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With travel by planes and trains on hold for many, RVs are having a resurgence. And it’s not just #vanlifers on Instagram: in June, The Strategist reported that dealers had seen a 170% increase in sales of recreational vehicles compared to the previous year.
If you’re thinking about going remote and living in an RV (or simply using one for camping or road trips), you’ll want to learn about the many options—from teardrop trailers to full-on bus-sized motor homes.
Where to Travel in an RV Right Now
First things first. There are three types of motorized RVs plus a whole category of towables:
- Class A: The largest of the motorhomes, Class A vehicles resemble commercial buses. They generally have all the amenities of your actual home, sleep up to eight people and are 21–45 feet long.
- Class B: These are your camper or conversion vans, the smallest type of RV. They come with folding beds and basic amenities, sleep up to four people and are 17–19 feet long.
- Class C: These midrange RVs are just smaller versions of Class As. They also come with most amenities, sleep up to eight, and are 20–31 feet long.
- Towables: This category includes RV folding trailers, RV travel trailers, and fifth-wheel trailers (which mount in the bed of a pickup truck). Obviously, you’ll need a vehicle capable of towing these trailers. Other options here include smaller teardrop and pop-up trailers for shorter weekend trips.
How much space do you need?
An important consideration for your RV purchase is how many people you’ll need to sleep. If it’s just you and a partner, you may enjoy the comfort of a Class A, but you may not need it. If you’re planning to bring along your kids, your friends, and their kids, that extra space may be essential.
Space considerations also include room to cook, work, and hang out. You’ll get a lot of that in bigger vehicles, not so much in a fifth-wheel or pop-up trailer. Living in your RV full-time is another reason to splurge on more space.
Where are you going to go?
Not all RVs are good for all places. Vehicle length restrictions in some national parks, on state roads, and over mountain passes may prevent you from driving through. Going-to-the-Sun Road in Glacier National Park, for example, does not allow vehicles (or truck-trailer combos) longer than 21 feet. You may also encounter clearance restrictions or parking problems in some areas. This shouldn’t keep you from buying the size you need, but if you’re on the fence, a smaller RV may give you more options.
What do you need to do on the road?
Some RVs will be better set up for working remotely with built-in desks and lots of outlets, for example. Others have luxe kitchens for entertaining or serious home cooks. An Airstream or Sprinter van has aesthetic appeal. You’ll also want to consider whether you’ll have access to external hookups for water, electricity, and sewage, or if you’ll need to be self-contained.
Are you a confident driver?
If you aren’t so sure about a 20–40 ft.-long bus or a trailer swinging around behind your vehicle, a Class B van may be for you. Consider whether you’ll be driving through busy cities, whether you’ll need to park in crowded places, and how often you’ll take your RV out around town.
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Do you have a towing vehicle?
If you drive a sedan, towables are generally out (with a few exceptions: the tiny Polydrop will work with almost any passenger vehicle). Make sure your SUV or truck can handle the size of trailer you’re considering. And if you want a fifth-wheel trailer, you’ll need a pickup truck.
How much do you want to spend?
This is one of the most important questions. For towables, you’re looking at the cost of a new car, though some may run you more than $100K. Motorhomes may be around $50-$80K in Class B, and go up to $200-$300K for the most luxurious Class A. Of course, costs vary widely depending on whether you buy new or used.
You don’t have to make this decision without a few test drives. RVShare and Outdoorsy offer peer-to-peer RV, camper van, and trailer rentals—Airbnbs on wheels. There are also regional vacation rental companies for RVs and vans, like Trail Mix RV along the West Coast and Moterra in the Mountain West.