Choosing the RV That’s Right for You
Perhaps no one better understands the saying, “It’s about the journey, not the destination,” than those who own recreational vehicles. And, according to the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) and a 2011 commissioned study by the University of Michigan, more and more travelers are embracing the concept. U.S. ownership of RVs has reached record levels — approximately 10 million U.S. households own an RV, according to the study.
According to Go RVing®, the reasons people choose to travel by RV include the affordability, the ease of traveling with pets and kids and having the comforts of home while you’re out on your adventures. What does that mean? Quite simply: RVing appeals to wide range of people of various ages, lifestyles and budgets. You just need to find the model that best meets your needs.
If you’re not familiar with the various types of RVs available in the marketplace, here’s a brief overview of some common RV categories.
Folding Camping Trailers
Also known as “pop-up” campers or “tent trailers,” folding camping trailers are lightweight, easy to tow and maneuver, uncomplicated and provide a good entry point for camping enthusiasts who enjoy camping in tents. These campers range from 8 to 24 feet in length, provide room for up to eight people and may include sleeping, dining and kitchen areas. They are also budget-friendly, as Go RVing says a new one will cost from $6,000 to $22,000.
Travel trailers are conventional tow-behind trailers, and smaller models may be easily towed behind a mid-size vehicle equipped with a hitch. Some versions feature pop-out or slide-out sections to maximize living spaces. Travel trailers typically feature a kitchen, bathroom and dining space, and they may also have storage space and entertainment features. These campers range from 12 to 35 feet in length, says Go RVing, and a new one will cost from $8,000 to $35,000.
A truck camper is a unique RV, as it sits in the bed or on the chassis of a pickup truck. Though smaller in size, they are available in a variety of sizes and floorplans — sometimes even with slide-outs. This type of RV may allow you to access rougher areas into which you could not tow a trailer; plus, as with towable trailers, you can detach the camper and use your vehicle independently. Features may include a bathroom, kitchen and storage. Truck campers range from 8 to 20 feet in length, and a new camper will cost from $6,000 to $55,000, according to Go RVing.
Fifth-Wheel Travel Trailers
“Fifth-wheels” have many of the same amenities as a travel trailer, but RV-Dreams.com notes their tow vehicle must be a pickup or flatbed truck with a fifth-wheel hitch. This design gives them a bi-level floor plan, which is more spacious than that of a conventional tow-behind. RV-Dreams.com says fifth-wheels are less susceptible to jack-knifing or fish-tailing than conventional trailers, but the drawbacks include needing a more heavy-duty tow vehicle and greater expense. These campers range from 21 to 40 feet, and a new one will cost from $18,000 to $160,000, according to Go RVing.
Sport Utility RV
Affectionately known as “toy haulers,” sport utility RVs (SURV) feature the live-on-board amenities you need — like a kitchen, bathroom and dining area — plus space to carry motorcycles, dirt bikes, ATVs or any other “toys” you’d like to have along for the trip. SURVs can be towable trailers or motorhomes. In either case, the RV’s rear end drops down to create an access ramp to the storage garage. Go RVing notes that these campers range from 19 to 39 feet, and a new one will cost from $10,300 to $170,000.
Motorized RVs, or motorhomes, are RVs with living accommodations built on motorized chassis. In other words, you don’t tow or carry them — you drive them. Motorhomes come in three basic types:
- Type A, or conventional, motorhomes are built entirely on specially designed chassis, range from 21 to 40 feet and cost from $60,000 to more than $500,000.
- Type B motorhomes are “camper vans.” These range from 16 to 22 feet and cost from $60,000 to $130,000.
- Type C motorhomes are built on a van frame, but with a wider body. These range from 21 to 35 feet and cost from $43,000 to more than $200,000.
One important aspect to remember with a motorhome is that it’s your transportation as well as your home. Unless you want to move your home every time you need to go to the grocery store, you’ll want to consider towing a small car for getting around town and sightseeing. RV-Dreams.com also notes that a motorhome may have less living space than a towable RV, so keep in mind how you envision spending your travels.
What Are My Lifestyle Considerations?
To determine which RV type will suit you, consider your needs. RVShare.com recommends asking yourself a few questions to help narrow down the type of RV that you’re looking for, including:
- How many people (and pets) will be traveling?
- Do you have a truck to use? Will it be big enough? (You will need to match the RV’s loaded weight to the tow capacity of your vehicle, according to Go RVing.)
- What is your budget?
- Who will drive the RV?
- What RV features are essential to your lifestyle?
It can also be helpful to go to an RV show — you can climb aboard as many different models as you like, and dealer and manufacturer representatives will be on hand to answer questions.
Whether you think an RV would be great for weekend trips or are looking to travel in a motorhome extensively, it’s important to choose the RV that meets your needs. With a little preparation and some research, you can start enjoying your home away from home in no time.
Originally published on June 12, 2014.