Many people who decide to jump into full time RV’ing go for the biggest rig they can afford. It’s a scary proposition to consider moving from a comfortably sized brick and mortar home into a “tiny” tube that has fewer bathrooms, no garage or attic and (if you’re lucky) a refrigerator half the size you are used to.
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So full time RV shoppers, especially first timers, tend to buy as much as they can. After all, you can only downsize so much , right?
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This usually means either a Class A motorhome or a fifth wheel, sometimes even with more than one bathroom, a residential size refrigerator and washer and dryer. These rigs often measure longer than 40 feet and top out at a whopping 13 feet (or more) in height. The space is nice, but is bigger really better?
If you plan to stay in one place most of the time, like Florida in the winter, then a larger RV might be right for you. But smaller might be the way to go if you plan to be on the road a lot, want to move faster, hope to stay in smaller campgrounds or state and national parks, and want to spend a little less money.
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After full time RV’ing in a 42-foot long fifth wheel for just a few months, my family decided we could go smaller.
And we did.
With two kids and a cat, my husband and I traded our big rig for something that gives us more travel flexibility– just under 34 feet long, and 12 feet in height. And we didn’t get rid of a single material item in the process. All our clothes, all our kitchen items, all of our junk … it all fit in the new rig.
If you’re thinking of doing the same, here are some tips:
Look carefully at kitchen space and what you really need and use everyday. We ended up with a slightly smaller refrigerator, but more cabinet and kitchen space.
Unless you already own a luxury RV, chances are that most of them you look at will have the same size oven, microwave, hot water heater and comparably sized holding tanks. Those things are pretty much standard in smaller RVs, so in general downsizing isn’t going to affect them.
Think about what you do and don’t like about full time RV’ing in your current rig. Try to make sure the new rig has more of the things you like, within reason, and less of the things you don’t. In some cases, downsizing can be a chance to get more of the upgrades you want, at a lower cost. Take a long, hard look at what you love about your full time RV life, and make sure your smaller rig accommodates those things/activities.
Consider where you spend most of your time. If it’s on your couch watching sports, don’t compromise on a small screen TV. If you like to be outside, you might want to make sure you have an outdoor kitchen.
Storage might be the biggest downside to downsizing. But it doesn’t have to be. Our new rig has just as much storage inside, and almost as much outside. It’s just configured differently.
Look past the flashy finishes that some of the big rigs feature – do things like etch-glassed cabinets and stainless steel appliances really matter? Sure, they look nice, but they aren’t any more functional than the wood fronts you’ll get in a smaller, lighter rig (and some of the smaller rigs even come with those things, if they really are important to you).
Having a washer and dryer in your rig is a major convenience, but smaller RVs don’t usually have room for them. Going to the laundromat and getting it all done at once, in washers that can actually fit your sheets, can also be convenient. It’s also where you often hear the latest RV park news and meet your neighbors.
Related read: Mastering the Art of Laundry in Your RV
Many larger RVs today now have one and a half bathrooms, or sometimes even two full ones. They might come with a bathtub or even double sinks. But they are often small and lack storage. Downsizing might give you just one bathroom and no tub, but in our case we ended up with a larger single bathroom with more storage.
Downsizing might seem impossible, but remember that you already did it once when you decided to start full time RV’ing. Now you know what you like and what you don’t like, what you need and what you don’t need. Downsizing means compromise, but it might also mean spending less money and having a more enjoyable driving experience.
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