So far, this is what I’ll be looking for in a rig. These notes will be constantly updated. In 2015 we decided on a fifth wheel. In 2017 we finally decided we want a real living room floor plan, preferably with no more than three slides. We also know our max length will be 40′ but prefer something closer to 35-38′. Gross weight for use will be under 19,500 and am leaning towards 16,500 with minimum of 3,000 pound cargo capacity.
I plan to go on the forums with our final build selections for truck and fifth wheel to get detailed feedback. Saw this done by someone else and he made a lot of changes based on forum comments.
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Refrigerator: Norcold 18.3 cubic foot Polar Max or something slightly smaller. Still think why limit ourselves by not having electric and gas. And we are not starting with a large battery bank and solar so a residential is not going to work. Karen does not want the fridge next to the TV. I’m leaning towards not having a large generator at first. Note – this is subject to change. We know we will be parked 3-6 months a year workcamping with electric so the residential fridge could work. We know if we enjoy boondocking and have the cargo capacity we will consider solar options. If I was to go with a residential fridge I would plan to ultimately have six batteries and solar enough to charge them. Might be able to get away with four batteries and a generator, then add solar, but that would be the least I would have.
Washer/Dryer: We had initially decided to start out with one. Something to consider is the combos are about $1,500. If you budget $25 a month for laundromats you would have to us your combo for about five years to justify it by cost. When we rented an RV and used campsite laundry, Karen had decided she wanted the luxury of doing a load in the camper and maybe using larger machines at campsites when needed. $12 to do the laundry was expensive at the campsite. Of course if we workcamp we might get a break on price. She would want it located in the bedroom or near someplace she can fold clothes, like the bed. If we went with a combo unit it would be a vented combo unit. We have also been looking for floor plans that allow easy access to the washer/dryer which for now would not be spaces in the master closet that face into the hanging clothes should we add a unit later. One floor plan we are considering has the water connection in a bedroom slide, off the hallway. Not sure yet if I have concerns about a water line moving in a slide. A blogger I followed has already been through two combo units and so far, on their third attempt, is liking the Edgestar. We made a final decision in October of 2017 – we are not starting out with a washer/dryer because others have convinced us those that do are using it daily rather than just taking a couple hours to go to a laundromat every three weeks and getting it all done at once.
Recliners: Either separate recliners or theater seating is fine. The reclining mechanism has to be easy to operate. We prefer leather recliners and cloth sofas, but not one builds them like that. Not a deal breaker for us. After three years of RV research I’m learning the better brand names such as La-Z-Boy, Franklin and Lambright. Also, some of the 35′ trailers have shorter theater seating which is tight when seated. To avoid this they sometimes take out the center arm rest which we are still considering. Electric open would be fine, even heated would be okay. I’m not big on massage features.
Stove and Microwave: We want the new Furrion oven that started showing up in 2017. It’s self igniting so you don’t have to get on the floor with a match like in the Suburban models. You loose using the stove top, with cover, as a counter top but also don’t have to move everything to use it. Sealed burners would be nice, so you don’t have food falling down under the burners. A 30″ convection microwave. Personally I think the Whirlpool units are more bottom of the line but we are not particular in what brand. We want the microwave to have fans that vent the stove to outside the trailer. We briefly considered a induction cook top. But the electrical needs are to much for boondocking. Our theme has always been to, as much as possible, not limit where we stay.
50 amp service is a no-brainer for fulltime RV living is a large fifth wheel or anything with two air conditioners. After much thought, the power retracting reel would be nice for the heavy cord.
Solar: I’ll use the phased approach to solar. Meaning, I’ll start out with very little to nothing while monitoring our typical electrical needs applicable to whatever level of boondocking (camping off grid) we do. Whatever equipment we do have I’ll want to be expandable without having to throw out most of the old stuff. From what I’m reading about residential refrigerators, you would need solar capacity for six batteries to do it right. And then keep a generator for rainy days.
Regarding a generator. We are going to have one, just not sure if it will be a single portable unit, double portable or built-in. More on that later. Right now I’m leaning towards a single portable capable of running one AC unit similar to what a friend has. But having two smaller units, that consume less fuel, would be nice when we only need to run one.
We want the living room TV on a swivel arm so can be adjusted for kitchen viewing and all the seats.
Dimmable lighting. And accent lighting would be a plus but hard to find in a price range under $70K. Not a deal breaker, just something nice to have. By the way, some overhead lights are mounted flush in ceiling which is attractive. We also know we may trade out handing light fixtures or shades because most of what I see are not attractive.
I’d like at least one 12 volt outlet. That we could use a portable 12 volt pure sign wave inverter to charge stuff. As I understand, the built in inverter in an RV is dedicated to use such as the refrigerator and 12 volt lights.
Batteries: I’ve re-thought this twice now. Originally I supposed we would go the cheap route and add a 12 volt battery to the one that generally comes with a trailer. Now I’ve thinking about having four six volt AGM batteries and a portable solar charger. That way if we later add solar panels we will not have to change out the batteries. Also, for boondooking four batteries looks to be more doable. But — if there is not space near the existing battery compartment, we might reconsider the four batteries.
For tire monitoring: I would prefer a system that comes with the truck and allows the trailer tires to be added – but that might not be possible. That way I don’t have a separate gadget to mount in the truck. I’m holding off until the year we buy the trailer to make a permanent decision should we have to buy an independent system. By then, the technology could have changed or we would know if our truck’s system will handle the trailer as well. There are monitoring systems that offer temperature readings also. Not sure yet if they do better than the hand held units for measuring temperature but would prefer a unit that does both air and temp. Also – get metal stems on tires for high pressure.
Progressive Surge Protector: I’m leaning towards a hard wired unit which can’t be stolen from the pedestal. I also understand they can detect issues in your power cord or maybe trailer when the pedestal type just monitors at pedestal and campground power. A portable unit might be nice to check the site power before you bother to park but there might be a better/cheaper device for checking the pedestal first. Progressive has a lifetime warranty.
Power management system: Some trailers have options of having these. What it does is shut down items like the air conditioner when you are on thirty amp service and want to use the microwave. A convenience feature for sure so not a necessity.
Flooring: We want what we have in our current (2015) sticks and bricks. Engineered wood or similar in all areas but the stairs and bedroom. We have vinyl under the washer/dryer and in the bathroom. I’m fine with carpet under the sofa, chair in the living room slide which would actually help with insulation and noise.
Shades: MCD manual day/night shades only require a slight tug to raise. No way do I want to deal with the shades with strings. We prefer a two shade system, one for daytime solar and one for night time black out. I’ve also discovered some builders do not use MCD type shades on every window so we will watch to make sure we can live with the windows that don’t have the shades.
Foundation/Structure (Is Most Important)
Slide-outs: I’ll bet we will not be deciding which RV to buy based on the slide technology. We want our slide to be fully laminated with the same material used on the outside walls. The insulation should be appropriate for a four sessions rig, including the floor and ceiling of the slide. I prefer hydraulic over electric for heavier slides. I’m still considering the benefits of slide toppers especially to prevent water from freezing on the top of the slide? The slide seals are something to consider and I’m thinking when we find the perfect floor plan we will have to trust the engineers did their job and are using good seals. I’d like to have carpet on the slide, other than maybe a kitchen slide, to help with sound reduction and insulation. I’ll make sure the slides operate smoothly and with reasonable speed. I’ll also watch for how electrical is hung in moving slides and especially that none are pinched in the process. I’m thinking having plumbing in a moving slide is not a good idea. There must be access to the bed, fridge and bathroom with the slides in. There must be a way to manually bring in the slides in case of malfunction. I’d prefer to have each slide operated independently and via remote control so I can stand outside and make sure the clearance is good. We will not have a slide under the main awning. I’ll be considering if floor vents are covered up with the slides in for those times we can’t roll a slide out. Lastly, there must be a decent amount of headroom inside the slide. Here is a big one that helped eliminate floor plans – we are sticking with three slides max.
Cargo Capacity: I’ve heard 3,000 pounds minimum quoted as the suggested least amount of capacity. A couple hours research showed it closer to 3,448 pounds on average when reading what nine other full timers are living with. We want room for a lot of stuff that are not among the bare essentials such as a combo washer/dryer, full water tanks, generator, inflatable boat, maybe solar panels, inflatable boat, bikes, camping gear and more.
Pin Box: My first choice is the MoRryde pin matched to the appropriate hitch and suspension system. I’m still studying hitches but am leaning towards having an air bag on the hitch with the MoRryde pin. My second choice is the newer Trailair – Flex Air pin. Again, the pin would be matched with the appropriate suspension and hitch. And this could change if the Flex Air is limited to an 18,000 pound capacity. The Trailair – Air Ride is my third choice. We may be buying a used rig so I want to keep the option open to using what comes with the rig. As of today (9/9/15) Lippert is still selling the Trailair Air Ride pin.
Tires and Wheels: At least 70 mph rated LT radial tires with aluminum wheels. I’ll use tire covers when parked and metal stems. I’ll make sure they are balanced when new. Looks like the Goodyear G114 “H” tires are it but I’m satisfied with the G rated tires on the right trailer. Just make sure the trailer can handle the 17.5″ tire. Years ago I learned the value of great tires, not just because of durability but also because you can trust them for traction in bad weather. Saliun also makes great tires so I’d take those also. Get metal stems for tire monitoring.
Main beam/frame: I am only looking at models with a 12″ I beam or better. We also want a drop frame because of the better basement storage.
I’ll be selecting a rig that has been tested for how long it will hold heat in a chamber during the test. We will be getting a rig that has reasonably insulated slides and is setup to reduce noise coming from the mechanical systems (air conditioning). We want a four seasons rig but don’t necessarily require the “best” insulation as we will avoid harsh climates. We will be getting double-pane windows for insulation as well as noise reduction. Optional thermal reflective barrier will be something we are looking for. This is a sheet of reflective material below the roof and floor. I’m leaning towards foam rather than rolled insulation and if there are cut-outs in the foam there needs to be another layer of insulation above it. Here is a link to my blog post.
Quite ducted ac and heating system. We will be listening to the ac and furnace running before we buy any unit. We want two ac units that are ducted together with the return air not exposed under the unit but in separate intakes that are quite. I’d prefer the vents not be exposed on the open floor areas of the rig where dirt gets in them or we walk on them. Many units have the vents mounted on the side of cabinets or near the perimeter.
Moderate priced luxury fifth wheel: We are looking at RVs in the range of $87,000 or less in 2019 dollars and would consider a gently used unit. For the truck I have budgeted $67,000 for a combined total of $154,000. This includes all the add on stuff such as generator, washer dryer, electric cords, truck hitch or whatever. I’m finding one year old trucks for a big savings. As of 6/16/17
13 gallon trash bin in a convenient location. I like the idea of having a hole in the counter above the trash can rather than having to open the cabinet.
Roadside Assistance: We will have roadside assistance insurance. Coach-Net seems to be popular. As we will be traveling in areas unfamiliar to us, it would be nice to pick up the phone for help after a break-down. Don’t know yet about an extended warranty. 4/16/16
Fire/Security Safe: This is not something we are necessary looking for in a trailer purchase. Decided to wait and install a fire safe later.
Inflatable Kayak: We purchased a Sea Eagle FastTrack 385 in 2016 which is before we hit the road. This was 100% for sure something we plan to take with us so an early purchase, so we could enjoy it early, was reasonable.
We will have a built-in black tank flush. Add on products don’t work. Minimum 10 gallon gas/electric water tank, preferably a 12 gallon in case we later get a washing machine. No plastic sinks and must have a one piece shower.
Tank Sizes: Prefer 75 fresh water, 75 or better grey and 45 black. A large grey water tank is a must because that is the limiting factor. I prefer not to have tanks split up such as were some models have a grey tank for the kitchen and another for the bathroom.
Pex water lines are best as they are proven in sticks and bricks homes. Also not having plastic connectors such as elbow would be preferred but seem like they are a norm. We want the ability to shut off individual water lines in the event of a leak.
Regarding the bathroom sink and fixture: Karen prefers the sink be molded into the counter because they are easier to clean. I also noticed some trailers come with faucets that are not tall enough.
Toilet: We will be going with whatever brand comes with the trailer. For sure it will be porcelain. Must be in a comfortable position with leg room and not in the way when getting out of the shower. Believe it or not, some trailers don’t have a very good place to mount a toilet paper roll, so will be watching out for that. We did a test to see which dissolves best. Charmin Ultra Soft was the winner with Angel Soft coming in second. We already switched out to Charmin Ultra Soft in our sticks and bricks home as of 2016. More than once I’ve been told the Dometic toilet (310 or 320) are much preferred over the Thetford toilets a lot of trailers come with.
A truck capable of handling an upgraded RV later: We have been looking at fifth wheel trailers in the 16,500 to 19,000 gross weight class. Here is a link to my blog post on the subject. We will be looking for a one year old Ford F350 dually with the Lariat package or a Ram 3500 dually with the Laramie package.
Backup Cameras: I’ve been reading with some trucks you can get a rear trailer camera that integrates with truck. Might be a reason to not get a camera stock with the trailer in order to avoid having yet another box to mount in the truck.
Regarding keeping a second car: We have not decided for sure if we will keep one car or not. Most likely we will not because we like traveling together, Karen can look up campsites and I really don’t want the hassle of maintaining a second vehicle . Several others I know have second vehicles. The cost compared to saving for less truck usage range from a wash to $1,900. Here is a good post about it on a blog.