What’s your RV’s “suit size”?

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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?

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Lee

We started out with a 16′ pop up and later upgraded to a 25′ hard side trailer, which is the best for us! It tow easily and we can fit into most places, including USFS and state park campgrounds. It’s fun to go to RV showa and ‘looky loo’ at the fancy rigs, but we’ll stick with our 25 footer.

Gene Bjerke

After I sold my sailboat, we did a lot of traveling by car. So we decided to check out RVing. We looked around at rentals; then I had a shipmate that drove a Roadtrek Class B. I stepped in to look around and my immediate reaction was, “this is just like a sailboat cabin, I can live with that.” So we rented a Roadtrek and were pleased enough to buy one. We’ve been traveling in a Class B ever since. I guess a lot depends on what you are used to.

Fred Burns

I did a lot of research on this subject before we started fulltiming in 2010. Based on our planned lifestyle of visiting every state including Alaska multiple times & moving frequently, we decided we needed to get a fifth wheel that would fit in any park, including state parks, national parks, national forest campgrounds, & older private campgrounds, most of which were built back in the 60’s, 70’s & 80’s, before the big rigs came along. We decided the maximum size that would fit in all of these parks was about 34ft. It has turned out to be the perfect size, with plenty of living space with three slides. We’ve had a few tight fits, but always managed to fit in.

John Koenig

I began RVing with a 2010, Casita Spirit Deluxe Travel Trailer that I could pull with the Sienna minivan I then owned. My first trip was from NY to Rice, TX (to pick up my new “egg”) and then, onto Nevada’s Black Rock Desert for Burning Man. I had a GREAT time and quickly learned that I REALLY enjoy RV travel. I knew early on that, life as a full time RVer was in my future. I began looking for an RV that would give me the additional room I wanted. I decided on a 2015 Dynamax DX3-37RB true Super-C Class diesel puller I bought new in 2014. It had the BEST floor plan I’ve seen and, in the five years I’ve used it, I haven’t seen a better floor plan! Don’t be afraid to start small!
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Booneyrat

BIGGER is better? YASHURUBECHA…and the price of parking a giant land yacht is bigger too.All across this once great nation greedy RV park owners are jacking up prices to match the pocketbooks of giant land yacht owners.That leaves us “little people” out of the rat race to claim that perfect social spot in the better RV parks. Too bad for many Americans who have gotten caught up in that rat race as I have never seen a U-haul trailer behind a hearse.

rick

We have had a 40ft MH for 12 years. Love it! Tow a JGC and can go anywhere in it……well almost anywhere….as long as anywhere is close to well maintained roads without low overpasses or weight restricted bridges. And those are the route to some of the most coveted places. As such, we have decided to DOWNSIZE. From a 40ft to a 25ft. We just got it and haven’t put her through “the test” of extended travel yet. That is coming soon and we will see if we can still be pleasant in such tight quarters. I am wondering if we will be able to cope with doing “the dance” every day which is required in small spaces. Time will tell………

Leo Suarez

I think selecting the size of your rig based on how often you stop is just all wrong. Comfort and how liveable the RV is based on how you plan to use it will determine the size. I have seen 45 footers with awful living configurations and same for small Travel Trailer. Owners of these I am sure ultimately were not happy.

Jeff

One of the BIG Things in buying an RV (Large or Small) is where are you gonna park it! The small RV’s are usually no problem finding an RV Park. The larger ones, will require you to look for a Campground that can accommodate your RIG! A 45ft. Class A with a Tow vehicle requires a good size space.

Just my 3 cents worth.

Rory R

Instead of “Bigger is Better”, it should be “One size does not fit all”. I really don’t believe that there is a rule of thumb, that can fit every RV’er. Renting rigs of different sizes and classes is a great idea. At least you can get a feel for how size affects your decision. But when it comes to recommendations, it seems that so many people recommend a class B. And of course I don’t agree with making recommendations. Why, because everyone’s needs, budget, usage, size of family or number of people traveling is different. It’s like recommending restaurants, I try not to oversell restaurant recommendations. You might love it, while someone else is not impressed……

Einar Hansen

My wife and I have a 21′ Travel Star expandable. We have it on a seasonal site not far from us in Plymouth, MA. We live closer to Boston that is about 45 minutes away and makes it easy to get to on weekends. Friends of ours at the campgrounds keep telling us that we should get something larger. I tell them no all the time they say it. Because it is just the two of us and our two large dogs and that we do take it off site at least twice a season to go Maine with it. Fine for what we do and has what we need. Hey camping is to be in the great outdoors and not sitting in your big motor home or fifth-wheel sitting in the AC watching a baseball game on your big flat screen TV.