With Ruby in the driveway, now comes the search for our rolling abode. When we attended the Maryland RV show last month, we were both certain that a 5th wheel would be a good fit for us. A “5ver” has expanded storage space when compared to a travel trailer, improved head-room that provides a sense of spaciousness, and much improved towing characteristics (stability).
I was not interested in buying a new trailer. Since Covid was released to the world by you-know-who, the RV manufacturers lost a significant portion of their experienced workforce. They have also operated on thin margins, so when a bunch of new hires showed up in the RV manufacturing facilities, there were inadequate training programs and in-process quality inspections, resulting in many of the new trailers going directly into repair shops as soon as they were purchased to correct all of the flaws. Buying a used model also has the advantage of having all of the bugs corrected by the previous owner, provided the owner wasn’t lax.
Like any careful shoppers, we came up with a list of features that we were looking for:
- Maximum weight < 16,000 lbs
- Maximum length < 33 feet
- Cargo Capacity > 3,000 lbs
- Four Seasons Capability (for Winter use)
- Multi-Mode Refrigerator (will run on electricity or propane)
- A/C with ducting throughout the trailer
- Furnace > 30,000 BTUs Output
- Fresh Water and Holding Tanks Capacities > 50 gallons
- Dexter Axles (higher quality than the most common brand)
- Auto-Leveling System
When I started searching on the RV trading sites, I was surprised to find that there were very few 5th wheels within 200 miles of us that met the criteria. Most of the 5th wheels were quite a bit longer than I wanted, which would restrict our access to some State and National Parks. Others were meant for families (with “bunk rooms”) that took away from living space for the two of us. While some may like having the ability to sleep 8 people in their RV, I do not. I was also surprised by the number of people that paid money to get their RV listed for sale, but then wouldn’t return my email inquiries.
In one case, I drove down to Yorktown VA (almost 3 hours away) to look at an RV that met our criteria. I had set-up the visit in advance with the dealership (the RV was a trade-in). When I got there, the trailer was sitting out in a back area, the slides were in, and there was no power. When I got inside, I found it to still be dirty from the previous owner (think clumps of hair in the shower) and it had obviously not been well maintained. I did learn one valuable bit of knowledge though: An RV kitchen that has an island cannot be used when the slides are in, because the island blocks access to the stove and refrigerator. This is important at rest stops, when extending the slides is frowned upon.
Another individual that I contacted had a nice-looking rig just across the Virginia border, into West Virginia. When I communicated with him and asked if I could drive out to look at it, he said that he probably wouldn’t be able to get the slides out because the batteries were weak. I asked him if he would be willing to take it to a campground and plug it in so that I could operate the systems, and he declined that. So, I guess he didn’t really want to sell it. So the search continues.