Oct 232010

I exchanged e-mails yesterday with a couple who said that they have a very nice 1999 Newmar Mountain Aire that they absolutely love, but the coach is beginning to show its age and they were thinking about buying a new diesel pusher to replace it.

They said that after months of shopping, they have not found anything that they like as much as their Newmar. It has 85,000 miles on it, which is not much for a diesel motorhome, it runs fine, and they have maintained it very well. But the paint is faded, the interior is dated, and the carpet and furniture are getting threadbare. They asked me what I would do in their place.

I told them that if I had a rig I liked, and that I knew and trusted, I’d think very hard about investing some money and time upgrading it, instead of buying something new. If your present RV runs strong and you like it, and it just needs cosmetic improvements, you might be well advised to keep what you have and invest spending some money to make it nicer, instead of spending a lot of money for a new one.

New isn’t always better. I know several people with top of the line new or newer motorhomes who spend a good part of their time dealing with problems and trying to get repairs made, instead of enjoying traveling.  

Our dear friends Ron and Brenda Speidel present an excellent seminar at RV rallies with the title Don’t Replace, Refurnish that is always a hit with attendees. Ron and Brenda are very happy with their Winnebago Journey, so instead of buying something knew, in the last couple of years they had a full body paint job done, upgraded their window treatments, installed flat screen TVs, replaced the carpeting with wood flooring, replaced the shower, and several other upgrades. For a lot less than they would have spent on a new motorhome, they have transformed their very nice coach into a palace on wheels.

Jack and Julee Meltzer, authors of the RV Makeover Bible, have now brought their excellent reference out in e-book format, and anybody who is even thinking about trading in a good but older RV for a newer model really should read it before they go shopping. If you have an RV that needs some spiffing up, Jack and Julee have also started a new blog on RV upgrades that I’m sure will be helpful.

We know of several excellent companies that can transform a dated motorhome or fifth wheel into a showpiece for a fraction of the cost of buying a new rig, including Focal Wood Products in Nappanee, Indiana. Owner Carlyle Lehman built the custom desk units, table, and bookcase for our motorhome, and we were delighted with the quality craftsmanship, and the price. Carlyle also does custom window treatments, flat screen TV upgrades, and just about anything else you can think of.

Nick desk

A few miles away, Michele Henry at Phoenix Commercial Paint in Elkhart has built up quite a reputation with her beautiful full body RV paint jobs. We know RVers who have paid two and three times as much money to have their rigs painted, and the results are not as good as what Michele turns out.

Another reliable shop for upgrades is Bradd and Hall, also in Elkhart. Besides selling RV furniture by such well known manufacturers as Flexsteel, the company also offers many upgrade services.

Out in Mesa, Arizona, RV Renovators can do anything, from adding a slide room to completely refurbishing your home on wheels. We saw some of their work this past spring, and were very impressed with the quality of their work, and their dedication to customer satisfaction.

I’d feel comfortable recommending any of these companies to folks who have an RV that they want to upgrade, whether than spending a king’s ransom for a new one that may not be nearly as good as what they already have.

Thought For The Day – A walk through a lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.

Register Now For Our Arizona Gypsy Gathering Rally

Nick Russell

World-Famous, New York Times Best Selling Author, and All-Around Nice Guy!

  10 Responses to “Why Buy New When You Can Upgrade?”

  1. Great advice Nick.

    We can add our recommendation for Focal Wood Products. Carlyle replaced both of our TV openings with new cabinets, removed our drop down desk and put in a cabinet and a new opening for the TV at eye level.

    He did a great job and it only took half a day! We had stopped and had him take measurements previously so all he needed to do was the installation.

    Great workmanship and a very reasonable price, it looks like a factory installation. We are really happy with the additional storage space and improved appearance.

    We also stopped at Bradd & Hall during the last Gypsy Gathering and purchased two wall-hugger recliners to replace the bulky rocker/recliners. Now we can close the slides in the fiver without muscling the recliners out of the way.

    No reason to stick with the factory design and furniture when it can be improved so easily!

  2. What a timely post for us! Our 2002 DP MH has been a fulltiming rig for its entire life. We’ve spent many hours recently discussing renovating vs. purchasing a new rig. We just recently settled (permanently, we hope) on renovating. We like our layout and cabinets, we are familiar with our systems and our rig’s quirks, and we’ll be substantially better off financially.

    We took the first steps two years ago, when we had the old graphics removed and the exterior redone (RV Stripes in San Bernardino, CA), including replacing the manual awning with an electric awning and replacing the worn slide toppers. This winter, we’ll tackle the flooring, window coverings, TV’s and windshield replacement. Your post sort of “sealed the deal” for us, and I am looking forward to exploring the links you provided (though we will be having the work done in the west).

    Safe travels,

  3. It was Ron and Brenda that gave us idea to refurbish instead of going into debt buying a new coach. So far we have upgraded the bedroom by putting in a sleep number bed we had Duncan RV Systems put in a new flat screen TV that they built into the area that our old TV set was and they did outstanding work. The big thing we are doing and that is in August of 2011 Michelle is going to put a new paint job on the rig. We have seen her work and it is awesome. We are excited about that. The last thing we will update will be taking this carpet out and putting in a wood floor. The engine on our 2003 is still in great shape. It will take us time to complete since we have to save up for the change over but it will be worth it.

  4. Anyone have recommendations on carpet replacement places?

  5. After the Escapade we contacted Brad and Hall and they installed new carpet in our LR/DR slide. We had made the mistake to go with non-rv experienced floor installers and they totally screwed up the installation of vinyl flooring. Our slide needs to have carpet to cover the slide rollers that are fixed to the floor. Brad and Hall are outstanding, got us in after a cancellation and we were on our way in hours. They have also installed several electric hookups so if necessary, one can camp on site. We had new slide toppers installed and are in the process of redoing much of our outdated decor. We just can’t afford a new coach and this one is in great shape…just dated. We are also in touch with Michelle and are planning a paint job for next year. Call early if you want to use Phoenix…she only does a few coaches a month! We will be purchasing some new furniture after the painting is done and will definetly use Brad and Hall….great prices and selection.

  6. We too own a 1999 Newmar Mt. Aire gas which we purchased new. After looking for several years and going thru many different motorhomes, my wife and I decided to renovate our motorhome. We had Bradd & Hall remove the carpet and install hardwood floors. Mike’s Custom Painting did a whole body paint job and Irv Kaufman made new trim around all of our windows. We had Newmar replace the slide topper and the slideout seal. After our trip to Alaska this summer we have approximately 113,000 miles on the unit and it is still running strong and not using any oil.

    If you like your motorhome and feel like its looking a bit dated, I would recommend looking at renovating. You will be pleased with the end result.

  7. During the past year, we have replaced the carpet with tile at Newmar…the booth dinette with a more practical desk/table with 2 leaves, the sleeper sofa with a loveseat incorporating 14″x8′ storage area and a side cabinet next to our recliner…all done by Carlyle Lehman at Focal Wood Products. Our 5th wheel now serves our fulltiming needs better than ever and it’s like having a whole new home! Carlyle is an absolute wonder with wood products…professional and very reasonable!

  8. We have a 1993 (made in 92) diesel pusher Beaver with 220,000 miles. We too have looked at new or used newer coaches. None are built as well as our coach. We too don’t want to learn all new systems. Peter has pretty much learned most of the quirks of our coach. She is well loved.

    So what we do is refurbish. We think it’s the most cost effective method in the long run. Also, we have taken out most of the old furniture (dining and living room) and now have a lay out that is comfortable for us. When you redo you get the colors, placement of furniture and appliances you want.

    After all if you own a stick house, you don’t get a new house every time the colors or furniture is outdated. You repaint, redesign and refurnish the house. That’s what we do with our coach home. We think if you buy a newer unit you will STILL have to redo the unit to get it to be what you want. Best to redo what you already have!!!!!

  9. We’ve been full-timing in our fifth wheel for seven years now, really like the layout, have swapped furniture and colors around to make it more like home, but for several reasons, we’re ready to go back to a motor home. Wish we could just motorize our fiver – sigh….

    Lu & Larry Tillotson

  10. Thank you Nick!!!!!!!!!!!

 Leave a Reply

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>



Notify me of followup comments via e-mail. You can also subscribe without commenting.