Here are the realities of owning and using an RV
Apr 27, 2023, 3:00 PM
Are you considering living on the go in an RV? Have you considered everything involved with living on the road?
We asked some folks who have used RVs as a weekend getaway and have transitioned to living full-time in a larger Class A home.
Starting with the part-time use of an RV, they require owners to pay attention to many facets that need to be considered before jumping in. Whether it’s a tow behind or a motor home, here are some points to ponder:
RVs come in different “Classes.”
KOA explains that RVs are motorhomes in which the motor vehicle and living space are on the same chassis. Towing is not involved. The camper’s interior is always accessible to passengers during travel.
Class A motorhomes are the largest coaches and can be quite extravagant. Ranging in size from 26 to 45 feet, they are built on a single chassis that may have more than two axles — heavier coaches will have three axles in total. The maximum width is around eight feet, though some states allow widths up to eight and a half feet.
Class B motorhomes are the friendly little RVs referred to as “campervans.” They are much smaller than Class A and are about as long as the average van, between 17 and 19 feet. What sets them apart from regular vans is they are well-equipped camping machines.
Class C motorhomes fall between Classes A and B in terms of size and comfort. They can be recognized by their distinctive cab extending over the cockpit. They range in size from 20 to 28 feet and are generally 10 feet tall.
Fifth-wheel trailers can be comparable in length to Class A motorhomes, often stretching from 22 to 40 feet front to back. They tend to be around 10 feet tall and are a common choice for many campers. The front of the trailer is elevated off the ground and extends over the bed of a truck, where a hitching mechanism fixes it to the truck bed. This setup makes the fifth-wheel trailer easier to navigate than trailers towed behind a car’s bumper, as the fifth-wheel tracks more closely to the truck. A fifth wheel requires a pickup truck with a specially fitted hitch.
When not in use, you need to have a place to keep it.
Is it allowed in the neighborhood you live in? Is your yard or a garage tall enough for your RV and any roof-mounted equipment it may have? Some HOAs will not allow RV storage. Therefore, you need a facility to store the RV for you. Space in some facilities may not always be available at a moment’s notice. Plan for its storage before you buy.
When you are not using your RV, it needs protection from the elements. The Arizona sun can be unforgiving on tires, exposed gaskets, and window and door seals. A covered space for long-term storage is advised. Pests can harm wiring, plumbing, and finishes. Make sure your RV is sealed. Mice only need ¼” of space to get in. Keep tabs on your battery’s charge levels. You may need a small draw on the battery to keep electronics functioning even when storing. Check with your dealer for the various methods to keep the battery charged. You may be able to keep the charge with trickle chargers and solar panels. Because the batteries can get overcharged and the cells dried out, they need to be checked periodically when the unit is stored.
Going on a trip or coming back from one requires preparation. Start with prepping for storage, particularly long term, such as over the winter. Several parts of the RV need tending. First, take all the food items, especially the perishables, out of the refrigerator, pantry, coolers, and wherever you keep food. Things can get pretty ripe after a few months. Water lines and holding tanks need to be evacuated to prevent breaking due to freezing temperatures. It is advised that antifreeze be added to the piping, toilets, and sinks. There is a special antifreeze for this purpose. Ask your dealer. Don’t use the kind you put in your radiator. Make sure the windows and doors are sealed and the tires are covered. Turn off electrical devices (see the battery discussion above). Preparing to leave on a trip reverses the steps to shut it down. Blow the antifreeze out until the water lines run clear, (antifreeze is typically colored, so you can tell if it is not fully flushed out), test the electrical systems, and turn on appliances before you leave. When you stock up on food, dishes, and toys, make sure they are secured and stowed so they don’t fly around the first corner you take while driving.
Engine performance is key. Treat your RV to regular mechanical checkups. Rotate the tires. RVs are heavy, and if the tires are not used over long periods, they can flatten. Keep them moving when you can. Change the oil as the manufacturer recommends, along with the other fluids, such as the water heater, and have your cooling and heating system serviced. If you have slide-out components, make sure they are properly greased. Cleaning the RV is like your home, only more comprehensive (we don’t normally wash the outside of our house). Several RVers strongly suggested maintenance be done before any prolonged trip.
The route you take needs to be vetted before you go. There are several companies that will help plan your route. Approaching a low bridge in a Class A is no fun, and Google may not be your best source of information for finding a route. Planning your route can help you avoid very costly mistakes. Remember, some RVs, such as Class A and Class B, cannot turn around in a typical parking area or even on some narrow roads. Taking the time to plot out your trip with reliable resources or a reputable company is highly recommended.
A recreational vehicle of any class can be a whole bunch of fun. You are making your travel investment a lifestyle choice. Go into the process with your eyes open, understanding the commitment, both in time and dollars. Owning an RV is not a small commitment. The larger the vehicle, the bigger the upkeep, of course, but make no mistake, even the Class B vans will require a bit more engagement on your part.
Whether it’s your home away from home or your home, planning, and preparation are key to having a great vacation or a free lifestyle!