Okay so you’re considering the RV lifestyle, buying an RV for vacations or weekends. Maybe becoming a Snowbird is your plan or just maybe you’re considering becoming a full time RVer. What a way to live, I am jealous.
My wife and I enjoy RVing even after more than 40 years of RV travel, we camp at our local lakes and travel to the other side of the continent in our RV. After owning every kind of RV from the smallest to the largest, we have discovered the advantages and disadvantages of most every model.
So many types and sizes to choose from, lets see if I can help make things clearer before you take the plunge into purchasing an RV.
Probably the first consideration. How much are you comfortable spending. You can spend a few hundred dollars for a used tent trailer or truck camper that needs work, to a sum approaching 7 figures on on a 42′ diesel pusher.
If you are like most of us you want to get the most bang for your buck.
Almost all are self-contained, they are equipped with cooking facilities, a toilet, at least one bed, holding tanks for fresh water and waste water from the sink and shower (grey water) and sewer water (black water). Sometimes smaller units combine grey and black water in one holding tank.
RVs have all the amenities of a home,a frig, furnace, air conditioning, a TV or two, a stereo and DVD player, just to mention a few.
Here are are some of the main types of RV’s you might consider.
A camper that fits into your pickup box. Probably the most affordable, other than a tent or tent trailer.
A truck camper can have the lowest purchase price of all RVs, although the price will increase if you require a large unit with slide outs, add in the cost of a pickup a large pickup if you do not already own one.
A truck camper is ideal for two people for a week or two of camping or RVing, if the plan is to travel for extended periods a camper may become confining especially if the weather turns bad.
If your plan is touring the world with brief stops, in and out of cities this type of RV could work. The truck camper combination is one of the easiest RVs to maneuver and will fit in most parking spots. Height may be a problem in low clearance parkades.
Besides the limited space, leaving camp can be a problem, every item 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 motor home)
If your goal is to tour the mini home or class ‘B’ motor home may be your choice. This vehicle has replaced the camper van or van conversion of the past. It’s compact design is becoming popular due to its easy of handling and lower fuel costs.
These compact units are equipped with many of the amenities found in much larger units.
The price starting around $80k to over $100k, and as with all self propelled RVs higher maintenance costs compared to a towable, and breaking camp for a trip to the store is inconvenient.
Some of the larger class ‘B’ motor homes include slide outs, increasing living space dramatically.
The Travel Trailer
A towable or bumper hitch trailer, approx. sizes 10′ to 40′. With this set up you obviously require a tow vehicle, a pickup truck or SUV are the usual choices for towing a trailer.
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 damage claim.
Besides, towing over the recommended vehicle limits is not safe. Stopping quickly can be a problem maybe causing an accident. Your tow vehicle may be under powered, climbing long hills can cause overheating and damage to the engine or transmission.
If a large heavy trailer is your plan trailer brakes will be necessary, with a brake controller in your tow vehicle. Proper adjustment of the brake controller is very important for proper braking. Check the operators manual for proper settings.
The longer the trailer the more weight and the greater the turning radius, similar to a large semi-truck that requires a wide turn and must swing out into the middle lane to get around the corner at an intersection.
It’s not likely your trailer will require this amount of room to turn, I’m sure you get the idea. Lessons and practice towing is a good idea.
Travel trailers depending on the length are not as convenient as small motor homes or truck campers for city travel and parking. The best solution is to find a RV park or camping area a outside a city.
Uncoupling a travel trailer from your tow vehicle is quick and easy freeing your vehicle for trips to town or site seeing. The big advantage over self propelled RV’s is the low maintenance, tires and wheel bearings, that’s it. As far as the running gear.
All things considered a travel trailer is a great choice, the price range is 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.
Large trailers are great for camping in one location for extended periods.
Gotta love those Slides
The slide out has to be the most exciting and innovative RV industry inventions of the last 20 year. It’s amazing the transformation from a long narrow room to a more usable living area. The slide adds more than space, it changes the inside atmosphere of an RV.
I’m not sure I would consider buying an RV without a slide out.
The 5th Wheel Trailer
(towable) approx. lengths 20′ to 40′ this trailer gets its name from the ” 5 wheels”, 4 under the trailer at the rear and a circular disc forming part of the hitch, connecting your pickup truck to the trailer.
5th wheel trailers have a unique interior design, usually an upper bedroom at the front (over the pickup box), they may have multiple slide outs., sometimes 4 or 5. The slides makes for a huge living space.
A 5th wheel trailer also requires a tow vehicle usually a pickup, again the towing capacity of the pickup must be matched to the 5th wheel trailer’s weight, and a brake controller installed in the tow vehicle.
Generally 5th wheel trailers weigh more than travel trailers with the same floors area.
An important consideration concerning the weight of a 5th wheel trailer is that some states and provinces require the driver to have an endorsement on his/her drivers licence, meaning you are required to pass 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.
Besides being heavier than travel trailers, 5th wheels have a higher profile making them susceptible to wind influence and resistance.
The main advantage of a 5th wheel trailer over bumper hitch travel trailer is the turning radius is shortened considerably. The configuration of the hitch over the rear axle helps to stabilize , and a good portion of the trailer is over the pickup box shortening the overall length.
Unfortunately with the 5th wheel hitch centered in the pickup box limits the use of the box, although I have seen some ingenious configurations to utilize much of the space. Of course uncoupling the trailer to free up your tow vehicle is an advantage over self propelled RVs.
5th wheels with several slides are great for long vacations such as in the case of snowbirds who may set up at a particular destination for months at a time.
The next post, “Part 2 of Buying an RV”, I cover Motor Homes Class ‘C’ to the ultimate Class ‘A’.
Navigation is particularly important when traveling with an RV. There are many situations to consider, good navigation aids will help eliminate possible issues.
There are many routes not suitable for RVs especially larger RVs. For instance the road from Leggitt Cal. on hwy 101 to the coast hwy. Due to sharp curves and switch backs the length restriction is 25 ft.
Traveling through a large metropolis is stressful at the best of times, but an unfamiliar city compounds the problem. If you are not equipped with an up to date GPS and detailed map book. The loonie bin is where your headed, if you can find it.
Poor navigation equipment can cause frustration and stress.
Dead end – I had to back onto someone’s lawn to turn around. Our GPS wasn’t up to date.
Wrong exit – causing a long unplanned detour, RVs need plenty of room to turn around.
A snow covered hwy – a good map book is essential for determining elevation for route planning.
Down town LA – not saying it was anyone’s fault, but my navigator forgot she entered LA as a via point and forgot. Bad language may have happened.
Two Important Navigation Aides
GPS & Map Book
The Garmin Nuvi GPS is the one we’ve used for years.
Spoken Turn-By-Turn Directions, Preloaded Maps and Speed Limit Displays
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I hope this article has provided some insite into RV buying.
Thanks for Visting and watch for my next article on “Buying an RV Part 2”.