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Kings of the road: Navigating your way through the different styles and sizes of RVs

January 19, 2019

Perhaps you’re ready to buy a RV for travel or camping. That can be a journey in itself to choose from among multiple RV types in a range of prices.

Finding a good match depends on how you plan to use the RV along as well as the amenities you consider “must haves.” Is it mainly for weekend jaunts or longer trips? Do you need more space for kids, or for those ATVs?

Many RV newbies start outdoor adventuring with a tent trailer, also known as a pop-up trailer. It’s a budget-friendly way to discover if you like to go vagabond for a few days. Seasoned travelers or retirees might move into a fifth-wheel or Class A vehicle, if the budget allows.

“A lot of people dip their toes into the RV world with a tent trailer,” said Ron Little, former owner of RVs Northwest who also served as president of the Washington RV Dealers Association.

“Most people will eventually graduate into a hard-side trailer, but it’s a good starting point to see if they like the camping lifestyle and camping with the kids.”

But it doesn’t hurt to consider other factors such as space needed for beds and a place to cook meals, he said.

“If you’re trying to decide on an RV, most people will often make a mistake of buying one that’s too small, and then they realize after using it just a few times, they wished they had bought one in a bigger size,” Little said.

“It’s a wonderful lifestyle, and it makes more economic sense to use an RV than almost any other type of travel.”

Next’s week Inland RV show will offer a chance to explore RVs of every style and size. Here’s a guide among common RV choices:

Folding tent trailer/pop-ups

A tent trailer has canvas sides that extend for extra space, and then it compacts down flat when hauled. It usually provides enough sleeping space for a small family. Many styles have at least a sink and small kitchen. However, some pop-ups don’t include a toilets, if that’s a must-have.

Size: 8 to 24 feet

Cost: $6,300 to $22,000

Pros: These types of trailers are easy to pull behind most vehicles. They’re that next step up from a tent on the ground.

Cons: Any fabric or canvas material might get ripped or chewed if critters get nearby. If the open trailer gets caught in a rain storm, let it air out and dry before storing it compacted again.

Truck camper

This versatile truck camper continues to be popular, particularly with sports enthusiasts who take them for hunting, fishing or hiking trips.

Size: 8 to 20 feet

Cost: $6,300 to $55,000

Pros: The option gives you the ability to haul a boat or trailer with ATVs behind the truck. The camper comes off the truck, too, for road trips. Many models today are good for all weather and have slide outs, standup showers, toilet and other features.

Cons: It provides tight accommodations, usually for a small family or two adults.

Towable RVs

These hard-sided RVs typically require being towed by an SUV or truck. You’ll need to verify your vehicles towing capability and allow for added weight of personal belongings loaded on board.

Size: 12 to 35 feet

Cost: $8,000 to $95,000

Pros: Even smaller models can offer comforts of home. And you can detach it from the tow vehicle to use your car or truck for errands and sight-seeing.

Cons: Depending on size, storing trip essentials might be tight, as would sleeping space. Check on whether extra towing equipment is needed such as stabilizer bars.

Expandable travel trailer

The industry offers up this hybrid, blending features of hard-sided and folding tent trailers. These tend to have a number of expandable pulls-out to offer more sleeping spaces.

Size: 19 to 30 feet

Cost: $10,000 to $30,000

Pros: This type can be good for summer travel and families, because they’re still relatively light-weight but with pull-outs, they offer more room for less money.

Cons: For any canvas parts, you’ll need to air it out after any moisture conditions. This category might not be as cold-weather friendly as fully hard-sided trailers.

Fifth-Wheel

This trailer is called such because of the style of hitch that sits in the bed of a truck so it swivels easily. The fifth-wheel is built to offer more homey comforts, often with full kitchens, and built more for all four-seasons. Some even have side-by-side fridge and other luxuries.

Size: 21 to 40 feet

Cost: $18,000 to $160,000

Pros: This is a solid trailer with amenities that work well for being gone several months, for full-time RV dwellers, or snow birds.

Cons: Although a fifth-wheel can be more comfortable to tow, they might be trickier to back into tight spaces. You’ll also need a heavy-duty 3/4 ton truck or better to pull one.

Sport Utility RVs or toy haulers

This type evolved with a booming ATV industry. People can have combined RV lounging spaces and hauling room for four-wheelers, dirt bikes or sand rails. Toy haulers have your typical kitchen and sleeping quarters. In some, the bunk beds descend after you move out the ATVs.

Size: 19 to 34 feet

Cost: $10,300 to $170,000

Pros: If you’re on the go a lot with ATVs or other toys, this can be a better choice for adventuring. There are often extras such as inside-outside showers and extra fuel tanks for toys.

Cons: With the weight of the trailer and the toys, you definitely need bigger tow capacity from a large truck. A toy hauler might get beat up faster because of loading and storage of ATVs.

Class C motor home

This style of motor home is built on a van frame, and many have the traditional over-the-cab section for a bed or entertainment center.

Size: 21 to 35 feet

Cost: $43,000 to $200,000

Pros: Easy to drive, it has plenty of space for sleeping, kitchen, dining and bathroom. A slide-out in some models moves a wall for more space. Owners can tow a small vehicle behind.

Cons: Expense and storage of the vehicle when not in use.

Class B motor home

Also known as van campers, this type is built using manufactured van or panel-truck shells. Standard features often include a bathroom, sleeping, dining and kitchen along with storage. Stand-up room is created if the model allows for the roof to be raised or floors dropped.

Size: 16 to 22 feet

Cost: $60,00 to $130,000

Pros: They’re lighter weight and drive more like a family car, but still have many features.

Cons: Space might be tight. These typically sleep up to four people.

Class A motor home

Conventional motor homes are built entirely on a motor vehicle chassis with home-like amenities, living spaces and entertainment centers. Larger, more luxurious models have extra bells and whistles of a custom home and extra storage space. Slide-outs for some move an RV wall outward.

Size: 21 to 40 feet

Cost: $60,000 to $500,000

Pros: Typically, any experienced driver can take the wheel. It’s good for homelike features and longer stays in any weather. With beefier models, you can haul a car behind the motor home.

Cons: You pay more for multiple amenities. It might have more features than you really need, unless you’re journeying often or go on lengthy trips.

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