Motorhome & Recreational Vehicle Resource

Since 1996

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by Joe Lacey

With over 25 years living and traveling in our RVs, both my wife and I have been asked many questions.... the most perplexing is "how to you go about buying an RV?" Most adults understand the process of buying a car or truck. They simply look at several, figure out how they are going to use the vehicle and then get down to the basics of color selection and negotiation. They are familiar with all the gadgetry (or easily become familiar with it) and understand that the dealer will take care of all the administrative paperwork. Warranties are fairly simple, as well as insurance. Government regulations usually protect them against an unsafe vehicle being manufactured.

Well, it works that way the vast majority of the time.

According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA), one of your best clues that you have a safe RV is to look for an oval shaped seal. This seal, "prominently displayed on the exterior of motorhomes, travel trailers, truck campers and folding camping trailers means the manufacturer certifies compliance with more than 500 safety specifications for electrical, plumbing, heating and fire and life safety established under the American National Standards Institute (ANSI) A119.2 Recreation Vehicle Standard."

The confusion arises when you don't know what you are looking at, let alone what you want to buy. In the following articles, I'll discuss major considerations and the logical steps to save thousands of dollars while purchasing the correct RV....for you.

You will quickly discover that all the decisions are yours. My only role is to provide you information and published resources that allow you to make an informed decision. I will share my experience, quote some very reliable sources and mention publications you can read for additional information. There are more than 24 books on RVing and, as many news magazines and other periodicals.

JD Gallant, in his book "How To Buy An RV Without Getting Ripped-off!" cuts to the core of the matter. He states, "The correct order for choosing an RV is as follows: 1) type, 2) size, 3) quality, 4) floor plan, and 5) price." The rest of this article will discuss RV types.

We have found that TYPE and USE make a good marriage. When you consider how you will USE the RV and consider planning ahead five years, the specific TYPE of RV to meet your needs separates itself from the crowd.

What is an RV? According to the RVIA definition, "A recreation vehicle, or RV, is a motorized or towable vehicle that combines transportation and temporary living quarters for travel, recreation and camping. RVs do not include mobile homes, off-road vehicles or snowmobiles. RVIA classifies all RVs into two groups: towables and motorized.

All towables, according to RVIA, are "...designed to be towed by a motorized vehicle (auto, van, or pickup truck) and of such size and weight as not to require a special highway movement permit. It is designed to provide temporary living quarters for recreational camping or travel use and does not require permanent onsite hook-up." The towables include conventional travel trailers, fifth-wheel travel trailer, folding camping trailer and the truck camper.

Motorized RVs are "A recreational camping and travel vehicle built on or as an integral part of a self-propelled motor vehicle chassis. It may provide kitchen, sleeping, and bathroom facilities and be equipped with the ability to store and carry fresh water and sewage. Motorized RVs include motorhome (Class A), Van Camper (Class B), Motorhome (Class C) and conversion vehicles.

The size, shape and configuration of these RVs will be referred to frequently. For now, a brief description is all that is required. The Conventional Travel Trailer will cost about $13,000. The length ranges from 12 to 35 feet. It is towed by means of a bumper or frame hitch attached to the towing vehicle.

The Fifth-Wheel Travel Trailer has a wide cost range, from $25,000 to over $80,000. RVIA defines it as "....can be equipped the same as the conventional travel trailer but is constructed with a raised forward section that allows a bi-level floor plan. This style is designated to be towed by a vehicle equipped with a device known as a fifth wheel hitch."

Probably the least expensive new RV is the Folding Camping Trailer. With a price range from less than $5,000 to about $10,000, it is designed for temporary living quarters. The quarters are mounted on wheels and connected with collapsible sidewalls that fold for towing by a motorized vehicle.

The Truck Camper has an average price of about $10,500. RVIA defines as "A recreational camping unit designed to be loaded onto or affixed to the bed or chassis of a truck, constructed to provide temporary living quarters for recreational camping or travel use."

Bill and Jan Moeller in their book "Full-time RVing" describe Class A motorhomes as "...resemble buses in shape although many models are sleeker and more streamlined." The living unit has been entirely constructed on a bare, specially designed motor vehicle chassis. The price range for Class A is extensive, from $60,000 to over $500,000.

They describe the Class C motorhome as being "...built on a van cutaway chassis and have a van cab with the engine located under an extended hood. The distinguishing feature of all Class Cs is the cabover bed." The price range is fairly narrow, from $35,000 to $55,000.

A very popular RV that is creating it's own niche is the Van Camper (Class B) Most are a "panel type truck to which the RV manufacturer adds any of the two following conveniences: sleeping, kitchen and toilet facilities. Also 110-volt hook-up, fresh water storage, city water hook-up and a top extension to provide more head room." These RVs start at $42,000 and can cost as much as $68,000.

The Conversion Vehicles are vans, trucks and sport utility vehicles manufactured by an automaker then modified for transportation and recreation use by a company specializing in customized vehicles. These changes may include windows, carpeting, paneling, seats, sofas, and accessories. Ambulances and airport 'people-haulers' are examples.


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