I’ve written previously about staying in hotels with chemical allergies, but there are times when staying in a hotel just doesn’t work. One time my husband forgot to leave the “Do Not Disturb” sign on the door and housekeeping cleaned the room unsafely after the first day, right before I came to join him. Sometimes hotels that are willing to work with you are not available in the area. Sometimes a hotel is not affordable. Sometimes you are booking late and don’t have time to talk to housekeeping. Sometimes you just forget, or don’t have the energy to try to explain to hotel staff AGAIN why you need them to do something different. Staying with friends or relatives is great when you can do it, but sometimes, like with my trip across the country, you just get stuck.
When I got stuck, I tried to get creative. I knew this would be a continuing issue, so I wanted to find an affordable, reliable camper van or small motorhome to take with me when travelling within and outside the province, to open me up to more travel possibilities. The right unit would be small enough to get in and out of traffic in cities, plus provide a food storage and prep area so that I wouldn’t have to eat all raw foods.
My problem was the time period – in this case, I only had a week to find, finance, and take something home, and I don’t live near a major city. The camping/RV season was just beginning, so used units were being snapped up as soon as they were put up for sale, and everything was too far away to get to quickly. After giving up on motorhomes, we tried searching for small trailers with no better luck, and eventually had to rent a travel trailer (motorhome rentals were more expensive than hotels would have been). We did learn some things though:
- Used small motorhomes and trailers are really hard to find. Newer ones are sold immediately and older ones either have major problems or don’t stay on the market long, either. New small motorhomes and trailers come with a new unit premium, but older units have more potential problems.
- Dealers often add a premium of up to $10,000 to $20,000, even on what should be low-priced used units. Private sellers, in order to be competitive, don’t tend to add these premiums, and can be more flexible on price, but financing is usually not available.
- Dealers will amortize a motorhome or trailer loan for up to 20 years. I suppose this makes sense, given that some of the class B motorhomes (camper vans) we saw were almost the price of our house.
- Most dealers want one or two weeks to get a new trailer or motorhome ready for purchase, even if the unit is in stock. Some will work with you to give you possession within a day, but your bargaining power goes out the window.
- A surprising number of private sellers do not return phone calls, texts, or emails. Some take a week to get back to you, or longer.
- Banks don’t like to schedule appointments in the same day you call, or even sometimes in the same week.
- Quite a few dealers will advertise a low selling price but then add on freight charges, various fees, extra items that should have been included in the purchase, and taxes. The total cost could be many thousands of dollars higher than the listed price – for example, one “on sale” trailer went from $15k to $19k right in front of my eyes.
- We don’t want to buy a trailer for camping. It’s just not right for our long-term needs.
If you want to make this kind of purchase, know your price limit, and know whether you want to buy up front or finance. Know what you want, and find out what is a reasonable price range for the motorhome or trailer. Give yourself the time you need to find something, and don’t let your budget creep upward. Check out dealers near large population centres for best inventory. If you plan to buy outright, make sure you plan credit line increases or bank withdrawals well in advance of finding the unit you want to buy. I think if I had understood more of this up front I might have gotten travel plans sorted out much faster.
Do you have any helpful tips for motorhome or trailer purchasing? Comment below.