How to Choose the Best RV or Camper

How to Choose the Best RV or Camper

Posted by Sarah Snipes on May 9, 2024

Ignore the marketing hype and get real about why you want an RV/camper before you start shopping.

Are you looking for the best recreational vehicle or camper for hunting trips, traveling with your kids or creating a weekend retreat on your property out in the country?

Maybe your ideal outdoor lifestyle is to travel full-time, visiting every national park in the country while you work remotely.

If this were a sponsored post, this is where we’d tell you we’ve chosen the best in class for each category — no need to look any further!

Reality: choosing an RV or camper is a process, and if you clarify your goals ahead of time, you’ll be in a better position to resist flashy marketing and find what suits you.


What are the Different Types of RVs and Campers?

Think about your camping plans as you consider the options.

The term camper generally refers to towable options. 

These are the pop-ups, travel trailers and fifth wheels that you tow behind your truck or SUV.

 Pop-up trailers

    • Low profile while towing (often only four feet high)
    • Raised by hand-crank or electronically once parked
    • Often very lightweight, made of tent-like material
    • Typically have the fewest amenities
    • Price: $10,000 - $30,000 

    Travel trailers

    • Solid walls provide better insulation from cold and noise
    • The most popular and versatile type of camper
    • Options vary from rugged to luxurious in terms of amenities
    •  Price: $10,000 - $150,000

    Fifth-wheel trailers

    • Towed by heavy-duty trucks — not SUV friendly
    • More stability while towing
    • Larger and heavier than other camper styles
    • More living space and amenities
    • Price: $20,000 - $150,000

In contrast, the term RV typically refers to a motorhome—a stand-alone vehicle with an engine that can be driven on its own.

Motorhomes are larger than campers and come in different sizes. Class A models are the roomiest and most luxurious, while Class C models are the smallest. 

Some features of motorhomes:

  • Ability to tow a separate car, ATV, etc.
  • More living space and amenities than campers
  • Often very luxurious
  • May limit camping options — some campgrounds have restrictions
  • Price: $50,000 - $150,000 +


Hints from campers who’ve gone before

One of the best things you can do if you’re in the market for an RV or camper: is ask around and talk to people who’ve “been there, done that.”

We informally polled some camping enthusiasts for their thoughts.

One retired couple we spoke with had been camping for 20+ years — first in a tent, and then later in a travel trailer, and finally in a motorhome. It turns out the motorhome is “too much vehicle” for them; they’re planning to downsize to another travel trailer this year.

They said if they had it to do all over again, they would avoid the quest for the “perfect RV” and instead keep things simple, buying only what they needed.

“You think about how nice the extras will be, but you don’t think about needing the tools and skills to work on it when the engine won’t crank,” said Bill K. (full name redacted for privacy). “Getting a tow or mechanic for a motorhome isn’t as easy as for a smaller vehicle. We broke down once and would have been stranded for weeks if I hadn’t been able to fix it.”

 A few tips from campers we’ve met:

  • Prepare for the cost of maintenance and repairs (like damaged siding, tires, etc.)
  •  Be honest with yourself about your driving skills and comfort with towing
  • Make sure your truck and SUV can handle the payload/weight of a camper
  •  Double-check that you have the right insurance, towing and roadside assistance coverage before traveling
  • Think about the road conditions and terrain where you want to travel before buying


Consider Renting an RV or Camper

Many camping enthusiasts buy multiple styles before landing on the right fit. You can avoid that by renting before you buy — and enjoy the lifestyle now.

Try a peer-to-peer rental site like Outdoorsy or RVshare to test drive the styles you’re considering.

Use these sites to search for rentals in your area and plan a practice-run vacation.

Know that there are some restrictions (some owners won’t allow rentals to go to music festivals, for example).

But there are plenty of options — including pet-friendly rentals — and you can buy insurance to cover you in case of an accident or damage.

 Get Ready for your Next Camping Adventures with These Related Reads:

Download the Free Recreational Property eGuide 

Sarah Snipes

Sarah Snipes is a freelance writer based in Western North Carolina. When she’s not writing, you can find her outside—usually hunting or fishing with her husband. Sarah is passionate about wellness and enjoys strength training, practicing yoga, and cooking healthy meals in her free time.

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