Are you thinking about buying an RV for the first time but aren’t sure which type of RV you should get? There are so many different RV types to choose from. It can be overwhelming.
My hubby and I had never owned an RV before we decided to full-time RV through the U.S. on a year-long road trip. We didn’t know the first thing about RVs. So before actually buying an RV, we spent MONTHS researching the different types of RVs.
We had no idea which types of RV would be best for us or what we actually wanted or needed in an RV. Did we want a motorhome or a towable RV like a travel trailer? What features would be important for RV living?
We visited RV dealership after RV dealership touring hundreds of different RV models. Eventually, we thought we knew what we wanted. But only after we actually started RVing, did we figure out what was really important (and not so much).
In the end, it comes down to what’s going to work best for you, your specific situation, and your RVing goals. I’ve compiled a helpful list of things to consider for people planning on buying an RV.
Also, be sure to check out my Guide to Different RV Types!
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7 important questions to ask yourself before buying an RV
1. Are you buying an RV to live in or an RV to just travel in?
This question brings on more questions… Are you going to be living and traveling in your RV full-time? Will you be taking your RV out for long hauls or just weekend getaways?
If you’re going to be living and traveling in your RV full-time or for an extended period of time, you might want more living space. You may also want more storage.
If you’re just taking your RV out here and there on the weekend or for shorter trips, space might not be an issue for you. And considering that RVs are notorious for lacking storage space, resigning upfront to bringing less in your RV is a good idea.
That brings up storage. Think about how much storage you’ll need. Storage can be a real issue with RVs, especially if you’re full-time RVing.
Our first RV had a pantry in the kitchen and a linen closet in the bathroom. It also had a slide-out closet in the bedroom. These bonus storage areas were all super helpful.
And with that, I’ll segue into slide-outs. Are slide-outs important to you? Slideouts create additional space and can make your RV feel much roomier.
However, there are a few drawbacks with slide-outs. Slide-outs can malfunction and/or require maintenance. They also add extra weight to your RV, which will reduce your gas mileage.
If you’re going to be towing your RV with a tow vehicle, you’ll have to take the increased weight of slide-outs into consideration. You’ll need to make sure your tow vehicle will be able to handle the weight.
Another thing to consider with slide-outs is that they’ll make your RV wider when they’re extended out. This means you may need a wider RV space at campgrounds. Not all campgrounds or campsites can accommodate wider RVs, especially if your RV has slide-outs on both sides.
One more thing to think about if you’re RVing full-time is if you’ll be working from the road and need a workspace. I’ve seen some people transform bunk-bed areas into workspaces. Or some people use the dashboard of their motorhome as a desk. Sometimes you have to get creative with space when it comes to RVing. 😉
2. Do you want a Towable RV or a Drivable RV?
This is an important question when it comes to buying an RV. There are two main categories of RVs: Towables (RVs that you tow with a separate vehicle) and Driveables (RVs that you drive).
You’ll need a separate vehicle to tow a Towable RV. With this scenario, you can drop the RV at your campsite. This gives you the freedom to take the tow vehicle out exploring.
Towable RVs are typically less maintenance than Drivable RVs since they don’t have a motor. Plus, Towable RVs usually come with a lower price tag than Drivable RVs.
A cheaper option can provide ease of entry into RVing, especially if you already have a vehicle that can tow it. This is one of the main reasons we opted to go with a Towable RV.
With a Towable RV though, you’ll need to make sure the vehicle you’ll be towing the RV with can handle the weight of your RV. And not the dry weight the manufacturer claims for the RV.
Your tow vehicle needs to be rated for the weight of the RV when it’s loaded with everything you’ll be bringing in it. For example, carrying water in holding tanks adds a lot of weight. So be sure to keep that in mind.
RVs that you can drive (i.e. Motorhomes) provide easier campsite set-up than Towable RVs. They also have the added bonus of being able to ride inside the RV rather than towing it behind you.
This gives you the convenience of having access to the kitchen and bathroom while you’re en route to your next destination. Whereas with a Towable RV, you have to find somewhere to pull over to get into your RV.
Drivable RVs are generally more expensive than Towable RVs. This is because they come with a motor, combining the tow vehicle and RV in a sense. Having a motor can mean more maintenance, but there’s no need for a separate tow vehicle with a Drivable RV.
Having the driver and passenger seats up front in Drivable RVs limits their layout options. But their convenience and size (whether large or small depending on what you prefer) can make up for that.
Not to mention, some RV Parks are exclusive to motorhomes only. There are even high-end luxury resorts catering to Class A motorhomes specifically.
Deciding whether you want a Towable RV or a Drivable RV will narrow things down and help with the following questions.
3. Will you need a vehicle to tow your RV, or will your RV be towing a separate vehicle?
Following the last question, we like having a separate tow vehicle. In fact, we would want to have one whether we have a Towable RV or a Drivable RV. That allows us to leave our RV at our campsite to go out exploring with the tow vehicle.
Most campgrounds have hook-ups, such as water, electricity, and/or sewer. We don’t want to have to unhook the RV from any hook-ups each time we want to leave camp and then hook them back up when we return.
Even if you end up with a Drivable RV, you may still want to bring along a smaller vehicle. That way, you can take it to go exploring rather than bringing your RV everywhere with you. If your RV is on the larger side, this will limit where you can take it.
Keep in mind that if you go with a Towable RV, you’ll most likely need a heavier duty tow vehicle like a truck. Make sure your tow vehicle can handle the weight of your RV when it’s fully loaded.
But with a Drivable RV, you can tow a smaller car behind the RV. A smaller vehicle may get better gas mileage. That can help with exploring the area surrounding your base camp. Just something to think about when you’re buying an RV.
4. Where will you be taking your RV?
Size does matter when it comes to RVs. But the standard “bigger is better” theory doesn’t always apply to RVs. That’s because an RV’s size can limit where you can go with it.
You may want to get the largest RV possible. But first, you need to ask yourself where you plan on going with your RV. Even trying to get gas can be a challenge if you have a large RV. We dreaded having to find gas stations with our 35-foot Travel Trailer!
Also, many State and National Parks have length restrictions for their campgrounds. Check out this post about the Ideal RV Length for Fitting into National Park Campsites.
And I’m not sure how up-to-date this is (it looks like it’s from 2016), but here’s something else I came across that may be handy: National Park Trailer Length Chart.
Something else to think about as far as where you’ll be taking your RV is where you’ll be staying with it. Will you be staying at RV parks with full hook-ups (i.e. electricity, water, and sewer connections)?
Or will you be dry camping without hook-ups, perhaps even boondocking in remote areas? If you’re going to be dry camping without utility hook-ups, you may want to have solar panels, or you may need a generator.
You’ll also need to consider the size of the RVs holding tanks for freshwater as well as wastewater. How, where, and how often will you have to dump the wastewater?
These are all good things to think about upfront when buying an RV, so you’re not kicking yourself down the road (literally!). No pun intended (okay, maybe it was… haha!).
You may also like: 70 Useful RV Terms You Need To Know Before RVing
5. Will you be traveling with kids and/or pets?
This question may be an obvious one that you would consider anyway. But it’s still a good question to emphasize as it will affect the type of RV you should go with.
The majority of this question has to do with sleeping space. How many people will be traveling with you and need a sleeping space? Will you need bunk beds or additional sleeping options?
Most RVs have couches that pull out into beds. Some also have dinettes that convert into beds. Other RVs like Class C Motorhomes have extra beds above the front cab. And there are specific floor plans of RVs that have separate bunk bed areas/rooms.
Sleeping arrangements are important. But another thing to think about when buying an RV to travel with kids is other spaces you may need for them in the RV. For example, will you need an area for kids to play or study? What about storage for their toys and clothing?
And what about pets? Will you need an area for them, such as a crate or a litter box? I’ve seen people get super creative with where they put those items, such as under the bench seats of the dining area. RV living is all about creativity when it comes to space and storage!
6. How much time will you be spending inside the RV versus outside?
If you’re spending more time outdoors rather than in your RV, the indoor RV space may not be as important. When we started full-time RVing, we were downsizing from a 2-bedroom townhouse to an RV we were going to be living in.
So I wanted a large RV, thinking we’d need as much space as possible. Not to mention the fact that we had never spent so much time together in such close quarters before. We figured the more space, the better.
But then we realized how little time we were spending inside the RV versus outside of it exploring and enjoying the outdoors. The size of our RV that was once so appealing suddenly became a burden.
Our 35-foot Travel Trailer was a nightmare pulling into gas stations and a pain backing into campsites. If you ever want to test your relationship, try parking a 35-foot RV in a back-in site… haha!
We have since downsized to a 22-foot Travel Trailer, that we LOVE! The size is so much more manageable and convenient. We’ve even flipped a u-turn with it! In the future, we may even downsize again to a van or Class B motorhome.
Another thing we discovered with our first RV is that a bedroom with walls surrounding the bed was claustrophobic for us. We prefer an open bed area, which we now have with our smaller RV.
Live and learn, right? One of the great things about RVs is that it’s a lot easier to change up your RV than it is to change houses. I can almost guarantee that your first RV won’t be your last RV.
You’ll figure out what works for you with an RV and what doesn’t. But the important thing is that whatever RV you have, you use it!
7. Will you be bringing any outdoor toys or gear with you?
Do you have a motorcycle, dirt bike, ATV, golf cart, jet ski, kayak, paddleboard, fishing gear, snowmobile, or other outdoor gear? If so, you might want to consider getting a type of RV called a “Toy Hauler.”
Most Toy Haulers are in the Towable RV category, but some Drivable RVs can also be Toy Haulers. They offer a combination of living space plus room to bring your outdoor toys and gear inside your RV. You can haul just about anything with a Toy Hauler!
True to their name, Toy Haulers are built to accommodate outdoor gear and toys with a garage-like cargo area that can often be converted into an extra sleeping or living area (some even have an extra bathroom!). The back of the Toy Hauler is a heavy-duty door. This door folds down, doubling as a loading ramp and sometimes a patio for outdoor living space!
They’re usually pretty big and can be quite heavy (especially when they’re loaded). But if your truck and/or RV can handle the load and you’ve got toys you want to bring RVing with you, Toy Haulers may be a good option for you.
Wrapping Up Things You Need to Think About Before Buying an RV for the First Time
Choosing an RV is a very personal decision. Do you want some advice for buying an RV? I recommend visiting RV dealerships and touring as many different RVs as possible to get a feel for what’s going to work best for you.
You may even want to rent an RV to give RVing a try and test out the type of RV you’re thinking about buying.
Before buying an RV and hitting the road, grab a copy of my free RV Travel Planner to start planning your RV trip!