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Class A,,,,,,,Class C. . .. . Fifth-wheel

Choosing That First RV


Living Options - Mobility or Comfort

Buy Quality

Choose Motorhome or Choose Trailer

Diesel or Gas Engine

Pre-Purchase Inspection


Before you begin your wandering lifestyle, select the perfect RV. Right away you save huge sums of money by deciding whether you want mobility or living space.

Ask yourself the following questions:

  • Do you want to stay in state, county and city parks to explore the area?

  • Do you want to stay in one location for each season?

  • Are you planning to live all year in your RV?

  • Are you an adventurer or a nester?

  • Do you want to live the same lifestyle you had in your house, or streamline your lifestyle to take advantage of mobility?

Living Options - Mobility or Comfort

Small Motorhome for Mobility

Class A Class C Class B

Stay just about anywhere with this size:

  • Class A - 22 to 28 feet

  • Class A - 22 to 30 feet with slideout(s)

  • Class C - 22 to 26 feet

  • Class C - 22 to 26 feet with slideout(s)

  • Class B - 15 to 19 feet with poptop

Small Trailer for Living Comfort

Fifth-wheel Tow-behind Pop-up

Some access restrictions apply due to terrain, length of backing-in area,
and spacing.

Trailer coach (also known as a “tow behind”) - 19 to 25 feet

Trailer coach - 19 to 25 feet with slideout(s)

Fifth Wheel Trailer - 19 to 25 feet

Fifth Wheel Trailer - 19 to 25 feet with slideout(s)

Pop-up Tent Trailer - 8 to 16 feet

Large Motorhome for Full-timing - Mobility

Bus Class A

At this size many state park systems are not available due to small spaces and narrow access. Some city and county parks accommodate these rigs. Generally steep approaches and long distances are not a problem which does allow access to remote parks with large sites.

  • Class A - 32 to 45 feet

  • Class A - 32 to 45 feet with slideout(s)

  • Bus Chassis (includes Prevosts, re-purposed transit buses, etc.)
    36 to 45 feet

Large Fifth Wheel for Full-timing - Comfort


Trailers this length are too cumbersome to allow much adventurous travel. This size is best for seasonal stays. Add, of course, the extra length for the large truck needed to pull something of this size and weight.

  • 28 to 40 feet

  • 28 to 40 feet with slideout(s)

To Slide or Not to Slide

Slideouts are wonderful in that the appearance of extra space makes the adjustment to a Recreational Vehicle more enjoyable. If you are buying new, one slideout can add as much as $25,000 to the price. Even used RVs cash in on the extra value of slides.

The downside is the parking space required to expand the slide, and the possible mechanical problems with the slide mechanism and seals. Be aware that if you buy a new RV, many trips to the dealer are required to fix leaks and slide mechanisms. Buy quality!

Buy Quality

Just a word here to remind you to think of value for the dollar. Ignore the glitter of brand new interiors. Check the wall and cabinet construction on the inside.

Ask about the quality of the insulation, type of suspension, roofing, braking system, engine, transmission, and other outside details.

Often the lower-priced RVs need after-market suspension and safety mechanisms added to make the driving experience acceptable and safe.

Purchasing a used high-end coach or fifth-wheel trailer gives you long term enjoyment and saves you the disappointment of a new purchase gone bad. Let the original owner purchase all the after-market enhancements...and spend the time at the manufacturer repairing the glitches...allowing you to drive away with a highway-ready rig.

  • Spend as much time to find the right rig as you would to buy
    a house.

  • Search the Internet and RV-related magazines for RV ads.

  • Join e-mail lists where RV owners discuss different types of vehicles. Ask for suggestions about what to buy, new and used.

  • If you are interested in purchasing a diesel pusher, join the Diesel-RVs@yahoogroups.com for technical information and suggestions on what type of engine to purchase.

  • Foretravel@yahoogroups.com provides owner experience to help you decide if this high-line coach is the right one for you.

  • Search for other groups discussing different manufacturers, such as Monaco, Bluebird, Beaver, and Country Coach. The quality of the older coaches are not being duplicated in the newer ones.

  • Check NHTSA.gov for any recalls before you buy that RV. Use the VIN# or year, make and model to see the manufacturer recalls.

Choose Motorhome or Choose Trailer

Bus Class A or  Fifth-wheel Tow-behind

The soon to be first-time RVer usually sees the extra room a trailer provides (particularly the fifth wheel version) and assumes that this is the perfect travel combination.

  • After all, the truck that pulls the trailer doubles as a sight-seeing vehicle, so a toad is not necessary. With smaller combinations, all is well!

  • Size is the determining factor for satisfaction with this duo. Traveling presents a few challenges to this trailer/truck combination. After a few months of trying to fit this package into a small site, or trying to back out of a difficult spot, the view changes.

  • It is best to have your travel route carefully planned. If you stay in one location for months at a time, these challenges seem worth the effort. If, however, the adventurer in you emerges, a motorhome may seem more practical.

  • Purchasing a truck powerful enough to pull a large trailer or fifth-wheel costs as much as the trailer itself, or more in some cases. By the time you buy all the truck extras needed to drive safely, a quality used motorhome already loaded with the right equipment may be cheaper.

Think of the comparison as a choice between house-like comfort (trailer) or maneuverability and safety on the road (motorhome).

Diesel or Gas Engine

Do I want a diesel engine for power and long life...or a gas engine for up-front savings and ease of maintenance?

Diesel Engines

Diesel engines with their long life span, greater power, and better fuel economy seem to be very popular in the new RV market. As they are an unknown quantity to first-time RVers, research the different manufacturers before buying.

The low-end Detroit engine appears in a lot of new coaches. The Caterpillar and Cummins engines are found in the higher quality rigs. The horsepower varies from 250 to 450+.

The difference in price for diesel engine motorhomes is several thousand dollars from the low-end to the high-end, even in used rigs. Quality pays off here again.

Repairs on these engines run into thousands of dollars. They also go 350,000 miles without a glitch. Maintenance, as with all types of engines, must be kept up-to-date. Filters must be monitored as dirty ones easily foul the engine. Attention to detail makes the difference between flawless performance and costly repairs.

Gas Engines

Gas engines, on the other hand, cut the cost of a new vehicle by as much as $20,000. In used vehicles, however, gas engines may be close to end-of-life.

These engines are more familiar to the average owner and maintenance as well as the cost of repair is lower.

The Ford V10 or E-350 (made in China) seems to be the engines used in the newer coaches. If you are looking at a used coach with a Chevrolet 454, make sure headers are installed to keep the engine from overheating, or drive it gently. A typical 454 is good for at least 50,000 miles before an overhaul is necessary.

Pre-Purchase Inspection

To make the transition to this new lifestyle flow smoothly, always, always, always have an independent RV inspection before signing on the dotted line. You would never consider buying a house without one, so follow that same procedure when buying your new home, an RV.

Use the search engine at NRVIA.com to find the nearest certified inspector. If that fails, have the current owner or representative (sales agent) drive it to the nearest RV repair shop. Never take the word of the sales agent about the drive-away safety or integrity of the rig; leave that to an independent inspector. Last resort...hire a mobile repairperson to drop by the lot.

Choosing That First RV - Guides, Reviews and NADA Pricing

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