Dream of hitting the open road in the comfort of your own recreational vehicle that comes equipped with living space and amenities? Want to see our great sprawling country with your loved ones without spending a dime? Most people, regardless of age, have one "bucket list" item in common: ditching their belongings and traveling the country in an RV. Before you put a for sale sign in your yard, ask yourself these questions:
What kind of travel will I do? — RV camping can be as brief as an overnight or weekend adventure, a full-time way of life, or something in between. Before deciding what kind of RV you need, consider how long you will be living in it, as well as who your companions will be and what kind of essentials you will need to bring with you.
What type of RV should I get? — Once you've decided what your needs are, it's time to find the perfect RV. The Class A motorhome is what most people think of when they think of an RV. Class A motorhomes are the largest, most popular, and have the most available amenities. They have the look of a tricked-out bus and come with a gas or rear diesel engine. The price of a Class A motorhome can vary substantially depending on how elaborate you want your home on wheels to be. About 99% of Class A motorhomes come with a pair of captain's chairs, living area, kitchen, bathroom, shower and dining table.
If the Class A motorhome is more ornate than you need, look into a Class B motorhome, which is built using a full-size van instead of a bus. The Class B motorhome is going to handle and drive similarly to a conventional car or SUV. It can be used as a family car while not traveling, and even though it will come with amenities like a kitchen, bathroom, and television, it tends to be much less expensive than a Class A motorhome.
A Class C motorhome is a hybrid motorhome that combines some of the best benefits of Class A and Class B. The Class C motorhome is built on a GM or Ford chassis, although some of the newer ones are built on big rig chassis, making them more like luxury RVs. The main distinguishable features of Class C motorhomes are the over-cab sleeping areas and the ability to haul heavy trailers.
The next RV option is a travel trailer, which offers the most flexibility since you can detach it from your vehicle at any time. The travel trailer can be towed by most trucks, SUVs, and even some minivans. Travel trailers are lightweight and can save a significant amount of gas mileage. They vary in length from around 12 feet to 33 feet. As you would expect, the larger the trailer, the more amenities become available.
The somewhat larger fifth wheel travel trailer offers more living space for each foot of length when compared to other types of RVs. These trailers come with a larger front end that connects to the bed of a truck when being towed. The fifth wheel travel trailer is usually cheaper than a Class A motorhome, but keep in mind that you will need a huge truck to tow it to your destination.
If you are more of a minimalist and looking for a compact RV, check out the pop-up camper. This folding trailer is lightweight and also has the lowest entry price of any RV on the list. They are easy to tow and park and take minutes to transform into what amounts to an extravagant tent. Pop-up campers come in sizes from 8 to 25 feet and can come equipped with showers, toilets, and even kitchens.
Last but certainly not least is the truck camper that, as the name implies, is an RV that fits in a truck bed and can be removed and used without the vehicle. The truck camper fits in the bed of most standard trucks and is a good fit for solo travelers or couples. Though the living space is compact, you can still find one with a toilet, shower, cooktop and an electrical system.
Where do I find RVs? — Just like everything else, the advent of the internet has made shopping for an RV much easier. Websites like RVT.com and CampingWorld.com allow you to search nationwide listings of pre-owned RVs by make, model, price, and amenities. These sites will list RVs offered by individual owners as well as dealers, alerting you to RV dealers in your area. Some buyers also cruise through local RV campgrounds to see if anyone is selling their rig.
Should I rent before I buy? — If RVing is new to you, it is an excellent idea to see if you are comfortable traveling in one before you commit to owning it outright. Find a dealer who rents the type of RV you are interested in and take it for as long as you are able. A longer trip will give you a better idea of how RV life works, what your inevitable struggles will be and how you will deal with travel companions.
A word about financing — With most RVs costing at least as much as a car, many RVers finance at least part of their purchase. Check with your bank and see what kind of loan you qualify for before you start shopping. Make sure you can easily afford the down payment and that the monthly payment will fit into your budget. The RV dealer may also offer finance options, but like a car dealership, you are under no obligation to use their offer if it is not in your best interest.
Other considerations — Purchasing an RV is just like buying a vehicle, but with many additional considerations to keep in mind. Before making the leap to RV ownership, make sure you check out the NADA value of the RV you are considering and even shop around to see if you can get a better deal elsewhere. It is also a good idea to check your vehicle's history report on rvchecks.com for a fee of about $25. Ask the owner or dealer any questions regarding the history and condition of the RV. Make sure you are aware of any hidden costs that come with your purchase, like property taxes, insurance, and utility costs.
One More Tip — Before setting off on your first road trip, call AAA for all of your RV needs. AAA not only offers special insurance for these types of vehicles, but we also offer special memberships that cover your RV. Check out our comprehensive membership guide to get a better idea of how a AAA membership works. You can always call us at 1-866-315-1252, or reach out to your local agent, who can answer any questions you may have about making your new adventure a reality.