During the summer of 2009, we talked about purchasing a replacement home. Our current 2002 Dolphin motorhome was running good and working out fine, but it is approaching 8 years old. Of course, there's a few minor problems with it, but these are all cosmetic issues from living in it for the past 5 years. During one of frequent trips to Reno, NV while working in the Tahoe National Forest, we made a short stop at the only Newmar RV dealer in town. Over 8 years ago, we fell in love with the Newmar brand of motor homes. It was actually a Newmar that we went to purchase in 2002 when we came home with the Dolphin instead.
This dealer was very small and only had one Newmar in stock. They seemed to mainly handle the vacation type of RV's - not the fulltiming type. The salesman asked if we've ever considered a Tiffin brand of motorhome. Nope - we've never paid any attention to Tiffin. Although this small dealer didn't have many Tiffin models on display either, he showed us the one Tiffin Allegro RED motorhome that they had. It was a 36' diesel pusher Class A rig with 4 slideouts. RED actually stood for Rear Engine Diesel. It was Tiffin's low-end rear end diesel motorhome. Tiffin also has a FRED model (FRont Engine Diesel) of motor homes, but that's another story. We really liked what we saw. We returned a couple weeks later and took the Allegro RED for a test drive. WOW! What a difference the diesel made, along with the air brakes, when compared to our gas motor home.
After returning home, we did some serious research into the Allegro RED and learned that it was a low-end rig. Doing the research on Tiffin motorhomes, we learned that the Phaeton model was more what we needed, and was a #1 seller for diesel pushers. The Reno dealer didn't have one to look at, so we ended up going to the Sacramento Fall RV Show. This show was also a joke, with VERY few motorhomes for fulltiming. Most of what was there were toy haulers and vacation type RV's. However, they did have ONE Phaeton there to look at. We were impressed with the Tiffin construction and standard options for the price. We did a lot more research and came to conclusion this is what we wanted. Since we were doing fine in our current 36' motorhome, we concentrated on the Phaeton 36' rig.
After our seasonal work ended in October, we returned to Phoenix, AZ to visit family. While there. we spent half a day at a Tiffin dealer who had quite a few Phaeton motorhomes to view. The sales lady was real nice and informative. We got to take a 36' Phaeton for a test drive, which was great. However withthe chance to walk into and compare the various models, we decided a 40' motorhome was better for us. There were some drawers and cabinets in the 36' that seemed very small and we wouldn't be happy with. This wasn;t a problem in the 40' model. The floorplans were almost identical. The other big usse that we learned about was the Cargo Carrying Capacity (CCC). The CCC lets us know how much "stuff" we can safely carry. For fulltiming and living in your motorhome, 2500 pounds is the average that people carry. The 36' Phaeton can carry about 3300 pounds, but the 40' can only carry around 2300 pounds. The actual CCC varies per each rig based on the installed options. Remove a washing machine and dryer will give about 300 pounds back to the CCC. While the CCC was (and still is) a concern, we decided on a 40' Phaeton anyway. Connie doesn't want a washing machine and dryer in her motorhome, since they are so small and can't clean much at a time. So we figure our CCC will be around 2600 pounds.
After doing some more research and discussing it, we decided to see if we could "make it happen". I found a Tiffin Users group and discussion forum on the web, which was (and is) a great resource of information. From the users group, I got a list of dealers around the nation that give the best discount. Since we could travel anywhere to pickup a new motorhome, we decided to get price quotes from 9 dealers. We would custom order our new 40' Phaeton configured the way we want, with the colors we want. After emailing the 9 dealers, they were pretty quick in returning their prices. Since the dealer in Mesa, AZ had been so helpful to us, I gave them a chance to also provide a quote. The results were pretty close to what we expected. Since we had a trade-in of our current motorhome, this sort of messed up the pricing. Including the trade-in, the lowest quote on the new motorhome was about 26% off MSRP, while the highest quote was 100+% of MSRP. Yes - one dealer came back $1000 HIGHER than the Manufacturers Suggested Retail Price. How do they ever sell anything?
During all of our research, we learned that Texas (our home domicile) has a 6.25% sales tax on new vehciles when you register it. Ummm... this is over $10,000 on our new motorhome. To avoid the tax, we looked into forming a Montana Limited Liability Company (LLC). Many people do this, and there's a couple law firms in Montana that help you do it. Montana doesn't have a tax on registering your motorhome there, and being a LLC, you don't need to be a resident of Montana. There's much controversy over the legality and morals of creating a LLC for your motorhome. It comes down to personal preference. Forming a LLC for this purpose is completety legal, IF you follow all of the laws from Montana AND your home state. Some states have very strict laws that make forming a LLC for this purpose impracticable. For us, Texas does have some limitations. The main one was we couldn't bring the RV back into Texas for more than a month per year. Since we rarely get to Texas, this wasn't a problem for us. There's a BIG difference between tax evasion (illegal), and tax avoidance (legal).
After checking with a law firm in Montana to create an LLC for us, we decided to take it to the next level. We started to inquire about financing. Well... we hit a road block! With a LLC, the financing, registration, and insureance all need to be in the LLC name. Although a few companies advertise they grant loans for LLC, nobody we contacted would even consider a loan for a LLC for a RV used (owned) by a fulltimer. We had also heard we would run into getting insurance problems as well. We consider changing our domicile to South Dakota, which only has a 3% vehicle sales tax. But there were too many other complications with that for us as well. Primarily since we have a small business registered in Texas. After learning that the sales tax could be included in the financing, we decided to just "eat it" and pay the $10,000+ Texas sales tax.
Thinking our problems were solved, we moved forward and applied for a loan with a company that specializes in RV loans. They came back denying our loan. We were told two different banks declined us, stating that our "debt to income ratio" wasn't within their guidelines. I'm sure part of the problem was our proof of income and the payoff on our current RV. Our income comes from 3 sources - 1) about 50% from our seasonal jobs, 2) 30% form Larry's USAF pension, and 3) 20% from various business ventures we run. These banks wanted to use a Federal tax return as proof of income. In addition to providing them with our 2008 tax return, I also provided proof of our 2009 income. I think they just considered our 2008 tax returns. Larry decided we didn't want to take any more chances and be declined again. Our new plan was to payoff our current RV and wait a year before purchasing a new motorhome.
The various dealers who provided us quotes wanted to know our status. While a few of them accepted that we couldn't get financing, one dealer suggested we let them try to get us financing. It happened that we were at the Tiffin factory in Red Bay for a tour when this company contacted us. Connie also thought I had "given up" on trying to obtain financing too easily. Visiting the Tiffin factory only motivated us more to get a new rig. So we decided to change our travel plans and head directly to Tampa, Florida to talk with Lazy Days RV dealer. On their price quote, they weren't the lowest bidder, but not the highest either. While we may end up paying a little more, we felt it would be worth it if they could get us the financing. In addition, we felt more comfortable talking in person with someone about our finances than just faxing a tax return. Perhaps we could make they would understand our situation better.
After driving a few days from Red Bay, AL to Tampa, FL, we arrived at MacDill AFB. We went to visit Lazy Days RV dealer and talk with the salesman who had been emailing us. Greg was friendly and helpful. We were up froint with him about our recent disapproval and he still suggested we talk with their financial department. We met with John and explained our situation. HGe looked everything over and said he didn't see a problem or understand why were denied. We did learn that we may not have been told the truth form the previous lender. We were told 2 banks had disapproved our loan nd we were told who they were. We mentioned this to John and he couldn't see this in our credit report. Only one bank had checked into our credit recently (which was one of the ones we were told about). He made a phone call to the other bank and they had no record of our original application with them. With John's help and encouragement, we decided to apply for the loan again. The next day, we found out we were "tentatively" approved. The bank just wanted proof of our income. Since John was aware of our situation, he suggested we bring in 3 months of our banking statements. We brought him 4 months worth, which he looked at and said he still didn't see a problem. He sent them in to the bank. Our loan was approved within 30 hours of submitting it. Yippee!!
For the third day in a row, we returned to Lazy Days. However, this time we had an approved loan and were ready to make the purchase. We were prepared to order exactly what we wanted and wait the three months for production and delivery. However, Greg our salesman, found that Lazy Days already had a 40' Tiffin Phaeton motorhome on order that was the exact interior colors and wood that we wanted. We looked over the options ordered, and it had every option we wanted plus a few more. He checked and found out the new rig hadn't started production yet and we could delete a few of the options that we didn't want. Although we could have deleted more options, we decided to go ahead and accept the King size bed and outside television that was already on the order. We originally didn't care for these options. We put down a small deposit and "reserved" this rig for us. Now it was just a mater of waiting. He told us the estimated delivery was January 15, a little over a month away. We might get a new motorhome 2 months earlier than expected!
One of the things unique about Tiffin motorhomes is, they allow you to roam around the factory to observe construction. Many people go there to watch their motorhome be built. We got the "build number" from Lazy Days and called the Tiffin factory. We learned that OUR motorhome was scheduled to start production on December 14th. That's only 3 days from today! While we were hoping to make the 3 day drive back to Red Bay, AL to watch the "birth of our new baby", we won't be able to make it. We already had plans for our daughter to fly into town and visit Disney World with her all next week. By the time we could get back to Red Bay, our "baby" would be in the paint shop. Since we've already been there, we know it wouldn't be any fun to "watch paint dry". Even though we'll miss watching the production process of our own rig, we did get to see how it works there. More importantly, we've gotten past all hurdles (so far) and have our new Tiffin Phaeton 40' QTH motor home on order, with delivery to us in about a month!!!
Here's a couple photos of what our rig will look like. Same colors, same options.