How to Choose the Right RV for You (in Three Simple Steps)

Thinking about purchasing an RV, how to choose the right rv in 3 simple stepsbut not sure where to start? Have no fear, my friend, we were in your shoes and know that the decision can be overwhelming. Being completely new to the RV world, we did not even know the names for types of RVs when we were looking to buy one and set out on the road fulltime.  We chose the right RV for us, and we still wouldn’t change a thing, even well over 1.5 years as fulltime RVers.

How did we do it?  Three simple steps: 1. We were honest about our needs/wants. 2. We learned about each of the different types of RVs. 3. We evaluated how our needs/wants matched up with the types of RVs. While we can’t choose one for you, we do believe that the best way we can assist you is to help you to follow the same three steps we did.  Let’s dig in to this process together…

Step #1 Establish Your RV needs/wants

Let’s begin by evaluating your situation, your dreams, your hopes and your needs for your RV. Remember, it is you who ultimately has to make the decision, and it is you who has to live with it. We will be giving you unbiased reviews here, but there are plenty of places to find advice, both good and bad. So, establishing your true needs/wants is a must beforehand, so that you are not persuaded by someone else’s opinions. There are no right or wrong answers to the below questions, their only purpose is to serve at helping you see the truth so that you will make the best decision for you. Now, take out a piece of paper and honestly answer these questions:

  1. What is your budget for an RV? We always recommend buying outright within your means. Ouch, I know it hurts, but it is the truth. Keep in mind that, in terms of an investment, RVs perform more like vehicles and less like homes.  They depreciate in value as soon as you leave the lot, and they do not allow you to build equity like a home. Don’t get lazy with this question – who is going to pay for it in the long run…you are!

  2. Realistically, do you plan to spend more time in the RV/at the campground? Or do you see yourself spending more time exploring the area, hiking, etc.?

  3. How comfortable are you driving different sizes of vehicles? Would you enjoy driving a bus? Would you be comfortable towing a large RV? What are your driving limits?

  4. What length of stays do you desire in the RV lifestyle? Will you be staying in one place for several months? Or do you see yourself as a real road-tripper on the move every few days?

  5. When you picture yourself in a campground, what does it look like? Is it a beautiful resort with lots of amenities? Or do you see yourself in the middle of the desert with no one else around and no real campground? Are you planning on staying in a lot of national and state parks, which would limit the size of your RV?

  6. Realistically, how long do you plan to RV? Are you hoping for a year on the road? Or are you making plans to spend the next decade in your RV?

  7. Who is living in your RV, and what types of spaces does each person need? Is a work space necessary? Do you have children with homeschooling space needs? Do you have specialized work equipment that you need to be able to store? Is the kitchen space a priority? Will you have visitors?

Step #2 learn the Types of RVs:  Their Advantages & Disadvantages

Now that we have gotten to the truth of the matter and you have your list of needs/wants in hand, let’s review the types of RVs for you to consider.

Class A (the official name) or “The Big Bus” (what we call them)

These are the large motorhomes that look like buses.  They range in length from around 32 feet to 45 feet.  These babies are full of amenities.  The upper end models are serious luxury.  But all this luxury comes at a cost:  Class As can range in price from $75,000 to over $1 million.  It is not just the purchase that is expensive, maintaining a Class A is pricey too.  We know owners who have paid $700 to replace one tire and $500 at the pump to fill up.

Advantages:    
  • Roomy and spacious.
  • Luxurious.
  • Can use your home while driving.
  • Visitors? No problem. Entertaining is a breeze.
  • Home temperature stays controlled when driving.
  • Easy boondocking (has generators & big tanks).
Disadvantages:
  • Size makes them intimidating to drive when new to RVing.
  • Expensive (to purchase and to maintain).
  • Gas guzzlers – get ready for 6 mpg (10 mpg if diesel).
  • Need repairs?  You are losing your home & vehicle.
  • Size will dictate where you can camp (Too big for some campgrounds).
  • Vehicle in tow is a must (unless you plan on staying home).
  • Finding repair work is a hassle, since they are more dealer specific.

Class C or “The Small Bus”

These are still all-in-ones, but they are smaller than the Class As, and they are built like a standard cargo van as the cab portion.  Class Cs have a portion of the RV that extends over the cab that is typically a bed.   They range in length from around 20 feet to 35 feet.  Class Cs can range in price from around $60,000 to over $100,000.

Advantages:                                                                      
  • All-in-one amenities in a smaller package.
  • Great for short excursions & some boondocking.
  • Small size allows more campground opportunities.
  • Most models can sleep up to 6 people.
Disadvantages:
  • Layouts are small and feel small.
  • Tanks are smaller.
  • Usually 6-8 mpg.
  • May still need a vehicle-in-tow.

Class B or “The Travel Van”

This is also a standard cargo van cab, but this option does not include the RV extension over the cab – that is its most identifiable characteristic.  These are the smallest option, but some models can approach the smaller Class Cs.  They range in price from $40,000 to over $100,000.

Advantages:                                                                      
  • Small size means you can take it anywhere.
  • No need for vehicle-in-tow.
Disadvantages:
  • Small size makes fulltiming a challenge.
  • Around 8-10 mpg, better but not great.
  • Expensive for small size.

Fifthwheel or “The Over the Bed of the Truck Kind”

Now we are getting in to the options where the RV is separate from the vehicle.  Fifthwheels are distinguishable by their exterior shape that allows them to attach to the inside of a truck bed (not the bumper).  When in tow, the fifthwheel sits up over the bed of the truck that is towing it.  Their length ranges from around 25 feet to 45 feet.  They range in price from around $15,000 to a few models over $100,000.

Advantages:                                                                                      
  • High ceilings give an open feel.
  • Luxuries approach Class As.
  • Tow vehicle maintenance/repairs do not affect home.
  • Get more space for a smaller price.
  • Around 8-15 mpg (depending on tow vehicle).
  • Due to layout, more living space without adding to overall length.
  • More stable, less side sway than bumper pull trailers when towing.
  • Lots of size variations from which to choose.
Disadvantages:
  • Hooking up & unhooking at every stop.
  • Not conditioned while towing (no AC or heat).
  • Tow vehicle is only vehicle (usually a large truck).
  • Large size and height can be intimidating to tow.
  • Large models limit campgrounds.
  • Overall height of some fifth wheels can approach 14 ft which can be a problem at low bridges or tight campground spaces.

Travel Trailer or “The Trailer”         

Again, this is an option where the living quarters are separate from the vehicle.  Travel trailers attach to the tow vehicle at the bumper.  They range in size from around 12 feet to 40 feet.  They range in price from around $10,000 to close to $100,000.

Advantages:                                                                                      
  • Overall height of trailer is lower than fifth wheel, better for getting into tight spaces and under low bridges.
  • Get more space for a smaller price.
  • Around 8-15 mpg (depending on tow vehicle).
Disadvantages:
  • Hooking up & unhooking at every stop.
  • Not conditioned while towing (no AC or heat).
  • Tow vehicle is only vehicle (usually a large truck).
  • Less stable, more side sway when towing.

step #3 evaluate the types of rvs according to your list of needs/wants

We hope you now have a better idea of what each different type of RV has to offer, so you can take your needs and wants and see how they stack up. Consider prioritizing your needs/wants to better help you as you make your decision. Dealers will say things like, “You will be back to change your RV in a year or two – most people do”.  But, we really believe that the reason people are changing their RV within two years of purchase (barring some extreme catastrophe or major life change) is that they just weren’t honest with themselves in the first place. Be honest about your needs/wants, take an unbiased look at what the different types of RVs offer, evaluate your options according to your list – not what is popular or what others are saying, and you will be ahead of the game.

Tell us from your experience, what advantages & disadvantages can we add to the list? Leave it in the comments.

 

Interested in why we made our decision? Learn how we chose our RV here (this contains the opinions and unbiased narrative).

 

 

 

 

2 comments on “How to Choose the Right RV for You (in Three Simple Steps)

  1. I’m so excited for this summer. My husband and I have been saving up for years for an RV. This year we’ve decided that a used RV is going to be perfect for us. Like your point, a budget needs to be looked at responsibly. We want to get out and play, but don’t have to go into extreme debt to do it. We’ll be going over that list of wants/needs as we search for a used rv and hopefully we’ll find our dream recreation vehicle. Thanks again!

    • Hi, Sandra! I am glad you are finding this post helpful in your RV search. Congratulations on taking this next step! We are so excited for you two! -Jen

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