FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS
(and other information)
This is the RV FAQ, a pointer to which posted monthly to
the following newsgroups; alt.rv, rec.outdoors.rv-travel and
rec.outdoors.camping. This edition contains URL tags that should be
readable by HTML smart readers, such as Netscape 2.0.
This FAQ will also be available via FTP and WWW. The FAQ should be
found in any major Usenet FAQ site. The prime URL is
This is revision 5.0 of the FAQ dated 1 June 2004. Complied by Ralph
Lindberg (rlindber--AT-telebtye.com) and Jerry Segers
Please contact Ralph Lindberg (rlindber-AT-telebyte.com) with
changes, additions, etc
This FAQ is Copyright (C) 1995/1996/1998/2000/2001/2004 by Jerry W.
Ralph Lindberg and the members of the UseNet community for their
individual contributions. All rights reserved. Permission is hereby
granted to use, copy and redistribute this FAQ in whole or part by any
means for any purpose so long the following conditions are met:
1 - The distribution is not done for profit.
2 - The distributed portion of the document is not modified.
3 - The distributed copy contains instructions about where to get the
4 - If the copy is imbedded in any publication (Print, CD-ROM etc.) one
copy must be delivered to author's free of charge.
Any reproduction or of distribution of this FAQ in whole or part by any
means, implies agreement with the above conditions unless written (non-
electronic) permission to the contrary is obtained from the author.
While the information contained in this FAQ was carefully collected and
compiled to be as accurate as possible, there are no expressed or
implied warranties that the information contained herein is correct, of
any value, or suitable for any purpose. If you use this information in
any way, you assume full responsibility for the results of your
actions. In no event will the author, or others be liable for any
results or the lack thereof.
Neither of the compilers have any connection with any of the business
that may be mentioned in the FAQ except possibly as a satisfied
customer unless there is a specific statement to the contrary in the
Please note: if your news reader puts strange characters, where double
and single quotes might be being used. The fault is the character set
my news program uses is not the same as the character set yours uses. I
am working on fixing this problem.
TABLE OF CONTENTS.
Editorial, Copyright and Disclaimer.
- General and Internet resources
1.1 What are these news group all about?
1.2 What is an RV?
1.3 Netiquette on the newsgroups.
1.4 Advertising on the net
1.6 About the FAQ editors.
- General Information
2.1 What about a check list
2.2 What about Ham radio Nets
2.3 Buying mail order
2.4 What Campground Guide should I get
2.5 Cooking for and on the road
2.6 Traveling with Pets
- RV information
3.1 Advise for the first time RVer
3.2 RV vs Motels
3.3 Buying an RV (General)
3.3.1 Buying RVs for cold weather.
3.3.2 What about Trailers and Tow vehicles
3.4 Membership Campgrounds
3.5 Full Timing
3.6 What about Magazines
3.7 One way rentals
1.1 What are these news groups all
There are many people that enjoy the pleasures of occasional or full
time RV-ing. This news group is for these people to share ideas related
to this effort and in the process learn from and make friends with each
other. Woven among the messages in this group, you will find novel
ideas, dumb suggestions, good advice, horror stories, and wonderful
tales of personal triumph sprinkled with love, understanding,
friendship, and hate. All of which are part of the RV-ing experience.
While to the uninitiated, the letters RV and their meaning recreational
vehicles could mean anything from a child's first bicycle to a home
built airplane or the Love Boat, the discussions in this group are
generally limited to experiences related to the class of vehicles that
are intended for personal or single family use and function as a home
away from home. They are used when the owner, their family and friends
want to "Get Away" for a while and see more of their world than can be
seen from the window of a car, bus, or train going to and from their
work location. A further definition of an RV can be found in the next
1.2 What is an RV?
There are ten generally accepted types of Recreational
Vehicles. Each type is listed below along with my homey definition. If
anyone can explain how these definitions were created or provide an
exact definition for any of the classes I would be happy to include
that information here.
RVs can be divided into two general categories. Those that have power
trains (Engine, transmission, etc.) and those that do not. The ones
that have power trains are called motorhomes and the one that do not
are called trailers because they trail the tow vehicle. Below the
motorhomes are listed first then the trailers. In each category they
are listed with the larger and generally more expensive units first.
Class A Motorhome
This is the largest type of motorhome. It ranges in size from about
13,000 to 30,000 pound gross vehicle weight, from 28 to 40 feet in
overall length and up to 14 feet high. They are generally a box on
wheels with all the comforts of home inside. They are frequently
constructed on custom undercarriages or on a three to ten ton truck
chassis. It is easy for the passenger to move from the passenger seat
to the back of the coach.
Class C Motorhome
This is the next smaller size motorhome. They range in size from 10,000
to 12,000 pound gross vehicle weight, from 20 to 35 feet in length and
about 10 feet high. They are generally constructed on a larger van
chassis. Their driver compartment is similar to a van with a large box
in the back. The passenger can move from the passenger seat to the back
of the unit with slight difficulty getting around the engine hump.
Micro-Mini Motorhome or Class B Motorhome
This unit is similar to the Class C motorhome but they are built on
light weight van chassis and are generally smaller ( 8-9 feet high) and
around 6,000 pound gross vehicle weight. Drives a lot like a car with a
large box in the back. Movement of the passenger from the passenger
seat to the back of the unit requires the bed to be raised or extreme
agility on the part of the passenger.
Van Conversions or Cladd B Motorhome
This class is sometimes referred to as a Class B motorhome. Probably
because no one knows what the real definitions are and like me can see
no reason for class A and class C with no class B. These are the
smallest of the fully enclosed motorhome. They are constructed on a van
chassis with elevated roof lines but no modifications to the length or
width of the original chassis. Gross vehicle weights are in the 6,000
to 8,000 range with heights of 7 to 8 feet high and lengths of 17 to 19
feet. Drives like a loaded van (it is).
Pickup truck mounted campers
These are generally the smallest of the self powered RV's. They consist
of a camper body of various sizes that load into the bed of an
unmodified pickup truck. Usually the tail gate is removed and the
camper unit is clamped to the truck. It is possible to remove the
camper from the truck but this is usually a long task not something to
do in a campground.
Fifth Wheel Trailers
These units are similar to the larger travel trailers but they have an
extension on the front of the box that extends over the tow vehicle and
a horizontal plate that looks like a wheel that rests on the tow
vehicle for support. This plate is where the 5th wheel unit gets its
name. This hitch arrangement requires a special tow vehicle, usually a
pickup truck with special equipment. Many say this hitch arrangement
that places the load in the center of the tow vehicle instead of behind
cause more stability and easier driving.
These units come in a variety of sizes from a small bedroom on wheels
to the equivalent of a class A motorhome minus the engine and running
gear. They are built close to the ground so the overall height is lower
for the same internal height as a motorhome. They are 10 to 35 feet in
length and must be pulled by a separate tow vehicle. Due to weight of
all but the smallest units, the tow vehicle must have a special load
distributing hitch and other special devices designed to control the
sway of the trailer because the load is all behind the tow vehicle.
These are the smallest of RV's that to not have an engine. They usually
have canvas sides and resemble a tent on a small flat bed trailer. They
are light weight and easy to tow. Most larger automobiles can serve as
tow vehicle with few modifications.
Just what the name appears to imply. These are smaller Travel Trailers,
with pull-out canvas covered beds, ala Tent-Trailers (Pop-Ups). Like
Pop-Ups, they do not require as serious a tow vehicle, but they also
provide a larger trailer then a Pop-Up.
Toy Hauler or SUT
The Company that started a trend and became the generic name. The SUT
or Sport Utility Trailer is something that has taken the RV industry by
storm. A trailer you can both camp in and haul your ATV/MotoCross/etal
with you, inside the trailer.
Here are some words that generally apply to postings on any news group
and are found in many other FAQ's on the net. If you have not read the
postings of Emily PostNews you should do so. They are found in the news
group news.answers and are posted regularly. They are simultaneously
funny and instructive on how/how not to post.
The most important item to remember about posting to a news group is
that your message will travel around the world and be read by thousands
of people. The number of people that post is relatively small compared
to the number of people that just lurk (read without posting). Thus
when you write a message you should respect others feelings and ways of
life that may be different from yours. Persistent harassment and
obnoxious comments are never welcome and are usually the start of
"flame wars" that never accomplish anything.
The next admonition is to be careful with humor, particularly satire.
In person it is easy to see the body language common to your culture
that indicates satire but in written works it is relatively easy to
miss the clues and treat satire as fact usually with disastrous
results. The symbols in section 3 below have evolved over the years are
of some help but not infallible.
The usenet has developed a jargon over the years that persists even in
the all news group. While I do not generally use much of this there are
others that do so the reader should be aware of the existence of
certain common abbreviations. If you see an abbreviation in this group
that is not here, Please let me know and I will try to define it and
place it here.
IMHO - In My Humble Opinion
My.02 worth - My two cents worth (an American term??)
:-) - a smiley face. Usually indicated humor or satire
(Hold your head sideways to the left to see the face).
:-( - a frown.
;-) - A wink (well you get the idea)
FWIW - For What Its Worth
fiver - A fifth wheel trailer
BTW - By the Way
1.4 Advertising on the net
While there are few rules in Usenet, posting an ad for an unrelated
product to a newsgroup is a certain way to make enemies. I can say for
certain that as of this writing more then one person has lost their net
access due to un-related ads to rec.outdoors.rv-travel. I can and will
complain to the site admin of any poster that sends out an unrelated
ad. Many providers cancel accountsfor this activity.
In addition please remember that the charter for rec.outdoors.rv-travel
forbids commercial posts. The newsgroup rec.outdoors.marketplace was
created for this use. Also I will include pointers (email or a URL) for
related businesses in the FAQ.
I will drop a note to anyone placing a commercial ad in
rec.outdoors.rv- travel, asking them not to, I also send a copy their
provider. If you persist the matter will be pursued.
Remember that this restriction does NOT apply to alt.rv. This newsgroup
has no charter and thus no rules or standards can be applied to this
These are the people who have contributed in some way to this document
they are listed generally in order of the date of their first
contribution, but they are all equally important! Thank you one and all!
Kathy Duffy - kathy.duffy-AT-buckys.com
William F Sill - will-AT-epix.net
Icono Clast - icono.clast-AT-lcabin.com
Ruediger Pein - pein-AT-Informatik.TU-Muenchen.DE
Nigel Head - nhead-AT-pcnhead.dev.esoc.esa.de
John Crossley - CROSSLEY-AT-UK.AC.BRIS.SIVA
Geoff - wl-geoff-aic-AT-society.com
Banjoguy - banjoguy-AT-aol.com
Joe Fowler - jfowler-AT-acy.digex.net
Kenneth Oakman - bklyn-AT-eskimo.com
Bluffdance - bluffdance-AT-aol.com
Steve and Terri Carl - terric-AT-neosoft.com
Wayne O'Neil - kocoscan-AT-the-wire.com
Greg Schulz - gschulz-AT-free.org
Ed Taylor - etaylor-AT-nr.infi.net
Paul D. Hoffman - hoffmanp-AT-mcmaster.ca
Rudi Wiedemann - WIEDEMAN-AT-ix.netcom
Charles Copeland - copeland-AT-fohnix.metronet
Judith B. Glad - heyjude-AT-teleport.com
Brian Hunt - bhunt5-AT-coyote.rain.org
David L. Schultz - dschultz-AT-epix.net
P.E. Cox. - MOMSCARD-AT-MUSIC.CC.UGA.EDU
Rich Ervin- revein-AT-tnt.microimages.com
John Sankey -bf250-AT-FreeNet.Carleton.CA
Lou Schneider -lous-AT-crl.com
Oasis RV - oasisrv-AT-aol.com
Ernest Smith - ernie-AT-oregon.cray.com
1.6 About the FAQ editors.
My name is Jerry Segers. I was born and raised in the small middle
Georgia community of Gabbettville, USA. I am an Industrial Engineer by
training but I have never held an engineering job, Industrial or
otherwise. I discovered computers while in college (It was a Burroughs
B-220 on the off chance that any one ever heard of one) and went to
work at Georgia Tech to be close to one. Each time I started to leave
Tech they gave me a larger computer to play with until they suddenly
gave me a tiny IBM PC. What a let down! Then Bob Metcaff, Charlie Bass
and Ralph Ungermann indirectly showed me it was possible to
interconnect these tiny things into networks and my career change was
underway. I designed and constructed the campus network, GTNet, while
at Georgia Tech then went on the develop PeachNet "The Network for
Education in Georgia".
While in college, I met my wife Carol and learned the pleasures of
camping in something other than a tent as I enjoyed in my Boy Scout
days. Together Carol and I purchased a used 1968 Lifetime Premier motor
home on a Dodge Chassis and began to discover the joys of RV-ing. We
have two children Christa 21, and Jerry, Jr.(JJ) 18 that were raised on
trips to the lake, Disney World, and relatives.
My son commented there were a lot of memories in that old motor home,
but I really should sell it and get a new one. Never, I replied knowing
that when I retire in a few years, I expect to do just that. I also
knew that he nor his sister would never forget the fun trips to
Florida, the mountains, or the night the roof vent leaked and soaked
his bed. We all remember the day dad went too fast and spilled the
coleslaw and milk from the refrigeration all over the floor or the
nights we watched the sun set over the lake with the boat moored just a
few feet in front of the window. To us the motor home was/is a vacation
hideaway on wheels. We can take it like a magic carpet to far away
places where we meet new friends, renew family ties, and enjoy what is
now known as quality time together. So if you are given to think I am a
very un-selfish person for creating and maintaining this FAQ, you are
wrong! I am doing this for very selfish reasons. I expect to meet new
friends, help my fellow travelers, gain new insights and in general
derive untold pleasure from this effort. So if you can see your way
clear to help me realize this selfish goal, please contribute material
that I can use in this effort (I promise to try hard to learn from
Ralph Lindberg is from Great Falls Montana, son of a former Forest
Service smoke chaser. I was brought up spending much of every summer
camping in the mountains of Montana. I went to college (BS EE, Computer
Engineer option) at Montana State U, Bozeman MT. An excellent location
for outdoor activities. I now live in Keyport Washington and work for
the US Navy on computers and undersea weapons systems. After I moved to
Washington state I continued my camping activities, in fact I meet my
wife (Ellen Winnie) on a camping trip. We tent camped for many years,
until Ellen's health got to the point where she could no longer sleep
on the ground. This was a real let down for someone who once hiked
Asgard pass, from north to south (the HARD way).
Our current RV is a 1999, 25 foot Nash 24-5N Fifth Wheel which we tow
a Ford F-250, .
2.0 General Information
2.1 What's a good check list look like?
The following is from Oasis RV
Here's a camping checklist that we use for our customers:
CAMPING CHECK LIST
( ) SPICES ( ) COOKING OIL
( ) BOTTLED WATER ( ) HOT CHOC MIX
( ) SPICED CIDER MI ( ) COFFEE
( ) SUGAR PACKETS ( ) BOXED JUICES
( ) SYRUP ( ) POTS & PANS
( ) UTENSILS ( ) SILVERWARE
( ) TABLECLOTH ( ) KITCHEN TOWELS
( ) WASH BINS ( ) TUFFEE PADS
( ) CUTTING BOARD ( ) KITCHEN RAGS
( ) POT HOLDERS ( ) COFFEE POT
( ) COFFEE FILTERS ( ) COFFEE CUPS
( ) TBLECLTH HLDERS ( ) DISH DRAINER
( ) CAN OPENER ( ) CHAMPAGNE GLASSES
( ) KNIVES ( ) TEA KETTLE
( ) NAPKINS ( ) PAPER TOWELS
( ) TRASH BAGS ( ) ALUMINUM FOIL
( ) LIQUID DETERGENT ( ) MATCHES
( ) PAPER PLATES ( ) FLASHLIGHT
( ) CHARCOAL ( ) PORTABLE BBQ
( ) PILLOWS ( ) STOVE LIGHTER
( ) SLEEPING BAGS ( ) BEACH CHAIRS
( ) BEACH TOWELS ( ) LANTERN
( ) RADIO ( ) BATTERIES
( ) BUNGIE CORDS ( ) FIRST AID KIT
( ) WHISK BROOM ( ) GAMES
( ) ROPE ( ) KLEENEX
( ) TOILET PAPER ( ) AX
( ) FIREWOOD ( ) BOOKS
( ) 2 PRS OLD SHOES ( ) COATS
( ) BACK PACKS ( ) SMALL ICE CHEST
( ) SUN SCREEN
2.2 What about Ham radio Nets?
All time CST:
14263 FMCA everyday -AT- 2pm
7283 or 7292 Goodsam everyday -AT- 7:30pm to 8:00pm
14240 Goodsam sunday -AT- 2pm
7233.3 RV net everyday -AT- 7am to 8am
14308 RV net m-f 1pm-2pm and 6pm-7pm
Times many vary (or be slightly wrong on my part)
2.3 Buying Mail Order
"Where can I buy camping and RV items by mail?" For a more
complete listing see the On-Line info section
REI 1-800-462-4840 /206 -891-2500 (fax (206-891-2523)
Campmor 1-800-230-2151, http://www.campmor.com
Campers Choice 1-800-833-6713 /205-356-2810 http://www.camperschoice.com
Northern 1-800-438-5480 (fax 1-613-894-0083)
Camping World 1-800-626-5944
J.C. Whitney. (312) 431-6102 or Fax: (312) 431-5625, catalog request
line is 1-800-JCWHITNEY and their home page is http:://www.jcwhitney.com
RV Ad Ons 1-888-676-3100 http://www.RVcatalog.com/
For a more complete listing see the on-line resources at this
A cost comparison of identical items
(spring 2004) from RV Ad Ons, Campers Choice, JC Whitney and Camping
I tried to cover an item or two out of many different types. You will
note that while Camping World doesn't always have the best price, they
do have the largest selection.
||RV Ad Ons
|Atwood Water heater 6 Gal LP
|Splendide Washer Dryer
|Progressive Dynamics 9100
|Olympian Wave8 Catyltic heater
|Suburban SF35 Forced Air LP heater
|Coleman Super Mach A/C
|Coleman Mach-3plus A/C
|Norcold 7.5 cu.ft. 2way (110v/LP)
|ICP 45 Watt solar panel & regulator
|Onan MicroQuite 4000 4KW gas generator
|Max Air Vent Cover (smoke)
|Lynx Level blocks (set of 10)
2.4 What Campground Guide should I
Ralph (n7bsn-AT-amsat.org) writes:
Most RVers agree that the 'Trailer Life' directory is the best on the
American market, it's updated yearly, lists information for nearly
every campground in the US. The Woodahls' directories are also
excellent, they publish an East, a West, and a Tent campers addition.
Rich (revein-AT-tnt.microimages.com) writes:
AAA campground guides are thinner, but contain very well selected CG's.
This has been our mainstay since we discovered them a couple of years
Jerry and Ralph write:
Occasionally travelers will be surprised as they take various items
through various states. Information about how long can my rig be when I
drive through state X, and how can I take my propane tank through a
tunnel are well covered in the Trailer Life Campground guide
2.5 Cooking for/on the road
I'm not a chef, but you know I've camped with a few. One thing I have
learned is what is right for one person, is dead wrong for another. We
would never have a rig without an oven, we use the oven and dry camp in
too many places to be without it. But I know people that have owned an
RV for years, and never used their oven for anything except another
place to store dishes.
There are a few constants though:
- if you travel with breakable cookware or food containers, they
will break, someday
- You may not miss having a few small containers of spice, until
that fateful day when the meal requires it.
- RV ovens are seldom accurate, an oven thermometer is a must
- Pay attention to your altitude, it can effect your cooking time
- MicroWave/Convection ovens are nice, but without AC power they
2.5 Traveling with pets
Paul D. Hoffman - hoffmanp-AT-mcmaster.ca writes:
In my experience and having browsed many campground directories it
appears that most campgrounds will allow pets as long as they are
restrained in some way. Happy camping. Paul------------------
Most parks that don't allow pets tell you in their ad or listing in the
3.0 - RV FAQ
3.1 Advice for the first time Rver
Jerry Segers writes
So what's to fear except fear itself (Yes it is a bad paraphrase but it
is appropriate). The newer RV's drive like a large car. They have
automatic transmissions, power brakes and cruise control. The only
things that might cause a novice problems is the need to gear down when
going down steep inclines because of the load and the need to watch the
over head clearance. Most rigs are about 10 feet high and get caught
under tree branches when you leave the main roads. Other then that, get
behind the wheel and drive to where you are going. Tip- The rear
visibility is limited on some units. A pair of walkie talkies are a
good investment so someone can watch behind you and talk to you at the
same time when you have to back up.
The RV body is a small house. Refrigerator, stove and sink in the
kitchen, toilet in the bathroom, water heater in the side, A/C unit on
the roof, etc. Most things work just like a smaller version of what you
have at home. There are four major exceptions.
1 -- The refrigerator runs off propane or 110vac so you must select the
power source from time to time and start the operation on that source.
Further it must be level or in motion to stay cool.
2 -- The toilet drops its contents into a holding tank that needs to be
emptied instead of into the city sewer. You should be able to make a 3
day trip without emptying the tanks until you return, but the holding
tank needs some chemical to keep the odor down -- get some before you
leave. In a pinch Joy or Dawn dishwashing liquid works fine. Squirt
about 5 seconds worth in the toilet and flush every 12 hours.
3 -- You MUST learn to conserve water. You can load enough water to
last 3 days if you are careful. If you are sloppy you will
simultaneously run out of water and fill up the holding tanks. The best
way to get into this problem is to let my mother-in-law wash dishes.
She leaves the water running to rinse the next dish while she washes
it. It takes her over 25 gallons to wash the supper dishes for 4. :-(
4 -- You are your own electric company.. Learn how to operate the
generator and how to plug into the campground. Prepare to purchase an
adaptor because the campground power almost never matched the power
cable on the unit. Fortunately this will only happen once or twice (You
will have the required adapters) and every campground sells the right
My advice is --
1 - Make a scrap book of the trip. Write down what you plan to take
with you (clothing, food, menus etc), where you are going and exactly
how your are going to get there. Get the kids to help select the place.
Get the kids to help make the scrap book that describes your trip.
Blank pages with some tape works fine. Look for or draw pictures of the
camp ground, and include maps, telephone numbers, and directions. Make
this a fun family project. Even the youngest can tape the items in the
book with dad's help. The purpose for the book is to get all the
telephone numbers, maps, names, menus, food list, clothing list, etc
all in one place so you can keep up with them. Remember you are
planning an adventure not a trip. No matter what happens you will have
Suppose you get 100 miles down the road and the engine dies while you
are in a gas station and the tow truck can't get there until the next
day. No problem! You have a bed to sleep in, food to eat, games to play
and great people to keep you company.
2 - Get 3 identical sized storage boxes. Put each child's name on one
box and give each child their box at least 1 week before the trip. Your
instructions to each child are that they can take as many toys as they
want so long as they all fit in the box and the lid closes. You
remember to fill a separate box for mom and dad that has reading
materials and games that the whole family can play while you wait for
the tow truck or watch the rain fall.
3 - Rent the motorhome and pack it like you were going to go on 3 day
picnic. Note: For a 3 day trip you need to rent the unit for 4 days.
Pick it up early on the day you leave and packit. You will have a lot
of help with this part. Then when you return you can get a good nights
sleep before you unload everything and take the unit back (With Nooooo
4 - For your picnic take sleeping bags for the beds (Much easier to
make up), drinks in a cooler with ice, paper plates, plastic cups,
sandwich materials, chips, hotdogs, marshmallows (For the camp fire not
over the stove eye!!) You will also need some coat hangers or store
bought roasting sticks.
5 - If you decide to eat out make those the noon meals. Breakfast and
sandwiches for supper are easier to prepare and don't heat up the RV so
much and the food is less expensive at lunch.
Note: With this plan the only thing that really has to work is the
engine to get you there. If you can't figure out how to work the stove
you eat sandwiches. If the refrigerator stops you have cool drinks and
food in the cooler. If you run out of water you stop at the nearby bath
house to wash your hands. Etc.
6 - Plan a trip that requires no more than 3 hours (150 miles) of
travel per day.
7 - Stop at some attraction even if it is only a McDonalds playground
(I like local school yards or county parks with shade trees myself --
Ask at a filling station attendant for the nearest one) every hour and
let the kids run. When you start after the attraction let the other
adult drive for the next hour.
8 - Call ahead for campground reservations. This is not really a
requirement but for a novice it is a good feeling to know that there is
a place to park at the end of the day.
9 - On a 3 day trip plan one day out, one day there and one day back.
The reason for all this caution in the trip plan is so that if there is
any problem it occurs in the daylight and you have time to correct and
still stay on schedule.
10 - Plan on taking about $100 per day per person in cash or travelers
checks you probably not spend it all but having it will give you peace
11 - Remind everyone frequently that this is an adventure. The fun is
in the going and no matter what happens there is something fun to do.
Now GO!! The most likely outcome is that you will forget some very
important item (I'm talking about a very favorite teddy bear or Raggedy
Ann doll) and you have to go back or purchase a substitute. This is
still part of the adventure and is still fun.
If you look over the above advice you will find that there is a lot of
planning and preparation. For your first trip this will make the whole
experience build to a climax as you return and guarantee a good time.
On later trips you can decide on Sunday, pick up the unit on Monday,
yell LOAD-IT and stand back, then drive off for a 2 week adventure and
it won't bother anyone that you don't know where you are going, when
you will get there or where you are going to park, because you will
already know from experience that no matter what happens you will have
From: Tim Traylor imtraylor-AT-mvtel.net
The valves of the gray and black water tanks should be closed at all
times. When tanks are almost full - dump the black water first, then
That sequence uses the gray water to flush the sewer hose and makes the
whole operation more pleasant. The black water tank must contain enough
liquids to carry the solids out through the valve and hose. If your
is short, add more water through the john before dumping. Dump before
traveling then add two gallons of water and chemicals to slosh around
keep your tank cleaner.
If you have an automatic black water tank rinser - don't turn on the
washer valve unless the drain valve is open, you could blow-up the tank
it is not properly vented. Use a wand type rinser ocassionally to get
your tank really clean.
Tim Traylor -- Mountain View, AR
3.2 RVs vs Motel, why buy one in the first place
Rich Ervin (revin-AT-tnt.microimages.com) writes: (thanks to Tim
rapp-AT-asri.edu for passing this along)
"Go Camping America" did a study comparing the cost of a RV vacation
vs. conventional vacation. The RV vacation consisted of travel cost
(gas), camping overnight cost, and the cost of preparing your meals in
your RV from food purchased from a supermarket. The conventional
vacation consisted of travel cost (less gas), overnight expense
(motels), and food budget for eating out every day. Of course they
showed the RV vacation to cost significantly less. This analysis is
partially flawed because they didn't factor in the expense of buying
the new or used RV which can cost from several thousand dollars to
several hundred thousand dollars. Obviously if you go and buy a
$75,000.00 Class A Motorhome your RV vacation will most likely cost
more than the overnight at Motel 6.
In this analysis, I will compare RV vacations vs. conventional
vacations including the cost of the RV. In general, one of the main
reasons of purchasing an RV is for low cost family vacations that
emphasize family togetherness and family memories (sitting around the
fire toasting marshmallows). The most economical RV's for family
camping vacations are fold-down campers, travel trailers, truck
campers, and class C motorhomes (truck cabs with camper build on truck
frame, usually has overcab bed). I will limit my analysis to a brandX
fold-down camper and brand Y travel trailer given my personal
experience (you can extrapolate for a truck camper or a class C).
Here are some approximate price ranges:
TYPE New Low New High Used Low Used High Fold-down $ 2,500 $10,000 $
750 $ 7,500 Travel Trailer $ 9,000 $40,000 $2,000 $20,000 Truck Camper
$ 5,000 $22,000 $1,000 $12,000 Class C $12,000 $50,000 $5,000 $25,000
The best deals on new RV's are found in the Jan-Apr camper shows.
Almost all manufacturers offer rebates and free accessories to dealers
for the camper shows who frequently match the rebates (thus doubling
them) for the consumers. It is very hard to haggle on a new camper. The
dealer markup can be high (eg. 20%), however there is a significant
amount of labor involved in preparing the RV for delivery. If you are
willing to do the prep work and install the accessories yourself, you
might be able to get a rock bottom deal (I did). This amounts to
pressure testing the water system and propane system, lubing the lift
system, adjusting and testing the electric brakes, etc. Also, the RV
dealers are more spread out than auto dealers. Unless you want to
travel quite a distance for service, it is best to use the closest
dealer. They are more selective about servicing a RV under warranty
that was purchased from a different dealer by price alone.
Most banks and lending institutions have special financing for RV's;
they will lend a large principle over a long term at a very low
interest rate. They require you to provide them with the VIN (vehicle
identification number - just like a car), and you must list them on the
required insurance policy.
Conventional Vacation for Family of 4 (10 Days/10 Nights, Resort Area
(Auto with 25 Miles / Gal, 1000 miles round trip)
Motel $75.00 / night x 10 Nights = $ 750
Travel 1000 miles / 25 mpg x $1.20 /gal = $ 48
Food $25 / person / day x 10 days x 4 persons = $1,000
TOTAL (approx) = $1,800
Conventional Vacation for Family of 6 (10 Days/10 Nights, Resort Area
(requires additional motel room - second room at discount)
Motel $125.00 / night x 10 Nights = $1,250
Travel 1000 miles / 25 mpg x $1.20 / gal = $ 48
Food $25 / person / day x 10 days x 6 persons = $1,500
TOTAL (approx) = $2,800
Fold-Down Camper for Family of 6 (10 Days/10 Nights, Resort Area Prices)
Camper Cost = $5,000 (will buy either a new or used fold-down camper)
Principle = $5000
Term = 5 years
Interest = 8%
Payment = $100 / month
Yearly Cost = $1,200
Total Cost = $1,200 x 5 years = $6,000
Promise to use the camper for 10 years
Average cost per year = $600
Camper Yearly Cost $600.00 + $50 annual maintenance = $ 650
Campground Fee $25 / night (inc. water & electric) x 10 night = $
Travel 1000 miles / 20 mpg x $1.20 / gal = $ 60
Food (supermarket) $5 / person / day x 10 days x 6 persons = $ 300
TOTAL (approx) = $1,260
Travel Trailer for Family of 6 (10 Days/10 Nights, Resort Area Prices)
Camper Cost = $12,000 (will buy either a new or used travel trailer)
Principle = $12000
Term = 10 years
Interest = 8%
Payment = $150 / month
Yearly Cost = $1,800
Total Cost = $18,000
Average Yearly Cost (over 10 years) = $1,800 / year
Camper Yearly Cost $1800.00 + $100 annual maintenance = $1,900
Campground Fee $25 / night (inc. water & electric) x 10 night = $
Travel 1000 miles / 12 mpg x $1.20 / gal = $ 100
Food (supermarket) $5 / person / day x 10 days x 6 persons = $ 300
TOTAL (approx) = $2,550
NOTES on camping prices:
The camping fee for state or national park campgrounds is from $5 to
$10. For private campgrounds it varies from $10 to $40 depending on the
location (resort or other), utilities that you pay for (water,
electric, sewer, cable TV, etc), whether or not they charge you for the
number of persons (an increasing trend is to charge by the family unit,
not by person), and what amenities they offer (playground, movies,
pool, hot tub, water slide, miniature golf, tennis/basket ball courts,
etc). One very typical example is a KOA Campground in a resort area
might charge $22 base charge, $3.00 for water and electric, kids free,
total = $25.00 / night. However, you can buy a KOA Value card for $6
good for two years that gives you 10% off your camping bill; then your
total would be $22.50 / night.
Pulling a fold-down camper causes only a slight decrease in miles per
gallon of the tow vehicle. Most V6 autos can pull a 2000 lb fold-down
camper. I pull our 1900 lb (when fully loaded) Coleman with a 2.4 L 4-
cylinder Nissan Axxess (rated to tow 2000 lbs) and still get 18 mpg (22
mpg usually). A travel trailer will probably cut your usual mpg in
half. There are small travel trailers that can be towed by a V6 auto or
minivan (rated to tow 3500 lbs), but most require a more substantial
tow vehicle such as a Ford Explorer or Aerostar, Chevy
Astro/Blazer/Suburban, or any full size van or V8 truck.
The camping food budget is difficult to set exactly for all types and
ages of families. We often eat in fast food places when we're on the
road, but try to buy all of food at the supermarket when at our
destination. We generally spend about $20 per day for a family of 5
(kids ages 5, 3 & 1). Figure on spending about 50% more per day at
the supermarket on the road than you do at home.
Conventional 10 Day/10 Night Resort Vacation for Family of 4 $1,800
Conventional 10 Day/10 Night Resort Vacation for Family of 6 $2,800
Fold-Down Camper 10 Day/10 Night Resort Vacation for Family of 6 $1,260
Travel Trailer 10 Day/10 Night Resort Vacation for Family of 6 $2,550
As you can see clearly, the RV vacation does offer savings over the
conventional vacation. The resort vacation has covered the cost of
ownership of the camper (at a savings over the conventional vacation, I
might add). However, the _real_ savings comes in the _additional_
You take your family of 4 up to the mountains for a fall foliage weekend
Conventional - 3 Days/2 Nights, Budget location
Motel Fee $50 / night x 2 nights = $100
Travel 300 miles / 25 mpg x $1.20 / gal = $ 15
Food Cost $25 / person / day x 3 days = $300
TOTAL = $415
Fold-Down Camper - 3 Days/2 Nights, Budget location
Campground Fee $18 / night x 2 nights = $ 36
Travel 300 miles / 20 mpg x $1.2 / gal = $ 18
Food Cost $5 / person / day x 3 days = $ 60
TOTAL = $114
Travel Trailer - 3 Days/2 Nights, Budget location
Campground Fee $18 / night x 2 nights = $ 36
Travel 300 miles / 12 mpg x $1.2 / gal = $ 30
Food Cost $5 / person / day x 3 days = $ 60
TOTAL = $126
You take your family of 6 up to the mountains for a fall foliage weekend
Conventional - 3 Days/2 Nights, Budget location
Motel Fee $50 / night x 2 nights = $100
Motel Fee for second motel room $50 x 2 nights = $100
Travel 300 miles / 25 mpg x $1.20 / gal = $ 15
Food Cost $25 / person / day x 3 days = $450
TOTAL = $665
Fold-Down Camper - 3 Days/2 Nights, Budget location
Campground Fee $18 / night x 2 nights = $ 36
Travel 300 miles / 20 mpg x $1.2 / gal = $ 18
Food Cost $5 / person / day x 3 days = $ 90
TOTAL = $144
Travel Trailer - 3 Days/2 Nights, Budget location
Campground Fee $18 / night x 2 nights = $ 36
Travel 300 miles / 12 mpg x $1.2 / gal = $ 30
Food Cost $5 / person / day x 3 days = $ 90
TOTAL = $156
Fold-Down Camper Additional 3 Day/2 Night Weekend Trip for Family of 4
Travel Trailer Additional 3 Day/2 Night Weekend Trip for Family of 4
Conventional Additional 3 Day/2 Night Weekend Trip for Family of 4 $415
Fold-Down Camper Additional 3 Day/2 Night Weekend Trip for Family of 6
Travel Trailer Additional 3 Day/2 Night Weekend Trip for Family of 6
Conventional Additional 3 Day/2 Night Weekend Trip for Family of 6 $665
Notice as the number of family members increases, the more economical
it is to camp over staying in a motel. Also, after paying for yearly
cost of the RV in the resort vacation, the weekend trip costs almost
the same for the fold-down vs. travel trailer, and is substantially
cheaper than staying in a motel. What usually happens is that after the
expensive resort vacation, a middle income families travel/vacation
budget is wasted and those weekend trips are nonexistent. But the
weekend cost to the RVer is only slightly over what it would have cost
them to stay at home (they would've spent $60 in groceries at home so
the effective food cost is only $30 ($90 - $60) making the additional
money spent on the weekend only about $84 ($36 + $18 + $30). This
translates into several spring and fall weekend (or just overnight)
trips enjoyed in addition to the resort trip. I think this is the main
reason why people buy and use recreational vehicles- they buy them to
use and enjoy them frequently, and to maximize their family time
Buying and using a recreational vehicle is a personal choice. It means
that some of the vacation time will involve food preparation, washing
dishes, trudging across the campground to the bathhouse, (although most
travel trailers and some fold-down campers have built-in showers and
potties) possible bad weather, etc. Some wives look at vacation as a
time to get away from preparing meals and doing dishes, and want to eat
out every meal on their trip (even with their husband sharing the
cooking and cleaning responsibility). It's not for everyone or everyone
would be doing it!
However, camping brings the family together in a shared experience that
creates memories that you will cherish forever. At home, after a long
day of work/motherhood we tend to plop down in front of the television.
When camping, we cuddle up under the stars in front of a campfire
toasting marshmallows and remember how much we love each other. In the
morning, the kids wake up and put on their clothes so they can go
outside to the playground (usually within sight of the camper) while I
enjoy a cup of coffee while my wife and I prepare breakfast (contrast
to motel room zoo trying to get everyone organized so you can get them
off to sit down breakfast in the restaurant).
The "Go Camping America" comparison is not invalid; however, I think my
analysis is more helpful in determining if the RV lifestyle is for you.
Camping is a better travel value; and becomes increasingly cost
effective each additional time you go, and the larger your family grows
(and the more you family eats!!).
Bob Weinberg asked me to pass along his thoughts on how to figure the
cost of the rv vacation vs standard motel for possible use in your FAQ.
Regarding "go Camping America" I also agree that excluding the cost of
the rv in their analysis is a major flaw. Adding the initial cost of
the rv is a big step in the right direction. However, there are several
additional financial pieces that must be included in such an analysis.
First, the interest on an rv loan may be tax deductible (see your tax
advisor). Second, annual maintenance fees may be higher depending on
your mechanical abilities. Third, annual fees for insurance, license,
and road service should be included. Fourth, indoor or outdoor storage
fees, if any, should be included. Fifth, numerous startup supplies will
have to be bought to set up housekeeping. Most will come from your
house, but duplicate utensils in your rv will make quick getaways
possible. In our first year of owning a travel trailer we spent $1,600
for trailer and tow vehicle "improvements". For the tow vehicle, these
included: CB, cargo mat, full size spare wheel & tire, brake
controller disconnect plug, and larger mirrors. For the trailer, these
included indoor/outdoor rug, subscription to "Trailer Life", membership
to Camping World, Good Sams, Woodalls' "Trails Away" . Woodall's and
Trailer Life campground directories (neither were accurate), 30 amp
ground fault circuit interrupter/surge protector, extra 12 volt fuses,
25 ft 30 amp extension cord, 30/15 amp adapter, circuit tester, voltage
meter, 50 ft tv cable, battery charger, water filter and filter
mounting bracket, RV antifreeze and kit, two 25 ft fresh water hoses,
toilet cleaning wand/rinser and brass hose adapters (to connect from
shower), black water chemicals, miscellaneous sewer connections,
expandable brush and cleaner/wax for exterior, hitch pin lock, wheel
chocks, folding chairs, waste can, toaster, cup hooks, spice and
magazine racks, pitcher, hangers, dish rack, etc.... It will be up to
each rv owner to decide what is important. I also paid $5 to have our
trailer weighed. Joan says all well worth it - peace & quiet and
communing with nature have no price.
3.3 Buying an RV (general)
Ralph writes: As to pricing, you can look to the NADA guides on used
RV's. Many people report that asking prices are much higher then the
NADA guides, but I and others have bought within their guidelines. An
other good source for information is
RV Consumer Group
P.O. Box 520
Quilcene, Washington 98376
ORDERS ONLY: 800-405-3325
They carry the following books:
The Green Book RV's Rated, How to Buy an RV without getting ripped-of
and The RV Rating books (Motor Homes or Trailers, current of past 5
years). They also have a periodical the 'RV Lookout'. It is also
possible to join their RV Consumer Group.
Personal note: While the information they present can be very useful I
can understand why so many of the Manufacturers will have nothing to do
with them. Their publications tend to have a lot of rhetoric and tend
to be vitriolic.
So you think your are ready to take the plunge and give your hard
earned cash to some one or some dealer. Look here to see how others
feel about this activity. You may learn from some ones hard luck and
save a buck or two.
My friends are planning to buy an RV to travel around the U.S. after
their retirement, here are their questions, and please help give them
some ideas on;
1. What brand name to buy
2. What brand name to avoid
3. How much should a 30ft. trailer with super slide cost
4. What quality should they look for in a trailer
ex. does the bathroom has enough space to change clothes?
5. any information from you experienced RV campers out there would be
very much appreciated.
From: letha-AT-sccsi.com (letha)
Shirley all these questions are very much dependent on personal 'taste'
and their economics. Since I'm in the market to trade my 26' Coachmen,
I went showcase shopping. Enjoyed going through a $192,669 RV. I did
not see anything that impressed me for that money. The salesman kept
saying it had 'real marble'. To spend that much I'd want part of ITALY!
My Coachmen has a Ford motor and chassis. Since I'm not much of a Ford
fan, I'm now looking at GM dealers (again personal taste). As to the
question of space in a bathroom, some only have porta potties with
shower stalls. Others have full bath facilities, much as you'd have in
Just tell your friends to take their time and look. Don't allow any
salesman to pressure them into an immediate sale with a 'deal'. If it
is really a deal they can come back to it another day after comparison
shopping. An RV is a purchase you will live with for quite a long time
and since space is a consideration make certain their needs are met.
Tell them to treat the thought of RV buying with the same respect they
would give to buying a house. This is exactly what they're doing buying
a house with wheels and less space to live and clean.
From: bklyn-AT-eskimo.com (Kenneth Oakman)
My wife and I purchased a used rv that was a headache, and we lost a
bunch. Determined not to have the same problem again, we really shopped
around before purchasing the 27' Southwind (83, used) that we now own.
If you purchase a used motorhome, have it INSPECTED.
We found out that the construction of the shell used in motorhomes can
lead to all sorts of hidden problems for someone who is unfamiliar with
motorhomes. Have it looked at by a MOTORHOME MECHANIC. An auto mechanic
may be able to evaluate the frame, and running gear, but please, take
it to a reputable motorhome repair shop to have the shell, and
Before we started looking for our Southwind, I typed up a questionnaire
on the computer and printed many copies. It had check mark areas, and
line spaces for comments. If you look at a bunch of RVs, you start to
forget which one had the nice upholstery, air, awning, generator, etc.
Our questionnaire saved a lot of time because we were able to ask all
the questions on all of the rigs we saw.
I also brought along our camcorder. After looking at over 2 dozen RVs
over a few weekends, we were able to still refer to the questionnaire,
and the videotape to refresh our memory and narrow it down to the two
finalist, and are still happy with the decision.
If you are competent with wood working you can change a bedroom from
two singles to a double as my son and I did, but messing with the shell
and roof if the previous owner was negligent, is complicated, and
The first rv we purchased was a 21' with a really open layout and good
use of room for a 21'. I did not have it inspected, and after one rainy
trip found out that there was a lot of damage inside the walls that I
did not know about. So PLEASE unless you are really sure of the unit,
have it looked at by a professional. In Seattle there are several. I
had good treatment, and was happy with Heights R/V repair in Kent Wa
(almost to Renton).
When talking to the dealer, I told them that the sale would be
contingent on the inspection report. The dealer in Parkland Wa was good
to deal with and had no problem with it.
From: bluffdance-AT-aol.com (Bluffdance)
The 2 things I did that helped me the most were:
1. Go to as many big RV shows as you possibly can. Even if you aren't
planning to buy a new unit, you can see so many different layouts and
design styles in a brief period of time, which will let you know what
you like and what to look for.
2. Go TALK to people who own RVs. I approached so many folks who had
rigs similar to what I *thought* I wanted while camping in national
parks and forests, and everyone was most gracious about sharing
information. Even though I was a relatively young, trail-dusted camper,
many folks even let me come inside and look at their units.
3.3.1 Buying RVs for cold weather
From: dschultz-AT-epix.net (David L. Schultz)
[When looking for motorhomes for use in cold weather] I would first
look for would be a motorhome equipped with a winter weather package
(extra insulation etc.). Most major motorhome maker offer this package
as an extra. Look for a motorhome from the North. For the price (I
think I paid around 100.00 extra for the added insulation on my 35 ft
Allegro Basement) you cant beat it... I would also recommend getting
one of the newer rigs with a basement and 2nd furnace. Not only is the
basement good for added storage, but it also acts as a good barrier
from the cold outdoors. The second furnace also comes in handy when the
weather gets below zero. We have gone on a few ski trips in Upstate NY
and after a cold day of skiing it is nice to know your RV heater can
keep up with the cold. When looking at your prospective purchase make
sure to look at where the water pipes are routed. Most (if not all)
newer motorhomes have the water pipes running along the bottom of the
wall INSIDE the living compartment, but I have seen some older models
with the water pipes under the floor! Not a good idea for winter
Below is my personal experience and propaganda statement: I bought my
35' Allegro Basement in March of 1989 and I can honestly say it has
been the best purchase I have ever made. For the money I personally
don't think you can find a better rig. I had mine custom made to sleep
10 (for our USVBA volleyball team). We have taken the RV Cross Country
2 times, countless trips to Florida, ski trips to NY and Conn.,
tailgate parties to Penn State football games and much, much more.
NOTE: If you can't find an RV with the Arctic Pac Insulation, I would
recommend you at least get an RV with a pull out BBQ. When you are
ready to park for the night, put on a couple of steaks, and within no
time you will have a full blown party! Body heat does wonders... if you
know what I mean!
From: "W F (Will) Sill" If you don't mind a
waterless life, many will at least keep you from freezing. But if you
want a working john, etc., there are, IMO, no commercially available
motorhomes that are actually practical for the conditions you mention.
Some are better than others in tolerating short bouts of cold, but even
if you can keep the water supply system from freezing with heated
compartments etc., it is pretty near impossible to keep holding tanks
from destruction. Insulation is not the strong suit of most coaches, as
well, and the typical RV "furnace" is really more of an emergency
heater than anything else.
If you have the resources to buy and maintain a motor COACH on a bus
chassis, you might actually find one that's been custom made for severe
weather, but our advice is to beware of claims of winter- worthiness on
virtually anything under $100,000. We are not saying it's impossible -
just never saw one.
We are getting ready to buy a Teton fifth wheel. They have an Arctic
package which is climate control to -30 degree and has R25 values on
the floor and roof. Teton is one of the more expensive fifth wheels on
the market but from talking to previous owners have never met a
dissatisfied one. In addition to storm windows and great insulation
they also enclose all tanks in the heated area. The water lines in
floor between bath and kitchen are heat taped. The Teton has R25 values
on the floor and roof. It has Corian countertops, tile and wood plank
floors, top construction and opposing slides. Those slides will give us
a living room that is 16 feet across. Assuring us that we will be as
comfortable in our new HOME as we are in our stationary one.
Our 40 foot fifth wheel with big slides will be about $95,000. They
have a 30 foot for about $75,000. The Arctic package costs about $1,000
as an option.
You can call Teton directly at 307-235-1525. Their corporate office is
in Casper Wy. Their mailing address is: PO Box 2349, Mills, Wy. 82644
3.3.2 Matching the Tow Vehicle and Trailer
I want to tow a 45' Fifthwheel with my Honda 250CC two
Obviously, there are vehicles that just shouldn't be towing other
vehicles. But lets start at the beginning. Hopefully you haven't bought
First, is your projected tow vehicle equipped to tow? Does it have
everything you need built-in, or do you have to add it? This included
such things as; large radiator, transmission cooler, trailer wiring
harness, brake wiring, a trailer battery charging system, etc, etc,
Next find out the manufactures maximum ratings for your tow vehicle.
That is what is the maximum weight (GVW) it can tow, what is it's
maximum combined gross vehicle weight (CGVW) and what is it's maximum
tow frontal area (GVF).
Many light truck manufactures list a different max GVW capacity for
fifthwheel towing then for bumper towing, use the right one (the
fifthwheel is often higher). Also remember you can't just move stuff
from the trailer to the tow vehicle, this still adds to the CGVW.
Finding the maximum GVF can be difficult, it's not in every towing
guide. But with the growing height in some large fifthwheel trailers
it's easy to exceed this figure.
Now figure out the weight of the trailer. This can be difficult as some
manufactures understate the dry weight of the trailer. Often leaving
any optional items off. i.e. if there is an option for which
refrigerator, the dry weight does not include any. A better idea would
be to look at the manufactures maximum GVW of the trailer. Since you
should never exceed this figure, it's not a bad starting place
OK so now you know the true dry weight of your trailer, add in all
fluids, food, cloths, etc; add a bit more, and see where you stand.
Does this exceed the max GVW of the trailer or tow vehicle, if not you
may be OK.
Next add this weight to the weight of the tow vehicle, ready to go
(include, you, the kids, the dog, everything). If this figure does not
exceed the CGVW of the tow vehicle you've nearly passed the final
Figuring the GVF is actually rather easy, measure the width and the
height of the trailer. Then subtract out the distance from the road to
the trailer floor from the height. Multiply this times the width, if
this passes also, you should be good to go.
Finally you need to be concerned about hitch height. What is the height
above ground that your trailer needs to be to be towed level? What is
the height of the tow point of the vehicle? Are these heights the same?
You probably will find they are not. But you will get a 1) more stable
combination 2) less high centering or bumping the trailers rear-end on
the ground if they are. There are hitch drops available for the rear
mount hitches. Many Fifthwheel hitches also have a height adjustment,
as do some trailers.
One easy solution is to have your RV raised. This is done by reversing
the axal on the spring from above the springs to below It is also
possible to have the vehicle lowered.
I know this problem is only getting worse, my '92 F-150 is taller then
my fathers '85 F-150 and I recently had a chance to see a 95' F- 250HD
4x4 parked next to a '95 Dodge Ram 4x4, looked the Ram was 6 inches
taller then the Ford, the F-250 was 2 inches taller then my F-150. MY
99 F250 is even taller
The understating of the RVs dry weight may improve as the industry
(RVIA) is trying to get all manufactures to state the true dry weight
of all vehicles.
(Ernest Smith) writes
How to compute maximum towable weight
Have seen a couple of post dealing with questions on what weight
certain trucks can tow. I dug up an article from Trailer Life Magazine
(Jul 95> that might shed some light on the subject. The article was
about the Ford F250 Supercab and a 31' Sea Breeze 5th wheel. The Ford
was listed as having a axle ratio of 4.10:1, a 4 speed auto with
overdrive, and single rear wheels. The GCVWR of the 460 is 18500 lbs
and the diesel is 20000 lbs. The curb weight of the truck was 6160 lbs
(dry weight). The Tow rating was 12500 lb. The Sea Breeze wet weight
(water and propane tanks full; no supplies or passengers) was 11680 lbs
with a GVWR of 14000 lbs. The figures look like this
GVWR 14,000 lbs
Weight 11,680 lbs
Owner can add 2,320 lbs without violating max gvwr
Now Ford assigns a 12,500 lb trailer weight maximum, which in this case
indicates that only 820 lbs of supplies can be added to the 11,680 lb
wet weight of the trailer before violating Ford's trailer weight
maximum. However, Trailer Life indicates that this is a gray area (the
12,500 lb max trailer weight) and presumes that the GCVWR is the more
important guideline. Suggesting that owners who do not load the truck
heavily can add the unused capacity to the trailer if they stay within
the trailer manufacturer's gvwr and Ford's gcwr. For example:
20,000 lbs GCVWR of the Ford Diesel
- 6,160 lbs dry weight of the Ford
13,840 lbs left on GCVWR
- 1,000 lbs added to the Ford (Fuel,passengers, misc)
12,840 lbs left on GCVWR
-11,680 lbs weight of Sea Breeze
1,160 lbs of supplies that can be added to the trailer
Hope that this clears up some of the questions that I have seen
concerning tow ratings. Now of course, I take no responsibility for any
of the above figures or recommendations.
126.96.36.199 Typical FWD car/minivan towing capabilities.
Jason T. Douglas writes
Obviously, check the owner's manual or with the manufacturer (don't
bother with the dealer unless its a new car). Many smaller cars will
only tow ~1000 pounds, so do check. Typical capabilities for a minivan
are 2000 pounds, but note that this is often with just two passengers
and their luggage. With a family, the corresponding rated capacity
drops. What you really need to find out is the Gross Combined Vehicle
Weight (GCWR) rating, which is the max combined weight of the vehicle
and the load you want to pull. You also need to know the empty or curb
weight of you car/van. The curb weights of the car/van and the trailer
plus the passengers and "luggage" should be under the GCWR. There is
also often a maximum frontal area for the trailer (in square feet).
Many manufacturers offer an optional trailer towing package that
increases the rated load from 2000 to 3500 pounds. The 3500 pound
rating must also be reduced if more than 2 passengers and luggage are
As an example, the Caravan/Voyageur/Town & Country towing package
increases the rating from 2000 to 3500 and includes upgrades to the
suspension, radiator, alternator, and flasher. It also adds an
auxiliary transmission cooler and wiring for the trailer. Finally, it
includes an upgrade to 15"wheels and the associated brakes, although
many are equipped with these brakes anyway. Chrysler says that these
ratings are good for "reasonably flat roads at seasonable ambient
temperatures" but tests their vehicles at 100+ on 4-8 percent grades.
Many folks worry that towing places a severe strain on their vehicle or
causes it to wear out faster. While this is could be true of really
heavy loads, like 6000+ pound travel trailers, a 2000 pound load is not
really that great if your car is properly equipped and carefully
maintained. You will have to change transmission oil and filters
regularly, and you will see increased brake wear (unless you get brakes
on your trailer). You should also get a transmission cooler if you have
In general, the car companies are conservative about their ratings
(i.e., the cars can do more - at least when new). However, you will
have to adjust your driving to conditions - i.e., SLOW DOWN.
Finally, the average FWD family car or van is only really adequate for
a pop-up or the smallest of travel trailers. Towing a serious trailer
requires the power, cooling, and structural strength of a rear drive,
V8 equipped truck, sport utility, or full sized sedan.
Upgrading engine & transmission cooling
There are many options for upgrades here. Most are reasonably priced
and can be easily installed by the back yard mechanic.
General: Cooling systems deteriorate with age unless properly
maintained. If your radiator has some clogged passages, the cooling
capacity will be substantially reduced, even though it may be
sufficient for light duty. The solution is to have it flow tested (not
pressure tested) and either replaced or "rodded out" if it is lacking.
Other possible problem areas are collapsing hoses (the lower hose
should have a spring in it. without the spring, it can collapse under
negative pressure at higher rpm), insufficient antifreeze, weak
pressure caps, glazed or loose belts for the fan and water pump, the
thermostat, and thermally operated fan clutches. For electric fans the
sensor that switches on the fan and the fan motor itself are also
If your engine is getting hot, shut off the a/c and slow down. Turning
on the heat will also take up some of the load. You can also reduce the
load by stopping and placing the transmission in neutral. If your car
has an electric fan don't rev the engine. Opening the hood also
improves air flow, which can provide 15% of your total cooling capacity.
Transmission coolers: Most light duty cars come from the factory with a
transmission cooler integral to the radiator. It's often just a
straight pipe in the radiator should probably be upgraded even if you
don't tow much. The folks that sell coolers say 90% of transmission
failures are due to overheating, so a $60 cooler is a good investment.
Coolers are attached to radiators with nylon ties that poke through the
radiator mesh. Since the load is usually spread over 4 areas, with each
a square inch or more and the coolers are light, this seems to be a
Coolers are either made with finned pipes (like a radiator) or "stacked
plates." The stacked plate designs are smaller (for the same rating)
and are considered better. Make sure you get one big enough, as you
can't overcool a transmission. Do make sure, however, that you install
it in series with the cooler in the radiator, and with the oil flowing
from the transmission to the radiator to the cooler. At ambient
temperatures below -10 to -30 F, the oil thickens sufficiently that a
pressure operated bypass valve inside the transmission may close, so
you get no trans cooling until the cooler warms up. Fortunately, the
coolant in the radiator will help warm the trans oil, thus solving the
BTW, the heat output of a 4 speed transmission "spikes" up when the
torque converter locks or unlocks. Keep it in OD on terrain where the
OD stays on. Drive in "3" or with the OD switched off when driving
under other conditions.
Finally, if you run your transmission hot, you might want to consider
synthetic transmission oil, such as mobil one. It can stand up to
higher temperatures and changes its viscosity less than mineral oil
based fluid. Unfortunately, it is not available for vehicles that
require chrysler transmission fluid (yes, the chrysler fluid really is
Radiator: Replacing a radiator is too expensive unless yours is worn
out. There are other tricks.
Auxiliary fan: The airflow through the radiator is very important. The
a/c condensor and add-on coolers will reduce this air flow. If you've
added equipment and don't get the cooling you expect, consider an
electric fan on the front side of the "stack" of coolers. A "pusher"
fan can significantly improve cooling and can be wired to a dash
operated switch or to a factory installed electric fan (using a relay).
Fans start at $60-70.
Engine oil cooler: These differ from transmission oil coolers in having
bigger passages for higher flow rates. Typically, installation is with
a fitting the attaches where the oil filter normally goes. The
(relocated) filter and cooler are connected to the fitting with
flexible hose. Cooling your oil can have a significant effect on the
overall engine temperature, and is a common technique on small high
performance engines. Whether or not your oil is cooled, consider using
a synthetic oil if your engine runs hot. BTW, the consensus on the
automotive groups is to avoid oil treatments like slick-fifty.
Water spray: There are systems for on-demand spraying of water in front
of the radiator. Since you would run out of water if used all the time,
this is a solution only when climbing hills. It is most effective in
3. Coleman Pop-Ups
While the purist might say these aren't RVs, they share many of same
issues as their bigger cousins. There are also a great compromise
between tent and RV camping, and offer an easy way to get started on
RVs. They are cheaper and can also be towed by the average family car).
In seasonable weather, the provide most of the comforts of a "real"
trailer or motorhome but have the open-air feel of a tent (n.b. - noisy
neighbors will keep you up more than in a trailer). Finally, pop-ups
only take up as much space as a car and can be stored in an extra
parking space or a garage.
Coleman makes about a third of the pop-up campers and first introduced
their line in the late 60s, but sold the entire business to Fleetwood
several years ago. Fleetwood, a huge trailer and home building company,
has been steadily upgrading the Coleman line. The Coleman trailer is a
premium product and commands a high price new and used. You may also
find that Coleman parts are a little more expensive than generic parts.
The typical trailer has a cable operated mechanism for lifting a hard
(aluminum or plastic) roof. Double or queen sized beds slide out from
both ends, and are usually supported with metal rods placed between the
floor of the bed and the trailer frame. The walls and the roof over the
beds is made out of canvas, although some manufacturers coat it with
vinyl. Coleman has used "Evolution 3" for several years (used in
premium car covers) and recently switched to "Sunbrella," a material
used for car and boat covertable tops. These can stand a hard rain with
no leakage. There are also hard-sided pop-ups, but these cost much, are
much heavier, and are a rather specialized subspecies. Hopefully,
someone else (who knows about them) can write about them.
Some newer trailers have a steel frame with an aluminum skin. The floor
is made of a single sheet of oriented strand board, a manufactured
wood, and is covered with vinyl. Equipment can include indoor and
outdoor lighting, gas stoves, sinks, propane furnaces, air
conditioners, hot water, showers, and cassette toilets.
3.4 "What about Membership campgrounds?
That's one of the 'hot potatoes' among RV owners. Many people like
their's, others dump them very quickly. Here's what several people say
>As someone new to this I too have found this interesting but wonder
>someone could post a brief explanation of how campground
>work, I gather they are somewhat like timeshares(?). What
>qualification as a home park a good deal?
Alan Hepburn (alan-AT-berlioz.nsc.com) writes:
How do membership campgrounds work? I'll see if I can cover
When you buy a membership in a home park, you are allowed to use that
park (and any other parks owned by that company) as often as you like,
for no other charge, except a yearly maintenance fee. Usually your only
restriction is that once you have spent a contiguous two weeks in the
park, you must be out of the park for at least a week before you can
This is to prevent the use of the park as a home. Most parks are also
members of either Camp Coast to Coast (CCC) or Resort Parks
International (RPI), which are reciprocal use conglomerations of
membership parks. For an additional fee, members of home parks may
become members of CCC or RPI, and then have use of all parks in the
system for a fee of $1 (some are $2) per night. In these parks you are
limited to a stay of 1 week at a time, and may only use each park twice
Memberships are many, and varied. Some companies have several parks,
some only have one park, and some are only a front to get you into CCC
or RPI. Prices vary from around $500 (for fronts or single parks) to
several thousand dollars for multi-park systems such as Thousand
Trails. Yearly maintenance fees range from under a hundred dollars to
several hundred dollars. CCC and RPI dues currently are around $50 (I
think) per year. In my case, we bought a membership in a company called
Quality Resorts of America, which gives us 4 home parks - one near
Santa Cruz, one near Sacramento, one near Eureka, and one near Crescent
City, all in California. We paid $4000 for this membership about 10
years ago, and we pay $13 per month maintenance fees. For that, we are
allowed to stay in each of these parks for up to two weeks at a time,
as often as we want all year long. We also pay for a CCC membership (we
pay 5 years at a time, and I think we paid about $50 per year, but I
don't recall exactly). CCC right now has over 500 parks in its
directory, in all 50 states and a few in Canada and Mexico. We have
access to these parks for a week at a time for $1 (or $2) per night.
Three years ago we also bought a membership in Thousand Trails for
$6500, with maintenance fees of $429 per year. This gives us free
access to an additional 60 or so parks in the US and Canada.
As you can see, it's not really free camping (we've paid many thousands
of dollars for our memberships), but the cost per night goes down each
time we use it. If you compare the cost of a KOA or similar private
campground in the area, you'll find that it won't take too long to
recover your initial cost. As an example: our home park near Santa Cruz
has some private campgrounds near it, with similar amenities. The
private campgrounds cost $30 per night. If we were to stay there for 7
nights, it would cost us $210. For that same $210 we can stay at our
campground for about 17 weeks and have about $40 left over. Or that
same $210 will cover about 1/2 a year at Thousand Trails, where again
we can stay up to 2 weeks at a time as often as we like.
On Home parks:
Your Home Park can be very critical. With most plans you can't stay in
ANY park that is within 125 (air) miles of your home park. So you see
you might want your home park to be a small debt free park, far from
where you live or travel to. That way your home park dues are small and
you can stay almost any where you want. OR, you might want your home
park to be the best place to stay in your area, so you don't have to
stay anywhere else.
Of course both of these assume that you're not in a multiple home park
situation. Then things change again. These tend to be more expensive
then single home park memberships.
Another thing to pay attention to is the debt structure of your home
park, the ideal is debt free, more then one RVer has lost his home park
to more debts then assets.
Ernest Smith writes:
On the costs:
Yes we have considered the price. We paid 3000.00 for our Thousand
Trails membership back in 1988. We were paying around 325 a year for
dues. We upgraded our membership to NACO and RPI 2 years ago for 2000.
We were paying around 325 a year until the upgrade at which time it
went to around 425 a year. So lets see, so far we have spent
approximately 7200 for the last 6 years. That works out to about 1200 a
year for the last 6 years. We spend an average of 50 days in the
campgrounds a year which works out to around $24.00 a night so far.
With our current dues and camping habits we are paying $8.00 a night,
so as the years roll on the $24.00 a night figure will continue to
drop. I see no way that you can lose on this, especially since the
Thousand Trail/NACO Gold Cards can be purchased for around $2-3000 now.
3.5 What about FULL TIMING?
Jerry Segers writes:
When I got my Full-Timing book from TL (Trailer Life), it came with a
book that summarized all of the various laws that directly affect RVers
in different states. At that time, Arizona (or was it NM?) did not
require that you have a permanent home address (a P.O. Box is OK), had
no state income tax, and offered relatively low restrictions regarding
the registration and inspection of motorhomes.
If you like to travel all the time there is advise here for you. I have
not tried full timing yet so there is no advice here from me
personally, just the collected wisdom of
"W F (Will) Sill" writes:
We've been camping/RVing 35+ yrs, met FAR more people talking about it
than doing it. Never actually met a living human doing it more than a
couple of years, despite much wishful thinking on the part of
We think very few people are REALLY suited to a long-term nomadic
lifestyle, and a vanishingly small percentage of those are married to
like-minded persons. Despite the glamour of the idea as an extended
vacation from previously humdrum lives, there are many, many
adjustments to make.
Our advice to people who ask us (because we are long-term travelers) is
similar to what we say about buying an RV (rent or borrow before
committing large investments): don't cut your life off from 'home'
before you have at least a full year into bumming around. Don't mean to
toss cold water on a dream, but we hate to see folks pour a lifetime of
work into one leaky basket - ALWAYS have a good backup
Cox,P.E. - MOMSCARD-AT-MUSIC.CC.UGA.EDU writes:
In [the] previous post [W F (Will) Sill] said that [he] had never met a
living being who had fulltimed for more that two years. Well, I have
met hundreds. It need not be a lifestyle where you pull up roots and
move every few days or even weeks. Many people spend the winter in warm
climates and the summer in cooler ones. They live in apartment size
motorhomes or trailers. Their choice of lifestyle allows them to keep
their HOME with them where ever they CHOOSE to be.
Obviously you should use common sense if you find yourself in zero
weather or picking a new lifestyle. It doesn't take a rocket scientist
to realize that you can't run a water hose from a spigot and not expect
it to freeze. (But self contained we *could* live comfortably without
huge $$$ for gas.) Neither should anyone invest huge amounts of money
in an RV HOME until you find out if that kind of neighborhood suits
Just as you wouldn't buy a stationary home without the same kind of
thought. But thousands of people are enjoying the freedom and
friendliness of the RV
rthornto-AT-nmsu.edu (Robert E. Thornton) writes:
No state income tax? It isn't NM.
Do you subscribe to Motorhome and Trailer-Life magazines? If not, you
should. They are excellent for the full-timer.
There are many sources for the full-timer services in the Trailer- Life
and Motorhome magazines. Be sure to check out the book Full-Timing and
other books from Trailer-Life including one about choosing a home base.
Excellent advice, if a bit dated. For example, they discuss banking by
mail, pretty much ignoring electronic banking as options. There are
many sources for the fulltimer services in the Trailer-Life and
Motorhome magazines. Do you subscribe to these? If not, you should.
They are excellent.
I recommend you get in touch with Escapees, a club/support group with
very helpful magazine, mail service, a network of parks plus more.
800-976-8377 for info packet.
Workkamper News is a bimonthly listing of fultimer suited jobs plus
helpful hints. Has a two page booklist from which I ordered 15 books
today, with fulltiming in mind.
Books are inexpensive compared to mistakes on the road.... Good Sam is
also helpful, as is the RV forum on Compuserve, a well developed
The Escapes Club is an excellent resources for full timing. They have a
home page which is
There are several publications available. Trailer Life and Motor Home
are both products of TL Enterprizes. Many people think that Trailer
Life's Ten Minute Tech section is worth the cost of the Subscription
alone. In addition most the the major clubs (Good Sam, etc) produce
magazines that service their members. One caution in regards to RV
reviews in these magazines. In all the years I have been reading the
majority of these magazines I can recall no bad reviews. They do point
out things they don't like, but they do not ever appear to talk about
factory or dealer prep defects.
3.7 One Way rentals
>nhead-AT-pcnhead.dev.esoc.esa.de writes: and
CROSSLEY-AT-UK.AC.BRIS.SIVA (John Crossley) replys:
>I'd appreciate some advice on the following:
>- one way rentals - is it possible, what should it cost, anyone
> places that do it? Probable route is Seattle -> LA (via
It is possible if you pay extra, and the amount depends upon which
company you rent from, the type of vehicle and the rental location.
Cruise America for instance charge different rates according to which
state you go to. I think that 1-ways into California are the most
expensive ($375) (?). The other way would be cheaper, but then you
would be paying California hire rates (probably more expensive than
Seattle). Obviously a circular route is not ideal, but you do save
>- it is rumored that there are problems for "campers" in finding
> places with "hookups" so that one can deal with the, uh, sanitary
> arrangements. How bad is this? Or is it just rumor ?
Not really [bad] - most sites have full hookups (electric, fresh water
& sewage), although most charge more if you have all 3. In
addition, many garages allow you fill the fresh water tanks (perhaps
for a small fee) and use a 'dump station' to empty waste tanks (for a
few dollars). Usually it is only very remote, primitive sites that have
neither full hookups nor a dump station.
>- are there any "must-avoid" spots (either 'cos they're
> dangerous(!), unsuitable for large vehicles etc) which an innocent
> tourist might be otherwise tempted to add to the itinerary.
I've only driven small RV's (T24 and T19), but I've had no trouble
driving even on rough tracks or up steep hills. Most roads are very
wide, and difficult routes are generally signposted in advance. Cities
can be a bit unnerving if you are not used to the vehicle - I would
keep away from the center of San Francisco for example. The Grand
Canyon is the most crowded attraction you are likely to find but even
this has ample space really. The main RV site a few mile south has had
plenty of spaces on the two occasions I visited (both in July).
>- [Are there] travel agents specializing in this sort of thing ?
In England, most general agents have brochures which include RV rental,
such as Cruise America