Some of you are finding out this summer that you started off too big of an RV, some are discovering a little bigger would have been nice. There are three big factors you have to weigh when choosing an RV for going full time.
Weight Space Fun
Those three factors all pull your decision matrix in slightly different directions. The more weight, the less fun you’ll have traveling, but you’ll have more space. The more fun, the less space and weight.
Each one of those factors also comes with a geometric price tag. The heavier your RV, the more it’s going to cost. The prices seem to break around even weight numbers: 5,000, 10,000 and 15,000 pounds. Each one of those weight classes is exponentially more expensive than the one before. A 15,000 pound 5th wheel trailer is really a mobile home. Such behemoth RVs strain the definition of a camper. Moving a trailer that size is a job. Moving that much weight requires a really expensive truck that has really expensive maintenance requirements. But you do get a lot of space. Many people living in RV parks are living in 5th wheels semi-permanently anchored to the ground.
The biggest, heaviest RVs are Class A coaches, many of which are bigger than my first apartment. Weight wise, they’re off the charts with 300-450 hp turbo-diesel engines driving them on tires that can cost upwards of $400 each, not including installation. Taking care of a vehicle that size is expensive and meets my personal definition of “not fun.” Class As are also complex, which means things are going wrong all the time. When they work right, Class As are a mobile world unto themselves with all the features of a home like stainless steel refrigerators, washer/dryers, and full baths. There’s a reason race car drivers and famous actors have Class As when at a race or on location. They’re roomy, posh and have all the amenities of a home…if you can afford the price tag.
That’s why, over the years, My House Has Wheels has shifted toward smaller and smaller travel trailers, Class Bs, Class Cs, and van conversions. Smaller units are lighter and towing a lighter unit means you’ll have more fun and get better gas mileage. You’ll also, generally, have lower maintenance costs. To me having more money is more fun. For my wife, having more space is more fun so we’re constantly making compromises on our campers. A longer camper is no problem for her because I do all the driving.
RV manufacturers have newer, lighter materials to work with and computer aided design maximizes the internal space. Smaller campers just feel bigger inside these days and much of that is better interior layout and precision cut materials.
Simplicity Is Freedom
I almost had four factors with the fourth being complexity but even small campers can be complex and it didn’t really fit. If you get down to two or three campers, let complexity make the choice for you. The more complex your RV, the more you’ll be working on it or paying someone else to work on it. Slide outs, automatic levelers, automatic awnings, anything that’s convenient is complex and that means it will break. Simplicity is your friend. That’s why I personally like travel trailers like the R-Pod, even though I’m not a big fan of Forest River (owned by Berkshire-Hathaway). R-Pods, Calista, Air Streams and a few others have aluminum or fiberglass roofs. Simple, strong, and holds up better than rubber roofs.
Maybe it’s just age, but the older I get, the less patience I have with mechanical things. I’m also a big fan of having fun. More fun is better, right?