RVs Part 2 – The Minor Leagues

The great outdoors

The great outdoors

We’ve detailed the purpose of this series and the types of RVs potential full-timers might want to avoid in their search for their future home on wheels here.  Now, it’s time to start talking about the RVs that full-timers seem to choose most often.  Of course, this is mostly opinion and observational based.  We have no data and these posts are probably ripe with our personal biases.  Still, our feelings on the subject might help you in your choice.

So, this post is entitled “The Minor Leagues” but we aren’t judging.  These are all viable choices for full-timers or those that travel extensively in an RV.  Each has a lot of benefits but each also has some drawbacks that keep them from being top choices for most RVers.  We will detail those pros and cons for travel trailers, class c motorhomes and truck campers.  Two of these, travel trailers and class C’s, are relegated to the minors mainly for one reason.  Their counterparts, fifth wheels and class A motorhomes, trump them in many categories important to most full-timers but more on that as we go.

Your average travel trailer.

Your average travel trailer.

Travel Trailers – These might be the most versatile and popular RV out there.  They come in sizes that range from ten or twelve feet up to an beyond forty feet in length.  You can get an inexpensive trailer meant for weekend camping or a high end trailer meant for extended travel.  Travel trailers are identified by their tow method, a bumper or frame mounted hitch and the smaller trailers can be towed by small cars, mini-vans and Jeeps.

Now, travel trailers have some awfully attractive features and it’s no wonder they are so popular in general.  They are relatively inexpensive.  They offer a lot of room and features for the price too.  Ours was a paltry fourteen grand brand new but had a full bath, microwave, air-conditioning, water heater, and more.  You can sleep a family quite easily in one (ours had bunk beds, a short queen bed and a convertible dinette), they are warm, have decent storage and can be towed by your average vehicle.

But they have a downside too.  Many are built as weekend rigs.  Plastic everything, particle board, poor mattresses, etc.   Sure you can get upgraded units but there’s the problem.  If you’re going to spend that kind of cash, why not get a fifth wheel instead?  Fifth wheels are the travel trailer’s big brother.  They are easier to tow, offer more living area in a shorter package, have more storage and more features.  Not that travel trailers are bad, but they generally are trumped but fifth wheels where it matters most to full-timers.

However, there are many full-time RVers living it up in a travel trailer.  They are viable options to be sure.  You can find units with decent sized tanks, upgraded features and all the comforts of home.  We wouldn’t rule these out at all but they aren’t the end all be all of RVs either.  Certain factors like budget, lifestyle, etc. might tip the balance in favor a travel trailer but more often that not, if towing is your preference, a fifth wheel wins out.

Truck and camper.

Truck and camper.

Truck Campers – Unlike travel trailers or class c motorhomes, truck campers are a bit of a niche rig.  However, they have some clear advantages over every other option out there as well as a lot of shortcomings.  These used to be my dream.  A truck and camper towing a boat, that was my idea of perfect.  Until we owned a used Six-Pac camper and a boat that is.  Jen’s never liked campers or boats all that much.  A single guy (or gal) with specific lifestyles like fishing or horses might love the versatility.

And that’s where truck campers shine.  You own a trailer and truck, where’s the bass boat go?  You own a motorhome and toad (a tow behind vehicle), where to do you put the horses?  Hmm?  With a truck and a camper, you have your home, your vehicle (yeah motorhomes are driveable but who wants to pull up stakes every morning to go get coffee?) and you can still tow something else like a boat or a horse trailer, maybe a utility trailer full of tools for your on the road profession or your motorcycle.

The list of advantages beyond that is limited.  Some have slides and dry baths, they are compact units that can do more off-roading than most RV’s but that’s about it.  They are small, cramped in fact.  The have small holding tanks, can be awkward to live in and the big ones require one beefy truck to carry them.  While the truck and camper are separate, some RV parks won’t allow you to unload the camper for safety and insurance reasons (they can’t tow or drive them out of harms way easily).  They are expensive for their size too.  Expect to pay thirty to fifty thousand for a nice one.

But for some folks, these are the bees knees.  They allow them to full-time and engage in their lifestyle of choice.  Some folks just don’t mind being relegated to the outdoors because their rig is too small to lounge in.  Others might like the off-road capabilities a four-wheel drive truck and camper combo provide.  These make it, for me, in to the minor leagues instead of the don’t consider list because they offer such the unique advantage of towing while having a separate vehicle as well.  You could say the same for sport utility trailers/toy haulers but to me they aren’t the same.  Sleeping with a dirty, smelly dirt bike ain’t my idea of fun.

A smaller class C motorhome

A smaller class C motorhome

Class C Motorhomes – Now were talking.  Some of these are low-end weekenders but over the years, especially in the past decade to be sure, these have come into their own.  In fact, the lines between class C’s and class A’s is blurring with the newer class c models built using commercial truck cabs and frames referred to as super C’s.  They still haven’t, for the most part, equaled the size of the big class A diesel pushers but some of the super C models are big and powerful.

We took a look at one of these a few years back out of curiosity.  It was modern, spacious and comfortable inside.  It had two slides (in for the kitchen and another for the bed) and all the upgraded features.  It was also well over $200,000.  The smaller, less powerful class C models can be had much cheaper and come in all manner of configurations and price ranges.

Class C motorhomes offer a fair amount of living space and storage in a compact and easy to drive package.  If you’ve rented a modest sized U-Haul, you can drive a class C.  They also offer a standard truck or van cab with doors.  Many larger Class A’s don’t.  They are also lower to the ground which for some is a good thing.  Everyone, I’ve seen has the cab over section that some use for storage but makes a great out of the way and always ready (not to mention kind of cool) place for the grand kids to sleep.

On the downside, these are a bit like travel trailers in that they have a big brother, the class A.  They are inferior generally to class A motorhomes in size, towing capacity and storage.  Super C motorhomes might come close but the cost is much higher than modestly priced class A’s generally without much benefit except maybe towing capacity.  Like travel trailers, class C’s aren’t a bad choice.  They just aren’t as good a choice in many ways as their larger counterparts.  But again, that’s a personal choice and you might find them perfectly suited to your needs.

These, more than travel trailers and truck campers, are on our short list.  We, as we’ve said, want a class A first and a fifth wheel would be a close second.  But a bigger class C with the right features and at the right price, might trump them both.  We think that’s the case for a lot of people as well but some people just plain prefer a smaller motorhome and these are a perfect fit.

So, that’s what we call the minor leagues of full-time RVing.  These choices aren’t bad ones but they aren’t the most popular either.  For most of us a Class A or fifth wheel offers the best blend of price, size, power, features and so-on but we wouldn’t dismiss any of these if the situation warrants.  Next time, we’ll discuss the major leagues and really compare what are probably the two most chosen options for full-timers, Class A motorhomes and fifth wheels.

Have a question or comments.  Think we’re right on the money or vehemently disagree?  Leave a comment and start a conversation.  We love comments.  Don’t be shy!

Categories: Planning | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “RVs Part 2 – The Minor Leagues

  1. Bob

    Nice article. My wife and I just went through this process over the last year. Didn’t take us long to realize that travel trailers and Class C Motorhomes weren’t for us. We ended up buying a class A….a Georgetown 328. Been going well so far…good luck with both quality and the dealership’s service during the sale and PDI. Good luck!

    • flyfishnevada

      Thanks! In some ways a smaller rig is appealing but I’m not sure we could go from 2400 sqft, three car garage house to a modest class C. Moving into a Class A will be hard enough. Many post to come as we begin to seriously downsize.

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