RV Buyers Guide: Which RV is Right For Me
Buying an RV is a big investment – not just in terms of the cost of the motorhome but the impact it has on your lifestyle and family recreation opportunities. To get the most enjoyment out your RV, it’s important to select a style and model that fits your budget, your camping preferences, and how you will use your “home away from home.”
For example, are you an occasional camper who plans to use your RV every once in a while, mostly in your local area? Or are you a true adventurer who enjoys exploring parks, campgrounds and recreational areas all over the U.S.?
Big or Small, Drive or Tow?
Selecting the right RV for your camping needs starts with understanding the features and functionalities of the many different types types of RVs.
- Class A Diesel Motorhome. Stylish, sturdy and built to last, diesel motorhomes are the Cadillacs of RVs. The large, rear-mounted engine provides plenty of power on steep mountain roads, and tends to last longer than standard gasoline engines. It also offers a smooth, quiet ride, making it ideal for long trips and cross-country excursions. These roomy motorhomes can easily accommodate big groups and lots of amenities.
- Class A Gas Motorhome. This is what most people think of when they envision a motorhome. It features a large, bus-like chassis, vertical front, and expansive windshield for optimal viewing. Designed to provide comfort for a family or large group of campers, this popular model provides ample space for sleeping and RV amenities.
- Class C Motorhome. Smaller in size, class C’s feature a distinctive “cab-over” design that makes them look like a motorhome attached to the cab of a truck. The front-mounted engine provides ample power, while the cabin offers many of the same amenities of Class A’s, only a reduced scale. With their smaller size, Class C’s make a good choice for people that enjoy remote camping.
- Fifth Wheel. The largest type of towable RV, fifth wheels are pulled by large pick-up trucks with a special fifth wheel hitch. They feature large living spaces, and are safer to tow because they attach directly to the truck bed. They also offer the advantage of unhitching from the truck, making them popular among campers who like to drive around while staying in one campground for a long period of time.
- Travel Trailers. One of the most recognizable RVs, travel trailers are towed behind a truck using a bumper or frame hitch. They come in many different styles and sizes, making them one of the most versatile RV models. Like the fifth wheel, they offer the advantage of having a separate vehicle by unhitching it from the truck.
- Fold-Downs. These lightweight and versatile RVs feature a unique design that allows the flat camper top to pop up, increasing the amount of living space. Larger fold-downs can include refrigerators, hot water, air conditioning, and even bathrooms. Also known as “pop-ups” or “tent trailers,” fold downs frequently serve as an entry model into RVing due to their lower price.
- Truck Camper. Perhaps the most versatile type of RV, truck campers fit in the back of a pickup truck, allowing them to go where larger RVs can’t. Although they offer a surprising amount of room for their size, truck campers are better suited for couples or small families who just want the camping basics.
- Expandable. These cleverly-designed models combine the ambiance of tent camping with the convenience of full-size RVs. Towed by mid-sized vehicles with a bumper or frame hitch, expandables offer durable hard sides with fold-down tents at the ends or sides for sleeping. Larger models can include a kitchen, living space, and bathroom.
- Toy Hauler. Designed for RVers who like to take their toys (snowmobiles, ATV’s, four wheelers, etc.) with them, toy haulers provide a large cargo space for carrying oversized items. They typically include a large rear door with a slide-down ramp for easy loading and unloading.
Sweat the Details
There’s a lot more to consider than just size and style when buying an RV.
- Purchase price. How much do you want to spend? If you plan to finance part or all of the cost, be sure to figure in the interest charges. Tow models generally cost less because they don’t include the cost of an engine.
- If you plan to tow, is your truck up to the task? Does the engine have enough horsepower? Do you have the right hitching equipment?
- Operating costs. RVs tend to guzzle fuel, so expect a hefty gas bill when you go on long trips. RV Maintenance costs can also take a big bite out of your cash flow, especially with larger models.
- Parking/storage. Even if you have room, many homeowner associations don’t permit RV parking on your property. Your city may also have restrictions about parking on the street. Your only option may be paying to park your rig at a local storage facility.
- As with car and home insurance, rates can vary widely. Shop around for the best rates and service before you buy.
- Unless you enjoy cooking over a small portable grill or open fire, you’ll want an RV with kitchen facilities. This is especially true when camping with small kids and teenagers who always seem to be hungry.
- If your camping crew can’t live without their Internet and Direct TV, make sure your RV can be outfitted with mobile Internet, a wifi booster, GPS or a satellite TV dish.
If you have never towed a trailer or driven a large Class A motorhome, consider renting an RV before you buy. This will give you a feel for the size and type of RV you’re most comfortable driving.
Keep in mind that buying an RV should not be an impulse decision. Take your time, do the research, and shop at several different dealerships before signing the purchase agreement. You’ll be sure to get the right RV that you and your family will enjoy for years to come.