Join Date: Jan 2015
Selecting my RV for Full-Timing
After 32 years of part-time RV travel, I’m finally committing to full-time life in an RV. Well, I’m committing to trying it for two years. Then, I’ll reevaluate. Perhaps I’ll upgrade. Perhaps I’ll buy an S&B (sticks and bricks house). After two years, I should have a pretty good idea of what to do next.
I thought that some of the members might like to see my thought process.
SELECTING AN RV
I’ve love Class B (van conversion) camping. My late wife and I visited all of the continental United States in our VW Vanagon camper. We visited all 48 again in our Roadtrek camper. A Class B goes anywhere and is easy to park. But, to go the grocery store, you have to break camp and, in the case of state parks, you risk not finding a site when you return. Also, for full-time living, it has very limited space.
Class C campers have the same problem with breaking camp and have the added problem that they don’t fit in standard parking spaces.
Truck campers are really crowded. And, to get to the grocery store, you either have to break camp or dismount the camper, either of which gets tiring fast.
Pop-up campers are just a small step above tenting. I’ve been tenting in the rain, and even in the snow, far too many times in my life.
Travel trailers are great for family vacations but they don’t have a lot of storage space and can be troublesome to tow.
Many full-timers have a Class A and love it. With a Class A RV, you really need a “toad” (car towed behind). Without a toad, you’ll struggle to park at grocery stores and, again, you’d have to break camp just to go to the store. With a toad, you can’t back up more than 5 feet without disconnecting. For me, personally, I can’t relax when I can see the steering wheel. I can’t pretend I’m home when the driving compartment is right next to me. Plus, Class A RVs have the added problem of finding a place to sleep when you’re getting repair work done.
So, for me, a fifth wheel is the clear favorite. My son (age 29) says he’s been hearing me talk about going full-timing in a fifth wheel ever since he was five.
For decades, I’ve been attending RV shows and talking to owners. I’ve developed an extensive list of personal preferences. For example, I like to have lots of windows, in the rear and along both sides. As a result, I’m more comfortable in the standard floorplan (front bedroom, center kitchen, rear living room).
SELECTING A TOW VEHICLE
The most basic choice for the tow vehicle is the weight class. One common way to categorize them is ½ ton (F150, RAM 1500, and GMC 1500), ¾ ton (F250, RAM 2500, and GMC 2500), 1 ton (F350, RAM 3500, GMC 3500), and higher.
I would much prefer to have a ½ ton truck. But, to be safe, the fifth wheel would have to be an “ultra-lites” with no sliders or only one slider. I looked at many of the ultra-lites but didn’t like any of them. In my opinion, they’re either too flimsy for full-time use or they feel too cramped or both.
I looked at many ¾ ton and 1 ton trucks. They didn’t seem all that different to me. They have similar prices, similar handling, and similar options. In fact, except for the drive train and suspension, they typically use the exact same parts. To me, the only important difference is whether or not they are rated high enough to tow the 5er that I eventually pick.
While it’s possible to get a truck that’s above the 1 ton class, it’s not really a requirement based on the 5ers that I’ve liked. And, they generally cost more and are harder to park.
Another important choice is gasoline vs diesel. Again, this is somewhat of a personal decision. I found it curious that diesels often have a lower tow rating. This is due to the fact that the suspensions are identical but diesel engines weigh significantly more than gas engines. I decided to go with a diesel engine because they have a reputation of remaining in service longer and depreciating more slowly. (There must be a reason why every 18-wheeler uses diesel.)
I’ve seen too many rigs stuck in the sand, mud or snow. So, I’m convinced to go with a 4x4.
So, for me the decision comes down to either a 3/4 ton or a 1 ton diesel 4x4 from one of the three manufacturers (Ford, Dodge, or GMC).
NEW OR USED
The next decision is whether to buy new or used vehicles.
I was quite surprised that I had a very hard time finding used diesel trucks. It seems that almost all of these are purchased by corporations that run them into the ground. Nearly every used truck I could find was more than 10 years old and had over 100,000 miles. That meant that my truck would have to be new.
If I bought both a new truck and a new 5er, I’d be seeing some massive depreciation. Recall that I’m initially only committing to two years of full-time use. In these two years, I’m probably looking at a loss of ¼ of my investment.
So, I decided to buy a new truck and a used fifth wheel.
THE FINAL SELECTION
Armed with these detailed requirements, I took my checkbook out and visited everybody within driving distance.
For the fifth wheel, I would have liked something under 35’ so that it would be accepted at National Parks. Even better would be under 30’ so that many state parks might allow it. Unfortunately, I wasn’t able to find any at any of the dealers in Rhode Island, Massachusetts or Connecticut, except for the ultra-lites that I’d already rejected or new units that I’d also ruled out. So. I bought a 38’ 2010 Dutchmen Grand Junction 340RL. I plan on using it for a couple of years and the decided whether to keep it or trade it in for something different.
For the truck, I liked the Cummins diesel that’s only available in the Dodge RAM. Since the truck will easily outlast my fifth wheel, it doesn’t make sense to base the size of the truck on the size of this particular 5er. If I stay with full-timing, I’ll need replace the 5er long before I’ll need to replace the truck. The safest option is to go with the 3500 with a hitch rated for the maximum capacity of the 3500, not the actual rating of the 5er that I purchased. I could get a slightly better deal with leftovers from last year’s model. But, there were none left in New England. The closest truck was in New Jersey. So, I grabbed it! It’s a 2014 Dodge 3500 Diesel 4x4.
I’m in the process of selling my condo. In a month I’ll hit the road with my 3500 and my Dutchmen. Hope to see you on the road!
RVing since 1983. Now full-timing.
5er: 2010 Dutchmen Grand Junction 340RL
PV: 2014 Dodge 3500 Diesel 4x4