RV stands for recreational vehicle and the lifestyle around it possesses a lot of appeal. Whether you’re a young family dreaming of long and affordable summer trips, or you’re trying to make the most of your golden years, an RV will open new, thrilling possibilities for you.
The greatest advantage, when planning an RV trip, is that you can really take your time and enjoy both the road and the destination. You’re not tied up by plane tickets and booked accommodation. Should you particularly enjoy a certain place, you have the freedom of reorganizing your itinerary and spending more time there at no extra cost. On the contrary, if a destination is not up your standards, or if the weather is bad, all you need to do is get in your RV and drive away. Basically, you’re never stranded for days somewhere you really don’t want to be.
An RV also makes vacationing less expensive for families. You’re cutting out most accommodation costs – you’ll still pay when you park your RV at a camping site, but it’s not nearly as expensive as booking hotel rooms for the entire family. And there will be plenty of opportunities along the way to park your RV for free. Being able to cook some of the meals in the RV will reduce your expenses even further. There’s also a lot of convenience in being able to vacation surrounded by a familiar environment and your own stuff – especially when it involves traveling with your children.
Want to give this RV lifestyle a try? Here are the most important things you need to know about buying an RV, about planning your trips throughout the country and about storing the vehicle while it’s not in use.
Buying an RV for the First Time
You need to consider a few things when shopping around for an RV for the first time: the type and size of the vehicle, what features you actually need, and whether to get a new RV or a second-hand one.
Motorhome or towable?
There are two main types of RVs you can choose from: ones that can be driven as is, known as motorhomes, and the ones that need to be towed by another vehicle – fifth wheelers or travel trailers.
Fifth wheelers and travel trailers don’t have their own engine, which means they are cheaper, on average, than motorhomes. However, they need to be towed, and it takes a pretty powerful truck or SUV to do the job. If you don’t own such a vehicle and you need to purchase one in order to use your towable RV, then you’re not saving a whole lot.
A new motorhome easily goes for $500,000 and up, if you’re opting for state-of-the-art features. However, the average is between $80,000 and $125,000. If you’re opting for second-hand motorhomes, you can safely slash those prices in half.
The prices for new fifth wheelers hover around $50,000, and you can get used ones for around $20,000. However, you need a powerful pick-up truck in good condition to drive that fifth wheeler around, and that will cost you at least another $30,000 for a new one.
A lot of people find driving a fifth wheeler or a trailer easier to manage than driving a motorhome. However, that’s really up to personal preferences, so it’s wiser to test both types of RVs before deciding on one.
Convenience is another aspect to think about when choosing between the two types of RVs. People with motorhomes have access to all the facilities – kitchen, bathroom, entertainment – even during the drive. In the case of towable RVs, passengers are driving in a separate vehicle that needs to stop in order to let them use the RV’s features.
Which size do you need?
RVs are divided into several classes, based on their size. Class A motor homes are the largest and, obviously, the most expensive ones, and can usually host between six and ten people. However, due to their size, they’re not easy to maneuver and owners are pretty limited when it comes to where they can actually drive. They’re also quite expensive – the price of a new one can easily go above $500,000.
Class B recreational vehicles are the smallest of all RVs and are also known as camper vans. They’re built using a van as base, which makes them easily maneuverable. One will fit in most standard parking spaces and are ideal for adventurous owners interested in driving off road or to remote locations. Camper vans come equipped with sink, toilet and shower, and you can fit a small kitchen unit inside, but they have far less amenities and space than most other RVs.
Class C RVs are a combination between the two types described above: they’re built upon a half truck frame and provide more space than class C ones, while still being a lot easier to drive than huge class A motorhomes.
Tow-behind trailers and fifth wheelers come in various sizes, but they’re usually pretty large, comparable to class A and class C motorhomes. Tow-behind trailers can connect to your vehicle via a traditional hitch, while fifth wheelers need a special connection integrated into your truck or SUV. Their main advantage is that they can be disconnected, and you can still use your car while camping for longer amounts of time. Both types are less expensive, on average, than class A and class C motorhomes.
New or used RV?
The advantages of new RVs include a full warranty from the manufacturer and the possibility of choosing features, accessories and customizations, but they can be really expensive, and the insurance premium for a new one is quite taxing.
Used RVs are a lot more affordable, and you can also change the interior layout and remodel them to your liking without worrying about the value going down. Insurance is a lot cheaper in the case of used RVs. However, damages are hard to assess when buying used RVs, as they might be hidden by features such as cabinets, paneling and so on, and manufacturer warranty is usually long gone.
If you’re a beginner to the whole RV lifestyle, maybe you shouldn’t splurge on a brand-new one right from the start. Wait and see whether RVing works for you and for your family.
Planning Your RV Trips
Now that you’re the proud owner of a new RV – or a used one, depending on your budget and preferences – it’s time to start preparing an amazing itinerary for your first trip. It’s true that vacationing in your own RV allows a lot more flexibility than a standard trip where you must book everything in advance. However, careful planning is required and is the key to a successful, stress-free holiday.
Once you have decided on a destination, do some thorough research of the itinerary. It’s important to organize your trip in stages, in a way that allows you to enjoy every minute of it. Avoid long stretches of driving with no stops, as they are exhausting and boring, especially for families with children. Make sure there’s something interesting to see or do on each day.
From a more practical point of view, you also need to focus on camping sites that provide access to electricity, clean water and the sewer system. There are many RV trip planner apps you can use that contain maps, detailed information on campgrounds, costs and so on.
RV Trip Wizard helps you calculate the cost of the entire trip, makes picking your campgrounds a lot easier and it also includes a lot of additional information such as free parking, pet hospitals, bike trails and golfing opportunities.
RV Life helps you find campgrounds near your location and has integrated reviews of those sites. The app provides offline access to maps and directions to RV parks even if your WiFi is not working. You’ll also find plenty of articles on RVing and trip ideas.
These are just examples of RV route planner apps, but there are many others to choose from. You can also forgo using apps altogether and rely solely on your planning skills.
Where to Keep Your RV While Not in Use
Finding a safe place to keep your RV can be quite a thorny issue. Most cities and towns don’t allow street parking for RVs. Parking it in your driveway is pretty tricky too. It makes using your garage and your everyday car a lot more complicated, and there’s even a possibility that your community’s local rules prevent you from using the driveway for that purpose. In fact, unless you have a large property with plenty of space, parking your RV close to your home is nearly impossible.
The safest, most cost-efficient solution for parking your RV while not in use is at a self-storage facility. Many facilities provide outdoor parking spaces or large indoor units for recreational vehicles. Outdoor spaces are very affordable, usually between $20 and $80 per month, depending on location and amenities. Indoor RV spaces can be standard or climate-controlled, which makes the cost vary significantly, from around $100 per month to more than $400 per month.
Self-storage facilities rent month-to-month, which means you can use them even during your trips. If you take a road trip to Florida in your RV, but once you’re there you prefer living in a different type of dwelling, you need a place for the RV. Renting self-storage in Miami or in any other city you might be in is the way to go. Your vehicle will be perfectly safe, and the costs are affordable, especially in the case of outdoor parking spaces.
5 Tips on How to Prepare Your RV for Long-Term Storage
When the holiday season is over and you’re confident you won’t be using your RV until the following year, it’s time to start preparing the vehicle for long-term storage. It’s essential for keeping your vehicle in the best of shape, even more so if you’re living in areas with cold winters.
- The first step is to drain the RV’s entire water system – the clean water tank, but also the gray and black water tanks. Make sure there’s no water left inside the vehicle’s plumbing system, otherwise the water will freeze during winter and will end up cracking the pipes.
- Prepare the exterior – give it a good wash to remove the dirt and the dust and inspect all the surfaces carefully. If there are any dents, cracks or holes, use a good-quality sealant to cover them. If the situation requires, ask for professional help. Left unattended, those issues will only worsen before spring comes.
- Remove all food from the RV and do a clean-up of the refrigerator and all the cupboards.
- Add fuel stabilizer to protect the fuel sitting in the tank.
- Also, it’s a good idea to go to the storage facility every few weeks to start the RV and run the engine for half an hour or so. That will protect both the engine and the batteries. Alternatively, you can disconnect the batteries, but you’ll still have to charge them from time to time.
RVing is both exciting and a little bit intimidating – hopefully our guide helped you understand all that it entails. Let us know about your RV adventures in the comments!