3 Most Important Things...
My wife and I are reaching our 60s (well, actually one of us has reached our 60s some years ago, but I won't say which one!) and we have been camping in the smallest pop-up trailer (8.5 foot box) that Fleetwood makes for many years. We generally spend a month out at a time, and it has begun to wear on us in a tiny trailer like that. We are thinking seriously, as life changes for us, of moving up to a travel trailer. But the thought of making a purchase like this terrifies me since I don't even know how to begin to evaluate travel trailers (other than the obvious--a floor plan we love). So I thought I might turn to the pros and ask: would you give us a list of the 3 most important issues in buying a TT? Since we have pulled a popup for many years we know the general issues--weight of trailer for tow vehicle, etc. But what about issues which are specific to TTs, and which you would most recommend to a newby? Things a newby might never think of until too late when switching from a popup lifestyle to a TT? We have heard that the iRV2 community is one of the gentlest and most gracious RV communities and so thank you for being gentle and yet telling me the truths I need to know!
Being that you are experienced campers, I can't think of 3 things you would'nt know about. Most important is what your TV can handle without an expensive upgrade. You could probably handle one of the "egg" trailers like Scamp or Casita. They also have a full bath, which your pop-up may or may not have. A full bath IN the trailer is a plus at our age. Good luck.
Unless you plan to buy a new tow vehicle, yours is the determining factor in buying a travel trailer. You should stay within your vehicles towing recommendations and load ratings set by the manufacturer. Never use the UVW or dry weight of a trailer when matching one to your tow vehicle. Use the trailer GVW rating if you desire a pleasurable driving experience. Ken Lenger has designed an Excel spreadsheet for properly matching a tow vehicle and trailer: https://www.klenger.net/misc/
scroll down to "HH towing-weights.xls" and download the spreadsheet if you have Excel on your computer.
First off, let me welcome you to iRV2. You are correct, we ARE the friendliest rv site on the web. We're glad to have you here & we'll help you all we can.
If you're comfortable with knowing how to match your tow vehicle to your TT & have already put floorplans 2nd on your short list, may I offer these to consider:
New or used? New is nice because no one has been in it before, everything is bright & shiny (although don't get distracted by the bling...look for quality, not glitz when shopping) & you don't have to wonder how well it was maintained. Plus, in this economy, I'm sure there are brand new 08's & 09's (& even some 07's) still on dealer's lots that they'd like to move. However, you take a BIG hit with depreciation as soon as you haul it off the lot. You can find some very nice, gently used late model used TT's out there that the prior owner took the depreciation hit on. It'll save you a bunch of money. Just be sure to check it over thoroughly.
Hybrid or completely enclosed? With a hybrid (rigid body with fold out ends) you can get larger while still staying lightweight. However, if you are looking for less hassle with set up/tear down (i.e. not having to fold ends in to travel or have to fold out for drying if put away wet from rain), then stay with a TT that's fully enclosed.
Get the biggest hot water heater your TT can come with. Most come with a 6gal standard, but if a 10gal (or even larger) is offered as an option, get it. In this case, bigger IS better.
Well, I could go on, but you asked for 3. These'll give you more to consider & I'm sure others will chime in with their 3 choices.
Good luck w/your search & let us know what you decide. Also, if you have further questions, just ask.
As discussed, you need to determine what your vehicle can tow or plan to upgrade if necessary. For a small hard sided trailer, I like the Casita or the Scamp. If you want to really jump in price, book at the smaller Air Streams.
You need to make sure that it has the storage space you expect to store your clothes, kitchen supplies, lawn chairs, etc.
A hard side trailer will feel a lot more enclosed than the pop up you are familiar with.
And welcome to iRV2.
Since you have towed a pop-up, I'll assume you have an idea on how much trailer your tow vehicle can handle safely, not what the saleman says you can handle.
So my 3 would be:
#1..."Fit and Finish" You get what you pay for....I look at how the cabinet doors are made. How the drawers slide in and out. Are the trim pieces nice a neat and attached securely. Is the puddy or glue used around some areas neatly applied. You wouldn't know how many times I have seen trim pieces falling off while looking at trailers. Inside the storage bays are the supports nice and neat. Are the counter tops formica or where I have seen these plastic ones that look cheap to me. With the hybrid we bought, we had looked at about 5-6 other brands and felt the Aerolite's were a $1,000 or two more, but were made much better. By the end of this season our 05' hybrid will have had about 250 nights in her, and I'm 100% happy......
#2...."Counter space" along with the amount of "cabinet space". You have to visualize you might use it such as, having a coffee maker, toaster, dishes, side dishes. You want plenty of room (counter space) for preparing dinner. Our 24' hybrid has 26 different cabinet doors or drawers plus 91" of total counter space not counting the sink or stove. Plus it has another 19" wide lower counter we use for the TV. This one was a biggy for my wife. We looked at some that had 6" total of counter space. This would have been a deal breaker for her. My #1 was the "Fit & Finish" and construction quality. I'll pay for quality every time :D
#3 Lori said larger hot water tank. Most brands now have as an option of a gas / electric DSI hot water tank. We just flip the switch to electric and we have hot water in about 40 minutes. 95% of the time we run it on electric rather than running it on our propane. Another one: fresh water tank capacity. I have seen TT's as small as 25 gallons. 30 or 36 seems to be average. Ours is 46 gallons which is great for a 24' hybrid.
#4 I want to sneak another one in here. Floorplans with a slideout really open up the aisleway. Ours has a small couch slide, but it really opens it up. It helps that the Aerolite's are 8' (96") wide to start with. Most TT's are either 7-1/2' or 8' wide. There are few smaller ones that are 7' wide.
You guys DO rock! Thank you for the extremely thoughtful answers!
We know a bit about towing and camping in general, having towed a pop-up all over the country for many years. But there is lots to learn about travel trailers! Thanks...and if you think of other things, please chime in!
Well..... I drive a 2005 Damon Intruder 377W.. What sold us on this floor plan
My house has a single bath.. .. The motor home is a "Bath and a half" model.
I'm not kidding, that was the decision point. 2 holes, no waiting.
Well honestly, we moved from a tent trailer that was an 6x8 box and anything we saw that was larger was a palace. Never mind that the bathroom was in back and living area in front. The person in the galley couldn't work without many, many disruptions. Of course we had 3 kids that further complicated that problem. I would say know what your tow vehicle can safely tow and then first and foremost look at the floor plan you can live with. Jayco makes great trailers at the right price point and they are the gold standard in customer service. I have owned 2 Jayco trailers but that's simply my experience.
My Wife and I found a great Titanium we thought was fantastic. We spent about 2 hours inside walking around. We found after spending some time there an unworkable floor plan design not originally obvious. If you find something you like spend some time just moving around inside it. Climb into the shower and out while the wife tries to walk by, stuff like that. You'll soon see your comforts and pet peeves. On our current trailer we wanted a stand alone bath not one connected to the bedroom. We also wanted an outdoor shower and a center island kitchen. We found a used trailer we just loved and bought it. We also spent about 2 hours inside just carefully looking at everything. It paid off. We found a number of things broken or damaged and wrote down a punch list we wanted fixed before taking possession. Also ask to tow the trailer with your tow rig before completing the sale. Look at lots of trailers. Not just 4 or 5 but 30 or 40. Find what you like and what you don't. Do not buy a trailer that has something you could live with even though it bugs you. If it can't be repaired to your satisfaction, like a unworkable floorplan, It's just not worth it. 3 items that are a must have are floorplan, floorplan, and floorplan.
I Personally like room in the bathroom and shower. I am a big guy at 6'4'' and a small room with a toilet or a tiny shower I just feel like I'm in chains. I cant get in without contortions and bump my head while I get up. My wife finds none of these hinderences because she is 5 '5''.
Look at storage, where switches are placed, do you want ice all the time? If so you need an icemaker in the freezer. Do live in a cold climate? If yes you need to easily winterize your trailer without crawling around and good insulation, perhaps double paned windows. Finally find a dealer you can work with. I have found sadly that the warrenty offered by the manufacturer is basically worthless unless your dealer is willing to fight for you because the dealer is your front line of defence. I am a race car builder and in my younger days was a custom home builder. I'll take on almost any issue myself except structural failures but I'm the exception. If you aren't handy and feel comfortable doing plumbing and electrical work, your dealer is your only avenue.
Good luck and keep us informed on your purchase,
-Paul R. Haller-
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