By James Richardson
Photography by James Richardson and courtesy of Southaven RV
Hitting the road has never been more comfortable as recreational vehicles – known as RVs – get more and more luxurious. Finding the right one for your family’s lifestyle takes a little investigation and planning.
With summer fast approaching, thoughts are turning to vacations and travel. Many families are thinking about recreational vehicles, or RVs, as their means of traveling. For the RV newbie, there are a lot of questions. What type RV is better? Is it better to buy or rent? What are the costs of renting versus buying?
With so many types of RVs available to rent or buy, it would make sense to investigate prior to doing either. Motorhomes come in three classes: Class A motorhomes are the largest and have an appearance of a bus; Class Bs are elaborate conversion vans; and Class C motorhomes are built on truck frames and have sleepers over the cab area.
Smaller and often more affordable options include pop-up campers and travel trailers. Pop-up campers are towable units that can be folded or collapsed for easier towing and storing. Travel trailers are towable units that cannot be collapsed. Each type is available in various sizes, amenities, and prices.
Motorhomes are driveable and are completely self-contained, while pop-ups and travel trailers must be towed by a suitable vehicle. The best place to start is at a showroom where you can talk to a knowledgeable, impartial salesperson.
Jeff Turnbow, a Southaven RV and Marine sales representative has a few suggestions for anyone considering an RV vacation or purchase.
“Think about usage. Are you more of a weekender around a nearby lake or park? Or, are you ready to travel the great USA? This will help you determine size, budget, functionality, and durability,” Turnbow explains. “Things like engine power, wind resistance, and tow weight are very important considerations.”
Renting or buying is often the next question. Most authorities agree it is wise to rent a similar unit before purchasing. A potential buyer can rent a similar RV for a lot of vacations or weekends for the same purchase price. Things to consider when buying are not only the initial cost, but also storage needs, insurance and maintenance.
As Turnbow put it, “If it has a motor, it will need service.”
Alternately, renting an RV has considerations, as well. First, find out if the rental agency or individual is reliable by reading reviews from former customers.
Then look closely at the costs. In addition to the per day or per week costs, motorhomes usually have mileage fees and possibly generator fees. Rental agencies often charge generator usage fees if you go over a certain number of hours. For travel trailers the only fees incurred are daily or weekly rental fees.
Traveling with an RV, whether renting and buying, will cost in fuel. Most motorhomes get less than 10 miles per gallon of gasoline or diesel. A travel trailer or popup camper will decrease the gas mileage of a tow vehicle.
Also consider the expenses at RV parks and campgrounds. Nightly rentals vary greatly – from $20 to $75 – depending on whether the campground is public or private and if there are campground amenities. Many public campgrounds do not have hookups for services like water, electricity, and sewer. Most private campgrounds do have hookups, and therefore charge more for an overnight stay.
Since all RV rental agencies or individuals allow a certain number of free miles per day and charge for any overages, one option would be to rent the RV close to the final destination. For instance, I have rented a Class C motorhome from Chattanooga Camper Rentals for a trip to the Smoky Mountains successfully and at less cost.
FUTURE RV TRENDS
“The RV trend is hotter than ever! RVs have taken on a new life full of innovations in size, shapes, features, and customized for each type of adventurer,” says Turnbow.
Larger RV dealers can have many types of floor plans from the same model in stock so that customers can look through them on site.
“Now, more than ever, people are looking for ways to enhance their quality of life. Gas prices are down and weekend getaways are up. People are appreciating nature more than ever. Kids who grew up with the RV lifestyle always smile as they recall their time with family and friends,” Turnbow says.
“Today, people are looking to escape the mundane. Hotels and urban settings are great, but RVing gets you up close and personal with nature. According to RV Industry Association, more than half of RV buyers are now under 45. So, the generation who grew up during the tech revolution are buying more RVs.”
After deciding whether to buy or rent an RV, planning the trip is the next fun part. America is filled with many beautiful places to be discovered in an RV. Mississippi, Tennessee, and Arkansas state parks have great spots for weekend getaways or longer vacations. Also, national parks celebrate the uniqueness of America and are scattered across the nation. The most visited national park is the Great Smoky Mountains of Tennessee and North Carolina, and is a perfect destination for novice RVers. The parks in the Western U.S. are just as welcoming and accommodating to RVers. One of my favorites is the Grand Canyon in Arizona. Although it is about 1,400 miles away, the route is mostly interstate highway, which is easy traveling with an RV.
Driving an RV, or with one in tow, may sound difficult, and Turnbow recommends taking an RV driving course.
“It is always best to familiarize yourself before making a large investment. Most shoppers are finding that handling an RV is much easier than expected,” he says.
There are a few things to remember when traveling with an RV. A motorhome is wider and longer than the family sedan or van. Be aware of that with turns and in a parking lot. Same for a popup or travel trailer. Fortunately, there are pull-through sites at many campgrounds.
As Cousin Eddie said to Clark W. Griswald in Christmas Vacation, “It’s part of the experience, Clark!”
Same with RVing. There is nothing like waking up in a campground surrounded by nature, cooking breakfast and drinking coffee over a campfire with no traffic, no noise except the occasional chirping birds or rippling water. That makes all the decisions of renting or buying the RV seem very distant.