A Case For Upgrades Instead of a Replacement

Now that the interior renos are just about done, I’m starting to set up a budget for the big ticket items I want to do, starting with a massive electrical upgrade. I’ve been asked if that’s wise; perhaps I should start setting money aside for a replacement rig. Why? Miranda is nearly perfect for me and would be even better with some major improvements that would still make her more cost effective than buying and breaking in a new rig. Yes, I do think about that, but it’s so far off in the future as to be off the radar. I might have been sounding malcontent in the last few months, but that was just renovation fatigue!

When you start to add up the cost of the upgrades, you have to start wondering if it might not be better to just start new. I look at it this way: what would my ‘dream’ rig cost today; that is a rig that is as perfect for me as Miranda is in size, layout, and carrying capacity, but not considering upgrades?  To do that I have to have an estimate for how much Miranda is worth today. This way, I can figure out how much she’ll cost me for the price I paid for her plus the upgrades versus what it’d cost me to get a basic brand new rig like her today, before upgrades.

I used the NADA guide to get an MSRP of a whopping 60,000USD for a 1997 tricked out Glendale Royal Classic. That’s 1997 American dollars. We can easily convert that to 90,000CAD. I used the inflation calculator to get a 2009 value of $112,000. That seems reasonable to me since one of the comparable rigs on the market today, the Lazy Daze, starts at 93,000USD for the 31’er.

So, to get a rig comparable to Miranda, I’d have to spend about $112,000 today, and that’s for a class C. Double that for a class A!

With interest, Miranda as purchased will end up costing me at most $40,000, but most likely less since I’ll start doubling my payments on her in two years to get out of the loan three years early.

I want to do several big ticket things to her. At this time, they are all unrealistic, but they are on my radar. These prices are estimated based on general research, but are reasonable:

1) electrical upgrade to 50A; new converter; whole-house inverter; doubled battery bank; solar panels: $6,000.

2) fiberglassed seams and new paint job: $10,000

3) new windows (double paned and tinted): $10,000

4) Let’s say I get a worst-case scenario and my engine or transmission (or both) go: $15,000

Total: $41,000

Total cost of rig, less regular upkeep and maintenance: $81,000 spread out over the ten or more years I hope to own this rig.

Or I could go spend $112,000 (plus taxes) and then do the $41,000 in upgrades. What makes more sense?

I’m off to research the feasibility of enclosing class C underbellies. Oh, and to start planning the cab makeover! Donna said I’d have no idea what to do with myself once the renos are over. Ha! 😀

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  • Well the used market sure does have alot of good deals. i bought my fiver for 40 and it was 2 years old, the original owners paid 85. They lost 45 grand over the course of two years, the owner handed me a brand new trailer. So deals are out there.

    A coach of that vintage does not warrant that kind of costs to upgrade. 40 grand is alot of money to put into a rv that is a 1997. I would suggest selling it and putting the money towards a newer unit with the options that you require. Or make do with what you have for a few more years.

    Maybe consider a small fifth wheel and proper tow vehicle, I just seen a 2005 Artic Fox 28 footer with two slides go for 16500.00, very well made unit with all the stuff that one would require for fulltiming in the cold north. Some small fifthwheels also have provisions for a washer dryer, real handy.

  • I have to agree with the previous poster. That is way too much to put into Miranda. Keep in mind that a newer coach will have some of the things you desire and nobody pays MSRP. If looking at new, knock 20-30% off the top. If looking at 1-2 years old, even more.
    Enjoy watching you do your reno’s however 🙂 Stay warm up there!

  • Hi Rae, all very interesting. I’d like to point out something I don’t get, though. You presumably know that the CAD and USD have been at parity for a while, given that you often go shopping in the US. So why do you convert $60,000 to $90,000 in Canadian dollars? You should be starting with $60,000 at 1997 and $80,000 in 2010 (using your inflation calculator), not $112,000! Or did I miss something?

    I’d say do some more research. Try to find a similar-sized rig that already includes double glazing, tinting, solar panel, etc, all the things you want. Or that the RV sellers can easily add as a cheap upgrade package. That way you have a more reasonable assessment of renos vs total upgrade. I suspect the figures may come out closer than you suspect, especially given that you live full-time in the rig and maintenance costs for an older rig may be more frequent than for part-timers.


  • Andrew, we were nowhere near at par in 1997! As I said, that 60/90 was 1997 dollars.

    And even though we are at par or nearly today, there is a HUGE discrepancy in prices. This is why so many Canadians are shopping in the US these days.

    One thing that you all need to factor in is that while my rig was 10 years old when it was bought used, it was in ‘like new’ condition. Moreover, there is a consensus in the RVing community that rig quality has really gone down since the end of the 90’s as manufacturers began to cut costs. Just comparing a ’97 Royal Classic to the last model produced, the ’04, is shocking. The ’97 is a much higher quality rig!

    In Canada today there is absolutely no class C that compares to Miranda. I know because of all the research I did two years ago! I got a very special rig.

    The only class C I’d even look at at this point is a Jayco Seneca, which is a super C and diesel with slides, etc. There isn’t a class A on the market that’s worth my consideration and going to a towable isn’t an option.

    My only other option is to build something custom, but why when the end result would be similar to Miranda and cost me ten times what upgrading her would?

    I’m not saying that I would put in that 41K if I had it, but if I did, no one could convince me that it’d be a bad idea, not with the junk that’s on the market today.

  • Ah, that makes a little more sense.

    If you’re going to spend a truckload on renovations in a short time frame, how about going down to Mexico to do it? Living costs are much cheaper, you could still do your contract work there while the rig was getting done up, and the renovation costs would be MUCH cheaper. Because labor costs are so much lower here (Mexico) than in the US, we’ve found car and rig repairs to be 1/2 to 1/10th the price, depending on what was being done. You could save a lot of money, even when including driving costs down here.

    Just a thought to ponder!


  • No worth getting anything done outside of Canada. If I do, I will have import my motorhome back into Canada and pay customs and tax on the new value of the rig!

  • […] to say, my upgrade plan for Miranda has changed radically. I’m going to continue maintaining her properly for as long […]

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