Have you ever wondered what it was like to camp in a Recreational Vehicle (RV)? Do you see RV’s on the road and ask yourself if one day, that could be you? I did. I had never camped before except in my Girl Scout years. Our troop left with sleeping bags, and we all were provided with a tent. Of course when you have a group of girls together, you don’t sleep too much, but when I finally did sleep, I woke up with ant bites all over me. I decided then that I hated tent camping.
Enter the RV. My husband, James, and I decided to spend our first year as Snowbirds living in an RV in a camping resort in St. Petersburg, Florida. We researched all the different types of RV’s and decided on a fifth wheel. Our major reason for settling on a 5th wheel is that we had a truck to tow it. So eventually we found a nice used RV, one that would hold 3 cats, 1 dog, and two adults comfortably.
To decide if an RV is right for you, talk to friends or acquaintances who have one. Research the various types of RV’s out there are as well as what would fit best in your lifestyle. An also big, big consideration is that now with the Covid-19 pandemic, a camper is a very safe way to travel as you are self-contained.
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The pros to owning a Recreational Vehicle is that you can travel driving, or pulling, your own sleeping quarters as well as a bathroom and kitchen. You can cook your own food, sleep in your own bed, shower, and use your own toilet. The only time you have to stop in your travels is to purchase gas and catch a night of sleep. There are many places to travel as campgrounds are in abundance in every state. Camping is a good family activity as you can “rough” it as much as you want, but the bottom line is, you’re all together. It can be fun, a great family activity, and with Covid-19 in your midst, a very safe way to travel and explore the US.
The cons to owning a Recreational Vehicle is that you have to purchase it, maintain its upkeep as you would your own home, pay insurance on it, and have a place to store it. There are so many resources out there that can help you make that decision. There are many organizations for RV owners such as “Sam’s Club,” RV Social Media Groups, and video’s galore on the Youtube channel.
How To Use
Learning to drive, turn corners, and back up will take time and patience. Depending on what type of unit you purchase, some will have backup cameras to help with the process. Or you can use your cell phones. Over time you will become familiar with the gray and black tanks, the fresh water tank, how much LP you will need for cooking, heating, and running your fridge when you’re on the road. You will find more than enough information on RV storage products, how to update your cabin, which are the best mattresses, how to’s, or any number of ideas all over the internet.
Where To Find
Before we purchased our first 5th Wheel, we visited a several RV stores. All the RV’s were unlocked, and we made a day of it looking through each one. Some RV stores have cafe’s available for lunch, and others have golf carts to escort you to RV’s of interest. There are also RV shows. Many are virtual now due to Covid-19 safe distancing recommendations. Anyway you choose to explore, there are several salesmen available who are able to answer all your questions. There can be great deals to be had at the RV Shows if you are looking for a brand new camper. Many websites are also available on-line loaded with both new and used sales, reviews and forums.
What Types to Buy?
When you start looking for RV’s, you need to learn all you can about the types and decide which one works best for your individual situation. It’s a whole new world with new terminology. There are many similarities between the Class A, Class B, Class C’s, Travel Trailers, and 5th Wheels. But there are also many differences. Some are very basic, other’s extremely fancy and well-stocked with all the amenities you could ask for. Another aspect to look at are how are the different models constructed? What type of roof do they have? And why is this so important? How are they built? What is the dry weight?
Types of RV’s
Teardrop Campers / Tiny Trailers
These small campers are ideal for short-term getaways and for couples who prefer less amenities. There are several sizes and weights, but the larger ones have floorplans that contain a bed, kitchen/dining area, and wet bath. Like Class B motorhomes, teardrop RVs utilize swivel toilets, folding sinks, convertible beds, and more to make the small floorplan highly functional. Teardrops can be towed easily with a midsize family car or a smaller SUV.
Travel trailers come in a variety of sizes. The smaller ones can be towed with an SUV or small truck. You will need a truck to tow the larger ones. Their length can come from 13 to 39 feet. Some have 1 to 3 slide outs. Their weight can range from 2,000 to 11,000 pounds. Amenities can vary based on what model and size you select.
This was our 2006 Jayco Eagle 5th Wheel. We loved the roominess of the living space and the nice bunk bed in the rear. Since the front sits in your truck bed, you will need to install a 5th Wheel Hitch in order to tow it. For years we enjoyed our 5th wheel, and were thrilled when we were able to use the bunk bed area as an office during our first winter as snowbirds in St. Petersburg, Florida. We would probably still own this RV, but our truck became a little too old and unpredictable. Instead of investing in a new truck, we decided to sell our 5th wheel to a lovely young family who found the bunk beds perfect for their children. We then purchased a Class C motorhome.
Class B or Travel Vans
A Class B RV is an RV built on a van chassis and is the smallest of the drivable RV’s. These come in both gas and diesel engines. Called Leisure Travel Vans, they are more fuel efficient than Class C or Class A Motorhomes. They do not have slide outs, but offer luxurious amenities like beautiful galley kitchens, beds, and a bathroom. These are fully contained because they include a shower, flush toilet, and a full kitchen. The typical Class B weighs between 6,000 and 8,000 pounds.
Class C Motorhomes
We now own a Class C Forest River Sunseeker Motorhome similar to this and love it. We feel the Class C is more manageable to drive than the tow vehicle was, as it is all one unit. Backing up into a parking space is also easier as this vehicle also comes equipped with a back up camera.
Class C Motorhomes are somewhere between a Class A and a Class B. They are often built on a truck or van chassis that is specially designed for a motorhome. They have an attached cab which most of the time overhangs the cab. These can be anywhere from 21 to 41 feet. They also come with either a diesel or gas engine. They can have anywhere from 1 to 3 slides, and are equipped with a full kitchen, bath, and bedroom. The Class C can also be used to tow a small vehicle. The typical Class C can weigh anywhere from 10,000 to 12,000 pounds.
Class A Motorhomes
These Class A RV’s are the “King” of the motorhomes. Often, these are equipped with luxurious amenities. This style of motorhome has almost every amenity your home has, including a washer and dryer, king-size bed, full-size refrigerator as well as outdoor entertainment. Class A’s range in size from 21 to 45 feet. They are available in a diesel or gas engine. Class A’s are also great for towing a small vehicle. These vehicles are built using a very strong, heavy-duty frame. These frames are built on either a commercial bus chassis, a commercial truck chassis, or a motor vehicle chassis. These are very similar to the 18-wheeler trucks and have 22.5″ wheels to support their heavy load. The typical Class A can weigh anywhere from 13,000 to 30,000 pounds.
There are so many reading references you can find to research just what you would like in an RV. I find Amazon is often the site that has up-to-date books on just what is out there as well as consumer reports on the variety of manufacturers.
We visited Camping World when searching for our RV. They have a great blog with thorough information as well as huge inventory and RV camping supply stores all over the United States. This article is also an excellent read on helping you form a decision on the array of RV’s out there.
It is important for you to know what type of RV roof you have so you can properly maintain and clean the roof. You should be able to find this information in your owner’s manual. Below are descriptions of 4 types of roofs. The Aluminum roof is rarely used today but I thought it important to list it as there can be some vintage models out there in the marketplace.
Rubber EPDM (Ethylene Propylene Diene Monomer)
An EPDM roof is a lightweight rubber roof which helps keep the overall weight of your camper to a minimum. When an EPDM roof needs to be repaired, it is easy as applying liquid roof membranes, latex tape, or adhesives to it. An EPDM looks like a stretched out innertube. Two downfalls are that the roof can absorb heat and make it more difficult to cool your camper, and it can puncture more easily, which would require more frequent repairs to avoid water influx. This type of roof has been in use for about 60 years. It is mechanically attached and has tape infused seams. It only comes in black, and will typically last 20-25 years.
Rubber TPO Roof
A Rubber TPO roof is made from a single ply polypropylene and ethylene-propylene. TPO or Thermoplastic polyolefin is a single ply rubber which is a different than the EPDM roof. The TPO is white and reflects heat. This type of material seems to have a lack of consistency in the quality of each product in relation to the thickness. Two separate manufacturers could provide two very different products. It will need a laminate cover though to help prevent any cracking. A TPO roof has been around for about 20 years. It adheres chemically and the seams are welded by a hot air gun. It comes in grey, tan, white, and other specialty colors. This roof will typically last 15-25 years.
A fiberglass roof is made using a mix of synthetic materials and glass fibers in large panels or individual sheets. These roofs are very durable, rot, rust-resistant, and lightweight. They are not heat-resistant though. They can be custom-made into a variety of colors and shapes. If any damage occurs, this type of roof can be more expensive to repair unless it has come in sections and can be repaired in sections. A fiberglass roof could last 40 years. Cost of repair is higher than a TPO or EDPM roof.
Aluminum roofing is strong and durable. It will outlast the softer roof materials. It is fire-resistant but not heat-resistant. Glue cannot be used for repairs as it will not adhere. Galvanized nails must be used to prevent rust and prevent possible leaks which can hide easily as aluminum will maintain its structure until pressure is applied to a weakened hole area. It is more rare to find aluminum roofing on today’s RV’s.
Whichever roof you choose, set up a schedule for checking for leaks. This is one of the most important parts of your RV and helps with lasting longevity. Prevention is the best roof protection plan. Each roof will need sealing or repairing at some point.
Special License Needed?
Unless you are going big, you do not need a special license to operate an RV weighing under 26,000 pounds, or a tow vehicle under 10,000 pounds. However, each state has its own rules, which can make things confusing for RV renters or owners. In some states, a commercial driver’s license (CDL) is needed to drive an RV that weighs over 26,000 pounds. This guide is very helpful in determining what your state requires for licensure.
Buying vs Renting
Renting an RV
If you have never operated a motorhome or slept in a camper, you may want to trial one before you purchase. There is a marketplace just for this. It runs similar to an AirBnB or VRBO site and is easy to use. Basically you select your area of travel or your starting point and search for the perfect RV. You have an option on whether you’d prefer the owner dropping the RV off at a local camping site, or you can rent one and drive off on your new expedition with it. The site is a one stop shop you could say, and enables you to see if an RV is perfect for you. Please click on the site below for further information and to learn how Outdoorsy works.
Traveling with an RV has made a big difference in our family’s life. It works really well for our pets and for us. We enjoy the drive that much more as everything we need is right there. We also like to take it for short excursions as it offers the comforts of home.
However you accomplish you new endeavor, please enjoy, be safe, and experience the joys of owning or renting an RV.