So we finally did it. We put a deposit down on a travel trailer. Today we’ll talk about what we chose and why now.
When We Decided to get a Travel Trailer
A quick rehash, about 2 years ago I wrote a post about location independence. I wrote about wanting to work remote from various campsites for portions of the year. My job supports remote work, and has since long before Covid. The real hurdles were the purchase of the trailer and the time to manage the change.
So Why Now?
Anyway, this has been a particularly rough year for the Full Time Finance household. Dealing with managing POA for another individual is taking most of my free time. Even the site has suffered as I have missed a few posts. (Our apologies readers)
This has been having a toll on myself and my family. Frankly I am getting burned out. We needed something positive to look forward too. That same thing needed to get us away from some of these things that are absorbing my time.
A Light in a Dark World, and It’s Mobile
We love travel and with Covid and Foster Care cutting back on our ability to do so, we needed an alternative. Enter a travel trailer. We already go tent camping with our 3 children. The goal here was to have a trailer that would make camping easier and be able to use it on a longer term basis of a few months as necessary.
Travel Trailers are Selling like Hot Cakes
Now before I proceed a note. The travel trailer and RV industry are currently booming due to Covid. Everyone and their mother is looking for a way to escape their home during this difficult time. As such the price of many trailers is up.
If you want the best deal on a travel trailer I’d recommend you wait 6 months to a year. Many people who are buying now have not thought through their purchase. As such the used market should explode after the shake out. I suspect due to supply and demand you will see a massive decline in main stream travel trailers and RVs in half a year to a year.
But.. as noted we have been contemplating a purchase for nearly 2 years. As such we do not believe we are in this buy and then sell group. So the only real reason for us to wait might be a lower purchase price
Buying a Low Supply High Demand Travel Trailer.
Here is the thing though, we are not buying a mainstream trailer. After much research we decided on buying in a small niche subset of travel trailers, a fiberglass trailer. Before I get into the why of that purchase a comment on price. Fiberglass trailers have always had a supply issue.
These trailers cross through the used markets in days for nearly new and sometimes more then new prices. The wait on a new trailer is 4 months to a year. That has been true since long before Covid. In essence the supply of fiberglass trailers has never been able to keep up with demand. As such I am betting this niche will not have a significant price collapse due to supply constraints. While the overall market may zig, I expect the niche to remain stable.
So why a Fiberglass trailer? The answer is two fold. The first is weight. I will be towing with a mid size SUV. As such having a light trailer is key. A fiberglass trailer is usually hundreds and even a few thousands of pounds less then a typical stick built trailer.
The second reason is because fiberglass trailers require less maintenance. There are less risks of water leakage from outside elements. With limited time anything that reduces our workload has high value. In addition there are trailers of this type still running from 30 years ago. We want to buy a trailer for the long term, so that is a highly valued feature.
Now a note, due to the constrained supply fiberglass trailers cost more per size then other trailers. We are going in with our eyes open that we are paying more for something that will last longer, retain it’s value, and require less maintenance.
New Versus Used, We Go New
The second question of course is new or used? We ultimately decided on new for a few reasons. One as mentioned before used models don’t stay on the market very long. They also don’t tend to come up often in the north east. As such to get a used one we’d likely have to buy site unseen. Add to that I have very little background in this area to allow me to identify potential trailer problems and I did not feel entirely comfortable making a quick purchase decision on a trailer. Slightly less of a driver was that I wouldn’t want to deal with things like the black tank people have been using with their toilet for years. This way we get a trailer we can really think about the decision on, and not have to deal with leftover poo remanants..
The 5 Contenders for Our Next Travel Trailer.
In the fiberglass trailer space there are 5 main players (at least ones that have been around more then a few years, there are constantly other players entering and exiting the market). The mainstream ones are Scamp, which represents the budget option, and Casita, which is a little more upscale. At the extreme high end are Airstream and Oliver. In the middle is a company called Escape.
The First Criteria is our Top Line Budget
The high end prices are in the $45-55K range. That’s out of our price range for this purchase.
The lower end Scamp values are in the $19K-24K range plus options. With a low end trailer a lot of the features are options you pay more for. The higher on the scale you go the more options are included. So in theory they come out near similar prices when similarly equipped.
Layout, Layout, Layout, the most Important Part
So how did we decide what to get? Well honestly the most important part in the decision is the layout. Each of these trailers has a different method of space usage, and that design influences how well a fit the trailer will be to your use case. Some trailers are better for an individual versus a family. Some are better for a static situation versus others allow conversion as things change. You can include things like a bathroom, or not. Really it depends on your use case.
Narrowing Down to 2
Since we threw out Airstream and Oliver as outside our budget we looked at the other 3. Ultimately the Casita was removed from the list because of layout. Their solution for handling family traveling are permanent bunk beds. The reality is we will need bunk beds for our 3 kids. But… we also expect once our kids turn a certain age they will want to sleep outside in a tent away from us. As such by our estimate we won’t need bunk beds in 3-4 years. As such we wanted something that provides for bunks convertible to dinettes or other usable items. This left us with Scamp or Escape.
The Must Features
We then reviewed the Scamp and Escape options. Certain features were absolutely required. For example air conditioning and heating. We live in an area with extreme temp changes and levels by seasons. Delaware can get into the single digits Fahrenheit in winter and around 100 in the summer. It’s not uncommon to see a temperature swing of 20-30 degrees day to night even in the more mild seasons. So we compared the difference between the two trailers in this area.
A note, none of the trailers we considered are considered 4 season. These trailers all have exposed water hoses so they wouldn’t fully work in extreme of winter unless you went without water. We do not intend to camp at those extremes either so that is not much of an issue for us. That is one of the features you get on an Airstream at 45-55K.
Another area of comparison was space. We have a family of 5. So having more space is a requirement. The Escape had more space due to a more flat side. It also had features like a thermostat for your air conditioner, while the Scamp was simply on or off, and more insulation. These and other features ultimately led us to decide on the Escape trailer. (Not an Affiliate link)
Which Size Travel Trailer?
Within our weight limit on our tow vehicle Escape makes 2 trailers with similar layouts.. A 17 foot and a 19 foot. We started this whole process looking at a 13’ Scamp to be used only for sleeping with tents outside for things like eating. We have through the process /morphed to at least needing a 17 foot as we added things like a bathroom and a place to sit to our list.
A Bathroom Required
Again the question of size came down to usage and layout needs. We decided we wanted things like a bathroom for that rare midnight situation where we can’t make it to the campsite bathroom. The 17 foot came with or without a bathroom. The 19 foot comes with one by default. This meant both options could meet those needs.
Minimum Size that Meets Our Requirements
We also decided we wanted to keep the weight down. The closer you get to the tow vehicles weight limits the more challenging the tow. Finally the idea here is for the family to spend more time outside, not in a trailer. Too nice and we might be tempted to never go outside.
As such we decided the 17 foot would still meet our needs and that the 19 foot would probably be nicer but more then what we need. The price difference between the two is only about 2-3 k so this was more about towing weight and our needs then price.
So we are buying a 17’ Escape Travel Trailer
For those with a keen eye to their website you will note the 17’ only sleeps 3 by default with a bunk option to sleep 4. We obviously are getting the bunk option. For the 5th person, the 2 year old, we will use a cot in the aisle. I have done measurements to ensure that cot will fit. Again we view this to be a temporary solution until the older kids move outside in the next 2-4 years.
The 19 Layout Would Not Appreciably Improve Sleeping Arangements
Frankly while the 19’ sleeps 5, the way it does it would not work for us. Two kids would have to share a double bed due to layout. Based on our experience with our kids that would not result in actual sleep. So the only real differentiator for us between the two was the height of the bathroom. And since we view the bathroom as an emergency use only item, the value of the 19’ for us was reduced. I can deal with bending down in the bathroom on the once in a blue moon we use it.
Other Options We Chose
We wanted to stay fairly basic with our choices. Escape has standard options but prides themselves on off build sheet customization. We chose to stay with standard options for layout, Formica, flooring, and fabric. Even within those standard options there were a multitude of choices. We chose lighter color options to keep the trailer having an open feel.
In addition to our air conditioner option the trailer came standard with a heater, water heater, stove top, steel appliance sink, and fridge. We chose not to get a microwave. We did upgrade our fridge to a larger size. This came at a cost of a few inches of aisle space, but will ensure we can store our appropriate food levels.
We got our trailer wired for solar but no solar installed, assuming we may want to add it in the years to come. We also got a electrical surge protector. Blame the computer science major in me, but I always want my electronics protect. Of course we got our aforementioned bunk. To this we had them switch to dual 6 volt battery’s to ensure longer lasting power if we don’t have a hookup in a campsite. Boondocking without power is likely not in our future, but the price was low enough that we’d rather be prepared. Finally we added a few outlets inside and out based on our intended usage. And that was it.
And Now We Wait For Travel Trailer Delivery
Our trailer will be built sometime in late December. Again remember the lead time. It will be delivered to near our home sometime in March to avoid the extra cost of winter storage. Look for writing on that locational independence in the late spring.