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If you read our intro to RV shopping, you may be wondering “So, what did Julie and Marc decide to purchase?”
We looked at all different types online during our initial learning phase, but quickly narrowed it down to a Class A motorhome. We wanted to be sure to have some real living space considering that we were planning on living in the coach for such long periods of time. Fifth wheel trailers were in the mix for a little while, since they are so livable inside, but we are car lovers, we don’t own (or want) a truck, and didn’t want to be driving around in a big truck when we were camped with the big rig. We like small sporty cars, and knew we could pull one behind a motorhome, so that was a big factor in leaning toward a Class A.
Gas vs Diesel?
Next decision was Gas vs Diesel. We decided to go with Gas. We feel you can buy so much more coach when you go with gas instead of diesel. Small diesel engines get nearly double the fuel economy, and we plan to do a lot of driving, so that was a factor. But, with higher maintenance costs, higher per gallon fuel costs, and a very large premium on initial purchase; when we did the math, the gas engine coaches made more sense to us. We had a lot of friends and family ‘pushing’ us toward pusher diesels, but gas coaches still won out for us. We drove some pushers, and can definitely see that they drive and handle much nicer, but we plan on living in the coach 300-400+ hours for every 2-4 hours of driving, so the live-ability is of much higher importance. Though we love the power of the big diesels, we simply don’t need it to pull our Mini Cooper, as we’re not in a race. And we didn’t want to overcommit ourselves financially. When buying an RV, higher purchase price also means higher on-road costs (taxes, registration, plates etc) and – if financing, as we did – higher payments (and overall interest paid).
Floor Plan, Floor Plan, Floor Plan!
In our search, we came to realize that floor plan is probably the single most important decision factor in searching for an RV if you are planning on spending large amounts of time in it. When you are buying a home, location is the most important, then floor plan. But in an RV, you can change location REALLY easily, so floor plan moves straight to the top. For us, there was even the consideration of ceiling height. The RVs we looked at ranged from 77” ceiling heights, to over 90” ceiling height. Tall people might love the idea of tall ceilings, but Julie and I are not big people, and at 4’8″, Julie is somewhat vertically challenged (but with a big personality!), so some of the coaches had cabinets that were difficult for her to reach easily. When trying to maximize utility and usability of storage, it was important for both of us to be able to reach everything properly. You really need to think of how you plan on utilizing the space in your RV. Some people plan on shorter time in the coach, and might have more people to consider. In those cases, more couches, and more beds are big considerations.
Since it is just Julie and I (and our dog Coda), we only needed one bed. Most coaches have all kinds of space that converts to beds. The dinette and couch usually convert, and sometimes a bunk might drop down from the ceiling. For us, we wanted a dedicated bedroom and a dedicated work space, that didn’t need to convert back and forth. And since we’re not big people, we’re snugglers and we like having space to walk around the bed, we definitely wanted a Queen mattress, not a King (which seems to be really popular these days, perhaps because they are relatively new and people are used to them at home).
When looking at coaches, you will notice large differences in quality and workmanship, even in brand new coaches. Some things might be more important to one person, than they are to the next, but quality was high value for us. Things like full length extension drawers, and quality latches on internal and external storage really add up when you think of how often you will be opening and shutting those storage compartments. You don’t want cheap latches which won’t keep your storage properly closed when you’re on the road! There are other things to consider too.
Two coaches that are similar length, might be built on different chassis. One might be built on an 18,000 lb. chassis, and the other, on a 22,000 or 26,000 chassis. The larger chassis are much stronger and carry their weight better than an overloaded 18,000 chassis of the same length. An easy way to spot the difference between an 18,000 lb. and a 22,000 lb. or larger chassis is the wheel size. You will see 22” wheels on the 22,000 lb. version. If you have a vehicle built on a larger chassis than it needs, it will allow for more weight capacity for storage. Our research also showed us, that most coaches need to have little adjustments and maintenance from time to time to keep them at their best. So, it was important for us to have a brand that has been around for a while and had a good reputation, to give us confidence that they will be there with parts when we need them, and we also figured those brands might have figured out ways to avoid common bugs found in systems and coaches like these.
We searched and searched. There were even a couple times that we had thought that we had landed on ‘the one’, but still had a nagging feeling of uncertainty. We came very close to deciding on a Winnebago Sightseer 33c, and feel that we would have enjoyed that coach had we not thought just a bit more about longer term needs and maximizing for the perfect match. In the end, we chose something that some might be surprised at, being only two of us.
Our new home on wheels is a Tiffin Allegro 35QBA
Yes, it’s a Bunkhouse floor plan. We chose it for many reasons, but the main reason is that we wanted a true dedicated work space that was not part of the main living area. We planned to simply remove one of the bunks and convert that space into a dedicated ‘office’. That will allow me to literally close the door (in fact, pull the curtains) on work at the end of the day, so we can enjoy the living space as our home. We’re working on a blog post/video of the bunkhouse being converted into an office, so stay tuned!
Speaking of living space, with four slide outs on a 35 foot length, the 35QBA feels like an apartment on wheels. Yet, at 35′ long, it will still be allowed into many state parks and other camping areas that have a 35 foot max length (which seems to be a common breaking point).
What else did we love about the Tiffin 35QBA?
Tiffin is a highly respected brand with an excellent reputation for customer service. Their build quality is evident in the quality of the materials used (real wood cabinets, not particle board like most gas coaches), the metal latches and thick metal exterior doors, and little things like that don’t go un-noticed by us. Tiffin also builds a very beautiful coach. We loved every color available and didn’t feel the need to change out any of the interior window treatments or fabrics. This particular floor plan also has immense basement storage. It is nearly double the storage of the Winnebago we were considering. We don’t plan on bringing everything along with us on the trip, but having all the extra storage means that it is very easy to load and organize instead of having to squeeze and utilize every last square inch of space. It allows us to bring along some of those ‘maybe’ items like a massage table, an extra bike, portable solar panels, a bbq, and extra clothing / gear to reduce the need of washing clothes as frequently, as we don’t have a washer/dryer on board. The 35QBA is also built on a 22,000 lb. chassis which allows for a more solid feel, and better weight capacity for cargo.
The price was a bit higher than our original planned spend, but for us, getting exactly what we wanted was worth stretching our finances a bit more. With motorhomes being able to be considered a second home, and ability to have 20 year mortgages, the price per month was not a huge jump for us. Plus, if you are running a business from the road, many expenses related to your RV might be tax deductible. Be sure to see an accountant for advice on your unique situation.
Overall, we are delighted with our choice of motorhome and look forward to sharing more of our thoughts and experiences of it down the road. Pardon the pun 🙂