Sunday, June 13, 2021

RV Environmental Fooprint

We live in a passive/active solar home (Westbrook House) and generally have a light environmental footprint. So how can we justify a Winnebago Travato camper van that gets about 15-17 mpg? Paul has driven a Prius since 2004 (Paul's Prius) and Elena since 2006. We calculated in that time, versus driving 25mpg vehicles (the US average), we have saved 8,374 gallons of gas. That saved us $21,689, which is more than the cost of one Prius. To offset all those savings we would have to drive the RV for about 150,000 miles, which is unlikely - we would have very sore bottoms.

The other way to look at it is the CO2 footprint. Our normal vacation mode for decades has been to fly somewhere, rent a car, and either stay in hotels or bring our camping gear with us. Because of the large CO2 footprint associated with flying, we actually come out slightly better by driving and staying in our RV. As a bonus, Bebop can travel with us in the RV.

The van also has a 12.8kW lithium-ion battery bank on board that can charge via plug or via an alternator while driving. Solar panels on the roof provide a little charge as well. So, we don't have a noisy and polluting gasoline generator to run. Cooking is all electric with an induction cook top and combination microwave/convection oven. Propane is only used for space and water heating, though modest amounts of heating can also be done with the batteries. 

Though we'll be using the traditional fuel made from dead plants and dinosaur poop to move from site to site, we'll be doing it with a modest environmental footprint - or in the case of Bebop, a paw print.

Fly / Rental Car Vacation


RV Vacation




Wednesday, June 9, 2021

RV Buying Process

Paul has a process that he uses for almost all purchases. It’s described in detail in his book The Joy of Efficiency.

First Paul & Elena visited a local dealer (1 hr away) in late January 2021 and checked out the Travato G & K floor plans. They liked the K layout on paper, and confirmed that in person. They also wanted a KL model so they could have the battery bank to run our A/C if I had to stay in the van. There was a 2021 KL in the lot, but not with the color/options we wanted. We’re in no rush, so they decided to order a 2022 KL.

They picked our options and asked for their best price – Paul even mentioned that he had seen 25%-30% MSRP discounts from multiple people on a Facebook Travato forum. They came back at 24.5% off. So he contacted two other dealers – one about 4.5 hours away and another near the factory. Everyone prices differently (some have doc fees or prep fees), so he just added up everything that was not TT&L and used that as the comparison price to MSRP. One other quoted 25% off, but another opened at 27.2% off (even including an $895 prep fee). Paul emailed the local dealer to see if they could match, and they didn’t respond. A phone call to the 27.2% dealer and he got them to 27.8% off. Less than an hour later the local dealer called and asked what price would make us a buyer. Paul told them the OTD price of the 27.8% off (in retrospect he probably should have told them a better number, but he is honest). The dealer said they would beat that by a little, and we ended up with 27.9% off MSRP.

We know others have found better discounts in the past, but inventory seems a bit tight, and they seem a little less anxious about sales. We could have played them back and forth for a little more off, but at some point it’s good enough. We got a year 2022 model at the very start of the production year loaded with exactly what we wanted. Set for a late May / early June delivery and the pick-up will be just under an hour away. Update: Our RV started production in early May and completed on June 3rd. It arrived at the dealer in North Texas on June 10th and we'll pick it up on June 16th.

The Joy of Efficiency


Choosing a Vehicle

Paul & Elena travelled extensively in the past few decades. They’ve usually flown to an area, rented a vehicle, and explored a loop from the destination airport - and left the dog at home. They’ve been thinking about getting an RV for a few years and have researched the options.

The first big decision was a trailer or camper vehicle. They tend to not stay at any one location for a long time, so the camper vehicle seemed to fit the needs better. Then they had to figure out what size. With just two people and a dog we decided a camper van, also known as a Class B RV, was the right choice for us. It is smaller and more nimble than most RVs.

Next they compared all the available models using the time tested research mode described in Paul’s book The Joy of Efficiency. We looked at specs, reviews, reliability data, and more and narrowed in on the Winnebago Travato as a good choice for us. It didn’t stop there, as there are two different floor plans that we had to analyze – and then a decision on a lithium battery system or a traditional gas generator.

We made our decision based on the floor plans and then we visited a local dealer and climbed into both vehicles to make sure we were heading in the right direction. We decided on the Travato KL model with the lithium batteries instead of a generator. The battery bank allows us to be quietly off grid – and keep Bebop cool if Paul & Elena are out on a hike where dogs aren’t allowed.

Our 2022 Winnebago Travato 59KL

Winnebago Travato 2022 59KL