Dear RV Shrink:
We are future RV owners, I think. We have become professional lookers, but so far not buyers. It is very confusing. I am sure for people who have done a lot of RV travel the mysteries are few, but we have never done anything but read about it. Two of our biggest decisions seem to be tow or haul, and slide or no slide. Let me explain.
My husband wants a big diesel truck to haul a fifth-wheel, and I want a motorhome towing a small vehicle. He wants a unit that has four slide-outs, and I want a unit with none. Slides look complicated and repair-prone to me. I think I would be comfortable driving a small motorhome, but not a giant truck and fifth-wheel. These seem to be the two issues that keep us from making a buying decision. Can you give us any clarity? —Unfocused in Freeport
You are absolutely right about the mystery surrounding the RV lifestyle. It is not that complicated once it becomes familiar. I can’t give you the clarity you are looking for, but I can tell you how to find it.
Stop reading and go talk to a hundred RVers. You will find them a friendly bunch. They tend to congregate in campgrounds. Stop talking to salespeople and talk to owners. Owners will be your best source for honest opinions. I have good friends that took a class in RVing before they bought their first rig. Unfortunately, the instructor was a guy really into “Heavy Haulers.” He talked them into a large fifth-wheel, hauled by a small semi-tractor. Lots of room and power – they just couldn’t park it in many Forest Service campgrounds. After living on the road for a couple of years they came to see the errors of their ways and bought a 30-ft. motorhome and tow a jeep.
It all depends on what you plan to do with whatever you buy. I know a lot of people that buy big and travel less because they just don’t enjoy, or are uncomfortable, maneuvering around a large RV. They end up parked somewhere instead of traveling.
I wouldn’t be afraid of units with slides. They are very common in today’s market. Like all other systems on an RV, they will need to be maintained. Precautionary maintenance will be an ongoing duty that will come with trouble-free RVing.
Finding like-minded people, already enjoying the lifestyle you are imagining, will take you a long way toward the clarity you need to make a buying decision. Getting most things right the first time around will save you a ton of money, hassles and headaches.
You will also want to consider the convenience of transportation when camped. Will you be comfortable with what you have to drive when not traveling? Example: a large truck vs. a small toad. If you opt for a motorhome and do not pull a toad, you will be forced to drive the motorhome everywhere you want to explore.
Lots of things to think about. Visit some campgrounds, walk around and discover what others are doing, what they think, how they operate. A consensus will follow that will assure you wise decision choices. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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