Have you recently retired (or are about to) and are ready to buy an RV so you can spend your retirement exploring the open road? If so, you’ve probably had some worries over what RV is the best fit for your lifestyle.
We’re here to help! First, there are a few questions to ask yourself to narrow down which RV is the best RV for all the adventures up ahead in your retirement.
How Will You Use the RV?
This is the most important question you need to answer before buying an RV. How you use your RV determines the best type of RV for you. Here are some typical scenarios and the implications to consider when searching for the best RV:
- Will you be full-time RVers? If so, you’ll want enough room and features to truly make it your home on wheels. That means slides for extra elbow room, maybe a washer and dryer, and higher-end residential-sized appliances. An RV over 30 feet is a comfortable size here.
- Will you be frequent but not full-time RVers? If so, you can get by with something a bit smaller. Since you presumably will still have a sticks-and-bricks home to return to, the RV doesn’t have to be fully equipped. You will be traveling enough that slides and space are still important, but an RV between 25-30 feet should be sufficient.
- Will you travel mostly on holidays and weekends? In this scenario, the RV will be used to get to a destination, stay a short time, then get back home. You can go for mid-grade and mid-size. Comfortable but lightweight, maneuverable, and in the 19-25 foot range will meet your needs.
Where Will You be Staying?
These are also important qualifying questions. Will your camping mostly be in…:
- Campgrounds, state parks, and RV resorts? If so, you’ll almost always be plugged in for shore power. That means you can bypass expensive lithium batteries and a rooftop full of solar panels.
- Boondocking? Conversely, boondocking is off the grid, usually in remote and wild places. Solar power and lithium batteries will be important features to have so you can power lights and RV systems.
- Moochdocking? Moochdocking is sometimes called driveway camping, meaning you’re staying on the property of friends and relatives. Solar and lithium are still important but not as much as they are for off-the-grid campers.
What Can You Afford?
Only you can answer that, of course. But here are two things to consider:
- Are you on Social Security and have a limited fixed income? If so, what can you afford? A budget helps to calculate food each month, campground fees, fuel, health and medicine expenses, insurance, and repairs and maintenance. Financing a new RV for those on a fixed income, even if the payment seems to work now, is not recommended. There will be financial emergencies, count on it.
- Should you buy new or used? While inventories have slightly improved over the past year, you may find buying a new RV with everything you want may take six months or more. Used RVs are much more available and often come with improvements and upgrades done by the previous owners. And, of course, they are considerably less expensive than new ones.
Now that we’re done with the qualifying questions and the considerations you need to take into account, the are two more questions to answer to help narrow down your search.
Motorhome or Towable?
Choosing between motorhomes and towables is a popular debate. Motorhomes generally cost considerably more than towables. The reason is that they are not just a camper but a vehicle as well. They’re generally categorized by a Class designation – A, B, C.
Class A Motorhome
These are the big guys out there. They start at just under $100,000 and go up to more than $2 million. Class A motorhomes range in length from 27 to 45 feet, are 12-13 feet high, and up to 9 feet in width. They come with slides that when extended add several more feet of width.
You can get a gas Class A (less expensive) or a diesel coach for more torque and pulling power, which is good in the mountains. With a Class A, you will surely want what’s called a dinghy or a toad, which is a smaller towed vehicle, so you don’t have to break camp and drive a Class A coach to run errands, go out to dinner, or explore.
Class C Motorhome
A Class C motorhome generally costs from just under $100,000 to $400,000. There is a huge Class C called a Super C that rivals a Class A in length, but most C’s are 22-35 feet long. Many have an overhang over the cab that has a bunk and most have slides, too. They sleep from 2-6 people. There are gas, diesel, and 4×4 Class C models available.
Class B Motorhome
Also known as campervans, Class B motorhomes average 19-24 feet and generally are built on a van chassis without a slide. Lately, the industry has referred to a slightly larger unit with slides as a B-Plus. A B-Plus RV is really, legally, a Class C that is just a bit smaller than a traditional Class C.
Class B RVs typically have a bathroom, shower, galley, and bed that converts from a sofa. They cost from around $79,000 to $350,000, depending on options and luxury. Class B vans are the most maneuverable of the motorhomes.
Choosing a motorhome is no easy task. If a motorhome is what you want, my strong suggestion is to rent an RV from the class you are most interested in and try it out for a week. You may realize it’s too big or too small or you may prefer a different layout.
Or you may decide you want a different kind of RV altogether – a towable.
Trailer or Fifth Wheel
Both a trailer and a fifth wheel are towed by a vehicle, typically a truck but sometimes an SUV or a minivan. A trailer attaches to the tow vehicle’s rear bumper. The fifth wheel, with its distinctive front dome, attaches to a hitch mounted in the truck bed. Towable sizes range from about 13 feet to 41 feet.
Below are three main advantages to choosing a towable RV:
- Trailers and fifth wheels are less expensive than motorhomes. A very well-equipped towable will run from $50,000 to $70,000. Only the most luxurious are over $100,000. Many of today’s super lightweight towables start at around $20,000.
- Towables have more room. Many have slides, more than one bedroom, fireplaces, large holding tanks, plush interiors, and big kitchens. A toy hauler has a separate “garage” in the back that lets you bring things like ATVs, kayaks, motorcycles, etc.
- Towables stay in camp and you can run errands using the tow vehicle. It’s so much easier to drive a truck to the restaurant, museum, or shopping mall than a motorhome.
And, as with everything, there are some disadvantages to a towable RV. Here are three:
- Buying a truck or tow vehicle can be very expensive. New half-ton or ¾-ton heavy-duty trucks cost between $70,000 and $100,000. Even ¼-ton pickups, which can tow some of the ultra-light trailers, cost close to that. If you buy both used, the price comes down, of course.
- Towables are hard to back up. Practice helps a lot, naturally. But backing up is never a piece of cake. At least for me. And most everyone else I know who is honest about this. Thank goodness pull-through campsites are widely available.
- Towables can be challenging to hook up and unhook. With a motorhome, you drive in and level, and you’re set. When it’s time to leave, you pack up and drive off. Attaching the trailer or fifth wheel always involves a bit of tension. Again, it gets easier with repetition but never as easy as it is with a motorhome.
So What’s the Best RV for Retired Couples?
The best RV for a retired couple is the one they are most comfortable buying, driving/towing, operating, and living in. To get a specific answer, you should work through the above questions and answer them honestly. While I can’t tell you exactly which RV is best for you and your retirement adventures, I can tell you it’s out there, no matter your budget, camping style, or individual preferences.
Browse new and used RVs near you at Camping World online.
What are you looking for in an RV once you’ve retired? Tell us in the comments below!
Wish someone would make a rv road guide. Did a cross country trip this summer and goggle took us down some terrible roads (ie: rt 54 thru OK and TX). Would like a google rv.
I’d like to invite you to check out our library of content with tips on Road Navigation and trip planning:
We have several articles in there with recommendations for apps you can use to plan RV-friendly road trips!
We went from a class C to a 5th wheel eventually ending up with a Palomino slide-in camper which has a slide-out. This has been the best move we have made since we only stay short term at any location we travel to. It is the easiest to get around and since it is mounted on a 2022 F350 -driving is effortless.
We bought an 18′ tow behind to pull with our SUV. We like to try state parks in and around Indiana. Has a queen and a futon with one slide. Big enough for us and a couple of our 21 grandchildren.
Good information. Will use it.
Your total avoidance of discussing handicapped- and wheelchair-accessible RV’s is breath taking. Although Camping World has been ignoring mobility challenged customers for years. Break a hip Mike and find out how difficult buying an accessible RV really is!
Hi, David. This article focused on the best RVs for retired couples and the typical lifestyle retirees on the road are living these days. There’s an article coming up later this year with a focus on wheelchair-accessible motorhomes and RVs. In the meantime, check out Winnebago’s line of accessibility-enhanced RVs. The road is open to everyone!