Can You Really Buy Your Last RV First? RV Buying Advice and Experience

Buy the biggest RV you can afford!

Only buy diesel!

You won’t be comfortable in anything under 40 feet!

Buy your last RV first!

There is a lot of advice on the internet regarding purchasing an RV. Go into any forum or Facebook group and ask people what they think and you are bound to hear many of the above statements. We sure did when we were looking for our first full-time rig. And they are repeated by many people in many different channels so that you start to take them as truths. But are they? Can these blanket statements apply to all RVers? Did they even apply to us?

Our first RV. Isn’t it cute?

First time Full-Timers

When we started researching RVs for our full-time adventure, we were moving up from a pop-up camper to a motorhome. We went to RV shows, scoured RV forums and groups for info, and talked to everyone we could. Even though our little pop-up was a catalyst for our desire to live on the road, we thought we would need a little more space. After hearing people talk about the large spaces they needed, the smaller RVs we looked at started to close in on us. After all, in addition to the living and sleeping space most part-time and retired RVers need, we also wanted a dedicated work space. As we listened to everyone’s recommendations, we started looking a little bigger. And then even bigger until we ended up with a 40 ft diesel pusher with four slides. It had an ideal spot for our desk and all the storage space we needed for dive gear and other belongings.

Our biggun: This Harvest Host was a bit tricky for us to make a clean getaway with such a big gal.

The Rub

At first, our new RV suited us just fine. We were in Texas and the South with full hook-ups and plenty of room for our beast. As time went on, though, we started to feel a little large and a little much. Don’t get me wrong, the space was great whenever we had friends over and the gathering inevitably ended up in our rig with our dual slides. But on a day-to-day basis, it was more than we needed. We talked a couple of times about trading it in, but always decided to stay with the devil we knew. Things came to a head in Colorado when there were parks for which we were too big and boondocking spots we couldn’t reach in the RV. We already traded our Mini for an Xterra at the beginning of our Colorado stay and used it explore places we could never go before. It made us yearn for more possibilities with the RV. We spent the whole summer in the state finding places we’d like to go, but couldn’t. Our last stop in Durango had us in a KOA (actually, the best one we’ve ever visited) while our friends were all wild camping just outside of town in their smaller RVs. That was it; we needed a smaller rig.

Our first RV went on forever!

Another Try

On our second RV shopping experience, what advice did we take? Well, mainly our own. We knew the size we wanted (28-33 feet) and what would make us comfortable. We had been on the road for almost two years and knew what worked for us in terms of size and layout. We did ask our friends about their experiences and tried to learn from them. Many of them had been to Alaska that summer in gas motorhomes giving us the confidence that a gas RV would work for us, too. So we ended up with a 30 ft gasser with two small slides. Did we have to give up more stuff to fit in it? Yes. Did we need any of it? No. People ask if we feel really tight now with 10 fewer feet, but it’s just the opposite. The RV feels roomy and luxurious inside, dare I say, almost too big? We feel lighter and more nimble. We can get into spots in smaller state parks and feel more comfortable boondocking. We added solar because we were more confident in this rig and how it fit our needs than our previous one allowing us even more freedom. It fits us.

Our new home

Can Common RV Buying Advice Work?

What about that advice? Should you buy the biggest 40 ft and above diesel pusher that you can? Maybe, if that makes sense for your style of living. Perhaps you want the bigger space because you plan to stay still for months at a time or will be a snowbird. But do you really know how you will live? We didn’t. It took us getting out there and living on the road and experiencing different styles to find our way and we’re not the only ones. We know others who have found their first RV to be the wrong fit. One family we met decided that a smaller travel trailer was better for them than the 5th wheel they initially purchased. Our friends Josh and Marie also gave up their 5th wheel and chose a motorhome instead (actually a model we had seriously considered). I’d like to say Airstreamers tend to stick with their purchase, but our Snowmad friends traded theirs for a small motorhome and recently decided to go even smaller with a van style. Others we know do have their first RV, but readily admit they would be happier in something smaller or a different style.

So can you really buy your last RV first? I’d say only if you’re really lucky or stubborn. If you’re experienced enough to know what you want, you’ve probably been RVing before. And if you bought one and have found it’s not quite the right fit, maybe you’re stubborn enough to make it work for whatever reason. You’re a lucky soul who found the perfect RV on the first try and I know there are a few of you.

What’s our advice to prospective RV buyers? Do your homework and look at all the ways people camp to see where you might fall. Find an RV in your budget, preferably in the low-end, so you can get out there and experience it for yourself. If you can get into it cheaply and soon find you would prefer something different, it will be less painful to change later. We all don’t need the biggest, baddest RV on the planet.  We need the RV that is the best for us.

You can read more tips on buying an RV on our RV Shopping Tips post or grab the shopping cheat sheet below.

Now we feel more comfortable getting to places like this! That road isn’t as smooth as it looks.

8 Comments

  1. George Mercier on May 15, 2017 at 7:47 pm

    I have many friends with 30′ Gas rigs and they love them. I have a 28′ fifth wheel with a large slide out and had lived in it for 2 years moving around my local area. I found it more than roomy for me. Thanks for writing this article, I think you hit the nail on the head.

    Respectfully,
    George

  2. Peter on May 17, 2017 at 2:21 am

    We have rent three different RV’s and we are leaning toward the toy hauler for our motorcycles. This is the only style we have not rent.

  3. Kyle on May 18, 2017 at 5:53 pm

    I agree bigger is not always better and finding the right one may take time it’s all how people want to live smaller can sometimes be bigger.
    Great advice thanks

  4. Deb Spencer on July 12, 2017 at 9:08 pm

    Good article Kerensa and Brandon. Jeff and I dreamed about a fifth wheel for 20 years and when we started getting serious about a purchase we were still a couple years from FT. So instead of buying the “dream home” we decided to get a “starter home”. Something used and something that we wouldn’t lose too much money on if we didn’t like the lifestyle. We ended up with a 21′ travel trailer that we had so much fun in for 3 years. It cleared the cobwebs of what we thaught we had to have and showed us what we really needed. It gave us a chance to get out there. We learned that we preferred way to camp. After 3 years we had a way better idea of what we really wanted/needed, sold the little camper for what we paid for it and purchased our “dream home”, a 32′ fifth wheel.

  5. Jaque Christo on December 6, 2017 at 12:51 pm

    Thank you for the information on if you really can buy your last RV, first. I like the advice to get advice from friends and family, but ultimately you should be looking to have your needs met. You want to think about how you are going to use the Rv and where you plan on taking it so you have a better idea of what you’re looking for and what you can do without.

  6. Dave and Norm on February 14, 2018 at 4:59 pm

    Over the thirty something years of camping we have had three 10 ft. Bolers, a 17 ft. Boler, three different 5th wheels, a Funcraft 20 ft. motorhome, 27 ft motorhome, a 21 ft Award and now we have a 19 ft. Shasta Retro. So we have tried a lot of shapes and sizes. The bigger we went the more comfortable we were when inside, but less adventurous to try the ways less travelled. I think the current 19 ft. allows flexibility for maneuvering and taking the less travelled routes while still giving us room to spread out. If you have a van as a tow vehicle that gives you more flexible storage. Also, we are the outdoors type so we need to concentrate on conveniently stored but very comfortable and multi use out door items. Also, we highly recommend that you modify whatever unit you get to suit your individuality. We found as long as we didn’t buy new, we weren’t so concerned about making our own modifications to personalize the unit for us.! Different strokes for different folks so you will need to find what is right for you! I know if I were single I would go for a camper van, but as a couple, it just is a little small for us. I am a motor home person and my spouse is a trailer person. So you need to be flexible if you have different likes and dislikes. All the best!

  7. Michelle on August 30, 2018 at 8:31 pm

    We are a couple that is about to retire and would like all the bells and whistles already in an RV to make camping fun and not so much physical work. I firmly believe that we need to buy something that fits our needs. Size matters if you plan on living in it was well. It should be fun and if you can afford it, go big. You can always stay outside the parks, set up camp for however long you want. Get in your toad and hit the road for touring all the neat places you have mapped out to visit and sight see. I prefer 45ft diesel with a tag axle and a toad. Yes it does restrict you from most National Parks but I’m okay with that. I don’t want to park in a heavy wooded area and have anything dropping on my coach and damage it. I do not desire and I know others do and that’s okay, to boondock.

    We had a 34 ft when we were younger with children and realized bigger, even for the two of us, is better to have the half bath and all the necessities to travel for 4 or 5 month trip at one time to start out with. When all sides are in, there is still a half bath to get to without climbing over the bed. If we really like it, we will consider full time.

    Cheers to great travels.

  8. Alan Bonner on November 16, 2018 at 4:10 am

    I’m worried for “You won’t be comfortable in anything under 40 feet!”. Because I don’t have enough money for buying my RV dream. However, will try to arrange and follow your tips.

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