How did we pick our RV?

Now, this is a fun story to read.  how to choose an rv, choose a camperKeep in mind, we had zero experience with RVs when we decided to become fulltime RVers.  Zero.  Zilch.  Nada.  Our search was entirely built on our own preferences and what we anticipated as our needs on the road.  Our priorities in our search were:

  1. Something we could afford to buy outright. No payments on the road!
  2. Something that felt more like an apartment than an RV – in other words, an RV that we could completely renovate.

Click here for “How to Choose the Right RV For You (In 3 Simple Steps)”!

Here are the four main steps we went through to get what we wanted…

STEP 1:  Pick the Type of RV

At first thought, we wanted a very small all-in-one (we came to find out they are called Class C or Class B).  The idea of being able to take it anywhere and not need a separate vehicle was very appealing.  So, we went to a dealer and toured one.  The tour took two seconds, and it took one second to change our minds.  It was just too small for us.  I had visions of Jack Nicholson’s crazy face in The Shining.  Plus, if we were having a problem, both our vehicle and home would be out of commission.  To top it all off, even the used models were much more expensive than we thought.  Next, please!

For a few deranged moments, we considered a Class A (those are the big busses).  Not that only deranged people buy a Class A, that is not at all what I mean…in our situation though, we would have been deranged to take one on.  First, we couldn’t afford one without owing money – a huge deal breaker for us.  Additionally, we really couldn’t imagine driving one and towing a car to boot!  We were focusing on simplifying our lives, and these were too excessive for our wishes.  We didn’t even look at any at the dealer…Next!

Clearly, we needed something in-between.  Our lack of towing experience and our desire to keep the cost down made us think that we should see what my 4Runner could tow.  That lead us to consider small travel trailers.  We went for our first travel trailer tour and the Jack Nicholson visions returned.  Again, it just felt too small to us, and we knew we needed something that felt bigger.  It was the low ceiling that made it feel small, despite the length they offer.  We were naive in thinking that my 4Runner could tow something that would also feel spacious to us. Next!

We decided that our best option must be a fifth wheel (I had never even heard that term before).  We toured one and found that they gave a much better feel for the living space.   It was the high ceiling…what a difference!  Finally, we found something that we thought we could live in fulltime as new RVers.  The fifth wheels felt more like tiny apartments which appealed to us.  The open feel of the fifth wheel is what finally made us give in to having to purchase a big truck for towing.  Fifth wheel it is!

STEP 2:  Pick the RV Model by Choosing a Layout

But, which fifth wheel to choose?  We still wanted something as small as we could manage since we were new to big trucks and to towing.  We toured a few more fifth wheels to get a feel for the layout we wanted.  As we looked at the available layouts, we narrowed in on our biggest desires: 1. a large kitchen (relatively speaking of course), 2. a bathroom separate from the bedroom, 3. we wanted to keep the overall length down which meant that we would give up bedroom space.  Once you decide on your top few criteria for the layout, it is very easy to start eliminating options.  The dealer we visited had nothing that met these criteria, so we took to an online search.  We began googling RV layout images to see if we could come up with a model that fit the criteria we wanted.  There are so many different layout options available, but once you decide your key factors, the options begin to become very limited.  We found that the 2006 Keystone Copper Canyon offered exactly what we wanted for both the kitchen and the bathroom, and it had an overall length of 26 feet.

STEP 3:  Find Your RV (preferably close by if you are a new RVer like us)

Now, we were able to start searching dealers online for the model we wanted, and it did not take us long to find one.  Only one problem, it was in New Jersey on the other side of Philadelphia.  We were living in the Williamsport area, and that would mean that the first time we towed anything, we would be taking it through Philadelphia and over 4 hours.  Maybe this RV thing isn’t such a good idea after all?  Well, we prayed about it and kept searching.  Lo and behold, we found the exact same model at Bonner Sports and RV, and it was only 30 minutes from our home.  Coincidence?  I think not.

STEP 4:  Make Your Purchase

We do not agonize over decisions.  We believe that you make a decision off the best information you can gather at the time and then move on.  In fact, my wedding dress was the very first dress I tried on (I tried on two more and went with the first).  Boom…done.  So, it doesn’t surprise me that we only toured 7 different RVs, and we only spent a few hours with our online search before purchasing our first RV. Once we found it at Bonner’s, we went to tour it.  After the tour, we went home and gave it a few days for us to think it over.  My brother-in-law also toured it with Chris to get a second opinion on the renovations that we wanted to do.  He agreed with us that our renovations would be possible, and then we called with an offer.  Once we settled on a price, Aunt Glady became ours.  Now, we just had to find a truck to pick her up with.

By the way, it’s a good thing we were close to the dealer.  When we took our RV home, we couldn’t get it unhitched from the truck!  We spent two hours in our church parking lot trying to figure out how to unhitch the darn thing.  We had just spent four hours at the dealer learning all about how things worked in our RV.  We did everything they told us to do, but our hitch was not budging.  After trying every possible thing we could, we finally called the dealer.  They literally had to send someone to help us.  We were so embarrassed and less than encouraged about the fact that we now faced having to unhitch hundreds of times on our own all over the country.  I am happy to report that we have been fulltimers for over a year now and have stayed at close to 80 different campgrounds, and we have never had a problem unhitching since that first time!  But, it is a fun memory to look back on.  Oh, how far we have come, figuratively and literally.

Now check out…how to choose the right rv in 3 simple steps

11 comments on “How did we pick our RV?

    • Thanks, Terri! 🙂 It just seemed to fit! She felt like an adventurous, happy Aunt!

  1. I’ve really enjoyed watching many of your videos over the past couple of weeks. I have a tremendous amount of respect for your principled approach to finances/debt, and it’s a good reminder to buy only what we can afford. I especially like the renovations you’ve done to your fifth wheel. Do you have any photos or video posted of the renovation process? I’d like to find out what level of effort that was for you guys.

    • Hi, Jeff! Thanks so much for the encouragement and kind words! When we did the renovation, we had no idea that a YouTube channel was in our future. So, we unfortunately did not take any video of the actual reno. However, Chris did do a brief explanation with some before & after pics that you can read here: http://towanderfreely.com/our-rv-the-renovation/. We had no RV experience, so we did our reno completely based off of making it look more like an apartment and using the methods we learned from renovating several homes. We had three weeks for the reno, and we were able to get it done in that time. Our brother-in-law helped Chris with the washer/dryer install, because that was a very heavy item. His parents also helped with one of the coats of paint. Otherwise, it was just the two of us. Our RV tour video is our most popular by far on our YouTube channel, and we have received overwhelming interest in our reno. We think we did a good job, but the interest has shown us that others really think so too. So, this Spring, we are planning to produce more content specific to the reno, so stay tuned for that. We are so glad you found us! -Jen

  2. Thanks! This is exactly what I was hoping to see. You guys rocked that renovation. I abhor the dark wood interiors of most newer RVs. Yours looks more like a mini condo than an RV. Fantastic.

    • Thank you! I have no idea why they make RV interiors so dark – it just makes it look so much smaller. Best wishes to you, and if you have any specific questions, please don’t hesitate to contact us.

  3. Do you know what the specific model number is for your 5th wheel? I love I love love love your RV and I’m looking for exactly the same thing. I am also curious about the quality of the Copper Canyon. A lot of people have said it’s very entry level and not very good quality. But like you I have been ill you to change in my life and don’t want to spend a lot of money.

    • Hi, Karin! We have a 2006 Keystone Copper Canyon Sprinter. I don’t know the model number off the top of my head, but I will try to remember to check and get back to you. We have been very happy with our RV, but it is the only one we have ever owned. Chris has always worked in the construction industry, and his opinion is that all RVs are built cheaply. Plus, the demands of travel are hard on RVs. We know people who have bought brand new RVs and have had to dump a ton of money in to them right from the start. There are no real guarantees. It is a risk to purchase an older model, but owning it outright was our biggest motivation. We did not want payments on the road. That is our biggest advice to anyone. Hope that is helpful! -Jen

  4. Thanks Jen. This particular RV is hard to find. But I love it so much I must find it. I want to do cooking videos to accompany my blog http://www.theculinarycrossover.com which is why the big kitchen is important.

    Your husband is right about the quality of RVS and wear. We bought our first RV 3 years ago (a 1994 Chinook) for $4500 and we have been all over the place. We were on the road for 2 months last year. But we want to go 6 months leaving in june and want something bigger. Wish me luck! Hope your health is improving.

    • Hi, Karin! Just checked out your blog – love it! I can’t wait to try that Thai Coconut Shrimp Soup – I am a big fan of Thai flavors. Our model is hard to find, anything with a larger kitchen is hard to find; and so many people are looking for one. We are planning to go to the RV show in Harrisburg, PA next week; and I am going to be on a hunt for RVs with large kitchens – I will be doing a post on what I find. All the best to you in your upcoming travels! -Jen (and my health has been steadily improving, thank you)

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