Okay so you’re considering the RV lifestyle, buying an RV for vacations or weekends or just maybe you’re goal is becoming a full-time RVer. What a way to live I am jealous.
My wife and I have traveled in our RVing for more than 40 years, we’ve camped at local lakes and toured to the other side of the continent. We’ve owned almost every model of RV, from the smallest to the largest, there are advantages and disadvantages to all RVs.
So many types and sizes to choose from, let’s see if I can help make things clearer.
Probably the first consideration when buying as RV is how much are you comfortable spending, a few hundred dollars for a used tent trailer or truck camper that needs work, or if you have deep pockets you can spend 7 figures on a large diesel pusher.
If you are like most of us you want to get the most bang for your buck.
A few facts about RV’s
Most are self-contained have a kitchen area, a toilet, at least one bed, holding tanks for fresh water and wastewater from the sink and shower (gray water) and sewer water (black water) from the toilet. Smaller units sometimes combine the gray and black into one holding tank.
The smaller less expensive units have fewer luxuries, larger more expensive unit is equipped with all the amenities you could imagine.
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The most affordable RV, although the price increases with size and amenities such as slide outs.
Of course, there is also the price of the appropriate size pickup truck.
A truck camper is ideal for two people for a week or two, however, if you plan to travel for extended periods a camper may be confining especially if the weather turns bad.
The fuel cost should be the most reasonable.
If your plan is to tour the world sightseeing the truck camper could be ideal. It’s much easier to maneuver through city traffic and will fit in most parking spots, although low clearance covered parking areas may be a problem.
Besides the limited space, leaving camp can be a problem, everything must be stowed or packed up. Unloading your camper is an option, but many RV parks frown on this practice and the process takes time.
The Mini Home (Class B motorhome)
The mini home or class ‘B’ motorhome is the ideal RV for touring. This vehicle has replaced the campervan or van conversion of the past. Its compact design is becoming popular due to its ease of handling and lower fuel costs.
These units come equipped with many of the amenities found in much larger units.
The price for a new Class B is high starting around $80k to over $100k for a new model. Again breaking camp with this type of self-propelled RV for an outing is a pain.
Some of the larger class ‘B’ motorhomes include slide outs, increasing living space dramatically.
The Travel Trailer
Probably the most sensible and versatile RV on the market
A towable or bumper hitch trailer, approx. sizes 10′ to 40′. Travel trailers obviously require a tow vehicle, a pickup truck or SUV are the usual choices.
Careful consideration of the vehicle towing capacity is very important. If you are involved in an accident and your trailer is not within the recommended towing capacity of your tow vehicle your insurance company may decline your claim.
Besides, towing over the recommended vehicle limits is not safe. Stopping quickly can be a problem causing an accident or your vehicle may be underpowered, climbing long hills can cause overheating and damage to the engine or transmission of your tow vehicle.
If a longer heavy trailer (over 2000 lbs) is your choice it requires a braking system usually electric and a brake controller on your tow vehicle. Proper adjustment of the brake controller is very important. Check the operator’s manual for proper settings.
The longer the trailer the more weight the greater the turning radius, similar to a large semi-truck requiring wide turns to negotiate a tight corner such as at an intersection.
All things being equal a travel trailer is a great choice, price ranges are at the lower end of the RV spectrum, about the same of a well-equipped truck camper with considerably more room.
Slide outs would be my choice for increased living space well worth the extra cost and increased weight.
Slides-outs are an amazing invention, with the push of a button you can increase your living space dramatically.
Uncoupling a travel trailer from your tow vehicle is quick and easy freeing your vehicle for short jaunts or long trips. The big advantage over other self-propelled RV’s is the low maintenance, tires and wheel bearings are the main items.
Travel trailers depending on the length are not as convenient as smaller motorhomes and campers for city travel and parking but great for extended stays.
The 5th Wheel Trailer
Approx. lengths 20′ to 40′ this trailer gets its name because of the ” 5 wheels”, 4 under the trailer at the rear and 1 under the trailer at the front connecting your pickup truck to the 5th wheel (hitch).
This setup also requires a tow vehicle usually a pickup, again the towing capacity of the pickup must match the trailer’s weight. An electric brake controller is also required.
Generally, 5th wheel trailers weigh more than travel trailers of the same floors space. The extra reinforcement to support the goose-neck design adds the extra weight.
An important consideration concerning trailer weight some states and provinces require a driver’s license endorsement, meaning passing a drivers course, theory and practical.
The maximum weight in some states and provinces is 10,000 lbs., you will need to visit the appropriate government agency website to confirm this requirement.
Gotta Love those Slides
5th wheel trailers have a unique interior design with usually an upper bedroom at the front (over the pickup) and a lower living area.
Similar to trailers 5th wheels are equipped with multiple slide outs, sometimes 4 or 5. The slides make for a huge living space.
The main advantage of a 5th wheel trailer over bumper hitch travel trailer the turning radius is shortened considerably. The configuration of the hitch over the rear axle helps to stabilize a portion of the trailer is over the pickup box shortening the overall length.
Of course, this setup renders the pickup box virtually unusable, although I have seen some ingenious configurations to utilize some of the space. Of course uncoupling the trailer to free up your tow vehicle is also possible.
Besides being heavier than travel trailers, 5th wheels have a higher profile making them susceptible to wind influence and resistance.
5th wheels commonly have more storage space than travel trailers. The liveability of 5th wheels is probably the best of all RVs great for extended trips.
The Motor Home
Generally the most expensive of RVs and maybe the least practical, from a cost perspective, unless your plan is to travel extensively. An expensive vehicle parked for most of the year depreciating is not the wisest use of your hard earned money.
Sizes – compact to huge. Probably the most enjoyable touring RV, with easy access to all your amenities.
Sitting in your living room driving down the highway is by far the best way to see the country.
Another advantage over towables, when the outside temperature is cold you don’t need to leave the warmth of your vehicle for a cold trailer or camper.
The Class ‘A’
The Class ‘A’ model is well suited for traveling, the driver and passenger position is higher providing a greater field of vision while driving as well as enjoying the scenery.
Those large gray concrete guards along the highway no longer block out the sites.
The first trip in our Class ‘A’ motorhome we were astonished by how much more countryside we could see.
Motorhomes also may include multiple slides increasing your living area. Motorhomes although being the best way to tour, have their disadvantages as well.
Bigger is Better??
A large motor home may not fit in many parking lots, stops of interest, and are challenging to maneuver in city traffic, similar to a travel trailer you may need to use more than one lane to make a corner.
This is where trip planning becomes important to avoid traveling through the center of a large city.
I am sure however many of us, myself included whose navigator, we’ll say miscalculated, for lack of a better term, and taken us there. We lived to speak of it, enough said I’m sure.
The Snowbirds Guide
Check out my ebook for planning your travels “The Snowbird’s Guide,” great for anyone who wants to avoid common pitfalls and problems of traveling.
My wife Lynda and I have combined our 20 years of travel experiences in this book to help travelers avoid the problems of traveling. Download from Amazon.
One of the biggest concerns other than the cost of purchasing a large motorhome which can be well into 6 figures, is the cost of fuel and maintenance.
They come equipped with many complex systems besides the usual engine, transmission, tires, and electrical, there is also the sanitary and water systems, 110-volt and 12-volt electric systems, a propane system, and possibly a hydraulic leveling system and many others.
All of which are much more expensive to maintain than you would guess. For example to change the spark plugs in our 36′ class ‘A’ 1999 Southwind with a gas V10 engine was $300.00….. An in-law of mine was shocked at paying $1000.00 for an oil change on his diesel pusher.
The Diesel Pusher
A term used for the ultimate large class ‘A’ motorhome with the diesel engine in the rear, usually 35′ to 42′ in length.
You have probably stood with your mouth open as one of these luxury land yachts floated by. One of the main issues with a motor home besides the purchase cost and high maintenance cost is getting around after setting up in an RV resort or boondocking location.
Many motor homes tow a car or a trailer containing another mode of transport to get around once camp is set.
Otherwise, a simple trip to pick up groceries, more wine, or a visit to a local attraction becomes a major production. Everything needs to be loaded or stowed.
A final note if you are considering the option of towing a vehicle only a few brands of cars are easily converted to a tow vehicle. Be sure to check with the vehicle manufacturer.
Buying a used RV may be a consideration. There are many great deals to be had, people who bought and decide RVing is not for then.
Also purchasing a used RV may come with less frustration, manufactures defects and oversights will probably have been addressed.
Whatever type of RV you decide I suggest renting before you take the plunge.
Check out my new e-book “The RV Buyers Guide” a look at the advantages and disadvantages of each model.
Purchasing an RV is a big decision, the right model to fit your needs is equally important. It can be frustrating and disappointing buying something that does not suit your family perfectly.
If you plan to travel and see the sites a smaller compact RV may be your choice. Once you have seen the world a larger more roomy RV that sits at one location for extended periods may work.