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Frugal RV Planning
Old 08-23-2007, 04:57 PM   #1
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Frugal RV Planning

I have always wanted an RV. After some research, I think I finally know what I should get. Since Iíve never owned an RV, I would like to get some feedback from folks here, quite a few of whom seem to be experienced RV owners.

Goal: In 3 to 5 years, take off one year to travel around the US/Canada, visiting national parks and friends.

Lifestyle: 2 adults, pretty simple, definitely frugal, semi-handy but not really skilled to fix big things. Donít like 1980s dťcor thatís commonly found in used RVs.

Budget: $25,000 ideally, could go up to $35,000. (for the RV/truck alone, not living expense for 1 year)

Currently own 2 cars with no towing capacity.

Scenario 1.
Buy a Toyota Tacoma truck or similar that tows up to 3,500 lb. Trade in one of our cars for it so this new truck will cost $10,000 to $15,000 (plus $7K trade-in value of the car). Buy a small, used Airstream trailer ($10,000) that is approximately 19 to 23 feet in length. As an alternative, buy a used Trailmanor (if I can find one).

- Flexibility of have the truck to drive around when our camper is parked. Probably saves gas.
- When thereís a problem, it should be easier to fix than having a motorhome (I think).
- Seemingly more storage than a motorhome.

- Even though the Tacoma can tow up to 3,500 lbs, and the trailers are usually around 3,000 lbs, I donít know if I am pushing it. On the other hand, I donít really want to spend a ton of money on an SUV or bigger truck.
- Have to tow the trailer (never done this so donít know if it takes a lot of learning)

Scenario 2.
Buy a used Class B/C motorhome, such as Winnebago Rialta or Roadtrek, with less than 60K miles and less than 24 feet long.

- Easy to drive.
- Harder to fix when thereís a problem (at least I perceive so)

- Potentially high gas consumption
- Smaller space (typically)

So what do you think? Have I overlooked anything? Which would you choose, given the budget constraints?

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Old 08-23-2007, 05:17 PM   #2
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I had a Class C RV and 'downsized' to a VW Westfalia camper, probably considered a Class B. Since you plan to do this for one year you can think about how the vehicle fits into your 'fleet'. Our VW camper hauls things from the hardware store and is a back up vehicle when a car is in the shop or lent out to visiting family. But if I were heading out on a long country wide trip I would maybe like a trailer or 5th wheel more. You park the trailer and drive around with the truck. If you have a class B you have do pack up every time you want to drive somewhere.

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Old 08-23-2007, 05:20 PM   #3
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Go with a full size Tundra cost and mpg is not that great. But you will have more tow options.
If you go with the motorhome will you have a car to get around? If not, think about haveing to unhook and drive a motorhome around all day.
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Old 08-23-2007, 05:50 PM   #4
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For that much anticipated time in your RV, you'd better do some more homework. is one good site.

Under-buying may cost you in the end. Even if it's "just for a year" you'll be full-timing from the sound of it. Every family is different, of course, but I'd go crazy if I had to live for a year in an RV that was too small. There'll be 3-day rains, 95 degree weather, and other factors that will coop you up here and there. My recommendation is to stretch the budget for a bigger rig if possible, and try to pick up the difference at the other end when you sell.

You'll get the most room for the dollar with a travel trailer. They are trickier to handle, and a weight distributing hitch will be a great addition for safety and handling.

Good luck.
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Old 08-23-2007, 05:58 PM   #5
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I second Rich's suggestion to do a bit more research. When we were in the early stages of our "education" on RV choices we found the Life on Wheel sessions invaluable. We went twice--once before we bought and once the year we had our purchase (small Class A). They hold sessions around the country and have lots of non-commercial experts to help you make your decision. Here is their site RV Life on Wheels Educational Conferences. Renting is also recommended to help you get a bit of "real" experience with some of the alternatives. This time of year Cruise America usually has reposition rates on Class C's available at very attractive rates.
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Old 08-23-2007, 07:15 PM   #6
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Pulling a trailer if pretty easy if you have your hitch set up properly as Rich points out. will give you plenty of suggestions about which truck you need to tow with. I've received lots of great advice from the folks there. Also as Rich mentioned is very good also. As far as the class C vs a trailer decision it is purely a personal decision. I am on my second trailer and often wonder if I should move to a class C or class A... From what I have been told, one of the greatest advantages of having a class C or A is that you have access to everything when you are on the road. Not that I would reccomend walking around in a moving RV ! We normally stop at rest stops and jump in the trailer then. Class C's do appear easier to set up than the trailer but my DW and I can pretty much set up the trailer in about 15 - 20 minutes. Many class C units have towing capacity so one option you may have is to purchase a class C and tow one of your cars. What ever you choose you will probably be happy...We certainly love it and wish we had more time to spend on the road. Oh yes, one more thing... make sure you get something big enough. We started with a 19 foot long trailer and upgraded within 6 months. Later I found we were not alone, most people end up traiding up if they purchase something too small. It is a bit intimidating pulling something so big at first but you get used to it after your first long trip. I find the best part about camping is when we are sitting around the campfire or exploring new places the RV for the most part is mainly a place for us to stay comfortably. Good Luck !
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Old 08-23-2007, 08:17 PM   #7
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Thanks everyone for your great suggestions. I thought I had given this a lot of thought, but I have a lot more thinking to do! I will definitely check out the conference. It looks like I have to wait until next year, but luckily this is a multi-year plan. The website looks great, too.

I think the whole idea about getting something small (22 feet or less) is because of my idealized image that I could lead a simple life, while in reality I am just as much a packrat as most people I know.

Thanks again!
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Old 08-23-2007, 09:49 PM   #8
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I bought a used Ford 250 pick-up and a 28ft 5th wheel trailer. It was a package from a retired gentleman. He had thought it all out so I didn't have to.

Truck only had 55,000 miles on it. Trailer was like new.

Easy to pull, as truck is so powerful and is a 5th wheel set-up.

I think I spent ten grand for the whole rig.

It only gets about 8 miles per gallon but you know that or you wouldn't be looking.

I parked it on my ranch and rented it out. Use the truck for hauling wood and lumber as a ranch truck but I could have gone on the road.

Me, I'd rather spend 10 grand on hotel rooms and drive around in a fast, comfortable car than go by travel trailer but if I did want to do it I could do fine with this rig.

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Old 08-23-2007, 10:07 PM   #9
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Originally Posted by GoodSense View Post
Thanks everyone for your great suggestions. I thought I had given this a lot of thought, but I have a lot more thinking to do! I will definitely check out the conference. It looks like I have to wait until next year, but luckily this is a multi-year plan. The website looks great, too.

I think the whole idea about getting something small (22 feet or less) is because of my idealized image that I could lead a simple life, while in reality I am just as much a packrat as most people I know.

Thanks again!
Here is a 22 foot Born Free Class C for sale. Class C RV ratings, reviews - recreational vehicles at Born Free MotorcoachIt is $24,900 and you would not even need a car since it is so small. I know a few folks that have one of these and never tow a car. But, like Rich said, living in one is very different from just camping in one one the occasional weekend or short vacation.

Rent if you can and see if this is the lifestyle you really want to try for a year. You will find out what you like and don't like pretty fast. A week or two in an RV will make you closer or make you never want to RV again.

The smaller the rig the more options you have for camping. Once you get over 25 feet things start to thin out a bit; then 34 feet; then 40 feet.

Keep it small if you can but be sure you have some "personal" space for those rainy days.
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Old 08-23-2007, 10:55 PM   #10
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Keep up the research at sites like Escapees Discussion Forum - Powered by eve community Then, if possible, try before you buy. Nothing replaces experience. Buy a quality, used vehicle rather than a cheaper new one. You can get extended warranties for units less than ten years old. Born Free is a good brand for class C. I highly recommend my choice, Lazy Daze. Also watch for used Sprinters coming on the market...diesels that get 20 mpg.
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Old 08-24-2007, 06:36 AM   #11
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We just got back from our first big RV trip..7 weeks/5200 miles. I was pretty set on getting a 22-24' class C wanting to keep it small for ease of city driving and parking. DW set one must which was a lower level bed so we "extended" to a 26'. I broke the recommendations by buying before knowing much about RVing and not trying first. We are lucky as we love our rig and wouldn't change it.

My recs are similar..learn what you can before hand and if possible try before you buy both to get the feel if what you think you want is right. Also, it helps you discover your RVing "style". How are you going to use it? How much city vs much RV parks vs boondocking. Knowing your style helps you know what you want/need most in an RV.

With the lower bed, we used the overhead bed for storage and ended up with plenty of space to spare..boy was I surprised! Parking was never any issue at 26' as you easily can use a double roadside parking space or double drive throughs in parking lots.

A couple of musts for us: 1) air con! 2) Gps with voice..takes the stress out of city travel (and a strong rec. for a generator if you boondock/dry camp much)

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Old 08-24-2007, 09:07 AM   #12
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We like the 28 Airstream motorhome we've had for a few years, as we typically go somewhere and stay--like a park or festival. If you wanted to do more sightseeing, then you could tow a small car behind a motorhome. This choice might be more frugal than buying a tow vehicle and a trailer, as you probably have a car already that could be your "toad".

If you don't like the 80s decor--well then take a look at the 70s decor instead! Ours is a 76 Airstream Argosy and has a fabulous paisley interior. I wanted the burnt orange, but DH wouldn't go for it!

Second on the Airforums and other rv sites--spend some time thinking about how much boondocking vs full service parks you'll be staying in.

ďOne day your life will flash before your eyes. Make sure it's worth watching.Ē
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Old 08-24-2007, 03:51 PM   #13
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Thanks! I feel like a highschool kid who's read a lot of romance novels but have not kissed any girl. Renting one (RV, not girl) would be a great way to get our feet wet.

Look forward to reading more great RV adventures on this forum! Thanks everyone.

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