Within the last couple of weeks we’ve received enough questions about our RV, and how we chose it, that an entire post on the subject seems warranted. We haven’t spoken a lot about the nuts and bolts of RVing in the past, so this is a topic that is probably a bit overdue.
When we first decided to live in an RV fulltime it was something we knew absolutely nothing about. To be honest, we couldn’t tell a Class A from a 5th wheel from a cow. We had never owned so much as a pop-up trailer. Heck, we had never even spent a night in a camper of any kind. It took us about two months of hard research to go from zero to confident RV owners. This is how we decided on our specific rig:
How much can you carry?
Every RV is built on a chassis and every chassis has weight limitations. In our search we found plenty of rigs built so heavy that pretty much the only additional things we would have felt safe bringing along was packing peanuts and helium balloons. No single factor disqualified more rigs from consideration than “Cargo Carrying Capacity.”
We looked for at least 2,000 pounds of capacity to carry people, pets and gear.
Floor plan, floor plan, floor plan
The second biggest consideration for us was the floor plan. Many RV’s are designed for weekenders. What we wanted, though, was an apartment on wheels. We wanted a motor home where we’d be comfortable living day in and day out. We wanted a TV that we could see without straining our necks. We wanted a bed that didn’t require climbing over one another to get in or out. We wanted a full bathroom. We wanted a bedroom separate from the main living space. We wanted a decent kitchen. And we wanted a dining room table with free standing chairs.
Were all of these things absolutely necessary? No. But we found them in Winnebago’s Sightseer 33C.
Motor home or 5th wheel?
If we had to do it over again, we’d be extremely tempted to get a 5th wheel. We love our motor home. It is absolute perfect for us in almost every way imaginable. But trailers have one major advantage over motor homes, and it is huge: no engine or drive-train. Bringing your entire house to the shop for oil changes or major maintenance is a royal pain. This alone might be reason enough to favor a 5th wheel.
So why did we get a motor home? It was the path of least resistance, really. If we bought a 5th wheel, we’d also have to research and buy a heavy duty truck. That was just one more thing added to an already very long to-do list.
I also assumed (correctly I think) that this noob would have a far easier time learning to drive a motor home. I had towed small trailers in my youth, and I knew that backing them into spots required considerable skill and practice. I had neither.
We didn’t want to use a heavy duty truck for all of our sightseeing and errands the way most 5th wheel owners do either. And we didn’t like the idea of transporting our anxious cats from the 5th wheel to the tow vehicle every time we traveled. Letting them ride in the home that they were used to was the better solution for them.
Some people also say that set-up and take-down takes longer with a 5th wheel, but I’m not convinced. I think it probably takes us about as much time to hook up our tow vehicle as it does for an experienced 5th wheel owner to hook up their truck. So I think that issue is probably a push.
Class A, B, or C?
The limited cargo carrying capacity of the smaller RVs we considered eventually lead us toward a Class A. We originally thought we’d get a mid-sized Class C, but couldn’t find one that had everything we wanted. What you choose here is really just a matter of taste, though. Folks have successfully full-timed in everything from a ’58 Volkswagen van to a 44 foot Class A bus.
If I were traveling alone, I think I could make a small Volkswagen or Class B work just fine. But with us traveling together, we really value having some individual space.
Diesel or gas?
Diesel owners extol their virtues: better hill climbing, smoother rides, longer lasting engines, and more storage space. But at nearly double the cost, these advantages seemed to us like extravagant luxuries. Even if I had unlimited funds, the miser in me could never justify diesel’s price tag.
To tow or not to tow?
We thought long and hard about whether to take a car along with us. We’re so glad we did. We put three times as many miles on our car as we do on our motor home. Bringing a car means not having to unlevel, unhook and secure all belongings every time we want to run an errand or see a sight. I have a feeling we wouldn’t get out nearly as much as we do if we didn’t own a car, which kind of defeats the whole purpose. It’s one expense we feel is absolutely worth the price.