Farewell my Lovely
In April 2018, we rolled Zane (our motorhome) into an impossibly tight spot between evergreens at a beautiful little RV Park in Show Low, Arizona for what we thought would be a month’s stay.
If you’re in Casa Grande, Arizona in April, it starts to get hot, really hot in the desert. But at 6,350 feet elevation, Show Low is perfect. Ahhh. Time to relax and explore the area.
But after a week of cool relaxation, there was something rattling around in my mind that needed resolution. The “rattle” had to do with our finances. When we bought our beautiful 2004 Newell motorhome in 2014 we were making significant income and our plan was to retire with $X in the bank at some future time.
Fast forward to 2018 and our plans had changed. We were now officially retired, significantly earlier than we had originally planned and with ½ $X in the bank.
When Wendy indicated in June 2017 that she was done, done, DONE with her medical career (but would still finish out her 6 month Eureka California contract), I quickly began to adjust our investment portfolio so that I could pluck every piece of fruit (dividends) out of it without chopping down the orchard (stocks). Then I created a budget based on that annual dividend income and we began living on that projected amount while she finished her last 6-month assignment. And we kept to our new, leaner, meaner budget.
Freedom is a wonderful thing. It feels great! But financial freedom requires some sacrifices. If we were going to be done working, we would have to stay within this new budget.
And the one thing that was rattling around in my brain was the fact that Zane had a habit of requiring costly repairs. She’s an older coach. She has a massive diesel engine. No, make that TWO massive diesel engines; one to drive her and another in the PowerTech generator which produces 20 kilowatts of electricity (enough to power a motorcoach and a house at the same time). Everything in her is high end, including a Sub Zero fridge that keeps requiring $800 repairs, would cost $12,000 to replace, is custom built into the cabinet walls, and no appliance repair guy wants to work on it.
In the four years we have lived in Zane, we’ve budgeted $12,000 per year in maintenance and upgrades. And every year we blow through that $12,000 budget. Like the Roadrunner zooming past Wile E Coyote. Beep! Beep!How could we remain financially free (live within our budget) with this budget-busting motorhome?
But we love her so much!
One day, Wendy and I are sitting outside under the pine trees when in rolls a gold Ford F-350 pulling a 5th wheel into the spot next to us. It looked very —nice! I turned to Wendy and said, “I could do that.” (Meaning, I could imagine us trading down to a truck and 5th wheel.) Next thing, Wendy and I are making new friends, taking a test-drive in their pickup (smooth ride, not clunky and mean-spirited like big trucks I had driven before) and walking through their spacious 5th wheel.
With a new pickup truck and 5th wheel we could cut our yearly maintenance budget to $2,000, or maybe even lower. Especially since a new one would have a 1-2 year all-inclusive warranty! And by selling the motorhome, we could buy the truck and 5th wheel with a significant amount of equity left over to provide more cushion in our bank account.
Just for grins, let’s throw in the decrease in RV insurance: $733 a year for a 5th wheel instead of $4700 for the Newell. That’s a big, huge, whopping incentive to re-think this whole motorhome issue.
Do I love my freedom more than I love my motorhome?
The answer is a resounding “YES”!
Time to press the RESET button.
Once the decision was made, Wendy went into action. She is amazing! She loves these types of challenges. Ergo:
- Where and how do we sell the motorhome? At what price?
- Which 5th wheel should we buy?
- New or used?
- How do you determine which truck to buy? F250? F350? Single rear or dual rear wheel axle?
- How do you manage the logistics of moving your stuff from a motorhome to a 5th wheel?
- Should we wait to buy a truck & 5th wheel until the motorhome sells? Or should we cash out some investments to cover the cost and then reimburse the investment account after the motorhome sells? Or should we (No, don’t say it) borrow for the truck & 5th wheel until the motorhome sells?
At the time, these questions were almost overwhelming. But we’ve dealt with much bigger challenges, so we could handle this one. Here’s how we ordered our thinking:
- Research 5th wheels. When we bought the Newell we had researched motorhomes using www.rvreviews.net, which is an independent reviewer for recreational vehicles, similar in nature to Consumer Reports. So we got their guide for 5th wheels and began to pour over the reports. We were looking for a 4-season, high quality product for full-time living. Answer: DRV, followed by Redwood and then Grand Design. We’d have to look at them and see where the price point / quality met our comfort zone.
- Where can we find some 5th wheels to look at? We can go anywhere in the United States to look, but let’s start where we intend to sell the motorhome. So we set off for the Dallas, Texas area and unloaded all of our earthly possessions into a 10’ x 10’ storage unit.
Then we put eyes on some 5th wheels and selected a brand new 2017 DRV that had been sitting on the lot for over a year (the 2019s were coming in and they were ready to deal!). We negotiated a great price with the full 2-year warranty. We gave them a couple weeks to clean up some issues we found before we would come back to pick up the 5th wheel (by which time we hoped to have a truck with which to pull it).
- Where to sell the motorhome? That was pretty easy for us. Motorhomes of Texas (MOT) sells used high-end motorhomes like our Newell and they draw buyers from all over the continent into their little town of Nacogdoches, Texas. What an amazing experience. It took less than an hour. We signed consignment papers with them, they suggested a listing price we liked, and the coach went immediately into their shop for a thorough review. Their technicians were highly skilled and their service was reasonably priced. They polished, spiffed it up, took pictures, video and advertised it on their website as well as on RVTrader. Our experience with Motorhomes of Texas has been excellent!
- Next up, lose the Jeep and buy a truck. It’s important to identify the 5th wheel before you pick the truck so you know what pulling capacity you need. Or be extremely realistic about what your current truck can haul. The DRV is well built (a.k.a. heavy). So we did the research and determined we needed an F-350 Duly. And thank goodness Wendy’s sister Kerry is married to Jeff who retired from Ford and was kind enough to give us the magic code for family to purchase a Ford for a killer price (Thank you Jeff). With all these moving parts it just was not practical to try to sell the Jeep on our own so we traded it in as part of the transaction.
- So now we’re driving this big Ford beast and it’s surprisingly comfortable and quiet. We headed back to Dallas, picked up our DRV, loaded it with our stuff from the storage unit, and off we go. We also went to the Cat Scale at a truck stop and went through the rigamarole to weigh the truck and fifth wheel using the workbook page in our B&W Hitch instruction booklet to calculate the final weight. We are not overweight! Those who do chose not to weigh, do so at their own safety and insurance risk should their rig and truck go turtle. And, you really should know if that bridge tonnage limit will hold before you try to cross it.
- We chose to buy the truck and 5th wheel using credit as a temporary stopgap until the sale of the motorhome. We HATE being in debt and it pained us every month to make payments, most of which was interest. Interest is just — poof — money down the hole. But it provided us the convenience of staying on the road (and visiting lots of family that summer) while we waited for the right buyer for the motorhome. And wait we did. We put our Newell up for sale in May 2018 and she did not sell until January 2019.
So that was our RESET. And it feels like we made an excellent decision. Yes we loved the Newell. It was a sweet ride! There is nothing like rolling down the road sitting way up high and watching the world roll by in a Newell, with the massive semi-tractor engine 45 feet behind you. You just have to experience it to appreciate it. We miss her. But she was demanding. Her complex systems required constant maintenance and money.
Meet Zane Too. Our 39 foot, 2017 DRV Mobile Suites 38RSSA.
We chose to make Zane Too as simple as possible, with no washer/dryer or generator. Just pull her to the next RV park and plug into the power pole. The truck’s alternator charges the house batteries as we go down the road to keep the residential fridge contents cool.
I find myself with much more free time because I don’t have anything to fix on her. And our budget is much happier with Zane Too. And we remain free.
Life is soooo goooood!