So now that we have an idea of which 5th wheel we will be pulling, our research and discussions turned to a truck to pull it. We joined the Grand Design, Full Time RV and 5th Wheel Facebook groups to learn as much as we could from others on which trucks and setups they are using. As for the debate of brands between Ford, GMC and Dodge, I am happy to report that the debate is still alive and well. The answers and reasons behind those answers boil down to individual brand devotion in my humble opinion.
So with brand set aside, we started focusing on what we were going to be doing and where we were going to be going with the RV and truck. We definitely have a desire to boondock, which for those that do not camp alot, means that we would want to camp in places outside of a campground without any hookups to electric, etc. The idea of having space to ourselves in the desert or in front of a mountain range by a babbling brook really gets us excited! Plus the idea of most of those boondocking areas being federal land that is free...free is for me!! This meant possibly driving down dirt roads, some sand, etc. We will also be venturing into the mountains and will need a robust, beefy truck to get our home there. Basically, we want to travel to every corner of this great nation and beyond, so we needed a truck that was going to get us there. After alot of research, we knew that a full ton, diesel dually truck would be the best option.
In early 2017 we went test driving each brand super duty trucks. (Insert heart palpitations here of how much a beast like this would cost!) Rick has always been a Ford fan (and for the most part, owner), so there was probably a bit of an edge there. We took an F350 for a test drive and I was amazed at how smooth the ride was. I guess in my mind it would have rode more like a big diesel semi. Not at all! It was also quiet and did not have the telltale diesel noise upon acceleration. Huh, nice, ok, a potential contender.
Next was a GMC 3500. We had a GMC 1500 truck several years ago and we liked it. Well unfortunately that was not the case in the 3500. It certainly sounded like a diesel and the seats were not as comfortable, which, if we are going to be in this truck alot, that would be a big deal. We walked away with an overall feeling of mehhhh.
Next up was a Dodge that Rick went and test drove by himself and immediately ruled it out. It was a rough ride and he just did not care for it. After researching the specs of each, coupled with the test drives and Ricks overall preference; a Ford F350 it will be.
Since we would most likely have to buy close to or brand new on the RV to get the floor plan we wanted, my hope was we could luck out with a great used truck with an even greater price. Plus, it is only February 2017 and the full time lifestyle wasn't coming into play until summer 2018. We have lots of time to look and find a used truck at a really good deal. I think the idea of a new toy, I mean truck (LOL), was too strong and RIck began looking around. I am sure he will say that he just wanted to start getting reference points on what used trucks were going for, but hey, if you put the thought out there to a man that they will need to get a big, beefy (love that word!) truck at some point for next year...well that is a challenge accepted and the game is on... NOW!
Rick started looking online querying several local dealerships and national car selling sites. Looking for the F350 with dually option and other options we wanted for towing, the available inventory out there on the lot was slim pickings. Oh no, please do not tell me we need to go new again!!! No, no, no! That would eat in significantly to our budget and made me very nervous.
Then one day Rick happened upon a used truck dealer near to where he worked in Fond du lac, WI...Lenz Truck Center. This place was seriously a truck palace with over 500 trucks to choose from. After narrowing it down to a F350, there were a couple on the lot that might fit the bill. Rick stopped after work one night and talked with them about what he was looking for and they said they had one that they thought really might meet all of his requirements, however they couldn't show it to him because it was at a Ford dealer in Plymouth having a US dash put in to replace the Canadian one. You may think I am kidding but this is a real thing! They had to swap out kilometers and liters for miles and gallons to sell it in the US. You see this truck was from Canada and it was used a very short time, perhaps never left the Canadian Ford lot and was then taken to the auto auction in Michigan. It was a 2017 F350 Lariat with all the options, except sunroof and auto start with VERY low miles. Our theory is that they may have not been able to sell it and the incentive in Canada is high to auction off new inventory before the new year inventory comes out so they can replenish with new year vehicles. Unable to resist the urge to check it out before someone else grabbed it, we drove to the Plymouth Ford dealer where it was being serviced to check it out. Yup, it'll do pig! Really nice truck with a tuxedo black (dual black) paint job. This truck was set for towing with the Ford ultimate camera package, 5th wheel prep package, engine break, and tire pressure monitoring for truck and trailer...to name the more important options. BUT, the best part, it was at an unbelievable price! It was mean't to be right???
We brought the vehicle home in early April and had a couple things we wanted to outfit it with to make it our own. We ended up purchasing the Extang Trifecta Tonneau Cover. We had previously had this on our F150 and really liked it. We also did the research to ensure it would clear the 5th wheel hitch so we didn't need to take it out to close up the bed. We then decided on getting some F350 Stainless Steel Tailgate Letting Inserts to give the back end some splash.
Finally, we decided on the B&W Companion hitch that would use the already installed Ford puck system. We really like how this installed and works. Pretty straight forward.
Rick has really enjoyed getting used to driving the new truck and pulling it with our travel trailer prior to pulling a big 5th wheel. Although, people in campgrounds must think it is overkill to pull the little trailer with this!
Up next...The Big Purchases... The Final (and Biggest) Purchase
Now that we have a financial plan and budget in place for this lifestyle and some other questions answered, our focus turned to what type of RV we would purchase. Let me tell you, there are a ton of options out there and no one can decide which one will be right for you, except YOU!
Things that need to be taken into consideration and our thoughts on each:
1. Type of RV- This could range from a Class A diesel pusher, 5th wheel, Class C, travel trailer or a smaller travel trailer or truck camper. We knew this would be our only home at this time. We would be selling the house, so all our belongings would be with us. Therefore, we needed some space. This narrowed down our choices to a larger travel trailer (bumper pull), 5th wheel or Class A. We quickly ruled out a larger travel trailer because to get something with storage it would be quite long and it would make more sense to us to consider a 5th wheel where some of the length is over the bed of the truck. Now the decision of 5th wheel or Class A. After much research and discussion, we decided that going the way of a 5th wheel made sense for us for a couple reasons. We liked the idea that if, or should I say when, the RV would need service, we still have a vehicle to drive. Vice versa, when the truck needs servicing we would not have our entire house in the shop. We could have a vehicle to tow behind the Class A but we really did not want to tow that length or have that added expense. We also liked layouts of some of the 5th wheels we have seen at the RV shows over the years and just felt drawn to those. Besides, it was a good excuse for Rick to get a new truck! :-)
2. Brand of 5th wheel- We did alot of research here. We wanted to ensure that the brand we went with not only had a good layout, quality product, but we also wanted to make sure they stood behind their product with good customer service. Since we would be living in this full time, we also wanted to make sure that being full time would not void the warranty. I will leave out all of the hand wringing details here, but after a visit to the Grand Design factory for a tour of the model we were interested in and following the Grand Design owners Facebook group, we were sold. It is inevitable that an RV is going to need service at some point with all of that shaking, rattling and rolling that happens as you move on down the road but what sealed it for us is that Grand Design really stands behind their product and makes it right. We read soo many stories of customers having issues and the Grand Design social media rep jumping in to help, day or night, weekday or weekend. We cannot say enough about all of the questions they answered for us, especially the tough ones! I'll go into more detail on a future post of our visit to the factory.
3. Model/Floorplan- We really took a liking to the Solitude line that Grand Design offered. We wanted to make sure that the layout did not feel like one big tunnel and that it had slide outs to expand the inner living space. We also liked the idea of separate space should we have visitors or we just need to go to our own corners for awhile. I also wanted to try to keep it under 40 feet so we would be able to fit into more campgrounds since many things I was reading, that seemed to be a concern to some. We kept coming back to a new floorplan they started offering in 2017 and once we saw it in person, we just knew it was the one for us. The Solitude 375RES was going to be our new home!
It was a bit overwhelming, once you see it in person, that we were gonna pull this big pig, our home, down the road!! Nothing to take lightly.
We really liked that the living room and the bedroom had stairs going up to them. This created the feeling of separate areas as well as opening the bottom of the RV up to basement storage. If you see off to the left, there is a slide out tray in the back of the RV, which has amazing storage. We could hang kayaks in there or even consider a golf cart with a fold down canopy...and this isn't even a toy hauler! So this model met our need for storage and seperate areas, HOWEVER, it did not meet my want for something under 40 ft. This baby comes in at 41'4". Ok, close enough I guess.
4. Options- Since this was going to be our home and we would be traveling the country, we knew we wanted to experience more than just 70 degrees every day. We both really like fall, the leaves changing and the crisp cool air. That meant we would want to make sure we had good insulation and protection against the elements. For this reason, we decided we wanted to make the upfront investment in dual pane windows. This is not something that dealers normally order on their inventory for their lots. We also wanted to ensure that the tanks had heat blankets to protect from freezing in the event we are caught with temps below freezing. Geez, with the crazy weather, seeing snow/ice in Texas, we knew it was a wise investment even if we tried to follow the 70 degree weather. Another option we would like is a heat pump on the main AC. This would allow us to take the chill out of the RV when hooked to electric rather than run the propane furnace as that can get costly. We also wanted to have a traditional type RV refrigerator, albeit a bigger one, so that we could camp without hookups. So, a couple options, but important ones for us.
5. New or used- Everyone knows that be it a car or RV, it starts to depreciate the second you drive it off the lot. This point alone really pushed me to want to buy used. Besides, you let the first owner work out all the bugs as well! Ya, well, since this floor plan rolled out in 2017, in order for us to buy used, we would really need to find that needle in the haystack. We watched for several months and there just wasn't anything, especially with the options we were looking for. Ughhh, ok new, but this meant that Rick needed to pull out all the stops and use his finest negotiating skills to get us the best deal possible so we don't loose our shirts and through us off budget. More on that later.
So, now that we narrowed our RV choice to a 5th wheel, and a big one at that, how are we going to get that behemoth from point A to point B??? Stay tuned for Part 2 of The Big Purchases.
Fast forward to late 2016...
We started to uncover answers to alot of our questions about the full time RV'er lifestyle.
How would we get mail? Well, come to find out there are several mail forwarding companies that cater to the full time traveler. My Dakota Address, America Mailbox, St Brendans Isle and Escapees, just to name a few. They also have several levels of service they could provide from simple mail forwarding to scanning all mail to a site for you to review.. You also can have mail sent to a general postal address and pick up your mail at the local post office, if they allow. Who knew!
RV Insurance-How is it different if you live in your RV? There are specific policies offered by several companies such as National and Geico that insure your vehicles, RV and personal belongings as full time RV'ers.
A big one for us, what do we do about health insurance? There are a couple options for Full Timers including buying a policy on the exchange, starting with a COBRA policy, even exploring faith based sharing programs.
All of these questions and more all funnel up to an important decision of determining where we establish residency. For FT RV'ers, this is one of the most important things to determine. It seems there are a couple states that, for a variety of reasons, float to the top. They are Texas, Florida and South Dakota. As of the moment this blog is published, FL seems to be our front runner as they are the only ones to have a national network for their marketplace insurance option with BCBS. However, that could change so we will monitor that closely.
Next we move on to the all important topic of money.
We met with a financial planner and found we could make this dream a reality, thanks in part to hard work, good investing and the ability to workcamp as we embark on our journey. That was the exciting part! We were going to trade our corporate life for jobs like cleaning fire pits, checking people into their campsite and many, many other camping life type jobs. It also gives us the opportunity to use our current skills to make a living too. If you've read our ABOUT US PAGE, you will know that Rick is a chef and he is really looking forward to making some food at an RV resort for a couple hours and then retiring to the RV. No more staff to manage, corporate clients to please and budgets to meet. Who knows, maybe cooking classes at an RV resort. The possibilities are endless! As for me, I am exploring all sorts of passive income opportunities, dabbling in this blog and other online jobs. I am getting pretty good at being a Secret Shopper, Shipt grocery shopper, etc. You would be amazed at what is out there! I am also now signed up to be a virtual juror. Crazy!!
So at this point, the plan is starting to come together. We still have some unanswered questions like, what are the boys going to do, what kind of RV are we getting, do we have a tow vehicle to use for local drives, etc.
Up next, some big purchases coming in our future.
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