RVs Part 1 – Decisions, Decisions

Makes you want to be there, huh?

Makes you want to be there, huh?

We’ve decided to provide a little insight on what is probably the most important decision a potential full-time RVer can make.  What kind of RV am I going to buy?  I mean, it is going to be your home, right?  It’s also one of the biggest investments you might make in your entire life, exceeded, probably, only by your sticks and bricks home.  It’s a big deal.  No offense to the full-timers out there but I don’t suspect they are the ones to ask for advice.

We don’t say that because they lack knowledge or because they don’t have a keen sense for the pros and cons of a particular model or even many models.  No, we say that because they’ve made their decision.  They have found the RV that’s right for them for whatever reason.  You and us, the aspiring RV buyer, will have our own preferences and criteria.  We need to pick our future home based on our needs not those of someone else. What we intend to do here is provide a discussion of the various types of RVs used by the full-timer community, their advantages and disadvantages and so on.

Why?  Well, we’ve owned a few RVs but that’s not the reason.  It’s precisely because we’re trying to decide ourselves.  We’re leaning towards a class A but that’s not settled and won’t be until we sign on the dotted line, so to speak. Without getting into great detail, what kind of things should be considered when looking for an RV.  Well, for most of us, cost is a big one.  Sure we’d all love a million dollar coach but that’s not in most of our budgets.  Size, storage and amenities are also important.  How are you going to use it?  Lots of time in RV parks or boondocking out in the middle of nowhere?  Will you be retired or working on the road?

There are a ton of reasons why one might choose one kind of RV over another and you’d do yourself a favor to list your reasons, your desires.  Then as you research you can weigh those against the strengths and weaknesses of each RV type and model you consider.  There is no perfect RV.  Each is a compromise in one way or another.  RVs themselves are a compromise in that they have to be road worthy as well as your primary dwelling.  Finally, remember this is our opinion and you should form your own opinions because this is a personal decision based on your specific wants and needs.

That being said, We’ll begin with the types of RV you probably won’t want to consider and then hit the five types you might with more detail in further posts (Class A and Class C motorhomes, travel trailers, 5th wheels and truck campers).  Then again, who knows?  Many people full-time in rigs you wouldn’t believe the could.  For some that’s the right decision but for most of us, these are the rigs to avoid if looking to full-time RV, not because they don’t have their uses and benefit but because for the vast majority of full-timers, they just aren’t going to what we want.

The tent trailer.

The tent trailer.

Tent Trailer/Folding Trailers – We’ve owned two tent trailers and there’s a lot to like about them but they aren’t for full-timing.  They have a surprising amount of room and features considering the small size.  Both of ours had king sized beds on one end on a queen on the other!  But they fold and are, therefore, hard to set up take down.  Many don’t have holding tanks and a precious few have showers and toilets.  Storage is minimal and they are three-season RVs, in other words they’re not built for winter or even poor weather.  I spent a very cold night in a fishing camp with the heater going full blast and still froze my butt off.  For weekend camping, these are great but for the full-timer, look elsewhere.

A class B van conversion.

A class B van conversion.

Class B Motorhomes/Van Conversions – Like the name implies, these are basically full-sized vans converted to be a motorhome of sorts.  They can have nothing more than a seat that folds into a bed or have all the amenities, albeit not as luxurious, as a larger RV.  But they are tiny and the more features you get, the more compromises there are.  If you love the outdoors, are single and/or eschew material possessions, then maybe these are for you.  Otherwise, steer clear.  They may look pretty cool but chances are you’ll be looking to upgrade sooner rather than later.

Toy hauling trailer but you can get motorhome versions too.

Toy hauling trailer but you can get motorhome versions too.

Sport Utility RVs/Toy Haulers – These are the travel trailers, 5th wheels and even motorhomes with the garage in back.  You can park your dirt bike, four-wheeler, custom chopper, whatever, in these things and still have a place to sleep, eat and hang out.  It’s not that none of these are full-time worthy, they may be be the perfect compromise for your lifestyle, but they are compromises.  Many have fold down beds or seating, limited luxury items, etc., not to mention you get to live where you store your toys.  These are purpose-built and without the need, what’s the point?  Most full-timers would likely be served better with a dedicated full-time RV and tow the toys behind.

Low End Anything – That $12,000 dollar travel trailer or $30,000 motorhome might looks like a steal but they will probably cost more in the long run.  Something must give when the price is so low and usually it’s the stuff you’re looking for in a full-time rig.  Particle board cabinets, low-end fixtures and appliances, cheap decor, poor mattresses, etc.  Weekends at the lake are one thing but day in day out living takes a toll on these rigs.  In addition, the performance is usually not up to par.  Cheap blinds, far too little insulation, plastic everything, small tanks, and the list goes on.  You’ll be constantly upgrading and repairing and that makes the initial savings disappear.  If you’re on a budget, look for higher quality used model.

Fixer-uppers – Some people have the desire, budget and time to restore an older RV.  Some of us have to do it to meet a budget.  For most of us, however, these are a bad idea.  We’re not talking about small upgrades and cosmetic changes like replacing carpet with laminate flooring or installing a new faucet.  No, we’re talking about that old Airstream that needs to be gutted or the RV that has major damage.  You’d better know what you’re doing if you go this route.  If not, don’t.  This will be your home and if playing handy-man (or woman) all the time isn’t your idea of fun, look elsewhere no matter how good the deal seems.

We’re sure there are more RVs you should avoid in most instances.  Those goofy pop-up trailers or tiny houses on utility trailers for instance.  Some people might find some of these RVs the be a perfect fit but most of us won’t.  We are looking for rigs that are made to go down the road, support full-time living and offer quality on par with stick-built homes.  So, part 2 of the series will focus on the minor leagues of full-time travel, travel trailers, Class C motorhomes and truck campers.  Part 3 will focus on the major leagues, Class A motorhomes and 5th wheels.  Then in part 4, I’ll get into the specific things to look for in a full-time RV and finally, in part 5, we’ll talk some about the ideal boondocking RV.

Disagree?  Have a question or maybe some advice?  We love comments and questions.  Leave one and start a conversation. Until then…

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