For those of us that have been RVing in a self-contained Motorhome for many years, eventually this question comes up; selecting an answer determines what we will do in the remaining years of RV travel.
Sometimes the decision is driven by a desire to ‘see the country’ or ‘to travel fulltime‘. In other cases, a physical reality settles in: ‘It really is getting too much to travel as I/we have been doing – it’s a lot of work and stress’ or ‘with the loss of my travelling companion (wife, husband, or significant other), the current RV just does not work for me’. Sometimes there is a legal or statute compliance issue (i.e. driver’s license requirement) that drives change - like it or not. Ultimately, it may come down to a reality that much of life has passed us by, and while we could ‘hang up the keys’, there are places that we would like to explore. These situations prompt the question posed in the title to this article: Should We Right Size or Downsize?
This question arose over the past couple of years in our lives, on a few levels: Given the passage of time, the requirements to keep a valid RV driver’s license/permit came into play. Details are in the footnote, however suffice it is to say that any non-compliance would result in an immediate downgrade of my driver’s license, making it illegal, without that license, to drive the RV we owned. (shown below for clarity online)
Footnote :  When we purchased a 41 foot diesel pusher, which had a GVWR of 34,600 pounds (15,694 Kilograms) and could tow 15,000 Lbs. (6,803 Kg), I already had the required ‘Z’ air brake endorsement, however my drivers license was limited to 24,000 Lbs. (11,000 Kg). I needed to upgrade to a Class ‘D’ license to drive the new RV and to tow my roughly 4,000 Lbs. (1,815 Kg) tow vehicle. With the advent of free trade under NAFTA (now USMCA), all jurisdictions in North America were required over a period of time to bring their commercial truck driving license (‘Class’ A’) requirements to a common standard so that truckers could drive across state and international borders in compliance with the applicable laws. Other licenses for larger vehicles were also expected to align as time passed. The Truck driving license requirements were quick to adjust and slowly our Province (Ontario) began to adjust and comply with the common license requirements. We received notice two years ago that our drivers license was now being brought up to that new international standard. The original license requirements, when I applied for the Class ‘D’ license, ten (10) years earlier, stated that I needed a medical compliance certificate to get the license and then on each five year renewal, an updated vision and written knowledge tests, together with a re-certification of the air brake ‘Z’ endorsement was required. One of the new changes that has been implemented was one, associated with an age of 65 or older, that required that I submit an annual medical certificate completed by a medical doctor after an annual physical examination. There were a series of individual requirements, and any failure to meet them resulted in the loss of the Class ‘D’ license. While there is an appeal process, it is more a process not a factual appeal. If you cannot meet the standard your ability to keep the Class ‘D’ is forfeited. Without that license, while you might not get stopped by Police Authorities, your vehicle insurance is predicated on being properly licensed and in the event that you do not have the proper Drivers License then the insurance would not cover you. In the event of an accident you would face some difficult consequences.
We faced this issue, after I suffered a concussion following a fall. Tests to determine if there were any real ramifications resulting from it, would take a year to complete, which was well past the annual license renewal timeframe. Fortunately, I was able to get a one-year extension, under the medical circumstances. The upshot of this situation was that owning and driving a RV that required a ‘D’ license, would absolutely place our ability to travel in our current RV, at risk. Think about the consequences of that for a moment: A third party (the State/Province) has complete control over your ability to enjoy your RV!
Combine that reality with the fact that it was taking more effort to maintain an eleven (11) year old coach in excellent condition, given the level to which it had been maintained. For our own safety and peace of mind, I was not going to put that at risk. Each of us was dependent upon the other more and more and our teamwork had already faced a change when my wife, due to a medical issue, no longer felt comfortable driving our current RV.
These factors started to bring the ‘Downsize or Right Size’ thoughts to the forefront. We chose a direction early in the process: If we were going to continue RVing, then we had to ‘Downsize’. To us that meant changing from a Class A (Diesel Pusher) to a Class B or C, eliminating the potential driver’s license issue. We had looked closely at a Canadian made unit, built on a Mercedes Van chassis, having toured the Leisure Travel Van (maker’s) plant on our return from our Yukon and Alaska trip in 2015. Their focus was on quality, many of their assembly line staff had decades of production experience, which they passed on to the newer team members who worked with them. The RV maker had successfully resisted the pressure to build more product, faster and had stayed with a conventional weekly production schedule. Of course, the demand had skyrocketed for their coaches and used units were almost impossible to find. Not withstanding those factors, they were routinely innovating and adjusting to changing market expectations.
When it was announced that the 2019 Mercedes RV Chassis would be upgraded by offering many significant safety and user enhancements which would place it at the cutting edge of the RV industry, we decided that ordering the Leisure Travel Van on this chassis was the way to go. We had experience with those safety features and enhancements on our Electric Car, which was delivered in May 2019. Selecting a RV with many of the same features, was very appealing.
After repeatedly meeting with our local dealer, which was sold out of both on the lot and incoming models, we then scoured many of the Canadian dealers in search of a suitable RV. We located one and placed an order for a 2020 model, with the only dealer that had an unsold unit, located 3,400 km (or 2,100 miles) from our home. Unexpectedly, our local dealer called and told us that they had one unsold unit on order, featuring a new floorplan, which was to be used as a display unit at a winter RV show. We could take it, if we could adapt to that floorplan and allow them to continue to offer it as a display vehicle at the show. We cancelled our first purchase, then placed our order for that show vehicle.
During the Spring of 2020, we were impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic which resulted in the closing of businesses, including RV dealerships, for many weeks as slowing the spread of the virus was the priority. Slowly, businesses were allowed to reopen, provided that they took social distancing and sanitizing protocols into their operations.
We were given an appointment and went to look at the RV we had purchased. It was a well made coach, with many desirable features, however both my wife and I concluded that it was a RV made for ‘driving and traveling’, not for ‘living in’, as we had become used to doing. What I mean by that statement, is that we could easily travel to a destination, park almost anywhere, given its compact size, and explore the area using it as our means of transportation around our destination. Then we would move on to another place to explore, repeating the process.(To be Continued)