I remember clearly the day I bought my first “car”. It was my 20th birthday. I came home and parked my new baby in the driveway and ran upstairs to tell my roommate. It was a Saturday and she wanted to sleep in.
“Why does everyone keep bugging me?” She whined, pulling the blanket over her head.
“Just thought you’d want to know I bought a motorhome,” I said smugly.
She leaned over and peered out the window at my Toyota Sunrader. Then demanded that I hand her the phone.
To me, it had always been clear, that a recreational vehicle was infinitely superior to a non-recreational vehicle. But how does one choose the right RV? Here are a few things to consider:
One Piece or Two?
I’m not talking swimsuits, but with an RV the first thing you need to decide if you want one piece (motorhome or van) or two (truck-mounted camper or trailer). They both have their advantages and disadvantages. The following questions can help decide which is best for you.
- Do you already own a truck (big enough to pull a trailer or put a camper on)?
- Will you use this vehicle only as an RV or do you need a vehicle for day to day getting around as well?
- If you choose to buy another vehicle, how will this effect your insurance costs? (Check with your agent. You may be able to purchase a seasonal policy or insurance which you activate only when you’re using your RV.)
- How will you be using your RV? Going on road-trips, or living long term as a “snow bird”? If it’s the latter than you probably want a detachable trailer so that you can set up camp and not have to undo your hook-ups every time you want to run to the store.
- Will you be using your RV alone or with someone? I’m fond of trucks and figured a truck with an old-fashioned camper would be perfect. Except that I’m a single girl and wasn’t sure I could back-in perfectly and get the camper onto the truck by myself. Backing up is something to consider. In a perfect world every camp ground would have pull through slots, but alas, we do not live in a perfect world.
What amenities do you want?
Are you just looking for something you can sleep in? A station wagon or pick-up with a canopy can be easily modified to accommodate you. Or do you want the works. I rarely showered in my motorhome, but I used the tiny kitchen, and (of course) the toilet on a regular basis. If you buy an RV that’s completely self-contained it can also serve as your home if life throws you some unexpected surprise.
New or Used?
As with the purchase of any vehicle, a new RV will cost you more, but will probably come with a warranty, and mechanical parts you can (hopefully) have confidence in. However, because we’re talking recreational vehicles there maybe some advantages to having had a previous owner who added an awning, or built a shelf to hold a small microve or noticed that the towel bar was in a stupid place and moved it.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again. Size does matter. At least in RVs. Consider where you will be taking your RV and who you will be traveling with. For years, my mini-motorhome was my only vehicle and the fact that I could fit in a compact parking place was a big plus. But when I took a friend camping with me, it was a little crowded. Are you buying for a solo traveler, a couple or a family? Maybe mom and dad need the comfort of a bed in the RV (and a kitchen to cook in), but the kids can sleep in a tent? Size will also effect the weight, fuel consumption and toll charges you will pay. And of course, you need to feel comfortable driving it. Aim for big enough, but not too big.