We started by setting two main specifications: Type and price. Since we already owned a truck and our Jeep we considered trailers first. Then we shifted to going with a Class A and towing the Jeep (which was much newer and had far fewer miles) The Jeep also gives us better maneuverability when sightseeing, whether it’s in city or country driving. You can read our other post “Why a Class A” to learn a bit more about we ended up with a Class A instead of a 5th Wheel.
So first, figure what type you would like. Part of that is based on how you plan to use it and other considerations, such as:
|image found on RVillage.com|
Set it and stick to it. You want to be able to afford to use it once you get it. They make awfully expensive lawn ornaments.
TIP: Buying used can save you tons of money. RV’s depreciate quickly. And if a warranty is important to you, they are still available if the rig isn’t too old.
How will you use it?
Are you planning mainly a few vacations and weekends a year with it? Or seasonal to full-time living?
If it will only be used for an annual vacation and some weekends, a towable may be your best bet, or a smaller motorhome such as a Class C or Class B. Seasonal (think Snow-Birds) or Full-timers seem to prefer Class A Motorhomes and Fifth Wheel trailers. We love our Class A for the visibility both on the road, and the view from our large “picture window” in camp. We also love being able to access living space easily from the driving area. Very handy for pit stops 😊
Will your camping be primarily public lands or Resorts? Rustic or posh?
Going off road with it deep into the woods? Consider a slide-in truck camper on a 4x4 truck. Smaller motorhomes and trailers are a better fit in National Parks. Space for rigs over 30-35 feet can be pretty limited, so keep that in mind if you hope to spend the majority of your time on public lands.
Do you already have a suitable vehicle to tow with?
If not, are you willing to make that additional investment in one?
TIP: Be sure to check directly with your vehicle’s owner’s manual…don’t trust a salesman. My sister got stuck making expensive modifications to the new car she bought prior to getting her trailer.
Check the RV paperwork for weight and towing limits. You'd be surprised how quickly you can use that allowance up!
TIP: Be sure to check directly with your vehicle’s owner’s manual…don’t trust a salesman! Not all cars can be towed behind an RV, and only some of those can be "flat-towed" (without using a dolly or trailer)
Do you have a place to store it when not in use?
That may be an additional cost to consider if you can’t have it at your home. We were fortunate that our house had a side drive we could park Miss Emmy in until we hit the open road. And the size of that driveway helped us in knowing what maximum size rig we could have.
Summer use only, or will you be doing winter camping?
Some rigs are set up with additional insulation and heated basements to handle cold weather. Others are not. Miss Emmy is nicely insulated, but not a true winter coach...but at least her basement is heated!
Once you have settled on type, size and cost, you get a whole new list of things to consider. And they are primarily the same as looking for a house or apartment. Here’s a few things to consider:
How many do you want/need to sleep?
- Bunkhouse Model-great option for families with kids or if you just want extra space to convert for storage or into an office
- Corner Bed-common arrangement in shorter units. The bed is literally in the corner of the rig. That means a challenge to make the bed…and lots of climbing over each other to get in or out.
- Island or walk-around bed-the most “house like” arrangement
- Murphy Bed – these are showing up in smaller rigs. While a great concept for weekends and vacations, you have to be willing to redo your space every.single.day.
- Dinette/Bed – if the rig has a booth dinette, it will make into a bed. Like the Murphy bed, that's something you could end up doing daily.
- Slides? (Slides are the expanding sides you see on newer RV’s) Do you want them? If not, you’ll have to look at much older coaches or smaller rigs.
- How many slides
- How many bathrooms? In a self-contained RV, one is standard. Some have two full baths.
TIP: If a unit has slides, you'll want "slide toppers". That's a type of awning that protects the slides.
Yes, it will have a galley, but do you want/need
- Additional Outdoor Galley
- Propane and Electric
- All Electric
- 2 door or 4 door fridge
- Ice-maker in the fridge
There’s a saying out there among RVers: A rig can do cocktails for 6, dinner for 4 and sleeps 2. If you are big on having folks into your rig, factor that into your size and floor-plan considerations
- How many? We’ve seen rigs with SIX television sets.
- Surround sound
- LP Generator
- Diesel Generator
- Gas Generator
- Built in Generator
- Portable Generator
- Solar Panels
- Roof air
- Ducted heat
- All electric
- Heat pump
- Forced Air
- Floor Vents
- Ceiling Vents
Are your traveling with furry (or non-furry) family members? Where will their bed/cage/letter box/food, etc go?
While your dreaming, do a LOT of looking. Go ahead and prowl the dealership lots. You can get sales staff off your back if you tell them you’re at least a full year out and are just starting to look. And we had dealerships in SD that said, “Sure, go look. They’re all open. If you have any questions, just let me know” So we could look at leisure no matter where we went. That was key as our “dream” rig morphed from a tow behind trailer to a class A! (And yes, we considered everything in between.)
The internet will be your friend too. You can find images, floorplans, manuals, brochures, and even videos.
And as you look, be flexible. How flexible? Just remember, we started out looking at 30’ trailers and ended up purchasing a Class A. While your specifications may not change to that extreme, your list will morph as you look around. Take your time and enjoy the journey.
When we started looking for Miss Emmy, we set our budget and had the following minimum “requirements”
- Class A
- Diesel Pusher with at least a 275 Cummins Engine (or comparable)
- Six Speed transmission
- Exhaust Brake (also called engine braking)
- 5,000 pound minimum towing capacity
- No slides
- 32-35 feet long
- Walk around bed with “night stand” and accessible power outlets
She’s actually a little longer than we wanted, her bumper to bumper is 36’10”. But that extra foot or so inside means we have a small table by the chair that we use as a work station. That was a bonus. It took us several months to find her, and then several months of waiting (and praying she'd still be available) before we could go and get her.
And yes, she was worth the wait and the cross-country trip to get her.
So, take your time. Visit shows and dealerships to get the feel for different floorplans. Look at new and used. Spend time online looking at sites like RV Trader and YouTube. It will help you get to know various rigs, floorplans and prices.
Happy hunting and we’ll see you on the road!