May 8, 2016
We have found it difficult to remember the moment that we decided to jump in to full-time rving, but after we did, the next question was “what kind of rv should we get?” That question is subjective to all rvers because it raises a lot of personal questions. How much can you afford? What are you comfortable driving? Do you want to tow? What vehicles do you have already? Where do you plan on parking overnight?
There are many sites to find the pros and cons of each RV class, so I will only focus on the decisions that we made. Our situation started us in one direction, and then shifted halfway in. Our budget didn’t allow for us to buy a Class A, and also have a tow vehicle behind it. Class B wouldn’t work size-wise. Class C was a nice option, but we would still want another vehicle with us. It also pushed us to the top of our budget. The way to go seemed to be to buy a towable, and use our Jeep Grand Cherokee to tow it. This ruled out 5th wheels, so a travel trailer was our answer.
New to us was understanding the towing capacity of our Jeep. We had never towed before, with the exception of moving from MN to CA towing a Uhaul. The first thing we identified on the Jeep is that it has a towing capacity of 6,200 lbs. That meant that we had to look for a trailer with a gross weight of around 5,000 lbs to allow for our belongings and fresh water. I contacted a couple of dealers, and they pointed out a few options on their websites. We got a good feel for the features, floor plans, and sizes of trailers that we could tow. Then, on January 1st, Kym and I were having lunch somewhere and decided to go RV window shopping. We were headed towards a certain dealer until we looked up the reviews on Yelp. Bad reviews led us to a different dealer farther than we wanted to drive, but ultimately to the right place.
At Barber RV in Ventura, we were shown a handful of options that were appealing to us, and within our weight restrictions. We asked a million questions, and then tentatively decided on a Shadow Cruiser travel trailer. Our plan was to buy it in February, so this gave us time to think it over. After a January vacation, we were getting excited to make the purchase. We went back to look it over a 2nd time, and this time were turned off. I could barely stand in the shower, we were concerned about storage space, and when loaded we were certain we would exceed our max weight capacity. It just didn’t feel right, and we were hesitant to buy something that wasn’t comfortable to us.
While perusing all types of RVs again, I found a 5th wheel that listed it as a “half-ton towable”. Almost all of the others we had seen were heavy enough that they required a ¾-ton pickup, such as an F-250 or Silverado 2500. Being able to buy a Silverado 1500 or F-150 meant that we could tow this 5th wheel, without the price point, gas mileage, and rigidness of the bigger truck. It wasn’t part of the plan, but we looked at it anyway. Kym and I really liked the floorplan, having more storage, the extra amenities, and the larger fresh water tank. Still, we were not ready to make a decision.
Our research had told us that full-timers generally prefer 5th wheels over travel trailers. They are easier to tow, hitch and unhitch more easily, have more storage and amenities, and have a split floor plan which makes it feel more like a home. The issue for us was that we didn’t own a truck. Trading in the Jeep for a truck meant changing our budget. A 5th wheel purchase instead of a travel trailer meant changing our budget. We were not eager to do this, but the travel trailer still didn’t feel like the right coach for us.
We debated for a week or so, with the budget being the greatest concern against the 5th wheel. The offsetting factor though ended up being full-time livability. We wanted something that we would feel comfortable living in for 2 years, and didn’t want to take a loss on a travel trailer if we grew out of it quickly. I will write separately about truck shopping, but the quick version for now is that we decided to buy the 5th wheel, while trading in the Jeep for a truck. The coach we bought is a Forest River Wildcat Maxx F262rgx. It weighs around 8,400 lbs dry, and has a ton of features that we wanted. We like the rear kitchen floor plan, the 84 gallons of fresh water, trash chute, pre-wired for solar, and enough space for the two of us. The large storage compartment meant that we didn’t have to downsize as many of our belongings as we had originally thought. The separation between the living room and bedroom feels more like an apartment layout. The two slide outs provide additional living space for us. Compared to the travel trailer, everything was a little bigger, nicer, and better suited for our transition from a house. Although I had yet to experience it, I was relieved knowing that the consensus is they are easier to tow than a travel trailer. We bought the coach, installed solar, and have been quite happy with the decision ever since.
Making this purchase was the first time that we could really envision our life on the road. Now we had a home, only days before our house went up for sale. It terms of believing that we were actually doing this, buying the 5th wheel was one of the biggest steps we made in that direction.
Kym, Ken Steve, and I at Barber RV on pickup day.