Saturday, May 9, 2009


We bought Scoopy used, one year old with 12,000 miles on our Cummins engine. We knew next to nothing, but had a “must have” checklist:

Diesel engine, no fewer than 350 HP: this can move our 31,000 pound GVWR motorhome and 5,000 pound Jeep over the highest mountains in Colorado without weeping in frustration.

Two slides: one in the living room, one in the bedroom, and each has windows on both ends.

An interior look and feel we both found appealing: fairly simple, no etched glass, no mirrored ceiling, nothing “country”. This varies for everyone, but be certain you are going to enjoy the time spent inside your rig.

50 amp electrical service: we often have only 30 amps, but like the option of 50 amps if we are staying for awhile in a hot climate.

Two air conditioners.

A full-sized shower.

Two comfortable rooms that can be easily separated from each other: we both like “alone“ time.

Propane oven: these are becoming rare in RV’s. I like to use mine in winter, or in the morning on a cold day. In summer, I use the convection oven or microwave (they are combined in an RV).

That was it for the must-haves.

Here are the things we didn’t think to look for that turned out to be important to us (all of which we have):

Dual pane windows: improved temperature and noise control.

Built-in 7.5 KW Onan generator which can be turned on and off from inside Scoopy: very convenient, and imperative for boondocking.

Inverter and 3-stage battery charger: also imperative for boondocking.

4-door propane/electric refrigerator/freezer with ice maker: no boondocking without a propane-cooled refrigerator.

Stacking clothes washer and dryer: we never would have included these on a wish list as new buyers; now we wouldn’t be without them.

These options came with Scoopy. We're glad to have 'em, but not sure we would pay to replace them if they became non-functional:

Automatic, in motion satellite dish: we definitely would not bother with the “in-motion” aspect of our automatic satellite, but probably would opt for the automatic rooftop satellite dish again. It means you have much less flexibility in campsites in wooded areas, but avoids a LOT of hassle and frustration, especially in wet weather.

A large, chest-style refrigerator/freezer in the basement: it can be used as either a refrigerator or a freezer, depending on where you set the temperature. We keep it full of white wine and other beverages, and vegetables when we have stocked up for travels in remote locations or visited a farmer‘s market. It’s a real convenience, but would we pay to replace it? I’m not sure.

Electric power reel for the big, heavy, 50 amp electric cord: we appreciate the ease of a power reel, especially if the cord has been laying on muddy or sandy ground. We probably would pay to replace it if it broke (unlike the power hose reel, which broke twice - and we didn’t bother to replace it again).

Over the past six years, we have added several options:

Custom-made, snap on, exterior solar/privacy screens for the windshield, the front side windows, and the one side window that does not have a window awning. Motorhomes should not be without them! This is our number one most cost-effective purchase. Buy them early in your travels.

Electric awning: we just added this 4 months ago. It is a costly purchase, but we already have used it more times than we used the manual awning in the prior six years - primarily because it can be easily deployed or retracted by one person.

Pressure Pro tire pressure monitors: another rather expensive purchase that we pondered for many, many months. It is not difficult to monitor your tire pressures manually, but we had the money available and wanted to eliminate both the hassle of frequent tire pressure checking and the concern of a tire problem while underway. If we were on a tight budget, we would have nixed this purchase; I consider them a luxury (and both useful and fun).

Leather sofa: after wearing out the fabric cover on our old sofa TWICE, we bought a leather sofa from friends who had an extra. We no longer have any fabric covered furniture. Two real advantages to leather in the fulltiming life: MUCH easier to keep clean (fabric holds a LOT of dust), and it holds up much better under constant, constant wear.

Satellite radio: Love it, love it, love it. Satellite radio makes all the difference in the world in those very remote spots that have no over-the-air radio reception other than religious programming or Spanish-language stations, both of which seem to broadcast to every little quarter acre of the U.S. Even works in Mexico!

Catalytic propane heater: totally silent, and it uses no electrical power. We bought it primarily for boondocking, but use it often when we want a little more warmth without the noise of the furnace.

4 AGM "house" batteries: expensive and worth it. Without adding solar panels, we went from running the generator once a day when boondocking to once every other day (in summer).

Here are the few things we wish we had, but we don’t:

Lanyards on the air tanks: air tanks on a diesel motorhome should be purged of water every so often (frequency depends on whether you travel in humid or dry climates). Lanyards make this task much easier.

Flatter dashboard, smaller windshield: Scoopy has an incredibly oversized windshield, the better to catch all the rocks thrown up by passing cars. Large windshields also tend to “shift” more easily than smaller ones. I vividly remember our panic the first time we noticed that the upper corner of the windshield had pulled away from the frame! I also would prefer a flat dash instead of our very sloped dashboard. I know we would soon have it junked up with maps, books, cat hair, etc - but we might be able to use our dining table again.

Regular passenger seat instead of the “buddy“ seat: The original owners of Scoopy had 4 small children, and had a “buddy” seat installed in the passenger position. A buddy seat is sort of a seat-and-a-half, good for a parent (or grandparent) and child, or a person and their pet. I’d rather have the standard, narrower seat for ease of ingress and egress through the front door.

More hard surface flooring, less carpet: just about every RV’er I know has this same wish! A hard surface would be easier to clean and probably longer lasting, and throw rugs could be changed easily when you get tired of the old look.

Easily accessible battery compartment: the horribly inaccessible battery compartment was one of the main reasons we switched from lead-acid batteries to AGM batteries - we couldn’t see into the lead-acid batteries to see whether they needed water.

One last piece of advice: Buy used!

That’s it for the “Buying an RV” mini-series. Safe travels, all. :)

Photos, from the top: Oregon coast at Sunset Bay State Park; taking the train from Durango to Silverton, Colorado; Bridal Veil Falls, Yosemite National Park, California; Bumpass Hell, Lassen Volcanic National Park, California; White House Ruin, Canyon de Chelly National Monument, Arizona; the pool at Balmorhea State Park, Balmorhea, Texas; Ridgway State Park, Colorado.


  1. Hi Odel & Laurie

    Wanted to let you know how much I enjoyed your "Buying a MH" series. It was very interesting and very informative. We have our home on the market and can't wait to begin Fting. Your series was "right-on".



  2. Great series of posts -- and wonderful pictures too! I'd add only one thing for those opting for a 5er or trailer over a motorhome: we would consider the Pressure Pro system a must. When you're towing a trailer, you can't necessarily feel when a tire goes flat and a shredded tire (from running flat) can do an incredible amount of damage to the underside of a trailer. We've had two flats and no damage, thanks to Pressure Pro!

    Safe travels up the coast -- more of our favorite spots!!

  3. Wonderful series! So enjoyed the photos also. Great did a good job!

  4. Thank you, Laurie, and to all who added their tidbits. What a great series!

  5. we are searching for a RV even through we cannot retire right now, but want to do some traveling and then set it up some place close to visit on weekends. do you still think we need a desiel, most people we talk to says yes, but if so do you still recomend 350 HP. we are looking at used one and the prices seem very reasonable, but the gas ones are even less expenses

  6. Deanie, if you are going to live in your rig fulltime and do a lot of traveling - and if you can afford it - I recommend diesel. We have 107,000 miles on our engine now, and it isn't close to wearing out! Our engine is 350 HP, which works for us (bigger is probably better, but we are fine with what we have).

    If I was buying a rig for part-time use, like vacation use or maybe a few thousand miles each year, I would buy gas - cheaper to buy, cheaper to maintain, and fuel is often cheaper these days.

    However, if you are looking for a rig to use for vacationing now, thinking you might "trade up" when/if you go fulltiming, remember that you pay a lot of fees for sales tax and registration each time you change rigs - so buying your "fulltiming" rig now can make sense.

    On the other hand, if you are more than just a few years from fulltiming, technology moves pretty quickly. Buying a FT'ing rig now means you will miss out of some of the technology you might find in a newer used rig 3, 4 or more years down the road.

    Trade-offs! They are a constant in the RV'ing life! Best of luck with your decision-making.

  7. just reading all the older posts..Al from Bayfield Bunch included the links in his post tonight..very interesting read and whole lot more to think about!!