Camping and RV’ing has grown immensely in the past 3 years; spawned by a recent trend of folks heading off-grid, thanks to a global pandemic. Camping truly is the one bright light in this pandemic’s otherwise dark room, but thank goodness for a plethora of great camping opportunities across Canada and the United States! According to Kampgrounds of America (KOA), 33% of Canadians have camped their entire lives, while 50% of those intend to do more camping this year. What about those new to camping and RV’ing, or those wishing to upgrade their current camper?
By reviewing these travel trailer/recreational vehicle options, buyer’s will have a better sense of what rig is best for them and perhaps save money in the process. Take it from an enthusiast who has camped in every province in Canada and many US States, over the past 4-decades, and purchased nearly a dozen travel trailers. The RV options are out there; let us look at the categories.
Recreational Vehicle Options
When it comes to ‘wheeled campers’, there are essentially six options available; A-Class Recreational vehicles/motorhome, C-Class Recreational vehicles or motorhome, Fifth Wheel Trailers, Travel trailers, Hybrid Campers and Tent trailers. Each choice has its pros and cons; the right one for you really depends on your needs and budget. Let’s take a look at RV categories:
A-Class Recreational Vehicle/Motorhome
The largest of the fleet and most expensive are the A-Class RV’s. These monster self-propelled Motorhomes often referred to as ‘busses’ retail for between $150,000 – 400,000+ new. They are typically the most luxurious while also costing the most operate. A-Class rigs are not intending for remote off-grid camping due to their size and service hook-up requirements. Many of these units require 50 AMP electrical service versus more common 30 AMP, more readily found in most campgrounds. If luxury and comfort or fulltime living is required, these large motorhomes are a good option, keeping in mind their retail price is nearly that of an average single family home.
C-Class Recreational Vehicle
C-Class motorhomes are a more practical self-propelled camping choice, smaller and less expensive than A-class. They range in size from 21-36 feet in length, with construction based-off a van or truck frame. Easier to captain and more economical if self-propelled camping is your jam; a C-class rig is the way to go. Most operate off 30 AMP service and are agile enough for moderately remote camping locations. Price range is $70,000 -150,000 for a new C-class motorhome.
Fifth Wheel trailer
A fifth wheel trailer is similar to a conventional travel trailer, expect for the way it is hitched. Regular trailers are towed using the common ball and coupler’ hitch, while a fifth wheel uses a ‘Jaw Hitch’ secured directly to the centre bed of a pickup truck. Fifth wheel trailers are slightly more expensive than regular travel trailers and offer a different layout, with a step-up master bedroom and higher ceilings. Camping aficionados will tell you that fifth wheel trailers are superior, and safer, for travelling long distances due to the mechanics of Jaw Hitch towing position, which takes strain off a vehicles backend. Fifth wheels range in price from $30,000 – 150,000+ for a new unit.
Travel trailers are by far the most popular RV segment, ranging in size from 17-foot to 40-foot and costing, on average $15,000 – $100,000 new. They are hitched to a truck or SUV, and towed for camping purposes. Depending on the length, smaller 17-21’ travel trailers are manoeuvrable and can be used in remote camping locations. The ubiquitous travel trailer comes in a multitude of sizes and layouts, made by a several manufactures. Do you homework on the best deal, options that suits your needs and be sure it is matched properly to the vehicle you will be towing with. Never haul a trailer heavier than your vehicle’s rated towing capacity.
Hybrid Travel Trailer
Hybrid trailers are a travel trailers with pop out ‘tent ends’ similar to a tent trailer. The advantage of a hybrid over a conventional trailer is increased floor space at little added weight. Hybrids are popular with campers who drive mini vans and lighter SUV’s, which are limited on extra towing capacity. Since hybrid trailers offer one or more (soft material-sided) pops-outs, the beds are located outside the trailer floor space offering expanded room for walking around. The downside to not having ‘4 solid walls’ is increased noise and trailer maintenance. Soft tent-ends are prone to leaks requiring extra care, and cause your trailer to less soundproof. Purchas price is similar to conventional camping trailers.
Tent trailers or pop-ups, as the name implies, combine a soft tent-like material component with a hardtop trailer construction, making for the lightest and most economical RV choice. Tent trailers range in price from $10,000 -20,000 new, with some weighing as little as 800 pounds. They are light to tow, often with a car and are used in more remote camping locations. Tent trailers are the next step up from tenting and make a great ‘first RV purchase’.
Finding a deal!
Buying a new RV is tough on the nerves and pocketbook and there is good reason, given the average 40% mark-up on new trailers. The profit margin on RV sales is much higher than in the automobile industry. A MSRP price on a trailer, for example, is NOT the price a dealer actually pays for a unit, merely the suggested price set by the manufacturer. Take an RV with a $100,000 MSRP at your local dealership. The dealer likely paid $75,000 Cost price for the unit, and then offers a Spring Sale on same unit for $95,000, advertised as “$5000 below retail”. Great deal, right? The dealer actually turns a tidy $20,000 profit! The average dealership profit on one car sold in the auto industry, by comparison, is less than $1500!
Pre-owned VS New
The best deals are always had on pre-owned RV’s! Avoid buying new whenever possible. Of the dozen, or so, trailers I’ve purchased over the years, I never purchased new. Buying a lightly used 3-5 year old unit is the best investment, provided you inspect it thoroughly. I bought 3-4-year-old trailers that look new at less than half the retail price. Seasonal campers may only use an RV a few times each summer, making a 3-4 year old unit still in ‘like new’ condition. Imagine purchasing a 4-year-old car that was only driven 20-30 times? Pre-owned is indeed getting harder to find under a ‘Covid camping boom’, and new trailer sales are at record levels, but deals are still out there you just need to be quick. Best purchase on used RV’s is usually in the fall at the end of the camping season, but I have also found early season deals in the spring. Do your research, checks prices, have the cash in-hand, and be ready to pull to trigger, quickly!
Happy camping and I hope you find your dream RV; be it a tent trailer, travel trailer, hybrid, fifth wheel, C-Class or A-Class, at a fraction of the cost. Avid campers must read my RV/Travel Trailer Safety Guide for additional peace of mind whilst camping. See you all in great outdoors this summer.