Monday, September 7, 2015

What type of RV should we get?

We knew what we wanted to do in a RV, where we wanted to go, and had a good idea of our price range.  The next thing was to make decisions about which RV we wanted.  This was a long process and involved a lot of reading, visits to dealers, trips to RV shows, lurking in Facebook groups, and talking to experienced RVers.  I had been going to the large Tampa RV Supershow for about six years running and was well aware of the many options there were.

For those of you who aren't so familiar, RV's come in various classes.  While this isn't a comprehensive list, it covers the types that most people buy:

  • Class B.   These look like large vans.  The insides typically have the basics:  a bed, sink, toilet/shower combination, and a TV.
  • Class C.  These look like very large vans but have a bed over the cab.  They usually have all of the amenities and can sleep quite a few people.
  • Super C.  Really big Class C's with large (often diesel) engines.  They may be a bit fancier inside because they can usually carry more weight.
  • Trailers.  You know what these are.  An advantage to a trailer is that they are often light enough to be pulled by many different types of vehicles.  They can be very small (fit one person and barely over six feet in length) to large - over 30 feet.
  • Fifth Wheel.  Like trailers, but taller and with a "gooseneck" that extends over the bed of the pickup truck that pulls it.  Most "fivers" have a bedroom in the gooseneck, but it's common to see living rooms there in a lot of the more recent models.
  • Class A.  This is a motorhome, self-sufficient in that it has its own motor and doesn't need to be pulled by anything.  Class A's can be made by renovating an old school bus or built from the ground up by one of the many manufacturers.
RVers who plan to spend a lot of time traveling and living in an RV usually end up getting either a fifth wheel or a Class A motorhome.  That's because they have ample storage and can carry a good amount of weight, so you can put things in them like kitchens with fancy countertops, residential-size refrigerators, big TVs and much more.  

Like thousands of others before us, we immediately faced the dilemma "What do we get:  a fifth wheel or a motorhome"?  We thought a lot about it, did our research, made decisions and changed our minds, and finally decided to get a motorhome.

One of our observations was that a lot of people who have spent years travelling in a RV have "upgraded"  more than once.  We met a couple at the 2015 Tampa Supershow who were on their 11th RV.   Almost every long-time "upgrader" we spoke with had ended up with a motorhome.  However, we are keenly aware that their choice has a lot to do with their lifestyles.

Fifth wheels seem bigger and you feel more like you're living in an apartment.  In actuality, they really aren't but a tiny bit larger if you consider only the square footage.  The reason they seem much bigger is height.  Fivers have much smaller basements (storage under the living area) and are lower to the ground.  That means that they can have higher interior ceilings, so you'll see a lot of things like fans and high cabinetry in fifth wheels.  That's what gives you the feeling that you're living in a much larger space.  It's like walking into a home with 8' ceilings and then going into one with 10' ceilings.  The two houses may be the same size, but the one with the 10' ceilings looks larger.

When you get a fifth wheel, you not only get that "apartment" feeling, but you only have to maintain one engine - the one in the truck that pulls it.  When you get where you're going, you leave the fiver there and take the truck around to see the sights.  That's great, but the gas you put in that truck may cost you a lot more than the gas you put in whatever vehicle you tow behind your motorhome.

Motorhomes are self-contained.  Everything is there.  Of course, some of the downsides are that you have two engines to maintain (the motorhome and whatever vehicle you pull behind it), they can be quite a bit more expensive, and they depreciate faster.

A lot of potential owners are so divided that they have difficulty deciding.  I've heard it said more than once that you need to consider the length of your stays in campgrounds or parks.  If you will drive less and stay longer (months, perhaps - in one location), then the fifth wheel may be your best choice.  After all motorhomes have a lot of mechanical systems that need to be exercised.  Consequently, if you plan to travel and stay somewhere for 1 night to a week or two and then travel again, maybe a motorhome is best.

The best thing to do is get out there and look at a lot of them, imagining yourself living in one.  It'll come to you - sooner or later.

In our case, we knew that what we wanted was more like "glamping" than camping, and we wanted things like a big generator and all of the additional storage that you get with a motorhome.

One decision - an important one - was made.  We were going to get a Class A motorhome.

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