When we first started thinking about going on this insane 6 month adventure around the country, we already owned a 28 travel trailer and a Chevy Silverado 1500 truck. We debated quite a bit about whether we should just use that, or buy something larger, which would require a new truck as well.
We really liked the idea of staying out of debt, but we finally came to the conclusion that if were were indeed to do this, we needed to be comfortable. And the trailer, while fine for weekend camping, was not going to work for a long term trip.
We Started With Research
So, we started doing our research – going to RV shows and dealerships in the area and down in Indiana. We saw a lot of new, really nice rigs, but they were all fairly expensive, so we decided we would try to find something used.
I found the RV Consumer Group online, a nonprofit company that rates the safety of RVs and trailers. They rate each rig for safety, economy and reliability. They rate it also for the type of use – is it for weekend camping, for snowbirds (six months) or full time use. We found it very helpful in deciding which type of rig we wanted.
Although we had wanted to get a rig that was rated for full timing, they tend to be quite expensive, as they are built better, so we ended up selecting a snowbird rated 5th wheel unit.
Why A 5th Wheel vs A Motorhome or Travel Trailer
We decided on the 5th wheel, because with five members in the family, most RV motorhomes are way too costly and don’t have enough room to sleep us all. We did not want to be having to make up beds every night and wanted everyone to have their own place, small as it might be.
The travel trailers were out, although they tend to have more floor space. But they don’t tow quite as well over long distances. So the 5th wheel seemed to be the best choice for us. But that meant we had to find a new truck as well.
Finding Our Rig
Once I had narrowed down the choice to a 5th wheel, we scoured the internet and the local papers looking at used campers for sale. We finally found one that we liked about an hour away from home.
This 2002 Jayco Eagle 325 BH had three bunks in the back, which was nice. The top bunk was a bit close to the ceiling, but we figured we could use that for storage, since the baby was still sleeping with us.
It had been well lived in and so there was a tear in the carpet where the slide ran over it and a few other superficial spots. And there had been a leak in the back compartment, although the owners claimed to have fixed it.
We weren’t too thrilled about the leak, as I am quite allergic to mold and smell it easily. So we went home and thought about it.
It had great safety and reliability ratings and it also had a ton of storage, which I really liked. So, we went back and looked again. Phil was pretty sure the fixed leak would be okay, so we put an offer on it, which the owner’s accepted. That was September 21, 2006 and we paid $13,500.
Note: That fixed leak turned out to be not quite fixed. Phil ended up making many repairs to it over the years until he finally got it licked. We never had a mold problem, but still, my advice would be to never buy any rig that has had a history of any leaks. It just isn’t worth it.
The previous owner’s towed it to our house and I remember thinking as I watched it pull into our driveway, that the camper was absolutely huge and heavens, what had we done. Okay, yes, I panicked just a bit at that moment.
Finding Our Truck
Now, our plan was to leave on October 1, which was my idea, since it is my birthday. So we had our rig, but needed a heavy duty truck to pull it. We kept looking and did not find anything suitable and affordable.
Finally, a week before we were to leave, I started praying. I just figured that if the Lord wanted us to go on this adventure, he was going to have to cough up a vehicle fairly soon. Sure enough, we shortly found an affordable, 1997 red Ford 350 duelly long bed truck, which could pull the rig quite easily.
By finding used equipment, and selling our old truck and trailer, we were able to start this trip with very little debt, which greatly eased my worries.