The term RV covers a multitude of designs ranging from tiny camper vans which are suited to one person, right up to huge vehicles which are large enough to live in. RV enthusiasts normally fit out their vehicle to suit their needs for travel, and they can be turned into the most spectacular homes! This is a great way to visit the country and to have the ability to move around freely from one place to the next. Do you feel the call of the road? Then you might hire one to see if you like it, before buying your very own home on wheels!
What are RVs?
RV stands for Recreational Vehicle. It provides temporary accommodation for people and is primarily used for travel and camping. Normally an RV contains the same basic amenities that you would find in your own brick and mortar home. RVs can be either motorised – where you drive your accommodation around with you, or towable, which is when you tow the vehicle behind a car or truck. The words recreational vehicles conjure up ideas of luxurious motorhomes, outfitted to extremely high standards. While these are to be found in may campsites, it is more common to find cheaper versions which have been redecorated and modified to suit the occupants and their needs.
Types of RV
Typically, RVs can be divided into two groups and these are driveable and towable vehicles.
Within each group there are classes of RV, which range in price from relatively cheap to horrifically expensive. The size and price depends on your budget and what you intend to use it for. There are in fact seven classes of RVs, each suited to a different style and need. When choosing your RV, you should ask yourself what type of camping you have in mind. Some campers will only need to get away every few months, while there are often retirees who take to the open road and want to travel the country on a daily basis. You should also ask yourself just how many home comforts you really need on your trip.
Before buying your RV, it is a good idea to rent one for at least one trip so that you have a good idea of how much space you need and how much comfort you desire on your trips. It stands to reason that the more home comforts you need, the higher the price tag will be.
Apart from the driveable and towable classes, there is also a section of RVs which are called Toy Trailers. These – while still being classed as RVs – are not only used to live in, but uses to transport ‘toys’. The toys which are normally transported in these are things like quad bikes, motor bikes, racing cars, rafts, bicycles, ATVs and boats. In fact, they are designed to transport literally any recreational item. The living space is normally extremely small, with the bulk of space being fitted out to safely transport the toys safely. The interiors are normally very Spartan and lacking in home comforts. However, some people do remodel them to improve the interiors. They are however, designed to carry other things and as such are not suitable for many people.
Bus conversions are also sometimes renamed as RVs, although this is a matter of opinion. These are either single or double storey busses which people have purchased, and refitted and remodelled. They can range from very basic to fantastically outfitted, depending on the skill and budget available. The whole project of remodelling a bus can be very expensive, and also take a long time, so you should consider this before taking on something like this. Parts can be scarce and expensive and maintenance is costly. Storage should also be taken into consideration along with fuel costs to run. Added to this, some campsites will not allow them in as they do not look like regular RVs. Things like low bridges must be factors when planning a trip.
Pros and cons of towable RVs
As with every vehicle that you buy, you should do your own research about which style will work best for you. Take into account what you intend to use it for, how many people will be coming with you and how often you will be using your RV. There are advantages and disadvantages with both towable and driveable types of RV.
Pros of a towable RV:
You can separate your living area from your driving area, so if you want to go into town to do your shopping, you do not need to drag your whole home with you.
Both vehicles are independent from each other, so if you want to sell one or the other, you can do so. They can be sold, replaced, and repaired separately from each other.
A towable RV holds its price better as there are no mechanical things that can go wrong with it. There is always a higher used value on these vehicles.
Regular maintenance such as oil changes on the towing vehicle can be done at your local garage, it does not need specialised equipment. You can leave the trailer at the camp site while the tow vehicle is being repaired.
The camping trailer costs less because there is no engine involved with it, and generally offers more living space per each dollar spent.
Operating costs are less than with a driveable RV.
Cons of a towable RV:
Lack of maneuvrability when reversing and parking. It will take most people some time to master the art of doing this, especially as they may only use the RV a few times a year.
It takes more time to set up when you get to the campsite, normally two people are required to do this.
Often it is illegal in states to ‘double pull’ so you may not be allowed to tow a smaller vehicle behind.
Pros and cons of driveable RVs
Both driveable and towable RVs have advantages and disadvantages which you should weigh up before buying.
Pros of a driveable RV:
Passengers can move around while the vehicle is moving, people can sleep in a comfortable bed, which makes shared driving safer as the person will get good quality sleep.
Without having to stop the RV, the passengers can have access to the toilet and kitchen facilities. This means less stops along the road and faster times to reach destinations.
Smaller vehicles can be towed behind, normally a small car so that the RV can stay at the campsite and the car used to explore.
The motorhome can pull a boat behind it as long as it stays within the limitations of the states you are traveling through.
It is very easy to set up camp, you literally drive up to your spot, hook up and all is done.
In an emergency, it is not necessary to get out of the RV to start it up and drive away. Ignition is always ready. You may have to leave a towable trailer behind if you have to leave in a hurry.
Cons of a driveable RV:
Not the easiest of vehicles to reverse, this takes practice, so you may be more comfortable in drive through spots only.
It is huge and is expensive to store it when not in use. If you store it at home, it takes up the whole driveway.
It can only be used for your holidays, not for driving around town so really only has one use.
They are normally more expensive to operate and maintain.
These vehicles range in weight anywhere from 15,000 to 30,000 pounds. They typically have lengths from 30 – 40 feet. They combine the driving area and the living area in a single unit.
- Class A – this is the top of the range motor home, which typically comes with every home comfort you could want. They are normally constructed on a 3-10 tonne chassis and often feature at least one side slide out, which increases the floor space. Normally this type of RV will have two slide outs. The chassis is normally a bus chassis, or a heavy-duty motor chassis. The wheels are as big as 22.5 inches. The class A RV has the worst fuel economy as it falls into the 8 – 10 mph category.For luxury and excellent storage space then this RV is the top of the range. Literally at the touch of a button, one or more sides will extend the living or sleeping areas. This category will have superior cooking facilities, refrigerators, heating and cooling, water tanks, a toilet and shower, faucets and sinks. Some of them come with washers and dryers.
Normally class A RVs come with a 125 volt electrical system, a propane gas supply and a full range of appliances and entertainment aspects. They usually can sleep up to eight people, depending on the model. You will often find that the main bed in one of these is a full king sized bed and the single beds are also a proper size and not a smaller version.
Having all these features makes them the highest priced ranged of all the RVs and they can be as expensive as a brick and mortar house! They are built to be very easy to drive – being smooth and stable. They are also designed to be easy to set up at a campsite.
One disadvantage of these motorhomes is that, because of the size, once they are set up, it is just not practical to move them often. What normally happens is that you will see a small trailer being pulled behind them, which holds a small car to be used as a run around, so that the motorhome stays where it is. The towing capacity of a class A RV is up to 5,000 pounds which means that a decent sized car, or even a boat, can be towed behind it.
Maintenance is very expensive and must be kept up to date as they are very expensive to tow to garages, should they break down. Parts are also not usually kept in stock so might have to be ordered, and take time, so this must be taken care of before you leave home.
Due to the height of the class A RV, you must also be aware of low bridges and narrow roads, tunnels, and campsites with trees with low branches. This means that you need to take extra time and research when planning the trip, to avoid having to take long detours.
- Class B – these are often referred to as ‘van conversions’ and they are the smallest fully enclosed motorhomes. The van roof is high enough to stand up in, and the toilet and shower are normally combined in one space.The Class B does not come with slide outs, so storage space is less than with the Class A. Often there is the facility to hook a tent onto one side and extend the area this way.
These are also constructed on a van chassis. They weigh up to 8000 pounds and are normally less than 20 feet in length. Class B motorhomes are usually very economical and versatile and handle well. They offer the best fuel economy of all the RVs. They come with a gas supply and 12VDC electrical outlets
They make extremely good family vehicles, usually providing cooking facilities, and refrigerator or icebox. Often, they will have a self-contained toilet and shower, a fresh water tank and a waste water tank. The beds tend to be slightly smaller than other classes.
The kitchen is basic, with faucets and sink, and there are often beds which fold out to accommodate more people. They sleep between two and four people depending on the models. The advantage with this class is that they are smaller and far more efficient than the Class A.
The Class B category RV is the easiest to drive and park, they fit under all regular bridges and through any space that a car will fit through. They are small enough that you can easily drive off to do your shopping and then go back to your campsite. You cannot tow anything behind them, but they are small enough that they can be driven back and forth like a regular car.
The disadvantage is that with any more than four people, it gets very crowded, so going away with friends may not be the best idea.
- Class C – these are often called mini versions of the Class A motorhome as they are generally smaller but more luxurious than Class B motorhomes. They are a compromise between Class A and Class B. You will know them by the ‘over the cab’ sleeping area.They weigh up to 12,000 pounds and are between 20 and 30 feet in length. The driving area is very similar to that of a cab with a large living area behind it. Often, they will come with the sleeping area above the cab, and the second bedroom located at the back.
Just like the Class A motorhomes, these may have side slide outs to increase the floor space. Class C motorhomes have good cooking facilities which include refrigerators, cooking facilities, sinks and faucets. They will normally have heating, a good RV air conditioner, a decent RV toilet and water tanks – both fresh and waste.
Propane gas and electrical supply are part of these classes and a full complement of appliances and entertainment features are normal here. Class C motorhomes can usually sleep up to ten people, depending on the floor plans.
With the Class C RV, you can tow a car behind it, as long as it is within the weight limits. The width is the same as a regular car although the height may be an issue with some low bridges, so planning before you leave is a good idea.
The fuel consumption is better than the Class A but not as economical as the Class B and the towing capacity is 3,000 pounds.
These are designed to be towed by a car, small pick up or truck, instead of being driven as a complete unit. This category is divided into four classes which are travel trailers, folding trailers, fifth wheelers and truck campers.
- Travel trailers – this is in fact the number one selling RV in the industry and these can be as small as 10 feet in length, although they do go up to 35 feet long. Some of them come with slide out sides, but this is not always the case. If they do have a slide out, the maximum length it will move out is 3 feet.Lightweight models can be towed by many six cylinder family cars. One of the selling points is that they are very easy to dismantle at the campsite and set up, leaving the car free to use.
They must be pulled by a separate vehicle which is designed to do this. Tow vehicles must be properly equipped with a load distributing hitch and other devices which are designed to control the trailer and limit the movement while being pulled. Most SUVs and trucks are very well designed to do this, and even some smaller sedans will work well. Recent changes to these trailers have meant that they are lighter to tow.
They normally come with very acceptable cooking facilities, a refrigerator, heating and air conditions and a toilet. Often, they come with a shower, and water tanks, faucets, sink in the kitchen and gas supply. There should also be a 125 volt electrical system.
This type of motorhome can normally sleep up to eight people, depending on the design. Occasionally there is space for ten people but these are heavier and require a larger vehicle to tow them. Often a tent is attached to the side where the door is, so the floor area is increased. This is very easily done and just as easy to disassemble, although you must make sure to dry the tent out well at the end of your holiday otherwise you will find it has rotted away when you unpack it again.
- Folding camping trailers – this is the cheapest of all the motorhomes and they are sometimes referred to as collapsible trailers or pop ups. They are designed to be very lightweight and cheap.These are perfect for people who like to camp but prefer not to sleep on the ground as they always have a canvas top and sides.
These can be towed by smaller cars, although it is important to check the loaded weight and be sure the car is suitable.
They are easy to erect when you arrive at your campsite, normally folding out one or two sides and then completely opening up the trailer. They have many conveniences of solid motorhomes, although these may be smaller. Refrigerators may not be full sized with these.
Because they are so easy and light weight to tow they can be pulled by smaller vehicles. Typically, a mid-sized car will manage these very easily. Basically, these are large expandable tents which are built onto a trailer. Some of them have solid roofs, while others will have fabric tops. All of them are easy to open up and quick to assemble. They are normally very lightweight and can be pulled or pushed into position by one or two people as they are extremely maneuvrable.
They take up very little space when not in use, and are therefore very popular with families with not a lot of available storage space. They can be pushed into smaller storage areas when not in use, simply covered with a tarpaulin and left until the next trip.
Normally these folding camping trailers have cooking facilities, refrigerator or icebox, heating, and water tanks. Beds are usually convertible and there is usually a propane gas supply.
They are designed to sleep up to six people depending of the design. Often, they will come with a tent which can be attached to one side to increase to living area.
These are designed to be set up and dismantled easily although it is not very pleasant doing this in the rain. Prices start at $4000, although they can go as high as $25,000.
- Fifth wheelers – these are large travel trailers which have an extension at the front of the box which extends over the tow vehicle and rests on the tow vehicle for support. Not every vehicle is designed to accommodate this type of motorhome.The way the hitch is attached makes towing easier because it places the load in the centre of the tow vehicle instead of behind it. Also, the area at the front serves as an extra bedroom for most fifth wheels. Often a fifth wheel will come with slide outs to increase the floor space. Some fifth wheel trailers have as many as five slide outs, and therefore have a vastly increased floor space.
Fifth wheelers normally come with fully equipped kitchens and refrigerators, heating and air conditioners, self-contained toilets and showers, water tanks for fresh, grey and black water, faucets and sinks in both the toilet and the kitchen, gas and electrical supply.
Often a fifth wheeler will have a very large window at the back which makes for spectacular panoramic views when parked.
Fifth wheelers can sleep up to six people, depending on the floor plans. Many people who live in motorhomes permanently prefer these as they provide a huge amount of room for a lot less money than a Class A RV.
In some states, it is a requirement that an additional non- commercial driver’s license is needed to drive one of these, so you must be sure to check this before you leave. This is mostly to do with the fifth wheelers that exceed certain weight limits. The local department of motor vehicles will have details of this.
You must make sure that you have the correct size vehicle to tow it with. One disadvantage is that the fifth wheel is quite difficult to park. Unless you have been trained to reverse, you will be stuck with only going forwards so you must ensure that you can get out that way.
- Truck campers – these consist of a camper body which is loaded onto the back of a standard pickup truck and then clamped down onto the bed. Usually the tailgate is removed to make room for the camper base to slide in.These are an easy and economical way to get away and camp. Because they are so compact, they are easy to drive on windy roads. Depending on the size of the truck, they can reach terrain which might be normally unsuitable for regular cars. Even though they are small, they are remarkably well laid out and therefore seem to have more space than they appear.
They are very popular as they can be quickly and easily loaded onto the bed of the truck. Access is at the rear of the truck. They are often quite basic, as there is not that much space, but they normally come with cooking facilities and a refrigerator, heating, and air conditioning. Sometimes there is a toilet and water tank. Normally there will be a small sink. Gas and an electrical system are normal with this RV.
They can sleep from two to six people, although six will mean quite a congested area. They are not normally suitable for families with more than two children as there is not a great amount of spare space. Care must also be taken as they are quite high. Things like low bridges and tree branches should be taken into consideration when driving and parking them.
Truck campers are however, very cheap to buy, and easy to store as the camper part can be completely removed from the truck base and stored elsewhere when it is not used. They are light enough to be suspended from the garage roof to be stored, thus taking up less space.
Accessories you can add
To make your RV trip more enjoyable there are many things which you can buy and transport easily.
Portable meat smokers: part of RVing is that you get to cook outside whenever you like. Smoking is a great way to cook and there are portable smokers which will fit into small spaces and be easily carries. They can be used to grill, smoke, bake roast and even fry your favourite meats.
- Flameless battery operated candles: not only do these look good, but they are very handy for providing extra light while cooking. Battery operated, there are no matches to get wet.
- Mobile wifi hotspot: you can take this along with you to ensure that you can check your emails at any time of day. Most people would not dream of going away on holiday unless they have internet access and this is the way to do it.
- Cast iron cookware: This type of cookware is perfect for camping, it is sturdy and can be used over an open fire with no risk of damage. If you season the inside properly before you start cooking, it will develop and non-stick surface and will not burn anything.
- Foldable bikes: If space is a problem in your RV, then you should consider some folding bikes. They can be attached to the back of the RV or secured inside and open up when you need them.
- Insect repellent: This should be on your list of essential items to take with you. You never know when mosquitoes will be prevalent and it is better to have some on hand just in case you need it.
- Waterproof lighter: this is an essential item if you are ever going to start cooking in rain or wind as it can stand up to 8 mph of wind and not blow out.
- Extra hoses and cords: It is always a good idea to carry extra of these as you never know when one will snap. Better to carry too much than not enough.
- RV satellite dish: If you cannot be without television, then you should be sure and take one of these.
- Music: most people have their very own style and selection of music. You should take some of this with you, whether it is on CD or even a radio. Be sure that you have the wherewithal to play your music wherever you end up. If you play music, bring your guitar along – who knows who else you will meet and team up with!
- Comfy outdoor seats: make sure you pack chairs or loungers so that you can sit out in the sun on good days. Remember that your trip is all about relaxation and that means comfortable things to sit on!
- Cards and games: bring a set of playing cards. You’ll quite likely have a rainy day and will need something to do inside until you can go out again. Bring games that all the family can play, chess if you like that, or anything that will stop the kids from being bored while inside.
- Cleaning cloths or wipes: there is going to be a certain amount of mess in an RV, spills are going to happen. Be prepared and bring some extra cloths and wipes. Accidents will happen, so be ready for them.
- First Aid kit: You never know when someone will get cut, scratched, or stung by a bee. Assemble your own basic first aid kit to take with you. Add a few bandaid strips and an antiseptic cream.
- Extra batteries: You will use more than you think so bring a few extra. It will be cheaper to bring them from your home than to buy them in a campsite shop.
- Minor repair kit: Duct tape and work gloves, a small axe and a shovel, silicone rescue tape, a bucket and some cloths. Some spare fuses and electrical tape will go a long way in a small crisis, and they don’t take up too much room. Better to take them, and wish you had thought of them earlier!
Living in your RV
According to about annual maintenance costs studies have shown that maintenance is less than what you would pay for a house.
While not everyone thinks of the idea of permanently living in an RV, there is a huge section of people who have opted for this alternative. Whether you agree with this, is a personal thing, but there are some very definite advantages of living in your RV. There are in fact over 9 million people in the states who consider an RV as their permanent home!
You can literally ‘up and go’ whenever you like. If you are looking for a job and prefer to move to another city, then you are free to leave whenever you like.
There is no house for you to sell in order to move around, no leases to break, no contracts to end, no new houses to find. There are no taxes to pay!
There is no lawn to mow! While most people just get on and do this job, it may not appeal to everyone, but with an RV there are no gardens to take care of, unless you keep a window garden, or a few plants in pots.
No house maintenance costs! You do not need home owners’ insurance and do not need to worry about mortgage payments. Your furniture is all included in your home, and while you may replace every so often, on the whole the furniture you will buy is a lot cheaper than you would pay for in a house. Insurance is far cheaper for an RV than a house.
Campsite fees are lower than your mortgage will ever be. This is a huge point to consider. Average RV insurance will be about $500 per year which is a whole lot less than home owners’ insurance.
Utility bills will be in the region of $100 per month, sometimes less.
If you live all year round in a campsite you can expect to pay between $250 and $700 a month. Compare this to any rent in a decent apartment with trees and grass in it!
It has been shown that people who live in RVs permanently have more free time than people who live in houses. Normally there is a good social life in campgrounds and people are more sociable in the camping scenario.
Advantages of RVs
- Price comparison: For some people the idea of going on holiday in an RV is just the most perfect way for a holiday. It certainly is an inexpensive way for a family to get away. If you were to check into a hotel with two children, you would definitely pay a lot more than the price of a campsite. Having your own RV also means that you can take the family dog with you, which will save on kennel fees. Even the family cat can be brought on holiday, if you keep it inside the RV. The average price of a holiday in an RV is 78% less than booking into a hotel!
- Eat your way: Whatever your diet, if you stay in your own RV you can cook your own meals, at whatever time you like to eat. The kids can eat hot dogs if they like and you and your partner can eat your own meal later. You can have breakfast at whatever time you like, or not at all. Snacks can be available throughout the day instead of having to find a supermarket to buy them. You can stock up on fruit before you leave the house and, and bake a big batch of cookies for them to nibble during the days.
- You can rent before you buy: With RVs there is normally an option to rent one for a short vacation, before you decide to buy it. This will give you time to compare your trip to how you would have spent time in a hotel. It is a good way to not only have a holiday, but also see if the style will suit you and your needs.
- Take more with you: You will find that you can take a whole lot more with you in an RV, so you will be able to pack some extra toys and games for the kids in case the weather is inclement. You would not be able to do this if you were flying off anywhere, or even travelling in your own car to a hotel. Neither would the hotel staff be amenable to a room full of kids toys and games. In your own RV, you can take as much as you like. You can also take spare sets of clothes and as many pairs of socks as you like! There is just so much more space in your own RV!
- You’ll eat and drink for less: you can take as many bottles of water, soda, beer, and wine as you can carry! This means that you can buy things at your local supermarket at home instead of in the hotel shop for double the price.
- Take the bikes: you will be able to take your bicycles with you, either on the back of the RV or inside, so you will not need to rent them when you get to a hotel. The kids will each have their own bikes and feel more comfortable when you head off on a ride.
Disadvantages of RVs
- Storage may be expensive: Depending on where you need to store the RV when you are not using it, this can be expensive. There are special RV storage areas which will do this for you, for a fee.
- Maintenance can be pricy: RVs are not cheap to maintain. They must be well maintained if you are not to break down in remote areas. Parts may be expensive as they are specialised and might have to be ordered. This may be a problem if you break down while you are on holiday it can be some days before you can move on as parts may take some time to get there.
- Watch the height: you will have to plan your route if you have an RV which is higher than some bridges. If you get stuck under a bridge, this will not only be expensive, but also ruin a holiday. So, you will find that there is a lot of planning which must be done to ensure you actually get to your site safely.
- Fuel costs: It is expensive to fill up and drive for long distances. You must factor this into your figures.
- Speed is a factor: In some states an RV must travel at a slower speed that cars, and this is something you must research before leaving home, otherwise you will find a stack of speeding fines when you return home!
- You must clean up after yourself: There is no room service to clean your room every day and no meals are delivered to your door. This is something that you should take into consideration before buying and RV.
Things you might like
This handy collection of assorted fuses for car and RV is a ‘must’ on any trip.
Here’s a set of gripper clip strips to keep your spice jars in one place.
This attractive 12 piece dish set will enhance your table for any meals.
Here’s a very handy trash bag holder to keep the garbage safe until you can dispose of it.
This 5 piece set of compact ovenware will make cooking and baking a pleasure!
RVing is a whole different way to spend a vacation. There are many different types to choose from. The lifestyle is freer and less restrictive than booking into a hotel. People who go RVing normally do not want to be tied down to hotel rules and regulations. It’s a more relaxed way to travel and a great way to meet other enthusiasts! Whichever RV you decide to buy, it is sure to be the beginning of some wonderful holidays!