How do I choose an RV? The big, scary question every person asks themselves when looking to buy an RV, Camper, or Travel Trailer. Whether you are in the market to buy something new or used, big or small, the below set of questions may help you iron out exactly the model you need. We are here to guide you through some questions to ask yourself before buying a camper. How do we know all this? Well, we spent some time renting rigs and researching until we ultimately found the perfect rig to call home.
We asked ourselves the below questions when we were in our planning phases to help guide us through the buying process. Ultimately, these questions helped us think through the type of RV we wanted that fit our lifestyle the best, and we wanted to share these questions with you all! After all, the freedom an RV gives is something that everyone should experience. Let’s just make sure you have the right rig!
How Do I Choose An RV & Which RV Is Right For Me?
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How Do I Choose An RV?
First, let’s lay some groundwork. There are a lot of terminologies used when talking rigs – RV’s, C-Class, A-Class, Motorhomes, B-Class, Vans, Fifth Wheel Campers, Travel Trailers, Toy Haulers, Tear Drop Campers, Towable’s, Pop-Up Campers, and Expandable Campers. A lot of names. Overwhelmed yet? We were.
To say you have options to choose from is an understatement. But how do you know which rig is right for you? Essentially, “how do I choose an RV”? When we were shopping around we ultimately asked ourselves the following questions to help us determine what we could not only afford but which rig best fit our needs and our lifestyle.
So let’s get to it!
1) What Size Camper Do You Need?
The first question in understanding “how do I choose an RV” is the size. While price is important, we consider that a few questions down. We have some other things to talk through first. Doesn’t it make sense to look at your new potential rig from who is going to use it with you first?
- Are you a solo traveler?
- Traveling with your partner?
- How about traveling with a partner, but like the idea of bringing friends along too?
- What about pets?
- Have any kids?
Basically, you need to determine, besides you, who else is coming with you on your weekend trips or month-long getaways. The quantity of persons in your rig TOTALLY plays into the size you need and the beds required. Plus, you need to think through the space each person will need (i.e seating, sleeping, storing their things).
If the description says “sleeps four” is there truly space for 4 bodies PLUS their belongings? Being crammed in a small space while trying to find a place for fido’s crate or your kid’s toys can quickly turn any new RV adventure into a stressful time.
You need a rig that can comfortably accommodate the people who will be using it. Doesn’t matter how good of a deal you got, if your RV doesn’t fit your space needs, you won’t use it.
Tip: When looking at sizes, make sure your partner or road trip buddy is comfortable and capable of driving the rig size you select.
2) How Are You Going To Use Your Camper?
Now that you have your camper size in mind, next up in “how do I choose an RV” is how are you going to use your future rig?
- Need something a little larger because you’re going to be a full-time digital nomad?
- Something mid-size because you’re a part-timer/ few trips a year kinda a person?
- Or something small, because you’re a weekend warrior?
Your plans for use really should be put into your upfront consideration. After all, you want to enjoy your rig! For instance, if you’re going to use it a lot, you’ll want to make sure the space fits your needs since you’ll be basically living in your RV, aka your second home.
Do you require…
- Onsite shower and toilet? If so, what kind? A wet bath (where shower and toilet are in the same space) or separate shower and toilet?
- Storage? Is there enough cabinet space for your kitchen utensils, clothes, food, shoes, etc.?
- Living Space? Do you need a dinette? A couch to lounge and enjoy? Or is a bed just fine?
- Do you want other amenities like a TV? Dishwasher? Large refrigerator?
If you’re a weekend warrior, you may not need as much space. For instance, you can probably do without a shower or ample storage space. Anything is doable for a weekend, right? But if you are working from your RV or traveling for months on end, you may require a few more creature comforts and amenities.
3) What Kind of Camping Do You Want To Do?
Everyone has their own personal preference, but really when thinking through “how do I choose an RV”, understanding the size of your rig can either limit how you want to camp/travel or open endless possibilities up to you!
If you are looking to wing it, boondock, or even sneak into tent sites, a smaller rig (24 or under) is for you. If you’re thinking, “Nah, I am an RV park’er”, then you have the luxury to go big, just know that even some RV parks can be limiting on the size of big rigs they take.
- Staying At Campgrounds: If you have a rig that is 24 ft or under, most campgrounds allow you to use tent sites vs making you stay at an RV site. When we were in Grand Canyon National Park, we were actually able to stay at their tent campground inside the park vs having to pay to stay at the RV park, which was quite a bit more per night.
- Looking To Stay At A RV Park: You’re an RV park’er, plain and simple. Hey, that’s fantastic! We totally get it. Having a flat pad and full hook-ups is amazing. However, some RV parks even have limitations in accommodating bigger rigs. So, if you want to own a big RV, just know that a bit more planning ahead and reservation making will be required.
- First Come, First Serve Campsites: Are you staying at a first come, first serve campsite? When we were road tripping through Arizona, we stayed at Lone Rock Beach in Page, AZ. The beach operates on first come first serve and no spots are marked. You basically set up shop wherever there is space on the beach. If we needed or wanted to go into Page, we’d 100% lose our spot as we were in a C-Class rig at the time. Meaning, that there was nothing we could leave behind, that weren’t personal belongings, to save our spot. If you are in a pull-behind/travel trailer camper, you won’t have this problem as you can leave your rig and take your car into town.
- What Activities Do You Want To Do? We love to hike. Some hiking trails require you to travel down unpaved, insanely bumpy roads to access the trailhead. If you are in a big, low-riding rig, accessing steep-grade mountain roads or trailheads becomes a challenge if not impossible. Also, for instance, Signal Mountain in Grand Teton National Park doesn’t allow big rigs up to the top. You need to really think through if your rig will hinder you from any activities you want to do. Your rig should add to the run, not hinder you from it!
- Wanting To Boondock: Smaller rigs allow you to get off the beaten path much easier, as they are just easier to maneuver, allowing you to boondock and get away from the crowds. While definitely not impossible, big rigs can boondock, it can be a little tricky and at times dicey getting a big A-Class or 5th Wheel camper to a boondocking site
NOTE: If you’re wanting to boondock, you need to make sure your rig is equipped to do so. Regardless of the size of your rig, when you boondock, you won’t have any amenities like electric hookups and will need to look into adding either solar (our recommend) or buying generators so your rig has electricity.
4) What’s Your Camper Budget? Do You Plan To Finance?
So now, it’s time to talk budget. By now, you should have a good idea as to what size rig you’re needing and some amenities you consider essential (toilet, shower, etc.).
For instance, say you decide “I’m a weekend warrior, a party of two type of traveler.” If that sounds like you, then a teardrop camper may be perfect. You can spend anywhere from $5,000 – $40,000+ for teardrop campers. Does this fit into your budget?
What if you decide you’re needing LOTS of space because you’re a family of five who homeschools their kiddos while you and your significant other work remotely? You may be looking at a 40ft+ fifth wheel as you’ll be on the road a lot. On average a 5th wheel can cost you on average from $40,000 to $100,000+.
Of course, the above scenarios are just examples of what you can find. But essentially, what we’re trying to get across is that you should start with the size you require so you understand 1) what rigs you need to be looking at and 2) the price ranges of the rig you will need to buy.
When we were in our “absorption” phase, we found, on average, pull-behind campers were the least expensive option when compared to an A-Class, C-Class RV, or a B-Class Van. If you think about it, this just makes sense. Anything that doesn’t have an engine is going to be cheaper. Plus engines require maintenance. Just some food for thought when thinking through your rig and budget 🙂
TIP: Did you know, unlike car loans, you can finance RVs for longer periods of time which can help lower your monthly payment? Also, don’t forget to add in/calculate RV insurance so you understand your true monthly camper payment.
5) Do You Want to Buy a Used Camper? Flip A Camper? Buy A New Camper?
Essentially how quickly do you want to get on the road? We asked ourselves this question because to us, we wanted to get out on the road ASAP. Meaning, that we really didn’t want to buy an older rig and invest the time it would take to fix up and flip.
To completely caveat the above, you can 100% absolutely get out on the road with an older rig IF it’s structurally sound. Meaning no water damage, rust is under control, the underbelly is in good shape, tires are relatively new, etc. You can travel with an interior that’s outdated and still enjoy the open road, no problem. However, if the structure of your rig is in bad shape, you’ll need to invest some time and money into getting it road-ready.
If you ARE wanting to fix up your rig before hitting the road, understand a flip will take time. Months if not years depending on how extensive your renovations are and when you can get to it. Another thing to consider when fixing up a rig is how handy are you? Do you have the proper tools required to do maintenance and demo work? If you aren’t the handiest person, you’ll have to work around contractor schedules which could delay your maiden voyage even further. Just something to think through!
TIP: Make sure you understand your cost of materials and labor (if hiring help). If you are budget conscious, flipping a rig can get expensive. We’d hate to have you spend $10,000 on an older rig and then put $10k-$15k into it. For $20k-$25k, you could have bought something nice, up-to-date, and ready to go.
6) Do You Own A Tow Vehicle for A Travel Trailer?
If you’re EVEN considering a pull-behind camper or toy hauler, do you have a proper vehicle to tow it with? The keyword is PROPER. What do we mean by proper?
Please, and this is our opinion based on research and advice from other camper owners, make sure your tow vehicle is well over the tow limit of your rig weight. Meaning that if your rig’s DRY weight is 4,000lbs, we advise against using a vehicle that has a 5,000lb tow capability.
Why? 4,000lbs is your dry weight meaning with nothing in your rig, your rig weight is 4,000lbs. Once you have your gear, food, clothes, clean water, passengers, pets, etc., that number jumps big time! So a 5,000lb towing vehicle is just dangerous (again, our opinion), not to mention a miserable, rough, and long ride. You’ll feel every bump and breeze the road throws at you, and may have a terrible time getting up and down steep grades.
If you don’t have a proper tow vehicle, you’ll need to add “buying a new truck or SVU” into your budget and planning mix. Also, depending on what pull-behind camper you’re looking at, and which new truck/SUV has your eye, both purchases could still be cheaper than buying a C-Class or B-Class RV. Definitely compare the numbers and don’t make assumptions.
7) Do You Have a Place to Store Your Camper?
Another thing you need to think through when thinking about how to choose an RV is where are you putting it when you’re not using it? If you have space at your home, GREAT. If not, what’s your plan?
For us, we did not have any place on our property to put our camper. We have to store our camper at a storage unit that charges us a monthly rent. But what about you? Do you have a place to store your future rig? The bigger you go, the more room/land you’ll need for storage. The smaller you go, the more storage options you’ll have.
NOTE: If you require a rented space to store your rig, understand that your monthly storage fee should be added to your monthly camper budget to help understand the total cost to own.
If you’re still wondering “how do I choose an RV” or are torn between options, do what we did, TRY THEM OUT! Prior to buying our own rig, we really wanted to make sure this lifestyle was for us. Plus, we wanted to make sure we selected the rig most suitable for our needs.
Renting allowed us to immerse ourselves in the day-to-day and in’s-and-outs of each rig. We really get a feel for each rig, and after spending time in both, it became abundantly clear which rig was for us, a tow-behind camper.
You can rent our R-Pod 192 for an epic road trip vacation or just to give a travel trailer a test run as you determine which type of rig you’d like to buy. From every rig type you can imagine, check out Outdoorsy and get a few rentals under your belt so you feel solid in your rig decision and go into the dealer knowing exactly what you want. No buyer’s remorse for you!
ROAD TRIP INSPIRATION
HOW DO I CHOOSE AN RV – PIN IT FOR LATER!
For more travel tips, guides, and awesome travel shots, be sure to poke around our site, follow us on Instagram @wanderingstus, Pinterest, and Facebook. Oh and if you have any questions, let us know in the comment section. We’re happy to answer. Or, just leave us a positive note!
– Lauren & Jesse Stuart (The Stüs)