By Janet Groene, F47166
Scooters; identity theft; tips for selecting a full-timing coach.
Each day we make hundreds of decisions, most of them of little consequence. But then there are times when we’re faced with a bigger decision, one that requires considerable thought and discussion. You probably spent months, if not years, deciding to become a full-time motorhomer.
This month’s column provides information to help with several decisions you might be making: whether to invest in a motor scooter, how to freeze your credit report, and what to look for when purchasing a motorhome for full-timing.
Picture yourself on the open road with the wind in your hair and a fizzy little motor scooter beneath you. If you’re ready to fall in love again a la Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck, who toured Rome on a Vespa in the 1953 movie Roman Holiday, a new book will set your heart racing: The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Motor Scooters ($14.95, Alpha Books).
Authors Bev Brinson, Bryce Ludwig, and Sandra Carr provide everything you want to know about these peppy two-wheelers, starting with what to look for in choosing a motor scooter. Learn how to ride, dress, maintain, and have fun with this practical, street-legal, economical form of transportation.
A lengthy guide to current models describes brands from Aprilia to Yamaha. Complete specs are listed so you can make comparisons. Of special interest, since you’ll be carrying the scooter in or on your motorhome or towed vehicle, are the dry weights for each scooter. The book is also a useful guide to choosing the right scooter for the mountains versus flatlands, two passengers versus one, and dozens of other considerations. If you’re looking for another way to reduce fuel use, this book is a winner.
Also new in the series is The Complete Idiot’s Guide to Customizing Your Ride ($19.95). Written by automotive and motorcycle expert Tom Benford, and Andy Goodman, the book covers interior, exterior, audio, and under-the-hood customization, with tips on what to do yourself and when to take it to a professional.
Some advisors say that freezing your credit report through the three credit reporting agencies (TransUnion, Equifax, and Experian) is one way to prevent identity thieves from running up debt in your name. However, this is not permitted in every state. For more information about freezing your credit report and a list of states that permit this, visit www.consumersunion.org/campaigns/learn_more/003484indiv.html.
Full-timers’ forum feedback
We received plenty of advice from members of the forum concerning questions that have appeared in the past several issues. Thanks to our seasoned full-timers for their opinions.
What are the three most essential features you’d advise a first-time full-timer to look for in a motorhome? Jon and Sharon Hubbell sent several pieces of advice. First, have separate sleeping and living areas so one person can go to bed if the other wants to stay up and read. Also, this allows partners to take a short break from each other. Second, you never can have too much storage space. Third, look for an open, airy feel to the interior. After all, you’re living in only 300 to 400 square feet. The Hubbells prefer “huge” windows for a feeling of space, plus light-colored woods with rich grain and finish, using dark colors for accents.
Rich Miller says reliability takes precedence over everything. Since both the “home” and the “motor” sections of a motorhome need maintenance and occasional repairs, being “homeless” is a major inconvenience for full-timers. Second, he recommends choosing the right size motorhome for your needs. Most people look at indoor living space, but many full-timers are “outside” folks who need only a place to sleep at night. Third, you can’t have too much storage space. He joked that his coach has 52 inside cabinets and drawers plus an 8-foot closet, and they’re all full of women’s shoes. As an outside guy, Rich likes his outdoors-accessible refrigerator and quipped that he is shopping for a slide-out deck.
Julius and Arlene Hjulian are succinct. They say to first look at the manufacturer’s reputation. Second, decide on diesel versus gasoline, depending on your type of travel. Third, pay attention to the overall floor plan, including the bath, kitchen, and total storage.
Earl and Cyndy Munday, who have been full-timing since 2000, boondock often, so they cite tank capacities as an important feature. They want holding tanks with at least 100 gallons of fresh water and black water capacity, plus plenty of coach battery power. They like lots of drawer and cabinet space, but don’t feel closet space is as important, because “clothes don’t need to be hung up.” They advise getting at least 4,000 pounds of cargo carrying capacity and a coach not more than 35 feet long, because so many public parks don’t accept larger coaches.
They prefer a motorhome without slideouts, because it’s less weighty, less complicated, and more convenient when they make a quick lunch stop. “We’ve often shared our rig with others who didn’t want to extend their slides just for a quick stop,” they wrote. Lastly, the Mundays advise new full-timers to look for a common chassis and standard furniture to facilitate parts availability.
A contrary view is that of Bonnie and Al Parsons, who believe full-timers need at least three slideouts. They also advise would-be full-timers to get at least 75-gallon tanks for fresh and gray water, a 50-gallon black water tank, and an LP tank that holds 30 pounds or more of propane.
Full-timers Peter and Connie Bradish sent his and her priority lists. Connie’s top three considerations are inside layout for your kind of living (such as, do you need a computer desk?); inside and bay storage that is sufficient and well placed; and a coach that fits your lifestyle needs “” boondocking versus campgrounds.
Peter’s three priorities are a floor plan and storage space compatible for your own needs; easy accessibility to areas that need maintenance or repair; and a coach that both partners can drive comfortably. “You need to be able to take care of each other and share the travel experience,” Peter wrote.
Les and Donna Witty, six-year full-timers who have a 38-foot Newmar, make their list short and sweet. Their priorities are comfort and quality; service and warranty; and resale value.
From Barbara and Dave O’Keeffe come these three top must-haves: washer and dryer (Barbara doesn’t like the idea of using public laundry machines where the last user may have dyed rugs or washed the dog’s bed); hard-surface floors, such as wood laminate rather than carpeting; and at least 1,500 pounds of cargo carrying capacity per person.
Chuck and Elva Newman wrote: “We feel the most essential aspect of any full-timer’s motorhome is storage. The second most important is a homelike atmosphere.” For them, that means a warm, friendly home, not lacquer and glitz. The Newmans soon will sell their stationary home, go full-timing, and call Sioux Falls, South Dakota, their home base. In their custom bus they’ll have a 200-gallon fresh water tank, a diesel generator, an 8-foot-long closet, multiple air conditioners, and 200 cubic feet of basement space. Their satellite-based Internet, telephone, and entertainment will allow them to stay in touch with their family and operate an eBay store.
Karen Dopher feels as strongly against having a washer and dryer in the motorhome as others do about having the service. She prefers to use the space for other things. (There is an advantage in using coin laundries where multiple machines can be used at once. The entire week’s laundry can be done in an hour or so.) First, Karen recommends adequate holding tanks for long trips with lots of dry camping. Second, she takes a close look at storage space for off-season clothes, tools, and hobby equipment. “Storage under the coach, plus drawers and closets, is really important,” she noted.
The Dophers are cooks and rarely eat out, so they want a big pantry, a stove with at least three burners, a regular or convection oven, and plenty of space for appliances such as a crock cooker, a KitchenAid mixer, and a blender. “(When shopping for a coach) we usually stand in the kitchen and imagine where everything will go,” Karen said. “It amazes me that people don’t do that, then can’t find room for the trash can.”
How do you keep food costs under control? Keith and Brenda Krejci are 35-year RVers and have been full-timing for two years. “We’re probably not very good at cutting food costs,” they admitted. They like to eat out, usually at lunchtime. They get a good idea of the restaurant’s cuisine and ambience without paying high dinner prices. They also may split a meal, usually an entree and a salad.
“We use an Extend-A-Stay propane adapter kit on our LP tank, so cooking outside is easy and often,” they reported. They buy local produce at farmers markets and use a perforated pan on the grill to cook vegetables. Brenda surfs the Web for coupons, saving as much as $25 per shopping trip, and they stay alert for specials. “But above all, we don’t scrimp,” she wrote. “Life’s too short and the road too long!”
This month’s question: The weight of your motorhome plus all of the things you carry in it cost fuel dollars. How are you able to lighten the load to save money?