What size RV is the best? The best size is the size you’ll be comfortable traveling in.
A common beginner RV mistake is choosing an RV size that’s larger than you’ll be comfortable maneuvering.
If you’re hoping to travel around the U.S., visit family, or full-time as a retiree, think about an RV’s size in terms of traveling, rather than living space, while you’re shopping. Most of the time, the most comfortable size RV is only just a little bit smaller.
Consider these 5 benefits of smaller RVs and confidently go just a touch smaller.
1. More Parking and Storage Options
Sometimes being just a foot or two shorter makes parking your RV much easier.
Before even traveling in your RV, you’ll have to park it somewhere. Would you love to be able to pull it into your driveway to load it up? How big is your driveway? How wide are the streets in your neighborhood? Does your neighborhood have any restrictions?
If you need to store your RV rather than keeping it at your house, does the storage facility you’re hoping to use charge more for storage past a certain length?
Between campgrounds or RV resorts you’ll run into situations when you’ll need to park your RV. Most of the time these include fueling up, eating, driving breaks, and overnight stops. Many Walmarts, Cracker Barrel restaurants, and rest stops have space for large RVs, but if you’d like to expand your options because you plan to travel frequently or would like to stay with friends or family overnight along the way, you’ll want to keep that in mind as you’re shopping. Don’t forget about adding in the length of your tow vehicle. Also, be aware that some very large RVs plus a tow vehicle don’t fit in Cracker Barrel RV parking spots.
Parking and storage is the less glamorous side of RV travel, but depending on your plans, these can make up a significant portion of the time you spend RVing. Going a touch smaller can open up more parking and storage options for you.
2. Easier Driving
Driving or towing an RV can be fun. But, the bigger the rig the more work driving takes.
Driving an RV or towing is more taxing than taking the same road trip in a regular car. As you’re shopping, think about how comfortable you’ll feel changing lanes, making U-turns, and backing up. How will you feel maneuvering around a crowded gas station? Don’t forget—as you travel you may end up driving through mountain passes, high winds, and switchbacks.
Are you hoping for help on driving days? If you are, you’ll want to take your partner’s driving comfort level into consideration as well. If you’re perfectly willing to drive a 42′ rig, but they’re not, compromising on something like a 36′ or 32′ RV might give you the driving help you’re hoping for.
You’ll get used to driving most any RV you choose, but weigh the benefits of extra counter space or a double door fridge versus the added weight and length on driving days.
3. More Campground Options
Not every campground can accommodate a 40′ RV. The smaller your RV, the more campground and campsite options you’ll have. If you know where you’re going far in advance, and like to make reservations, you won’t be too affected by having less campground options. The same is true if you often stay at RV resorts. If you’d like to make use of first come-first served sites, remember that there are usually fewer large sites and those fill up fast.
National Park and National Forest campgrounds are another thing altogether. These campgrounds don’t often accommodate larger sized rigs. If you’re a nature lover, you might enjoy these types of campgrounds—sleeping among the pines more often than not. If that’s you, choosing a rig size that’s a few feet shorter can make a big difference. It’s not uncommon to find that only a quarter or less of available sites accommodate a big rig (a site length of 50′ or more as an example).
If you’re a weekend warrior in an area where campgrounds fill up quickly, you’ll have the upper hand if you’re smaller. As a weekend warrior you also won’t need your RV to feel like a house. Save a few feet with the shorter length floorplan that’s similar but maybe has a smaller fridge, shorter countertop, smaller bath, or swaps a queen bed for a king.
Boondocking also known as free camping, dispersed camping, and dry camping, is a popular way to get further out in nature with your RV. It’s also a popular way to camp in a more private setting and for free (or less).
Boondocking is generally a little easier in a towable RV, but even those of you looking at motorized RVs may be interested in boondocking at some point.
There are boondocking areas, like the very popular Upper Teton View outside of Grand Teton National Park, that rigs of all sizes can get to, but boondocking sites do tend to be on the smaller side. It’s not uncommon to think to yourself, “if only that tree wasn’t right there,” or, “if only my rig ended right here,” as you point to a spot 3 feet from the rear of your RV.
5. A Flexible Travel Pace
A smaller RV size can mean you’ll be able to travel at a faster pace more comfortably.
If you travel around the country chasing the weather, your favorite sports team, or your next cycling race, you’ll have an easier time moving frequently with your increased camping and parking options. Driving so frequently will also take less of a toll on you physically and mentally with a smaller rig. If your RV travel will require a fast pace or you’d like to have the option to switch up your travel pace, you’ll be happier in a slightly smaller rig than you’re probably thinking.
Many new RVers end up just a few feet shy of RV bliss. As you shop, it may be helpful to think of your new RV as a vehicle first and a living space second. A slightly smaller rig could open up more options for your RV travels.