and not super easy to park. But that's where the scooters come in for our daily running around town or on the beaches of Mexico. The other compromise to this unit is the smaller bedroom as compared to other 5ers in this size range. However, the bedroom is still very workable and what do you in a bedroom anyway? Sleep, dress, and a few other things that will be unaffected by it's smaller size. The living area is huge, the kitchen is gorgeous and offers two pantries as well as washer/dryer prep, there is a dedicated dining area, and sleeping accommodations for 4-8 depending on how friendly your guests are with each other.
So that's where we are right now. We haven't purchased yet, but unless something comes along that really takes our breath away- this will likely be our choice, and we feel very comfortable that it is one we will be happy with for many years of full-time RV living!
I hope you've enjoyed this write-up, and I look forward to reading your comments/thoughts, and updating you on things as they progress! I've considered starting a blog covering our journey, so if that occurs I'll pass that information along.
Jon and Kari H