We decided we wanted to buy our first RV. We had a strong desire to get “out there” and experience life. Since we were inexperienced with just about every aspect of camping and RVs, we rolled up our sleeves and began our research. For months, we traveled to RV lots, read classifieds, visited State Parks all over Ohio, and watched YouTube endlessly. Finally, we had a sense of what we were looking for and narrowed down the myriad of RV options to a Travel Trailer or a Motorhome. Here’s a look at our observations and conclusions about Travel Trailers (and Pick Up Trucks), Class A Motorhomes and Class C Motorhomes.
Travel Trailer & Pick Up Truck Observations:
- Travel trailers make a lot of sense for those who already own or are in the market to buy a pickup truck.
- Generally, travel trailers are less expensive than motorhomes, because you are only buying the “home” without the “motor.” They offer a lot more space and amenities for the money.
- The biggest plus is once you get to your destination, a travel trailer can be parked. Your tow vehicle can then be used to explore the area and run errands.
- Our current SUV is fully paid for (yay!) and cannot pull a mid-sized travel trailer. So we’d have to buy a pickup truck AND a travel trailer – TWO big decisions, and TWO payments, which was a larger financial commitment than we were willing to make at the time.
- Pickup trucks with crew cabs are behemoths. Although my hubby was giddy with delight by the possibility of buying a pickup truck (it’s a testosterone thing, I think), an overnight test drive revealed that a pickup truck with a crew cab would BARELY fit in our garage. And the only way it could squeeze in was if everything was removed, including our second car, which happens to be my car. Well, that definitely wouldn’t work. So, the truck would have to sit in our driveway, which is not ideal.
- We were inexperienced. In addition to being inexperienced campers AND inexperienced RVers, we’ve never actually towed something before. I had visions of looking in the rear view mirror and watching our travel trailer careen over a cliff or wobble dangerously behind us. It seemed like too many new things to learn in a short time, which definitely felt overwhelming.
- Our driveway is on a hill. The thought of cutting in and driving the travel trailer up our 90 ft. sloped driveway – backwards – was more than we could get our arms around.
- Our kids and the dog would be in the backseat of the tow vehicle when we traveled. Even though my kids get along pretty well, they still annoy each other (and, therefore, annoy the parents) when they get restless. Since I can’t strap them to the roof or make one of them sit in the truck bed when they misbehave, riding in the same vehicle means we’d all suffer (and it wouldn’t be in silence). Another strike against travel trailers.
Travel Trailer/Pickup Truck Conclusions:
A travel trailer would be a great option for us if we already owned a pickup truck. Since we would have to buy a pickup truck (that wouldn’t fit in our garage) AND a travel trailer, and back it up our sloped driveway, and potentially have to tie our restless children to the roof, we decided that a travel trailer is not right for us (for the time being).
Class A Motorhome Observations:
- Class A Motorhomes are really big. The entire time we shopped, my inner dialogue went something like this – “This is a bus. Literally, a bus! Isn’t a CDL required for a bus?!?” When I climbed into the driver’s seat of a Class A, I was amazed that the passenger seat was so far away. I wondered if the entire rig would fit into one lane on the road and whether I could keep it there.
- The distance from the road to the driver’s seat is intimidating. The driver is perched up high, high from the road. When combined with the fishbowl appearance of the HUGE windshield, I worried how the great visibility would force me to experience terrifying heights when traveling over bridges and mountains. Can you say, “Panic Attack?”
- The gigantic size of Class A Motorhomes makes them very comfortable. The kitchens are roomy. The living areas have recliners and a couch. The bedrooms are nicely sized and we could add optional bunk beds for the kids. The bathrooms are larger and there is ample inside and outside storage. The family could spread out, even while driving, helping everyone to enjoy the journey AND the destination.
- The generous space and the features come at a high price, which can be legitimized depending on how we planned to use the motorhome. A friend owns a Class A and was able to justify the expense because they view it as a summer home. I love that idea. And now that I have a few years of experience under my belt, I agree with that perspective.
Class A Motorhome Conclusions:
Being RV newbies, we felt that purchasing a Class A Motorhome was bigger and more expensive than what we needed (for the time being). We set our sights on finding the right Class C Motorhome for us.
We Chose A Class C Motorhome As Our First RV
In the end, because we were newbies to the entire RV experience, we decided to test the waters with a used, smaller RV. We were very focused on finding something that would allow us to try RVing safely and comfortably, but in a way that wouldn’t break the bank… err… credit union.
Reasons Why We Chose Bessie- Our Class C RV:
- A Class C is the perfect mid-sized solution for our needs.
- We mostly planned to use the RV for regional weekend travel, so thought we could sacrifice a little on the living space. Plus, we planned to spend a lot of time enjoying the great outdoors.
- We can all sleep comfortably. Ted and I have a bedroom with a queen-sized bed. The kids sleep in the overhead cabin and on the converted dinette.
- The kitchen is functional. It has a double sink, and L-shaped counter, a microwave and a three-burner stove, storage cabinets and a nice-sized refrigerator. All said, this is pretty impressive for a 28 ft. camper.
- It has SLIDES! Two of them! They only widen the space a few feet, but they make a HUGE difference in the livability inside of the RV.
More Reasons Why We Chose Our Class C RV (Bonus Section)
- I can drive the RV pretty well. It was a little bumpy at the beginning, but it’s gotten better with practice and with doing a bit of research. It’s comparable to driving a really awkward SUV.
- Our RV meets city zoning requirements for parking in our driveway. Plus I can drive it in and back it out.
- We can take the RV anywhere, including camping at all state parks, we can weave in and out of city traffic (though it’s not my favorite thing to do), and hang out in the parking lot at the beach.
- At the time of purchase, Bessie was 10 years old, which was about as old as I was willing to go for a vehicle that we drive, making the RV more affordable.
- Our RV had the right combination of being very well cared for, with low miles and new tires, and had most of the amenities we were seeking.
- Bessie was in good shape. After a pre-purchase inspection and two post-purchase service appointments, we felt comfortable the RV was mechanically and physically sound.
- After lots of negotiation about our budget, my husband and I also agreed on a plan of how often we would use the RV to justify the cost. If we weren’t able to use it twice a month because of busy schedules or a lack of interest, we promised to be honest with each other and sell it. For us, this reduced the risk of purchasing a luxury item without knowledge of whether it would fit into our long-term lifestyle.
We were ecstatic when we finally found Bessie on Craig’s List. We bought her from a private owner (Tom) who reluctantly had to sell her because of health issues. Tom was so very patient with us, taking the time to give us an “orientation” of the RV. We recorded it and uploaded it to YouTube for future reference! We watched the part about opening and closing the awning about 50 times trying to figure out how to use the darn thing.
Bessie is a great size for us now, but I can also make the case for something bigger. When we are all together for long periods of time in the RV, it can feel pretty tight. So far, the only regret I have is that we don’t have a comfortable seating area. We have one barrel chair and a dinette that converts to a bed. I wish we had room for a couple of recliners. Maybe someday…
I hope these observations and conclusions help those who are also looking at purchasing an RV for the first time.
After having Bessie for three years, we gave some serious thought about purchasing a different RV that was more comfortable for our family. In the end, we decided to keep Bessie (because she’s awesome!) and update the interior to make it more attractive and comfortable. Here is the article series that documented this decision-making process and spotlights some of the “Before and After” improvements:
Check out the other articles in the “Upgrade vs. Keep RV” series:
- Upgrading vs. Keeping Our RV: Is The Grass Greener on The Bigger RV Side?
- RV Decisions: Trading Up vs. Sprucing Up
- Making Bessie The RV Great Again: Kitchen & Living Area
- Making Bessie The RV Great Again: Bathroom