We drive a 24’ Itasca Navion motorhome. We were visiting friends who drive a 40’ plus mucho dollars home on wheels (complete with washing machine and 4 slideouts). As we walked from their RV to our modest dwelling, our friend observed that, “It is interesting to see that there is something for everyone in the RV world.” Just looking through the vehicles owned by the people who do reviews on RVParking.com, you can see how true this is. So how do people decide what is best for them? And, more importantly, how often do they change their mind?
We chose our Navion because husband wanted something on the Mercedes Benz diesel Sprinter chassis and wife wanted something that was attractive (no, beautiful) and big enough to spend some time in. Some of the Sprinter-based units gave her a severe case of ‘I can’t stay in here another minuteitis’.
We have amazingly both been happy with our choice for more than 5 years now and can’t imagine anything bigger or smaller. But we are well aware of the dreaded two-foot-itis disease. That’s the one where you move into something two feet bigger and after a year (more or less) you decide that you need something just a littler longer. We have friends who changed RV’s once a year each of five years they were full-timing. I can see that full-timing puts different constraints on coach selection, particularly if you are going to be in places where you are going to be inside a lot. But once a year? That really is a bit much.
So how do you decide? When we were contemplating our purchase, another friend recommended, “Buy an old, cheap, used one and see how you like it.” Well, I was convinced that that was the sure way to be sure that I didn’t like it. Right, you buy one that comes with all sorts of baggage, spend a lot of time and money repairing it on the road, and you’re going to love RVing? Don’t think so.
It is hard to figure out what is going to make you happy one, two, three years down the road. But here is my prescription for a better chance at it. First, decide how you want to use the RV. Is it going to be a travel vehicle or is it going to be a mobile cottage that spends most of its life parked someplace? If the former, then size and mileage should be a significant part of your selection process. If the latter, then not so much.
Second, how do you and whoever you are going to travel with (and very few travel alone), including pets, get along? If you need a space to watch your own TV selections while person B watches his, if you just need space, then larger is better. If you have large dogs (and it’s usually dogs that are large, not cats), then larger is better. Although I have to admit that I am periodically amazed at the number and size of pets that people carry in their RVs.
Third, how does your mind (and that of any other parties involved) function when it comes to expenses? Is it the upfront cost or the operating and repair costs that make the biggest impression on our psyche. With us, husband knew that if he was getting 5 miles to the gallon, we’d never go anywhere. (He thinks that’s a little harsh, but he does agree that we wouldn’t drive into town for a burger without calculating the cost.) Better to pay more up front. Other people make different calculations. They would rather pay less upfront and take what comes later. RV buyer, know thyself. Just as an aside, we have put 65,000 miles on our RV so far and husband enjoys calculating how much we have save at 18 mpg versus 8 mpg.
Last, evaluate dependability as much as humanly possible. For example, there is a chat group for Navions that has over 3,000 members and, in addition to being very chatty, you can find out what kind of problems people with that vehicle have run into and, best of all, how to deal with it. So we bought ours with quite a complete set of information. Visit factories to see how the RVs are constructed. Talk to people in parks and see how happy they are with what they had or have. Search the internet for discussion groups or complaint groups. In other words, do due diligence.
And once you have made your decision, hopefully it will fit you and your lifestyle to a T. And you can enjoy looking at the decisions everyone else made and realize that there really is something for everyone.