Choosing the right RV can be a challenge. There are SO many options! The first piece of advice we give people who are shopping for an RV is that there is NO perfect RV for you. You will have to make some sacrifices…of course unless you plan to spend a million dollars for custom options. But if that’s the case, you probably aren’t reading this post anyway.
To be honest, many full-time RVers you ask have most likely had at least 2 or 3 different RVs. Before you’ve lived in an RV, it’s hard to truly know what you want and need. So don’t be surprised if you change your mind, too.
You can read all the tips for choosing the right RV (like the post we wrote, DON’T Buy an RV Until You’ve Read These 5 Tips!), do tons of research, and drive yourself crazy. But, ultimately, until you’ve hit the open road and discovered your travel style, your parking preference, etc….it’s hard to know which RV is the best for your lifestyle.
For us, we had never owned an RV and had barely even camped in one. We automatically chose a fifth wheel for the space. We loved it, too! In fact, we wrote this post – 10 Reasons to Choose a Fifth Wheel for Full-Time RVing. Those reasons were exactly why we decided on a fifth wheel, and are still huge benefits to choosing a fifth wheel.
However, 8 months later when it was time to buy a newer RV, we completely surprised ourselves when we chose to switch to a class c motorhome instead of another fifth wheel. We purchased our fifth wheel knowing it was a “starter unit” to simply allow us to try out RV life and determine if it was for us or not. It wasn’t designed for full-time living…it was much more of a weekend warrior RV. So we originally went into the purchasing process with the plans to buy another fifth wheel.
Here are the reasons, though, that we ended up choosing a class c motorhome instead.
We didn’t need as much “stuff” as we thought we did
When moving our belongings out of the fifth wheel, we pulled out so many things we never used and actually forgot we had in there. Again, we didn’t know anything about the lifestyle and how it would be. Now, we know what we like to do in the places we visit, we know we don’t need as many clothes as we thought, and we ditched the duplicates of things.
It’s a huge adjustment to downsize from a house to an RV. So, many people will choose a larger RV until they realize how little they actually need. It’s extremely common for full-time RVers to downsize their RV during or after their first year on the road. In a way, going through the stages, is part of the process of simplifying your life.
Maneuverability > living space
We lost something around 50 sq ft when we downsized from our fifth wheel to our class c. Do we miss it? Of course! But the benefits we gained outweigh the loss of space.
Our favorite benefit is how maneuverable our class c is. Driving it feels very similar to driving our old truck. Since the length is right under 26 feet, we can “fit” into most parking spots. We’ve even managed to find street parking in the city and have “moochdocked” outside of family members’ houses with no problem at all.
In contrast, the last time we returned home, we had no choice but to put our fifth wheel in storage while visiting family because there was not enough space for it in anyone’s driveway or neighborhood. It was really inconvenient to move out of our home for a few weeks and not have full access to some of our belongings.
We also used to be so jealous of the RVers who could pull off the side of the road to snap a photo of a scenic view. We’ve had to settle for mental pictures because pulling over with a 30ft trailer isn’t exactly safe, if there is even space for it. Now, we find ourselves feeling confident to pull into nearly anywhere with ease, without having to constantly check the mirror to ensure we will clear a curb, and Lindsay feels 100% comfortable driving at any time.
Easier travel days
Let me paint a picture of what our travel days looked like when towing the fifth wheel. First, we would have to strap down any loose furniture, along with the typical stowing of items. Then, we’d have the usual disconnecting of the sewer, water and electric. The final step would be backing up the truck just right, lowering the trailer, and hitching it up, which would typically take 10 minutes alone (on a good day). We’d often be stressed that we would forget a step, because there were just so many.
I forgot to mention that we’d have to set up a comfortable space for the dogs, pack up a bag of snacks, water bottles, a trash bag, our computers (if we wanted to struggle to work at all), cameras (you always have to be prepared for beautiful scenery), etc. We would be crammed in and have to stop every 2-3 hours to stretch and use the bathroom. If we wanted to make lunch in the fifth wheel, we’d end up taking 30-45 minutes every time we stopped, which made travel days even longer.
Let me start explaining the difference in travel days by saying that as I am writing this post, we are driving to Nashville. I am sitting comfortably and safely at the dinette as Dan drives. When it’s lunch time, I’ll get up and make us a sandwich without having to stop and if I need to use the restroom…no problem! The dogs can move around a bit more too.
Oh, and before we leave somewhere, it only takes us about 10-15 minutes to pack up, disconnect, and take off. No more hitching up and strapping down. We stow away items, pull the slide in, detach our hook ups, jump in and go! We travel quickly and typically only stay 1 week at a time in new places, so this is huge for us!
Better work spaces
Although many newer models of fifth wheels have great work spaces, ours did not. Our only work area was at the kitchen dinette This consisted of small wooden chairs that had had no back cushions and barely enough space to be a comfortable distance away from the table. The booth dinette with quality cushions is much more practical for all day sitting.
If the dinette gets too crowded for us both, I prefer to work in the passenger chair, which swivels around to face the living area. There is also a detachable table that I can set up, which can additionally be placed in front of the couch, if I feel like being extra cozy and watching TV while I write. We therefore have 3 options of work spaces!
I mentioned that I am working while we drive, which is also a big deal for us. And the computer is not sitting on my lap in the passenger seat. I am actually at a “desk”, where I can focus without getting car sick or getting a neck cramp!
We also used to only be able to travel on weekends because Dan was the primary driver and he couldn’t take time away from his work during week days. We would occasionally be able to squeeze travel in on a week day if the drive was under 3 hours and after the work day. The hardest part about that though, other than driving at night, is that our weekends are our most valuable time. Weekends are the best time for us to be exploring new places and enjoying the greatest benefit of RV life.
Now that I am more comfortable driving the new RV, Dan can work while I drive. Travel days no longer mean that we have to take time away from work. It’s all about efficiency and multi-tasking, right? And our weekends are free for adventuring!
Better gas mileage
What do you get when you cross a GMC Sierra 2500 truck and a 8,500 pound fifth wheel? A gas guzzler! That’s not a joke. We used to get 7-8 miles per gallon while towing! Then we’d continue to get poor gas mileage when we would detach the trailer and drive the truck around cities. We basically lived at gas stations.
Now, the motorhome alone gets the same gas mileage as the truck alone, which is around 15 mpg. When we tow our Jeep Wrangler behind the motorhome, we still average around 11 miles per gallon…not too shabby. But when we arrive, we can ride around in the jeep and get 18 miles per gallon around the city! Cha-ching! More money in our pockets, which makes us happy campers!
So there you have it! Clearly, we are very happy with our decision to switch from a fifth wheel to a motor home! We chose a 2018 Winnebago Navion 24D and are in love! We named her “Wanda” because she allows us to “wanda” around the country while feeding our “wanda-lust”. Or, as my dad says, we “wanda” how we’re going to pay for her! But, as they say, not all who “wanda” are lost. Ha! Okay, that’s enough puns!
Choosing the right RV is a very personal decision and will greatly depend on YOUR lifestyle and RVing style. But we hope that sharing our experience and the differences we had in living in our fifth wheel versus our class c motorhome will help you with the decision.
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