Which RV Should I Buy?

Choosing to purchase an RV is a pretty big decision. There are so many factors to consider, and these factors can vary from person to person. Important considerations include the frequency at which the RV will be used, the amount of people who will be using the RV, budget, the places you plan to camp, and many more. Continue on for a list of the most important questions you should ask yourself when considering the purchase of a new RV.

1. How often will I use the RV?

This is perhaps the first and most important question to consider. Most people buy RVs for vacation usage, but some people plan to purchase RVs for full-time use. Deciding whether your RV will be used full-time, part-time, or occasionally is a huge factor in deciding which type of RV is best for you. Those going full-time may decide they need more space than those who will be living in the RV part-time or just using it for occasional trips. Still, deciding to live in your RV does not necessarily mean that you want something large, as the size needed tends to depend on several other additional factors.

2. Who will be living/vacationing in the RV?

This is also one of the most important factors to take into consideration. Are you planning to hit the open road solo, or wil, it be you and a partner? Do you have children, and, if so, how many children? How old are the children, and do they require their own room? Whether or not the kids need their own room also depends on your traveling frequency, so these first two questions go hand-in-hand.

Lastly, do you have pets? How many pets do you have and how much space do you think they require to live happily? Surprisingly, many have found that dogs need much less living space when they have plenty of time to run and play outdoors. But indoor cats will likely need more floor space, since they do not often leave the immediate home. These are all very pertinent considerations when deciding the size RV you would like to purchase.

3. How large of an RV am I comfortable driving?

This question also plays into the size RV you want to purchase. If you have decided that you need a medium or large-sized RV, you must be sure that you will be comfortable driving something of that size. If you are towing an RV, you must factor in the length of the truck plus the trailer. When driving a motorhome, you may want to tow another vehicle, or even “toys,” such as a boat or four-wheeler. This would add to the total driving length. While many newbies become used to driving a longer vehicle over time, it is a rather daunting task for many people. 

For motorhomes, consider test driving RVs that you are interested in purchasing if the dealership will allow it. How does it feel to be behind the wheel? Do you feel like you could become a pro with some practice? Or does it feel like something that you may never be comfortable with? These are incredibly important questions. For towable RVs, you may not be able to test drive one from a dealership.

However, there are many RV rental companies that may give you the experience of towing an RV. With towables, travel trailers and fifth wheels are incredibly different from each other. Travel trailers attach to a hitch at the end of the truck, while fifth wheels attach to a hitch in the bed of the truck. Both tow very differently and offer a different experience on the road. Be sure that you are comfortable with the length and average sway of your vehicle before deciding on a type and making a purchase.

4. Where will you be camping?

The type of camping you plan to do and places that you plan to camp are also important factors to consider. Is height or clearance a factor? Do you want to be able to travel down any dirt road and set up camp? Or are you planning to mostly stay in RV parks? Do you want to boondock on public lands or at Harvest Hosts locations? Or do you plan to camp with full-hookups most of the time? The places you want to camp will help to decide which type and size RV is best, and the type of camping you want to do will help to determine what size holding tanks you need. Be sure to take all of these things into consideration.

5. How much access to the RV do I want on travel days?

This question helps to sort the towable RV owners from the driveable RV owners. One of the biggest overall differences between the two is the amount of access the RVer has to the house while they are driving. For instance, in a motorhome, one has access to the bathroom and kitchen whenever they stop, allowing them to easily make food, get a drink, or do whatever else they need while in transit. With a towable RV, one must leave their vehicle to access their home on wheels to use the bathroom or fix a snack. In addition, with a towable RV, your truck must be large enough to fit any children and pets in the family, as it is unsafe for anyone to ride in the trailer while it is in motion. 

The frequency at which you travel (moving weekly, bi-weekly, monthly, etc.) will play a large part in the amount of access you wish to have while moving. If you travel more often, you may want to have access to your things, whereas those who move less frequently may not mind being separated from their things. Be sure to take all of this into careful consideration.

6. How much maintenance do I want to be performing?

Now that you have considered all the factors that play into the size RV that you need, you must consider maintenance work. RVs in general require quite a bit of maintenance, as you must keep all the house components (plumbing, electrical, propane components, etc.) in tip-top shape to allow them to function properly. In addition to this, motorhomes require mechanical and engine maintenance that trailers do not require. This includes changing the fluids in the RV and frequently checking over the drivetrain components.

Maintenance is also required for the truck that tows a trailer or fifth wheel, but it is generally easier to maintain a truck than a motorhome. In addition, if you are not performing the maintenance work yourself, you will likely be paying quite a bit more to maintain a motorhome than you would to maintain a standard truck. Furthermore, if you tow a vehicle, you will need to perform maintenance on both the motorhome and the towed vehicle, meaning double maintenance logs and service records.

7. How much money do you have to spend?

Budget is an enormous factor in determining which RV to buy. Generally speaking, motorhomes cost more than trailers. However, age and wear also play a factor. This means that a used motorhome may cost less than a newer travel trailer. However, a motorhome may still be a cheaper route for those who do not own a truck. If you wish to have a towable trailer, you may have to purchase a truck and a trailer, which can cost more than the price of a motorhome. Yet, if you have a truck already, purchasing a trailer may cost much less than purchasing a motorhome. With trailers, standard travel trailers also tend to cost less than fifth wheels, and toyhaulers tend to be the priciest of the three. These all play into the budget factor, which looks different for everyone looking to purchase an RV.

8. What will my travel budget be like?

In addition to budgeting for the upfront cost of an RV, you will want to consider your budget for ongoing RV costs, such as gas, insurance, and maintenance. Generally, motorhomes cost more for all three of these considerations. However, the amount of gas needed to drive a truck towing a large fifth wheel may be comparable to the amount of gas needed to drive a diesel motorhome and vice versa. Still, it generally costs more to insure a motorhome than it does to insure a trailer. In addition, maintenance costs are more expensive for motorhomes, as discussed above. Travel budget looks different for everyone, and it’s important to consider your average total monthly travel costs, which are greatly affected by the type of RV you choose.

9. What sort of vehicle do you currently have?

As mentioned above, those who already own a truck may be more eager to purchase a travel trailer or fifth wheel. Keep in mind the overall wear and tear on your truck, though. Those who do not own a truck and wish to purchase a travel trailer or fifth wheel will also have to invest in a truck to tow their RV.

If you plan to buy a motorhome, do you want a towed vehicle as well? Do you have a vehicle to tow, or do you need to buy one? What accessories do you need to tow your vehicle? Can you flat tow it, or do you need a tow-dolly? In addition, if you have decided to purchase a trailer, what materials do you need to tow it? Factoring in what you already have can play into your total budget for your RV. Be sure to factor in these costs where necessary.

10. What features are most important to me? 

Once you have narrowed down the size of RV you need and the type of RV you wish to buy, you are ready to shop. However, these two considerations can still draw up a wide variety of individual RVs. Within the motorhome category, you can find class As, class Bs, and class C motorhomes, each with their own unique features and differences. Furthermore, there are so many versions of each motorhome type, each equipped with their own features and layout. Consider several options when making your choice.

If you are choosing a trailer, do you prefer a travel trailer or a fifth wheel? Do you want a bunkhouse or would you rather have a larger living room? Be sure to look at many units before selecting the one that is best for you. To avoid missing anything, make a list of all the features that you are hoping to find in your next RV. This will help you to make the best decision when the time comes.

Pro Tip: Rent an RV Similar to the One you Want to Purchase

These are just some of the many scenarios you must consider when purchasing a new RV. Be sure to sit down and come up with a list of requirements and wishes in regards to your new purchase. Talk to anyone who will be purchasing and using the RV with you to decide which is best for you.

Don’t be afraid to rent an RV in the style you are considering. Maybe you will love it, or maybe you will decide that it’s not right for you. This may lead you to try another or maybe even several more until you land on the perfect rig. You may even need to rent an RV for several days, taking it to do all the things you plan to do with the one that you will purchase. This will help you to get a grasp of what living or travelling in your future RV will be like. 

With the right research and planning, choosing the best RV for you and your needs should be rather doable. Consider also speaking to your salesperson (if purchasing from a dealership) and using their expertise to help you decide. In the end though, the biggest consideration is what you want and need. Really weighing the pros and cons of each RV will help prevent needing to switch to another RV in the future. Make a few lists and do all the trial runs that you need. Talk to other RVers with similar living and travelling situations to you. This is a big decision and should not be taken lightly. Whatever RV you choose is likely to aid in creating memories down the road, so take all the time you need to make the decision that is best for you.

Do you have an RV, and, if so, what type do you have? What factors did you consider when choosing your RV? What was most important to you? Do you have any advice for others who are considering the purchase of an RV? Feel free to share tips, comments, and experiences in the comments below!

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  1. Wells
    12th September, 2020

    After 14 years, we are back into RVing. The Covid had a lot to do with it. We haven’t been able to see our kids in Colorado since Thanksgiving, So we bought the newest of the travel trailers, the “couples” camper. Just big enough for two, but all the amenities. Also light enough to be towed with our mid sized SUV. We spent about 5 years RVing the whole US, first in class C, then fifth wheel and now a light trailer. Hoping to stop at a Harvest Host or two on our 2 week round trip from MA to CO.

    1. Karrie
      12th July, 2021

      Do you mind telling me which model camper trailer you chose? I am overwhelmed; I would be towing with a Suzuki Grand Vitara 6 cylinder. And, it’s just me (for now ;-)).
      Thanks, and happy travels.