Our RV choice part 1
Part 1: What do we want?
In September 2020 we order the 2021 Thor Tiburon 24RW with the Modesto Paint scheme from RVOne, a nationwide motorhome wholesaler. When we take delivery in February 2021, we’ll start our journey to full-time RV living.
Buying this RV was the latest step of our adventure that began in 2019, when we decided to live and work full time in our RV.
This is the story of what we want and don’t want in our RV, and why we selected a Mercedes Sprinter Class C.
Wouldn't This Be Great If We Could Do This All The Time?
We’re Jean and Larry – from the beautiful Pacific Northwest. As our children were growing up, we’d joke with them that one day we were going to buy an RV and not tell them where we were going.
That joke took on a life of its own in the past few years. As the kids left for college – and a change in jobs that allowed for weekend travel – we began to take off for extended getaways around the Puget Sound and Pacific Northwest. It wasn’t uncommon to put 500 miles or more on our little SUV over a weekend. There was no itinerary, no schedule, and we rarely packed anything more than contact solution and a change of clothes. We’d get a hotel for the night wherever we ended up. Treks to Port Townsend and Forks; weekends driving the Cascade Loop or out to see learn about the Coulee and the Missoula floods. Walla Walla or the Palouse. Neskowin and Netarts down on the Oregon coast. All these places were accessible, and we loved the trip as much as the destination.
* RV CHOICE
In the middle of these side trips, we once spent a few months researching boats and drones to add two our weekend toy collection. One day we kidded about buying an RV. After that, the idea came up every now and again. Then, in August 2019, it took on a life of its own. Could we, in fact, live full-time in an RV, and travel the region we love as well as the rest of the country and Canada? Well, for us the answer was – probably…. yes.
Even though my career kept me based in the city, Jean’s career gave her full mobility options. As an adjunct college professor and grant writer, Jean has worked remotely throughout her career. If we could grow her grant writing business enough to offset the loss of Larry’s job, we’d be able to do this?!
So, even though this was still a joke, it began to grow some legs… and we were off.
+ RV Choice
Quick Overview: What We wanted in Our RV
What we wanted:
- Class C Mercedes Sprinter RV
- 2019 or later Third Generation Sprinter chassis
- Cab workstation for passenger or center table between the two front seats
- “Great Room” living area (dinette/recliner)
- Queen bed that you can walk around
- Doors to close off and separate bedroom from living area and bathroom
- At least 50 cu storage
- Auto-leveling system
- Ability to have two work desks or workstations
- Storage: for e-bikes and an inflatable kayak
- Technology: driver assistive features, rear and side cameras
- Convection/microwave hybrid
- On demand, tankless water heater
- Heating pads on fresh and grey tanks
- Hideaway slide pantry
- Under 30′ overall (Class A). Under 27′ (Class C)
The Start Of A Plan
We had many conversations and pestered each other with questions about the viability of full timing, whether we were serious or just daydreaming. Next, we looked at budgets and finances. Then, we took notice of all the different types of RV’s: motorhomes, travel trailers, fifth-wheels, van conversions, et cetera.
I think the most important thing we did was to first learn what it took, financially, per year, to live on the road full-time. This included learning from other full-timers on their blogs and videos: How much money they spent and how much they needed to set aside each year for the unexpected. All of this information allowed us to realize the buy-in and the cost per year we would expect to see.
Second, we discussed more specifically what we wanted out of this. What type of RV living were we going to do? A new place each day, and put hundreds of thousands of miles on the rig and check off as many places as possible on our itinerary? Or would we snowbird and hangout in Arizona during the winter, and come back north in the spring? Would we boondock off-the-grid, or purchase memberships in upscale resorts with all the amenities?
Finally, there was a slew of questions around the type of RV we would buy. How much was enough for us and, how much was too much? Was a Class B too little, and conversely, would we feel overhelmed in a Class A?
We created a RV Types page that provides an overview on all the different styles and types of RV’s and what we feel are the pluses and minuses of each. Because of the amount of information, it’s broken it up into two pages: Trailers and Towables on the first page, and Motorhomes on the second.
What Type Of RV Would We Get?
From these first questions we narrowed down our vision of what we liked and what we were comfortable with. We agreed that we were not interested in travel trailers or fifth-wheelers.
Early on we thought we’d be love something small like a Class B van but stepping inside one for the first time cured us of that notion! We were also in agreement that we weren’t interested in too big.
After a bit of reading, we narrowed our choice to a gasoline-powered Class A or Class C motorhome. Later, we further narrowed our choice by trying to keep the overall length of the vehicle under 30′. This limited us to a certain number of Class A models, and a bunch of Class C’s.
Now, there were two more issues: The floorplan and the discussion of towing a vehicle.
What did we want on the inside?
Would we need a spacious kitchen, or was a large bedroom a must have?
How small was too small for a shower?
Could we have a living room with a Sofa and a dinette?
What about entertainment features?
Did we want one of those RV’s that had a TV mounted outside? (That answer was NO!!)
Could we cram a washing machine in a small RV?
So many question, but also, so many choices. In our discussion, we agreed that the kitchen size wasn’t a huge need. Also, the RV’s with outdoor TV’s and mini kitchens seemed silly. Since we set aside the more powerful diesel Class A’s we knew we would need to keep things on the lighter side. That meant no on-board washer or dryer and no dishwasher.
We both agreed that this floorplan worked for us. Up front, we didn’t see a need for a sleeper above the cockpit. That is space for storage or a skylight since it’s just the two of us. The two main selling points are the living/dining room combination and the separate bedroom:
Great Room Concept
The sofa across from the dinette is a common setup on larger RV’s but almost never seen on the smaller ones. With limited wall space and in this floorplan, the designers sacrifice kitchen counter space in the 24RW. They make up for it by setting the sink into the center floor space, but it still is very limiting.
What we love about this layout is the idea of a “great room” in such a small space. By swiveling the driver and passenger front seats around, the living area can now seat up to six people comfortably in there. We confirmed this when chatting with a couple in a similar model at a RV show. All of us felt comfortable sitting across from each other; never feeling cramped or crowded.
– RV Choice
The floorplan also works in our favor when it’s time for work. Since our office is on the road, we both need areas to setup our laptops (and extra monitors, if we can find the space!). If we were to add a portable table in front of the sofa, we can each have a table and chair for our ‘desk’ area.
Lastly, this floorplan stands out because the bedroom is completely in the rear of the house and separates from the living area with the bathroom doors. This was a big thing for us. We wanted to be able to walk around the bed. Many floorplans have a corner bed on one side with a bath on the other. Crawling onto the bed gave the feeling of being in a tent.
And while we like the concept of the Murphy Bed (a bed that folds up into the wall when not in use, so you can use the day space as a table or desk), we did not like that so many of them had beds in the front half of the house.
I just had a thing about my bedroom having a refrigerator and microwave oven in it. Thankfully, several floorplans use the bathroom and shower stall as a natural break between the living room and the bedroom. In the Thor Tiburon 24RW, this is the case as well. The toilet and sink are on the driver’s side and the shower is on the passenger side. To create a private bath space, there is a door that separate the bedroom from the bathroom and a second door that separates the bathroom from the main living area.
So, in just a 26′ cabin, there are three separate living areas: living/dining/kitchen, then the bath, then the bedroom.
The final benefit of this is the privacy aspect. If one of us is sleeping in, the other can sneak out and close off the bath area. Jean can start her day and not disturb me, who is sleeping in late.
All The Other Factors
The odd thing about how we chose our RV is that we found a floorplan that was available in Class A and Class C’s. Usually, RVer’s will decide on the type of RV first and then find a floorplan that works for them. Now that we decided our floor plan we had to choose as specific model.
We will be full-timing and working and traveling at the same time. Because of that we have realistic expectations about how we travel. Primarily, we know that we’ll be doing this for the long haul. There is no rush to check off boxes and go to every National Park and all 48 states and Canada in one year. We’ve already discussed starting out slow and maybe just spending the first year on the water in Oregon and Washington – making home in areas we absolutely love – like Netarts, the Nehalem Valley, on the Hood Canal or up around Port Townsend. Of course, we will travel around, but the journey isn’t set, and the timeframe is endless. We’ll get there when we get there.
With this in mind, we know that we may be on the road as travelers for a good part of our trek, and we’ll be stationary for extended periods as well.
We're Not Retired Yet
This is another reality for us. We’re still working and devote the hours needed each day to our profession. This means that we aren’t on a 24/7 vacation. We will spend our days at the desk and on the phone. The beauty of full-time RV’ing is when we finish, we now have time to explore somewhere new.
We want to be able drive through a town, or on a busy boulevard without feeling like we were behind the wheel of an 18-wheeler. Also, we’d like our RV to pull into most parking lots and park; to be able to turn around at moment’s notice if something caught our attention on the road. A sub-30′ Class A or Class C allows us to be nimble.
We Want Just One Vehicle
This was a big point for us. We don’t want to tow, so we never had any interest in travel trailers. Having the trailer separated never appealed to us. We like the ability to move from the cab to the house with ease. Finally, we want to keep everything as simple and to a minimum. This means no pets, no extended family and no second vehicle.
There is an inherent downside to only driving the motorhome without a “toad”. Without a smaller car, that means that anywhere we go, we will need to drive the RV. Things like trips into town for groceries or appointments or visiting friends and family. Also excursions around the area we are camped at. Whereas someone in a trailer, can just go to the store in their pickup truck, we would have to pack up the campsite for that same trip. If we’re at a campground and want to tour the nearby national park, again, we’d have to break camp to tour.
How will we Get Around?
Since we decided against towing a second vehicle, our rig will become both our drive-around car and our living quarters. When we need to run into a town or grocery shop, we drive the RV or get around in a couple of other ways:
- Electric Folding Bikes – We like the idea of having two folding bikes that can store underneath (not on bike racks that are susceptible to tampering). The RAD MINI is a great choice. We’ll use it for nearby sight-seeing opportunities and quick trips to the village or store or to nearby towns.
- Car Rental – If we’re staying near a city for a while, we can rent a subcompact for side trips, a pickup from a local Home Depot or even a van from U-Haul. This gives us the ability to get around while keeping the rig at the campsite. When we’re done, we just return the car. There are also car-share programs like Lime Car.
- Drive around in the rig – It seems that many RVer’s are against this idea. The thought of plowing through towns and traffic in a 40′ rig would get old quick. Our plan is to keep the RV to a minimum size. If we choose a Class A, it will be under 29′. If we go Class C or Class B+, we can get the size down to 24′ to 26′
Making The Cut
Once we decided on the Great Room / Separated Bedroom floorplan, we had to decide on an actual coach next. We found this floorplan available in about 10 Class A’s and six or seven classic Class C’s. Additionally, we found a few outliers that even though it didn’t have the specific plan, they had an appeal that kept them in the running.
Interestingly, we knew early on what floorplan we liked, but we had not yet decided on the Class of vehicle. There was a period in the summer of 2019 where we found a specific model and decided, “THAT’S IT!”. This happened first with the Class C, Coachmen Leprechaun 260DSF. This RV had our floorplan on a Ford F53 chassis, and it came in under 30′ in total length. It was the very first RV that we both felt comfortable in and knew it could be our home. We toured a few that were available in town and were able to walk through one at a RV show.
Next up, we stumbled on an interesting mini Class A-hybrid “RUV” (Recreational Utility Vehicle) one afternoon. The Thor Vegas | Axis 27.7. What an interesting design. It was a Class A, but smaller. Everything shrunk. Built on the Ford E-series chassis, but with a Class A body instead of a Class C, this RV really impressed us. It was small and nimble. It had a great Euro-style interior. What really sold both of us when comparing it to the Leprechaun was the openness of the cab and that great curved windshield. It was as we were driving a NASA spaceship. It also sat much higher, so you were driving above the road.
The Coachmen had the huge over-cab sleeper that sits like a baseball cap pulled down low. Everything felt scrunched and closed in while driving. The Axis felt spacious and wide open. We found “IT” for a second time…. or so we thought.
We enjoyed new discoveries every couple of days, but now felt settled with our choice. However, we dug a bit deeper and soon found more Class A’s with our floorplan and size criteria but on a RV chassis instead of a van chassis.
We toured a Fleetwood Flair 28A and a Coachmen Pursuit Perfection 27DS. A week later at a Winnebago dealer we got inside a Winnebago Vista 27PE.
It became apparent that there is a big difference between the Winnebago and Thor. Winnebago creates their own cabinetry and furniture. They design each piece with that space and floorplan in mind. Other manufacturers buy their interiors from third parties. It looks good and functions well, it’s just that the fit and finish isn’t there in the Coachmen, Fleetwood and Axis.
The Vista 27PE became our new favorite. It’s under 30′. You sit up high. It’s a gas, Ford engine. It has the floorplan. It has the quality build. Once again, we thought the decision making was over. Only we found ourselves going (almost) full circle back to where we started.