Choosing Your RV


By: Ron Francoeur

ron@rvinspectpro.com

Office: 352-224-9477

Text: 678-360-6883


The RV lifestyle is unique, fun, adventure filled, flexible and freeing. It does have its challenges however, that those of us considering an RV purchase should be aware of.


An RV is your home on wheels. As such, every time it is driven or towed, your home is subjected to earthquake like forces that, over time, work things loose necessitating repairs to be made.


In order for your RV to provide you with a safe, reliable, and enjoyable ‘home away from home’ it must be maintained periodically. A disciplined, preventative maintenance process (weekly, monthly, and annually) is a must to correct issues before they become costly problems or safety hazards, and to maximize the useful life of appliances, water, propane, and electrical systems.


These preventative maintenance items can be DIY, or they can be performed by NRVTA Certified Mobile Technicians or at an RV dealership. Regardless of how they are completed, they must not be ignored.


As you seek to purchase your RV there are several factors to take into consideration to help you narrow down your choices and this document seeks to guide you through the thought and decision-making process. Please note that you will not find the ‘perfect’ RV. Unless you are having one custom crafted to your exact specifications, there will have to be some items that will have to be traded off for other items deemed more important.


Activity : List all the features desired in the RV and then rank them in priority order with the ‘MUST HAVE’ at the top of the list and the ‘NICE BUT NOT CRITICAL’ at the bottom. These are the ‘boxes’ that must be checked off when choosing an RV that best fits your needs.


Some features (not listed in any order of priority) to consider are:

Sleeping arrangements: (# beds needed, size of bed etc.) Children that fit now on the couch or dinette bed conversion can quickly outgrow the space.


Beds and mattresses: Air mattresses can be comfortable, but they are prone to failure at the most inopportune time and then you are without a mattress. Mattresses can be upgraded with good after market options to meet the various needs of people with back issues etc. Please note that RV mattress sizes are not the same as residential sizes and they run shorter in length.


Size of RV: Height, width, and length all dictate and limit campground choices. Decide on your style of RVing to help with this item: Do you prefer the ruggedness of nature in State and National Parks or do you tend toward the RV Resorts with large, flat pull-through sites.


Type of RV: Towable or motorized. The living space in a fifth wheel is most like home but requires an investment in a properly sized pick-up truck for safe and comfortable towing. Both towable and motorized RV's require a level of skill to drive and maneuver into camping areas. Take the time to practice in a large empty parking lot if possible. A driving school is highly recommended.


Class of RV: RV's come in all shapes and sizes from the small and nimble Class B’s to the Tag Axle Class A’s with the Class C and Super C’s in between for motorized RV’s. Travel Trailers range from the small teardrop, one or two person campers to the triple axle fifth wheels with abundant space for a family. Choose a Class of RV that meets your RV lifestyle and camping preference.


Towing Capacity: If choosing a motorized RV decide on the weight capacity that it can tow. Class B’s typically cannot tow another car, nor do they need to because of their size. Class C’s and some smaller Class A’s can typically tow up to a 5000 lb vehicle. The larger Class A ‘diesel pushers’ and the Super C’s can tow 10000 lbs or more.


Towed Vehicle: Your current family car or truck may not be towable due to weight or drive train issues. Flat towing a vehicle (Not all are flat towable – Jeeps are the most popular with the correct transfer case) is the most expensive set up but the most convenient as far as ease of connect/disconnect. Dolly tow is an option for front wheel drive cars of the appropriate weight but present an issue as to where to stow the dolly when camping as well as the difficulty of strapping the vehicle in and taking it off.


Destination Driving Style: Are you a point A to point B driver or do you prefer to enjoy the sights along the way? Major interstates and highways zip you from point A to B while back roads America allow you to stop and see the worlds largest ball of string if you so choose. The size of your RV with or without a vehicle in tow presents challenges finding a gas station that can accommodate you when on back roads. Highway travel is more stressful (wind shear from 18-wheelers etc.) but provides rest areas and easier access to truck stops for fuel. Back roads can present maneuverability challenges depending upon your length, width, and height. An RV specific GPS such as the Garmin is recommended to route you properly.


Slideouts: The number of Slideouts increase the living space when camping. When choosing your RV pay attention to the usability and access to all RV functions when the slides are in. Can you access and use the beds, refrigerator, stove, bathroom, and pantry when the slides are in? Sometimes the RV features will need to be accessible while in motion, dry camping, or under severe weather conditions which can necessitate slide retraction.


Slideout Toppers: It is highly recommended to have slideout toppers installed. These protect the top of the slide from the weather and debris and work to keep that debris from entering the RV and from damaging the blade seals when the slides are retracted.


Leveling System: A hydraulic leveling system makes setting up camp much easier than the alternative of having to position and drive up on blocks.


Appliances:

Refrigerators come in two styles, residential and absorption electric/propane. The residential refrigerators are larger and do not present the problematic issues associated with an ammonia/hydrogen absorption fridge. They cool faster and are not subject to the strict leveling requirements to operate properly. They do, however require significant battery capacity and a pure sine wave inverter as well as a means of replenishing battery power drawn.

Microwaves and Convection Microwaves are a convenient option.

Stoves are either Propane or electric induction types. Again, the electric option requires a properly sized battery bank and recharge system.

Ovens: Propane stoves with an oven tend to be small and inconvenient. Many people prefer the propane cooktop only with storage cabinets beneath where the oven would have been.

Washer/Dryer: Decide if campground laundry facilities or laundromats are preferable to having an onboard washer/dryer system. The disadvantage to the on-board washer dryer is the need to empty gray water tanks more often and the load capacity of the washer/dryer is limited.


Pantry: A pull out pantry with ample space is a desirable feature for a large family.


Closet space: Decide based upon your travel/camping style as to whether four seasons of clothing is needed for extended periods on the road where you can experience temperature and weather fluctuations. Look for ample closet space and/or storage space for seasonal clothing items.


Storage space: Storage is always at a premium in an RV so decide what is necessary to bring. If you are into outdoor sports with fishing, hiking, kayaking etc. look for storage space to accommodate your needs for specialized equipment.


Counter space: Meal preparation can be a challenge in an RV with limited counter space. Decide if meals will be largely prepared outside of the RV at an outdoor kitchen or inside or a combination of both and evaluate the RV kitchen counter accordingly.


Outdoor Kitchen: Some RVs have an optional outdoor kitchen with a sink, refrigerator, and cooktop. This can be a convenient feature for the outdoor active family with easy access to beverages and meal preparation outside without being in a small, confined space of the interior.


Bedroom shelf space: For those who require a CPAP or other appliances for sleeping look for convenient shelf space and power outlets.


Bathroom:

Toilet: Look for a porcelain toilet. They are more reliable and sturdier than the plastic type. How easy and how comfortable is the toilet to use?

Shower: Is the shower stall useable by the tallest/largest person? Not all RV showers can accommodate many adults necessitating the use of the campground bathhouses.

Number of bathrooms: Decide if you need an RV with an extra half-bath to meet the needs of the size of the family.


Outdoor Entertainment: Some RVs have an outdoor entertainment center. These tend to be useful for those who dry camp in remote areas with few to no neighbors around to be disturbed. The noise of the entertainment center can be a detriment to neighborly relations in cramped and tight campgrounds.


Solar: Decide on your style of camping regarding hook ups or dry camping. If dry camping off grid is the norm for you then you should look for a powerful solar/lithium battery set up.


Batteries: Deep Cycle Flooded Lead acid (FLA) are the most common. They do require regular maintenance, cleaning and care to not allow them to discharge fully. They have a limited number of discharge/recharge cycles. AGM Batteries are also lead acid but are maintenance free and can handle more recharge cycles. Lithium is the most expensive option. They are sealed, low maintenance and can handle exponentially more recharge cycles. They require a special converter/charger and solar controller.


Awnings: These come as manual or electric operating models. Some electric models have a wind sensor and will automatically retract to avoid severe damage. A main awning that retracts into a protective metal covering is a desirable feature that works to protect the awning and extend its useful life.


Generator: A generator is a useful option when dry camping to provide needed power for 120 volt powered appliances and to recharge batteries.


Automatic Transfer Switch: This device will automatically switch between two 120vac power sources: Generator or shore power. Without it, the RV power cord must be manually plugged into the generator.


Workspace: If your RV lifestyle includes working from the road look for an RV that provides workspace that does not interfere with living space. An RV that has a dinette in addition to a couch/sofa provides a convenient table surface for a laptop etc.


30 amp or 50 amp: A 30-amp RV has a total wattage capacity of 3600 watts. A 50-amp RV has a total combined (two legs) power capacity of 12000 watts. With a 30-amp RV you need to be more cautious about they type and quantity of appliances you run at any one time to avoid overloading the circuits. Electric heaters, coffee brewers and other appliances will need to ‘take their turn’ to operate.


Air Conditioners: Some Air conditioners have a heat pump option which can be convenient when the temperature is above 45 degrees F. Heat pumps are far less effective when it is colder than 45 degrees F.


Dumping Holding Tanks: This is a necessary task that cannot be avoided. Check the RV for ease of access to connect sewer hoses and to operate dump levers.


Black Tank Flush: A Black Tank flush hook up port is a highly desired feature to keep the tank cleaned and its sensors operating as intended.


Furniture: Based upon the family size determine whether theater seating or a couch is desirable. Examine the viewing position of the TV from the seating areas for convenience without having to look sideways in an awkward neck position.


Ease of entrance: Are there people traveling with mobility issues? How many steps are there to enter the RV? How high a step? Will pets be able to navigate the steps/entrance?


Windows: Look for double paned insulated windows. Look for screens and a day/night blackout shade. Examine how much natural light is available in the RV based upon window size and location.


Electrical: Look for USB charging ports – quantity and location for convenience and to facilitate the charging of family devices. Look for the number of 110 vac outlets and the convenience of their locations.


Vent Fans: Many RVs have an electric or manually operated vent cover with a small 12 vdc fan. These vent covers, when opened allow the rain inside and become inconvenient to use during wet or windy weather, especially in the bathroom. Look for all the roof vents to have a vent cover that allows the vent fan to be operated when driving or even in wet, windy conditions.


RV Inspection: Once you have found the RV that checks most of the boxes of the features that match your needs you should have it inspected by a Nationally Certified RV Inspector. Check out http://www.NRVIA.org to find an inspector near you.


The dealer / seller should provide a full – hook up area for the comprehensive top to bottom, inside and outside inspection. This inspection can take upwards of 10 hours to complete and will provide you with the true condition of the RV at the time of the inspection.

Check out our web site for the inspection details and a sample report for review.


www.rvinspectpro.com


Safe Travels!

Ron Francoeur

Sherlock RV Inspection Service, LLC

Office: 352 – 224 – 9477

Text: 678 – 360 - 6883

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