Small House Big World

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Finding The One: The Top 5 and Price Tiers

Kelly Reid • December 4, 2014

After my previous post on the top candidates for our Class A motor home, I did another round of culling the option pool further.  My goal was to get the list to 10 units, with a clear preference within each price tier ( <10, 10-15,15-20,20+).  I made a grid with the units broken down by tier, with their year, age, size, make/model, price, NADA value, location, and a few features and notes, then color coded it for at-a-glance evaluation.

Obsessive much?  Yup.  But diligence now will entail freedom in the future, so I’m glad to put in the effort.

In each tier, I’ve bolded 1 or 2 listings that mark my personal preference.  This takes into account the aesthetics, features and overall value.

The Decision Matrix, ordered by price tier, and preference within tier

The Decision Matrix, ordered by price tier, and preference within tier

You see why a matrix was useful, no?  I’m a very visual learner, so the color-coding helps immensely.   What blew my mind was the budget options.  Oh my god.  I knew the Detroit area was financially depressed but $2000 for an ’89 Winnebago?  That’s basically FREE.   It was originally marked as $4500, but when I updated my sheet last night they had dropped the price to $2k.  What.

I am eager to keep our budget to $10k or less.  While we can afford to go higher for the right coach, we feel more comfortable giving ourselves a lot of extra wiggle room for upgrades and repairs.  Thus, I am less tempted by the higher-end rigs than I have been before.  The 2 Newmar rigs have big slides and a washer-dryer.  They look to be in great shape and are classy beasts on the outside.  We’ve actually walked through the 2000 Newmar and Anna liked it quite a bit.

That said, I am hard-pressed to find a reason to pay an extra $8-10k for a washer/dryer and a slide.   The slide is either there or its not, but the W/D can be added with a bit of elbow grease and sweat equity.   I’d sooner save the $1200 bucks on doing an install, but if the W/D comes with the unit, then, great.  I just won’t go out of my way to get / install one.


 

Based on all of this, I’m willing to rule out both rigs in the highest price tier (unless they want to give us a 50% discount).  The value just isn’t there.  I’m also going to cut the 1994 Coachmen and both the 2003 and 1995 Itascas.  In each case, we can get better value for our money.  I’m also going to rule out the 1993 Fleetwood, as I think I’d rather have the vintage bus for the same price; the Fleetwood is an unremarkable mass-production vehicle and I just love dat bus.

So what remains?  A 1996 Newmar at $18k, representing our luxury option, A 1981 Thomas vintage bus conversion for $8500, and 2 uber-budget options; a remodeled 1984 Gulfstream for $4500 and a small, clean and unremarkable 1981 Winnebago for $2000.

The 1996 Newmar

The 1996 Newmar

The 1981 Thomas Coach

The 1981 Thomas Coach

The 1989 Winnebago Chieftain

The 1989 Winnebago Chieftain

The 1984 Renovated Gulfstream

The 1984 Renovated Gulfstream

I must say that I am super tempted by the two budget rigs.  I mean, come on, the Winnie is two freaking thousand dollars.  That’s a staggeringly low price for what is essentially a house.  Having so little cash invested would give us a tremendous amount of padding, but I’m not looking to save a few grand to buy something that won’t work for us.


I was wary about buying a vintage bus, so I sought advice.   I got a boatload of good feedback from a few Facebook groups, and an extremely thorough email reply from Cherie of Technomadia, in support of bus conversions.  There doesn’t seem to be any significant increase in repair risk or costs associated with a bus;  the chassis are usually built to last millions of miles (this one only has 150k on it) and the interiors are usually gut-renovated by professional craftsmen, not mass-produced for cost efficiency.

If I can negotiate the Thomas bus down below $5k and it passes inspection, I think we may have found a winner.  Though the two budget options are damned tempting, the splendor of a vintage bus is worth an extra couple grand to me.   While the Gulfstream has a nicely renovated interior, it’s not as sleek as the Thomas.  The Winnebago’s only real perk is that it’s basically free.  We’re cheap, but not that cheap.

The 1996 Newmar is still a fabulous option, but since it’s listed at $9k below NADA Low value, I don’t know how much we’ll be able to talk them down.  Depending on negotiations, I would wager we’d be paying 2-3x more for the Newmar than the Thomas.  The Newmar is brilliant, but I might be more inclined to put that extra 10k towards working on the bus instead.

With all of that said, it’s still not decision time.  We may learn new things, find new rigs, visit some that look better than they did online, or change our mind about things.   If I had to pick now, I think I’d go with the 1981 Thomas Bus Conversion.  I’ve loved it since first sight, and it looks like a solid piece of craftsmanship.  If I ended up driving that thing off the lot today, I would do so with a grin on my face.

Anna’s opinion on this whole matter is that seeing and walking through the rig is the most important part, and forming any solid opinions based on online information alone is much like online dating: you might be in for a surprise upon meeting.

Anna’s strategy for any type of online shopping, be it for clothes, RVs, or men: Don’t get too interested in something you’ve only seen through the computer screen.  And you never know, maybe you are at dinner with your date, and he is a dud, but the WAITER. Aha. Hello….

 

 

Kelly Reid • December 4, 2014


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  1. So we just bought an RV. | Small House, Big World
  2. Kathy Parker February 21, 2015 - 8:28 am Reply

    Lol. This was fun! I’ve never seen someone purchase a rig like that, but I enjoyed the thought process. We own a 1990 Blue Bird ( Wanderlodge ) yes it’s a bus, and the culmination of a 30 year dream.

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