Deciding what to buy – Part 1: The Basics

Today, I would like to discuss our thinking, regarding what kind of RV to buy for our full-timing adventure and how it should be equipped.

Motorhome or Fifth-Wheel

Once we had made the decision to go on the road, full time, the first thing we needed to decide was whether to buy a big truck and fifth-wheel or a motorhome. That was a pretty easy question to answer. Having spent time working as pipeline landmen, we knew many landmen and other pipeliners, who had fifth-wheels. In fact, Becky lived in a fifth-wheel, for a short time, in West Texas. So we knew the general rule of thumb was that, if you are going to spend most of your time parked, you probably want a fifth-wheel and if you plan to spend most of your time on the road, you will probably be better off with a motorhome.

The idea is that, if you are going to be parked most of the time, you don’t want to waste money on all the mechanical things that go with a motorhome, such as engine and drive train, just to let it set for most of the time. By contrast, if you’re going to be full-timing and plan to spend a lot of time on the road, then you can benefit from the extra storage, higher traffic sight-lines, and on-the-road conveniences of a motorhome. We soon verified the logic behind what we had heard, in this regard, and narrowed our search down to a motorhome.

Class “A” or Class “C”

The next decision was whether to go with a Class “A” or Class “C”. Engine and generator location, livable interior space, and sight lines made that decision for us.

A Class “C” has a problem in common with gasoline Class “A” motorhomes. The engine is in the front, so when you are in the driving, the engine noise is closest to you. The generator is in the back, so when you are sleeping, the generator noise is closest to you. That’s just the opposite, in a Class “A”.

Also, a Class “C” loses more than 10 feet of interior living space to the engine compartment and driver’s compartment (that is typically not designed to be a functional part of the living space), for a motorhome of the same length. This means that to get the same amount of livable interior space loss in a Class “C”, as in a Class “A”, you need to look at a motorhome that is 10 feet longer. So, if available interior living space is important and you’re looking at a 45 foot Class “A”, then Class “C” is not an option.

But far and away, the most important reason why I cannot go with a Class “C” is based on personal experience. Many years ago, I had the opportunity to drive a big rig (before the advent of Class “A” vehicles) to make some extra money during the summer. One thing that I learned from that experience was that you can’t see anything small, directly in front of the nose of the truck or off the right front bumper. Back then, most cars were long behemoths. But even something as small as a Ford Falcon or Chevrolet Chevelle (both larger than most cars on the road today) could be hidden in the space between the front bumper and my sight line to the road. Since most cars are even smaller today, accident scammers are epidemic. Many use the limited sight lines of a Class “C”, to perpetrate their scams. The following video was taken in a big rig truck, but the same could happen in a Class “C” motorhome. Keep in mind that in this video, the camera is mounted high on the windshield, above the sight line of the driver. It was impossible for the driver to see the small offending vehicle.

Insurance scam attempt shows sight line issue with Class “C”

Note that this particular variation on the common insurance scam called “swoop and squat”, tends to focus mostly on vehicles that have a forward blind spot, such as a Class “C”.

So due to the engine and generator locations of a Class “C”, the poor sight lines, and the loss of more than 10 feet of interior living space, we decided on a Class “A” motorhome.


Then we had to decide on the length of vehicle we wanted. We learned that the largest legally allowed coach on U.S. roads is 45 feet. But we also learned that many national and state parks don’t allow coaches longer than 40 feet. Part of our decision on length is based on the fact that we’re coming from living in 4,000 square feet. Also, we lived in less than a thousand square feet a few years ago, in London, and that felt cramped. So, since the motorhome will be our full time home, we believe that, at least to begin with, the larger the motorhome, the better. Since there are RV parks within a reasonable distance from almost all state and national parks and we’ll have a 4-wheel drive dinghy to get around in, we decided to opt for the higher end of the length spectrum and forego the national park length limitation.

Towing Requirements

Along the same line, we knew that we wanted to tow a dinghy, so our motorhome would need to be capable of towing, with ease. This meant, first and foremost, that the absolute minimum size of engine should be 450 horsepower and the larger, the better. After lurking on the forums and speaking with some people who owned motorhomes, we also learned of the value of a tag axle, if you plan to tow anything. This further cemented our decision to go with a longer motorhome, since tag axles are not available on shorter coaches.


Our bricks and sticks home is all electric, except for the central heat, so to us, it makes sense to go all-electric. With heat pumps on the roof an AquaHot system down below and an electric fireplace, we could see no reason to have LPG on the motorhome. It would be just another thing to maintain and compressed gas can cause safety issues, if not properly maintained. So why have it, if we don’t need it?

In the end, we’re looking for a Class “A” motorhome, in the 42 foot to 45 foot (44′ 10″) range, with at least 450 horsepower, a tag axle, and independent front suspension. We would prefer a steerable (passive or active) tag, over one with only a dump. But either will be acceptable. We want all-electric. We are also looking for fuel and DEF fills on both sides of the coach. Of course, this doesn’t include any of the amenities or our floor-plan requirements. I’ll talk about that in a later post.

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