What Type Of RV Is Best For Full-Timers?
What type of RV? There are many, many types of RVs. We will cover the basics, but we will concentrate a little more on the RVs that are most suited to the full-timing lifestyle.
In this section, we will discuss what type of RV you should purchase. As with many aspects of full-timing, the options are numerous and the choice is quite personal. It is very difficult to provide recommendations because of personal preferences, budgets, and selections.
Types of RVs
So here we will simply provide an education about the types of RVs and a few pros and cons about the most popular.
The basic categories of RVs areMotorhomes (including Bus Conversions)
Travel Trailers (or towables)
Motorhomes are your vehicle and living quarters combined.
Travel trailers must be towed by a separate vehicle.
A truck camper is living quarters that sits in the back of a pick-up truck.
Let’s start with motorhomes. Motorhomes are further divided into classes.
Class A Motorhomes
Class A motorhomes are the largest. They are the RVs most people think of when you use the term RV. Although different than Class A motorhomes, Bus Conversions are also large (and can be luxurious) and they are the rigs most often associated with stars and athletes that travel over the road from city to city.
Class B Motorhomes
Class B motorhomes are the smallest and are built on a van chassis. Although there are full-timers in Class Bs, they are generally too small to live in for long periods of time.
Class C Motorhomes
Class C motorhomes are also built on a van chassis and are often referred to as mini-motorhomes although they can be as long as many of the Class As. They are distinguished by an extended section over the cab which usually contains an extra bed.
Travel Trailers (Towables)
Towables include true travel trailers, fifth wheels, pop-up campers, and all others that are towed. Though there are full-timers in all shapes and sizes of towable RVs, only travel trailers and fifth wheels are practical for long-term living for the majority of people.
Travel trailers are large trailers towed completely behind the tow vehicle. They are hitched to the back of the tow vehicle which can be anything that has enough power and torque to pull the trailer.
Fifth wheels are trailers that have a gooseneck front section that extends over the bed of the pick-up truck (usually) tow vehicle. The hitch is located in the center of the truck bed, so fifth wheels can only be towed by pick-up or flat bed trucks.
NOTE: Many full-timers choose to pull their trailers with, large, semi-looking Medium Duty Trucks (MDTs) or Heavy Duty Trucks (HDTs). For very heavy trailers, MDTs & HDTs provide more saftey in going down long, steep inclines and in stopping emergencies, but the trade-off is having to use them for store runs and exploring.
Travel Trailers vs. Fifth Wheels
Between travel trailers and fifth wheels, travel trailers are generally less expensive. Fifth wheels tend to have more living space and are easier to tow.
With fifth wheels having much of their weight positioned over the tow vehicle, they are less susceptible to jack-knifing or fish-tailing. At least one source I have read stated that fifth wheels are the most popular among full-timers, but it seems to us to be about 50/50 between fifth wheels and motorhomes.
Motorhomes vs. Towables
Again, the type of RV you choose is largely personal preference. However, there are some basic differences that may help you decide.Non-drivers can pursue other activities while on the road (although it is highly recommended that they stay seated with belts on).
You do not have to stop for bathroom breaks (but again, it is not recommended that you walk in the rig while in motion).
You do not have to go out in bad weather to get to the living quarters when you stop.
Many motorhomes have self-leveling jacks so there is no need to place boards or blocks under wheels to level.
Motorhomes are a little easier to move and set up.
Motorhomes allow you to tow just about any vehicle for exploring local areas.
If something needs to be repaired, your entire home has to go into the shop and you may have to find other accommodations until all parts are in and the problem is fixed.
Motorhomes tend to be more expensive than towables, even when factoring in a tow vehicle for the towable.
Motorhomes generally have less living space than travel trailers and fifth wheels.
Because Motorhomes have a lot of value tied up in the motor, they depreciate faster.
When towing a second vehicle, you cannot back up, you have the cost and maintenance of the second vehicle, and you are back to having towing and hitching hassles.
Towable Pros (large travel trailers and fifth wheels)
They are less expensive and hold value longer.
They have more living space.
Because they require a tow vehicle, you can leave the RV and take the tow vehicle on short runs.
It is usually the motorized vehicle that needs repair, so if the tow vehicle is in the shop, you still can live in the RV.
Towing and hitching/unhitching large trailers can be a hassle (although our experience has been that fifth wheel hitching/unhitching is about as easy as it gets).
Due to overall length, parking and finding campsites can be a problem.
Non-drivers cannot legally (in some states) be in the trailer while moving, and it's not recommended even where it is legal.
Depending on the size of the towable, the tow vehicle could be more expensive than the RV, and could make the overall cost rival a motorhome.
Because of the size of the tow vehicle necessary to pull a full-timing trailer, exploring the area may be a less comfortable ride than in a vehicle towed behind a motorhome.
If financing, the tow vehicle loan cannot be spread over a long term like RV loans; therefore, monthly payments could be higher on a trailer/tow vehicle combination than on a motorhome.
So how do you decide? Research, read, go to dealer lots, go to RV shows, and ask questions of full-timers that are on the road and on internet forums. You will develop preferences.
When we started looking, we just presumed we would get a motorhome. But after looking briefly, we quickly determined that we wanted the living space of a fifth wheel, the safety and ease of towing a fifth wheel over a travel trailer, and the convenience of having a detachable tow vehicle with a fifth wheel.
We determined that storage space, quality cabinets, counter space, and a bathroom set-up where the toilet was separate from the vanity and shower were the features we had to have. Attending one RV show allowed us to dismiss a large number of rigs.
Of course we all have to keep our budget in mind. The consensus in the books I have read and the websites I have visited seems to be that full-timers should buy the largest RV that you can afford.
This seems to be backed up by full-timer surveys. Rarely does one say their rig is too large, most say their rig is just right, but many say that they would get a larger unit if they could change anything about their experience.
Again, budget and personal preference may determine whether you buy new or used. You have to weigh reliability, warranties, and the features you want against price.
My preference in the beginning was on new versus used was quite different for a live-in RV versus a car. I can’t stand the depreciation factor on cars, so I tend to lean toward late model used cars. However, with a live-in RV and tow vehicle, when we started I preferred new to ensure manufacturer warranties, safety, and the latest technology.
Many full-timers would disagree, and we might lean more toward used now that we have several years of full-timing under our belts and we know more of what to look for. However, I am not mechanically inclined at all, so the less worry I have with maintenance & repairs, the better. When we started, new was worth the extra price, and it was a good decision for our first unit.
Now, our budget is different, and if we had to make a choice today, we would most likely go with used simply because we don't have the cash to buy new and we refuse to finance.
There are tremendous deals on used RVs. Lots of people buy them new and then do not use them as often as they thought. So low mileage, used RVs can be found at really great prices once you make a choice on what you want and are willing to do a little searching to find the deal.
The Type Of RV May Depend On Your Financial Situation
Should You Rent Before You Buy?
An RV Caravan Tour May Help You Decide