Newmar Versus Prevost

Marathon versus Essex. Two great coaches. I have friends with a Marathon coach. And I have friends with an Essex. These two luxury coaches are significantly apart in terms of their asking price.

This Marathon, coach number 1303, lists for $2.2 million USD, or $3 million CAD. Ouch.

A Newmar Essex starts at around $770,000 USD, or a little over $1 million CAD, list price. Another ouch, just not as big an ouch as the Marathon.

In the video below, a detailer takes you through the differences he notices between the two coaches. And, to be honest, I had never really thought about many of those differences. There should be something for the added cost of the Marathon.

But I question a few of them. I’ll let you decide but these are the ones that left me puzzled. Why would Newmar do that?

  1. Lots of silicone on the Newmar. Although the detailer doesn’t highlight this difference in the video, there are several Newmar body panels that attach to the frame by screws. Screws that can work themselves loose.
  2. Unfinished slideouts on the Newmar.
  3. Cheap latches on the Newmar bay doors. I’ve had first hand experience with the cheap bay door latches. Not to mention a plastic latch for the sewer hose compartment on our coach.
  4. Plastic plumbing bay on the Newmar.
  5. Clear coat. Newmar does put a bit more clear coat on their high line coaches but one look at the finish of a Marathon and you can immediately tell the difference.

A Prevost chassis has superior engineering when compared to a Spartan chassis. That is reflected in the cost. But for a million dollar Newmar coach, I would expect a little better on some of the details highlighted in this video.

Great Deal on a Luxe 40RE

Great deals are sometimes hard to find. If you know of someone looking to buy a beautifully equipped fifth wheel then you might want to point them to this ad currently running on rvtrader.com. At the price, I can’t see this unit staying on the market for very long.

I had posted yesterday about a Luxe RV. The design, layout and finish looked so compelling that I went out and priced the unit. New, the cost was almost $200,000 USD.

A friend wrote in to let me know about a similar unit up for sale on rvtrader.com. The asking price is $89,000 USD.

If I were in the market for this type of unit, I would jump on this one. Here are a few more details in case you know of someone looking for a great deal on a gently used and very well maintained luxury fifth wheel. It will give someone a wonderful home on wheels. You can find the ad over here.

2016 August Luxe LF-40RE with many upgrades including:

  • Onboard remote start 5500 Watt Onan Propane Generator,
  • 1500 Watt – 10 Panel Solar System with Magnum 3000 Watt Inverter,
  • x6 – Rolls Surrette 460 Amp Hour 6V Battery Pack – 700 Amp Hours in 12V,
  • Truma On Demand Hot Water Heater,
  • Fully Plumbed and Vented for Washer/Dryer,
  • Fisher & Pakel Dish Washer,
  • Winegard InMotion Self Tuning Satellite System,
  • 49″ Samsung Ultra HD 4K Living Room TV,
  • 39″ LG HD Bedroom TV,
  • LG Sound Bar & BluRay Player,
  • Dish Network DVR/Receiver,
  • HD TV powered antenna,
  • Living Room Fireplace Heater,
  • x2 Dometic Powered Awnings,
  • x3 Dometic Slide-out Toppers,
  • Wireless Back Up Camera System,
  • Exterior TV and Sound System,
  • x2 Dometic Roof Top Ducted AC Units,
  • LG Convection Microwave,
  • Induction Cooktop,
  • LG 21 Cu FT Residential Style Refrigerator,
  • Solid Surface Counter Tops,
  • Under Cabinet Lighting,
  • Fully Adjustable Coach-wide Lighting Controls,
  • Dometic Porcelain Toilet,
  • Double Glass Bowl Bathroom Sinks,
  • Full Size Stand Up One-piece Shower with Sliding Glass Door,
  • x2 Auto On/Off Fantastic Fans,
  • Large Basement Storage with 800lb MorRyde Storage Slide System,
  • Massive Interior Cabinet Storage,
  • King Bed,
  • Cedar Lined Armoire,
  • Goodyear G114 Commercial Grade Tires – Like New Condition,
  • New x4 Disc Brake pads,
  • New Shock Absorbers and Rubber Suspension Components with Wheel Bearings recently serviced by MorRyde,
  • Recently installed New Electric Motors and x3 Slide-out service,
  • Living Room SofaBed,
  • Twin Recliners,
  • Ceiling Fan,
  • Solid Wood Dining Table with x4 stand alone chairs,
  • Solid Wood Amish-made interior Cabinets and Trim,
  • Waterproof Vinyl Wide Plank Flooring,
  • Interior and exterior LED mood lighting,
  • Upgraded Self folding Aluminum 4-Step entrance stairway,
  • Exterior LED lights,
  • Custom Switched Backup lights,
  • MorRyde dual 9,000 lb Axles,
  • MorRyde Independent Suspension,
  • MorRyde Disc Brakes,
  • MorRyde Pin box and Kingpin,
  • LED Taillights,
  • 6 Point Auto Leveling System by Equalizer,
  • TST x4 Tire Pressure Monitoring System,
  • Full Body Paint, with Clear-coat and Graphics,
  • Custom Painted Fiberglass Front and End Caps.

Luxe Elite 42RL

Another trailer. This time, not an Airstream. A Luxe. I review a lot of RV walkthroughs. And Deb Schmucker does a fantastic job walking through a Luxe Elite 42RL. One of the best RV walkthroughs I have seen on the web.

I hadn’t followed the fifth wheel market all that closely over the past few years. However, when Dave decided to sell his Class A Motorcoach for a fifth wheel, I decided to spend a bit more time looking at that part of the RV market.

My opinion was, and let me emphasize that word “was”, that fifth wheels were an inexpensive entry point into an RV. I think that still holds true for a fairly large segment of the fifth wheel market however there are many luxury fifth wheels out there like the one Deb showcases in the video below.

I was impressed enough by her walkthrough that I jumped online and priced out a build on the Elite 42RL. By the time I loaded up the options, I was almost at $200,000 USD or $270,000 CAD. Add in Canadian taxes and all of a sudden that inexpensive entry point is at 300,000 loonies not including the price of a diesel dually to pull it. Yikes.

Luxe sells direct to consumer, a bit unique in the RV industry. I can’t comment on the quality of the rig as I do not know anyone with a Luxe. I suspect that the ownership experience is similar to Class A motorcoaches. In other words, expect issues and you won’t be disappointed.

Lessons Learned From Buying An RV

Almost three years ago now. That was when we picked up our brand new, 2016 Newmar Dutch Star 4002. We had ordered the coach in October of 2015. It went through the production line sometime in March of 2016 and then Newmar delivered it to the dealer on or about April 25th. The dealer had to do the PDI work on the coach. We had to get our commercial driver’s license. And finally, on June 2, 2016, we came out to pick up our new home.

With three years under our belt, we can make a few observations about what we learned from buying an RV. I’ll give you a few of the harder lessons that we learned through the process. And, if you are in the market for an RV, watch the video at the end of the post. We learned a few of those lessons for the first time ourselves.

Don’t buy new. Unless you really, really want to.

To which I might add, don’t buy new using Canadian dollars, or, if you can, wait until the value of the Canadian dollar improves. A new coach, although a wonderful thing, is not a practical financial decision. Actually, the whole RV lifestyle is not very practical when you are running a new diesel pusher.

A new coach is an asset that will plummet dramatically after the first year. And the second. And the third. After four or five years it might level off a bit. A new coach will have all sorts of issues that might take longer than the ridiculously short warranty period of one year to shakedown. After three years with the coach, we think we have most of the initial shakedown issues resolved.

A far better approach is to find a gently used and well maintained model. Sure, it might be a few years older but you will likely be able to purchase “higher” in the model range by taking advantage of the steep depreciation curve and you might well enjoy a coach that has had most of the initial bugs worked out.

Things won’t work.

It seems counterintuitive when you spend a lot of money on a coach that things in your motorhome either don’t work or stop working soon after you take it off the lot. Something will always be going wrong with a coach. Always. You can count on it. The sooner you come to terms with this truth, the sooner you can relax and enjoy the experience of trying to resolve the things that no longer work.

This is especially true when you buy a new coach.

We are always running into people who are upset with their new purchase. They may have spent upwards of a million dollars or more on their coach only to find that they have numerous issues. In one case, we spoke with a couple that had purchased a brand new motorcoach and they had over 75 items that were either broken or not working. They were livid, visibly stressed out and thoroughly disappointed with their purchase.

There is no J.D. Power equivalent to guide you through the dark side of the RV industry. Certain manufacturers stand out largely due to word of mouth and not due to any formal data gathering methodologies.

“You must choose. But choose wisely, for as the true Grail will bring you life, the false Grail will take it from you.” — the Grail Knight, Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade

We are still very happy with Newmar. It has been a great choice for us.

Not much innovation.

Despite being only three years old, most of the systems in our coach seem to be stuck in a pre-technological age. Part of this seems to be a desire to force upgrades. The newer models offer an incentive to trade. Look! We finally introduced a built-in tire pressure management system! Look! We finally introduced a 360 camera view! Look! We finally introduced collision avoidance! Trade in your obsolete coach and get all of these exciting new features!

Except that there are numerous gaps in how a coach could be improved. Even with the new models.

For example, the electrical systems are not integrated. They are not “smart”. They do not talk to each other. I can’t use a single panel or my smartphone to control things from one location like my motorized shades or my awnings or my door locks or my heating and cooling. Each one of those systems are independently controlled with their own independent remote controls strewn throughout the coach either on a wall or in a cabinet.

Sure, there are some coaches that offer integrated systems. They tend to cost a lot more money.

The cost of a tablet? A few hundred dollars. The cost of opening up the APIs for software control of the electrical systems? Nominal. But the RV industry is very slow to innovate.

The things that you might take for granted in the operation of a car are oddly absent in most coaches. Like setting the cruise control and incrementing the speed up or down a notch. Nope. Can’t do that. Or like setting a memory for the mirrors and seat adjustments. Nope. Can’t do that either. How about integrating things like supplementary braking systems? Nope.

Expensive to operate.

Coaches are not like cars. Repeat that until it hits home. Coaches are not like cars. Servicing a coach is far more expensive than servicing a car. At one level, this is common sense. Larger engines require more oil. Larger frames require more lubrication. Larger machines require more fuel.

And then this remarkable insight: you have a house on wheels. All of the maintenance costs that you would typically associate with a house? Yes. You have to include those costs with a coach. Everything from satellite systems, hot water systems, air conditioning systems, household appliances and plumbing. All of those items require maintenance.

It is relatively easy to research the cost to operate a car. We have an SUV. The cost to operate is, on average, $12,000 per year. That includes costs for fuel, insurance, parking, service, depreciation, tires.

We have a Newmar Dutch Star. The cost to operate? The dealer won’t tell you. The manufacturer won’t tell you. The RV industry won’t tell you.

You will find out once you start operating your coach.

The trucking industry pegs the cost of operating a truck at about $1.70 per mile.

I think that might be cheap compared to operating a motorcoach.

The floor plan is everything. Almost.

If you are going to be spending a lot of time in your coach, think very carefully about the floor plan. We knew that we had to have a floor plan with two bathrooms and a king bed.

What do we wish we knew when we placed our order? That adequate storage is a really big deal. Can you live out of a 40-foot coach? Yes, absolutely. Can you live out of a 35-foot coach? Some people do. Would a 45-foot coach provide more room? It sure would.

Love your floor plan.

And make sure you have enough storage.

Buying a new coach in Canada is not easy.

The dealers are few and far between. The ability to negotiate price is limited. The devalued Canadian currency makes the purchase far more expensive than it should be.

The person selling you that coach has likely never lived the RV lifestyle. They probably do not even own a coach. You may well know more about the model than the person selling it to you. There will be limited help in terms of learning how to use the various systems.

In a way, you will be on your own when you buy your coach. The dealer will not be there to hold your hand as you learn how to operate a pretty complex system.

It really helps to have a technical and a mechanical mindset. Dealers in Canada often struggle with service. Too many coaches, too few service bays. The sooner you learn how to troubleshoot your own problems, the better. Sometimes you need help though. And often the best source of help is within the RV community and sometimes with the original vendor of the system that might be causing you grief. For the really major issues, there is always the factory and the chassis manufacturer.

We love the RV lifestyle and we are having an awesome time in our coach. We have made so many wonderful friends on the road and we so enjoy having our home with us wherever we travel. These are lessons that we have learned along the way. More lessons to learn in the future.

This video offers a light-hearted and insightful perspective on RV sales.

Network Reboot

The Internet. A bunch of tubes as Senator Ted Stevens infamously put it and seems to mirror my experience with the Internet at many campsites. Here was Stevens’ explanation as to how the Internet works:

I just the other day got, an internet was sent by my staff at 10 o’clock in the morning on Friday and I just got it yesterday. Why?

Because it got tangled up with all these things going on the internet commercially…

They want to deliver vast amounts of information over the internet. And again, the internet is not something you just dump something on. It’s not a truck.

It’s a series of tubes.

And if you don’t understand those tubes can be filled and if they are filled, when you put your message in, it gets in line and its going to be delayed by anyone that puts into that tube enormous amounts of material, enormous amounts of material.

In a campsite, if there is WiFi, it will get all tangled up.

We need a better solution for our coach.

Three years ago, I purchased two items for networking our coach: a WeBoost Drive 4G-X RV Cellular Booster for cellular data and a Winegard ConnecT 2.0 WiFi Extender for WiFi data.

Both are pretty useless now.

Not to say that the WeBoost doesn’t boost the cellular signal. It does. Provided you place your hotspot device an inch or two from the booster antenna, it will provide a better signal. Any further, and it doesn’t really boost anything at all. For serious Internet access using a cellular service, WeBoost is slightly better than nothing. And I emphasize the word slightly.

The Winegard WiFi extender? Might be fine for casual use in those areas that provide some decent WiFi but so outdated now with a single-band router that it is only slightly better than nothing.

Over the next few months, I will be redoing the network in our coach.

For now, I have rigged a temporary WiFi extender in the coach, the Netgear AC1900 dual-band WiFi extender. Why? Because the Winegard only operates at the 2.4 GHz band. And there is a lot of contention for the 2.4 GHz spectrum. Where we are, the WiFi is offered on both bands: 2.4 GHz and 5 GHz. The 5 GHz band is typically less crowded and faster assuming that the signal is within range. The Netgear allows me to distribute the 5 GHz band within the coach which will, hopefully, provide a robust enough Internet.

Our site has the WiFi connected to a 1.5 Gbps fibre service although some network engineer gated the Quality of Service to 5 Mbps for each connected device. Even then, last weekend the 2.4 GHz band became unusable with roughly 150 occupied sites. Something wrong with the design if the network became saturated with so few concurrent devices sharing such a big network pipe. I suspect too many devices were trying to use 2.4 GHz.

Even within our coach, if we use the microwave, the WiFi goes south.

With the scan that I performed on the wireless networks within range of my computer in my coach this morning, 24 networks were using the 2.4 GHz band and only 9 on the 5 GHz band.

The first long weekend that denotes the informal start of what passes for a Canadian summer begins tomorrow. We might see the temperatures rise to a searing 12 Celsius or a sweltering 54 Fahrenheit. Thank heavens we have air conditioning in the coach.

The park will be at capacity. And I will be able to see if my 5 GHz connection holds up.

Gating each device to 5 Mbps is not great Internet. However, there are no unlimited data plans on cellular in this part of the world. A better solution would be to have a router that can combine WiFi and Cellular with configuration parameters that ensure that monthly caps are not exceeded.

Given that we pay almost $300 a month for a measly 15 GB of data on our cellular plan, we have to be able to use less costly WiFi bandwidth.

What will I be putting in for release 2.0 of the coach’s network?

The Pepwave MAX BR1 Mk2 router.

Definitely not an inexpensive option. This router will wind up costing us around $1,100 CAD and we will source it from the 5G store in the states. I haven’t been able to find a Canadian dealer for the Pepwave.

For the antenna?

This antenna provides two cellular MiMo antennas, two dual-band WiFi antennas and a GPS element all in one housing. We will get this from the 5G store.

The Pepwave offers a number of features to significantly improve our Internet experience. It can function as a cellular modem. It provides redundant SIMs. It can operate with WiFi as WAN. It serves as a WiFi access point. It operates on both 2.4 and 5 GHz bands. It is a commercial grade product. You can download the product data sheet right here.

That design, with just two products, should provide a very robust solution set for the next few years. Perhaps, whenever the low earth orbital Internet services come online, or whenever 5G cellular becomes ubiquitous, this setup will also fall by the wayside.

Such is the case with the rapid change with technology.