A few weeks ago I wrote about my growing yen to once again hit the open roads and do a little more exploring of our beautiful country. I've been scouring Craig's List and RV Trader for a used RV that fit my price range; something that was relatively small, easily drivable and reasonable on gas. I'm still mourning my sale of my last one; a 96 Winnebago Rialta that would get us where we wanted to go, give us a place to cook a meal and a place to lay our head at night in some Walmart overnight parking lot, and do so with something like 15 miles per gallon. My wife and I have been planning a trip to the East coast to go see our two daughters and we travel with our dogs so the RV is the best solution for us.
With gas prices being what they are, and because their production was limited to ten years, those little Rialtas are hard to come by, and when they are available they are selling for more than my budget allows.
So I've been pursuing lesser choices. Took a look at the Toyota truck based campers, renown for their room coach space, but also for their tendency to easily be overloaded. So I joined a Yahoo Group to learn more about these little RV's, did a lot of research, then focused my attention on trying to find one.
So last week I come across an ad for a 91 unit in Los Angeles. The pics looked terrific and seemed to be just what I was looking for. I called the gentleman who owned it and asked all the right questions and was moving toward making an offer, when I asked if he owned clear title to the vehicle. He said he had the title that had been signed over by the last owner but had not registered the vehicle in California because of registration fees. That was the first red flag, the second being the long, long essay he wrote about how great the unit was...except he had only "owned" the unit for a few days. When I pressed him he was unwilling to get the title registered in his name so I wrote this one off.
The next Toy Camper I found sounded too good to be true. The owner crowed in his Craig's list ad that the unit was in pristine "like new" condition, asserted that the unit was a 95 model, and that they were the original owners. Since the vehicle was over in Mesa I called and made an appointment to see the unit on Saturday morning. So I show up promptly, drive up behind the camper and can immediately see the exterior paint is oxidized, the decals are worn, and wear is evident on the exterior seams. Cracked and broken lens caps and a badly applied job of calking the front overhang window added further concern. When the owner comes out we fire up the camper and do a test drive. Not too bad but I notice the gas tank is nearly empty. When we return I ask to hear the generator run. After several efforts to start it (bad coach starting battery), I finally tell him to start the vehicle and use the vehicle power to start the generator...it finally kicks in and runs weakly. I then go into the camper and try to turn on the roof top coach AC and there is none. The furnace grill is lying in the middle of the floor, the fridge door won't close and the appliances seem old and worn.
When I ask to check the coach battery he doesn't have the keys to the compartment and is unwilling to go into the house to get them. When I ask for the VIN number and ask if he has a problem with me running a car fax to confirm original ownership and mileage he says okay...and that his wife just ran one last night. I ask for it and he goes into the house for about one minute, says he can't find it, and doesn't want to awaken his wife at 10AM to find out where she put it.
By this time he has stopped spewing his unending declarations about how pristine the vehicle is and begins physically withdrawing from me. So I leave and when I get home I run a car fax and find out that the vehicle is a 94 model (not 95...they didn't even make a 95 model) and that the vehicle was not "original owner" but the playtoy of four owners, in Arizona and Missouri.
So this guy was trying to sell a 1994 toy camper for $15,500 (I thought I could negotiate down to $12k or so) that was not "pristine", was not even serviceable as is, and was outright lying about ownership history.
Not easily discouraged, I have now endured four different buying experiences nearly as bad as this one; questionable and temporary ownership, misrepresenting the condition of the vehicle, or way overpriced. I even ran a car fax by license plate number on a Toyota camper and found the tags belonged to a Hyundai sedan!
So these days I'm longing to place a call and find an elderly gentleman on the other end of the line. I'm longing to hear him say they've owned the vehicle for a decent interval, that they enjoyed their years of RVing and are now hanging it up and are willing to part with "Old reliable Bessie" for a reasonable price. Instead I get mush mouth "ho-hums" and vehicle bragadaccio that rings untrue.
So I'm still looking for a Class B or a small Class C RV that fits my price, is reasonably reliable and will get me from point A to point B without leaving me stranded in the middle of the Texas panhandle.
Sadly I'm finding far more pot holes on the "buying trail" than any I ever ran into in all my years of travel. If any of you folks know of an "honest John Doe" that has an RV for sale, drop me a line!