The Apex

We bought our camper, The Apex by Coachmen, in the fall of 2011.  We had been casually shopping for our RV for about two years and then quite seriously, with the intent to buy, for about one month.

We got serious at this point for three reasons:
1. We had just been on an excruciatingly long tour of the Midwest where we were constantly crashing with different people.  This led to some very serious talks about getting the camper sooner rather than later.
2. When we returned from our tour, it turned out that our friend who had been house sitting for us had started feeding a stray cat.  Of course, we now had a cat.  We travel a lot.  We needed a way, to bring our new cat, Sunny with us!
3. Summer was turning into fall.  The end of the summer and in the fall are the best times to go RV shopping because dealers are trying to move the current years RVs fast and get them off of the lot so that they can make room for the new seasons inventory.  This means you can get a good deal!

A couple of weeks prior to buying the Apex, we almost bought a different trailer.  It was a situation of “the one that got away.”  It was our first day of serious shopping and about the fourth or fifth dealership of the day.  There was an incredible deal on a Jayco Swift that tickled our fancy.  It met all of our necessary requirements, and even had some bonus features like a big back window as well as the dinette AND couch set up. It was also on sale for the ridiculously low price of $10,000.

It was our first day out though and we were scared, so we said, “we’ll think about it.”  A few days later we decide that we were going to go make the purchase!  When we pulled up, our dreams were shattered. There was a big SOLD sign on what we now had built up in our minds to be “the camper of our dreams…”  This happens, especially when there are mad sales going on.  Don’t worry about it.  Move on. There are literally tons of different campers that will be the camper of your dreams.

After looking at many more campers, both online and at dealerships, we were headed out for a day of RV shopping. We were in the middle of the one of the worst droughts in Texas history, and suddenly there was a downpour so heavy that we opted to get off of the highway and go no further.  We decided to go to a small dealership that was close by that we had not been to before.  We did not think that they would have any RV’s that would meet our “Ultralight” requirements.  BUT, we had to go there!  We were glad that we were getting rain, but at this point, if we didn’t look at RVs that day, we would have gotten proverbial “RV shopping blue balls.”

This unexpected dealership is where we met an RV salesman that was like a cross between Burt Reynolds and Don Knots.  We climbed onto his now soggy golf cart and he took us to see the only two campers on the lot that he thought would even come close to meeting our needs.  He showed us the more fancy, high end, featured one first, of course.  I barely remember the second one.  The first one he showed us was The Apex by Coachmen.

We told the salesman that it was way out of our league at $19,900.  He said that it was a 2011 and that he would see what he could do about pricing it to move…  He said that the absolute lowest he could get it down to was, $15,900.  We said we would “think about it.”  We called him when we got home and told him that we wanted to put money down so that they would hold it for us while we talked it over and took a closer look at our finances to see what we could do…   I wasn’t sure… I thought it was too big with a 21ft. interior, and 24ft. exterior with the hitch and weighing in at 4111 lbs.  It was the biggest and most expensive camper we had looked at or considered.  Rob was smitten, he was so convinced that this was the travel trailer for us, that I really couldn’t help but trust his confidence and instincts.

We saved money like mad!  We sold some of our possessions on craigslist and ebay and came up with a solid down payment in less than 2 weeks time.  We officially bought the camper on September 21st.  After we signed all of the paperwork, the dealership called us and said that they had made a mistake, the camper was actually a 2012.  It was their mistake, so we got to keep the “low price”, but we had to go back and re-sign all of the paperwork to reflect the different year.

We had to have an Equal-i-zer Hitch as well as a break controller on the 4Runner.  They did all of this for us at the dealership.  Just, put it on the loan with the rest of it….

A few days later we went to pick up our rig.  When we arrived, it was all hitched up and ready for us to dive off of the lot.  To me, it looked insane!  I drew this picture to illustrate what I thought it looked like in my minds eye.

At this point we have had the camper for nearly a year now and been on a couple of major trips with it.  We both love it, and so does Sunny.  We have made tons of wonderful memories camping around the country and we are both very happy with the Apex.  Honestly I think we would have been happy with almost any camper we bought, but this one has features that we absolutely love.

The selling points that won us over:
– Massive four point locking slide-out with an extra large dinette.
– Kinro mirrored windows so you can’t see into the camper from the outside during the day.
– Flat screen HDTV on a swivel that can face the living space or the bed.
– Curtains separating the sleeping space from the kitchen area.
– Dual axle aluminum wheels.
– A big bathroom with a shower, toilet, sink and a lot of storage space.
– Electric awning.
– Neutral decor with dual colored light and dark wood cabinets.
– Really gorgeous counter and table tops.
– Centered bed, so we each had our own side.
– Two individual closets.
– Nifty slide out food pantry.
– Stove, Oven, Fridge and Freezer.
– Enough space to comfortably spend a lot of time in.
– Insulated bottom wrap, making it cold weather appropriate.

Stuff that is annoying:
– You can’t really be in the camper with the slide-out pulled in.
– Weird storage places without shelves.
– The “short queen” bed is a bit too short for Rob.
– The mattress that came with it is complete crap (this is typical of most RV beds). We are planning to buy a new mattress for it.

All in all we are very satisfied!  We always look forward to camping and spending time in the Apex (model 214RB).  We have made many incredible memories and trips already and are very excited about making more!

RV Shopping

Despite our decision in the fall of 2009, it would still be two years before we actually bought a camper… But we were officially looking, the purchase was eminent. We were now in the process realistically trying to determine what kind of camper would be ideal for us.  This task is both fun and overwhelming.  There is a lot to choose from out there!

Here is what we had: A Toyota 4Runner with four wheel drive, six cylinders and a nice tow package.  We decided that we would look for a travel trailer that we could tow with the vehicle we already had.  This was our cheapest and most efficient option.

1. We were newbies and thought that it is best to start small.
2. Motorhomes by nature are more expensive than travel trailers because they have an engine.
3. We did not want another vehicle with an engine to maintain.

Our 4Runner has a maximum towing capacity of 5000 lbs.  This was our jumping off point.  We were looking for a travel trailer that was under 4000 lbs. DRY.  Meaning under 4000 lbs. without water in the tanks, without propane, and without all of our belongings inside.  (We will get to more of the technical side of RVing and some of the jargon in another post…)  To be honest I felt that we should be looking for a travel trailer that was under 3500 lbs.  I wanted to error on the side of being conservative.  Rob, my husband, and most RV dealers assured me that 4000 lbs. would still be appropriate.  Oh, also we wanted to stay under $12,000.

Features that were important to us:
1. Bed that was separate from the dinette, meaning that our bed could stay a bed and would not be a surface that would be turned into our dinner table. (This can be a tall order for some of your smaller RVs)
2. Toilet and shower (Some small campers have toilets, but not showers)
3. Refrigerator. – I need a place to keep my insulin.
4. Decent storage for clothes and gear / good use of space.
5. Double axle wheels for safety

Bonus Points:
1. A big back window (sometimes you are parked/backed in to scenic places in campgrounds and it is nice to be able to enjoy the view from inside the camper.)
2. A centered bed, not against a wall, so that we would each have our own side of the bed and would not have to crawl over each other to go to the bathroom.
3. Good insulation in the event we wanted to take the camper to a cold climate and do something fun like go snow skiing…
4. A slide-out (a wall that literally slides out to make the area inside your rv bigger when you are parked.)
5. Flat screen TV.
6. Retractable awning.
7. Couch AND Dinette (In small RV’s you typically get one or the other, but not both though there are some exceptions).

When you are shopping for an RV, it is just as important to know what you don’t want as much as what you do want.

Don’t want, Don’t need:
1. Bunks.
2. Other built-in’s for families with children.
3. Shoddy materials or workmanship.
4. Overly “decorative” interior fabrics and appointments. -There are some pretty hideous interiors out there…
5. Any kind of canvas pop-outs.
6. New or used didn’t matter to us…

At some point in this process you start to think that you should be able to design your own custom RV.  “Why for the love of god and all things holy can’t I have a nice closet where those bunks are???”  “It would be so much better of a use of space if the bed was a loft bed with a dinette, or storage underneath!!!!”  What you eventually realize is that you will not find the “perfect” RV!  It does not exist.

Find an RV that you like and that suits your most important criteria, be happy, and go camping.  Understand that if RVing is something that you really enjoy, you have not just purchased your “forever home”, but rather your very first trade in.  The more time you spend in your rig, the more you will figure out what things about it you absolutely love and which things you want to be different when you get your next one.

Having said that… DO A TON OF RESEARCH!!!  
1. Search online and learn about what you need – get very familiar with lengths, weights,  materials, brands, manufacturers etc.
2. Find product reviews and forums for the campers that interest you.
3. Go to as many dealerships in your area as possible.  Look, listen and learn. The features you think are important to you will change.  In general RV sales people are not pushy like car sales people.  They tend to enjoy their job and are RVrs themselves.  Also they are aware that (a.) An RV is not a “necessary” purchase.  (b.) This is a big decision that may take some time… (c.) They truly want to put you in an RV that you are going to be excited and happy about.  This is not to say that they don’t try to wheel and deal.  They do.  Just be prepared and don’t buy until you are ready.
4. Go to RV shows.  THEY ARE A TON OF FUN!  You can see nearly every kind of RV available all in one place.  It is a great place to compare, contrast and take notes.  By the time you leave, your feet will be sore from walking and your head will be spinning from the shear magnitude of these events.
5. Your very best resource is people you meet who already own an RV.  They have experience under their belt. They know what they like and don’t like about their own rig(s). They will be very honest.  They are excited to talk about their camper.  Best Method: The Campground Camper Walk. – Go tent camping at a State Park or other campground. In the early evening, just after the dinner hour, while campers are still enjoying the outdoors at their campsites, take a walk.  When you see a rig that you like, if the owner is outside (do not knock on any doors!!!), approach him or her and tell them that you are in the market for an RV and start asking questions about their rig.  What do they specifically like or not like etc?  They will tell you!  Also nine times out of ten, they will even give you a tour of the inside, outside and all of the systems.  They love it!  You will learn a lot!  And if you are anything like Rob and I, you will fall in love with the RV lifestyle and culture a little more.
6. As a general rule, don’t buy your RV from a salesperson who does not or who has not owned an RV themselves.

These are the basics.  In my next post I will finally tell you about our RV, why we bought the one we bought, what we love about it and what kinds of compromises we made.

If you are an RV enthusiast yourself, please feel free to add more helpful tips in the comments section.  Also, if you have any questions, feel free to email me at info@MassiveTinyDreams.com

*Additionally I hope to have some guest bloggers in the future contribute stories and insight about what they love and don’t love about their campers and motorhomes…