Shopping for an RV is often an overwhelming task. So many variables need to be considered, that it can be paralyzing. Here are a few issues to keep in the back of your mind, that most RV salesmen will not mention unless you specifically ask.
How Often Will You Use Your Camper?
The first thing to consider is how much you will be using your RV. If you plan on full-timing, or even going the Snowbird route, you don’t want to buy a camper that is designed for weekend camping. Otherwise, you will find that your rig will start to fall apart fairly quickly because it is just not built for longer wear.
We ended up going with a Snowbird type rig for two reasons. The first is that hubby thought our trip was only going to last six months (haha, I fooled him!) and the second is that we really could not afford to buy a rig rated for full timing. They are really nice, but also really expensive.
We wanted to stay as debt free as possible, so this was a choice we made. It gives us greater freedom because we need to work less and can travel more with no debt. We have friends with really sweet rigs and I will freely admit to a little bit of drool when I check out some of the features. But having no payments is even more attractive to us, so we happily make due with having less.
How Safe Is The Rig On The Road?
One thing no one told us was that the balance of the RV can be changed by where the water and sewer tanks are located. If the tanks are full, it can change the safety of the rig while driving down the road.
This was a major concern for us, so we purchased the fifth-wheel evaluations done by the non-profit group at rv.org. It cost a bit over a hundred bucks, but they provide safety evaluations, as well as rating each rig as to what type of category they belong and a few other points. It was well worth it for us.
Can Your Truck STOP Your RV?
We have seen many unsafe truck-camper combinations driving on the highways. Seeing little tiny trucks towing big rigs is funny to see, but scary at heart.
Do not trust the salesman if they tell you that your existing truck can definitely pull the new camper. The question you need to know is not whether it can pull the camper, but can it stop it. There is a big difference here, folks.
Do your homework and find out the allowable weights on your rig and on your truck. We wanted a truck that was overrated for pulling our camper, which was really nice for our confidence factor when we were heading down 7% grade mountains in Colorado and other places.
When you get your camper loaded and before you hit the road, go get it weighed at a truck stop. It is easy to do and is an important safety check. It is too hard to tell how much your stuff weighs. Plus, you need to know how much more stuff you can buy in your travels!
Where Does The Dirty Laundry Go?
RVs always look so nice and spacious in the showrooms. Then, when you get them home and start to pack, you realize that often the designers missed creating places for certain things, such as the dirty laundry and the garbage. How about a broom, mop and cleaning supplies? And the dog cage goes where?
Our laundry hamper lives in the bathtub. There is just nowhere else to put it and if it occasionally smells a little ripe, well, it is in the perfect spot. But that means that we do have to hump it out of the bathroom every time someone wants to take a shower. It really has worked out fine, though. Since there are five of us, the hamper fills up pretty darn fast and because it is in our face on a daily basis, the laundry gets done pretty darn regularly.
Our garbage moves around a bit. We had a nice one that automatically opened the lid if we waved at it, but that broke and now we just use a 13 gallon size that is located next to the fridge. The smaller size makes it easy to grab and place on the floor next to the sink when I am chopping fruits or veggies for a salad.
Our kitchen table had booths which contained a long drawer in each. So, Phil pulled drawer out and installed a swinging wire door instead. We added some nice blankets and that was the bed for the pups. They could see out and had nice fresh air, but were safely contained while moving and while we were gone.
Later, when we remodeled the kitchen and got rid of the table and booths, Phil created a space under the kitchen sink, which worked just as well.
Is The Camper Useable When The Slides Are In?
This is a pet peeve of mine. One that I never realized I had until I traveled with friends that had really nice rigs. We all stopped for lunch at a truck stop and our friends were seriously confused when we hopped into our camper to make lunch. On the other hand, we were astounded that they always have to eat out for lunch and stop at a rest area or truck stop for bathroom breaks.
Apparently, in some rigs that have many slides, you cannot get to the kitchen or the bathroom while the slides are in. REALLY? These rigs cost over 50 grand and you can’t even use your own bathroom while on the road? How ridiculous is that! I am just floored at the poor design in these rigs.
With a family, we are taking bathroom breaks constantly. It is really sweet to be able to stop anywhere – even on the side of the road – and use our own, private bathroom. And making lunch is easy in your own rig. Costs a lot less too. Eating out for a family of five is never cheap.
You can’t always put your slides out, so this is a pretty major consideration for us. (We would have been in real trouble one time when the slide motor broke and we had to live and travel three days with our slide in.) Of course, we did not realize this issue when we were shopping for our rig, we just got lucky.
Take Your Time In Selecting Your Rig
As stressful as it can be when first shopping for your rig, it gets easier over time. Write down the features that are most important to you, do a pro and con list of your final selections and shop around for the best price. If you are shopping for used rigs, make ridiculous offers. You just never know when someone desperately wants to unload their camper.
As you do your homework, the fog will gradually clear and it will become apparent as to the best camper for you.