Finding the Right RV

posted in: RV | 14

Finding the Right RV written into a vintage journal.Finding the right RV is a very broad statement for a very specific endeavor. Whether you are finding the right RV for an individual, couple, or family will play a huge role in that decision.

I don’t even know where to go with a title like this. Sure, it would be easy to type, “go out and buy a big ‘ole RV, along with a car, and whatever else your little heart desires”, but I don’t think that would resonate with most people. Instead, I’ll try to walk you through the main concerns our family is grappling with in regards some of the things we will need, things which we don’t currently have, for this adventure (hint hint . . . an RV).

It should be apparent that the necessary capital must to be there to make some of these purchases. Unless we plan on stealing an RV, which I don’t see happening, as they are slow getaway vehicles (and I’m told that stealing is unlawful and immoral).

Hopefully, after whittling down some of our current stuff, we’ll have a bit of money available to begin our shopping spree in regards to all-things-RVing.

This is where, after we’ve properly implemented some of our “plans”, we can begin to see our dreams changing into reality.

What is an RV?

Of course we’ve had to ask this question! Could there be another way?

The answer is simple enough: An RV is, in North America, the usual term for a motor vehicle or trailer equipped with living space and amenities found in a home (thank you Wikipedia).

The next question is a bit dicey, and can lead to quite a bit of contention when posting it on Facebook or other online forums.

What is the right RV?

Have no fear, we are not here to answer that question, as we’re still struggling with it ourselves.

So for us to tell you what is the best option is out of the question. But, hopefully you know the difference between the classes.

RV Types

If not, here’s a quick (huge emphasis on quick) primer:

Finding the Right RV class a  Class A: Looks like a tour bus. Lots of options and space. Highest overall price.
Finding the Right RV class b        Class B: The beloved van camper. Van chassis w/raised roof. Smallish, yet nimble.
Finding the Right RV class c  Class C: Smaller than Class A, but with similar options. Over-cab bunk.
Finding the Right RV travel trailer  Travel Trailer: Lots of shapes and sizes. Can be pulled by ½ ton truck.
Finding the Right RV 5th wheel  Fifth-Wheel: Imagine a hybrid between a travel trailer and a Class C. Tons of space, pull with ¾ ton truck.

There are a few other options out there, but the above should be a good starting point. Each individual/couple/family is different, with differing needs and opinions in regards to full-time travel. There isn’t going to be a one-size-fits-all answer.

Talking with those who have gone before, I have come up with the two primary factors that most everyone has based their RV purchase upon.

Cost

This is an easy one. It has to be feasible and within our budget. I’m sure we would all love to buy the most luxurious unit available, but if the payments make daily life impossible, then it probably isn’t meant to be. Another consideration in finding the right RV will be the projected upkeep/maintenance of the RV.

  • Will it be a Class A or C with a gas or diesel engine?
  • Is it a fifth-wheel that requires a specialized tow vehicle?
  • Will the unit be new or used?

All there are basic considerations that we have been addressing as we plan on purchasing our home-on-wheels.

Size

I was a bit surprised when reviewing the responses in regards to this question. I was expecting to hear a resounding, “The most space we could afford”, when instead there was a general consensus that gravitated towards the smallest unit possible . . . while still being livable (not everyone wants to live in a conversion van). That doesn’t mean having everyone crammed in like sardines, but giving each person a minimal amount of space while still enjoying life on the road.

It became apparent that the reason for having less available living space transferred into fostering a lifestyle that was oriented towards outdoor activities. Hooray fresh air!

Finding the Right RV . . . for Us

Finding the Right RVThis is one area I’m very grateful we have been going through this long, drawn-out, plan and prep process. If we had the means to make our purchases and cut all ties when we came up with this decision, then we would have been in a rig already . . . but it probably wouldn’t be the right one.

I don’t know about you, but when a huge life-changing decision is made, we want to get on with making that decision a reality. Add to that the fact that Tricia is one to shout I WANT IT NOW, and we have a recipe that makes it ripe for jumping into things.

Don’t get me wrong. Each day that goes by is one more day where we are all fantasizing about fulltime RVing, while still being stuck in place here in Florida. But, we have been using this time to research the options that are available, and evaluate which ones will be right for us.

When we first came to the conclusion that we wanted to do this thing fulltime, we instantly began researching to find the right RV . . . for us.

Needs

There are always lots of wants whenever we come to a new decision . . . especially in regards to a huge lifestyle change. I mean sure, we would love to go out and spend like drunken sailors, acquiring the greatest RV and every gadget imaginable. Sadly, but more likely fortunately, that is not in the cards.

So what do we need?

We’re going to need an RV. It has to be reliable, affordable, and comfortable . . . and that’s it for the ables.

We need separate living quarters, as we’re not going to expect our daughter to live and sleep on a convertible dinette . . . she deserves her own space. Seeing how Nevaeh has refused to stop growing, we feel that an area to call her own, and decorate accordingly, will go a long way in making the upcoming transition a bit easier.

Since we’ll be full-timing, storage will be at a premium. Depending on the type of rig we choose, we’ll either be scaling back quite a bit, or down to nothing but unitards and sporks. Yes, that’s a bit dramatic, but we’re trying to wrap our heads around the fact that all our stuff will be extensively evaluated for its usefulness on our journeys.

We like to explore, so we’ve come to the conclusion that we don’t want to unhook the RV every time we’d like to go into town. With that in mind, we’ll either have to have a towable vehicle (if we’re rolling in a Class C), or a truck (which would serve the purpose of pulling the Fifth Wheel).

And that’s it. Sure, there’s lots of other stuff to consider . . . but we’re confident we can figure out those details along the way, or manage and around them when they happen.

Class C

When we first sat down and began to really consider the idea of buying an RV and full-timing it around the country, somehow we immediately came to the conclusion that a Class C would be just the ticket. The right one would fit in our budget, the girls would be more comfortable during the drives, and it could pull a dinghy/toad (more on that later).

It was so obvious; a Class C would be perfect.

We began looking for something in the low 30’ range. Tricia and I would have a room in the back, and Nevaeh would have her over-the-cab cubby to do as she wishes.

While driving between locations, the girls would be much more comfortable. Tricia might even be able to homeschool Nevaeh, and restroom stops would no longer be an issue. I have to admit though, I was never sold on the wandering-around-while-in-back while driving idea.

We began looking online, checking the local Craigslist ads, and there were plenty of Class Cs that fit in our budget.

The solution to our fulltime RVing dreams would be a Class C!

More Thinking

We spent a few months fixated on the notion that we would be embarking on our adventures in a Class C. I mean, we knew what we wanted, so why consider anything else? We even began coming up with names for out soon-to-be rig.

But then a lightbulb went off.

Was our decision to purchase a Class C based solely on the fact that we wanted a bit more comfort during the few hours of driving we would do between sites? Really? We don’t plan to be moving every day or two, but would rather take our time and enjoy our stays (1-2 weeks, or more, per location). We’re not going to hamstring ourselves with an unrealistic hit-every-state-in-13-weeks timeline.

Not only was this a revelation, but it also opened up more opportunities to make this transition even more comfortable.

Enter the Fifth Wheel

Looking at the numbers, we found we could purchase a newer Fifth Wheel for the same amount as an older Class C. There would be more living space, more storage, and Nevaeh would have an actual room (bunkhouse model) as opposed to a cubby over the cab.

We’re going to lose a few years when buying a truck over a towable car, but we would only be servicing one drivetrain (which would be newer than a Class C) . . . so that’s a win. Plus, the truck would serve as our run-around vehicle when the fiver is set in place.

There are only two downsides that we currently see with the Fifth Wheel:

  1. Backing up – Sure, we don’t normally drive with trailers . . . but Tricia and I are no strangers to the towing scene (I’ll never admit it publically, but Tricia is probably better at backing a trailer than I am).
  2. Everyone will be in the cab of the truck when transitioning from place-to-place. That may seem particularly uncomfortable, maybe even cruel and unusual, but it won’t be too bad. We’ve embarked on several 12+ hour road-trips, piled into a 2-door Jeep or a 4-door SportTrac (with all our gear & luggage). I’m thinking that a ¾ ton, crew cab will give everyone ample room, while all our “stuff” will be safely tucked away in the home on wheels.

I could go on, as there’s so much to say. But I won’t. Instead, I’ll leave you with this. A few of the posts that have been super beneficial in our choice . . . up to this point.

Helpful Sites

The Boyink clan, over at Ditching Suburbia, have been rolling in a 5th wheel for several years now. I value their opinions and see then as content experts in this area. Check out their article on how and why they chose a Fifth Wheel.

The Hannan’s have been doing the fulltime thing for a couple year now, and have experience with both a Class C and a Fifth Wheel. Check out their posts on why they made the transition and what was beneficial with each type.

Last, but definitely not least, Heath & Alyssa Padgett initially purchased a Class C . . . we miss you Franklin. They have since transitioned into a Class A Winnebago, but have some great advice about RVing in general, check these out: RV Mindset & 29 Reasons Living in an RV is Better than Living in a House.

Take Away

As or right now, I think we’ll end up in a Fifth Wheel. It’s such an exciting time for us, and I’m grateful that we have had the benefit of time to really think through some of these decisions.

If you have any advice on this subject, we would love to hear it.

It's ok to share, we won't judge:
RSS
Facebook
Google+
http://www.theuncommonroad.com/finding-the-right-rv/
Twitter
Pinterest
Pinterest

14 Responses

  1. Thanks for the mention and the vote of confidence!

    We haven’t kept formal stats but in all of our blog-tracking and reading feel confident in saying that *most* families choose fifth-wheels to full time in. They just make sense from budget, floorplan, storage, and usability perspectives.

    • It seems we’ve come to the same conclusion, at least for our needs. Budget and floorplan (not so much space) have been the largest factors in making this decision. Obviously, we have to be able to afford it, but we also need to be comfortable in the space as well. I’m sure we’ll be hitting you guys up for some more advice as time goes on. Thanks again for all your support.

  2. We started out thinking Class C, but our children are 4, 2, and 5 months. We are now looking at truck to accomodate the car seats and a bunkhouse travel trailer.

    The thought of backing in terrifies me, but I guess we’ll just have to get over it!

    • Sounds like you guys are now in round two of your RV adventures. I’m sure we’ll end up making changes throughout this process as well, it is interesting to wonder what the future holds.

      As far as backing up, you’d be surprised how quickly you can learn something when it is a necessity.

  3. Some thoughts from a full timer in an A. When we started looking the biggest negative for a 5th wheel was the truck. Even the smaller capable trucks can be fuel hogs and are a lot to drive into town unless you are only going to a mall or large supermarket. We also did not have a place to park a sizable pickup when we were not on the road.

    We like the larger windshield and higher driving position of the Cl A. There are Cl A’s with bunkhouse arrangements that might be suitable for your daughter. Road comfort goes to the Diesel Pusher world, but as you note that is generally 10% of the time you are on board, but it is a very important 10% and an uncomfortable ride can be a misery that makes the entire experience unfavorable. Only you and your women can determine what comfort is, rent a C and take it out for a week or more and travel a couple of long days while you are at it. See how everyone is. I am not sure how to go about renting a 5th wheel and truck, but it would be great to have the experience with that too. Again your women need to ride along, if they are uncomfortable, it won’t matter how good it feels to you.

    Another thought, have your wife get behind the wheel for an hour or more to see if she can get comfortable driving. We share all driving 50/50, it makes 6 hour days back to back possible.

    • Thanks for the thoughts and wisdom Paul. You are right, the ladies have to be happy. We don’t plan on having huge driving spurts between bed-down locations, so the time in the vehicle will only be a few hours at a time. As far as Tricia driving, what can I say . . . she’s a champ and has never had an aversion to driving/pulling.

  4. Backing up is no fun, though 5th wheels maneuver better than trailers. Also, it doesn’t happen a lot, so far maybe once a month for us.

    As far as the road tripping in the truck goes, I wouldn’t worry at all. It just doesn’t make much sense to drive for 10 hours when you live in your RV. There are camp sites all over the country. We generally plan trips no longer than 4 hours at a go, enough so we can easily make the trip on a single tank of Gas. Thus no need for pit stops of any kind on most occasions. Also, if you are out to see stuff, there’s not much hurry, better to chug along and take your time. enjoying all the places along the way, always lots to see. Finally, with the set up and take down, you don’t want those pushing into the night or having to get up super early, one tank trips give you time to enjoy meals outside the car and time to enjoy your destination a little when you arrive.

    • Great advice Sig! That is our thought as well, only drive 2-4 hour stints. You hit the nail on the head in regards of stuff to see and do . . . there is no shortage. The only rush we are in is to hurry up and get on the road, other than that we plan on taking our time.

  5. I’m in a similar boat. Trying to decide what’s the best travel scenario for myself and my other half. We’re currently considering a travel trailer, but building it ourselves to make sure it is configured just the way we want to maximize interior space. For now we’re focusing on saving money to actually get the rig (or get it built) and adjusting our lifestyle to be frugal, zero waste, and healthy – good in general, but especially useful when on the road.

  6. It also means almost all of your time spent outdoors. Rainy days can feel a bit claustrophobic with two or more people stuffed into a mini-van s worth of space. And they require a lot of work to keep them up and running, but that s where I stand. Even a newer Eurovan or a Supervan would be preferable, for me, over any type of motorhome or trailer.

  7. We have given a lot of thought to the 5th wheel option….. I think we’ve opted out because we just don’t want to drive a truck around – that and the fact that a nice enough truck to comfortably haul a large 5th wheel is a huge expense in itself. We can carry a 20 year note on a big class A, which drastically cuts down on our monthly outgo; all while hauling a cheap tow car that we pay cash for. We’re still in the thinking process, but that’s where we’re at for the moment…

    • That’s awesome Michael. So many options to choose from. We’re looking at both used 5ers and the truck to pull them, so hoping to pull it off without accruing anymore debt. We’ll keep you posted. Best of luck in your adventure as well.

  8. FWIW we got on the road with truck & fifth wheel for under $30K originally. The key was going with a modest fifth wheel (first rig was 30′ and current is 34′) as it opens up more truck possibiltiies. Our truck is a single-rear-wheel 3/4 ton gasser that we bought for $12.5K. I know the “popular thinking” is that you need a dually diesel but this setup has worked for us for 5 years with minimal repair.

    • That’s the exact budget we have set for ourselves. There are so many options that fall easily within that range. Lots of 3/4 ton diesels available here in FL, but we’re not opposed to a gasser either.

Leave a Reply