Lifestyle: New-Motorhome Fever

We’re shopping for a new motorhome, and we’re more confused than we were when shopping for
our first one. After undergoing this process 13 times in the past three decades, you’d
think the job would get easier. It doesn’t. Actually, it was much simpler back in the ’70s
and early ’80s when the brands, sizes, models and options were fewer. It seems that all
that knowledge we’ve accumulated complicates rather than simplifies things. Although our
present motorhome isn’t ready for the scrap heap, by any means, it has gotten a little long
in the tooth (seven years) and racked up quite a few miles (93,000). The upholstery and
carpet show signs of lots of use and several appliances have had to be replaced. And there
have been breakdowns involving the chassis. We’ve had to make two repair stops in the past
two weeks (air suspension and air conditioning). No telling what will be next. Anyway,
there are enough reasons for a new one that even Margie agrees we can splurge again.
Although we have had most of what we consider the essential options on our last three rigs,
there’s one important have-to-have feature that we haven’t tried yet — slideouts. The main
reason for wanting more space is what I’m doing right now — working at my computer at my
custom-designed (by me) computer/office desk. It works perfectly, but unfortunately my
chair clutters the aisle between the living room and the kitchen/dining area. When Margie
wants to get through, either I have to move my chair or she has to climb around me. A
slideout would solve that problem. I’ve never been satisfied with the “dad’s” chairs that
come with the motorhomes we’ve owned, so I’ve always replaced it with a chair that met my
standards for comfort. However, the swivel rocker-recliners that I prefer are large and
take up a lot of room. And, of course, they protrude into the aisle when the footrest is
extended, which creates a problem if more than two people are in the seating area – good
reason for a livingroom slideout. A bedroom slideout greatly increases the livability of
that area. There are various options for the space created by the slideout, but we think we
like the combination clothes closet/vanity table best. Margie particularly likes that idea.
It would give her a place to put all that stuff that she uses to look pretty. One of the
questions that we are asking ourselves is: If we get a two- or even three-slideout
motorhome, can we opt for a shorter one than the 38- to 40-footers that our last five have
been? To get an answer, I think we’re going to have to sit in a few models and mentally
work through all the livability implications. Extra space is great in any size, but if it
is just space, its value might be only esthetic. You can’t put stuff in it unless you have
drawers, cabinets or other storage places. So we’ll have to watch carefully that we don’t
spend money and use up weight-carrying capability for things that aren’t really useful to
us. As with automobiles, motorhome options are much fewer nowadays because many of the
things that were once considered optional are now standard equipment on most makes and
models: air conditioning, generators, television, leveling jacks, radios, awnings, etc. In
fact, one of my favorite former options, now usually standard on most diesel rigs, is the
inverter. I like having 2,000 watts of AC power for relatively short periods of use without
turning on the generator. Another option that I insist on is window and entry-door awnings.
I like to be able to get fresh air even when it’s raining, and I like to have some shelter
when getting in and out of the motorhome. A basic requirement is that our rig must be able
to carry a lot of weight. I like at least 3,000 pounds of cargo-carrying capacity. That
means a diesel. Not only do diesel engines provide the means to carry heavy loads safely,
they give us the quiet ride that we both like. And I much prefer the ruggedness and
reliability of diesel engines. I’m a strong believer in the experience of experts, so a
final “must” for me is that the brand be one that ranks at the top or near the top in the
Dealer Satisfaction Index that J.D. Power publishes to evaluate dealers’ satisfaction with
the manufacturers with whom they do business. That survey shows, among other things, the
quality of the products sold and how well manufacturers support dealers in providing
service to their retail customers. Being ranked at or near the top by dealers who handle
hundreds of a manufacturer’s products is about as good as it gets. Yep, new-motorhome fever
has struck me, and there’s only one known cure.

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