Many of us share the dream of one day roaming the nation in the self-contained comfort of a recreational vehicle — an RV. The freedom that comes from combining your transport and accommodation into one package certainly holds a lot of appeal. An RV offers the flexibility to go where you want and stop where you want, with all the conveniences for comfortable living at your fingertips.

Making the dream an enjoyable reality, however, requires a good understanding of what your objectives are and what type of RV will suit you best. This quick guide is a great place to start the journey.

Campervan or motorhome?

The most important decision when choosing an RV that will suit you is to consider the use you want it for.

If you and your partner are just looking to escape the rat race for a few days at a time on relatively short trips, then a campervan may be the best option. Campervans have the obvious advantages of being easier to drive and manoeuvre, less thirsty at the petrol pump, and can be used for general everyday transport when you are not holidaying. 

Being smaller, they are also obviously cheaper to buy, but that doesn’t mean they don’t have all the mod cons. Campervans these days can include a full range of home comforts — albeit on a compact scale — such as refrigeration, kitchenette, seating, and bedding. On the downside, they might have limited storage and might not include a toilet or shower, although some come with an external bathroom setup.

Motorhomes suit the serious traveller

If your objective is more leisurely touring for longer periods, then a motorhome may be a better option. Generally, they offer space for four or six berths, so you can take family or friends with you. They provide more interior space, greater storage capacity, full bathroom and toilet facilities, larger bedding that doesn’t need to be folded away, and better equipped kitchens. Motorhomes also generally provide more comfort and are designed to be a real home-away-from-home.

The drawbacks with motorhomes include being more cumbersome to drive (although most only require a normal car license), the need to store them somewhere when not in use, a higher price tag, and greater fuel costs. 

What type of touring?

Do you plan on sticking to sealed roads, or are you looking to get right off the beaten track? If it’s the latter, you will need to consider factors such as sturdier suspension, rear wheel drive, and even double rear wheels, to make sure you have the ruggedness to do the job. Then there are issues such as fresh water and waste tank capacities, battery powered appliances, solar panel capability, and extra storage space, so that you can get right off the grid while staying fully self-sufficient.

Consider all the hidden costs

Buying an RV is a major expense in itself, but you also need to gain an understanding of the ongoing costs. While you will be saving on accommodation and food costs for your holidays, the regular maintenance costs can be a lot higher than they are for the family car. Having all the mod cons on board means you have potentially more things that may need to be repaired or replaced down the track, too. Then there are registration and insurance costs to consider. This makes it essential to plan an ongoing yearly budget beyond the initial purchase costs.

New or used?

RVs — particularly the larger ones — can depreciate dramatically in value, so buying a used vehicle can certainly save you dollars upfront. Of course, this means you are taking on the risk of wear and tear, and potentially very expensive repairs if you don’t have mechanical know-how. Issues such as rust, dampness, brakes, bearings, appliance condition, and tyres are common problem areas, apart from the basic engine condition. If you are not able to assess these issues yourself, you must get expert advice to check things over. If buying from a dealer, compare warranty conditions too.

Technological features in newer RVs have advanced quite a bit, so if you are keen for the latest and greatest, you may need to opt for a new or very recent model.

Hire before you buy

The many variables in size and features between various models of RV make it a worthwhile exercise to try out different types by hiring them first, rather than rushing to buy. Issues such as drivability, liveability, convenience, and comfort can only be properly assessed by testing a vehicle in real conditions, so hiring one for a while can allow you to learn very quickly what works for you.


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