After much discussion, reading of reviews, and looking at floorpans, the choice was made.  Our next RV and future home would be a Grand Design Reflection 150 273MK.  As you may recall from Shipshe, Grand Design, and “One Small Step for Man”, we took a factory tour at Grand Design Recreational Vehicles in Indiana near the end of the last big road trip.  What we learned there definitely helped with the decision.  MW and I both felt that the company is truly focused on quality and customer service, which are the two things most important to us.  I’m certain that we will find stuff we would like to change after using Petunia for a while, but she does address all of the issues that we noted in Penelope.  Now we just need to find the right unit and make the purchase.

After Thanksgiving with the family, we headed over to Tennessee to hang out at Panther Creek State Park and figure out our first steps on the farm (more on that later).  The Panther Creek Campground  is one of the ones closest to our property in Sneedville and is pretty nice.  There are 50 paved sites with electric and water, and a handful of those have sewer.  However, 8-10 of the sites are suitable only for 25′ or less, so reservations are suggested if you have a larger rig.  There are two nice bath houses with private shower/toilet combos, and the campground and facilities are open all year.  They offer lots of activities, more in the warmer months, like guided hikes, games for kids, nature programs, etc.  The park is huge and has plenty of hiking, a pool, disc golf, and many other recreational options on the Cherokee Reservoir.  Located in Morristown, Tennessee, it is very close to shopping, restaurants, etc, but is not terribly noisy like some in-town parks.  We’ve been there a couple of times and enjoyed it.  When we arrived this time, the park was totally full.  We had no idea so many people camped on the weekend after Thanksgiving!  The weather was cold and getting colder, and the overnight temperature forecast was well below freezing on Monday and Tuesday nights.  Our original plan was to stay until Wednesday, but as the weekend wore on, the forecast for temperatures kept getting lower.  We went ahead and winterized Penelope on Monday, and all Tennessee chores completed, cut our trip short and headed home on Tuesday.

While in Tennessee, we decided to start the shopping process for Petunia.  We had already looked at models in North Carolina and Tennessee, so on the drive home, I contacted those dealers plus one in Alabama to get the process started.  All three models were similar with all of our “must haves”, but two had the extra air conditioner that we didn’t care about.  Starting with their “best prices” I went back and forth until each cried uncle on going any lower.  At that point, I let it marinate for a couple of days, to see if anyone would panic and go lower.  Finally, after weighing the extras that came with each offer, we decided to purchase from Bill Plemmons RV World in Rural Hall, North Carolina.  They were not the lowest price, but offered a nationwide, lifetime warranty with the deal, which we felt was worth the difference.  Their unit also has the extra a/c…bonus!

I’ve heard that the mark of a good negotiation is when both parties walk away feeling satisfied that they received a fair deal.  I think this qualifies.  With all things considered, we ended up just above 80% of MSRP on a first-model-year fifth wheel in an unusual configuration.  While I have seen forum discussions where folks got 75% or even 70% of MSRP, I believe those deals most often happen on inventory that has been sitting for a while or situations where the dealer has multiples and needs to move them.  We were very specific in what we wanted, and units with the options we needed were few and far between (literally).

If you are in the market to buy any type of vehicle (and most anything else that you can negotiate on), the above process will ensure a fair price.  I’ve had great success with cars in the past, both new and used.  The trick is to 1) do your research ahead of time and have a number in mind that you will not go above (in some cases I go ahead and write a check before ever walking into a dealership), 2), understand and accept that there is always a risk someone else will show up and buy the one you are negotiating on, and 3) most importantly, be willing to walk away.  In fact, you should plan on physically walking away at least once or twice during the process to make sure they know you will.  Once I had a Chevrolet dealer chase me across a parking lot to get me to come back.  In that case it took a couple more instances, one of which had me all the way home before they called, to get them to accept my pre-written check.  (In our example above, telling them I was checking with another dealer was walking away, as was the stewing period at the end.)  The minute you walk onto a lot and say “this is the one I want” with that big, goofy “it’s Christmas” look on your face, your negotiating power goes out the window.  They know that you have already parked yourself into that driver’s seat and, like a spider, they’ve got you in their web!  One final note on this, guilt should never play into this process.  Salesmen will tell you that “we aren’t making a dime” and “I’ve got kids to feed”, but the fact is that businesses may choose to lose money on an item, but overall they make a good profit and protect that fiercely.  In fact, I once knew a salesman who sold a Corvette for MORE THAN the sticker price by asking the young man what he wanted his payment to be!  Protect your wallet as well as they do theirs and you will be in good shape.

For us, the deal is done.  We are having the fifth wheel hitch installed as I write this (BTW, other places may install A LOT cheaper than an RV store) and will bring Petunia home on Friday.  It is exciting to get the next step taken care of, but it is one of many in this staircase.  Next up…the builder and the barn/RV site.

Stay tuned.  Change is good!


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