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The Seattle RV Show

Posted by on February 9, 2014

Family Travel on the Open Road!

RV

This weekend is the Seattle RV show! Being avid “RV’ers,” we couldn’t wait to go. Summer is coming and we are anxious to get on the open road of family vacation (see our Oregon adventure or our Olympic Peninsula adventure) . We are on our third RV and thinking of trading it in for a new one. So, we went to check out what is new in the world of recreational vehicles for family travel.

Before you can dive into the world of nomadic vacationing, you need to educate yourself on the basics. So, this article is my quick and easy RV buying guide.

RV_images

Basically, RV’s come in the following types:

Motorized RVs

A Class:  These are the behemoths of the RV world. They range in weight from 15,000 to 30,000 pounds and stretch from 30 to 40 feet in length. Describing them as “motorhomes” is no exaggeration. Class A units come with almost every creature comfort you would expect in a home, minus the front lawn.

B Class: These are commonly known as van conversions and are the smallest fully enclosed motorhomes. They generally weigh 6,000 to 8,000 pounds and are 17 to 19 feet in length.

C Class: These are mini-motorhomes. They are scaled-down versions of Class A motorhomes. They range in weight from 10,000 to 12,000 pounds and stretch from 20 feet to 31 feet in length.

Towable RVs

Travel Trailer: Travel trailers come in a variety of sizes, ranging from a small bedroom on wheels to the equivalent of a Class A motorhome without the engine and transmission. Travel trailers may be as small as 10-feet long or as big as 35-feet long. Many feature slide-outs to quickly extend the unit’s living space.

Folding Camping Trailer: Folding camping trailers, also commonly referred to as tent trailers or pop-up trailers, are designed from the ground up to be lightweight and inexpensive while providing many of the conveniences found in a basic travel trailer. Because of their relatively small size, folding camping trailers can easily be towed by a typical mid-size car, and even compact cars in some cases. A folding camping trailer can be thought of as a large, expandable tent built on a trailer.

Fifth Wheel: Fifth-wheel trailers are similar to larger travel trailers, but they have an extension on the front of the box that extends over the tow vehicle and a horizontal plate that looks like a wheel (hence the name “fifth wheel”) that rests on the tow vehicle for support. This hitch arrangement requires special equipment on the tow vehicle. Typically, full-size pickup trucks serve as tow vehicles. The hitch arrangement makes towing easier by placing the trailer load in the center of the tow vehicle instead of behind it. The extension on the front of the box also serves as extra room.

Truck Camper: Truck campers, sometimes referred to as pickup campers or slide-on campers, consist of a camper body loaded onto the bed of a standard pickup truck.

Hopefully, the chart will make things easier:

Type Pros Cons Price
Class A
  •   Every comfort imaginable
  •   No need for tow vehicle
  •   Roomy
  •   4 seasons
  •   Very expensive
  •   Usually need to tow a “shuttle” vehicle
  •   Difficult to drive
  •   Gas guzzlers
$100,000-$500,000
Class B
  •   Less expensive than Class A
  •   Easy to drive
  •   Fuel efficient
  •   4 seasons
  •   Not very roomy
$40,000-$100,000
Class C
  •   Roomy
  •   Less expensive than Class A
  •   Many amenities
  •   4 seasons
  •   More difficult to drive for new RV’ers
  •   Need a diesel to get good fuel economy
$50,000-$150,000
5th Wheels
  •   Lots of room
  •   Many amenities
  •   Relatively east to tow
  •   Can be 4 seasons
  •   Need large truck to tow
  •   Lose your truck bed for the tow device
  •   Expensive
  •   Not really meant for families, so floor plans   are limited
$15,000-$150,000
Travel Trailer
  •   Roomy
  •   Variety of options
  •   Great for Families
  •   Keep your truck bed
  •   Can be 4 seasons
  •   Need a strong tow vehicle
  •   Harder to maneuver than a 5th wheel
$10,000-$100,000
Tent Trailer
  •   Relatively inexpensive
  •   Easy to tow and maneuver
  •   Tow with a variety of vehicles
  •   Many new designs and innovations
  •   Amazingly comfortable
  •   Even can have a shower
  •   Limited room
  •   Limited options
  •   Not meant for 4 seasons
  •   Set-up required each time you use
$4,000-$25,000
Truck Campers
  •   Able to tow a boat or other trailer with one   mounted on your truck
  •   Surprisingly roomy (for 1-2 people)
  •   Even can have a shower
  •   Can b 4 seasons
  •   Need a big truck
  •   Expensive for the size
  •   Limited room
  •   Limited options
$5,000-$30,000

We started with a tent trailer and got addicted to RV’ing. As we added a family member, we out grew it and up-graded to a 5th wheel (which we actually lived in for 14 months). When the boys got a little older, we wanted something with a separate bedroom for them. So, we traded the 5th wheel for a travel trailer.

Komfort

We think that a travel trailer is the way to go for families. The manufactures more cater to families in this class than any other of the RV classes. You can get many family friendly floor plans in a travel trailer that you will not find in a 5th wheel or motor home. For example, our current trailer has three bunk beds in the back (one for each of the two boys and the dog). The ones we saw at the RV show had a separate little apartment in back just for the kids and a mom and dad master suite in the front. Some even have a fold out patio for extra room. These are not your grandparents old RV!

Once you decide on a class of RV, you will want to decide on the make. Just like anything else, you get what you pay for. Nicer RV’s can come with a steep price tag. Decide what you need versus what you want.

Construction Feature Pros Cons
Wood Frame
  •   Less expensive
  •   Better insulated
  •   More common
  •   Heavier
  •   Not as strong or durable
  •   Lower re-sale value
Wood/Aluminum Frame
  •   Stronger where needed
  •   Less weight
  • Generally not considered a good combination   due to the different properties of wood and aluminum
All Aluminum Frame
  •   Very strong and durable
  •   Higher re-sale value
  •   Light weight
  •   More expensive
  •   Fewer models and plans
Fiber Glass Siding
  •   Smooth look
  •   Adds strength
  •   More expensive
  •   Harder to repair
  •   Adds considerable weight
Plastic Corrugated Siding
  •   Light weight
  •   Easy to repair
  •   Less expensive
  • Not as refined a look
Enclosed under-belly
  •   Able to use 4 seasons
  •   Protects under-carriage
  •   More expensive
  •   Adds weight
Slide-outs
  •   Extra room
  •   More expensive
  •   Adds weight
  •   Repairable parts and service

Once you have decided on a class and a construction make, you will find that your options have narrowed considerably. As a general rule, all RV manufactures are of very similar quality. Industry standards and government regulations have fairly ensured that all RV’s meet the same standards.

Really, what come next are the amenities you want. This is where personal opinion and budget come in. The sky is the limit in RV’ing. Anything you want, you can probably get. We have seen real travertine marble counters, stainless-steel appliances, fire places, surround sound entertainment systems, cedar lined closets, wood floors, and more. So, don’t let yourself indulge too much. You can get carried away. However, we recommend buying that best quality you can afford. Comfort can mean the difference between an amazing time on your family travel or a dragged out journey.

If you want recommendations, ideas, suggestions or to just tell everyone of your RV’ing experience, please let us know. We will be happy to respond and share your knowledge and experience with everyone.  We hope to see you on the road!

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You won’t get that from a hotel!

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