RV Advice

Compatible Travel Trailer + Right Family = Perfect Match

March 5, 2012

Finding a perfect match can be tricky. This applies to relationships as well as shopping for a travel trailer. During my days as an RV sales manager I witnessed what I refer to as good matches and poor matches between new owners and the travel trailers they purchased. There are lots of things to consider when you are shopping for a travel trailer. Sometimes folks get caught up in the excitement at an RV show, or don’t conduct enough research, resulting in a hasty buying decision.

When the smoke settles and you realize you selected the wrong travel trailer for your specific needs your options are slim. You can trade the travel trailer in, losing lots of money on the deal, or you can be unhappy and disappointed every time you go camping with your new travel trailer.

Hopefully you haven’t fallen victim to a poor match already, and we can make sure it doesn’t happen in the future.

Finding the Perfect Match

Going back to my days as an RV salesperson, there were a couple of immediate concerns I had when a customer told me they were shopping for a travel trailer:

  1. You need to have a tow vehicle that can safely tow the travel trailer you purchase. If you already own the tow vehicle you need to determine the towing capacity and only consider travel trailers at or below the vehicle’s safe towing weight limits. If you don’t already have the tow vehicle you can find the perfect travel trailer and then shop for a tow vehicle that can safely tow it.
  2. What is your budget? I don’t mean the selling price of the travel trailer, what I mean is how much can comfortably afford to pay each month. If you spend all of your discretionary funds on the monthly payment there may not be any money left to use and enjoy the RV. An analogy I used was to ask my customers if they were shopping for a Chevrolet, Buick or Cadillac.

It is much easier to refine your search to travel trailers that fit the towing capacity of your vehicle and your budget. Now that we have the approximate size and price range sorted out you can start shopping. A major part of finding the perfect match starts with the floorplan. You need to have a basic understanding of the different floor-plan configurations used in designing travel trailers.  There are front bedroom, rear bedroom, and two bedroom models and there are side bathrooms, split bathrooms and walk-through bathrooms to consider. I once had a customer, who after purchasing the travel trailer told me they made a big mistake with the floor-plan. She said every time she was in the center kitchen trying to do something the children were constantly running back and forth from the front living area to the back bunk beds.

I used to tell my customers to go inside, sit down, close your eyes and imagine what it would be like to be camping in the travel trailer. Imagine a rainy day when everybody is inside. Now open your eyes and look around. Does the floor-plan work for how you plan to use the travel trailer, and for the number of people who will be going camping? Painting a visual picture of using the travel trailer can be extremely helpful in selecting the right floor-plan for your specific needs.

Check it Out; Check it Off

The floor-plan is definitely a major consideration, but there is much more to finding the perfect match. I’m sure you have heard people recommend you lie down, stand up in the shower and sit on the toilet too. This is all good advice. If you can’t stand up in the shower, or your feet hang off the end of the bed it can make for some uncomfortable camping trips.

Here are some other buying tips from my best-selling book, The RV Book, on finding the perfect travel trailer match for you:

Do you need a slide-out or multiple slide-outs for additional living space? If you get a travel trailer with slide-outs how is the interior affected when the slide-outs are in the stored, travel position? This could be an issue if you ever camp where you can’t extend the slide-out.

  • Are there enough sleeping arrangements for everybody? Sofas and dinettes come in different sizes. Make sure these sleeping configurations are wide enough and long enough for the individuals who will be using them.
  • Is there enough outside storage, and are the storage compartments large enough to accommodate what you plan to take? Think about bulky items like folding chairs.
  • Is there enough closet, cabinet and drawer space for all of your personal belongings? Make sure there is enough interior storage for clothes, shoes, linens and other personal belongings.
  • Are there enough cabinets and drawers in the kitchen? Don’t forget about the pots and pans.
  • How much counter space does it have in the kitchen? Is it enough for how you plan to use the kitchen?
  • Are there windows where you want windows? Are there windows where you don’t want windows?
  • Is the refrigerator large enough? Can you reach the microwave?
  • We talked briefly about the bathroom earlier. Now you need to decide if you prefer a split bathroom, a side bathroom or a walk-through bathroom. A split bathroom is where the shower is separate from the sink and toilet. A side bathroom is usually smaller and has everything located together. A walk-through bathroom is where you literally walk-through the bathroom to get to another room, usually a bedroom. These are the largest bathrooms, but consider if somebody is using the facilities and you are in the other room you are kind of stuck there until they are finished.
  • How much fresh water can you take with you? If you plan to do any dry-camping is it enough?
  • How large are the gray water and black water holding tanks? Are they large enough for the way you plan to use the travel trailer?
  • How long is the warranty on the travel trailer? Does the selling RV dealership have a full-service repair facility to take care of you after the sale?
  • How is the travel trailer constructed? Is it designed for the terrain and weather conditions where you plan to use it?
  • Does the travel trailer have the optional equipment you want or need? If not, talk to the salesperson about ordering a unit equipped the way you want. If you find a travel trailer you really like, but don’t care for the interior colors or wood treatments ask if other interior treatments are available.

When manufacturers design and build travel trailers, weight and weight distribution play a major role in where things are located and how the trailer is configured. It’s not always possible to find a travel trailer that has everything exactly the way we want, but I guarantee there is one out there that will suit your specific needs.

For more information on how to purchase, use and maintain your RV be sure and visit www.rveducation101.com.

Happy shopping,

Mark Polk

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