A Guide to Choosing Your Full Time RV Rig
When we first hatched the idea "let's rv" - we had never even set foot in an RV before. Like, ever. You may be thinking - how did you even come up with that idea? And the answer is we don’t know! We just thought RVing might be a perfect way to downsize on cost and upsize on adventure.
We WISHED we had a guide listing the most common types of RVs people live full time in along with testimonials, explanations, pros, cons. And after almost a year on the road - we decided to make one! We reached out to some of our Instagram friends about how they chose their RV, what they love about it, and what they might do differently.
We thought - who better to explain each type of rig than the people living inside!
So take a peek at each highlighted rig below and check out why their owners love their home on wheels so much! Now this doesn’t cover EVERY type of rig you can full time in - but it’s a great place to start! Don’t miss the end of this post - where we discuss how we ended up choosing our RV too!
The Ones You Drive
What you probably think of when you hear "RV"
These are the motorhomes you drive - obviously. But there are actually a few types.
Class A - The Big Mamas
These are your big touring buses - it has all the bells and whistles including slide outs to make the rig wider. We've seen them with dishwashers, laundry, fireplaces, and beautiful big bedrooms and bathrooms. You also probably need to tow a car behind for groceries, daily driving etc.
“After checking out our options for an RV, we decided a Class A was best for us. Aaron and I don't really care for trucks so that basically eliminated a travel trailer and a 5th wheel. So our options were a motorhome - a Class C or A. Class A's usually have more storage underneath and the huge windows at the front really made our decision simple! Another reason we chose a motorhome was the ability to grab snacks while driving! It's been such a time saver than having to pull over! To be honest, the ability to ride in your home has just been fun!”
Class C - The Little Mamas
Yes, we know this is out of order alphabetically but the Class C comes next, size wise. We don't get it either. These can be more affordable than the class A and still offer space and comfort - usually having slide outs as well. We definitely spent a long time thinking about getting this type of RV.
“We have a Class C RV and we're so glad we chose it over an A or B class. We chose it because we liked that our vehicle could get us places and our home was all in one place. We also chose it because of the size. We didn't want something TOO big that felt like we were driving a tour bus. It also allowed us to really pair down our belongings in having a smaller space so that we could really decide what mattered to us. Honestly, we could probably go even smaller but we love our Class C! To us, it doesn't matter our rig, as long as we are exploring and enjoying life to the fullest!”
Class B - #vanlife
Van culture is a real thing!!! We constantly think about downsizing from our 19 foot travel trailer into a van since they are easy to drive, easy to park, better on gas, and don't require a toad; but do they lack in other areas such as virtually no bathroom and kitchen. Maybe down the line we will build out a van but in the meantime check out what this VanLifer has to say!
“We’re travelling in our self-converted LWB Mercedes Sprinter since January 2019. We chose this van as we wanted as much space as possible inside whilst also being able to travel down roads and park up in places that many larger rigs can’t reach. We opted for a Sprinter as we wanted to be sure no matter where we travelled we would be able to get her fixed relatively easily if something went wrong. We originally wanted a 4x4 model but they’re hard to find, and as we’ve already travelled into the Arctic Circle on miles of snow and ice without any problems we don’t think we needed it after all.”
School Bus - better known as “skoolie”
Converting school buses has to be one of the coolest trends in RV living. With lots of space and a pretty much open floor plan to design and renovate - they are an awesome option for full time road life.
“We had been working towards being nomadic for 3 years and thought it would be another 5 or more before we could afford a decent RV. We learned about people converting retired school buses for a fraction of the cost of even a used RV and suddenly our dream was much closer! We started feverishly looking for buses and won one at auction for $2,500. $17k ...and 2years later, (we thought it would take 1) we were on the road traveling full-time.“
The Ones You Tow
the car that's driving really slow in front of you
These are the kind that get attached to the back of your vehicle with some sort of hitch. There are so many kinds of towables - fifth wheels, travel trailers, pop up tent trailers, teardrops, pods, toy haulers, truck campers, and probably more. But in terms of full time living, fifth wheels and travel trailers are the most common.
Fifth Wheels - The Big Mamas of the Towing World
You need a pick up truck for this one - it hitches in the bed of the truck, also known as a gooseneck hitch. It's basically a Class A, but you don't drive it. It's got all those bells and whistles, slide outs, comfort, etc - even a kitchen on the outside!
“We decided to go with a fifth wheel because the space is unbeatable for a family of five. Our rig is 40 feet and has a bunk room which will fit all 3 of our kids. We love the storage that a fifth wheel has for all our outdoor toys!”
“Cost of living was sky high and we thought it would be a bigger risk to throw away so much money on rent and a house in a city we don’t even know. So we decided to flip a fifth wheel and beat the system. We chose a fifth wheel because it’s bigger! It’s been an awesome adventure so far”
Travel Trailers - Available in All Shapes & Sizes
Travel Trailers come in ALL sizes and options. A modest 13' could offer a wet bath (toilet under shower head), mini fridge and fold down bed while a 40' mirrors the feel of a fifth wheel with slide outs and more. Lots have pop outs to maximize sleeping space. The size of the travel trailer dictates your tow vehicle, so keep that in mind. Also, these are a bi*$%! to park.
“Our 27’ Forest River Wildwood travel trailer was a decision made in a matter of a few hours with basically no research done by two people who had never RV'ed before. This has been our home on wheels for nearly a year and, while there are many things we love about it, we wouldn't recommend our decision process to anyone! :) We purchased it new and it was within our budget, which was a major factor. Size-wise it made sense for people who had never towed anything before and we really appreciate that we never have issues getting into campgrounds due to the length of our rig. We also really liked the layout and interior finishes; we knew we weren't going to have any time for any kind of renovating on the road, so we wanted something that was going to feel like home without having to do any work to it.”
Even MORE Options
you can go crazy trying to pick from all the choices!
Y’all - this list doesn’t include everything but how could we forget the truck camper and the tiny house. Usually tiny houses are kept stationary but some people do take them mobile.
Truck Camper - the bed on your bed
Once again, you need a truck for this guy to sit on. These get put into the bed of the truck, you sleep over the top, and they can even have a kitchen and bathroom! We dream of downsizing into a truck camper too - it seems like another good option to leave your house behind at the campground and not have to tow!
“Our current set up consists of a renovated 2000 Fleetwood 17' Truck Camper paired with a 16' Cargo Trailer! We originally purchased the camper as a renovation project off craigslist. It was cheap, in very poor shape, and the plan was to renovate and then sell for profit. During the renovation process, we were able to customize the interior to fit our lifestyle and specific needs. We had previously discussed going with a toy hauler so we could have a workshop area for tools and projects. Toy haulers are built on a very hefty steel frame which makes the price of those guys go through the roof!! In the end, we are super happy with our custom built living quarters inside our 2000 Fleetwood 17' Truck Camper. For the workshop, we purchased a 16' cargomate utility trailer and built custom shelving, a workbench, and a space for my violin studio inside. We have a smaller profile going down the road, our workspace is separate from our living quarters, and overall, the handmade interior of our RV is so cozy I could never go back to a traditional RV. We feel like we were able to build our custom home on wheels!!”
check out their instagram @wifeinthecountry
“We considered many different vehicle options before setting out on our travels through Central America. In the end we chose a Toyota T100 and built our own camper to meet our needs.
Our needs were: seat and sleep 2 people and a dog, full build camp ready for under $10,000 usd. Our primary wants were: capable offroad, good fuel efficiency, reliable under load, carry all of our sports and camping equipment inside.
The T100 is not necessarily the best vehicle in any category, but it provided the best compromise over the spectrum of criteria. We built our own camper versus purchasing one primarily for budget, storage, and durability. Any vehicle choice is a compromise. The key is finding the compromise that works best for you.”
“We chose a truck camper because it fits our lifestyle better than any other type of rig. We love to surf, so it’s important for us to have four wheel drive and high clearance so that we can get to remote and uncrowded waves. It’s just the two of us, so we don’t need a lot of room, other than for our boards and gear. That’s why we built a roof rack on our camper. Being short and narrow enough to fit in a standard parking space when we need to is a bonus. We can also separate the camper from the truck if we need to. We feel that a truck camper is one of the most flexible adventure mobiles around.”
follow along on instagram @roamingadventurers
Tiny Home - for the true #homeiswhereyouparkit
Tiny homes are the ultimate cozy experience - where an RV can fill a little campy - a tiny home totally feels like a house. Most people build these on wheels but keep them stationary but every now and then… you can see a tiny home on the move!
“We decided to build our own tiny house on wheels to create a completely custom home tailored around our needs, design and lifestyle preferences, like ample countertop space for everyday cooking. In the end, we were able to maximize every inch of space and save a ton of money on labor and materials. Especially thanks to the many free salvaged materials we scored. Everything in our house has a story behind it. Also, the final cost was approximately $20,000.
Additionally, we chose a THOW to create a truly four-season home with long lasting durability. It’s built much like a traditional house, in terms of materials which does make in heavier than many travel trailers of similar size. It is small enough to be capable of frequent travel—10,000 lbs. and built on a 20’ trailer, with 17’ of house and 3’ of porch. And boy, have we traveled! We have lived nomadically for almost four years, and have stayed in 38 states and 1 Canadian province. Interestingly, we are in a very small subset of frequently traveling THOWs.”
There is no RIGHT option, only what fits your needs. And sometimes that's more than one of these and you've just got to take that risk. Or at least, that's what we did!
Here’s how we chose our rig, Nonie
Not only did we hunt the internet and go to lots of dealerships and RV shows - but we asked a LOT of questions to a lot of people online. We started to form ideas about what we needed, wanted and didn't like.
We created a list of must-haves:
Not a mini-fridge
Lots of windows - particularly one in the back
Not a wet bath
Queen/Full Bed - that didn't fold up and down
$10k or below
Once we had this list, we narrowed it down to either a Class C or a Travel Trailer.
The Argument For the Class C
Molly had a '99 Toyota Corolla that would serve as a the toad in this case. To stay in our budget we would have to go used with the Class C. At that price point, we were probably looking at a rig that would need some TLC. With an old car and an old RV, we were worried about maintenance costs getting out of hand. The way we saw it, this option required us to care for two old motors.
And that's how we ended up ruling that option out.
Why We Got A Travel Trailer
Travel trailers are cheap. Like real cheap. Used ones, really REALLY cheap. The thing is, a used travel trailer terrified us. As never-before-RV-people we were way too intimidated by RV tanks, ACs, fridges to feel confident in going with an older model. In retrospect - this option would have made a lot more sense - but hey - hindsight is 20/20.
We opted for the 2016 Coleman 192RDS - we loved the extra back window and the general layout. We did a TON of renovations (read all about them HERE) - we replaced the manual jack with an electric one, renovated the entire interior, and doubled the size of our gray tank by switching to a Nature’s Head Composting Toilet.
There are a million things we would do differently and a million things we wish we could change about this RV - but that’s exactly how we felt when we owned our home in Philadelphia. This travel trailer IS our home - and we love her so much!!!!