Thursday, September 27, 2012

Getting Our First RV - Decisions, Decisions

Every year, there is a big RV show in North Fort Myers, Florida, a short ride from our home in Cape Coral.  At the show, one can ogle, drool, and check out many different types and makes of recreational vehicles, covering a wide range of price points.  Janet an I have gone to the RV show many times.  We did a lot of tire kicking, and tried to get an idea of what we'd like and what we could afford.  (We found many RVs we really loved, but the prices were astronomical, making a large, private home on a big lot look like a bargain!)

The first challenge was to determine the type of RV we want.  The two contenders were a "Class A Motorhome", and a "Fifth Wheel".  By way of introduction, a Class A motor home is a recreational vehicle built on a stripped truck chassis where the driving compartment is an integral part of the RV interior. A class A motor home looks like this:

A fifth wheel is a towable trailer that connects to a pickup truck directly above its rear axle by way of a special fifth wheel hitch.  A fifth wheel RV looks like this:

There are advantages and disadvantages for each one.

Class A Motorhome advantages:
  • Driving and living compartments are connected. No need to get out of the RV during stops. Living area accessible even while moving.
  • Usually has more storage space than a fifth wheel of equivalent size.
  • Can tow a vehicle behind it.
Class A Motorhome disadvantages:
  • More expensive than a fifth wheel of equivalent size and quality.
  • The driving compartment and engine take up part of the living space, resulting in less living area than a fifth wheel of the same length.
  • If there is a mechanical breakdown of the engine or drivetrain, we'd need to find another place to live while repairs are being made.
  • Most are too large to drive around town; alternate local transportation required (such as a towed vehicle).
Fifth Wheel advantages:
  • Spacious, open floor plans suitable for full-timers.
  • Provides more interior living space than a motor home of the same length because it does not contain driving and engine compartments.
  • Tow vehicle doubles as local transportation.
Fifth Wheel disadvantages:
  • Must be towed by a large, powerful, (expensive) heavy duty truck with a fifth wheel hitch in its bed.
  • Driving and living compartments are separate. Living area inaccessible while moving.
  • Cannot tow a vehicle behind it.
Which type to get?  We vacillate.  One thing is for sure: To stay within our budget, we're going to have to buy something used.  We figure whatever comes along that we like, in good condition, at the right price will determine which way we go.

In early July, 2012, Janet starts our used RV search by pointing her iPad to  Lo and behold, she finds a fifth wheel and a truck being sold by the same person.  They are the type and size we are looking for, in our price range, not too old, and right near us in North Fort Myers.  Nearby is good: No long trips to check out the rig, and no transportation charges should we decide to buy.  We call and make an appointment to have a look.

Coming up next: Getting Our First RV - The Purchase

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