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Time to downsize? Here’s how to find a smaller RV that works best for you

Have you worked your way up to having “too much RV”? Is it a struggle to find parking, storage, or campsites with large enough spaces? Has keeping that 40+ foot diesel pusher in showroom condition become a full-time job? Perhaps it’s time to downsize your RV.

There are times and events in life that cause one to question their camping style and priorities. The loss of a spouse or camping partner, changes in health, or the physical abilities required for managing a large Class A rig will likely spawn thoughts of a switch in type and size of RV. In my case, it was a combination of all of the above.

Like most people, I spent 2020 in virtual isolation, unsure whether it was a good idea to travel and camp during the pandemic. I also became a solo camper for the first time in 30 years. I did attempt a camping reservation in July, only to find that my favorite campgrounds were closed. It didn’t take much to dissuade me from venturing out. I had lost my confidence and zeal for travel.

Time to head out

After a few weeks, as the temperatures increased, my impulse to head out returned, and I decided to try the U.S. Forest Service and Army Corps of Engineers campgrounds in north Idaho and northwestern Montana. It didn’t take long to determine that those campgrounds, almost without exception, were limited to RVs of 35 feet or less. Quite a few were limited to 23 feet or even 30 feet. The campsites were mostly on unimproved roads.

As soon as the COVID-19 restrictions began to ease, the “campground crunch” began. Not only were RV campgrounds sold out, but prices were markedly higher, as well. The typical $32 per night full-hookup spot in the West jumped to $50, then $75, with no end in sight. RVers were reporting instances where they thought they had a site reservation, only to find upon arrival that the campground gave the space to someone else or their spot changed. It got me thinking: Maybe it’s time to downsize.

A smaller motorhome

That kernel of thought began to grow in the weeks ahead as I found myself looking at the websites of various RV manufacturers that I had come to admire over the years. Part of me couldn’t imagine trading my beloved Foretravel in for a smaller RV, but I was finding a lot of high-quality possibilities in the marketplace.

Thinking I still wanted a motorhome, just a smaller one, I began looking at all the Class C coaches built on the Freightliner and Sprinter chassis, with Mercedes-Benz diesel engines. I liked that possibility and still do, but I soon realized that I would be trading my big coach for a much smaller one at six times the cost. On top of that, there was the perennial problem of ground transportation in camp and all the issues surrounding towed vehicles, base plates, brake systems, and the like. But I have a three-quarter-ton truck, so why not a travel trailer?

Whatever I bought, I wanted not just top-quality manufacturing and support but all-weather (“four-season”) capability, as well. That narrowed it down to just a few manufacturers, and I eventually gravitated more and more toward Northwood and the highly regarded Arctic Fox line. Excited, I swiftly analyzed the various models, floorplans, towing weights, and price. I narrowed it down even further to one model I thought best represented the combination of price-point and what my tow vehicle could handle. Here, the learning curve on “downsizing” steepened. Plus, I had a lot to learn about how the dealers conduct their business. I made an appointment at the local Northwood dealer, and the next day got to get up close and inside the Arctic Fox 22G travel trailer.

Impressive trailers, not a great trade-in price

The Arctic Fox travel trailer was impressive, with its superb aluminum frame and crowned roof build. The fit and finish were excellent. I was excited and convinced myself I was making the right decision. In fact, I was so excited that I decided right there on the lot that I didn’t want to wait the weeks or months it might take to sell my very special like-new diesel pusher and would instead trade it in on the travel trailer.

I mentioned this and asked the sales agent for a trade-in value for my coach. He gave me a rather leaden look and said he couldn’t give me a trade-in figure but would have to take that up with the dealership management. He left and returned with a figure so low that I could tell he was embarrassed to mention it. I left the dealership in a paroxysm of apoplexy and never returned. Yet, it saved me from making a mistake I would have regretted later.

While deciding whether to put my coach on the market and use the time it took to sell to find another Arctic Fox trailer at one of the many dealers within 200-300 miles of my location, I made an important discovery. While the Arctic Fox 22G Gross Trailer Weight is slightly under my truck’s maximum towing capacity, I began looking into this online in the various brand forums for trailers and trucks. Bottom line: The trailer loaded to gross weight was right at the maximum towing capacity, i.e., too heavy to be safely towed by my heavy-duty truck! That changed everything. I was back to square one.

Where to go from square one?

Right then, I realized that I only knew a little about two or three legacy travel trailer brands. I knew nothing of what was out there in terms of newer design, technology, lighter materials, or true “four-season” capability. Also, I knew that the Airstreams, most of the Northwood Manufacturing models, and most of the travel trailers claiming “four-season” systems were too heavy. I did not want to add changing vehicles to the already complex matrix of decisions. (Quite frankly, I was indisposed to spending $75-100K on a one-ton diesel truck that would have solved all of my towing problems. I love my Suburban.)

Then it hit me that, right here at RVtravel.com, we have an enormous resource of information on practically every motorized RV and travel trailer in production! My new search began focusing on manufacturer quality and reputation, space and energy efficiency, towing weight, and ease of single-person operation.

As most RVers know, there is a dizzying array of choices in practically every category and class of RV. Not knowing much outside the Class A and C worlds, I had a significant research project before me.

Or did I?

Know the facts before you research

Going in, I knew I wanted a travel trailer, and the weight needed to be in the 3,500 – 7,000-pound Gross Trailer Weight range. I also wanted state-of-the-art manufacturing methods, “four-season” insulation, and plumbing, as well as all of the boondocking capability that solar power and optimized holding tank capacity could provide.

That still left a lot of possibilities, but Tony Barthel’s reviews distilled the research down to a few options that met my criteria. He wrote a very positive review of the Forest River Rockwood Geo Pro series of travel trailers that range from 12 – 20 feet. I settled on the Geo Pro 19FD. At just under 21 feet, this camper will fit into even the smallest space. It has full “four-season” capability (more on this later). The Geo Pro travel trailers all have state-of-the-art solar power, reasonable holding tank capacity for boondocking, and an array of technical advantages best appreciated by reading the reviews.

Coming next, I examine how (not) to sell your RV (or buy one).

##RVT1028

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George Schmalstig ll
8 months ago

I love my Gulf Stream BT cruiser for my wife and I. Sadly the Generac Generator died on the previous owner/seller at 144 hours. The seller was up front about the unit running but not producing and electricity . Price was adjusted for the coach allowing for repair to the Generac . I contacted several rv dealers none of which were interested in a repair . A local top rate electric business said they could not get parts for the 4K generator.
I then called Generac and explained I was not looking for a freebie, but with only 144 hours I felt they should step up and help find a solution. The Generac rep said
the Unit was out of warrenty and it didn’t matter that it quit producing electricity at 144 total hours. Also he stated that no parts were available for any type of repair. I am now driving a nice rv with a generator that the company doesn’t want to at least help in someway, doesn’t even want to find what ever part is needed etc. Companies solution “Your out of luck “

Patrick
8 months ago

I am looking to down size from a 02 DP. It just seems overwhelming. The cost of pickups to the cost of smaller trailers is nuts. Just have decided to step back for awhile.

Dick Okopny
8 months ago

We too had a Foretravel (1999 U320 36) for15 years. We sold her in 2018 after buying a place in Florida. We still have our main home in Mich. We soon learned that we missed being on the road.
So we bought a new 2019 24′ travel trailer. It’s OK, but we call it our “wobble box” and not much on quality.

We are now looking at a Coach House Platinum 272XL.
Any other suggestions?

Cecilia
8 months ago

Randall,
Check this out! I think it would be perfect for you. It’s an Oliver. https://youtu.be/t4N1LdaJyFs

Elizabeth
8 months ago
Reply to  Randall Brink

Yikes! I hadn’t gotten That far in my Oliver decision when I saw this! I just this week narrowed my search down to that exact thing .. fell in love with the Ollie EII! Going to contact them anyway to see where they are on this, while still looking online for any being sold used. They are Hard to find, and when you do, they’re probably already sold! Found one last week that had been used only a few times in the 1 year they had it .. husband died and she listed it for sale just 2 hours prior. Practically new! I called right away .. already sold! :(.

Sharon Nelson
8 months ago

I am all for finding the smallest RV that works for an individual but, looking at the 2 RVs mentioned in the article, I have a word of caution… Our first RV was a 19′ travel trailer similar to the ones in the article. Ours had a good-size horseshoe shaped dinette which converted to a bed. We thought this would be perfect… We could sit there and watch TV, it provided a table for eating, and the table gave us additional counter space. The problem, however, was that the bench seating was VERY uncomfortable if sitting for any length of time. Those dinettes are not designed for comfort. If available, I would definitely consider swapping out the dinette for a sofa. Just my opinion….

Leslie P
8 months ago

We moved from a 40’ fifth wheel to a truck camper. It’s a big change! We’ve been full time traveling for over 5 years. We found that we were missing out on truly seeing our country. It’s fully solar and very comfortable. We are so happy we made the choice we did. It’s much easier to get a spot to stop.

Drew
8 months ago

Randall,

From my perspective it would make sense to find some campgrounds that could accommodate your rv- and since you already own it (guessing) that would make much more sense. A 19′ trailer is a huge step down from your rig and personally I’d find it an uncomfortable option. I know this is a personal thing but I’m trying to see the logic of this for you. Good luck.

HappyCamper 7424
8 months ago

I was wondering what three quarter ton HD truck couldn’t pull a 7500 GVWR trailer until I read later that it was actually a Suburban

Bill
8 months ago
Reply to  Randall Brink

The towing capacity is an advertising number which assumes very little in the towing vehicle, maybe not even a driver. Among other things, you also need to compare the pin or tongue weight to the rear axle capacity, after deducting the weight of whatever you plan to carry in the truck, including passengers. In most cases there is a long explanation on safe towing in the owner’s manual. There is also a class on matching trucks to trailers at RVSafety.com.

Warren G
8 months ago

I had been wondering the same, as this AF 22g was a model I may be interested in acquiring in the future. I like the no-slide, as we recently had to cut a month trip way short because of major slide issues. We have a Tundra with a 9800# tow capacity, so even at the 7500# GVWR (which I highly doubt we would come that close to) we would still be a little under 77% of tow capacity, which is as high as I would want to go. Have been towing a slightly lighter trailer of 7200# GVWR the last 6 years with no problem,

Donald N Wright
8 months ago

I went the other way, with a spine injury, I was advised to stop raising the roofs on my Aliner, so I was lucky enough to purchase a used Airstream Trailer. At 25′, it will fit in almost all campsites, and the folks that own them seem to keep them forever, some even buy a second one to restore or tinker with. Being single, 25′ is huge, a couple would fit fine, a bunch of children, tents.

Robert N. Cordy
8 months ago

I just went through the downsizing process. Having recently lost my life’s companion of 6o years and being in my mid-80s, it was time to get something smaller than our 30ft trailer. I am a devoted Northwood fan having had 3 over a period of 20 years. Our first was an Arctic Fox 22G, and my new to me trailer is an Arctic Fox 22G. My primary requirement, to keep things as simple as I could, was “no slide”. The 8.5 ft width of the newer 22G significantly increases its liveability. My downsizing process included selling the larger trailer on consignment with the local Northwood dealer (for a guaranteed price) and finding the Arctic Fox on a forum and buying from a private party 750 miles from my home.

I’ll be heading out in January to see family and friends during a 5 month trip. I am very optimistic that the AF 22G will work out very well for me!

Robert N. Cordy
8 months ago
Reply to  Randall Brink

Thank you. No worries for me!

Crowman
8 months ago

Check out the Winnebago line of off road series trailers they have, extremely well built. They have smaller trailers that your looking at with a twist they have tandem axles for stability instead of one.

Rick K
8 months ago

I don’t think the Rockwood Geo Pro is as four season as you think it is. It doesn’t even have an enclosed underbelly.

Bob p
8 months ago

Two years ago we decided to sell our class A that we had spent 3 years making it our own, we had it just like we wanted. We were in FL when we listed it, returning to TN we re-listed it, several inquired finally one bought it, this was before the boom hit so we basically gave it away. We thought in our senior-senior years we were through camping. Within 4-5 months we were regretting our decision so the research began, I didn’t like the way truck prices were going up and the reliability of the “rolling computers” was dismal. We had decided we didn’t want a big RV again, just something we could go out for a few times locally. I liked the idea that Nissan Frontiers didn’t have all the “modern” computerized gadgets that can go wrong and cost a fortune at the only place to get them fixed, at the dealer, and it had a good towing capacity (6417#) finding a lightly used 2018, buying a lightly used Mesa Ridge 23’ and we’re getting ready for a FL trip and we love our new rig.

Mic Brenoel
8 months ago

Did you consider Forest River’s Rockwood 2511S model?

Micheal Whelan
8 months ago

Three years ago we discovered our beloved Class A Winnebago was larger than many of the places and parks we wanted to stay at. Knowing we wanted another Class A the search began for a smaller coach. We researched toured and test drove some of the 20 to 26 foot beauties and discovered them too small. We ended our search with a 31 foot Tiffin Allegro Breeze. Stop pull our toad and fits almost anywhere. The real story was our discovery of trade in or sell through a broker. The trade offer like yours was embarrassing to the dealer and insulting to us. It cost the dealer the sale. The brokers were next. Again all three wanted a quick and easy sale to maximize their 20% commission rate. Their problem was I had done my research and knew the “lot” price and value of our Winnie’ so it became obvious we were being considered a chump. The decision came to using their techniques of marketing to sell it ourselves. It sold in days for more than we had hoped to get. Don’t believe all you are told.

G13
8 months ago
Reply to  Micheal Whelan

How true! No matter the vehicle, car, truck, SUV, RV or TT, you always come out ahead selling it yourself vs trading in. Case in point for 03 Accord EX in excellent condition, <64K miles, “CarMax” offered me a “are you out of your mine figure of 4K”, turned around and put on Craigslist and sold it for $6,400 five years ago. And yes, it sold within a week!

Merri
8 months ago
Reply to  Micheal Whelan

Where did you sell it?
I’m getting ready to sell my 38’ diesel pusher and looking for ideas.

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