June 1, 2014

Is Bigger Really Better?

When Tim and I made the decision to become full-time RVers, we faced numerous decisions. One of the most important was selecting the RV that would be our home.  We already owned an RV, a 2009 Free Spirit, a Class B motorhome manufactured by Leisure Travel Vans of Canada.  The Free Spirit is built on a Mercedes-Benz Sprinter chassis and has a 3 liter V6 diesel engine.  It is 23’9” in length, 7’2” in width and 9’6” in height and weighs 8,500 pounds fully loaded.

We had purchased the RV new in September 2010 for our nine-month Road Trip Ramble.  You can read more about our RV here.  However, we weren’t sure it was suitable for full-timing.  Was it too small?  Would we be comfortable and be able to carry all our stuff?

Conventional wisdom says that full-timing requires a much larger RV, typically either a motorhome or fifth-wheel.  It is extremely rare for a Class B RV like ours to be used by a couple on a full-time basis.  

So, in order to explore all possibilities, we began to look at larger RVs – first online and then at an RV show in Denver.  We still didn’t want a large RV – 30’ was about our limit – and we saw one or two that had possibilities.  In order to complete our research, we flew to the Florida RV SuperShow in January 2014.  This is one of the largest RV shows in the country, and we knew we could look at almost every possible RV there.

Tim Is Ready to Find an RV for Us

We arrived at the show with notebook and camera in hand.  We had narrowed our choices down and had mapped out a route to navigate through the thousands of RVs on display.  We carefully looked at each one on our list, made notes on what we liked and disliked and took photos to help us remember one from the other.  At the end of day one, we were exhausted, but we were able to whittle our list down to a more manageable number.

What Do We Like About this One?

Hopefully, A Photo Will Help Us Remember This One

We arrived back at the show the next morning to view the RVs that remained in contention. Surprisingly, there were just two or three that we could really see ourselves living in.  We had ruled out some because of the poor quality of finishes, a few because of the floor plans and others because of the ghastly d├ęcor.  I really wish more RV manufacturers would work with interior designers who have a more modern aesthetic.

So Many RVs, So Little Time

Although we spent a considerable amount of time in two Winnebago/Itasca models, we could never quite bring ourselves to pull out the checkbook.  No one model seemed to have our name on it. Instead, we walked through the vendor booths and consoled ourselves with a few small purchases that would make our lives in any RV easier. So we didn’t leave Florida empty-handed.

None of the RVs Seemed Just Right for Us

We arrived back in Estes Park more confused than ever.  Should we continue looking?  Could a small RV like ours work out after all?  Although the extra space would be nice, our own RV seemed to be the right one for us.  Besides, it was paid for – a factor that we couldn’t overlook.  We decided that smaller might be better.  If it didn’t work out, we could always trade ours in for a larger RV sometime down the road.  

If we ever decide to trade up, we will be much better prepared to make a decision. Researching and visiting RV shows proved to be an incredible learning experience, and we feel much more knowledgeable about the types of RVs that might suit our needs.   So, decision made.  Let’s move on.

After much thought, we also decided to bring along our car, a 2007 Subaru Outback.  Although we had happily traveled for nine months with just the RV, we knew that this new full-time lifestyle would be somewhat different.  We would be doing less touring (moving every day or so) and more staying in one spot for a week or more at a time.

Although we know that some people will question the wisdom of traveling with two vehicles, we knew it would be a good choice for us.  Our car was paid for, and you can purchase a lot of fuel for the price of a new, or even used, car.  Having a separate vehicle would make it convenient to make a quick run to the grocery store or go out to eat.  More importantly, we would be able to leave the cat behind in the RV with the air conditioning on and not worry about her overheating, even if we were away for the entire day.  An added bonus would be having a bit more space to store chairs, extra supplies, etc.

Towing the Subaru behind the RV was not an option.  Although the Free Spirit is rated for towing, I would be hesitant to try it.  As a matter of fact, I had never seen a Class B Sprinter like ours towing a car.  Besides, the Subaru cannot be towed with all four wheels down.  A tow dolly would be required, which was not appealing to us.  Again, we decided to see how it might go and reevaluate later if necessary.

Our Free Spirit and Subaru - A Perfect Pair for Us

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