Right away we’ve got to give a disclaimer: There is no such thing as a “perfect” RV! There are good RVs, even great RVs. There are RVs that will fit your personal needs really well, and some that won’t fit your needs at all. The challenge is choosing and buying the best RV that best fits your own RVing needs!
One of the first things I did was buy a great book: Buying a Used Motorhome – How to get the most for your money and not get burned, by Bill Meyers (Click on the title to see the book at Amazon. It’s available in print or for Kindle). It’s got everything you need to know.
We plan to live in our RV for up to 9 months a year, traveling all over the United States. But, it’s not just us. We have three young-adult kids who will be in college and need a place to come “home” to during vacations. Sometimes home will be our lake house in New Jersey. But lots of the time it will be our RV – wherever we happen to be! Plus, we’ve got the pets. Did I mention that we have a Golden Retriever, a Lassa-Silky mix, and a Chihuahua, and a Calico cat? (They’ll get their own post soon!)
As we’ve thought about it, we THINK our needs are:
- Class A. Frankly, we just love the idea of the panoramic view through that huge windshield! We also like the idea that we always have access to our kitchen and bathrooms while we’re on the road.
- Spacious enough for two full-time adults, three young-adult kids, three dogs, and a cat!
- We want a separate bed/sleeping area for each kid when they are with us. This isn’t a weekend camping trip where we can all squeeze in for a few days and laugh about it!
- Used. RVs depreciate wickedly! We’d rather someone else absorb the hit of 30-45% that an RV depreciates when you first drive it off the lot. Also, we’d like someone else to do the initial shakedown and get the things the manufacturer messed up fixed under warranty.
- Quality Brand. There are no guarantees about the build quality of any RV, but based on the experiences of other consumers a few brands such as Winnebago, Tiffin, Newmar, and Fleetwood tend to stand out.
- Never smoked in.
- Nightstands. Jeff sleeps with a CPAP machine and he needs a place to set it along with books, glasses, etc.
- Dinette seats four or more people.
- Good counter space in the kitchen.
- RV style refrigerator. RV refrigerators run on propane when you’re not plugged into electric. Since we plan to do a lot of boondocking (free camping on public or private land without hookups), this is a biggie.
- Full-size shower. Have you seen some of the phone-booth-size showers in some RVs?
- Bedroom and bathroom accessible with the slides closed.
In addition, we are pretty sure we want:
- Gas (as opposed to diesel). Diesel RVs tend to be stronger, have a smoother ride, and be better built. But we’re on a budget and this is our first RV, so going for a “gasser” will save us tens-of-thousands of dollars. Really!
- A TV that you can watch from the couch. You’d be surprised how many you can’t!
- One-and-a-half baths. Nice when someone’s sleeping or we have company.
- A third, drop-down bunk over the cab. So we have a dedicated sleeping area for each kid instead of using a pull-out couch.
- Bunks can be converted to storage or office space. Nice for when the kids are not with us.
- Power awning. We’re just too old to wrestle with one of those manual ones!
- Four-door refrigerator. Five people = large ‘fridge.
- Full-body paint. On some RVs those swirls are decals! Decals peel. Paint doesn’t.
ICING ON THE CAKE
- Solid wood cabinet doors. Not just better looking, but more durable.
- Outfitted for boondocking. For example, wired for solar power, extra batteries, large water and waste tanks.
What do you think of our list? Got any RVs you’d especially recommend? Are there other things we should be thinking about that we’ve missed? Please give us your comments below.
In upcoming posts we’ll show you some of the RVs we’ve looked at and talk about each of their strengths and liabilities, and show you how we are searching both locally and around the entire USA.