How to Choose the Right RV for You

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September 28, 2008

Large Class A with ToadMany of the comments you made after the first blog entry relate to how to choose an RV, especially for women starting out. There is no simple answer. It depends on how often you plan to use your rig, where you want to park, how much experience you’ve had in the past, how much money you have to spend, and more.

Generally speaking, women traveling solo tend to buy motorhomes. They are easier to park, easier to hook and unhook the toad (if they even use one) rather than a tow truck, and easier to depart rapidly if a situation proves threatening. But even that is not a strict rule. Some women prefer driving a truck and hauling a fifth wheel or travel trailer. My guess is that they’ve had some prior experience. One of my favorite comments made by a solo woman (a trailer devotee) was, “I don’t worry about being in an unsafe situation and feel I have to hook up immediately. I don’t put myself into those environments.”Ask yourselves these questions first:

Will I live in it full-time or seasonally or occasionally? A smaller size will work better for lessClass C motorhome frequent travel.

How many people will be traveling? Will you be taking along your grandkids? Is there enough room for them to sleep and stow their possessions?

Will I use hook-ups or dry camp? Dry camping (boondocking) will need solar panels and better batteries to provide the energy source. Cost is more initially, but camping costs are substantially reduced.

Do I already have a truck? How much load can the truck tow? If you have a truck and are comfortable driving it, then consider a trailer, which is less expensive than a similar size motorhome. The weight is critical. You must find out what the weight the truck can handle and then not exceed it in your trailer.

Large Fifth WheelWhat can I afford? Particularly in today’s financial climate, be very clear about how much you are willing to pay. It’s not just the original cost, but loan payments, maintenance, insurance including towing, repair, new tires, air filters, fuel for traveling. On the one hand it’s good to own the rig outright, on the other hand the loan interest is usually deductible. Check with your lawyer on the tax issues.

How much storage do I need for clothing and stuff? Are you a clotheshorse or will a few pair of long and short pants, t-shirts, and one nice outfit for the occasional wedding or bar mitzvah do?

What kind of hobbies will I bring with me? How much room do I need for them? Do you make pottery or just small beaded earrings? Don’t laugh. I’ve met some potters who travel with small kilns.

Do I have any physical restrictions that need to be accommodated? Do you need wider access for a wheelchair?

Am I handy? You can learn to do some things and you will always find people to hire to make adjustments and repairs. Don’t forget to include that expense in your budget planning. If you are not handy, I suggest you buy a newer rig with fewer potential problems.

Do I like lots of windows or would they make me feel like I’m in a fishbowl? I live in a fishbowl with lots of windows and I love it, but it is hotter in the summer and cooler in the winter. Consider your comfort level.

Do I plan to spend a lot of time in cold climates? Some people prefer camping so they can ski. You’ll need better insulation.

Will I need to work on the road? Do I need space to carry a product with me? Some people work the fairs and trade shows and carry product and a display. I carry books and some exhibit items. If you work, do you need closet space for office clothing? If you like to work in luxury RV resorts, you will need a newer rig. They don’t want your rig to be more than 10 years old. Some resorts prefer only motorhomes for their workers as well as their guests.

If a trailer, do I prefer a rear living room or rear kitchen? Generally rear kitchens are larger. If you like to do more cooking, you may want that option. Others like to have an open view from their rear living room.

Will I have pets with me? Where will the cat box go? How big a dog do you have? In an earlier blog, I used a photo of a 40-foot motorhome driven by a solo female. When I asked her why she wanted that much space for herself, she said, “I had a 34-foot, but my dog is so big, he had no place to run around, particularly on rainy days so I bought the 40-foot.”

There is a lot more to say on the subject and I will continue this in future blogs. One of the questions arose about whether a Class B is a good choice for full-timing. A Class B is a van with all the main elements: stove, sink, microwave, bathroom, heater, air conditioner, etc. It tends to be more expensive, but it handles very easily and can fit anywhere. I’ve known people who have used it for extensive periods of time, but they tend to travel more frequently.

A good compromise is the Class A Trek (or similar model) with a bed that rises during the day giving you a full living room and at night providing you with a full bedroom in a 28-foot rig.

Another question that comes up frequently is whether women can handle all the systems. I will speak to the issue of systems, but in the mean time, remember that there are lots of training books and videos to teach you, neighbors to help, and tools that enable you to tighten and loosen the most difficult valves.

I look forward to your comments and questions on this topic. A few people expressed an interest in a woman’s forum. I’m thinking of starting a Yahoo group. How many of you would be interested in participating?


Choosing the RV Lifestyle: Real People, Real Choices by Alice Zyetz and Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

If you would like to submit an entry or two before October 31, please download the guidelines at

Enjoy your travels,

Alice Zyetz

P.S. Always sit on the toilet before you buy. Is there room for your legs? Do you feel claustrophobic?

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  1. 331504 408120Sounds like some thing lots of baby boomers ought to study. The feelings of neglect are there in numerous levels when a single is over the hill. 111935

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  5. Jim Martin

    Alice, you are exactly right about “sitting on the toilet” before buying a rig! I bought a small Class C, Toyota-based rig in 1979. Biggest mistake I ever made, boats are easier. The bath was a stall behind the driver’s seat, combo shower and loo. To sit I had to shoo guests outside because my knees didn’t allow the door to close. Standing wasn’t easy either.

    Every rig plan I look at in RV magazines I first check the position of the Loo and how much room the builder allowed for it. An amazing number give it short-shrift as if it’s an ornament.

    Now that I am retired I still wish I could go camping weekends, but I had a heart attack sixs months ago, and my doctor won’t even let me drive to the coast and back. I live in NC. I’m hoping I can find something in a year I can handle.

  6. Bob, I’m so glad you mentioned being disabled. I don’t know how many of our readers realize that there are many disabled RVers on the road who don’t let their disability keep them from following their dream. Visit for more information.

    As for your wife doing the jobs, but not necesssarily undertanding what she’s doing, I did mention a few resources in the blog that help explain what to do. I’m also a big believer in asking for help. Men do it all the time. I don’t know why many women feel they have to know everything before they try something new.

    Carol mentioned the T@B. Clamshell model. It’s a new rendition of the old-time teardrop trailer. Looks great. I didn’t see a price, Carol. Would you share that with us? This is probably going to become more popular since it’s so light that it can even be hauled by some cars. No toilet. have to use a porta-potty. Visit Web site.

    Martha, look at the resources I listed in the blog for RV ing Women and Education 101. You’ll find lots of support. We also have The Fifth Wheel Bible which is extremely helpful since you’re planning on buying a fifth wheel..

    Jackie, it sounds like you’re getting close. Keep working towards your goal. Jan, congratulations for doing your first solo trip. The mishaps do happen and they make great stories to tell around the campfire. What’s really special is that you’re not letting yourself be stopped by them. Good job!

    Bradley, thanks for mentioning the slide-in camper as an option. Next entry I’ll do the pros and cons of many types of RVs.
    Safe travels,
    Alice Zyetz (RV Mama)

  7. Bradley Cutter

    You wrote a nice article of interest to a lot of people. Please don’t forget to mention truck campers, i.e., a pickup truck with a slide-in camper. They (trucks and campers) come in a variety of sizes and when in a campsite, one can raise the camper, drive the truck out from under it and toot around without the need for a ‘toad’. There is even a triple-slide camper available and some have heated plumbing systems for cold-weather camping. See for more information. My wife and I own a small truck camper, and while we do not full-time in it, we do derive a lot of pleasure from the combination.

  8. jan mulinix

    This past weekend was my first solo trip to the lake. A few mishaps and a few bruises, but I learned alot. Like the buzzing noise from your converter charger, should not buzz or it drains your battery. Live and learn. Also someone was helping me hooking up to water and told me the wrong way and the residue in the black water backed up in my toliet, thank goodness I went and looked before it even got to my carpet. That too, will not happen again. But now my bathroom smells clorox fresh after the extreme cleaning. I have a 36 foot motorhome. I am taking it out again this weekend only a little further, about a 2hour trip to a different lake. Really, beleive it or not even after all the things that I didn’t do right I feel pretty confident about this next trip..

    To be continued. lol

  9. Jackie

    I, too, am selling my home and will be buying a gently used class C. I would be very interested in you starting a women’s forum. That would be wonderful.

  10. I am very interested in this subject, as I hope to close the sale of my house within 2 wks, at which time I will be in a position to buy a gently used 5th wheel & truck. I am worried about being able to handle the routine maintenance as well as to check for potential problems. Being an avid reader of blogs by fulltimers, it strikes me that most are couples and the husband or partner spends much of his time checking things, cleaning & polishing the rig; replacing parts, caulking, etc. When considering the amount of work the wife does, and then add the husband’s jobs, I wonder how a solo can handle it all.

    As for security issues, I have driven solo in my Jeep back and forth across the country every year for the past 5 yrs, accompanied by my two dogs which gives me some feeling of safety. I think a person who is fearful gives off vibes to that effect, so the best way to be safe is to use common sense and to be self-confident. I wish I was as self-confident about my mechanical skills as I am about my personal safety.


  11. I think size is dependent on what you want!!! I have a T@B Clamshell model, and while I’m still a weekend warrior now, I feel confident I could fulltime in it!! I camp solo without my DH about 99% of the time and I can run everything on my baby all myself.

  12. Ellen F

    I have to agree with Bob. I’ve done more oil changes and lube jobs on vehicles than my four brothers combined. By the way, I also know how to chop my own wood, build a fire, empty the black water tanks, change a tire, know the difference between a flat head and phillips head screwdriver, can pound a nail (straight, I might add), etc.

  13. Bob Dowdall

    You ask if a woman can do all the maintenance etc. I am disabled and can do very little. Fortunately, I have done most of it before I became disabled and can tell my wife what and how things are done (she only objects to me telling her to run around the rig twice before starting LOL).
    In this way we are able to get the work done together (sometimes it is a bonding experience and sometimes not) Her main problem is understanding why she is doing something. She just doesn’t have the background needed. ie What’s the difference between a cresent wrench and a pipe wench or why she needs to change the oil every 5000 miles. Because I said so doesn’t work with her.
    The bottom line is she says this is a sexist question as we both have seen many men who couldn’t do most of what she does know how to do

    No Business/Free advice