Traveling in an RV

Hit the Road in an RV

Emily Guy Birken

Seeing America on the open road in the comfort of a recreational vehicle (RV) is a common retirement or summer dream. Not only can you experience all the wonders our country has to offer, but you can also carry all the conveniences of home along with you. You can scratch your travel itch in an RV rental or an RV of your own and maintain a sense of freedom and independence that traditional traveling does not offer.

Here’s what you need to know if you are considering hitting the road in an RV.

Just How Much RV Do You Need?

Though we use just one term for RVs, there are huge differences among the various types of motorhomes. There are towable trailers, and pop-up camping trailers that all share the general description “RV.”

Most Common Types of RVs:

  • Class A Motorhome. These are the largest recreational vehicles on the road. They can measure as long as 45 feet and offer a number of homey amenities for RVers who plan a lengthy stay on the road. However, these motorhomes are the most expensive. Some drivers may find their size intimidating — although you do not need a commercial driver’s license, or CDL, to operate one.
  • Class B Motorhome. This class of motorhomes can also be referred to as camper vans. They are much smaller and easier to maneuver than their Class A counterparts. These types of motorhomes offer a comfortable sleeping area, bathroom, kitchen and sink. Although having more than two people or taking a longer trip may feel quite cramped, these RVs are less expensive to purchase than Class A motorhomes. They are also much cheaper to maintain.
  • Class C Motorhome. Class C refers to mid-sized motorhomes built on top of an existing truck or van chassis. They offer a comfortable temporary home for families or groups. These RVs may stretch as long as 25 or 30 feet — making them somewhat easier to drive than the Class A motorhomes. The cost to buy and maintain Class C motorhomes is less expensive than Class A, but more expensive than Class B.
  • Towable Trailers. These RVs are built on top of a standard trailer frame. They contain living spaces that are as simple or luxurious as you want. Any vehicle that can handle the weight capacity — such as pickup trucks and some SUVs — can tow these trailers. This means you do not have to purchase an additional vehicle if you already own one that can handle towing. Trailers can vary widely in price, depending on the amenities.
  • 5th Wheel Trailers. These are very similar to towable trailers, except 5th wheel trailers have a gooseneck connect that attaches to the vehicle. The gooseneck makes towing and maneuvering these trailers easier than regular trailers, but you must use a pickup truck for towing. The gooseneck also offers additional interior living space. As with towable trailers, the price of 5th wheel trailers depends on the amenities.
  • Pop-Up Camping Trailers. Also known as foldable or tent trailers, pop-up camping trailers feature collapsible compartments that can be folded away during towing to reduce their external profiles. They are easy to tow and light enough for some cars to handle their weight. However, there are generally minimal to no bathroom or kitchen facilities in these trailers. Their folding design also does not allow for storage of supplies and equipment, which must be transported separately.

Deciding which kind of RV will be right for you depends on a number of factors: how far and how often you want to travel, whether or not you plan to go off-road during your jaunts and how well you get along with your traveling companions.

Should You Get an RV Rental or Buy an RV?

RV Rental

It’s a good idea to start your RV travel plans by renting different types of vehicles to determine which will be the best fit for your plans. You might also want to simply plan on using an RV rental anytime you feel the call of the road, rather than buying one.

That’s because even travelers who are sure they’ll be using their RV every few weeks may find that it is cheaper to get a rental. According to the Fun Times Guide, the typical RVer only gets behind the wheel 27 days per year. This means that a typical RVer who purchases a three-year-old RV on credit “will pay a premium of $200 more per day [of RV use] for the privilege of ownership versus renting. To make ownership financially worthwhile, you need to use your RV about 40 days per year if you buy the RV outright or about 50 days per year if you buy the RV on credit.” An RV rental may make more sense if you’re just planning a short vacation.

How Will You Handle Ill Health on the Road?

Illness can strike anywhere, even when you’re on vacation. This becomes more likely if you plan to spend significant time in your RV. While it’s easy to shrug off the sniffles on the road, you should have a plan in place, just in case you come down with anything more serious.

In particular, do you know how you will find a doctor to treat you if you’re far from home? Retirees who are already on Medicare Parts A and B will be able to receive hospital and medical care in case of a major illness. If you are on a Medicare Part C (Medicare Advantage) plan, however, it may not cover you for anything other than emergency or urgent care, since your plan may specify that you are not allowed to see providers outside of your network.

While these limitations should not keep you from traveling, it’s important to know what they are before you start exploring the length and breadth of the country. Travel insurance benefits can help cover a gap in your health care coverage if your insurance or Medicare plan will not cover you on the road.

Do You Need Additional Insurance for Your RV?

Your existing automobile insurance policy may cover you behind the wheel of your RV — but you should consider purchasing specific RV insurance for your jaunts around the country. That’s because automobile insurance is not geared toward the specific needs of an RVer and it leaves some pretty significant coverage gaps.

RV Insurance Coverages to Consider:

  • Total loss replacement.If you buy a new RV and shortly afterwards experience a total loss, this coverage will replace your totaled RV with a similar unit. RVs depreciate very quickly, which is why new RV buyers may want this coverage.
  • Replacement cost of personal belongings. Automobile insurance policies will cover belongings in your vehicle, but it is a limited amount of coverage. RV policies allow you to include all of your personal belongings within the RV for the most damaging events.
  • Campsite liability. This is similar to homeowners insurance coverage for when you park RV at a campsite.
  • Emergency expenses. If your RV is damaged while you are away from home, you will need to stay elsewhere while it is repaired. This coverage will reimburse some expenses related to lodging, food, and travel home, provided the damage occurred more than a set number of miles (usually 50 miles) from your fixed residence.
  • Higher liability limits. While you could carry the minimum liability limits on your RV, most RV insurance policies provide for much higher liability limits than general automobile insurance. Since RVs have a much larger profile and footprint than cars, they can potentially cause a great deal of damage in an accident. Getting a higher liability limit can help protect you financially in case of an accident.
RV Rental in the Mountains

Are You Prepared to Handle Routine RV Maintenance?

Like your home and your car, your RV needs regular maintenance. Some of this maintenance is no different from the tasks you perform for your commuter vehicle. You’ll need to change the oil and filters, check tire pressure and the like.

However, some RV maintenance requirements may fall somewhat outside of your comfort zone. These requirements include:

  • Covering your roof.
  • Running your generator two hours every month.
  • Emptying and maintaining your waste water holding tanks.
  • Watching your window, door, and roof seals.
  • Opening your vents.
  • Lubricating your slide-out rails.
  • Monitoring propane gas levels in your tanks.

If you feel a hesitant about handling these issues you may want to start by using an RV rental before committing to buy.

RV Rental The Great American Retirement

RVing: The Great American Retirement

Whether you have always dreamed of traveling the country by RV, or it is simply one of many travel options. It’s important to know what you’re getting into before you get behind the wheel of an RV. Thinking through these details beforehand will help ensure that you’ll be a happy camper once you get on the road.

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30 Responses to "Hit the Road in an RV"
    • Barbara tenBroek | January 15, 2019 at 3:34 pm

      Great article, hope to see you on the road

      • Extra Mile Staff | January 15, 2019 at 8:05 pm

        Thank you, Barbara!

    • Lois Leon | June 21, 2019 at 10:27 pm

      Great information. I also thought about joining an RV club of some sort for safety reasons.

      • Extra Mile Staff | June 25, 2019 at 1:06 pm

        That is a great idea, Lois! If you find one you like, please share with the other readers in the comment section.

    • Kim L Broom | February 14, 2020 at 3:48 pm

      If you are a Texas resident, you are required to have a Class B (special CDL for motorhomes) driver’s license to operate any vehicle over 26,000 pounds. A lot of Class A motorhomes are well over this weight limit, especially the 45 footers (ours is over 40,000 empty). I know that Texas is not the only state that requires a special license to operate large RV’s.

      Another thing to consider if you are planning to live and travel in your RV full time, is that the insurance to cover your RV is significantly more expensive than if you have a home and use your RV occasionally.

      • Extra Mile Staff | February 14, 2020 at 5:46 pm

        Good points, Kim. Thank you for sharing.

    • Dave Martinson | March 13, 2020 at 8:22 am

      Finding a repair location can be difficult. Be prepared to stay overnight at the repair facility while they find the part(s) you require to get back on the road.
      Diesel engine repair locations are also limited.
      I was once told “RV stands for ruined vacation”
      Having mentioned these disadvantages, I say go for it!
      Memories are made of these trips.

    • rachel frampton | June 9, 2020 at 2:54 am

      My family and I are planning to go on a camping trip; that’s why we’re considering purchasing a travel trailer. I guess class C Motor homes are better since you’ve mentioned that they’re mid-sized, easier to drive, and more affordable. Although, the pop-up campaign trailer seems like a great option as well because according to you, this is a foldable trailer.

    • Beth Burgess | June 25, 2020 at 5:53 pm

      Good article, but one correction. Class B’s are generally more expensive than Class C’s. Usually quite a bit more. Maintenance-wise they are comparable.

    • Marie Harrington | June 26, 2020 at 3:22 pm

      I am considering renting an R.V. Class B. I live in Missouri and plan to travel to Iowa. Will I need a special class of drivers license? Anybody have a suggestion of the best company/place, to rent from? Cost effective, however, reliable and reasonable rates along with professionalism. Please contact me @ marie.harrrington@gmail.com. Thank you so very much! Happy Trails/Travels!

    • Lou | June 26, 2020 at 3:23 pm

      You fail to mention details, what is the average cost to rent the RVs, what does it cost to use them per mile, are there resources to help in arranging trips that reserve spots ahead of time for a planned trip to park the RV, are there companies you can recommend that are honest and reasonable in terms of renting an RV, are there companies that are now properly sanitizing the RVs given the current pandemic, are there companies that are providing excellent Senior discounts on rentals, Are there companies that provide RV vacation packages along with the RV rental that are already planned in detail? Please do your homework before posting this type of article and provide detailed information that is useful.

      • Extra Mile Staff | June 26, 2020 at 5:14 pm

        Good point, as prices do vary by state. Thank you for sharing this information with us, Lou!

    • Richard Brehm | June 27, 2020 at 2:40 pm

      Are you insane??? Aren’t you aware of the pandemic??

    • Bob | June 27, 2020 at 2:52 pm

      Jeez Lou, they can’t plan your entire trip for you! Anyone who can’t figure out how to plan their own trip should just stay home! There are too many variables. Take me. I spend 6 months per year on the road in my class b Roadtrek. Never once have I stayed in a private campground or RV Park. I do boondocking on public land. There are numerous apps available. Spend a little time with Google.

    • Dawn S | June 27, 2020 at 4:04 pm

      Good brief description but I noticed that the 5th wheel description is not accurate. You do NOT need a flat bed pickup truck, a standard pick-up with a 5th wheel hitch in the bed is actually more popular.

      • Extra Mile Staff | June 29, 2020 at 2:34 pm

        Hi Dawn – Thank you for bringing this to our attention! An update has been made to the article.

    • V Wallace | June 27, 2020 at 4:14 pm

      You might want to check your facts on the section about 5th wheels. There is a difference between 5th wheels and goose necks.

    • Don | June 27, 2020 at 4:43 pm

      The information you’re giving under the heading of “Most Common Types Of RVs” is somewhat misleading.
      Class A Motorhomes: In some states a CDL is required based on the vehicle weight, type of braking, towing weight, etc. I would recommend checking with your local DMV.
      Towable trailers: Knowing the tongue weight and the GVWR of the trailer is very important when choosing a tow vehicle. Check with your tow vehicle dealer if uncertain.
      5th wheel trailers: There are 2 types of hitches, 5th wheel hitches and gooseneck hitches. Again, knowing the tongue weight and GVWR are very important when choosing a tow vehicle. Check with your tow vehicle dealer if uncertain.
      Many RV sales reps are not always willing to divulge some of the needed information due to lack of knowledge or fear of loosing a sale. Do your homework and eliminate mistakes.

    • Kent M Kramer | June 27, 2020 at 5:55 pm

      We took our 5th wheel and Ford F250 from Oregon to New Orleans and back 7,000 miles. We had a great time. From the Grand Canyon at 36° degrees to Bull Head City 88° degrees in one day. See ya on the road.

    • John Morgan | June 29, 2020 at 1:19 am

      The picture with the lady and gentleman in the blue top portrays a questionable message. She is wearing a seat belt and he is not and the RV does not appear to be parked.

      • Extra Mile Staff | June 29, 2020 at 2:37 pm

        Hi John – Thank you for bringing this to our attention! We have updated the image to reflect proper seat belt safety.

    • R. J. Nelson | June 29, 2020 at 7:05 am

      Good article. One comment, You state that you must have a flatbed pickup to tow a 5th wheel trailer. The fact is that most 5th wheel trailers are towed with pickups with regular pickup beds. A flatbed is not required.

      • Extra Mile Staff | June 29, 2020 at 2:32 pm

        Hi R.J. – Thank you for bringing that to our attention! The correction has been made to the article.

    • Robert M Spellman | June 29, 2020 at 2:56 pm

      Curious about the mention of covering your RV, I bought a small camper trailer (Jayco) in ’17. I’ve not covered it for winter since the rubber roof seems very durable. Should I be? Honestly, I’d bought a big tarp but it looks problematic ie: antenna and keeping secure. Also don’t like making nesting places under tarps. I was concerned as well about it catch winds as a sail and tipping the camper. Any pro’s please do advise. Thanks!

    • Thinking about a first time RV rental | June 30, 2020 at 8:45 pm

      Ironically, this article appeared just when I’ve spent the past month thinking about renting (for the first time) an RV for a little one week road trip. The article gave lots to consider before doing so.

      Reading through the comments it sounds like most of them are from experienced RV owners/renters. I wish the article and the comments gave a bit more guidance to newbies like me.

      Bottom line … After reading I am now LESS likely to rent an RV than I was before.

    • Antonio Gutierrez | June 30, 2020 at 9:15 pm

      My wife and I are both under 6ft. and in our late 80’s. We own a 95 Chevy G20 Van. The back seats are removed; wood frame work installed to receive a six inch thick foam to sleep on; four drawers to open to the front for our personal essentials; The back part has a large cavity under bed board for cook stove, fishing equipment, hand tools, and one large drawer to store cooking utensils; a small portable potty installed behind driver with side receiver for toilet paper, deodorants, deodorizer sprays; among other small accommodations, padded place behind passenger for an ice chest; a small four shelves pantry to hold our food supply. We use 30 degree sleeping bags during our summer travel and zero degree mummy bags late Fall and very early Spring. Spend nights at Interstate highway rest areas, Walmart and casino parking grounds otherwise in the canyons and National Parks. I devised a receptacle to hold the scissors jack between the spare tire and the carrier frame for easy access (patent pending) and we are at home wherever we may stop, visiting our Country at will.

    • Kvon | July 23, 2020 at 5:28 pm

      Is it possible to make an RV a primary residence during retirement? Is this perhaps a state by state thing or for federal taxes. Thanks appreciate any info.

    • Mickey | July 25, 2020 at 4:35 pm

      I have owned a motorhome for over 25 years. I have full timed and used only as a way to see this country. Don’t be intimidated! Best way to live and see the country. Cost is no more than a home in reality. Insurance- well it is about the same as my homeowner for similar value- and it is moving on the highway! Great lifestyle. Maintenance is not that great – when people talk about maintenance – they seem to forget mowing, fertilizing yards – which you don’;t do in a motorhome! Plus other routine home maintenance – I would share with you that my RV maintenance cost are less per year than you spend on the average home! So, yes go for it. The biggest issue could become your health. So, this year I bought a permanent RV lot in a 55 plus community. MY monthly cost for the hoa and water is $265 per month. We have Clubhouses, security gates, swimming pools, executive golf course, tennis, bocci and more. So, again – a 55 plus Del Webb Community is 2 miles away from this. We have basically the same thing they do and my cost are about half of the home!

    • MARK O MORROW | July 25, 2020 at 6:53 pm

      You also did not mention pickup truck bed mounted campers.

    • John Wicklund | July 26, 2020 at 4:05 am

      Kvon, It is possible and thousands presently do so. Very few RV’s are four season and they are expensive to heat or cool depending on where you plan to park it. We are fulltime but spend the winters somewhere along the gulf coast and summers in northern tier states . Our actual travels are between these locations And these locations vary year to year allowing us to explore our wonderful country. A good website that was started by full time travelers is Escapees.com

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