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RVs

Friday, 14 November 2008 | Tags: , ,

For many who like to roam on their vacations, jumping into an RV is not only a way of getting to your destination, but also of seeing sights along the way. You can spend your life savings on a home on wheels, but there are some facts you should know before hitting the road.

The Basics

  • There are several different types of RVs. The choice you make depends on your family size and your budget.

    • Towable: designed to be towed behind your vehicle, it can be unhitched at a campsite, allowing you to use your vehicle for other excursions. Types of towables include:

      • Travel Trailers (13-22 feet) have several floor plans and home-like amenities. The larger ones usually come equipped with full bathroom facilities including a separate shower. Prices range from $15,000 to $70,000+.

      • Fifth Wheel Trailers are towed with a special hitch behind a pick-up truck and come in a variety of floor plans. Typically there’s a second level living or sleeping area in the raised forward part of the trailer. Cost ranges from $13,000 to $100,000+.

      • Folding Camping Trailer or Tent Trailers fold down for lightweight towing. These are the closest thing to real camping and offer some RV-style comfort, though small and limited. Prices range from $3,000 – $15,000+.

      • Truck Campers mount on the back of a pick-up truck and are limited on living space. Cost ranges from $4,000 to $30,000.

    • Motorized: also known as motor homes, these RVs combine living and driving areas; many larger models can tow a small car for side trips.

      • Class A Motorhomes are the roomiest and most luxurious, ranging from 21 to 45 feet long. Cost varies from an economical $68,000 to a deluxe half million dollars or more.

      • Class B Motorhomes are like a van converted to accommodate a camper. Very compact, it drives like a family van and is considered to have the best RV mileage. Cost ranges from $45,000 to $70,000+

      • Class C Motorhomes are similar to Class A but on a smaller scale. The most common motorhome, it’s often used as a rental. The driving cab is separate from the living area and often the sleeping space is over the cab. It’s better on fuel and easier to manoeuvre than the Class A. Cost ranges from $60,000 to $150,000+.

  • Most gas-fuelled RVs get about 7-10 miles/gallon. Diesel-fuelled get about 17-20 miles/gallon.

  • Some RVs come with slide-out compartments to give extra space once you’re parked. If you buy a used model with slide-out feature, take care with the hydraulic mechanisms.

  • Look for clearly visible sticker(s) certifying the RV has met all safety standards:

    • The RVIA seal represents RV manufacturers and parts suppliers who together produce over 95% of all the RVs manufactured in the US.

    • The ANSI (American National Standards Institute) seal is proof that the RV has been through more than 500 safety specifications for electrical, plumbing, heating, fire and life safety before being approved.

    • In Canada, look for the Canadian Recreational Vehicle Association (CRVA) and Canadian Standards Association (CSA) seals of approval.

  • Make sure your RV is equipped with good tires. Do your homework and make sure they’re high quality and meet weight specifications.

  • Try renting before you buy. That way you can get an idea which features work for your family, and which don’t.

Other Considerations

  • Take the tallest traveler on the shopping expedition so they can test the beds out for size.

  • Sit in the chairs, stand in the shower, and look at closet space to make sure there is adequate storage.

  • Some believe a kitchen located at the front or rear allows more living space than in the center of the RV.

  • Bathrooms located in the rear can be larger and private, but you may need to walk through the sleeping area, which could disturb any nappers. A separate sink area from the toilet and shower is a plus.

  • Most RVers liking having a bedroom that can be closed off for some privacy.

  • Flooring is either carpeting or linoleum, or a combination of both. Some units may even have linoleum under the carpet. If camping with young children, linoleum may be a better choice.

  • The sub-floor is also important: insist on plywood, not particle board.

  • One-piece rubber roofing is becoming the standard, resulting in fewer leaks. Slightly peaked roofs are better allowing water and snow to run off.

  • Sidewalls used to be made from aluminum, but now fiberglass has become the material of choice.

Be Aware

  • For any towable RV, pay attention to the maximum weight your tow vehicle can handle.

  • Your tow vehicle may need special brakes installed to handle heavier loads. These heavy-duty brakes are often extra on top of the factory specifications.

  • Soft seat cushions are more likely to break down after heavy use. High density foam holds its shape better in the long term.

  • Some manufacturers like to cut corners and install cheaper tires. Make sure you check you’ve got the right tires for your vehicle.

TEST CRITERIA

The only way to test an RV is to actually pack up and take it on a trip. We test drove these three RVs (all class C motorhomes) almost 1,000 km (600 miles) on a two-night camping excursion to see which made us the happiest campers:

  • Winnebago (25-foot): $54,000
  • Adventurer (24-foot): $67,000
  • Fleetwood (25-foot): $78,000

Road Test

We rated the RVs based on they handled on the road and also their park-ability.

  • We were pleasantly surprised on how reasonable all of the RVs were to park.

  • The mileage wasn’t as good on the Winnebago as the other two contenders.

  • The Adventurer and Fleetwood were a bit easier to drive than the Winnebago.

Usability Test

Then we rated each on features inside such as sleeping arrangements, and kitchen and bathroom facilities.

  • When it came to bathroom facilities, the Winnebago had an important feature: a separate area for the sink (with mirror).

  • The Winnebago also had the comfiest beds, most seating and best storage options.

OUR TOP PICK

Since you’re living on it, the comfort and layout factors definitely won out over mileage. We liked the Winnebago best for its superior liveability.

Thanks to Our Experts

Chuck Woodbury, RV Travel Editor

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