One Way to Select the Nearly Perfect Rig

(Update 11/12/17: Skip this post if your interested in the topic. Go here to the complete system in more detail.)

This morning in about 45 minutes I threw together this example of a decision matrix:

You will have to click on image to enlarge

You will have to click on image to enlarge

Over time I will build a larger matrix which Karen and I will use to select our future home. So far we have a budget in mind and have decided a fifth wheel best meets our expected style of travel.

After much research we found there are plenty of trailers in our price range if we bought new. We would have to buy a three or four year old model if we decided on the higher end units such as a DRV or Luxe.

The above matrix would be an example of what we would use for a new trailer selection. The matrix for a used trailer would be more interesting because of all the possibilities in terms of owner modifications. We anticipate making a purchase as early as 2017.

So why start such a close examination of todays models? Because even the rigs that are out of our price range today, may become the three or four year old trailer we buy years from now.

We are now focusing on what floor plans we like. Someday – we hope to narrow the floor plans down to a couple. Deciding on a floor plan will surely reduce the number of trailers that we evaluate using the matrix.

I’m anticipating the decision matrix will evolve and that I’ll be adding several categories as a result of research such as all the options for construction methods.

I’ve been keeping notes on the fifth wheel manufacturers page. Combined with other notes I’m hoping we have a very good start at finding what would be our nearly perfect rig.

So I played with the spreadsheet about another four hours and came up with this second rendition:

Snap 2015-12-20 at 19.57.59

Click on image to enlarge

I’ll post some updates as this project continues.

Happy Holidays, Mark.

11 thoughts on “One Way to Select the Nearly Perfect Rig

  1. This is about what I am doing as well (Excel sheet). We are looking to purchase a full time rig for our current life on the road. We travel for work on contract jobs around the country, so most of the time we will be in one location from 1-3 months. As it stands now, I go back and forth from my house to the hotel(s) where my fiance stays. Will be selling my home eventually. Living a double life is so much work. You picked some of the same models (but different layouts) that I have decided on. As well, you offered models that I hadn’t considered. Very helpful post! Why reinvent the wheel? I’m glad you did this work. Whatever model we choose, I already know I’m going to have to upgrade all the electrical because I refuse to go “off the grid” with the things I use daily. I can’t use solar because of some of the locations will be in the middle of tornado alley – hail is a huge factor in that decision. We can’t travel with the birds, so I have to use a 4 season, full time construction unit. Like you, maybe even buying a 3 year old unit to be affordable. I even considered buying an older, lesser priced model, then renovating it. But that brings its own logistics into the mix. Oy vey!

    My biggest, most frustrating complaint is the lack of kitchen counter space in most models. Too much space spent on living room entertainment and couches (who needs 3 sets of couches for 2 people?). I spend most of my time in the kitchen to grind grains, make breads, cook from scratch, store things in a small freezer, etc. I fail to see the logic in the architectural designs that assumes everyone doesn’t cook, or bake much so no ovens in many newer luxury models, islands (which I never liked even in sticks and bricks homes), or the water wasting, space wasting dishwasher in these rigs. I have asked myself WHY? Everyone needs to eat. Healthy eating is the backbone of life and health, less doctor bills, more physical energy, etc. Also a deal breaker is the bedrooms with barely enough room to put your foot down on BOTH sides as you get out of bed with the queen bed option. If you decide to go with a king (which we will), then you also loose the shelf space next to the bed, which we use for a book, glasses, alarm, or water. Although I am physically capable of “rolling” out of a bed with no foot space, I don’t find it preferable daily as a way of life. Furthermore, if I find a satisfactory kitchen in some models, there is no bedroom space (see Denali or Big Country/Big Horn).

    Love this post. I’ll be using the hell out of all your research. Found you with a google search looking for all models with more kitchen counter spaces.


    • Hi Laurie,

      Great comments – thank you and I learned from them. I’ve got a newer version of the Excel spreadsheet. Suppose I should post it someday. I may be able to provide a link in case others want to download it. My trailer ratings are very subjective in that they include what Karen and I believe to be important for us. But if others can use them then it’s worth posting.

      This year’s models are extra important because some could end up being the used models we buy. We already decided buying a much older unit is not for us. There are so many upgrades that were not offered in the past that I just don’t see wanting to hassle with installing them.

      I toured a couple new units yesterday and took some photos of the kitchens for Karen. We are not interested in the rear kitchen models, which by far have the best layout for a kitchen, other than maybe Keystone’s new front kitchen model in the Montana. The only issue with its kitchen, for us anyway, was not having a free standing dinette. The front living room models, with the center kitchen are perhaps the next best kitchen layout I’ve been able to find. However, we are having trouble finding a front living room model that also does not; have a slide over the main awning, ability to close the slides but still get to the bedroom (without a second door) and the basement storage is generally lacking. I’m working on a post of a couple newer front living room plans we looked at that were interesting. Also found a front bedroom that had amazing space around it with a king bed and did not come with two slides in the bedroom. More on that later.


  2. Not to disparage you as I love your blog, but I don’t think “Evergreen Redwood” and “Evergreen Redwood Sequoia” are correct. I believe Redwood is owned by Thor, and is a sister company to Crossroads who makes the new Carriage. I may be wrong on this.

    Also, of course the recent events have caused Evergreen to go out of business taking the Lifestyle & Bayhill fifth wheel lines (among others) with them.


    • Thanks Wally, I made that correction under the fifth wheel section. I saw my first Carriage in the wild the other day. Unfortunately it was in for repairs rather than for sale so I was unable to tour it.

      That’s too bad about Evergreen and the Lifestyle fifth wheel. Makes one wonder who else might not have deep pockets. I read something that suggested Lifestyle Luxury RV had lost their financial backing.


      • Hi Mark, we haven’t looked at Carriage either. We meant to do it at the Tampa RV Show last February but between looking at all the other brands and most of a lost day due to a thunderstorm we never made it. We’re going to try again but this time at Hersey in September.

        I agree it’s sad about losing Evergreen. I liked a lot of their products and they were pretty high on my list for a while. Changing the frame on the Lifestyle last winter though was a step in the wrong direction I thought. But in hindsight maybe they were starting their financial problems back then and were trying to save some money thinking most buyers don’t pay attention to the frame anyhow.

        On another subject, on your Matrix you grade from 1-5 in different categories. I’ve been tracking those categories and others myself but without grading them. Do you have any objective way of measuring things in each category, or is it all subjective?

        And for things like weight, you may know but it’s not clear to me as a reader, would heavier get a higher or lower grade? I can see it going either way with the assumption that heavier might be made better, but too heavy means trouble on the tow vehicle end of things.

        Keep up the good work, I really am enjoying reading your side as I have time.

        Liked by 1 person

      • Wally, I’ve refined my Matrix since first posted it. I do not have an objective way, per say, for grading so most is subjective. I’d thought about breaking each category down with a rating scale such as grading AC units higher which have heat pumps, as we could see the value in heat pumps.

        Frankly, I started with a couple trailers to judge others against. Since then I’ve gone back several times and changed ratings when I learned more about a particular component, to include the two trailers I started with which were the Keystone Montana and DRV Mobile Suites.

        I also rate trailers based off what available options they come with. For example, if a trailer offers H rated tires compared to one with G rated then that will influence my opinion in that category.

        In the end I figure we will focus on a few brands that have a floor plan we are interested in and then evaluate those brands more closely.

        Regarding weight. The rating is based off a multiplier of 3 compared to insulation which is a 5. So if I rate the weight at 3 then the score is 9 (3×3) when a rating of 3 for insulation nets a score of 15 (3×5). So as part of the total score, weight does not have as much influence on the final score. Hope that makes since. A typical “weight” score might show up when I’m looking at trailers in the 16,500 gross weight range and a particular trailer has a dry weight which is lighter than others. Then it would get a higher rating. This may be double counting because the same lighter trailer, using the figure for dry weight, may have a higher cargo capacity and warrant a higher score in that category as well. I may throw out the “weight” category later.

        I have thought about adding a score for price. But with all the options that’s a hard one to track. Maybe later when we start shopping for real, having a list of options we want, then maybe price could be included. Obviously, if a unit is out of our budget then it’s off the list if we were to buy a new unit. We might consider buying the same trailer used. That’s when rating trailer by year may come in handy.

        I’m still refining the system. It’s starting to appear that many trailers that are in the same price point have total scores less than 10% different than others in the same price point.

        Of course, my ratings are based off what I feel to be important. Others will have different expectations.

        I’d enjoy hearing about your system..


  3. Mark, I don’t mean to ignore you but we’re going on a trip soon and I have to work on that. I’ll get back to you when I have more time.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. Pingback: Updated Summary of Trailer and Truck Purchase Decisions. | Our Future in an RV

  5. Pingback: A System to Evaluate RVs Before Buying | Our Future in an RV

  6. This has been so helpful. Would it be possible for you to share Excel File? We have been looking at RV’s for over a year now. But, we are getting closer to making a selection. But, before we do, I want to create an Excel spreadsheet to do a comparison….so just wondering if you would share. Thanks.


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