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September 4, 2015 practical


Let’s pick up where we left off - just before Memorial Day weekend of 2015, we’ve found our top choice candidate and are moving to the next step: inspection (and purchase, contingent on inspection results).

We tried looking into having a separate company inspect the RV for us so we could save a trip, but given the short time frame (remember that once I’ve made a decision, I like to execute it quickly?) there were no (reputable) agents available to do so. We wanted to be able to use the long weekend to drive down, get the RV if the inspection was satisfactory, and then drive it back.

So - middle of the week before the weekend, I’m on the phone with the RV rental place after school one day as I put Christian to work installing software on the students’ computers. Here’s the first inkling that this project may not be simple cosmetic upgrades’ - Jason at American Dreams in Austin lets me know that there’s some water damage on the floor that you can’t quite see in the pictures, but that the roof was recently re-rolled, the tires replaced, and generator serviced. Okay, sounds great! A good starting note for our relationship with the dealer that they’re starting with full disclosure. We set up an appointment time to meet and inspect the RV for Saturday afternoon, then I start looking for AirBNB for our stay.

The water damage + sneak peek of the original finishingsThe water damage + sneak peek of the original finishings

Saturday rolls around and we roll out. We get into Austin, grab some local grilled cheese/goat curry from a food truck, and head to the dealership. They’re selling the 2002 Fleetwood Tioga 24D on consignment, which means that they don’t actually own it.

We meet Jason, the owner of the dealership, and an all-around down-to-earth kind of guy who basically gives us a crash course in RV maintenance and ownership, demonstrating and coaching us through checking the tank levels, connecting the batteries, starting the generator, and opening the awning (all as I frantically scribble notes and Christian nods sagely).

Carbon Monoxide detector notesCarbon Monoxide detector notes

Changing Gears has an amazingly thorough checklist that we used as a guideline for our self-inspection, but considering that neither of us has driven anything larger than a pickup nor shown much interest in electrical wiring or plumbing before this it was almost more intimidating than it was helpful. I skim through the pages and pages of questions we could have asked (and maybe should have), sticking with easy ones like, how many miles does it have?” and is this the fridge?” However, since it’s being sold on consignment, Jason is finding out the answers to most of our questions right along with us (“Let’s turn it on and double-check the odometer,” opens door Yep, sure is!“)

Finishing our circuit of the exterior, envisioning the workout my label maker will get, we head on in. Again using the checklist as talking points, we go over the entire interior as thoroughly as we could, opening and closing drawers, and continuing our RV crash course (how to check tank levels, start the stove and fridge, when to turn on the water heater).

General Info/TipsGeneral Info/Tips Awning Instructions/Service/RepairsAwning Instructions/Service/Repairs Repairs close-upRepairs close-up

After a quick test drive by Christian, Jason courteously excused himself to let us come to a decision. I already knew that this motorhome met our criteria (basic systems work, interior needs updating) and the visit was mostly to make sure there weren’t any major problems that we didn’t know about. Christian was also concerned about some of the repairs that needed to be made, but we agreed that it had the potential to be a great fit for us.

Pow-wowing concluded, we headed back into air-conditioning to talk numbers. Jason gave us some estimates for the repairs, major and minor.

  • Major = windshield crack, soft spot in floor from previous leaking
  • Minor = paint over rust on bumper, cabinet hinges/tweaking, re-caulking

We suggested our first offer that same day, offering list price with the sellers paying for repairs. Jason let us know the owner had already come down from the suggested list price of $13,999, checking on NADA (the Kelley Blue Book for RVs), but we decided to try sticking with our original offer.

Re-created NADA suggested list priceRe-created NADA suggested list price

We had the rest of the weekend to enjoy Austin, marveling at the height of the Trinity as we ran after the heavy rain in the area, sampling even more food trucks, and making plans for the future.

I was maybe expecting something more along the timeline of Property Brothers where the camera cuts between the couple enjoying a drink while the realtor talks on the phone then comes back with an immediate response, but our wait time was slightly expanded from HGTV. It wasn’t until three days later on Tuesday, back in Dallas, that Jason contacted us with an update on our offer. The seller had countered with $13,300 and no repairs payments. We basically asked what’s the best he can do?” and Jason came back with the final offer of $13,699 and the seller paying for minor repairs (not the windshield or floor repair), which we accepted.

The next Sunday (May 31) we flew out to Austin for the final paperwork and to drive the RV back. The final cost for our new home with title, tax, etc. was $15,034.49 before renovation and repairs, with an estimated $350 cost for windshield replacement by Jason’s friend who owned a repair company.

One Uber ride later, we arrived at the dealership (American Dream Vacations RV) to see Jason giving the RV a good scrubdown and finishing last minute repairs (read: velcro-ing the drawers shut for the drive) that his maintenance people didn’t get done on time (his words, not ours). The windshield was not repaired as I had expected due to the quick turn-around time of the sale - but at this point we were already in Austin wanting to get back home.

Quality customer service from JasonQuality customer service from Jason

We finalized some paperwork, drove with Jason to the corner gas station to fill up, dropped him back off at the dealership, and hit the road! After a mini-adventure finding parking at Whole Foods, we began our very first road trip.

Christian says his first oh my goodness we’re actually doing this” moment was at a rest stop on the road back to Dallas. He looked out the same window he had a few hours before to see a completely different view.

There’s something magically eerie about realizing that the interior space you’re in can be in a completely different context. One day you’re sitting in a chair with the fridge to your left, the bathroom behind you, and Elisa’s parents’ house outside the window in front of you; the next you’re sitting in a chair with a fridge to your left, the bathroom behind you, and the Grand Canyon in front of you. It’s literally like your house can teleport.

And that is the entire essence of why we’re doing what we’re doing. All the comforts of home in exciting new places (with exciting new food and exciting new things to do).

Or as Jack Kerouac put it: #truth

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Toad Trials Our decision to bring our 2010 Honda Insight with us on the road, not unsurprisingly, led to even more decisions. This post will be detailing our