This is wrong.
Absolutely wrong. I feel you, but you're barking up the wrong tree, my friend.
Yes, I'm waving my finger at you. (But I was in your shoes a few years back, so this isn't me judging you! It's me judging you with empathy, haha.)
Based on the title of this post, you want to know what the best RV for full-time living is. I'm here to inform you that it's time to change your mindset.
Because there ISN'T any one universal 'best' RV for full time RV living. There's not even a 'best-for-all' brand (details to come).
Any website touting one particular (or many) RVs in a list of the 'best' for full-time RV living is blowing smoke up y ... well, you get the picture.
Because EVERYONE'S wants and needs for a rig are different. No matter what type or brand you get, there's always a compromise.
What?? No Unicorn Rig?
Sorry, there isn't one.
That's not to say the almost perfect recreational vehicle doesn't exist for you. It does, but with some compromise.
It will be a great RV for full time living 'except' (choose one or all of these possible scenarios):
- Not enough living area
- It's too heavy for your truck
- The floors are ugly
- Terrible lighting
- You wanted a slideout
- The bathroom is too small
- You wanted a king-size bed, a fireplace, and a power awning, etc...
So it's time to change how you're thinking about finding the 'best' RV for full time living so that you can find the right one for YOU.
How Do I Pick An RV Then?
That said, this guide will help you figure out what is most important FOR YOU.
This will be based on what I (after 5 years of full-time experience on the road) believe to be the most important full-time factors (Including input from Marshall and full-time friends). No matter what your final decision is, it will be made with compromises.
You have to figure out what's best for your own personal needs and camping style. Here you will learn to understand which aspects of your RV lifestyle are the most important features to consider.
Sure, figuring it out (and getting it right) is easier said than done, but it's doable.
Factors To Consider For Full-Time RV Living
Here are some of the many things you must consider before even thinking about what kind of RV might suit you for full time RV living:
- Stay 100% in campgrounds?
- Boondock full-time?
- Dry camp some?
- Stay in one place for months at a time or move constantly?
- Need a vehicle to get to town often?
- Stay on a friend's property?
- Be where the temperatures get below freezing?
- Be where it snows?
- Be where the temperatures get above 80?
- Have pets? (Some campgrounds won't take certain animals or limit the number.)
- Be able to take care of repairs yourself?
- Need a 4WD vehicle for winter?
- Will you cook in your RV?
- Need some room to get away from your spouse/children?
Most Important Factors:
I'd say these are some of the most important factors to consider for finding the best RV for full time living:
- Length of stays: If you plan to stay at sites for long periods, you may enjoy a bigger living space such as a fifth wheel. It's a pain to tow, but you won't be towing it much. This way you can enjoy a larger space to full time in.
- Floorplan: This is HUGE to get right. But never pick an RV based solely on the floorplan.
- Family Size: How many people will live in it? Do you need bunk beds for the kids? Maybe you need an office space. Maybe you want a separate room to retreat to when you need some downtime.
- Quality: Full-time life puts RVs to the test. Most manufacturers don't build for durability. They build as cheaply as possible so they make more money. The better brand you buy, the more it should hold up.
- Climate: If you'll be stationary, what harsh weather will you deal with?
- Your health: Do you have the strength/capabilities to do the physical tasks needing done such as motorhome maintenance, hitching up, cleaning the windshield, washing it, and taking care of other problems that may arise?
Now let's talk about how certain types of RVs are good for or aren't good for these factors.
Considerations For Choosing Your Full-Time RV
Length of Stays?
To know what RV will be best for your situation, you need to know HOW you will use it.
You should consider these choices before you decide on an RV type:
First, you must know HOW you will full-time RV.
There's more than one way to be full time. You could be:
- Stationary not traveling
- Full time traveling
- Occasionally traveling
- Travel 1/2 the year, stationary 1/2 the year
Each style has its challenges and benefits and they are important to consider. You should also think about:
- Will you be off the grid full-time and camping on public lands?
- Campgrounds, private land, or public lands?
Why Are These Factors Important?
Because what kind of rig is best for you might depend on how you live. For example, if you're going to move every few days, a fifth wheel or a 42' motorhome probably isn't so great/convenient due to the large size.
They are great if you stay in one place for longer periods. They may not fit into certain campsites. (Be aware- most state parks and many national parks have a length limit.) They are big, long, and they take up even more room with their slides and awnings out.
If you're going to stay on public lands a lot, you need to worry about your ground clearance (and length). Public land dirt roads aren't level and flat. Therefore, they aren't always friendly towards low axles, long motorhomes, or long back ends that can drag.
Sure, anything can work on public lands. You will find it all 'out there'. But the longest and lowest of RVs won't be able to get to all places without damage or getting stuck.
Even More To Consider!
Say you want to stay in one spot for extended periods. In that case, almost any variety will suffice. But if you can't connect to power where you are, you might need solar and/or a generator so you can use your air conditioner, microwave, or other appliances.
Then you must decide if it's best to have an on-board generator or a portable generator. Portables can be stolen, while an on-board generator in a Class A motorhome or a fifth wheel cannot. Travel trailers almost never come with an on-board generator.
On-board generator access is as easy as the push of a button. Portables must be outside and turned on outside unless it has a remote. Not as convenient, especially when you are boondocking. Things can get stolen, no matter if you're in a campground or on public land.
Does it rain a lot? That's not great for a portable. It's just a pain. You either need a cover for it or it needs to be under something. (Putting it under your rig might cause deadly fumes to come inside, FYI.) All are problem(s) to consider.
You may not yet know how you want to RV, but the more of an idea you have, your chances of picking the right RV package are much better.
RV Floor Plans
RVs come with a crazy high number of different floor plans to choose from. Quite often, RV choice is made because of the design, the luxury, and/or the layout. Nothing else is taken into consideration.
This is a horrible way to choose which rig to purchase. There are tons of other factors and features to consider with any floorplans.
That said, floor plans can also make or break your happiness with any given unit. Counter space, flow, bedroom location, refrigerator size, dinette comfort, bathroom size, storage area, sink size and depth, living area comfort, lack of windows, and SO much more can make or break your happiness.
When you think you've found the best RV for full time living, test everything you will be doing in it before you buy it.
RV Compatibility Checklist:
- Sit on the toilet (Errr, don't USE it though, lol.)
- Stand in and bend over in the shower
- Sit on the sofa and the dinette (they are pretty much ALL uncomfortable, but consider if it will be easy to socialize with the layout)
- Imagine trying to use a cutting board. Or having two big pots on the stove. Or washing those big pots in the kitchen sink. Is there enough room?
- Picture if it can store everything you want to bring.
- What about power outlets? Are there enough and are they in the right areas? Any USB power outlets?
- Are TVs 120v or 12v? Will you be able to use it without using shore power?
- Is the workspace comfortable enough?
- Can you FIT in the bed or is it too short? (Beds aren't all traditionally sized.)
- Can you set your brush/hairdryer/shaving cream down in the bathroom or is there no counter space?
- Cats- is there a spot for the litter box?
- Dogs- where will they fit/sleep?
One of the biggest complaints is the lack of counter space in the kitchens. It is truly maddening to not be able to utilize enough counter space to make meals, etc.
It's frustrating to try to cook, work on the computer, organize paperwork, put groceries away, etc.
Is the table large enough? Are the bathrooms adequate? What about closets? Is there enough storage? Does the vanity have counter space? The list goes on and on.
A little good news? Almost all RV mattresses can be replaced, so don't worry if you don't like it. (But often the size has to stay the same.)
Will you want to be able to use your RV with the slides in on travel days or overnight stays such as Walmart? If access is blocked with slides in, you might consider a different RV.
Your Family Size
Do you have kids? Or a partner? 'Cause this will also be a big part of what RV makes everyone happy.
The more people, the more room, the better. But not everyone can do that nor is bigger always easier.
I have friends with kids that got a toy hauler. They made the 'toy' area a giant playroom. It was a separate section with a door, so parents had 'away' time when they were at play. (Genius)
You may need bunk beds. Not every RV model offers this setup. Find the ones that offer that layout.
Is there enough dining space and seating for everyone to eat? What about storage room for toys?
For more insights and helpful tips for full timing with kids, check out Full-Time Families.
Couples/More Than Two
Almost any setup can work for two people. But if you want 'separate' living areas, you could consider towing a light travel trailer with a van conversion. (Example: Pull a trailer with a Nissan NV that has been converted to a camper.)
This is also tricky as you must watch weight ratings so you aren't overweight towing or overweight with what you can tow due to the added weight of the van conversion.
Then you have the van as a separate living quarter.
That said, I do know of families that live ONLY in a van. Don't ask me how they do it!!!!
Other Things For You To Consider
Your black and freshwater tank capacity(ies) will also be very important for you to consider if you plan on dry camping. The more people in the unit, the bigger your camper tanks need to be. This makes your ability to park longer without moving possible.
What size refrigerator does it have? Can you fit enough food to feed everyone without hitting the store every two or three days?
Will you want the convenience of a washer and dryer? Or are you fine using a laundromat?
So. Many. Things. To. Consider. (And I am glad I don't have to consider how I'd handle kids, lol)
This may be the most important buying decision you make. No RV is perfect, they can all have (and will) have issues.
Your odds of getting a good product are better if you start with one of the best brands in the industry.
Me? I lucked out with my used 24' Crossroads Slingshot travel trailer with no slideouts. It's a Thor product, yet I have had virtually no issue with it in 5 years. So, just because you get a lesser quality RV doesn't mean you WILL have problems.
That said, some brands have much better reviews than others. You can find a list of those brands in our Best RV Manufacturers post. The picks are not a guessing game and are not subjective. The decisions are based on a few factors, including real user reviews from real owners.
We suggest you do your due diligence and fill yourself with knowledge. Then you can find the best products that fit your criteria of facilities and comforts with the least risk, no matter what floorplans and amenities they have.
If your dream includes staying where it will snow/get below freezing for periods, you should:
- Get an RV with a four-seasons package (pipes won't be exposed and/or will be in a heated area) and keep the interior good and warm using your furnace, propane heater, and/or space heater to heat.
- Double pane windows are another plus. Four season package rigs usually have double pane.
If you are planning to stay in very hot areas, you should consider:
- An RV with a four-seasons package may give you some protection here, too. (Better insulation.)
- Get an RV with a lot of windows that open a good amount. (Mine is the BEST! All are exit windows that open all the way out.) This way you can open them up and use fans for good airflow when you can't use the AC.
- Make sure your fifth wheel or motorhome has enough AC units to adequately cool the whole rig.
Benefits Of The Different RV Types
A few more tidbits for you first.
Don't expect to get great gas mileage from any of these. The lighter the better, of course. Also consider diesel vs gas. Is diesel easily available to trucks/RVs around your area?
Also, consider: Do you want to tow a car with your motorhome? (Also known as a 'toad'.) Do you want a heavy-duty truck with a stiff suspension to be your daily driver? (Fifth wheels usually require this.)
If you REALLY want a toad, then if you get a motorhome you will have two vehicles/engines to maintain.
This was of great importance to me and was precisely why I didn't want a motorhome. Also, a coach is normally much more expensive than a bumper pull travel trailer.
Read on to learn about the pros of different types of RVs.
- Good for staying in one place for extended periods
- Most have the feel of a house
- Offer a lot of storage space/cargo room
- Many have an on-board generator.
- Roomy- they can be big and tend to have a lot of slide outs
- Often need a heavy-duty truck to tow them
- The largest have very high ceilings/roof, often feature a kitchen island
- Short or long stays- the hitching up is a hassle, but your tow vehicle, when free, can be a more comfy ride if not a super heavy-duty truck
- A pretty good option for living on public lands (but the shorter the better for this)
- Bumper pull travel trailers are a lot cheaper (best value) than motorhomes or fifth wheels
Motorhomes (Class A, Class B, Class C)
- A coach is physically easiest to use (no connecting/disconnecting/unless you have a toad. May not have to level, depending on what you get.)
- All in one vehicle
- Easiest to move around and set up
- Usually has an on-board generator
- Great for campgrounds but not for extra long stays. The engine must be exercised regularly.
- Gas engine or diesel engine
- Price may be very high
- You can get 'out there' almost anywhere
- Stealthy (kind of) and fits into very small spots
- Easy to move around
- Though nimble, living full-time in this might be tough
- No dishwasher (Heh)
Full-Time Factors To Consider: Do You Really Want To Full-Time?
After having lived in MY best RV for full time living for about 5 years (Since May of 2015), I've collected some insights about it that might give you pause.
Hopefully, you're not basing hitting the road or just living in an RV based on #Vanlife Instagram photos. 'Cause they're not real life.
Things will break. They will, no doubt about it. It's a home on wheels made of (usually) cheap materials on top of a chassis or a frame bouncing down the road. It's either fix it yourself or go to a service center.
If you don't have the means to do either, this life may not be best for you. If you expect just because you bought a brand-new RV you won't have any issues, you certainly have not done enough research on the life yet. All RVs end up with issues. Even (and sometimes especially) brand new ones.
Campground life is not 'vacation' life. It's not that nice, either. People are constantly driving or walking RIGHT by your space. (OR playing right outside your living space.)
There's blower noise. Lawnmower noise. Dogs barking. People fixing or building stuff noise. There are a lot of rules.
You're often crammed into your space, neighbors in your face. Privacy doesn't exist unless you hide inside your RV (But keep your voice down so your neighbors don't hear you).
Reservations are a pain to make. You get to smell your neighbor's cigarette smoke. And many campgrounds ARE NOT cheap.
I am NOT lonely on the road. But I live among a certain demographic of people- very active and fun RVers.
We are not retired, we aren't seniors (some of my friends are), we are very social, and we don't sit around all day (unless we are working). I got lucky with my friends. You may not make friends on the road.
In that case, unless you are very content to be by yourself all the time, you may not like the lifestyle at all.
Oftentimes, people get the notion that living in an RV will be a much cheaper way to live. It CAN be, but it can also be comparable to living in an apartment. Campgrounds can be as costly as rent or a low mortgage.
Then again, there are locations where you can live for VERY little per month. But those types of campgrounds are often undesirable. So once again, what are you willing to live with?
You can boondock full-time and live for free as I do, but you must be either a remote worker or independently wealthy to do so.
Seeing a doctor is one thing if you are parking permanently. It's another thing if you plan to move often from state to state. Sure, freedom is great, but getting your meds and getting appointments to see new doctors can be a HUGE hassle and very expensive if out of network.
If your insurance doesn't cover you seeing doctors out of state, you could be in a world of hurt when it comes to medical bills. This is VERY important to research BEFORE you become travelers if that's your plan.
Best Choices For Harsh Winters
For cold winters, it would behoove you to get an RV made for 'four seasons'.
These may be better insulated, may have a heated basement, and should have the water pipes protected underneath. (This does NOT guarantee that they won't freeze in very cold temps. Even 'four-season' RVs aren't meant to endure the stress of long and hard cold spells.)
That said, my Crossroads Slingshot travel trailer does GREAT in the cold. Why? Because the pipes are all inside my trailer- I can see them inside and I know exactly where they are.
Therefore, I just need to keep the interior above freezing to keep them from freezing.
I help this by opening cabinets and the bathroom door so that the warmth can get to where the pipes are. So just because your RV isn't a 'four seasons' RV doesn't mean it can't survive a winter.
Many factors go into deciding what is the best travel trailer or coach or whatnot for full-time living. There is NO one best RV brand in existence. Don't let any other website jerk you around with such nonsense.
Figure out as best as you can what living full time looks like for you, and THEN you can figure out what rig will best fit your new lifestyle.
You might sit in one place permanently, you might take road trips, you may want to do a weekend trip here and there. Every way you could do this life will determine the elements that will make your choice the best for you as a beginner.
Do lots of research. Do all the research. You might end up with an Airstream or a Class C motorhome. It all depends on your budget, what size holding tanks you need, if you want to road trip or sit still, what kind of campsite you will primarily be at, and SO much more.
The above is my advice to you. If you have a question, feel free to mention it in the comments below. I answer all RELEVANT, logical, well-written comments posted here.
Good luck with your decision!
Author: Kelly Beasley
Kelly Beasley is co-founder of Camp Addict and loves sharing her enthusiasm for the RVing lifestyle. As a full-time RVer since May 2015, Kelly's playful writing style helps make learning about the sometimes dull subject of RV products a bit more interesting.