Dear RV Shrink:
We have a dilemma that I am sure many people would love to have. We want to buy some type of RV and travel. The problem is, we have no clue what we want or need. We have gone from putting down a payment on a 32-ft. motorhome to seriously considering a 17-ft. travel trailer. We change our minds every day.
Money is not the issue, although some people might think we are cheap. And it’s not a problem of what my husband wants versus what I want – we are just both hopelessly confused. Please offer some advice. —Confused in Columbus
There is a big difference between being cheap and being frugal. You are doing exactly what most people should do: Shop ’til you drop. So many people get over-excited with all the bells and whistles and buy the first thing they step into. Everyone has to find their own path. Having the financial wherewithal to pull the trigger on whatever you decide makes the decision-making a bit easier. That said, RVs are an investment in a lifestyle, not the best ledger column if you are looking for appreciation on return monetarily.
Now, let’s try to tackle some of your doubts and needs. A lot of the decision-making comes down to comfort: comfort in driving, parking and maneuvering. Comfort in living space, entertaining and storage. Comfort in amenities. That can include everything from a bigger shower to satellite TV with 400 channels of bad programming. Not knowing what to expect and how you will travel leaves many options a dart-throw guess. That is the reason many people end up with two or more rigs before they figure out the perfect fit.
Here are a few things you may not have figured into your buying decision so far: To start with, “weather happens.” Often you are forced inside your rig for days when the weather turns sour. Don’t buy something that will make you feel claustrophobic. One of the great things about RV travel is all the fantastic people you will meet. If you want to invite them over for drinks, dinner or cards, will you have a comfortable space to accommodate entertaining?
Most RVs are engineered to offer all the basic needs of a living space. They are “tiny houses.” If you study enough floor plans you will begin to notice that they are all trying to accomplish the same thing. As you get longer and add slides, those spaces just give you more room in each compartment – bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, dining, living. As you get shorter and slideless, those compartments get smaller and often blended. This gives you the option to sleep in the dining room and cook in the bathroom.
Do you want to drive a puller or a tower (toad) when you reach a destination? Have you figured out where to store the kayaks, ATVs, motorcycles, mountain bikes, fishing boat? Do you have a power plant and frame hefty enough to haul whatever load you plan to tote around? Do you have enough floor plan space to accommodate a business, hobby, craft or pet?
Let me begin to finish with advice I give everyone that ponders your questions. Talk to at least a dozen RVers, with a dozen different rigs. It will be the best investment in time you can make. You will get so much more honesty about pros and cons from individuals than you will from commission-starved RV salespeople. Walk around campgrounds. You will see everything under the sun and find a lot of jovial people more than willing to tell you more than you probably want to hear. Take it all with a grain of salt. Glean from it the nuggets of information you may not have considered, and make your final decision.
At that point, you could also rent one of the finalists in your RV beauty contest and try it out for a week. Even though RV rentals are usually not cheap, it could save you a lot of time and money if a hands-on experience convinces you to make a different choice.
Remember, your final decision may not be your final decision. On that note, you might want to consider starting out with a used unit. That way someone else has already taken the big investment hit, while you discover your actual needs. If you go used, from an individual or a dealer, make sure everything on the unit is fired up and in working order. It can be very expensive if you get down the road and find mechanical issues.
This answer sounds long-winded, but it is just a few of the things to consider and I hope it helps you to narrow down your choices. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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