Choosing an RV that will not only accommodate you, but also your entire family, is a very tricky task. What’s more is that you have to make a decision that will last you years, and potentially even one or two decades. Kids change, you change, and it all can be rather overwhelming to try and predict what you’re going to want, not just tomorrow, but several years from now. First time RV buyers will often consider things like the gas mileage, upfront cost, the quality of the beds, the warranty, and so on. But there are some things that just might not occur to you until well after you’ve bought your RV, so here’s a list of things you may need to consider when buying an RV for your traveling family.
Slides Are Valuable
RVs can feel small enough as it is when you’re traveling with your family, however, the biggest way they can make up for this is by having slide outs. When shopping for an RV, always consider how many slides it comes with, as this will make it feel all the more spacious when it’s parked.
Planning Sleeping Space
It’s easy to find out how many people an RV will sleep, however, one thing people don’t often consider is exactly who will sleep in which bed. Make sure you have that sorted beforehand, because there’s nothing worse than finding out that none of your kids are willing to sleep on the folding futon couch.
Under Storage Space
Under storage space is the kind of essential thing all travel families need to take into account, because in some cases that’s where the majority of your stuff will go. Having lived in several RVs, I can safely tell you that the amount of available space you’ll have is greatly decided by how much your under storage will fit. Look for wide under storage compartments, and preferably ones that go all the way from one end of your RV to the other.
This might sound silly, but once you’ve been living in an RV for a while, you’ll likely get tired of you or your kids being forced to consume TV on either their phones, tablets, or laptops. A mounted TV will cause less eye strain, and, if you plan on full timing, will be great for family movie night. Check out TV mounts here.
We cook a lot! Our 42 foot 5th wheel has a huge kitchen, large fridge, and beautiful island. It is wonderful to cook in, however, it doesn’t get us to the places we love to go, so we spend a lot of time in our much smaller Travel Trailer or Class C kitchen, especially in the summer. One way to work around this is to have a nice outdoor kitchen set up with a Blackstone Griddle & Dishwashing Station. If you have the space, the collapsible table with 2 sinks is really nice and will help keep your RV clean by keeping the food outside. Or, you can save space and use two collapsible wash basins and collapsible dish drainer.
Refrigerator space is often considered when buying an RV, but just as important is pantry storage. Having no cabinets to store room temperature goods can be a big headache, so it’s an important thing to consider. Keep in mind though, an easy work around to this is to store these kinds of foods either in your under storage or in shelves intended for other goods.
This is a big one! In our Class C, the master bedroom has no door, only a curtain. When we moved into our 5th wheel that has a separate master bedroom (with a door) on the other side of the RV, it made a huge difference for my parents. If you intend to live in an RV, I highly recommend you invest in something with a door so that you can get a little bit of privacy and establish some personal space (at least, as much as you can realistically get in a space as small as an RV).
You may laugh at this, but one of the things my mom absolutely despises about her fifth wheel RV is the lack of windows in it. To her credit though, poor lighting can be kind of annoying when you intend on having a chill day inside the RV. No one wants to have to run all their lights in the middle of the day, and if lack of sunlight is something that may bother you, I strongly suggest you buy an RV with ample windows.
Large Holding Tanks (If You Plan on Traveling Off Grid)
The size of your holding tank is going to be one of those hard things to judge when you’re purchasing an RV, but it’s important to know how long you can be self-sustaining while traveling off grid. To help you out, here’s a rough estimate on how much your holding tank will sustain you. Our class C RV had a fresh water tank of about 40 gallons, and generally speaking, our family of 7 was able to live off of that for 3 full days, although we didn’t shower in it. What’s more, we were very frugal with our water when it came to dishes, so don’t expect any other family of 7 to 40 gallons to last quite that long.
What Roads Do You Plan on Traversing
Is your RV suitable for going down dirt roads? This is a question only a select group of RV travelers will need to ask themselves, but for that group of families that want to go to those hard to reach, secluded campgrounds and destinations, this is something they really have to consider. But even if you are planning on going down bumpy dirt roads, you need to consider whether your rig will need to go through narrow streets and low clearance passages. These kinds of things can significantly restrict where you can go, and will create a huge headache for unsuspecting RV families.
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Buy During Fall or Winter
The demand for RVs is naturally higher during the summer, so as such, you’ll likely find better prices if you wait until fall, or even better yet, winter. You’ll save several thousand dollars by buying an RV during this time, and all it requires is either a little patience, or thinking ahead for next year.
Always Get a Walk Through
As convenient as it is to look up RVs online, it’s another thing entirely to see it in person and get a feel for it, which I strongly suggest that you do. Buying an RV without having had a proper walk through is an incredible risk, and chances are that if you do so, there’ll be something about it that you don’t like.
Do You Want To Be Instafamous?
This one can seem frivolous, but many families are choosing to buy an older RV and remodeling it to make it feel more homey. Plus, showing off your RV remodel on Instagram is serious business. We aren’t handy but we did partially remodel our Class C and just adding the white paint, tearing out the couch, and dinette and replacing them with IKEA couches, and adding a few decorations made a huge difference in how the RV feels.
Get Good Sam for Peace of Mind
We have had many flat tires over the past 7 years and having good roadside assistance for your RV is a must. You’ll also want to carry a roadside emergency kit with jumper cables, reflectors, and other helpful items but
Pros & Cons of Different RVs
Conversion Van (Class B) or Truck with Camper
There are so many cool things you can do with a conversion van that if you really want to get off grid and find some incredible adventures, this is the way to go.
- Can often be a cheaper option than a trailer or motorhome depending on how fancy you get with your vehicle
- Allows you to sleep anywhere and gives you protection from the elements
- Easy to navigate your way through smaller roads and busy cities
- Can travel at a fast pace
- Limited in the number of people you can sleep or travel with (Hard to find a van that sleeps seven)
Truck with Trailer or Fifth Wheel Trailers
Really think about where you want to go and how much you want to move. We’d love to go to a fifth wheel, but for now, we get off the beaten path too much for a fifth wheel.
- Can be very luxurious (with full size “kitchens, bedrooms, and even laundry. If you have
- Often costs a lot of money
- Good if you want more creature comforts
- A great option if you are looking to stay put in one area and explore
- Learning to back up a trailer or fifth wheel can be difficult if you don’t have experience and pulling a trailer behind a vehicle can make your overall length very long (pulling a fifth wheel is actually easier)
Class A or Class C Motorhome
With both your pace may (but not always) be a little slower on the road, but at least you’ll have the convenience of moving around and the comfort of tables and couches to sit at while driving. My preference for motorhomes comes down to the fact that I like to be moving often and into small areas or down dirt roads so being more nimble works.
- Ability to move around in while driving
- Easy to free camp at night
- Class A provides more headroom for walking around than a Class C
- Class A is a little more cumbersome to drive
I hope this has shed a little light for you on some of the unforeseen things you should keep in mind when buying an RV for you and your family. I look forward to all the adventures that you have, no matter the RV that you get.