Buying a recreational vehicle is a huge investment. Buying an RV is like buying a second home, so it requires a lot of research and careful consideration to make sure you and your family will have a happy time living in it. There was a time when camping enthusiasts could enjoy a vast array of high quality motorhomes offered by many prestigious manufacturers that had their interests at heart. Sadly, as the industry bloomed, production volume and cost cutting became more important, and many RV makers sacrificed quality for profits. If you’re looking to buy an RV (motorhome, travel trailer or fifth wheel) for the first time, there are certain RV brands to avoid.
It is important to note that these are not exactly the worst RV brands. With only one or two exceptions, the manufacturers in this list actually are, or have once been, the industry leaders with proven, well-rounded product portfolios. Their RVs have been well loved by campers worldwide for exceptional construction quality and workmanship as well as functional and livable interior.
However, in recent years, from around 2015 to date, an increasing number of complaints about common problems with these brands have been voiced. This suggests that in general, RVs made in recent years don’t have the same quality and reliability that used to be these brands’ standard. Although for some manufacturers, a few specific models stand out as especially problematic, for others it seems to be a general downgrade in production quality that affects many models. So if you’re looking to buy a new RV of recent model years, it’s best to be mindful of the RV brands to stay away from in 2021 below.
- RV Brands To Avoid In 2021 and Why
- Travel Trailer Buyer’s Guide: What To Consider
RV Brands To Avoid In 2021 and Why
Important note before you read on
You will see really big names down below. Again, these are not the worst RV manufacturers in an absolute sense. Each has made many excellent offerings tailored for different needs and budgets that have stood the test of time.
Complaints suggest that the quality is not what it used to be, so what it means is you should be extra careful and do your homework when it comes to their models that were introduced in recent years. It doesn’t mean that every single thing these brands make is trash. Especially if you’re buying a used model with raving reviews from these brands, you can still get a solid trailer that has some years on its back but was well made, well designed and habitable (basically manufactured in the good old days when reliability and durability were still the priorities).
That said, you need to dive deeper in the reviews to get a realistic picture of any particular model that you’re interested in. Buying a home on wheels is a big decision. To choose the right one for your preferences and budget, you should spend a lot of time researching to derive at a few shortlisted models, then rent them to really try out what it’s like living in one (there will be a section dedicated to how to choose the right RV for you). You definitely should rely on in-depth reviews from seasoned and full-time campers to judge whether a particular model is reliable and would be a good fit for you.
As for how good manufacturers turned bad, it is arguably due to the industry’s push to churn out more vehicles every year to meet the rapidly growing demand worldwide. This coupling with cost cutting results in production shortcuts and the use of lower quality materials.
Experts remark that these days, finished products often leave the factory without a final inspection. As the RVs sit on the dealers’ lots, they can sustain damage, such as water damage from sealant leaks. Sometimes the responsibility of fixing whatever is wrong before selling the RV rests on the dealers, which some simply ignore.
Now without further ado, here is a list of the most troublesome RV makers in recent years.
What RV brands to avoid in 2021 :
- Hurricane by Thor Motor Coach
- Jayco RV Brand
- Winnebago RV Brand
- Fleetwood RV Brand
- Coachmen RV Brand
- Forest River RV Brand
- Gulf Stream Coach RV Brand
- Keystone RV Brand
- Coleman RV Brand
Note: The list is selected based on the surveys we conducted in RV camper groups and also the reviews/complaints collected from real RVers.
1. Hurricane by Thor Motor Coach
Major concerns in recent years:
- Poor construction quality and workmanship
- Cheap materials and parts
- Poorly installed and poorly fitted parts and appliances
- Peeling walls and surfaces
- Bad hydraulic lines
- Faulty brakes
Thor Motor Coach is probably the least well known in this list. More people in the camping world know about it in recent years, especially the Hurricane line, but for the worst reasons. There have been countless consistent complaints on various problems with the brand’s RVs, from major to minor, without any response and no sign of trying to fix these issues from the company.
Thor Industries was founded in 1980 via the acquisition of Airstream. Since then, the company has expanded by buying more RV brands, and debuted as Thor Motor Coach in 2010. So it is pretty young and green compared to other long-standing and seasoned manufacturers.
The Hurricane Class A motorhome line from Thor is a notorious example of how bad an RV can be, and even its affordable price tag cannot redeem anything. Buyers have reported many consistent problems. First and foremost, it’s easy to see that these motorhomes are built with extremely cheap and frail materials throughout that many customers described as “scrap”. They degrade very quickly, the weak structure is unreliable in extreme weather and bad road conditions, and the whole rig is highly prone to dents and dings everywhere.
Even brand new Hurricane motorhomes are reported to have used components, which cause people to suspect that the company gets salvage parts for almost nothing to fit into their products. To make the problem of cheap materials and parts worse, both the exterior and the interior are cursed with bad fitting and installation.
The company was founded 30 years ago, and ever since then, many recalls have been announced due to unlivable motorhomes. There are also so many flaws in functionality and safety, including faulty brakes, fire hazard, failing battery control center, improper awning installation and poor quality hydraulic lines used for the auto-stabilizer jacks being the most common issues.
Many buyers of the Hurricane line reported that their rig’s actual weight ratings were much lower than the marketed number by the company, causing them to overload the vehicle, which led to many complications and safety hazards. This alone shows that the company doesn’t have any respect for technical precision and doesn’t put the interests of their buyers first. The reputation of the Thor Hurricane is so downright horrible that it deserves the top spot of class A motorhome brands to avoid for your first purchase.
Now you might be like “What?!? Jayco?!?”. Indeed, no one saw it coming that Jayco would ever be one of the travel trailer brands to avoid. Even the beginner campers have heard of Jayco, since it is among the most prominent names when it comes to everything RVs-related.
The brand is an absolute household name in the RV industry, known for very smart, functional, livable and user-friendly motorhomes as well as RV equipment and accessories. Founded in 1968, Jayco has a proven track record as a trustworthy one-stop-shop for the novice and the veteran campers alike, and also gets raving reviews from experts and professionals. It was on the way to becoming one of the best RV makers of all times, with RVs built with the users’ best interest in mind.
Jayco offers Class A, Class C, fifth wheels and travel trailers, including the tiny teardrop trailers. Their product portfolio is not large compared to other major players in the industry, but still offers a good variety for different types of campers with varying sizes, levels of comfort and prices.
The brand offers a 2-year warranty, twice the length of the industry standard. Normally, this is a positive sign that shows the brand’s high quality standards, especially when their products have earned a pretty good reputation for being functional and having unique, attractive features. However, this is not true when it comes to what comes out of Jayco’s factory in recent years, that is the models from 2015-2016 to date.
Common concerns in recent years:
- Unique features but unreliable, plus troublesome and expensive to maintain.
- Water leakage
- Subpar plumbing
- Ventilation failures due to incorrect installation
- Poor installation and fitting of appliances and parts
- Missing fixtures
The issues with recent model years make the reviews that were once predominantly positive become mixed. While many campers swear by the functionality and reliability of their Jayco rigs, there has been an increasing number of complaints about shared problems in newly released RVs.
In general, the complaints can be summarized into: Do not be fooled by how beautiful these vehicles look at first glance. Once you live in one, you will constantly struggle just to keep everything in working order. In short, these are not made for comfortable camping.
At first glance, Jayco’s motorhomes really are well designed and aesthetically pleasing. If you only inspect the rig briefly at the dealership, you might be wowed by the array of unique, innovative and attractive features and facilities, which you might think would make life on the road enjoyable. However, these very unique features have proven to be the source of problems: they are not that functional and useful in operation, break quickly and are expensive to repair.
Common issues include shoddy toilet seats, water leakage, bad installation and fitting of appliances and parts, missing fixtures, subpar plumbing and ventilation failures due to improper installation. These repetitive failures mean hefty bills of.recurring maintenance expenses. While innovative design and features is a big plus, they would add no value and even become a big nuisance if the manufacturer cuts corners in production. Until Jayco listens to their customers and fixes this, it will be one of the RV brands to avoid today.
Founded in 1958, Winnebago, or fondly called by their loyal customers as Winnie, is one of the oldest and most prestigious RV manufacturers in the US with fans around the globe.
Whether you want to rent or buy, Winnebago was once the ideal one-stop shop with almost every class of RVs. The brand offers varying options for Class A, Class B, Class C, fifth wheels and travel trailers with smart space-saving features, all of which have proven to be reliable, durable and livable. There’s something for every camper, and the brand was also known for also some of the best after-sale service in the industry.
However, Winnie failed to protect its legacy, with increasing concerns regarding recent model years. Campers have reported lower quality and poor workmanship that resulted in both functional and aesthetical issues. The Winnebago Minnie Fifth Wheel Camper is a representative example with increasing complaints in recent years.
It seems that as demand increases, the brand has sacrificed quality control for quantity. The company has not done anything to resolve complaints, and has also failed to honor its warranty in some instances.
Common concerns in recent years:
- Poor construction quality and workmanship
- Unappealing interior and low quality materials, such as inclined walls and sub-par wall finishing
- Improper installation and fitting of appliances and parts
- Electrical failures
- Expensive recurring maintenance and repairs
- The company sometimes failed to honor its warranty
The majority of buyers have spotted the low quality of construction both inside and out, which means the whole rig will degrade and depreciate in value quickly over the years, and of course this means operational problems that would make living less enjoyable. You will have to deal with recurring expenses on maintenance and repairs just to maintain everything in functional order.
A common headache is electrical failures, including issues with the lighting system. In addition to the unreliable construction, the interior finishing and details are cheap and unappealing, coupling with improperly installed or fitted interior parts and appliances. Common issues include damaged walls, bent panels and loose parts that require frequent attention.
While all these might pale in comparison to the Thor’s Hurricane, they are frustrating enough if you’re looking to go on long trips in these rigs for many years to come. Especially when recent buyers are complaining about unresponsive after-sale service, you might want to invest your money elsewhere instead of a company that isn’t trying to satisfy their unhappy customers.
4. Fleetwood RV
Founded in 1950, Fleetwood is also a long-running brand with more than sixty years of expertise. The brand used to adhere to very strict production standards and inspection before letting their rigs leave the factory, and has been praised for their respectable craftsmanship and reliability. However, recent Fleetwood models have been reported with many faults and defects.
Common concerns in recent years:
- Poor construction quality and flimsy material
- Cheap materials and finishing for the interior: peeling walls, fake-leather upholstery
- Water leakage
- Doesn’t level when parked due to broken jack leveling system
- Many technical problems, like faulty battery charging
- Switches and control panels are hard to reach
Customers remarked that workmanship as a whole is not what it used to be. Compared to their competitors, Fleetwood’s RVs deteriorate very fast due to the poor construction quality and the use of flimsy materials inside and out. The interior is far from satisfying, with subpar finishes, peeling walls, cheap fabric fake-leather upholstery that degrades in no time with little use.
Other common complaints are about water leakage, and many reported that the black water tank in new models is prone to leaking. The vehicle is hard to level when parked due to the broken jack leveling system, switches and control panels are hard to reach, plus parts and components can malfunction without warning. These shortcomings means you will need to spend your precious time and money on fixing broken things.
Angry customers also reported various technical flaws, a major one of which is the battery refusing to recharge. This is a serious problem as you won’t be able to use electrical functions, and more importantly it can leave you stranded in the middle of nowhere. Rather stay at home than go camping with that kind of risk. And when you contact the company, the after-sale support often has no answer to your problem.
5. Coachmen RV
Founded in 1964 and now owned by Forest River, Inc, Coachmen is another RV manufacturer with a long-standing production line and proven track record. They specialize in fifth wheels and travel trailers, and have sold over 600,000 RV units to date.
While other manufacturers seem to lean toward either sleek, futuristic or innovative, impressive features and designs, Coachmen has a deep focus on simplicity, while still keeping functionality and user’s utmost comfort in mind. They were praised for being attentive to their customers’ feedback and really building their rigs around what the market really wants, resulting in home on wheels that are comfortable to live in.
However, in recent years, the brand has been bombarded with an enormous amount of complaints. Sadly, the overall production quality is not as good as it used to be, which results in numerous annoying issues that make Coachmen one of the RV brands to avoid.
Common concerns in recent years:
- Poor construction quality
- Cheap and flimsy materials and parts
- Water leakage
- Badly installed parts and appliances
- Electrical failures
- Missing valve on the freshwater drain
The most prominent problem is the overall poor construction quality and the use of flimsy materials and parts inside and out, which means short lifespan, quick depreciation and recurring repair expenses. The interior is reported to be made with very cheap and flimsy materials. Everything can fail unexpectedly or fall apart easily, with the most common complaints including broken lounge chairs, the fragile and fraying passenger seat upholstery, and flimsy drawers and slides that can only hold little weight before breaking.
Other common issues are badly installed parts and appliances, including the recent fridge upgrade that often comes with exposed wirings, and technical failures like broken electric levelers and fluctuating electricity levels. Users have found loose screws here and there, which is the reason why parts like the electrical insulation can fall off with the vibrations and impacts on the road.
On top of all that, the most consistent and serious problem is probably water leakage, and it’s everywhere: the sink, shower, and the vent. With so many major issues as well as minor headaches, it’s easy to see why Coachmen has quickly lost favourability to actually become one of the RV brands to avoid these days.
The most problematic models are the Coachmen Brookstone (which doesn’t have a valve on a freshwater drain), Coachmen Freedom Express, Coachmen Prism, and Coachmen Chaparral Fifth Wheel Camper. These are fifth wheels and travel trailers not to buy of this RV manufactures.
6. Forest River
This is another unexpected name among the RV brands to stay away from. Founded in 1996, Forest River (now owned by Berkshire Hathaway) has earned the reputation as the largest as well as one of the best American manufacturers of recreational vehicles. Their product portfolio covers almost all types of RVs, only except for Class B campervans: Class A, Class C, fifth wheels, travel trailers and also pop-up campers.
To further broaden their offerings, Forest River has acquired many small but excellent makers in the industry, including Coachmen, Dynamax, Flagstaff, Rockwood, Palomino and Sonoma. The brand offers a vast and diverse range of RVs that would suit every camper. Owners of Forest River homes on wheels swear by their product’s construction quality, functionality and reliability. One proof is the FROG, which stands for Forest River Owners’ Group. This is the brand’s own RV community of over 110,000 loyal owners and affiliate owners, which has been growing every year.
However, in recent years, owners of their rigs have reported various issues, which have caused the brand to lose their customer’s trust that they worked so hard to acquire. That said, to be fair, the issues with the more recent Forest River lineups are not that many or horrendous as the other RV brands to avoid in this list. Just make sure that if you’re including Forest River in your consideration when buying a recently introduced model year, be aware that the quality standard is not what it used to be, and make sure you take your time to browse the reviews to know what to expect.
Common concerns in recent years:
- Water leakage
- Sinking floors
- Unresponsive customer services
The major problems with recent Forest River models are consistently water leakages and sinking floors making it one of the worst travel trailer & 5th wheel brands to avoid for new campers. While these are not as serious as, say, Thor’s Hurricane, they can be a constant headache if you travel year round. Surely, if you camp in your rig present full-time, you wouldn’t want to have to deal with such a nuisance. In the case you want to contact customer service to file your complaints, the team at Forest River has been reported to be unresponsive and not eager to help.
7. Gulf Stream Coach
Common concerns in recent years:
- Unappealing interior and cheap materials used throughout
- Water leakage and as a result, rust
- Unreliable and failing appliances
- Improperly installed parts and fixtures
Founded in 1983, Gulf Stream Coach is to date a family-owned and family-run business. Their offerings of motorhomes, travel trailers and fifth wheel toy haulers encompasses 22 brands with over 140 different models. They used to be a prestigious manufacturer that prioritized craftsmanship and functional design.
However, the company has started to disappoint many customers when their products manufactured in recent years are found with many issues. These consistent problems suggest that there’s an overall deterioration to its once high production standard and strict quality control.
The most prominent problem that most buyers noticed at once are the subpar, unappealing quality and design of the interior that uses cheap, easily damageable materials and finishes. Other common complaints are about failing appliances such as failing refrigerators and heaters, as well bad installation and fitting of parts and fixtures.
Above are serious headaches enough, especially if you often go on long trips or off the beaten path, and a real nightmare if you travel full-time. To make it worse, the most dreadful problem of all might be the longstanding water leakage, which in turn results in other issues, like rusting and the forming of mold or mildew.
The leakage problem is reported to have originated from a flaw in design and production, while the frail and faulty interior suggests poor workmanship and aggressive cost cutting. With such negligence, it’s clear that Gulf Stream Coach’s top priority is not their customer’s satisfaction, but the bottom line profit (though with their new reputation as one of the RV brands to avoid as of now, they will not be making profit in the near future).
Founded in 1996, Keystone is a latecomer in the arena for fifth wheel and travel trailer categories. Although they started their journey rather late, they quickly earned their place as one of the leaders in the market for towable RVs in the US and Canada.
Keystone used to be known for innovative designs. Their products showed great attention to details, as evidenced by the smart space-saving designs and features, and a clear dedication to functionality, comfort and fuel-efficiency.
Another aspect that sets them apart is reliability and durability. Their slogan is “Building adventures for the long haul”, and their fifth wheels and trailers all received raving reviews for being tough-as-nail. Keystone recreational vehicles were built to last and would make a great long-term investment for those who are seeking to camp full-time or all year round.
However, quality control seems to have been neglected in recent years. That said, although there are indeed more problems with the offerings in recent years, it’s not exactly horrendous, especially compared to some in this list. Many buyers still claim that they can cope with or fix these problems without too much difficulty, and find their Keystone rig reasonably livable for its other upsides, including good gas mileage, spacious interior and smart space-saving functions.
So spend some time in buyers forums to judge whether you can withstand the risk below, given that you have your eyes on a certain Keystone model that is at the right price range and offers what you need. Just to give you a heads up, the most problematic model that you should be wary of is the Keystone Cougar.
Common concerns in recent years:
- Furniture and interior parts are made from cheap materials and finishings
- Technical and functional issues
- Unresponsive after-sale support
The most commonly heard complaint is about the unappealing and low-quality furniture and interior finishing. Less major problems include the control board that is hard to use, or loose cabinet doors that might fall off.
In addition, Keystone is not responsive to these rising complaints. Although not a deal breaker, the website is also not user-friendly and is a pain to navigate.
Now owned by Dutchmen Manufacturing, Coleman was first known for their excellent pop-up campers. The brand manufactured its first RV in 1967 and has quite a long history, despite not being a renowned name among the camping enthusiasts.
Coleman used to make some decent travel trailers and pop-up campers at a very affordable price, thus was favoured by the budget campers as well as the first time campers looking to own something basic to try out the RV life.
Coleman RVs come with a three-year warranty, the longest in the industry while their competitors typically offer one-year, and very few like Camco offer two-year. This normally would indicate a high level of workmanship and durability. However, these days, the quality of their fleet has deteriorated so much that even the cheap price cannot justify such a degree of negligence.
Common concerns in recent years:
- Poor construction quality
- Flimsy furniture
- Failing appliances
- Various technical issues
Many buyers have opted for a Coleman rig for the affordable price, only to feel cheated in the very first one or two weeks living in it. Both the structural construction and the interior use low quality, flimsy materials, and everything was poorly assembled, so do not expect these rigs to be reliable and durable. Many owners claim that their rig is absolute scrap after the first year, and now inhabitable.
The furniture is low quality and so flimsy that owners just want to throw them out after less than a year. Parts and appliances are reported to fail without warning every now and then, including the shower that suddenly starts spewing water, the bunk windows and the bedroom door are known to blow out, the awning that is known to lock up, the failing freezer, heater and air conditioning unit, the dead external lights, and the broken slide trim, just to name a few.
With so many structural, functional and technical issues, Coleman is no doubt rightfully one of the poor quality RV manufacturers recent years. An RV is something that you should expect to function well for many decades to come, so do not sacrifice quality and comfort for price.
Travel Trailer Buyer’s Guide: What To Consider
Rent First Before You Buy
As you can see, there is still a lot of risk even if you buy from a major manufacturer. No matter how thoroughly you go through the reviews, the risk is still high too. So the most valuable advice from us and from seasoned campers is you should shortlist your most favoured models and take turns to rent them. This is the best way to really experience for yourself how well made and livable a particular model is.
Before, the only option was to go to a rental company. Nowadays, you have more options at a more affordable price range from peer-to-peer rental platforms. In addition to lower rental costs, you get free insurance and good support services, plus advanced search filters to find your ideal RV without a lot of fuss.
You should rent an RV that is less than 10 years old, because even if you choose to buy used, you should get something that’s not older than that, though renting 10-year-plus RVs only cost around half or a bit more than that compared to under-10-year ones.
Typically, the average cost for renting an RV of less than 10 years old on peer-to-peer rental platforms is as follows:
- Class A: $350-$450/night
- Class C: $225-$400/night
- Class B: $200-$350/night
- Fifth Wheel: $150-$300/night
- Travel Trailer: $125-$200/night
Buying New vs Buying Used
After you’ve decided on the model, then there’s the consideration of buying new or buying used. Both have distinct pros and cons, so it’s a matter of what suits your budget and preferences.
Buying new would generally be less risky because you would have to spend less time for inspection and paperwork, or shopping around for the youngest used rig around at the best price (not a fun process). It’s brand new off the assembly line, so you won’t have to worry about whether the rig is plagued with any hidden damages or wear and tear.
When you buy new, you can choose different custom options to perfect your dream motorhome too, including interior color choice or room layout, or upgrade packages for, say, off-road capabilities. When you buy new, it’s easy to customize the rig to best suit your camping needs. Plus, full manufacturer warranty starts right after your purchase.
As for the downsides, the model you like might be too expensive that you cannot afford to buy new. In addition, you will have to pay a lot for insurance premiums.
If your budget can only afford a used RV, you would want to buy a relatively young rig with service records to prove that it has been well maintained. This is to minimize the risk of you having to spend a lot of time and money on maintenance and repairs in the future, and to better make sure the rig would be in a functional condition if you decide to sell it later on. Do keep in mind that an RV is like a luxury good that depreciates very fast. An RV loses at least 25% of its value the very moment you make the purchase and drive off from the dealership.
The most obvious advantage of buying used is saving money. Plus, while most buyers would make little changes to a brand new RV so as not to ruin its pristine state, you’d be more comfortable and ready to rebuild, renovate or redecorate the rig to your liking. Also, buying used would be the logical approach if the model that you like is no longer in production or has been out of stock for very long. In addition, the insurance you’d have to pay for a used rig would be much cheaper.
As for the downside, the major hurdle with buying used is the risk is high, as you cannot know for sure how depreciated the RV is in value. Although anyone buying used would have to do their homework and carefully inspect the RV inside and out, it should be noted that it’s not always straightforward to check how sound it is, as there might be many hidden defects and faults that you have to live in the rig for a while to find out.
In case the trailer is actually in worse shape than what you expected, you would need to invest more on repair and maintenance or upgrades, with or without insurance deductibles. Repairing a flimsy RV might end up costing you more than the saving you got when buying used. Lastly, most manufacturer’s warranty is for one year only, only a few like Camco offer 2 years and Coleman offers 3 years, so when you buy used, the warranty often has expired.
Related: What Is Good Mileage for a Used RV?
Size and Drivability
When buying an RV, you shouldn’t just pay attention to what amenities you get. Sometimes you have to compromise the level of comfort to get a rig that you would be able to confidently maneuver and handle, especially if you like to travel off the beaten path to hard-to-get places. It is not at all easy and would require some practice to handle a bulky home on wheels around, especially on hilly, mountain roads.
Therefore, an important consideration when buying or renting is size, which should be based on your driving skills and logistic choices and not solely on your demand for space or comfort. If you can live with a smaller space to have a more fuss-free driving experience on long trips, you should opt for rigs that are smaller than 21 foot. The more compact an RV is, the better fuel efficiency too.
Another factor that also affects drivability is whether you get a motorhome (or motorized RV) versus a towable RV. That’s the difference between driving in the rig itself or towing it behind your truck. Each has distinct advantages and disadvantages.
Motorhomes vs Towable RVs: If you get a motorhome or motorized RV, which include Class A, Class B and Class C, you will be driving inside the RV itself. So these “motorhomes” are constructed on a specially-designed motor vehicle chassis and have engines, thus the name (homes on wheels with motor).
The first advantage is easier handling, since you’re only handling one single unit instead of two. This means less stress when turning and maneuvering tight corners or hilly roads compared to towing a rig behind your pickup. The second perk is you won’t have to deal with the hassle of hitching and unhitching when arriving at the campground.
On the downside, you might still need to tow a compact passenger car behind your motorhome if you need to go shopping, run other errands or to explore around.
With towable RVs, you have another unit in tow, thus handling would be tricky, especially when turning and on hilly roads. You’ll need to have some practice at maneuvering as well as hitching and unhitching. On the upside, you can unhitch your tow vehicle from the rig at camp to go on excursions or go grocery shopping.
Weight Ratings and Towability
In case you’re opting for a towable RV, you would need to pay careful attention to the weight ratings of your rig, and check whether your tow vehicle can safely pull that much weight. Do note that the same RV model can have differing sizes of cargo load and optional features, so the gross weights might differ depending on the options and packages you choose.
There are numerous weight ratings, but the most practical one that you must know is gross vehicle weight. GVW is the weight of your towable RV when it’s fully loaded with fuel, water, passengers and cargo. Your tow vehicle also has its own GVW.
To accurately determine the actual gross weight of your RV, the best way is to fully fill all the fuel and water tanks, load the vehicle with everything you plan to take to the trip, including appliances, equipment, gears, food and supplies, then go to a truck stop and put it on the truck scale.
To find your tow vehicle’s towing capacity, you will need its curb weight, which is the weight of the empty vehicle, and Gross Combined Vehicle Weight Rating (GCVWR). The GCVWR equals the GVW of your tow vehicle plus the GVW of your trailer or fifth wheel when both are fully loaded with fuel, water, cargo and passenger. Subtract your truck’s curb weight from its GCVWR, you’ll get the maximum weight that your truck can safely tow behind when it’s already loaded itself.
Quality of Construction and Interior/Furniture
To know how durable the RV is, it’s best that you spend some time living in it to experience and inspect everything: the floors, the walls, the finishes, the furniture, fixtures and other interior parts. That said, before you see the RV with your own eyes, you can still determine the quality of construction and the interior to some extent by checking out what materials make up the major structures and parts of the RV, that is the frame/chassis, the roof, the floor, the ceilings, and doors and windows.
- Frame: All recreational vehicles are commonly made with one of the three materials: wood, steel or aluminum. Wooden frame was the most dated, and has been losing favourability to steel and aluminum in terms of durability. Of the three, aluminum is the best choice due to superior durability and lightweight, on top of being rust-free and impervious to termites. Its lightweightness also means better fuel efficiency.
- Roofs: RV roofs are typically made from rubber, fiberglass or aluminum. Again, aluminum is by far the most durable and cheapest to maintain, and preferably made of one long sheet that overlaps the front and rear panels of your rig for stability and protection. Meanwhile, rubber deteriorates quickly and thus requires frequent, costly maintenance, and fiberglass is much better but not as durable as aluminum.
- Floorings: The best floors should be made from designer vinyl: durable, easy to clean, warm, versatile, lightweight and relatively warm and doesn’t feel rock hard to the touch, which is very comfortable especially in cooler months. Other common materials are slate and ceramic, but they are cold to the touch, much heavier and can crack easily from physical beatings if you often travel on rough road conditions. That said, they look great, solid and satisfying, and are easy to clean. They are durable, but it’s just that they are less durable than vinyl if we’re talking about an RV that will have to withstand a lot of vibrations on the road.
- Ceilings: Ceilings of recreational vehicles are either covered in vinyl or fabric. Vinyl looks sleeker, is resistant to stains and much easier to clean. The only downside is that minor leaks will be hard to detect and most often go unnoticed until the leak becomes more serious.
- Windows: The types of RV windows that offer the most protection from extreme weather and also look great are thermal windows and glossy aluminum mini blinds, and you’d want an awnings over each window as well to safeguard against the sun and the rain.
Amenities and Comfort: Know the Differences Between Each Class of RV
Choosing the right class of RV is crucial, since each class offers different amounts of space and storage, different levels of comfort and features, and has a different price range. You need to choose depending on how many companions you travel with, whether you often boondock or park at campgrounds with access to electrical outlets, and determine the amenities that you cannot live without.
Motorhomes: Class A
A Class A is an all-in-one RV that offers the most space, the highest level of comfort and privacy. This class is perfect for families and large groups, especially with kids or the elderly, as a Class A is luxurious and has everything you’d need for comfortable living on the road. Motorhomes of this class typically feature one or two separate bedrooms plus a convertible sofa bed for extra sleeping space, a fully-equipped kitchen with large counter space, a lounge and dining area and a full bathroom with shower.
The interior is typically spacious, and you get ample storage space as well. In case you want to increase living space, you can use the slide-out, which is a common feature with this class.
Related: Best Class A Diesel Motorhomes
Motorhomes: Class B
Class B is right after Class A, but regarding space and level of comfort, it should be after Class C. Unlike the huge Class A, Class B are actually compact vans, but are categorized as motorhomes due to the fact that you’ll be driving in the van itself.
A Class B is a full size van, or a pop-top, which is an extended van with a raised roof for extra head room. That said, despite their small sizes, Class Bs also come in varying sizes and height, and you can find models with extra high roofs that you can stand up straight inside, although they are not the pop-top type.
Being lightweight and compact, thus easy to drive around, and often without a bathroom and space for washing and drying clothes, Class B vans are perfect for the lone travellers or couples who often go on short or spontaneous trips. They are made for those outdoorsy travellers who do not need a lot of space and would spend most of their time exploring outdoors.
Although small, a typical Class B can still provide for basic amenities, and typically feature basic kitchen appliances and a dining area that can be converted into a small bed for one to two people. The larger sized vans might even feature a toilet, but this is rare. Nowadays, you can find more models with smart space-saving solutions, such as a kitchen and/or dining unit which can be pulled out from the back door to make for outdoor cooking and dining space.
Motorhomes: Class C
A Class C is more spacious than a Class B, but smaller and less well-equipped than a Class A. Thus they are perfect for couples who need more space and privacy than a Class B plus a bathroom, or small families who want a high level of comfort but would like a smaller rig that’s easier to drive than a Class A.
A Class C typically features a dinette/bed combo, a kitchen, and a bathroom. A Class C is the easiest to drive, only after Class B vans. With a class C, you are basically driving a pickup truck with something attached on top of it. It’s built on a truck chassis with an extra cab over the driver’s compartment to house the bed.
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Towable RVs: Fifth wheels
A towable 5th wheel is categorized as being on the fancy side, and offers the same level of space, privacy and comfort as a Class A. Due to their sizes, you would need at least a pickup truck to tow a fifth wheel.
A fifth wheel features the same amenities as a Class A, and you get a lot of living space as well as storage. The only downside is tricky handling, since they are about as large as a Class A, but are harder to drive. You’re not driving in a single vehicle but driving two units attached by a hitch, which means turning and maneuvering tight corners or hilly roads would be challenging. If it’s your first time buying or renting a fifth wheel, some driving and parking practice before the actual trip is a must.
An advantage over a Class A though, is you have your towing vehicle available for excursions and running errands.
Towable RVs: Travel trailers
While a standard size travel trailer requires at least a pickup truck to tow, you might not need to upgrade your towing vehicle with the teardrop trailers, the smallest and lightest camping options of all. The largest sizes of this class are still smaller than the average fifth wheel or Class A motorhome, and thus doesn’t offer the same luxurious amenities.
This class offers a wide range of size and level of comfort, from the tiny 10 feet trailers all the way up to 40 feet long trailers. For a mid-size trailer of 25 to 35 feet long, you typically get a bedroom, a dinette/bed combo for extra sleeping space, a kitchen, a bathroom and maybe a lounge.
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Last Updated on April 15, 2021