Wednesday, March 9, 2011

About to Purchase

The photograph at the top of this page is a Roadtrek 190 Popular (sometimes referred to by those in the "know" as an RT190P). A year and a half ago I had never heard of a Roadtrek and a year and a half ago I had never heard of a class of RVs called Class B. A Class B RV is a stock van from one of the large automakers - now usually Chevy, Ford, or Mercedes - that has the inside of the van striped away, the floor lowered and the roof raised with a cap. Inside of that the RV manufacturer adds a bed, a toilet, a shower, and a kitchen. Yes, all of that inside the van. The result is an RV no larger than a standard van. Some are made a bit wider and some are made a bit longer - but overall these can drive easily wherever a stock van with the exception of the height. The height if eight feet and nine inches tall, which can be a problem on roads with low clearance over-passes.

We are about to purchase one of these. We have been "about to purchase" one for about a year now. Before that for six months we were "looking to purchase" one. We first learned about Roadtreks and Class B RVs on the Internet (where else?). We watched all of the videos on the Roadtrek web site and really liked what we saw. There is a smaller model than the 190 - a 170 and in the video that looked just fine for the two of us. It happened that soon after there was an RV show not too far away - about 75 miles and we took a drive to go and see one in person. At this show there would be a Roadtrek dealer and a Pleasureway dealer (another Class B company). This was great as we could see them all at the same time and make comparisons. (Something that I highly recommend when deciding what you want.)

When we got to the show I found out that videos and photographs can be made to show things much larger than they really are (something I suppose porn stars have an appreciation for). There was a Roadtrek 170 on the display floor. We went inside and I quickly found out that while it looked just as the video and photos showed - the size was a lot smaller in person. I was so uncomfortable inside that I had to get out rather quickly. My heart sank a bit because I was really hoping that the Class B would be the answer that we were looking for.

For a reason that I will not go into here but may in a later article, if we were ever going to travel again we needed an RV or trailer. I have had experience towing a utility trailer and I do not like towing. Many can easily maneuver a trailer in reverse. I cannot and it causes me a great deal of anxiety now to try and do so - I had a real bad experience getting one stuck in deep mud in the process which when looking back is a very amusing story but still one that I don't like to recall. So the answer to 0ur need was to be an RV - one that would drive like a truck or car - and due to restrictions where we live could be parked on our driveway without causing concern of the neighbors or the local ordinances. The Class B would be perfect for us.

I walked over to another model on the display floor, a 190 Popular. This is built on a larger van body than the 170 and had more room inside. Not a lot more room but enough room to not feel claustrophobic. I have driven 15 passenger vans and for a short time I drove one of the small school buses. I drive a small van as one of our two cars and I could see that driving the Roadtrek was not going to be a challenge for either me or my wife - who is very comfortable driving our van. The price was a bit more than the 170 but not that much more. It is a somewhat less than other larger models of Roadtreks. I should say here that the price of these things is very high. Some are more than the much larger RVs - some rival the bus-like Class A's in price.

We got to compare the Roadtrek to the Pleasureway at that show. We liked the Roadtrek better. I was not comfortable in the Pleasureways built on Chevy vans - and the Roadtrek 170 and 190 are also built on Chevy vans - but I got the same claustrophobic feeling in the Chevy-based Pleasureway as I had in the Roadtrek 170. I did like the size and layout of the Pleasureway Excel which is built on a Ford chassis, but this model is expanded on the sides to make it wider and it would be a problem fitting it on our driveway - so that settled that question.

At that show we went back to look at the Roadtrek 190 models several times - there is a 190 Popular model and there is a 190 Versatile model. The Popular has a king size bed in the back and three seats up front. The Versatile has a queen size bed and four seats up front. While the Versatile seemed roomier, we did not need four seats for the two of us and the king size bed had the advantage of being made up side to side of back to front of the van plus it could be made into two twin size beds with a aisle up the middle to easily get in and out. We left that show with a lot of brochures and a good idea of what we liked.

We did some more research. I joined several online lists that talk about RVs, Class B's, and Roadtreks. And we spent a lot of time thinking. Could we afford it? It would mean taking a loan. Would be happy traveling in one? We were pretty sure that we would and we kept coming up with what we could do and what advantages it would have for us not only with travel but with two of our avocations - living history reenacting and a craft business. That first show was in October. During February the same show was running again and we went back to look some more.

This time we went right to the Roadtrek and spent a great deal of time with the salesman. He was extremely nice. He answered every question, put some of my concerns to rest and understood that we really knew nothing about any of this. He was patient and personable - and did not come across like a typical pressure you to buy salesman. The dealership that he represented - the dealership at this show is in Pennsylvania. The show was in New York. While this dealership is over three and a half hours from our home, he pretty much sold us on the dealership along with the Roadtrek 190 Popular. We left knowing that this was to be what we would buy - IF we buy.

It was the winter and we put off any idea of buying until the Spring or Summer. The Spring came and was hectic -and I learned that I had a medical situation that was going to change our plans with the RV a bit. I had to find a solution (which I will talk about in a later article) and I spent a great deal of time researching some more. We started off the summer "shopping". There are three Roadtrek dealers all within the same distance from us - in three different states. This is not like finding car dealers where there are several from the same company close by. No, where we are if you want a Class B you are going to travel to get it.

I will not say which dealers we went to but as I said they are in three different states - one of which is our own but three hours north of us. Our intent was and is to purchase new from the factory on order and not purchase what is in dealer inventory as we want specific lesser options that do not show up in dealer inventories. We went to one dealer, presented what we wanted, and were given a price. At this point the model was a 2010 on a 2009 Chevy chassis. The price we received seemed high - and the trip that we took to get to this dealer was through highways that were under heavy construction. In fact, every time we have headed in this direction on our travels over the years these same main routes seemed to always be under construction. Aside from the price, that put us off.

The second dealer that we visited gave us a better price and by now the Roadtrek models had changed from a 2010 on a 2009 chassis to a 2011 on a 2010 Chevy chassis. While the price should have been higher - the msrp was. The price from this dealer was lower than the previous dealer. We were impressed but there was one problem. The trip that should have taken us three hours of so to travel to the dealer took us over six hours. The reason was not just construction but also traffic that we would encounter each time that we would have to come back to the dealer for service on the RV portion of the vehicle when it was needed. This trip really put us off and, frankly, it was in the middle (in my opinion only) of nowhere. BUT the price was right and the dealer was working with us to put in the mod that I needed for my medical situation.

The third dealer was the dealer that we met at the RV show. I had been in contact with the salesman all along and we set an appointment to see him Obviously, from my previous comment here this is the dealer in PA. We travel to PA a lot - day trips, weekend trips, and longer. We are used to the trip and the roads. The trip is comfortable and getting to this dealer was easy - despite the three and a half hour drive and the tolls (tolls were collected to the other dealers as well). If we had to come to this area for service we would not mind so much and we could make a pleasure trip out of it. We arrived at the dealership to find out that on that morning the salesman had been taken to the hospital for a coronary by-pass. The sales manager stepped up when he heard that we had made the long trip and sat with us to price out the RV. I told him about the options that we wanted and the mod. No problem. He gave us a price in-between the two that we had - and this for the 2011 on a 2010 chassis. We asked for a test drive and he handed us the keys to a new 190 P on the lot. We thought that he would accompany us but he had the RV brought around and said "see you later". We got in and drove. We took some regular roads and part of a highway. I stopped and had my wife drive. We both liked the feel and the handling. Despite the large size it drove just like the Chevy van that we own. I thought that we had been out too long on the test drive - we got lost finding the dealership on the way back. We got there and he was surprised that we were back so soon. I sat down again and presented the lower price that I had from the other dealer. He said if he could confirm that he would beat it. And in a few days he did.

That was the end of August 2010 and the beginning of September. We were excited but I am a realist enough to know that I was about to purchase this RV just as the cold weather and the freeze was setting in. It would take six weeks to come from the factory and that put delivery into late October or early November. As soon as we got it we would have to winterize it and sit it on the driveway until the warm weather and the thaw. It made no sense to me to purchase until it got warm - and with the walloping winter that we had this year, I was correct to do this. (Six foot mounds of snow on my small driveway alone after we were shoveled out.) I told the salesman - the one from the show - that we wanted to put off the purchase until after the winter and he told me no problem. I told him that I would remain in touch - and through the winter I sent him emails with questions - and he responded.

One day I received an email from the dealership by a new salesman who was introducing himself. I was told that "our" salesman was "no longer with them". I immediately thought of his heart condition and wondered if he was alive or had to stop working. I asked about his health and was given no answer. I was very disappointing that we would not be working with him but there was nothing to do about it. This new salesman reassured me that all would be the same - we had the price in writing and he understood our need to wait out the winter. By then the snow was piling everywhere.

We begin to come up now to the present (finally, you must be saying). Several weeks ago I indicated to our "new" salesman by email that we would be coming soon. The response was great but you should know that there may be price changes as Roadtrek has now switched the 2011 from a 2010 chassis to a 2011 chassis - and there was no way to order anything else. I contacted the sales manager who gave us the price and was told that they would do "their best" to bring the new price as close as they could to what we had expected to pay. When he came back to me with the new price it was between a $1000 and $2000 more. Proportional to the total price of this vehicle that is not much but to me - and anyone - it is a big deal. I was angry that no one had ever indicated that this was a possibility but at the same time realized that if I wanted this RV it would be the same situation now at any dealer.

That brings us to today. We are about to purchase. We have plans to go on Friday and sign the agreement and meet with the business manager at the dealership about their loans - their rates are lower than the banks that we have spoken to. Now, Friday, as of right now, the weather report calls for rain in the early morning that should stop before we leave. This will be the end of a storm that is predicted to bring flooding to some of the areas that we must travel though. So we are keeping our fingers crossed that we actually will be able to make the trip on Friday. The weather has dealt us one bad hand this winter - and it seems that it is not over yet. So we shall see.

This has been just part of our epic. Once we purchase it will take six weeks for delivery and during that time I will fill you in on some of the details of the rest. Once we get the Roadtrek I will share our adventures in it with you. I am hoping that, as I have been told, what was shown in the Robin Williams' movie RV was great exaggeration. Let's hope so!

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