What size RV is the best? There’s no right answer. Honestly, the best size is the size you and your family will be comfortable traveling in, whether that’s a travel trailer or motorhome, or even a Happier Camper. To determine your comfort level, there are several factors to consider.
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. full-time as a retiree, think about an RV’s size in terms of everyday travel, rather than a full-time living space. Most of the time, the most comfortable size RV is just a little bit smaller.
Consider these five benefits of smaller RVs and confidently go just a touch smaller. After all, RVing is all about comfort on the road.
1. More Parking and RV Storage Options
Sometimes being just a foot or two shorter makes parking your RV much easier. When you’re maneuvering in and out of parking spots often, this small detail makes a big difference.
Before ever 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 HOA restrictions on parking RVs in your driveway or yard?
- If you need to store your RV rather than keeping it at your house, does the storage facility charge more for a certain length? This expense can add up over time if you’re not prepared for it.
Between campgrounds or RV resorts you’ll inevitably run into situations when you’ll need to park your RV. Most of the time these “in-between” stops will include fueling up, stopping to eat, driving breaks, and overnight stops. Many places like Walmart, 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. Be aware that some very large RVs plus a tow vehicle won’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. You’ll be grateful to be more nimble and agile on the road.
2. Easier Driving and Maneuverability
Driving or towing an RV can be fun. However, the bigger the rig, the more work it will be to tow or drive.
Driving an RV or towing an RV is more taxing than taking the same road trip in a regular car. You can’t just hit cruise control and relax. When you’re driving an RV, you must pay attention to the wind, traffic, weather, and road conditions. As you’re exploring options, think about:
- How comfortable are you changing lanes, making U-turns, and backing up?
- How will you feel maneuvering around a crowded gas station?
- Where are you traveling? 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 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, from used motorhomes to used travel trailers, the more campground and campsite options you’ll have. If you know where you’re going far in advance, and like to make reservations for long stays, you won’t be affected by this consideration. The same is true if you often stay at RV resorts. But, if you’d like to make use of first come-first served sites, you’ll almost always have a better chance of snagging this with a smaller rig. Big sites tend to fill up fast.
National Park and National Forest campgrounds are another thing altogether. These campgrounds don’t often accommodate larger-sized rigs. In fact, they rarely do. If you’re a nature lover, you might enjoy these types of campgrounds—sleeping among the pines and waking up to a mountainscape. If that’s you, choosing a rig size that’s a few feet shorter can make a big difference in the quality of your RV travel. 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 in a smaller RV. As a weekend warrior, you also won’t need your RV to feel like a house.
So how do you save a few feet? Try looking at the shorter length floorplan that’s similar but maybe has a smaller fridge, shorter countertop, smaller bath, or swaps a king bed for a queen instead.
4. Ease of Boondocking
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 a popular way to camp in a more private setting and for free (or less). Bureau of Land Management land, or public land, is abundant in the West. Amazing views and quiet camping are what attract RVers here for endless camping opportunities.
Boondocking can be 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 three 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 often with your increased camping and parking options. Driving frequently will 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 move around flexibly, you’ll be happier in a slightly smaller rig than the one you initially considered.
When you’re on a long-haul cross-country trip, having a smaller RV will come in handy more often than you think as your travel plans shift and flex.
Many new RVers end up just a few feet shy of RV bliss. As you shop for an RV, whether you’re selling or trading in an old one or buying brand new, 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.