Quick Note – I changed our content management software after posting the first blog entry, which means any comments on the initial post have been lost. Sorry about that, commenters, but switching to a new platform now was better than waiting another month or two. I’m learning as I go!
Turns out shopping for an RV is less about buying an RV, and more about finding interesting beers in the towns you’re visiting. More on that a little later.
Our preliminary search began last year, basically researching the used RV market through sites like RV Trader, to get a rough idea of what would be available and in what range of prices. We already knew (or thought we knew) what type and size we were most likely interested in before actually seeing any models in person – something larger than the Class B van-type vehicles, but smaller than the Class A busses. We also weren’t really interested in a trailer that required a truck for towing (even though Ashley really likes the Airstreams, and some of the retro campers are appealing in a quirky way.)
So our self-imposed limitations narrowed the field to the medium-sized Class C style campers during our early search. We thought that style would offer enough living and storage space, while still being a manageable size to drive and gain access to a variety of camping/parking options. After casually browsing probably hundreds of online listings, we finally picked a day to see some models in person and drove to a Camping World location in New Jersey sometime in the late spring of 2016.
We didn’t call ahead or make an appointment, so we browsed the store when we first arrived before talking to someone at the sales desk. The sales associate we met was friendly and we told him upfront that we really just wanted to see a few models and we weren’t in the market to buy at that time. He showed us around a variety of styles from the smaller van-types, to a few Class C RVs, and also a couple of small Class A coaches that some manufacturers are calling “RUVs”. We hadn’t considered the RUVs before, so it was an added bonus to tour them and add that style as a possibility for consideration.
We left the Camping World feeling a little better about what we wanted and armed with a tiny bit more knowledge to aid in our search. Neither of us have been RV owners or users in the past, so deciding to do this in the first place was crazy enough, let alone buying something without seeing it first.
Fast-forward roughly a little less than a year, which brings us to early February of this year. We were now committed to pursuing the RV path and our search began in earnest. Based on price, we assumed we’d be buying a used RV, so that’s where we focused. Turns out that late winter is also RV show season. After being cooped up all winter and hiding from the cold, I guess people are looking forward to venturing outdoors in the spring and summer. So kind of out of the blue, Ashley found a listing of a few shows in the surrounding area and we made plans to check out what they had to offer.
The first show we attended was the Timonium RV Show held at the Maryland State Fairgrounds over two weekends in the middle of February. Our friends Steve and Kate conveniently live about a mile from the fairgrounds, so I politely asked if we could invade their home for the weekend. Steve said he didn’t mind, luckily. The Timonium show offers multi-day passes, so we bought two knowing that we wouldn’t have to rush ourselves on the first day. This was our very first show, so we entered the fairgrounds not knowing what to expect. Three buildings housed various dealers and vendors, all displaying their wares and staffed with representatives willing to show (sell) you something on the spot. We went on Friday soon after it opened, so the crowd was minimal. We spent most of our time touring all of the Class Cs available, with only taking a few minutes to check out a couple of huge Class As and one or two tow-behind trailers, simply out of curiosity. As we saw bigger and bigger RVs, we realized they were filled with simply more seating space. Couches that turn into sleeping areas, chairs that swivel to face each other, bunk beds crammed into a wall space. Usable space certainly, but totally not needed for just the two of us. Seeing so many models in one place helped us decide that we definitely wanted something in the small to medium size range. We did notice an interesting manufacturer name on some of the range hoods in a few RVs…
None of the dealers were pushy and we were able to get a much better idea of what we’d ideally want in our future RV. We avoided the non-dealer vendors (campsites, camping gear, golf cart dealers, etc.) knowing that we could check that out another day if we really wanted.
We managed to take a few notes on the first day, but the amount of stuff to see really is overwhelming, especially for a couple of newcomers to the RV market. We also learned that not all RVs are equipped with ovens, which I guess I took for granted. Given the fact that we cook all the time, I’m not sure I could easily adapt to not having access to an oven, no matter how small, in our future RV. We were also surprised at the number of televisions in some of the models – even outdoor entertainment centers, with TVs and stereos in an external bay. Even some of the small Class Cs are equipped with multiple TVs inside, a couple had gas fireplaces (really!), but only a tiny kitchen sink, a two burner range, and no oven. Priorities, I guess.
We decided we had seen enough for our first day. The weather was surprisingly mild for February, so we enjoyed the fresh air as we walked back to Steve and Kate’s house. We already knew we wanted to go back the next day to narrow down our list of possible models and brands in the search. That evening we were able to spend some quality time catching up with our friends, whom we hadn’t seen much over the past few years while we were involved with the pizza shop. Steve kindly opened his beer “cellar” to me, thus unwittingly creating the association between RV shows and craft beer forevermore.
The second day was a Saturday, and the RV-gazing crowd arrived in full force. We immediately realized trying to get to these shows on a weekday would be the ideal way to attend in the future. Luckily we’d already been to all three buildings on Friday, so we knew what we wanted to see a second time. This trip was shorter and we took more detailed notes, talked more in-depth with a couple of salespeople, and left feeling confident that we could narrow our search to specific models and features after having seen many options in person. We packed up our things and hit the road for our drive home. Added bonus – after leaving Steve and Kate’s, we decided to stop by the Loch Raven Reservoir for a short hike. Since the weather was so nice, lots of other people had the same idea but the trails certainly weren’t crowded.
We then stopped in Havre de Grace MD on the way back to Newark, since neither of us had been there before and it was on the way. Located at the mouth of the Susquehanna River and the head of the Chesapeake Bay, Havre de Grace is a small town with a short but dense Main Street area lined with little shops and various restaurants. We took a meandering walk around downtown and decided to grab a late lunch at a place called Laurrapin, which I recommend if you happen to be in the Havre de Grace area (open in the evenings during the week, with longer hours on the weekend). They just happened to have half-price burgers on the Sunday we were there, and anyone who knows me probably knows I have a hard time resisting a good burger, half-price or not. No photos of the food, sadly, just some boats instead.
After returning home, we chalked up our first RV show as a success and made plans to attend the Harrisburg RV and Camping Show the following weekend.
UP NEXT: The RV shopping and craft beer sampling relationship continues…