Buying an RV - Size, Quality & Floor Plans

From the Lily Pad
RV Lifestyle
My Prime Years
Our Journey
   by Michael H. Yeaw

Last time we talked about J. D. Gallant' s parameters for buying an RV. He said in his book, How To Buy An RV Without Getting Ripped-off, that type, size, quality, floor plan and price were the chief elements in choosing an RV. Last time I posed a few questions that would qualify those considerations. We looked at the type of RV you might want to consider buying. This time we'll discuss the size, quality and floor plans of RVs.

It stands to reason that size and floorplan go hand and hand. The greater the size, the more goodies you can load into it . Size varies from the weekend tent camper all the way up to the 45' + bus conversions. Again, you must ask yourself; What am I going to do with my RV? Am I planning on an occasional weekend by the lake or will I live in it full time? How big a vehicle am I comfortable driving or towing? These are only a few of the questions you should ask yourself as you proceed through your decision process.

Floorplans for the various types of RV's, say in excess of 28 to 30 feet, have many of the same amenities: a full or queen size bed, bathroom with a shower, galley, cabinets and closets, and at least one TV and a microwave. Different manufacturers get quite creative in how they arrange these items to achieve the most efficiency, comfort and eye appeal. For instance, the bathroom and shower may be in the same room or split on either side of the vehicle. The TV may be over the cockpit, in the console or in an entertainment center somewhere else. The smaller RV's may have many of the same amenities, but on a scaled down basis.

In my opinion, the travel trailers and fifth wheels are more efficient than the motorhomes in that the 6 to 8 feet required for the cockpit is not wasted. In the fifth wheelers, the space over the hitch is used for the bed, leaving the rest of the trailer for living quarters. The Class C motorhome does make some use of the cockpit space in that the bed or one of the beds is located above the cockpit. I have been jokingly told that the best use for this bed is to hold your hats while you are driving unless, of course, you have small children. Most newer models now have one or more slideouts that measurably increase the living space and efficiency. Slideouts are great, but they do add weight and can restrict what campsites you can & can't use!

1930's Travel Trailer AdI found that the "RV Buyers Guide" published by TL Enterprises, Inc. is a fantastic reference for all kinds of things from floorplans to construction of all types and manufacturers of RV' s. There are more than 400 listings. I bought my copy at my local bookstore.

The subject of RV quality is so huge that it may be the subject of a whole series of articles in the future. Here I will stress the importance checking out your purchase thoroughly and some of the things you should be looking at.

The quality of the RV goes to the construction of the vehicle and the materials used. Let' s not kid ourselves here. Quality costs money, but maybe you can find the right combination of quality and price as you conduct your search. If you are in search of a used RV, the quality is even more important since a higher quality vehicle will certainly last longer.

Without going into great detail (since I will do that in later articles) the following is a list of some of the things you should look at when considering which RV to buy:

  • Interior: Types of materials, how seams mate, evidence of leaks, etc.
  • Exterior: Types of materials, how seams mate, rust, caulking, windows, delaminating, roof condition, etc.
  • Chassis: Length with respect to length of vehicle, frame members, signs of rust or accident damage, etc.
  • Construction materials used: Wood, steel, aluminum, fiberglass, etc.
  • Drive train: Engine size, leaks, fluid levels, etc.
  • Sub-systems: Plumbing, electrical, LP gas, generator, furnace, A/C, refrigerator, etc.

I recommend that you use a checklist while shopping for an RV. It is a memory jogger to help you along. Needless to say, nobody wants to invest a fair amount of money only to find more has to be spent to make your RV ready to go. If you find things wrong before you buy the vehicle, you can either pass or use it in your purchase negotiations.

If you are serious about a particular RV and don't feel you have the expertise to check it out thoroughly, you may want to bring in an expert. The drive train and sub-systems may fall into this category. This is not a trivial purchase so be prepared to pay for someone else's mechanical expertise if need be.

As I said earlier, size and floorplan of an RV are somewhat related and the choices are personal in nature. Quality is a separate and extremely important issue in protecting your investment. In the end, however, all three are directly related to cost.

Thanks for looking in and be sure to check back for Part Three where I will discuss pricing and insuring your dream. In the meantime, keep on rolling!

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