How To Choose The Right RV (and which RV we chose!)
RV living. This can mean very different things for different people. Some people want the smallest and simplest RV out there, and others want a rig that is big and spacious! Since we are going to be:
Living in our RV for a year as a family of four.
Working full time during our trip.
…we decided to go with a spacious fifth wheel.
I’m going to share a little rundown of the types of RVs we researched when making our decision. This won’t be the most extensive or exhaustive list out there, but it will give you an idea of the options, the pros and cons of each, and how we made our final decision!
Motorhomes are… homes with motors! (The alternative is a home that you tow with a vehicle). Motorhomes are classified as either Class A, Class B or Class C.
Class A: Class A motorhomes are the largest and most expensive ones out there! They can be very luxurious and have lots of living and storage room. However, they can be very intimidating to drive because of their size. The initial cost is high, as well as costs to maintain and insure.
Class B: Class B motorhomes are much smaller and look more like a van. They are much easier to maneuver and cheaper to maintain, but if you have more than two people, living in such tight quarters would be tough!
Class C: Class C motorhomes are more mid-sized. You can get more space and amenities than a Class B for less cost than a Class A. However, they’re still expensive to maintain and operate.
Why we decided against a motorhome
We realized we would definitely need to tow a vehicle behind a motorhome if we went this route because it wouldn’t be practical to drive it everywhere we want to go (grocery stores, restaurants, local site-seeing destinations, etc). We also couldn’t find a layout that we loved with any motorhomes, mainly due to the lack of options for a second bedroom (usually what you get is a bunk bed in the hallway, right next to the master bedroom. Not much privacy for the master bedroom, and no privacy or separation from the living area for the kids.)
Once we ruled out motorhomes, we looked into towable RVs.
It was now Travel Trailers vs. Fifth Wheels.
Travel trailers come in a LARGE variety of sizes. They are towed with a standard ball hitch. Depending on the size/weight of the travel trailer, they can be towed with a truck, van or SUV rated to handle the weight capacity. They can have a lot of amenities like full kitchens, bathrooms, and their own water supply.
Why we decided against a
The biggest downside to travel trailers, which is the reason we ended up choosing a fifth wheel instead, is that they’re tougher to maneuver. There is a lot of sway when driving a large one, because of how it’s connected to the towing vehicle. This makes it difficult to drive in reverse as well.
“Fifth wheel” can allude to something other than the annoying friend who keeps crashing your double dates (corniest joke we’ve heard in a while, but we just had to put it in here). It’s no secret that we ended up choosing a fifth wheel, so we have a lot more to write about them!
Is a Fifth Wheel Right for You?
Ultimately, the answer to this question depends on your comfort level, personal needs and budget. If you’re still on the fence, these are the main factors that swayed us:
1.Hitches are Handy. Fifth wheel hitches are handy because they facilitate turning, allowing you to drive normally with the attachment automatically following suit. Fifth wheels therefore eliminate the cumbersome maneuvering of their truck-like counterparts — a tremendous advantage if you’re more comfortable driving a regular vehicle.
2. Safety First.The fifth wheel mechanism is sturdier and safer, regardless of travel speed. If you’re bringing children or other passengers, a fifth wheel can definitely give you more peace of mind.
3. Less gas used. Obviously, your vehicle will work harder and therefore go through fuel faster when pulling a fifth wheel, but not nearly at the same rate of a motor home.
4. Great for families. These RVs are great for large groups. Despite the fact that they give up a small amount of space to accommodate the hitch, these RVs can still be quite large, ranging between 20 and 40+ feet. This allows you to accommodate up 8-10 people — perfect for families who are newbies and veterans alike. All you need is the fifth wheel attachment and enough horsepower to pull the RV.
Finally, these are equally great for solo travelers or sportspeople, with even the smaller models having plenty of space for storing equipment and other supplies. Typically, fifth wheels have two levels, with one large storage area located under the bathroom, making it easy to bring everything you need.
Biggest differences between a Fifth Wheel and a Travel Trailer
Fifth Wheels are similar to travel trailers but they have a completely different hitch. They have a gooseneck connector that attaches to the inside of the truck bed. This results in a stronger, sturdier connection, which makes pulling and maneuvering easier. You also get more headroom and living space with the overhang of where the RV overlaps the truck. The required hitch can only be put in a flat bed truck, so this limits you from being able to tow with an SUV or passenger van.
Why we picked a Fifth Wheel
We did a LOT of research on floor plans, walked through a LOT of RVs, and got some great advice from friends. We decided that we wanted the kids to have their OWN room, with a DOOR, and we wanted our OWN room with a DOOR! We also wanted to have a designated living room. We fell in love with the Coachmen Chaparral 390QSMB, not only because of the floor plan but also because of the great ratings for long-term travel.
Our buying process
Similar to buying a car, buying a brand new RV new might not be the best option, as you lose a lot of value the second you drive off the lot, and you can find great deals on 2-3 year old models that still look and feel brand new… so we started looking at fifth wheels that were a few years old.
Once we narrowed down the model we wanted, we found and put in offers on three different Chaparrals to three different private sellers, but were either second in line or ended up in a bidding war. We ended up losing out on all three RV’s, but we did secure a great truck from one of the sellers! It pulled a Coachmen Chaparral around the country for 10 months while they toured the US with their family of four! Our truck is a Ford F350 Super Duty Lariat Crew Cab, 6.7 Liter Turbo Diesel (wow what a mouth full) with the fifth wheel hitch already in it and ready to go!
As of today (Sept. 28), we have finally secured our RV! We pick it up on Monday, October 1st, and we can’t wait to get our hands on it! The layout is great but the finishes are very… brown. We will be doing a cosmetic renovation once we get it and we can’t wait to share the process with you!
To see a short video tour, CLICK HERE.
Feel free to leave a question or comment!