Air Conditioning: 15,000
BTU low profile or 12,300 heat/15,000 cool
heat pump. Central with ducted air is
best. Don't waste money on the heat-strip element option, it does
not work well.
Windows should be louver
type to keep rain out, but some RV's do not
offer this option.
Make sure awning bracket arms are
firmly drilled into wood frame, not just the thin siding or it will rip
out on a windy day creating very expensive damage. A center support
with large long awning is needed. Consider an automatic awning for ease of use.
Stay with white or light color as dark colors fade. Yes, you can
easily live without an awning. If you don't have the automatic
awning that closes in high wind conditions the manual awning can create
serious damage to your RV and other RV's. I have seen wind gusts rip
the awnings right off the RV with great ease and toss them down the road
sailing into other RV's in the RV park. I rarely use the awning due
to these reasons.
The RV should have leveling jacks
at four points; manual scissor or automatic hydraulic.
Washer and drier combo unit is
Water heater: propane gas and
electric heating element. Atwood water heaters can replace the core
tank. Other brands require that you buy an entirely new water
Generator: will you need an
electric generator? Will it operate your air conditioning? If
AC is not important, will it run your microwave oven, lights and
entertainment devices? Generally a 4,000 watt generator is required
to run an RV with one 15,000 btu AC unit. Consider a portable 2,000
watt minimum generator if your RV has no room for a large generator.
Also, is the generator frequency controlled so it can run computers,
VCR/DVD players, satellite systems?
Satellite TV: do you really need a
satellite dish? If you do, get one. A roof mounted dish is not
recommended because the dish can't be moved. If you are parked under
trees the signal will be zero. Keeping the dish portable is most
practical so you can mount it anywhere needed to pick up a satellite
signal. You will also need a roof-mounted TV antenna with a 12-volt
power amplifier for the times you do not want to start up the satellite
system at rest areas, etc. and they will work with high-definition over-the-air broadcasts
so a special High Definition TV antenna is not absolutely required.
Consider where you will put your
trash can and other items when cooking. Walk about and locate
electric outlets and where you will place your TV, VCR/DVD player and
disks, High Definition or satellite receiver. Is there room to
install a small surround sound entertainment system? How about a 32"
flat screen TV? What about room for the satellite receiver and DVD
Computer space available? Is
it big enough? Where are the electric outlets, phone for modem or
holes in woodwork to run cables from computer to monitor, to printer, etc.
Oven and range: try to get a
four burner range, but three will do.
Refrigerator; get as big as you
can, but make sure it will run on AC power and propane gas. Some
RV's residential type refrigerators only work on AC power and your food will spoil when
traveling because it can't switch to propane fuel. Buyer beware. What you want is called an AC power
combination propane gas fired ammonia absorption refrigerator. Also try to get a
frost-free model. In humid weather the frost accumulation on the
coils will become a nuisance.
Water heater: minimum of 6
gallons. This must work on AC power and propane gas. This way
when you are camping in an RV park you are not using up your propane fuel
to heat water. And, when traveling you can switch to propane fuel
and always have hot water if you need it.
Entry steps: try to get at
least three steps. Two steps will have you jumping in and out of the
RV too much. Automatic steps are a good feature so you won't forget
to put the steps back before traveling. Use our handy traveling
RV Checklist so accidents do not happen!
Towing: if you plan to tow
your trailer consider (seriously consider) the Reese Weight Distributing
Duel Cam Sway Control hitch. It is only about $75 more, but tows
like a dream. You can forget about trailer lurching and sway.
The hitch really works well. If you plan to tow a 5th wheel, then
consider the air bag hitch that softens the ride.
Storage: where will you put your
hobby items, tools, oil, spare parts, paper files? Storage is a
critical component and there is never enough as you will soon find out.
Consider the bunk bed model to purchase because the bunks make excellent
storage compartments. You will be glad you did!
Kitchen; where will you store pots
and pans, dishes, cups and packaged food. Make sure there is ample space and shelves
to store these items.
Does the RV have skid wheels in
back to protect driveways from being scoured if you bottom out? They
also prevent damage to your RV frame.
Is there room to attach or weld a
generator table to the back of your RV? This can also be used to
store additional items. Most tables need to be custom built so look
for two I-beams located near the rear bumper.
Siding: fiberglass is the rave and
for good reason; it is quieter, low maintenance, easier to clean, long
lasting and looks good. Get the siding that has a gel protective
coating as your RV will look clean most all of the time and the color will
Roof: rubber. Before picking
up the RV, on the sales contract too, note that you want the roof leak
tested before delivery. Make them run a hose and inspect for leaks
on roof, windows and doors.
Power: most RV's only need 30 amp
service. When a RV has a washer & drier or two air conditioning
units then 50 amp service is required. If possible, go with 30
amp as campgrounds will charge you more money for 50 amp service. A 50
amp service RV can use 30 amp with a simple power cord adapter, but don't
use two AC units or run the washer/drier.
Antenna: for over the air
broadcast TV it should be roof
mounted with a built in signal booster. You will need it!
Another antenna on the roof for the radio.
Lighting: is the light
sufficient? You can try the 12 volt lighting, but look for the 110
volt light fixtures. For reading, you will likely need to place a
clip-on light somewhere near the couch or lounge chair. How about
reading in bed? Is there lights for that? Check out the bath
room area too. Can you see inside cabinets and drawers with the
lights on or will you need to use a flashlight?
Exterior: where is the satellite
TV jack? where is the cable TV
jack? Telephone jack? Fresh water connection? Are the sewage
control valves easy to reach and operate? Where will you store the sewer
hose? Fresh water hose? Cables for television?
Almost every RV today has a slide
out. The living room slide-out is very useful. Keep in mind the slide out should
accommodate where you will reside in the RV most of the time.
Consider a rainy day or three or an illness keeping you inside the RV and
see if the slide out is making room for you
to live comfortable. Be aware that a bedroom slide out may be
sliding the bed to the left or right of the RV length and that can make
your head elevated or declined on uneven ground. You will need
electric hydraulic jack levelers or you will not obtain a good night sleep. Setting up the rig
at each overnight stop is not practical. You will often be using
truck and other parking lots for overnight stops (even if you say you
won't, you will). My advice is to buy an RV with no slide out in the
bedroom unless you have hydraulic levelers that level the RV with a touch
of a few levers. Make sure you know how to manually crank in the slide-out
and you have the necessary cranking tool if the motor burns up!
Batteries: a minimum of two
deep-cycle batteries should be
Heater: RV forced air heater is a
fuel hog and will burn up your propane and battery power quickly, so fast
you may not make it though the night before the battery is drained
shutting down all heat in the RV. There are alternatives. You
should not buy a catalytic heater because they do not heat the RV
well, they get dirty and the catalytic element loses power. Even
new out of the box the heat output will keep you frigid cold! I have
had them and when you try a ceramic propane gas heater you will be nice
and warm in the coldest weather. I own a Empire Model SR-10T-2
(10,000btu) and it works great. It requires no battery power, just
propane fuel. The drawback is that the flame is not vented and is
exposed. They are safe when used properly and used with common
sense. Like operating your stove top, don't use perfume or hair or
bug spray near open flames. Keep a side window cracked open for
ventilation. Key consideration to ask yourself when shopping for an
RV, "Do you have space to mount this heater?" Can propane gas line
be easily installed to it? Will the rising heat scorch a cabinet
above the unit? Nothing should obstruct the rising heat to the
Bicycle: most RVer's have a
bicycle and they carry them on the RV or other vehicle, but what about
flat tires? Yes, it ruins the day. Consider getting "No-Mor
Flats" tires for your bicycles and you will never have a flat again.
These tires are solid rubber, yet are soft, so the ride is still like a
tire filled with air.
http://www.nomorflats.com they are not expensive. You may need a
bicycle rack that mounts the bikes on the roof access ladder or RV bumper (if the
bumper is strong enough, many are not).
Slide out awning: the slide out
roof can collect branches, leaves and dirt and when the slide is retracted
can deposit some unwanted items into the RV. Awnings help, but they
still won't keep bugs and spiders out, sorry. This awning is
optional. Yes, you can live without these awnings.
Exterior Storage: how much storage
is given? You need a lot more than you think you will need.
Always buy the RV that offers the most storage inside and outside and you
will be happy you did! Is the storage practical? A huge
storage area, like in a toy hauler is of little use without drawers,
cabinets and shelves!
Warrantee; what kind of warrantee
and how long and what is covered? Where are the dealers that will
make the repairs? Must you drive a thousand miles or more just
to get something fixed under the warrantee? Select a RV manufacturer
that has a wide and extensive dealer network. Fleetwood is a very
Exterior lighting should allow you
to see your front steps and allow hitching up in the dark. A yellow
/ amber color light should be used, not white as it disturbs your fellow
RV neighbors and is hard on the eyes.
Buy an electric operated jack lift
so you are not cranking the A-frame up and down to hitch up. It is
worth the price!
All RV's must have a roof ladder.
Some RV's don't come with one and it is a big mistake and a disservice to
the customer. You will need to get on the roof here and there to
patch a leak, remove tree branch, etc.
Check with your insurance company
what the RV will cost to insure. It is a good idea to ask your agent
what brands cost less to insure, then go shopping for the perfect RV from
Overloading; it is hard to
overload a travel trailer because they are inherently light weight by
design, generally speaking. The 5th wheel trailer is a heavy beast
even when empty and will overload fast. Not to mention the tow truck engine
modifications, auxiliary fuel tanks, wear on brakes, etc. With
the travel trailer you can forget about needed engine modification to
increase power, you won't need exhaust braking to stop, you won't wear out
your vehicle brakes quickly at all (if it is a pick up truck with typical
heavy duty towing package) and your fuel mileage will be fine so no extra
tank is needed. The 5th wheel can be a bad choice unless you
are prepared to invest thousands of dollars in modifications.
Insurance for travel trailers cost less than 5th wheel trailers.
Something to consider.
Extras; does the RV have a coat
and key rack? Wall clock? How about mirrors? Windows should
have blinds not cloth that can stain or get torn. Flip up shelves?
Exterior storage doors have latches to hold the hatch door open? Is
there a spare tire? How long is the power cord? (30 feet would be
nice, but if not buy a 30 amp or 50 amp extension cord). Furnace
and Air Conditioning filter easy to clean or tough to gain access? Get a
propane gas tank indicator that lets you know when the tank needs filling.
It is not nice to run out of propane. You may have no heat, no
cooking, no refrigeration and no hot water.
Dinette; some people like the free
standing dinette, but there is a huge drawback to it; you lose valuable
under the seat storage space and a convertible bed. Make the right
choice here. How about a swivel or recliner chair?
Can the propane gas detector and
the smoke alarm
be temporarily shut off for a few minutes? This is so cooking,
perfume or cleaning solvent fumes that set off the alarm can be silenced
while cleaning. If no switch can be used can a fuse be pulled to
disable the alarms? Locate the fuse.
A reversible large-blade and quiet
low speed roof vent fan should be installed for ventilation. Make
sure that the fan is not near the sewage black water tank roof vent or it
will draw sewer fumes into the RV. Some RV's have the air roof vents
located too close to the sewer vent so those roof vents can't even be used
Forced air heating and cooling
vents should be directional so you can aim the air flow for maximum
Is there places on the wall or on
cabinet doors to mount your monthly calendar, notes, etc.?
Bed should raise up to reveal a
lot of storage space for storing tools, clothing, blankets, portable fan and
electric space heater, etc.
Where will you store soiled
laundry? Look for a cabinet to store this laundry.
Bath should have a bath tub.
You never know when you will need to soak a foot or leg from an injury.
Also, it can be used to wash clothes in a pinch, not to mention a bath is
more comfortable. The tub also acts as another storage container
when traveling. Bath or shower floor should be firm with no flexing
anywhere. If it flexes just a tiny bit it will crack and leak water.
This is a common and expensive problem, so make sure yours is supported
firmly or get it in the sales contract the dealer will rebuild the tub
floor prior to delivery.
Solar panels are a waste of money
and are high maintenance. You have to keep cleaning them all of the
time and they are usually installed on the roof. Get a nice electric generator and
use it. Do this first. Later, if you find yourself boon
docking many months per year, then a solar system may be of value,
but you will still need a generator on cloudy / rainy days and to operate
microwave ovens, etc. Solar is not a cure all for self-contained
power. Solar does not work at night.
Electric generator eats fuel,
but is still a valuable component for any RV'er. A small 2,000 watt
portable generator will run everything except the air conditioning and
uses little fuel. I have used quiet frequency controlled Honda and
Yamaha generators with great
success. Even a fuel efficient 1,000 watt generator will power
lights and television, but not a microwave oven requiring 1,000 watts.
To run air conditioning a 3,000 to 4,000 watt generator will be needed and
the fuel it guzzles is seriously expensive, but you may need one when
traveling to rest with air conditioning at your command. Just make
sure you get a frequency controlled generator so it can run your computers
and other electronic devices.
Furniture cushions easily
replaced? Can they be packed with higher density foam? Some
RV's foam is so bad it will need to be replaced in about two months time!
Forget the nice looks. Look
at the quality of materials. Are the cabinate hinges and locks good
quality and easily replaced if they break?
Get it in the sales contract that
when the RV is prepped they will water leak test the roof, windows,
slide-out seals, antenna and all roof vents and openings. Also to
verify the water pressure lines do not leak-down indicating a hidden slow
On the walk-through prior to
delivery some dealers just walk you through explaining how things work.
Do not accept this. Demand in the sales contract you will be given
a full and complete demonstration walk-through to actually operate all
devices to insure all items are working properly. This includes
awnings, slide-outs, oven, space heater, air conditioning, roof vents,
doors, windows, cabinets, lights and power outlets, water system, phone
and cable TV jacks, etc. This will help prevent you from driving
away only to discover many items are not even working! This happens
too many times and I have had it happen to me only to drive away and find
things not working! A new RV that had to be returned for warrantee
work when it should have never even been delivered in the first place to
the customer! A good dealer who cares about their customers will
perform this detailed walk-through with the customer present to verify
these very important inspections. A smart RV buyer will demand the
full inspection prior to buying the RV! Tell the dealer to set up
the RV first, then you will buy it after it passes your inspection.
Dealers are selling RV's then do shoddy work to prepare the RV and stick
the troubles on you to obtain warrantee work at your time and expense and
inconvenience. Buyer beware!
Before deciding on a model you
need to do two things. Get rid of the salesperson so you can sit and
think without interruptions. Then sit in the RV and pretend it is a
rainy day and you have to stay indoors all day long. Can you be
comfortable? Walk around and mimic routine activities like cooking,
watching TV, using computer, taking a bath, sleeping, etc. Are
all these things acceptable to you? Some floor plans just will not
work for some people. Also, do this with the slide-outs retracted to
see if you can use the RV in this mode. You can't always be opening
your slide-outs in parking lots when traveling and a storm may keep you
inside the RV all day long.
Bedroom: lie on the bed to
determine if windows are too close to your head. Cool drafts can be
punishing if your head or feet is right up against a window. Also,
check air conditioning vent. It should be able to adjust away from
your body when sleeping. Electrical outlets nearby? Is there
easy to reach shelf space to place antacid pills, napkins, water or other
bedside items? Where will you store clean underclothes?
Can you grease the wheel bearings
using a simple grease gun? What is the wheel bearing grease schedule
for your RV? You don't want to have to take the wheels off to repack
the bearings every three to six months. Yes, a grease gun can be
used as long as you do not exceed two or three pumps of a hand-held
grease gun so as not to over pack the bearings. How often?
Every 6 months should be fine if you are traveling. If parked for
six months? Do not bother to grease the wheel bearings. When
replacing wheel bearings be aware of cheap
imported bearings of inferior quality can fail creating loss of control
of the vehicle and/or expensive axle repairs. Replace with USA
name brands such as Timken®. Make sure
the mechanic shows you proof of purchase of the Timken bearings.
Is there ample room for a 32" flat
panel television? Room for a small home theater system?
Satellite receiver? Look for an RV that has an exposed countertop to
mount the TV. A built-in cubicle will not work as with small picture
tube TV's. RV manufactures need to catch up with the times.
They are still making cubicles for TV's.
Entry door should be no smaller
than 24 1/2" otherwise the entire door and door frame must be removed to
replace a refrigerator if it ever needs replacement.
Examine the quality of the RV.
You can't readily see the defects inside the RV. They will be hidden
for the most part from your eyes. Where you will see poor quality
control is under the RV. Examine how the screws are inserted that
hold the siding, slide-out and other things together. I bought a 31
foot Fleetwood Prowler RV that looked real nice, but later I found very
serious problems of missing screws, loose screws, stripped screw holes
with oversize bolts inserted to make up for the defect only to find that
bolt also stripped, etc., etc. I have found this Fleetwood RV to be
very poor in quality control. Even the interior screws do not hold
and my shelves separated, drawers fell apart, floors squeak from
delaminating with poor glue, roof leaked water in two places, poor
caulking, slide-out bolts never tightened and stripped screws, main
electrical connections and the ground wires loose, loose, dangerously
loose, RV awning not even installed into the supporting wood frame, etc.
This is likely a result of using unskilled and untrustworthy illegal alien
workers who are not trained in assembling RV's and Fleetwood's own gross
and incompetent failure to have quality control inspections. In my
case, this Fleetwood RV never should have left the factory with
these serious defects and is a serous health and safety risk. Look
elsewhere if you want high quality! In any case, look under the RV
no matter what brand you decide to buy!
Before you buy, examine water drain line
configuration. You don't want the sink gray water entering the
black water tank. Some RV's do this and it is legal according to
the RVIA code. Why? Because your black water tank will
always be filling up rapidly making you miserable always looking for a
dump station! It is a lamebrain idea to do this. RV
manufacturers that do this say it is so fresh water can enter the black
water tank to help mix up and drain the tank. It will, but to the
RV owner's grief. It is not necessary. So, watch out for
this problem before you buy your RV.
Dexter Axles are common on towable RV's. Dexter make upgraded
axles that have grease fittings on the hubs to lube the wheel bearings
and they even have a hub that requires no periodic greasing.
Consider ordering these upgraded axles so you are not having to pay for
wheel bearing greasing which is labor intensive, expensive and should be
performed each 6,000 miles.
Consider special ordering your RV from the factory
with all the features you want. Example: Interior
colors were always, for dozens of years, bright and cheery with oak
cabinets and white wallpaper, but the trend today are dark colors, even
black cabinets, which are dismal and depressing. When you special
order your RV you can avoid buying a depressing interior color scheme.
Stay clear of heavily exterior decaled paint schemes.
The decals eventually fade and are very tough to remove and the faded
decals will make your RV ugly, ugly, ugly and so old-looking some RV
parks will not let unrestored vintage RV's into their park so as not to create a
run-down blight environment. Read the RV park rules fine print!
If you can, special order without decals, or with minimum simple stripe
decal. It would be best in the long term to get an RV with no
decals. If you look at the old RV's in the 70's they had aluminum
sidings with a green wide stripe running along the side of the RV.
Very simple design and the individual panels could be replaced to
upgrade the faded painted section, or just repainted. They still
make aluminum siding and it has advantages over solid sheet fiberglass.
Fiberglass cracks from heat or road movement stress loads.
Consider buying an RV with aluminum siding as the sections can be
replaced if dented or faded. My next RV will have aluminum siding.
Fiberglass works, but many people do have problems with cracking.
Stay away from light brown or dark black fiberglass sidings as these
colored-fiberglass-sidings will fade unevenly making your RV look like a
junkyard in no time at all. Large motor homes are going this route
with rich, dark colorings which for the owner will become a huge
financial mistake. White is still the best color for an RV.
Aluminum siding may be better than fiberglass.
Aluminum is a bit harder to keep clean, but is easier to repair as the
small panels can each be replaced individually whereas fiberglass is
expensive slabs of enormous sizes. Patches of fiberglass can't be
used if the damage surface are is large. Fiberglass does add some
insulation value and perhaps a tad bit more sound rejection capability
over aluminum, but likely not by much. You can test this by
visiting a RV dealership near a noisy highway. The paint (no
decals on aluminum siding) appears to last dozens of years even when
exposed to direct sunlight and are easily painted over with a spray can
if need be or replace the affected faded panels. Fiberglass also
deteriorates from UV rays which can require the giant slabs to be
replaced and this will be very expensive for materials and labor and to
then reinstall new decals.
Where is the fresh water tank located? If it
located forward of the rear axle you can travel with it full of water as
the added weight will stabilize the RV, but could exceed you Gross
Vehicle Weight Rating. Better to travel with 1/4 full tank of
water. If water tank is installed behind the rear axle you need to
travel with less water just enough to wash hands and flush toilet when
traveling as the added weight can destabilize the RV and cause a loss of
control and raise the risk of a crash. Try to find a RV with the
fresh water tank forward or between tandem axles.
Be careful of buying a RV with a rear kitchen as the
heavy weight of the kitchen appliances will tend to unload the hitch and
destabilize the RV. This includes motor homes too! It will unload
the front wheel contact from the ground, so beware of the danger of
losing control of the vehicle.