By Russ and Tiña De Maris
The American marketing machine churns out the mantra: “Bigger is better.” Is that the case for the RV lifestyle? To quote Gershwin, “It ain’t necessarily so.” One motorhome owner put it nicely when he said, “A size 52 suit is not the best purchase for a person who wears a size 44, even if they both cost the same. Larger does not necessarily mean better when buying a suit or a motorhome.”
So what’s your “size”?
If you’re new to the RV lifestyle, you’ll have to do thinking based on your RVing plans. As a general rule of thumb, “The longer you stay put, the longer the rig.”
There are plenty of snowbird RVers who, when bad weather threatens, pack up the RV and head for some place like Yuma or the Texas Gulf. They drive there, park the motorhome in an RV park, and stay put until the weather changes for good back home. Then they pack up and drive back north. For folks like these, a larger RV makes good sense. You can cram a lot of stuff in a larger motorhome or fifth wheel, and it’s all there when you want it.
But other RVers have different plans. When we took our first BIG RV trip, one that had us away from home for nine weeks, we wanted to cover a lot of ground. Our travel plans included multiple stops at different venues, sightseeing, and experiencing the open road. Our average “put down the anchor and stay there” stay-over was only a matter of a few days. For us that rule of thumb translated to a smaller rig. In fact, we made our journey in a truck camper.
For those doing a lot of road miles, a smaller rig makes sense from the perspective of going where you want. Older public campgrounds, particularly those in the National Park system, often can’t accommodate bigger rigs. Either the campsites themselves are small, or the roads in the campground are so tight in turns and overhead that you can literally get a bigger rig stuck trying to negotiate the area.
Experienced RVers often tell those thinking about getting into RVing to come in with a smaller rig, test out the lifestyle, and then see if they need to up-size. That’s not a bad idea in principle, but it does mean you may have to buy rig after rig until you find “the right fit.” If your budget can afford it, another approach is to rent RVs in various sizes and configurations and try them out to find the right fit. Perhaps it’s a shame that RV dealers aren’t more like shoe stores – try it out for a fit.
SPEAKING OF FIT: If you’re shopping for a rig for just yourself and maybe a traveling partner, your worries are fewer. If you’re looking for a rig to take the gang with you, be it your family or frequent traveling guests, shopping for the right fit also entails shopping for sleeping comfort. A smaller RV is OK during the day – the kitchen table may be additional counter space when making meals. Later it becomes a card table for a big game. Maybe the kids use it later for coloring projects. But don’t think that having a bed do multiple duty will work the same way. A bed should be a bed.
Yes, the couch in many RVs often doubles as a “bed.” But how many will it sleep, and how comfortably? A lousy night’s sleep can spoil an RV trip. When shopping for an RV, if someone will be using the couch or dinette for sleeping, have the seller set it up as a sleeper, take off your shoes, and lay down on it. Will that “bed” actually allow someone a good night’s sleep?