Shopping for a new RV is a fun and exciting time! Visiting Camping World and walking through all of the different rigs, seeing different floor plans, and trying out options is exhilarating. But, it can also be overwhelming and confusing.
We have been full-time RV living with 4 kids for over 6 years and during this time we have been in 5 different RV’s. We have tried all different kinds – a Class A, Class C, Travel Trailer (we tried 2 different ones) and a 5th wheel. Below we share our tips on what to look for when picking your family RV.
1 – Cargo Capacity
Cargo capacity is by far the #1 thing to focus on when looking at what RV is going to work for your family. You would be surprised how small the cargo capacity is on most RV’s.
Cargo capacity is the amount of weight that you can add to the rig. This includes filling up your water tank (a 60-gallon freshwater tank filled weighs 500lbs!), a full fridge and, all of your things.
Now granted if you just plan to drive your rig to a campground and leave it there for the season you don’t have to be as concerned with this. But if you plan to take your rig out a lot and go on any long trips you want to be 100% aware of your cargo capacity and how much weight you can add to your rig.
If you are looking to go full-time in your rig we always recommend an RV with a cargo capacity of at least 3000 lbs and if possible 4000+ lbs. You can see these numbers on the sticker on the outside of the rig that gives you the overall weight of your RV.
2 – How Do You Plan To Travel
If you plan to bring your RV to a campground and leave it for the season you should check with the campground to find out how big your site is. This way you know how long of an RV you can get.
If you plan to take your RV out to visit state and national parks, and/or drive it across the country, you are going to want to consider your length. We always recommend going as small as you can.
The reality is – how much time will you really be spending in your rig? Plus a smaller rig makes it way easier to get in and out of gas stations, find campgrounds, and overall driving.
A lot of state and national parks don’t have spots for rigs over 35 feet long. Some as low as 30 feet. If you have a larger rig it will limit your ability to stay in some state and national parks. There are almost always campgrounds outside of the parks that can handle larger rigs but inside the parks, you will be limited.
It can be hard to think small when you walk into a 40 foot + RV and see the space! This may be the right size for you and your family, and if it is–great! But don’t be blinded by the beauty, and be sure to really consider how long and heavy you want your RV to be.
3 – Tow Vehicle
Another non-glamorous part of RV shopping. Your tow vehicle! Again if you are staying in one place all year you will just need a vehicle that can get your rig there and back. However, if you want to take it on a road trip you have to make sure your tow vehicle is strong enough to pull the weight of your RV.
We have towed a trailer with a 12 passenger van. When we had the 21-foot trailer it worked great. When we had a 30-foot trailer not so much. It just did not handle as well at all. So we switched to a pickup truck.
Now with a 5th wheel, we have an F350. We advise to overcompensate when it comes to your tow vehicle. You may hear with a rig our size (36 feet and 16,000 pounds) that an F250 is fine. We 100% disagree, you need at least an F350.
We recommend putting a lot of time into researching weights, what your truck can handle – it is not just 1 number but multiple, payload capacity, rear axle capacity, GVWR, GCWR, and GAWR. Yes, that is a lot. But do your research before you buy your tow vehicle or RV, you will be glad you did.
4 – Which Type Of Rig
Which kind of rig should you get–a drivable or a towable? It can be a hard question to answer! Here are the benefits that we see:
Motorhomes make travel days really nice. I mean you have a bathroom the kids can use while driving – score!! You can also easily grab food while driving, watch TV, etc. It really makes traveling with kids easier.
However, seatbelts can be stressful. Motorhomes are exactly like a car setup, so keep that in mind.
The downside to the drivable is they normally cost more (then again, maybe not once you add in a truck for towing). They also are more limited on floor plans versus a trailer or fifth wheel. A towable definitely has more of an apartment on wheels feel to it, than a drivable.
Travel Trailers and fifth-wheels have some amazing layouts for families. You can find 2 bedroom setups, huge kitchens, loft areas…Overall, towable RV’s offer a lot more livable room than a drivable.
A downside is on travel days you have to pack up what you want for snacks and have them in the car. Along with having to make bathroom stops. On the upside, the kids will be in the truck in their regular seats/car seats.
In the end, it comes down to how much you want to spend and what is most important to you. We have really enjoyed all of the rigs we have had, and each one really fit our travel style during that time and the age of our kids.