Stories from new RV owners: Buying a Rapido 696F

By: Jill Malcolm , Photography by: Jill Malcolm


In the first of a new monthly column, NZMCD interviews the owners of a newly purchased RV to learn how they made their decisions

Grant and Adele Fowlie have made big changes in their lives over the past few years. They sold their recovering kiwifruit farm near Tauranga and with it the house that Adele described as ‘shabby without the chic’.

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They upgraded to a modern and more comfortable house at Red Beach near Auckland, and then last month, they also upgraded their ‘motorhome’.

"It wasn’t really a motorhome," Adele says. "It was a Ford Transit van that Grant used most of the time as a work van. We would empty it out when we wanted to go away, fit in a sofa bed, a camp stove, and a chilly bin and head off. We did quite a few trips like that. One of them was to the South Island.

"The van was not self-contained, so we always stayed in camping grounds. Every few days, we would give ourselves a night of luxury in a motel and, much to Grant’s disdain, we also had to when I filled up the van with so many op shop purchases, we couldn’t fit ourselves in." But as Adele explains, things will be different now.

Tell us about your research process

RnRV is by the Silverdale turnoff, and as we live at Red Beach, I quietly researched every time we drove past. Last year, I spied a red van that didn’t look much higher than our Transit.

Accompanied by our son and daughter-in-law and with the measurements of our carport, we checked it out. We liked it but, unfortunately, the Carthargo Malibu was a few centimetres too high to fit under our carport. We widened our sights and altered our specifications.

The kids were pretty vocal in letting us know that we should act our age and get something with a few more bells and whistles than what we were considering. We didn’t need to look far. Parked right next to the Malibu was a Rapido.

It was love at first sight. We could immediately see ourselves in it but, as often happens with love, this one was taken!

What was the biggest challenge in choosing the right RV?

Because of the astounding number and types of motorhomes on the market, research was challenging. We are not impulse buyers (even when in love). For about six weeks, we looked around the yards in Auckland and in Tauranga.

We used our phone cameras and took notes along the way, which made it easier when discussing the pros and cons of each van later.

What features were most important to you?

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To avoid conflict, when we shop for big-ticket items, Grant and I have a few rules. Grant likes things to ‘work well’ and I like them to ‘look good’.

We both list our ‘not negotiables’ and agreed to not venture inside anything beyond the price range we have set. The ‘not negotiables’, in this case, were that it must be under seven-and-a-half metres, must have a permanent bed, and a large garage with easy access for bikes and an inflatable dinghy.

Many motorhomes do not have a large enough garage so that made our search easier. No large garage—walk on by. After all of our research, we didn’t find anything within our price range that met our requirements and might displace the Rapido 696F as our favourite (in particular the ‘work well, look good’ rule).

How did you find the process of buying and the handover?

In November last year, having settled on the Rapido 696F, we headed back to see Paul and Rochelle Cook at RnRV and signed up. The contract was fairly straightforward, but Paul went through it thoroughly to make sure we understood the time frames and to list the extras that were included.

The only surprises were pleasant ones, such as the motorhome arriving a few months earlier than expected due to Rochelle’s persuasive way with the French manufacturers. The handover was also stress-free.

After the paperwork was done, Kurt, very patiently and slowly, took us through our purchase, from how to plug it in to the more complex workings of our new home away from home.

What are your favourite features of your motorhome?

There are too many favourite features to list fully. High on the list is the surprisingly comfortable island bed, which has adjustable height, and the Rapido’s double doors between the living area and the bedroom.

With both doors closed, the sound from the living area does not disturb anyone resting in the bedroom. The double doors also aid privacy when we have guests and the drop-down bed is in use.

What advice would you offer others who are looking for an RV?

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It is important to respect each other’s ‘not negotiables’ and to keep within budget. Keep searching until the criteria are met and it will be ‘happy camping’ all the way. After we had bought the van, we ‘bedded in’ by parking the Rapido close to home and living in it for a few days to see what we needed and what we could do without.

We took the car so we could easily drive back and forward with discarded or needed items as we worked it out. Both of us wanted to be able to drive the motorhome. I found it very easy to drive but I’ve just got to remember that I’m not driving a car.

Is there anything about your new RV you’d change/improve if possible?

It is early days, but at this stage, there is nothing we would change. Because we’re are long-time boaties, I got a bit of a shock at first to find there wasn’t as much food storage space as I was used to on a boat. That was until I remembered that we’d be on land and would have no need to carry much food with us.

What travel plans do you have?

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Firstly, we plan to finish our South Island touring that we started years ago in our Transit van. Leaving the Bay of Plenty to move to Auckland was a retirement decision that we did not make lightly and we still have close ties there.

While living in the bay, we were too busy working and had limited time to just slow down and enjoy our surroundings so we also want to use the motorhome as a mobile bach—park up at the Mount or Papamoa for weeks at a time, slow down and savour one of the best places on Earth.

Is there anything you would do differently?

We wouldn’t have waited so long to buy a motorhome!

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