So earlier this year a massive hail storm came through my area resulting in a total loss of our first RV. We had owned it for 8 years and it served us well. It was a quite a moment watching it getting loaded up and towed away. A lot of good memories were made over those 8 years.
So now what? 2020 being the year it is presented a massive challenge. With all the lockdowns and social distancing et al, RV's were flying out the door at every dealership in North America. Compound that with the hail storm we had, and there was nothing but empty dealerships to be found. Luckily, it was July and we figured we had all sorts of time to decide because we wouldn't need a new RV until April of next year.....
As I've mentioned before, the RV market is full of brands and manufacturers. Finding what you personally want can be super daunting and overwhelming. Anyone that knows me is well aware that I am not much of an impulse buyer, especially when it comes to big dollar items. With our first RV I spent a lot of time looking at various brands and based on the camping trips we took with my parents RV, we thought we knew exactly what we wanted and needed. While our unit was really good, after time we found certain items that we wish we would have had in it. Our unit did everything we wanted, but lacked a pantry. This in turn had us storing food in bathroom closets, under the dinette, in the microwave, etc. We didn't realize that it was something that we wanted because up until then we were using someone else's RV. Lesson learned.
For our second RV, we spent a lot more time shopping and researching. We made a list of what we knew we liked from our first RV and what we were missing. We had learned what kind of camping we truly enjoyed and made a list of things an RV had to have for our style of camping. We knew the type of floorplan we wanted and started looking at everyone and everything that had it.
We started off with 21 different brands of trailers, not looking at build specifics, but just the layouts. Now the selection process began. We split all of them into 2 categories, Stick and tin and laminated. We knew that at the top of our list was water capacity, so we started dropping units based on that. Everything under 30 gallons of fresh water was removed.
Next we looked at cold storage(refrigerators). It is surprising the number of units that claim to be the off-grid, boondocker's perfect RV, but come with a tiny 3 or 4 cubic foot fridge. Where the heck do you store a week's worth of food? Off the list was every unit without a full size fridge, and especially units with these new 12 volt fridges.
While these 12 volt fridges provide more space and cool faster, they are just 12 volt. No matter what any salesperson says, they will not be off-grid friendly. These fridges will suck a group 27 battery dead in under 24 hours. You will need a minimum solar set up of 200 watts, and really good sun to keep the batteries charged up. If not, you will always be running a generator. Isn't the idea of off-grid to be away from the noise? The complaints haven't started flying yet as these are just now going into RV's on a mass scale, but I truly anticipate an uproar over them next camping season.
We were now down to 6 units, 2 stick and tin and 4 laminated units. Now we had to get super picky. We watched videos of all of the units and had built a checklist of features and items that RV's have. Trying to keep track of which unit had what would have been impossible without our checklist. Over the following 2 weeks we kept eliminating units one at time, until only 2 remained. Both units were built by Coachmen. One was stick and tin, the Catalina Expedition 192FQS and the other a Laminate, our Apex Nano 191RBS.
The next step in our search involved contacting Coachmen directly and getting to correspond with reps for both trailers. Here is an interesting tidbit of info, even though one manufacturer has multiple brands, each brand has its own management and construction facilities. So even though both units were from Coachmen, I dealt with different people for each brand. Here is where I went into the deep dive, asking about the specifics of the builds of the trailers. What was the axle ratings? What kind of slide systems were in them? And on and on. Both guys were super helpful and answered every and all of my questions. By the time I was done I knew everything about both units, inside and out.
Next up was to look at these units in person(HAHAHA). Remember those empty dealerships? Ya, here we go. I went to the local dealer who happens to carry both the Catalina and the Apex brands, and surprise, nothing to be found. I reached out to my contacts at Coachmen about delivery times, and thats when the reality of 2020 hit. The Catalina, if I ordered asap, I might see by April of 2021 provided there are no parts supply shortages. The Apex, hopefully, would be back on lots by December. The caveat was that they were only going to build customer bought units, nothing for general stock!!
Seeing that our 2021 camping season may go the way our 2020 season went, I dove headlong into searching for these units far and wide. To say that inventory was scarce is grossly understating the RV supply of 2020. Once lockdowns and such went into effect, the masses turned to RV'ing as a way to actually be able to do something safe and fun with their families.(The one dealership in Michigan sold 290 RV's in July!!!!)
The first units to disappear were all the single axle, under 4000 pound units. Most people own a smaller SUV or something capable of towing up to 5000 pounds. Well the units we wanted are in that under 4K category. I did manage to locate 5 of the Apex models, they were in BC and SK. As for the Catalina, I found one in Tennessee. The choice was made for us, Apex it will be.
Five phone calls later, we decided to deal with Affordable Trailers in Regina Sask. They are a small, family owned dealership with excellent people. Exceptionally honest and very easy to talk with and deal with. The other dealerships I talked with had "those" salespeople that no matter what, were smarter than me and knew what I "wanted". Pretty sure the Nano is a little different than a North Pointe 5th wheel, but hey what do I know, LOL.
First trip to Regina. We got to look at not one, but two 191RBS campers. One was your standard no frills unit, and the other the fully loaded Off-grid and Outfitter equipped unit. The price difference for what you got made the choice easy, Full Load Please!!! We would be back two weeks later to bring the new baby home!!
So after our exhaustive research and searching for an RV, we would be what I consider fortunate and lucky. We got a brand new Mid year model with great, new year model upgrades. The only difference between our 20/21 model and the new 2021 models is the front nose cap and exterior colors. Oh, and about $10K!!! New built models have jumped that much in price due to a multitude of reasons.
I could go on and on, but there is so much more to share. Thanks so much for reading. Next week I will go over our Nano and why it beat out the competition. It will be the deep dive into the Nano brand, and actually the entire Apex line of trailers!!