Having an RV for the occasional trip is one thing. But, if you are looking to become a full-time RVer, you want to have a coach that is comfortable for the long haul. A happy camper is a satisfied camper. You’ll want to take great care when choosing a full-time RV. This is important because all RVs are not created equally. Additionally, your choice of RV will vary depending on various factors (which we’ll discuss below).
I am sure, like most of the full-timers, you will change RVs after a while. Most people who do this full-time will love to try out different types of RVs. On most occasions, the first RV you get is probably not the right RV – your needs and wants will eventually change as well. This isn’t probably a bad thing. More options are always welcome. You’ll find yourself selling it after 1-3 years (hopefully, at a gain). Remember that there isn’t just one type of RV out there, which is why I don’t recommend getting into huge debt if you’re looking to buy your first one.
There are different sizes, styles, features, and prices. And when you plan to live in the RV full time, it needs to meet your needs.
That being said, there is no such thing as the perfect RV for you. You will have to make some compromises when shopping around. When you know what you want, you can get pretty close to perfection, so long as you are prepared to do some research and shopping first. In this article, we’ll look at some of the factors to consider when looking for an RV.
Before you start shopping around, you need to have a pretty good idea of your needs and wants. These can change as you learn more, but it’s good to have a starting point. The tips below will help your shopping so you can focus on the features that matter for full-time RV living.
How the RV is built matters, especially for full-time travelers. You want quality construction. Quality matters because it will determine how long the RV lasts, and what you will have to deal with when fixing components that should not break in the first place.
You will need a much higher level of reliability when the RV is going to be your home. There will be more wear and tear than RVs that travel during the summer only. If you can afford it, both the exterior and interior need to be made of sturdy materials such as Flexsteel coating on the outside and furniture made from leather and heavy-duty upholstery. The walls should be well-insulated because staying cool in summer and warm in winter will be part of your life.
Roofing and walls should be solid aluminum for minimal risk of leaking. This looks better and lasts longer than other materials. Look for dual-pane windows to help with noise and climate control and flooring that is tile for durability and easier cleaning.
Additionally, wood-slat floors are good for RVs, but package units with high ceilings can be difficult to warm. You may want to avoid buying an RV that has the bedroom at the front of the coach because this will make driving more difficult.
RV living is fun because you can travel with the weather, but if you plan to stay in places with cold winters, you will need an insulated RV. This is another good reason to stay away from package units.
There are multiple configurations and floor plans for every RV brand, and your choice will center on comfort. You do not want to feel closed in, so look for the components:
- Larger windows, with blinds rather than curtains
- Enough space to have a guest or two over
- Island beds
- Space-efficient kitchens with good storage
The overall design of the RV should feel like home. The weather is not always perfect. You have to feel in it comfortably enough so that if the weather is bad you won’t feel cramped.
The bigger and longer the RV is, the more comfort you get, but it is also more challenging to drive. Smaller RVs are easier to handle but may not be the best for long-term comfort. This is one feature where you will need to make a little compromise. With full-time RVing, you will be in the RV the majority of your time, but you need to be happy driving to and from locations; otherwise living on the road will not be much fun. RVs with slides help solve the problem of small spaces, but slides can be cumbersome to take out during short stops and breaks. Try to find an RV where the RV can be fully used without the slides out.
To compromise on space and drivability, aim for an RV that is between under 30 feet long. My first RV was a van, then I upgraded to a slightly bigger 24 feet long RV, and my current RV is 28 feet long. I definitely feel the difference in space, way better when I spend longer amounts of time in one place, but on the road, traveling for a few weeks with it is somewhat harder.
4. RV Type
Most who want to live full-time in an RV don’t choose vans and campers and opt for motorhomes, travel trailers, or fifth wheels. Each of these has benefits and drawbacks so consider all aspects before making a decision.
- Travel trailers and fifth wheels are made from lighter materials so are not as durable
- Motorhomes are more durable but are bulky and heavier to drive
- Towing travel trailers can be tricky because they sway
- Fifth wheels attach to the towing vehicle closely so are easier to maneuver
- Higher-end motorhomes have more ‘at-home features and more space and comfort.
Cost often ends up being the biggest issue for people looking to buy an RV. Pricing varies significantly across makes, models, and floor plans. When you want to meet the above criteria and comfort levels, finding an RV at a reasonable price can be a challenge. It is important to remember that higher prices do not necessarily mean better quality, so watch for pricing traps. Take time to visit dealerships, go to RV shows, and read reviews to research your options. This will help you identify what you need for a price you like.
You are paying a lot of money so you need to choose something that makes you happy. Don’t be scared of older, used RVs. Many older models are better built than newer ones and will last. Let’s get rid of the common misconception that you need to spend a fortune to be happy. If you can afford it, go for the gold, but don’t rule out any options because the cost is an issue. The best RV for full-time living is not always the most expensive one.
If money is not a problem, then you can expect to pay between $60,000 to a million bucks for a fully-loaded luxury RV.
If you have a budget, look for older models that have been well maintained around $50,000. I owned two formal rental RVs and both were in pretty good condition. It may have higher miles but they are well taken care of. At the end of the day, you can always replace tires, extend the life of appliances, and upgrade materials.
A good compromise that is worth considering is a Class-B RV van. They are big enough to host a friend but small enough for an easy drive around town, cheap to maintain, and fuel-efficient. A used class-B RV van with low miles will cost about $15,000 to $20,000.
If you only have a small budget and cannot afford those expensive luxury RVs, then look for an older RV with low miles for between $10,000 and $25,000.
Do not be tempted by the super cheap price tags for new or almost brand-new RVs. They often come with costly add-ons that you will not need and warranties that cover very little.
Moving out of your home and into an RV will show you just how much stuff you have. Not everything needs to come with you, but you want to make sure you have ample storage space to bring your home comforts and everyday needs. If possible, look for an RV that has good amounts of storage compartments so you can bring what you need for year-round living. Nothing is more frustrating than having too much-moving stuff that has no room in a cabinet.
A good rule of thumb is to bring just your clothes and personal products. Decorative pieces can be purchased later on. Bathroom cabinets, drawers next to the bed, and even under the bed are good places for short-term storage of clothes.
7. Fuel Type
The two main choices for RV fuel are gasoline and diesel. Diesel is more affordable so if you plan to be moving around a lot, this would be a more economical option. RVs with diesel also is more powerful, so ideal if you have recreational vehicles to tow. The only problem is that diesel is not available at all gas stations, so if you have diesel, be sure to look ahead before you travel and plan where you can stop for a fill-up.
Gasoline, on the other hand, is convenient regardless of the type of RV you have. You will always find fuel at any gas station so you can be confident that your travel plans are not limited by where diesel is available.
If you’re considering long-term road trips, you might want to opt for gas. If you need something that is more economical over shorter periods of time or if your RV gets used less often, then diesel would be a better choice.
As time goes by, things change, and this means RV styles and RVer needs will also change. It can also seem like right now is a great time for full-time RV living but in a few years, that may not be the case. If you live by a strict budget, it is important to keep things like this in mind.
RV living can be a wonderful experience but it comes with its own set of challenges when you’re not prepared. The good news is that with the right RV, you can live comfortably full-time.
Going with a reliable older model will be affordable and if it turns out the RVing is not your bag, you didn’t break the bank buying an RV. The best RV for full-time living will be one that is drivable and comfortable. And you can find this anywhere, as long as you look. The right fit is out there, and with this guide, you are one step closer to getting the full-time RV for you.
Full-time RVing might be scary at first but it is not a life sentence. It can be a challenge but for sure it’s fun. You don’t have to think that you will live that way the rest of your life unless you want to and you can. No worries, you can always go back to “normal”. Time to start shopping!