(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 ( and Jerry Segers (Jerry-AT-PeachNet.EDU). Please contact Ralph Lindberg ( with suggestions, changes, additions, etc

This FAQ is Copyright (C) 1995/1996/1998/2000/2001/2004 by Jerry W. Segers, 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 latest version.
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 text.
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.

Editorial, Copyright and Disclaimer.
  1. 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.
    1.3.1 Jargon
    1.4 Advertising on the net
    1.5 Credits.
    1.6 About the FAQ editors.
  2. 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
  3. 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 about?
Jerry writes
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 section.

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.

Travel Trailers
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.

PoP-Up Trailers
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.

Hybrid Trailers
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.

1.3 Netiquette
Jerry writes
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.
1.3.1 Oddities
Jerry writes:
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 newsgroup

1.5 Credits.
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 -
William F Sill -
Icono Clast -
Ruediger Pein - pein-AT-Informatik.TU-Muenchen.DE
Nigel Head -
Geoff -
Banjoguy -
Joe Fowler -
Kenneth Oakman -
Bluffdance -
Steve and Terri Carl -
Wayne O'Neil -
Greg Schulz -
Ed Taylor -
Paul D. Hoffman -
Rudi Wiedemann - WIEDEMAN-AT-ix.netcom
Charles Copeland - copeland-AT-fohnix.metronet
Judith B. Glad -
Brian Hunt -
David L. Schultz -
Rich Ervin-
John Sankey -bf250-AT-FreeNet.Carleton.CA
Lou Schneider
Oasis RV -
Ernest Smith -

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 you).

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 with 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:

2.2 What about Ham radio Nets?
KC5LWF writes:
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,
Campers Choice 1-800-833-6713 /205-356-2810
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:://
RV Ad Ons 1-888-676-3100

For a more complete listing see the on-line resources at
this location

A cost comparison of identical items  (spring 2004) from RV Ad Ons, Campers Choice, JC Whitney and Camping World.
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.
Item RV Ad Ons
Campers Choice
Camping World
JC Whitney
Atwood Water heater 6 Gal LP
$245 $245 $269 $259.99
Suburban WH 6Gap LP/elec 270 --- 260
Splendide Washer Dryer 891 849.99 999
Progressive Dynamics 9100
-- 194.50
Olympian Wave8 Catyltic heater -- 319 379

Suburban SF35 Forced Air LP heater 575 499 569
Coleman Super Mach A/C -- 610 629

Coleman Mach-3plus A/C 591 519.99 579
Norcold 7.5 cu.ft. 2way (110v/LP) 1373 1149
ICP 45 Watt solar panel & regulator

449 489.99
Onan MicroQuite 4000 4KW gas generator -- 2399 2999

Max Air Vent Cover (smoke)
35.9 33.32 37.99
Lynx Level blocks (set of 10)
30.54 -- 32.99

2.4 What Campground Guide should I get
Ralph ( 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 ( 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 ago.
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:

2.5 Traveling with pets
Paul D. Hoffman - 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------------------
Ralph writes:
Most parks that don't allow pets tell you in their ad or listing in the guide books.

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 stuff.
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 fun!!..
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 help!).
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 of mind.
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 fun!.

From: Tim Traylor
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 the gray water.
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 stay is short, add more water through the john before dumping. Dump before traveling then add two gallons of water and chemicals to slosh around and 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 if 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 ( writes: (thanks to Tim 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 Prices)
(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 Prices)
(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 = $ 250
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) Loan
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 = $ 250
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_ weekend trips.
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 $114
Travel Trailer Additional 3 Day/2 Night Weekend Trip for Family of 4 $126
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 $144
Travel Trailer Additional 3 Day/2 Night Weekend Trip for Family of 6 $156
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 together.
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!!).
joan writes
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
Phone: 360-765-3846
FAX: 360-765-3233
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.

Jerry writes:
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.
Hello all,
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)
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 a home.
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: (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 mechanics inspected.
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 expensive.
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)
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: (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 travel.
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.

From: "Cox,P.E."
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 stroke...

Ralph writes
Obviously, there are vehicles that just shouldn't be towing other vehicles. But lets start at the beginning. Hopefully you haven't bought anything, yet.

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, 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 barrier.

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. 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 carried.
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 an automatic.
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 possibilities.
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 good solution.
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 problem.
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 different).
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 dry climates.

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?

Ralph writes  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 about theirs  someone asked:

>As someone new to this I too have found this interesting but wonder if;
>someone could post a brief explanation of how campground memberships
>work, I gather they are somewhat like timeshares(?). What
>qualification as a home park a good deal?

Alan Hepburn ( writes:
How do membership campgrounds work? I'll see if I can cover everything...
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 return.
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 per year.
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.

Ralph writes:
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 others.

"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 thousands.
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 plan.-

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 you. 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 community. (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 support group.

Ralph add's
The Escapes Club is an excellent resources for full timing. They have a home page which is

3.6 Magazines
Ralph writes:
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
Jerry writes:
> 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 know of
> places that do it? Probable route is Seattle -> LA (via Rockies).
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 money.
>- 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 overcrowded,
> 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