BEGINNERS GUIDE TO BUYING AN RV
We began our camping adventures in a tent. While I enjoyed those first few trips, the novelty of sleeping on the ground quickly wore off. It wasn’t long before we were ready for something a little more substantial than a tent, but that fit within our budget. So we bought a Folding Camping Trailer (also known as a pop-up or tent trailer). We loved that little RV. With the canvas sides, it was the perfect combination of being immersed in the elements with the comforts of an RV. It even had a shower and a toilet! We created so many wonderful memories in that camper. We’ll never forget the weeks we spent camped out on the California coast or under the Giant Sequoias. Waking up with the salty smell of the ocean or thick scent of pine was heavenly.
We camped in that Folding Camping Trailer for a few years, but when we decided to take our life on the road, we knew it wasn’t going to be suitable for long-term RVing. We happily sold her to another family who was eager to make their own memories and began the search for our new RV.
Initially, we wanted to go with a motorhome with a bunkhouse. There are a lot of advantages to motorized RVs like the convenience of pulling in somewhere late and heading straight to bed without even needing to open a car door. We also liked the idea of being able to pull a small car (commonly called a toad) so we could drive that around when we got to our destination. My parents had a Type C when I was a teenager and my grandparents have a Type A, so a motorhome seemed natural.
During one of our many visits to RV dealers, my dad, who also loves to look at RVs, suggested we take a look at a bunkhouse Fifth-Wheel Travel Trailer. Neither Brent nor I had ever been in one. We were both amazed at the space and loved the three separate living quarters: a bunk in the back for the kids, the living room/kitchen in the middle, and the front master bedroom. It felt like a mini apartment, something we loved since it was going to be our home for a time.
While we would lose some of the advantages of a motorhome, the more we thought about it, the more we felt a Fifth-Wheel would better fit our family’s needs. The boys would have their own room with plenty of storage space for all their gear, Brent would have space for a desk in a room that could be closed off for quieter working conditions, and the large family room/kitchen area would be great for cooking and family time. We were also keen on the reliability of a diesel truck that we could detach and use for our excursions away from camp.
After a few more weeks of looking at different floor plans, we ended up with a 35’ Cedar Creek Silverback bunkhouse Fifth-Wheel. Like our previous Folding Camping Trailer, we made more memories than we could have imagined in those two years we called it home. We found our AWAY under the palms in the Florida Keys, on the shores of Puget Sound, and hundreds of places in between.
Then last summer, we found our family would be expanding, or “expecting adventure” as we like to say. In nine months, we would be welcoming our third child. It was time to say goodbye to our Cedar Creek who we had dubbed “The Millennium Cedar” and look for another RV to accommodate the needs of our growing family. It didn’t take long to sell her. After only a few days of listing her online, she was purchased by a young couple who was equally excited to begin making their own memories. We said a teary goodbye to The Millennium Cedar (who knew you could get so attached to an RV?) and began a search for a new RV.
After RVing for over two solid years, we knew exactly what our family’s needs were. We wanted a large bunkhouse Fifth-Wheel Travel Trailer with at least four slides, two of which we wanted in the back bunk room. We also wanted a large counter, a residential fridge, a space in the bedroom where Brent could build a desk as he works full time from the road, two bathrooms, a booth dinette, plenty of storage, and, if possible, a bathtub for the baby on the way. After all, our RV is our home. Believe it or not, there were quite a few RVs that fit most of our needs. It’s really amazing what manufacturers are doing with RVs these days.
We spent a few weeks scouring the internet, visiting dealers, and going to RV shows looking at many different models and manufacturers. We narrowed our choices down to four or five models we really liked and then finally decided on the perfect RV for our family, a Heartland Gateway bunkhouse Fifth-Wheel. It had everything we wanted, even a bathtub! This was the first time we had made a large new purchase but our dealer, Dixie RV, put us at ease and made the process really simple. After much contemplation and research, we finally had our new home and we couldn’t be happier.
Things to consider when choosing your RV
Towable or Motorized?
For many families, towable RVs offer great flexibility and if you already own a vehicle that can serve as your tow vehicle, you are already half-way there. Motorized RVs on the other hand offer great passenger comfort while on the road and some people find them easier to park.
Are you a weekend warrior, or do you plan to do extended adventures?
You’re obviously going to need a lot more gear if you plan to live in your RV for an extended stay, which means you will need more storage space and greater load capacity. Sport Utility RVs (or toy haulers) are a great option for people who want to bring along a lot of large gear.
How many people will your RV need to sleep? An RV built for two offers a different set of features than a bunkhouse built for a family. With so many new styles of RVs on the market it’s helpful to narrow down your desired floor plan before hitting the showroom floor.
Where do you plan to camp?
Occasionally, not often, length can be an issue. Most parks can accommodate RVs up to 40’ long or longer. Some of the older state and national parks have length restrictions. In our two and a half years of travel this has only caused us to change our plans a handful of times, but it’s something to consider. A Type C can be a great option for people who want to go anywhere! You’ll also want to consider options, such as a generator, that make boondocking (camping without hookups) easier if this is something you plan to do.
When do you plan to camp?
Are you a summertime RVer? Or do you like to find your AWAY year round? If winter camping is something you enjoy, then consider looking for a four season RV. Four season equipped RVs typically have better insulation, heated tanks, and other features to make camping in varied weather conditions more comfortable. Likewise, if you are going to be spending a lot of time in hot climates, you’ll most likely want to have adequate air conditioning.
There are many choices of RVs on the market with something for everybody and every budget. Thankfully tools like Go RVing’s Find My RV Tool help make the choice easier. Click over to the tool and begin discovering how to find your AWAY!
Do you own an RV? If so how did you choose your RV? Any advice or tips to add to our list?