Before we can get into how to choose the right RV for your family, it's important to consider what kind of camping you want to do, where you want to camp, and whether you will travel consistently or stay in one place.
All of this information will play into what the best decision will be for your family.
You'll also want to think about who will be driving, and if you're more interested in a drivable RV (and possibly towing your family vehicle) vs. driving a vehicle that can tow your RV. There are pros and cons to each situation.
Motorhomes – Drivable RVs
One perceived perk to owning a motorhome is that you are free to move about the RV while driving. Unfortunately, this is not safe, and if you own a motorhome, all passengers will need to have seatbelts (or car seats) when you are driving and it should be treated like any other passenger vehicle on the road.
The nice thing about driving a motorhome is that it was built for the road and is easy to drive. Even if you plan to tow your family vehicle, you'll be towing a small vehicle in perspective to the larger motorhome you're driving and it will be easier to maneuver than pulling a larger trailer with a (relatively) small tow vehicle.
When it comes to being able to tow your family vehicle, you will need to know how much your RV can tow (to ensure it has the capacity to tow the weight of your passenger vehicle) and you will need to research your family vehicle to find out if it should be towed with all 4 wheels on the ground, the rear wheels on the ground (front wheels on a dolly), or with all 4 wheels off the ground (on a towable flatbed).
Within the Motorhome category there are 3 “classes” of RVs:
- Class A – these are the RVs that look like busses. They offer some of the largest sizes available, while coming in a range of sizes with various floor plans to choose from. A big perk for me is all the storage space they tend to offer underneath the living area.
- Class B – look like vans, and are sometimes called “camper vans.” I've not seen a class B that would be large enough to accommodate a family comfortably.
- Class C – these resemble a U-Haul, with a truck chassis and tend to be considered easier to drive than Class As. There are a wide range of sizes and styles to choose from.
Trailers – Towable RVs
Not every truck or SUV is capable of towing an RV – so the first thing you'll need to consider is what your vehicle is capable of towing – or, if you're going to buy a new tow vehicle, what type of vehicle you're in the market for.
When you tow your RV, it's illegal to allow people to be inside of the RV – all passengers must be inside of the tow vehicle and restrained as legally required.
The biggest adjustment here was learning how long the trailer is when towing it. I am one who never towed anything until hauling the RV off the lot and it was quite the learning curve.
There are two main trailer types: 5th Wheels have a hitch that attaches inside the bed of a pickup truck, and Travel Trailers attach on the hitch at the bumper of the tow vehicle, sometimes called “bumper pulls.”
We knew finding a pickup truck that would fit our large family would be difficult, so we opted for a SUV with a heavy-duty towing package that would accommodate the bumper pull travel trailer we selected. Because the RV is much longer than the tow vehicle, we also invested in a heavy-duty hitch with sway bars, which helps control the trailer when we're towing it – even with our heavy-duty tow vehicle.
Towing larger trailers, especially on the highway, you can feel the wind causing the trailer to sway – and you definitely don't want to be towing without sway bars to help keep you stabilized.
If we had a smaller family, or were willing to drive more than one vehicle, we may have considered a 5th Wheel. They tend to be higher, and feel roomier inside, plus, the area underneath the hitch acts like a little covered porch when unhitched. We see many families storing bikes and stuff in that area when parked. Because the hitch is connected in the truck bed, there are less issues with sway than with bumper pull travel trailers. I have heard rumors of electrical issues with 5th wheels – but every RV has its fair share of kinks that need to be worked out, so that would not be enough to turn me off of the idea of owning a 5th wheel.
Whenever we pull in to a new campground we notice a wide variety of campers. There are always some Class As, Bs, and Cs, as well as 5th Wheels and Travel Trailers. Sometimes we see a pop-up camper or truck campers, which we didn't discuss here – because they're generally not great for full-timing and/or families. There is not one type that's better than the others – it really all comes down to your family and their personal preference.
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