Buy the biggest RV you can afford!
Only buy diesel!
You won’t be comfortable in anything under 40 feet!
Buy your last RV first!
There is a lot of advice on the internet regarding purchasing an RV. Go into any forum or Facebook group and ask people what they think and you are bound to hear many of the above statements. We sure did when we were looking for our first full-time rig. And they are repeated by many people in many different channels so that you start to take them as truths. But are they? Can these blanket statements apply to all RVers? Did they even apply to us?
First time Full-Timers
When we started researching RVs for our full-time adventure, we were moving up from a pop-up camper to a motorhome. We went to RV shows, scoured RV forums and groups for info, and talked to everyone we could. Even though our little pop-up was a catalyst for our desire to live on the road, we thought we would need a little more space. After hearing people talk about the large spaces they needed, the smaller RVs we looked at started to close in on us. After all, in addition to the living and sleeping space most part-time and retired RVers need, we also wanted a dedicated work space. As we listened to everyone’s recommendations, we started looking a little bigger. And then even bigger until we ended up with a 40 ft diesel pusher with four slides. It had an ideal spot for our desk and all the storage space we needed for dive gear and other belongings.
At first, our new RV suited us just fine. We were in Texas and the South with full hook-ups and plenty of room for our beast. As time went on, though, we started to feel a little large and a little much. Don’t get me wrong, the space was great whenever we had friends over and the gathering inevitably ended up in our rig with our dual slides. But on a day-to-day basis, it was more than we needed. We talked a couple of times about trading it in, but always decided to stay with the devil we knew. Things came to a head in Colorado when there were parks for which we were too big and boondocking spots we couldn’t reach in the RV. We already traded our Mini for an Xterra at the beginning of our Colorado stay and used it explore places we could never go before. It made us yearn for more possibilities with the RV. We spent the whole summer in the state finding places we’d like to go, but couldn’t. Our last stop in Durango had us in a KOA (actually, the best one we’ve ever visited) while our friends were all wild camping just outside of town in their smaller RVs. That was it; we needed a smaller rig.
On our second RV shopping experience, what advice did we take? Well, mainly our own. We knew the size we wanted (28-33 feet) and what would make us comfortable. We had been on the road for almost two years and knew what worked for us in terms of size and layout. We did ask our friends about their experiences and tried to learn from them. Many of them had been to Alaska that summer in gas motorhomes giving us the confidence that a gas RV would work for us, too. So we ended up with a 30 ft gasser with two small slides. Did we have to give up more stuff to fit in it? Yes. Did we need any of it? No. People ask if we feel really tight now with 10 fewer feet, but it’s just the opposite. The RV feels roomy and luxurious inside, dare I say, almost too big? We feel lighter and more nimble. We can get into spots in smaller state parks and feel more comfortable boondocking. We added solar because we were more confident in this rig and how it fit our needs than our previous one allowing us even more freedom. It fits us.
Can Common RV Buying Advice Work?
What about that advice? Should you buy the biggest 40 ft and above diesel pusher that you can? Maybe, if that makes sense for your style of living. Perhaps you want the bigger space because you plan to stay still for months at a time or will be a snowbird. But do you really know how you will live? We didn’t. It took us getting out there and living on the road and experiencing different styles to find our way and we’re not the only ones. We know others who have found their first RV to be the wrong fit. One family we met decided that a smaller travel trailer was better for them than the 5th wheel they initially purchased. Our friends Josh and Marie also gave up their 5th wheel and chose a motorhome instead (actually a model we had seriously considered). I’d like to say Airstreamers tend to stick with their purchase, but our Snowmad friends traded theirs for a small motorhome and recently decided to go even smaller with a van style. Others we know do have their first RV, but readily admit they would be happier in something smaller or a different style.
So can you really buy your last RV first? I’d say only if you’re really lucky or stubborn. If you’re experienced enough to know what you want, you’ve probably been RVing before. And if you bought one and have found it’s not quite the right fit, maybe you’re stubborn enough to make it work for whatever reason. You’re a lucky soul who found the perfect RV on the first try and I know there are a few of you.
What’s our advice to prospective RV buyers? Do your homework and look at all the ways people camp to see where you might fall. Find an RV in your budget, preferably in the low-end, so you can get out there and experience it for yourself. If you can get into it cheaply and soon find you would prefer something different, it will be less painful to change later. We all don’t need the biggest, baddest RV on the planet. We need the RV that is the best for us.
You can read more tips on buying an RV on our RV Shopping Tips post or grab the shopping cheat sheet below.