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There’s a lot of information about RVs on the internet. You’ll see glorious million dollar rolling palaces, small little travel trailers, and everything in between. How’s anyone supposed to make heads or tails of where to start with so much information? That’s why we’ve put together this guide to the best RVs and campers for beginners.
We’re going to start you at the absolute RV 101 starting line, without any jargon, and tell you what you really need to know to begin your search for your perfect coach. How can you make one of the second-biggest investments of your life (next to your home or vehicle), if you don’t know if you need to worry about tongue weight or a dinghy?
How to Find the Best RVs and Campers for Beginners
There are several decisions you can make right now to guide your research. Taking this first step is similar to planning your first family vacation to a new destination. You don’t know the area, but you know what you don’t want. Answering questions like the ones below helps you narrow down the entire spectrum of the RV world to something that’s manageable and focuses your search on those relevant categories that fit your lifestyle.
As you make these decisions, keep a few note pads around to create different lists. As you continue your research, you’ll find you’ll need to make lists on various topics that will take multiple pages. Tech-savvy folks may use their computers or mobile devices to keep their compendium with them.
1. What Kind of RV Lifestyle Do You Want to Live?
In the 1920s, a guy named Wally Bynum was quite happy living the #TentLife. Unfortunately, his wife and kids had a few things to say about sleeping in the mud and dirt. Mr. Byum ended up founding the iconic Airstream brand.
With so many manufacturers today, all you have to do is search for the RV that meets your family’s lifestyle needs. Discuss how rough or how glamping (luxury-style camping) all of you would like to enjoy. Talk about the specific features and amenities needed, wanted, and would be nice to have. Put those down on the appropriate list.
2. Should Beginner’s Buy New or Used RVs and Campers?
Everybody wants that fresh off the factory-floor RV. Yet, there are advantages when you buy a used coach. RVs depreciate worse than cars. Previous owners add upgrades to the coach. Many “diamonds in the rough” on RV Trader, RVT, Craigslist, Facebook Marketplace, and other private owner websites are worth pursuing.
Susan and I bought our Class C RV (below) off of Facebook Marketplace. It was used with under 9,000 miles on it and it cost about the same price as an expensive travel trailer.
In my opinion, newbies should buy a used RV or camper because RVs are not investments. They are like cars and their value typically only goes one way: down. And there is a very high likelihood that the first RV or camper you buy will not be the right RV for you. Most people who buy RVs trade them in for a more suitable model after only two years.
So if you buy a brand new camper chances are you will sell it or trade it in for less than what you paid for it after only 2 years and lose quite a bit of money. The same thing will happen if your first camper is used but you won’t experience as much of a loss since most RVs and campers lose the most value in the first few years.
For more info about the value of campers over time check out our article called Travel Trailer Depreciation: What’s My Travel Trailer Worth?
3. Is a Towable or Drivable RV Best for Beginners?
Ah, the endless debate. The correct answer is…personal choice. Generally, travel trailers are more budget-friendly, and fans like the idea of detaching their RV from the tow vehicle so they can explore the surrounding area.
Proponents of motorhomes like having full access to the living area while traveling. Many who own motorcoaches toad a dinghy (tow a passenger vehicle) with them, so they don’t have to unhook their RV from the campsite water and electric hookups.
But in my opinion, parking, leveling, setting up, and breaking down are all much easier in a driveable RV. Susan and I have watched countless people with towable travel trailers take 45 minutes or more trying to back in, then get detached and leveled up, and that’s before even beginning the process of hooking up.
Here’s a video we made that shows how easy setup is in a Class C RV.
4. Try Before You Buy an RV
We at RVBlogger can’t stress this enough. Renting a few different RVs from a peer-to-peer company like Outdoorsy, RVshare, or RVezy is the best way for you and your family to determine what category and floorplans are right for you.
You may find bunkhouse travel trailers that are SUV-friendly match well with your lifestyle. If your children are about ready to head out on their own, maybe a couple’s fifth wheel with fold-down furniture will better suit your needs.
When you rent, you have the chance to gain first-hand knowledge of specific features without becoming tied to a significant investment. When you’re ready to buy, you’ll have the experience to back up your decision.
But what if you want to consider a travel trailer or 5th wheel and you can’t tow one? Well, there are travel trailers and 5th wheels you can rent where the owner will deliver and set up the RV right at your campsite! There are even filters on the peer-to-peer RV rental websites so you can narrow down your search.
For example, Susan and I are considering switching from our Class C RV to a 5th wheel. There is no way our Toyota Tacoma can tow a fifth wheel. It’s too small and I don’t have the proper 5th wheel hitch. So we went onto Outdoorsy and found a 5th wheel with delivery and set up for $100 and the owner is delivering the 5th wheel to our campsite for the weekend. Then he is picking it up when we are done.
It’s great because we get to try out the 5th wheel for a weekend to see how we like it BEFORE spending tens of thousands of dollars on a 5th wheel and a bigger pickup truck to tow it.
9 RVs and Camper Trailers Best for Newbies
We’re now going to show you the essential characteristics of each category of RV. You can learn a lot more about each one on our RVBlogger website, where we have hundreds of articles and videos.
For perspective, when we mention length, we measure from the front of the hitch to the back bumper. GVWR stands for Gross Vehicle Weight Rating. Every RV manufacturer must list this weight rating. When you pack up all of your gear, have water in the holding tanks, people inside the RV, and the weight of the RV itself; this is the most weight the coach can handle safely.
The teardrop category gets its name from the traditional shape. The front is broad, and it tapers to a point in the rear. The interior space has enough room for two people to sleep, and there’s a rear hatch that opens up with kitchen amenities. You’ll find most of this category dominated by quality independent brands.
Today’s teardrop manufacturers are developing interior spaces with a lot of creature comforts. You’ll find full entertainment centers, dual climate control, and some have folding furniture for daytime seating. Most teardrop coaches are simple to use with generators, solar panel systems, and other dry camping* devices. You can learn more about what these fantastic little tugs can do in our article called 20 Best Teardrop Trailers (Plus Video Walkthroughs).
*Dry camping is a camping style where you set up at a location that doesn’t have any provided hookup utilities. You rely on your power source, water tanks, and other amenities you bring with you. Also known as “boondocking,” RVers will dry camp on designated public land and commercial parking lots where it’s allowed.
Main Specs for Teardrops
- Length Range: 8- 13 feet
- GVWR Range: 1,500- 2,500 pounds
- Sleep Range: 2 people
- Price Range: $8,000- $20,000
Pop-up campers come in either softshell or hard-shell. When closed up, they store well in residential garages and are light enough for most minivans. You’ll find more room for your family in the softshell vinyl or canvas versions, but A-frame pop-up campers are better insulated. They are budget-friendly for families, yet you need to keep a weather eye on the vinyl for damage.
The amenities in the RV are small but mighty. The air conditioners and furnaces will freeze/boil you out in the wrong settings. The kitchen appliances won’t make you Iron Chef Michael Symon, but you can prepare healthy and delicious meals everyone will enjoy. Don’t let your eyes deceive you when it comes to storage. RV manufacturers hide storage space underneath things making use of every square inch.
Main Specs for Expandables
- Length Range: 8- 20 feet
- GVWR Range: 1,000- 4,000 pounds
- Sleep Range: 2- 8 people
- Price Range: $10,000- $35,000
3. Hybrid Trailers
If this decision is keeping you up at night, you’re stressing out too much. The RV experience should be fun, even the buying process. If you love features of expandables and travel trailers (which we’ll get to in a minute), why not choose both? Hybrid trailers give you trailer space and amenities. To keep things lightweight, they have fold-up sleeping spaces like an expandable.
The first time you pull into your campground when it’s raining, you’ll love the fact that you can run right into the trailer. You’ll have to go back out to open up the beds and set the stabilizer jacks, but you can wait until it dries up. Your RV refrigerator runs both on propane and electric, so grabbing some sandwiches and drinks while you listen to the rain won’t be a problem.
RVBlogger Pack Up Tip: Never pack up your softshell RV when it’s wet. The moisture will activate mold, mildew, and fungus spores that will degrade the fabric. If you have to pack up when damp, make sure you set the RV up as soon as you can so it can dry out.
Main Specs for Hybrids
- Length Range: 8- 26 feet
- GVWR Range: 2,500- 5,500 pounds
- Sleep Range: 4- 8 people
- Price Range: $10,000- $40,000
4. Truck Campers
One category is not quite a towable and not really a drivable (although it’s officially towable). Since you don’t tow a truck camper, the RVs come rated based on your pickup’s payload capacity and bed length. Unlike any other detachable RV, It’s legal to ride in a truck camper while traveling in most states (do your research first).
For example, if you have a Dodge Ram 1500 short bed, choosing a Lance 825 may be ideal for you. The loft bed over the driver cab measures to queen bed dimensions and the combined bathroom/shower wet bath has plenty of room to feel spacious. The kitchen and sitting area are similar to a pop-up. You’ll have everything you need to enjoy real meals.
RVBlogger Weight Tip: Leave room for the “holy horsepower.” When considering your total weight (Gross Vehicle Weight or GVW), leave some space between your max weight and your GVW so your tow vehicle can manage the road. You’ll want the acceleration to get up to speed, climb hills, and handle road conditions.
Main Specs for Truck Campers
- Length Range: 6- 12 feet
- GVWR Range: 1,000- 5,000 pounds
- Sleep Range: 3- 8 people
- Price Range: $15,000- $80,000
5. Travel Trailers
The travel trailer category is as ambiguous as saying a Pomeranian and a Mastiff are dogs. While they have the same basic features, each sub-category will have a different camping experience. Here’s what you can generally expect from the different lengths:
Small travel trailers make the most of the space for couples and small families. Furniture folds out/down for multiple purposes, yet storage and space are deceptively ample.
Mid-size versions balance SUV-friendliness with residential-like features. Families will like the bunk beds and multi-zone sections. Couples that work on the road will find plenty of room to have their separate workspace without cramping each other’s style.
Full-size units will feel like million-dollar sticks-and-bricks homes with unique floor plans. They combine house-level features, furniture, and components with the best decors. All of this luxury comes with costs, specifically, their price tags and weight. Expect to pay top-shelf price points and have a tow vehicle like a Ford Expedition or GMC Sierra 3500.
What’s So Different About Fiberglass? You may come across fiberglass molded RVs like Casita, Scamp, and others. Bolar RV created this technique of molded shells acting as both frame and wall in the late 1960s. Legacy companies continue it today through direct order sales and manufacturing.
Main Specs for Travel Trailers
- Length Range: 8-40 feet
- GVWR Range: 800- 14,000 pounds
- Sleep Range: 2-10 people
- Price Range: $10,000- $80,000
6. Fifth Wheels
If you’re looking for the best of everything in a towable, you can’t go wrong with a fifth wheel. Some mid-profile models are towable by half-ton pickups, like the Ford F-150, if they have a heavy-duty tow package. Generally, 250/2500 or 350/3500 level trucks will be the safest choice when towing these behemoths.
Full-time RVers love this category due to the separation between the full kitchen, living room, and master bedroom suite. Some have second bedrooms and lofts half way through (a.k.a. mid-coach) for guests or family members. Part-timers and weekenders will enjoy this category to use as the ultimate tailgater with the outdoor kitchen and entertainment center for pre-game.
RVBlogger on Toy Haulers: If you love to tackle the outdoor trails with your adventure toys like ATVs, kayaks, or other oversized items, most toy haulers fall into the fifth wheel category. The garage areas double as extra rooms with beds for guests.
Main Specs for Fifth Wheels
- Length Range: 20- 45 feet
- GVWR Range: 7,000- 16,000 pounds
- Sleep Range: 4- 12 people
- Price Range: $20,000- $200,000
7. Class B Motorhome/Campervans
Class B motorhomes are the most fuel-efficient drivables. While they’ve become trendy in the United States in the past 20 years, the Europeans have enjoyed campervans since the late 1940s with the Volkswagon Combi Conversions (we know it as the “VW Bus”).
Engineers have reimagined the interior of full-size vans giving this category of motorhome every creature comfort imaginable. Memory foam beds, full kitchen appliances, real bathrooms, plenty of storage, and the best entertainment technology possible. Popular chassis include:
- Mercedes Sprinter
- Dodge Ram ProMaster
- Ford Transport
- Chevrolet Express
What’s a Stealth Campervan? Stealth campervans aren’t vans used by the F.B.I., Homeland Security, or any other government authority. Those who enjoy do-it-yourself (D.I.Y.) projects will buy a van and build their own RV.
Main Specs for Class B
- Length Range: 10- 13 feet
- GVWR Range: 8,000- 12,000 pounds
- Sleep Range: 2- 4 people
- Price Range: $80,000- $250,000
8. Class C Motorhome
Class C motorhomes balance full-size features and drivability. They’re easy to spot with the iconic loft bed over the driver’s area. Families and starting singing groups are amazed at the storage space these RVs have. Many of the mid-size versions have near- toy hauler sized exterior rear storage underneath the master bed.
Technological advances have made Class Cs more spacious with slideouts, bunk beds and new furniture configurations. The Super C sub-class uses Freightliner long-haul truck chassis for the ultimate luxury level possible. You’ll find that many people love this motorhome class above all else (although we might be a little bias since Susan and I love our Class C).
What Happened to That Motorhome’s Loft? If you see a smaller motorhome that looks like a Class C, but it doesn’t have the loft over the driver’s cab, it’s a B plus. This sub-category is a Class B that has extra interior space. Instead of a loft, there’s storage and an entertainment center above the driver area.
Main Specs for Class C RVs
- Length Range: 25- 40 feet
- GVWR Range: 14,000- 35,000 pounds
- Sleep Range: 4-10 people
- Price Range: $30,000- $500,000
9. Class A Motorhome
When you put a front-engine gasser next to a diesel pusher, what do you think happens? If you don’t know what to look for in today’s market, it’s challenging to determine which one gets the unleaded gas. These rolling palaces have the best luxury furniture, handcrafted cabinetry, and state-of-the-art technology. It’s no wonder many full-timers sell everything to live in these RVs.
You’ll find king-size beds, bunk beds, residential refrigerators, and real stone tile in many Class A motorhomes. Once drivers hit the gas pedal, that panoramic windshield and near Cadillac-style suspension makes them forget about their fears of driving something so big.
Accessibility For All With a Class A: Did you know that certain manufacturers make Class A motorhomes for those in wheelchairs? The interiors have customized features giving everyone the ability to live independently while they travel the country.
Main Specs for Class A
- Length Range: 20-45 feet
- GVWR Range: 15,000- 56,000
- Sleep Range: 4- 12 people
- Price Range: $80,000- $3,000,000
Should I Buy an Extended Warranty for My Camper?
Yes – but not from a dealership! Unfortunately, your odds of suffering a major mechanical breakdown go up with every passing year. Based on RV Warranty claims records, more than 3 out of every 10 RVs will need major repairs in only their second year on the road. This skyrockets to 8 out of 10 in their fifth year, and virtually ALL of them in their eighth year! Today’s RVs are increasingly more complex, and with more things to go wrong, the need to protect your investment is more important than ever.
Our RV Warranty plans allow you to change your mind! If you’re looking to sell your RV to a private party, you can absolutely transfer the policy to the new owner. Additionally, if you are trading in your RV, or getting out of RVing altogether, you can cancel your policy for a pro-rated refund.
We bought a warranty through Wholesale Warranties for several reasons:
- We can cancel the warranty at any time and get a pro-rated refund
- We can transfer the warranty to the new owner if we decide to sell our RV
- There are no mileage caps on our policy
- We can use repair shops all across the country
- We can use a mobile repair company right at our campsite
- The price is way better than most dealerships
- We could finance the cost of the warranty
- With parts and labor prices increasing all the time, we have peace of mind
You owe it to yourself to at least check out a warranty and get a free quote to see if it is right for you. It just takes a few minutes and you will learn a ton about protecting your investment. We only recommend products we use ourselves and we highly recommend you get a free quote from Wholesale Warranties.
RV Training Courses for Beginners
Take some time to chew over the categories and read over the many helpful articles we cover on the RVBlogger website. Whichever you choose, we have one last recommendation that’s critical to your camping adventure’s success.
Invest yourself in an online RV training series. RV education courses like Mike Polk’s RV Education 101 series teach you essential tricks of the trade regarding driving techniques, care, buying, and renting. His mastery of the industry has given thousands of students the confidence and knowledge to forge their RV adventures.