Mar 01

Selecting an RV for Full Time RV Living!

One of the most popular posts on my website is the one that talks about the best 5th wheel RV for you.  That proves to me that selecting an RV to buy is a difficult choice, especially if the person making the choice has never traveled in an RV before!

selecting an rv

There are many determinations to make when selecting an RV to purchase! That decision can be entirely different if the RV is being used for full time RV living or it is just for occasional travel.  But, in either case, there is not a more comfortable way to travel!  When on the road in an RV you have everything you need!  Where ever you are, you are at home because everything you need is with you!

What I want to address in this writing is to give you things to consider when starting your research for an RV you may be considering buying.  

It amazes me that 1.3 million Americans live in an RV and are enjoying full-time RV living!  The question is, did most of these folks make the right choice when they made their first RV purchase?

My research has led me to answer no to that question!  Many people we have met in our eight years on the road have shared how many RV’s they have had since they started the lifestyle.  Most people have traded their RV every one to two years.  

They also admit that they have made impulsive purchases.  They were attracted to mundane features that had no real significance for what they really needed for their RVing lifestyle!  They bought in the moment instead of thinking the RV purchase through!

RV dealerships prey on emotions to get you to buy at the moment! Statements like, “Oh look how lovely this fireplace will be on a chilly night!  You can enjoy watching your flat screen TV and have a fire too!”  What they don’t really know is how you are going to use the RV and what your actual needs may be!  

There are some dealerships that will take the time to learn your needs and match them with the appropriate RV.  But, when you first start looking you may not know exactly what you will need in an RV purchase.

Selecting an RV!

What should you be looking for?  These could be some things to consider:

  • What amount of engine power will you need?  
  • What class of RV will work best?
  • Will my choice be easy to drive?  
  • Does paint quality matter to you?  
  • What floorplan will work best?  
  • What about features and technology?  
  • Will you have enough storage space?  
  • Can you carry everything you want with you?  
  • What is cargo carrying capacity?  
  • Should I buy a new or used RV?
  • Will you need to tow a car or a trailer?  How does that affect your RV chassis choice?
  • If purchasing a towable RV, how much truck will you need to safely pull the RV?

So, those items I listed above are just a few of the considerations you need to make when selecting an RV to purchase.  But first, it really does not matter what you may think you want if you can’t afford it, right?  

So the first thing is to set a realistic budget. Will you pay cash for your RV or will you be financing a significant portion of the purchase? You must decide so when you go shopping on the internet, or at an RV dealership, you are working within your budget.

selecting an rv

Once you have that number, keep it to yourself!  A salesman’s first question is “what is your budget?”  There are many ways they can make the numbers work!  Payments can be spread out over twenty years.  

But will you still have that RV in twenty years?  If you trade it in after just a few years you will be upside down: owe more than it’s worth. Choose the class of RV that you are considering and share that with them.

For example, when the salesperson asks, “what budget have you set for your RV purchase,” respond with something like, “we are looking for a class A gas powered RV in the thirty-six-foot range.”  

It will be best if you choose a class of RV before going to the dealership. This will be part of your pre-visit research.  Don’t buy on the first visit!  Go home and evaluate what you saw.  Take lots of pictures!

If after looking at the RV of your choice you decide that it may not work for you then you have spared yourself from making a mistake!  Just re-examine your priorities and try again.

RV’s are a depreciating asset.  They are not even an asset!  Once you drive it off the lot, especially if it is brand new, if you turn around and come back a week later, it is now a used RV.  

That is why it is so important to buy right, the first time, and you can do this by spending a lot of time reading, visiting dealerships, and talking to others who are already on the road.

I want to address some of the items to consider when purchasing an RV that I listed earlier by telling our story and process of how we were able to buy and keep our first RV for almost seven years!

The best thing Pam and I did was to rent RV’s for seven years before deciding to get into the full-time RV lifestyle!  We were at the point that a vacation in an RV was far better than other options we had done previously! Once we were out on the road, we learned so much about what we would like in an RV of our own and what we would not.

Once we finally decided to start looking for the class of RV we had decided on, I researched my choice vigorously!  I set a budget and decided a used RV that was in the two to the three-year-old category would suit us best.  

My determination was mostly based on an RV manufacturer that I thought had great quality.  We also based our choice on one that we had rented from this particular RV manufacturer and the feedback of other owners.

I found the one I wanted, and it was only a couple of hundred miles away, so we went to look at it, and with our purchasing budget in mind.  

It was just what we were looking for but about twenty-five thousand dollars more than I wanted to spend for it.  So we thought perhaps we should go a few years older, but the same make and model, if we could find it.

As chance would have it, a few weeks later the dealership was having a close-out sale and the price of the RV we looked at had dropped twenty-five thousand dollars.  The RV price was now right where we wanted it: two years old, it had hardly been used, looked like new, but it had a bad odor inside.  

It was not a mold issue, but a black tank odor.  It turned out they had never dumped the black tank after receiving it as a trade-in.  Once the tank was emptied and the RV interior was cleaned, the odor was no more!

We closed the deal and purchased our “new to us” 2006 Newmar Kountry Aire 5th wheel!  We now had our full-time RV living home, and we were delighted!  

It was in our budget, it had all the space we required in the kitchen, it had plenty of storage below, it could carry the weight of the items we planned to put in it, the full body paint was stunning, and it appeared it had been well cared for.  As it turns out, we should have had a certified RV inspection done on the RV as I missed a few things that cost me money later on!

The point here is that because we spent a lot of time researching the RV lifestyle, we traveled thirty-five thousand miles in rented RV’s before buying one, spent the time deciding what would work best for us, talked to other RVers about their experiences, and did not rush into a purchase, we had that RV for almost seven years and it worked out perfectly for us!

selecting an rv


And, because we purchased both the truck and the 5th wheel at below market value, we did okay when it came time to trade the RV in!  

Why did we trade the RV in you ask?  Well, our needs changed in a way that we could not have anticipated when we started the full-time RV lifestyle. And that’s okay!  But, since the RV was approaching the ten-year mark, which for us was a good time to trade, and we needed a different class of RV due to our business, we started the process all over again!

But, since the RV was approaching the ten-year mark, which for us was a good time to trade, and we needed a different class of RV due to our business, we started the process all over again!

What Class of RV will Work Best for You?

There are so many things to consider when thinking about purchasing your RV!  The first main issue, other than price, is to decide what class of RV will work best for you?  Will that be a motorized RV or a towable RV?  If you choose a motorized RV, will that be a gas engine or a diesel engine?  

Gas powered RV’s are great if you are not going to be moving around that much and staying in places for months on end.  However, they certainly don’t have the carrying capacity of their diesel counterparts.  Carrying capacity can be a significant issue for full-time RVers!  Also, the larger gas powered class A RV’s don’t drive as well as one that is on a diesel powered chassis with airbags that improve handling and ride.

But with that improved handling and ride comes a significant increase in cost! Depending on the make and manufacturer you can add hundreds of thousands of dollars to the price tag if choosing a new RV.

As far as fuel consumption, they are about the same as far as gallons consumed, per mile driven.  You are going to get seven to ten miles per gallon, at best!  I have people tell me they are getting seventeen miles per gallon pulling their forty foot 5th wheel with their one-ton dually truck. Horse pucky!

Listen, this is just my opinion, and it is my website, so I can say what I like. This advice is based on years of experience!  If fuel costs are a big deal in your RVing lifestyle, then RVing may not be for you, at least for an RV that you are going to move a lot.  If it is something that you will only bring south for the winter, perhaps a park model would be a better fit!  Overall they are cheaper, you don’t have the stresses involved in driving them, and park models require much less maintenance than an RV!

If fuel costs are a big deal in your RVing lifestyle, then RVing may not be for you, at least for an RV that you are going to move a lot.  If it is something that you will only bring south for the winter, perhaps a park model would be a better fit!  Overall they are cheaper, you don’t have the stresses involved in driving them, and park models require much less maintenance than an RV!

If selecting an RV as a choice to get out of a house and it will not be moved very much, indeed a towable unit is a better choice than a motorized one. If at some point you need it moved you can hire an RV moving company to come and relocate it for you. That will probably be cheaper than owning a truck that will never pull the RV regularly.

Carry Capacity When Selecting an RV

What is carry capacity and how can you find this information in an RV? There will be a data plate in the RV, either in the front, on a door, or listed inside a cabinet door.  That label will tell you what the RV can carry. Depending on the class of RV we are talking about here, that figure will include the weight of occupants, fresh water in the tank, and items brought onboard the RV.

Take a look at this yellow label describing the carrying capacity of a thirty-four-foot class C diesel puller RV.

selecting an rv

This label states that for this RV the combination of the occupants, fresh water and cargo should not exceed 1,233 pounds.  That is not much carrying capacity!  It would be incredibly easy to overload this vehicle to the point of being unsafe!  

This would not be a good choice for a full time RVer who wants to carry all their possessions with them!  Even with a cargo trailer, it would be tough! A five hundred pound tongue weight on the hitch pulling a five thousand pound GVWR trailer would knock that carrying capacity down to a little over eight hundred pounds.

Now, add two adults at three to four hundred pounds total and you barely have the carrying capacity for anything else.

Does this change in a class A diesel RV?  Sure!  Some can carry five thousand pounds or more!  Even some of the larger class A gas RV’s have a carrying capacity of three to four thousand pounds.

The reason for going into such detail on this topic is because we know so many RVers who travel in an overloaded situation.  When doing so, that puts a strain on all the mechanical components of the RV, as well as the tires that may not be designed to carry the additional weight.  What can that lead to?  Perhaps a tire blowout during travel. That is not something you want to experience if you can avoid it!

So, when selecting an RV that you want to purchase you can now see that there is so much more than deciding one day to buy one and then go to a dealership to look.  That is the best way to get confused and probably get pushed into the wrong purchase! The same is true at RV shows!  Yes, there are deals to be had, but only if you know exactly what you want after having done lots of research!

That is the best way to get confused and probably get pushed into the wrong purchase! The same is true at RV shows!  Yes, there are deals to be had, but only if you know exactly what you want after having done lots of research!

Please be a smart RV buyer and do your homework!  And if it is just impossible for you to know what kind of RV that will work best for you, rent one, or borrow a friend or family members, and try it out.  If you have to rent an RV, and it won’t be cheap, it will be the best money you will have spent!  It sure was for Pam and me!

Best of luck on your future RV purchase!  When you do finally decide and buy your home on wheels, and it is a used RV, please visit our Used Purchase RV page on Facebook and share your experience with us and others!  This Facebook Group has been set up to help buyers of used RV’s to find places where they can have good buying experiences.

Please leave a comment below if we can be of assistance to you in this process!


Happy RV Shopping!!
Howard and Pam

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  1. Dawn

    Thank you for a very informative article! I have read somewhere that some RVs are rated as to whether they are good for full-time living. Do you know where I can find those ratings? Failing that, can you recommend any specific brands or specific models that are well built and stand up well to full-time use? (My husband and I have just started doing research on living in an RV. As we will move it only rarely, we have narrowed our search down to look for a used 5th wheel (between 1995 and 2010) that is at least 30′ and has a real closet and lots of cabinet space.)

    1. Howard

      Hi Dawn!

      In the age range of RV you are looking at you could look for the following manufacturers that are/were popular with full time RVers. Some of them are no longer in business! Try: Teton, Newmar, Nu-Wa, Excel, Carriage, and possibly the older Holiday Rambler Presidential. I am probably missing a few others but that is all that comes to mind at this time!

      Thanks for stopping by! Happy RV hunting!!

  2. Marcia

    Hi,,,just found your web page. We are going on 63 and 64 this year and have decided to finally make our dream of full timing happen.

    We are doing our homework on line, on Youtube and visiting on line blogs like yours to gather information and educates ourselves. Armed with our expanding knowledge we have started visiting RV dealers to look at what they have used for the price my husband wants to stay with in. We’ve look at used Tiffin, Fleetwood, Newmar, Holiday Rambler but when all is said and done we are leaning towards a 2003 – 2005 diesel pusher Beaver or Monaco.

    Yesterday we went to one of the BIG mhsrv dealers in north Texas. My nose is still out of joint at how we were brushed off. We wanted to put 20 – 30 K down on a used coach and finance the remaining 50k to 75k. We were told in no uncertain terms they do not and would not finance coaches older then 2008. My husband and I gave each other with our secret WTF look, thanked the salesman and left without even walking inside a single coach.

    Is this a common experience for buyers? What average person can drop $100K or more on the table and feel good about it?

    1. Howard

      Sorry to hear that Marcia!

      Unfortunately, it sounds like you just happened upon the wrong dealership! There are plenty of dealerships that will take your 20-30k and finance the rest for you! You just have to find them. Keep looking and call ahead before you waste your time! Do some internet research (rvtrader.com, rvt.com). One thing that may help you out is to not mention your intent to full time in the RV right up front. Some finance companies will not offer financing to those wishing to do so.

      Essex finance is one of these that will refuse financing for full timers. We used Alliance to get it done!

      Hang in there! Patience will prevail!!

    2. Diane Poston

      Marcia, we have just hit the same place you have, entering retirement and looking to fulfill our dream. We too are in N Texas and would love to talk further about your experiences in shopping.

  3. Peggy M

    There is so much informative stuff on your website. Thank you for putting it out there.
    We are looking for our first fifth wheel. We are not planning on fulltime rving but would like to travel across the country.

    I have a couple of questions:

    When you say buy used how old are you talking?

    Do you know of problems with rear kitchen layouts?

    I”ll probably have more questions later.

    1. Howard

      Hi, Peggy!

      Thank you for visiting our site! We are glad you found it useful.

      When we bought used units that we liked that were around two years old. You can find decent RV’s that are older than that. It just depends on the owner and how they have taken care of it.

      The only comment we have heard about rear kitchen units is that due to the bouncing in the rear of the trailer due to the normal course of towing a trailer, things get bounced around. Could be a problem depending on your choice of kitchen dishes, glassware, etc.

  4. Terry Cacciatore

    Hello Howard,
    My husband and I are working towards going full time and want to purchase a 5th wheel. We will be putting our property on airbnb so that we can come home on important dates, regroup, switch out seasonal belongings. I will still consider our ventures Funtime since we plan to roam the country, and a 5th wheel makes the most sense to us.

    Now, we are contractors and have been remodeling homes and building new homes for many years, so of course the soundness of our future home on wheels is very important to us. For instance the foundation. Which manufactures actually make the best frames for say a 35′ 5th wheel?

    In addition, we want to be able to stay in cool climates and warm climates, therefore, a sealed underbelly, (2) air conditioners, max fan or fantastic vent that is temperature sensitive is important, as well as heating for pipes and tank compartments are a few things that come first.

    The most frustrating part of researching models online is that the advertisements don’t provide information about all of the basics and only focus on the frills, or they only have some of these needs met and not all. I feel like I have to find something in stock because we can’t afford to custom order. Anyway, after a short while of looking through available, say on rvtrader, my eyes start to cross.

    I wish I could plug in my wants in priority order and fine an available model that way. Until that comes to be, I need to know, who really does make a the right frames for full time 5th wheels? And which ‘new lighter’ models have good insulation and properly sealed walls and underbellies? This is exhausting, and I just want to get this done without making myself crazy.

    Thank you! Sorry for the long post!

    1. Howard

      Thanks for stopping by our website Terry!

      Are you looking to buy new or used? What kind of budget do you have? Do you have your truck already, and if so, what is it: what can it tow and what is the load that can be placed in the bed of the truck?

      Let us know and we’ll see if we can help!

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