Choosing Your Rig

The number one factor in choosing an RV is deciding whether you want to stay put for most of the time or if you want to travel. Living in one spot, perhaps in an RV park, can give you the luxury of more space whereas living on the road can mean getting by with a little less room. If you’re going to be driving a lot, the gas bill will hurt your monthly budget you so the important factor is never buy more RV than you need.

RV’s come in a variety of Classes and designs. At the beginning of the alphabet is the Class A. These are the big, bus type RVs that you see on the road, usually towing a car behind and looking like a million dollar mobile mansion. The modern ones, often called Diesel Pushers, have large and expensive diesel engines in the rear. Older Class A’s (before the early 90’s) were gasoline powered engines, typically big block Chevy and Fords. Smaller motors are rare on the larger motorhomes because they don’t offer much in the way of improved fuel economy. Put simply, less horsepower pulling the same weight will consume more fuel.

Next on the list is the Class C. The Class C's have a distinctive body that extends over the cab of the forward section, usually containing a bed. They are a good option for the full-timer on a budget because the older models sit on a regular chassis from either Chevrolet or Ford. Both companies sell to RV manufacturers. Basing them on a common configuration like a delivery van means that if you break down, parts are widely available at the local auto parts store. In addition, if you’re not using the spare bed, the overhead compartment is a tremendous storage space option for all those rarely used items.

The Class B is a campervan. They may look small but many of them have showers, toilets, and many of the same amenities as their larger cousins. To tuck all that into less space, the manufacturers have made some compromises but most of the designs are solid and seem to work well. The Class B is a good option for those who like to spend a lot of time outside and mainly want their RV to be not much more than basic living quarters.
The pull along type that you see towed behind a car is a travel trailer and the pick-up campers are the ones you see actually mounted on the bed of a truck. Every type of RV fits into one of these categories and they all have their particular advantages.

The big Class A is good for campground living because they're spacious and offer more room to stretch out which is a good thing when your idea of camping is winter spent in a Florida RV park. The size and the subsequent lack of maneuverability however, can work against you when you want to get away from it all on some rough roads out west.

The Class C, at the expense of a few feet of space, offers the amenities of the Class A with slightly better gas mileage and drivability. The Class B, because it blends right into any parking lot with the minimum of fuss, is great for a single person or couple that does a lot of urban boondocking. 

A travel trailer is a good option for weekend campers because you don't need a specialty vehicle and you get to have the best of both worlds. There’s a car to run around town in and somewhere to lay your head when the sightseeing is over for the day. The tradeoff is a little bit of a learning curve when it comes to driving, especially when it comes to backing up the trailer into tight camping spots. A pick-up camper has the same advantages, also at the expense of some room, and there is a little bit more work required to drop and go.

One category that I haven't mentioned is the fifth wheel trailer. A special hitch is required to tow them and they can be more expensive to buy than a comparable travel trailer. Not everybody likes the idea of drilling holes in their truck bed for a bit of weekend camping but the benefit is that they drive just like a semi-truck and can be easier to pull.

Lastly is the Toy Hauler, a popular option for recreational campers. They are a travel trailer, or sometimes a fifth wheel, with the living area in the front and what is basically, a garage in the rear for motorcycles and ATVs.

Buying an RV can be a great experience and making the right choice doesn’t have to be intimidating. Everybody's needs are different but the best advice is to spend a few weekends visiting local dealers and getting a feel for what the different types of RVs have to offer in terms of drivability, comfort, and convenience. Happy shopping and happy camping!