RV Size Options: What Do I Need?

Tips & Tools

So you’ve decided to take your family on an RV vacation.

Congratulations! This affordable and flexible form of travel is one of the most underrated around, especially if you have a family. (Seriously, who wants to pack the kids into a tiny car — or worse, try desperately to keep them busy and quiet in an airplane?)

Even if it’s just you and your spouse, or if you want to brave the road solo, we’re confident you’ll find RV life to be fun, comfortable and liberating. It offers the perfect balance of creature comforts and amenities with the adventure and tranquility of camping. In fact, many get so hooked they decide to take on the RV lifestyle full-time.

But we might be getting a little bit ahead of ourselves. If you’re facing your first-ever RV trip, you’re probably excited… but you might also be nervous and confused. How is driving a big rig different from driving your regular home vehicle? How do you find great campgrounds, and what should you expect when you arrive?

Heck, let’s get basic: Where do you find your RV in the first place, and what kind of rig do you need?

How to Tell What Size RV You Need

Fortunately, there are tons of great resources to help you get your trip started on the right foot. Regular RV campers are a passionate, friendly bunch who have formed an important and tight-knit community, and most are happy to help!

This blog itself is a great place to get started finding answers to all your questions, and you can also find discussion forums and other online outlets to help ease your fears. But let’s at least get you situated with the bare-bones basics. In this article, we’re going to examine how to figure out what size RV you need, so you can make an informed decision when you head to your rental facility or dealership.

Let’s start by talking about what kinds of RV options are available.

Campervans, Pop-Up Trailers, and Class B Motorhomes

Good things come in small packages.

If you want the maneuverability to get deep into the woods, and if you’re not afraid of “roughing it,” a campervan or small, pop-up trailer might be just the ticket. These tiny RVs offer campers a more comfortable bed than the forest floor and usually might include toilet facilities, a sink, a hot plate or a refrigerator. Options will vary depending on which model you choose. However, many of these small recreational vehicles will require you to find outside sources of plumbing, and outside of Class B motorhomes, most don’t have air conditioning or heat, so pick a temperate destination!

While sleeper vans and Class B motorhomes are self-contained, it’s important to keep in mind that pop-up trailers will require a capable tow vehicle. Class B motorhomes and pop-up trailers also tend to offer a bit more space — some are big enough to grant users the ability to stand up and walk around. But while these little vehicles are versatile and fun, if you have kids, quarters might be a little close for comfort.

Class C Motorhomes

A good middle-ground, class C motorhomes are all-inclusive but feature a loft-style bed or storage space over the cockpit. Although they’re smaller than their Class A counterparts, which we’ll discuss in a moment, they can be surprisingly spacious. Some floor plans even feature slide outs! And since they typically cap out at less than 30 feet in length, they’re a good starter option if you’re nervous about driving such a gigantic vehicle for the first time.

Bigger Motorhomes

Class-A motorhomes are the big, boxy, bus-style rigs that can run up to 45 feet long. While they offer tons of space, they’re also huge gas guzzlers, and driving them can be precarious, especially if you’re headed somewhere mountainous or cold.

Fifth-Wheel Trailers

This is as big as RV life gets and as close as you’ll come to bringing your house along for your road trip. Fifth-wheel trailers can offer up to 500 square feet of living space, and many have up to five slide outs to give you, even more, room to roam. And if you love to cook, you’ll find this irresistible: some even offer island-style kitchens!

Not only are fifth wheels enormous and luxurious, but they’re also a fraction of the cost of big, self-containing motorhomes to buy. Of course, you’ll also need a tow vehicle capable of hauling that much weight, which means you’ll need to add a hefty truck to your budget. Furthermore, if you’ve got a big family, you’ll still need to pile everyone into the car for the driving part of the trip.

So, What Size RV Do You Need?

The right RV for you and your family is ultimately a personal decision and depends on your preferences.

But when you’re figuring out what kind of RV to rent or buy, here are some questions to keep in mind that may guide you in the right direction:

1. How big is your family? If it’s just you and your spouse or if you’re traveling solo, a smaller RV might offer everything you need. But if you have two or three kids, a campervan — and possibly even a small Class C motorhome — is going to be a tight squeeze!

2. Where do you want to go? If you’re planning to use your RV as an upgrade to tent camping, a pop-up trailer or sleeper van might work perfectly, and seem luxurious in comparison! But if you’re looking for a way to road trip without ever stepping foot into a hotel, you’ll be more comfortable in a self-contained motorhome or even a large fifth wheel RV trailer.

3. What’s your budget? Obviously, smaller RVs tend to be less expensive. But even if you’ve only saved a modest amount for your vacation, you can experience the luxury of a large RV if you want to. Renting is a great way to try out this lifestyle before you commit to buying an RV, and it also gives you the bonus of getting to try out lots of different RV sizes and styles. If you want to save even more money on your rental, consider checking out the peer-to-peer RVShare marketplace, which pairs private RV owners with trustworthy renters like you for a fraction of the price a big, commercial dealership would charge.

4. How often will you go RVing? We’re confident that you’ll fall head-over-heels in love with the lifestyle and never want to live off wheels again. But if you’re only planning to take your rig for a trip or two each year, a smaller version will probably suffice… whereas if you’re planning on calling an RV home for a month (or a lifetime), you may want a little more wiggle room.

No matter what size RV you choose, a whole world of adventure awaits you and your family. So what are you waiting for? Hit the road and go find it!

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