This is the first in a series of articles taking you along with us in our excursion to buy an RV. When we first started thinking about buying an RV, we had no idea of the number of considerations we would have to struggle with. Questions like - What kind of an RV will we buy?, What do we plan to use it for?, Where will we park it?, How do we finance it?, Where should we buy it?, How big should it be?, What should the floor plan look like? and many others. This will be the beginning of trying to answer some of those questions while realizing that all of the answers are somewhat personal in nature. What's good for us will not necessarily be good for you.
J. D. Gallant says in his book How To Buy An RV Without Getting Ripped-off that type, size, quality, floor plan and price are the main parameters for choosing your RV. This may be so, but I suggest that there many decisions within these categories that will impact your choice. Let' s, for the sake of argument, use Mr. Gallant' s categories and expand on them over the next few weeks.
TYPES of RVs
MotorhomesClass A and Class C motorhomes differ in construction and therefore in appearance. A Class A motorhome is built on a single chassis and looks something like a bus. As a matter of fact, some of the higher end Class A motorhomes are bus conversions that are extremely luxurious and spacious. Many newer Class A's have slide-out rooms that add even more room to the unit, but also add a fair amount of weight.
A Class C motorhome is built separately, set on and connected to a truck chassis. They have one of the sleeping compartments located over the cab of the truck. One of the ways I keep the two classes separate is Class "C" is "cab-over" meaning cab over the truck roof. Depending on price, of course, both Class A and C motorhomes have most of the amenities of your home; generator (ac power), bathroom facilities, galley, microwave oven, a separate master bedroom etc. They range in length from about 18' to 40' or more. Depending on the amenities and size, a Class A or C motorhome can be used for the occasional weekend away from home, an extended vacation or "full-timing" (living in your motorhome).
Class B van conversions and slide-in pick-up campers are the remaining types of motorized RV' s. They have fewer amenities and are great for the occasional weekend in the mountains or on the campsite by the lake. Van conversions are panel trucks to which an enterprising person or manufacturer has added electrical and water hook-ups, toilet facilities, water storage and a small galley.
Slide-in pick-up campers are among the older types of RVs. Originally very rudimentary, being nothing more than a solid roof over your head in a rain storm, the newer higher end models are quite luxurious in comparison.
TowablesTowables are trailers meant to be pulled behind a motorized vehicle. Towing vehicle and trailer together do not require a special road permit in order to be moved from place to place. Special attention must be paid to the size and weight of the trailer as compared to the power and size of the towing vehicle. The towing hitch is also an important consideration.
Pop-up trailers are extremely popular among the weekend campers. They come in two flavors; the "tent trailer" and the hard sided variety. The tent trailer is little more than a tent on wheels although newer models have more amenities. They are light in weight and can pulled by most reasonably powered vehicles with relatively simple hitches.
The hard sided pop-ups are travel trailers that expand upward either electrically or hydraulically when "docked." They can have all or most of the size and amenities of the full blown travel trailer. Being much heavier, these trailers require a more powerful tow vehicle and a more sophisticated hitch.
Travel trailers and fifth wheel trailers share many similarities in amenities and livability with the motorhomes. The principle difference between the two is the manner in which they are towed.
The travel trailer is towed by a conventional stabilizing frame hitch. The fifth wheel is a goose necked trailer towed by a pick-up truck with a bed mounted hitch which looks much like an 18-wheeler tractor hitch. In any case, the size and weight of the trailer has to be matched with the size and power of the tow vehicle. The floor plans for both are many and varied. The fifth wheel has a second level above the hitch because of its construction and for this reason provides a little more efficiency than the travel trailer. In addition, almost all newer fifth wheel trailers are equipped with one or two slide-outs, which as we said earlier, greatly expand the living space. Both types of trailers, depending on size and amenities, are suitable for both the weekend camper and the "full-timer".
Note: Some publications refer to the "Park Model" as an RV. Basically, the park model is a mobile home and as such, will not be discussed as an RV in these articles.
The sizes, varieties, makes, models and options can be absolutely overwhelming. Choices are very personal. It all comes down to the second question - "What do we plan to use it for?" Well, come on back next time and we'll talk about size, quality and floor plans for the RV of your choice or dream. In the meantime, keep on rolling!
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