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What Do WE Look For When Shopping For An RV?

First let us state that we’re not minimalists and we aren’t looking for a compact life style. Even though we like the ‘less stuff is better‘ way of life, we live in our coach full time and enjoy similar features that we had in our home. As we continue our full time journey we decided to add a new toy to our travels.

We played with our side-by-side in the desert of Arizona over the winter and determined that we want to keep it….but now how to tow it? We’ve been double-towing for the past few months but have come to the conclusion that we don’t want to double-tow forever. Time for a change!

As we look at RVs to accommodate our situation, we’ve had a number of you make suggestions, and many have asked what features are important to us when we shop for an RV. We’ve been RVing for a number of years and have had everything from a camper van, slide-in pickup camper, tow behind travel trailers, Class-C motor homes and a variety of fifth wheels. Each of them have their benefits, but we feel most comfortable in a fifth wheel while traveling full time.

Here are the most important features for us as we shop for a fifth wheel to accommodate our travels:

#1– Well insulated exterior walls. When living full time we can be in a variety of climates. We like to say we’re chasing 70 degree weather but find ourselves in freezing temperatures at night or possibly hot and humid conditions during summer days. It’s important to have a well insulated exterior wall to keep the cold out and the heat in – or just the opposite in the summer. You don’t want your A/C units running overtime in the summer trying to keep you cool.  Just like a “sticks-and-bricks” home, wall insulation is very important. The thicker the wall the more insulation it will have.

#2 – Double pane windows. The windows are just as important as the exterior walls – and for the same reasons. Single pane windows in cold temperatures can frost on the inside and create a moisture problem.

#3 – Disc brakes. We are amazed at how many drivers on the road can’t seem to grasp the concept that the heavier you are, the longer the stopping distance needed for safety…and we’re pretty heavy! All fifth wheels come standard with brakes, but most are drum brakes. While the drum brakes will add an element of safety, nothing beats the stopping power of disc brakes. Some manufacturers install disc brakes at the factory and there are a few companies that offer after-market disc brakes for fifth wheels.

#4 – 17.5 wheels and tires. Most manufacturers install 15” or 16” wheels and tires on their fifth wheels. Most of them are ‘ST’ trailer tires and usually last 3 to 5 years. We’ve had a few blow-outs over the years, and that can cause major damage. Our current tires are load range ‘H’ 16-ply and rated at 6005 lbs each.  6005 times 4 tires equals over 24,000 lbs of capacity – much more than we will ever weigh.

#5 – Independent suspension. We’ve heard the comment that towing a fifth wheel down the road is like being in an earthquake. The roads across the country aren’t in very good shape which can create a bouncing effect on the coach. We have the MorRyde Independent Suspension on our current coach and will never go back to a standard trailer axle. We accidentally left a coffee cup on the bathroom counter-top while traveling and it was still on the counter when we got to our next destination!

#6 – King bed with walk around access. Neither of us are small people and a king size bed is really important to us. There is nothing more frustrating than a small bed that doesn’t allow a good night’s sleep. One of the issues we’ve found is when some manufacturer’s install a king bed, the space around the bed is reduced. If you’ve never made a bed in an RV, it can be comical as well as frustrating! We look for a king bed with as much walk around access that we can find.

#7 – Full size refrigerator. Since we live in our coach full time a large refrigerator is a must. We boondock quite a bit and we can’t run to the grocery store every 2 or 3 days, so we try and purchase as much as we can while at the store.  Our current coach has a Dometic 13 cubic-foot double door refrigerator and it works well for us. As we shop for another coach we may consider a residential refrigerator. When we ordered our current coach we were concerned with the amount of energy that a residential refrigerator used while boondocking and we opted for the Dometic gas/electric style. Now that we’ve upgraded our coach batteries to lithium we feel that we can probably upgrade to a full residential refrigerator and be just fine.

#8 – Floor plan layout. We love each other very much, but living in less than 400 square feet has it’s challenges! As we move throughout the coach we can walk into each other and basically be in each other’s way at times. A floor plan that separates the living space, kitchen and entertainment area is very important to us.

#9 – Inside storage. Inside storage is just as important to us as a large refrigerator. The more storage available the better. We like to buy food and supplies in bulk as much as possible, so a place to store those items is a must for us. Not only for food items, but the bathroom and bedroom as well.  We need to store winter coats, boots, towels, extra blankets and other miscellaneous items, so the more storage we have the better!

#10 – Quality construction and craftsmanship. Most RVs aren’t made for full time life. The majority of buyers use their coaches for a couple of weeks a year and weekends during the summer months. There is a huge difference between what we like to call a ‘weekender‘ coach and a ‘full-timers‘ coach. Over time a weekender coach will break down and need repairs more often, as well as show wear and tear on both interior and exterior surfaces. We look for good quality construction and craftsmanship in our coaches since we use them all day every day.

These are the items that are important for us! One thing that we feel is important for everyone is to find a dealer that will not only give you a good buy for your money, but will also be there for you after the sale. It’s important to find a dealer that is knowledgeable about the product and responsive to service requests. RVs will break, and it’s the service after the sale that we think is very important. We actually had a coach that was in the shop more than in our possession one summer while waiting for warranty approvals and parts! It’s important to find a dealer that has a good reputation for service during and after the sale as well as knowledgeable about their product.

If you haven’t seen our latest video on the subject, you can see it HERE!