Wednesday, April 26, 2017

Purchasing a New Trailer (Family Camping Made Easy)

Our first trailer was a small hybrid unit that we purchased second hand with very limited experience or research. To back up the “lack of experience” we actually believed the couple selling the trailer when they said the soft floors were “completely fine.”

Our first trailer (light, easy to tow, and cozy)

The hybrid was ok for our first few years camping with a trailer and served as a great introduction to trailer camping. However, it had its downsides too. It took forever to set the beds and awning up when we got to camp and it had no storage space whatsoever. (Everything lived on the floor of our trailer and had to be moved out before we could sleep.) We also realized that "technically" you're not supposed to leave anything that resembles food or carries a smell inside a soft sided trailer when you're not around. (which means leaving nothing in the pantry and treating the trailer as a glorified tent.)

We’ve learned a lot since buying our first trailer and things were much different when we went shopping for our new, fully hard-sided, RV this spring.

The Massive Upgrade (and see the front and back storage doors!)

Know What You’re Looking For

I have long sworn that I’d never buy a gigantic toy hauler for our family’s next RV but I will never forget the first time I actually looked inside one of these spacious RVs at a dealership and realized that they give you an entire extra bedroom for the kids. I also discovered that you could fit a lot of bikes or boats inside without having to mount everything on top of the truck. At that moment I realized we needed to do some serious research before choosing our next trailer and that I wasn’t going to limit myself to what I had always thought of as sensible or practical.

And while we did not buy a toy hauler, we were glad we had at least taken a look at one one so that we could open our eyes to what our options were. Step one is to do your research and know what you’re looking for. You won’t know you actually want a toy hauler for example if you’ve never taken a look inside one! Visit RV shows, tour local dealerships, and take your time looking around.

Maybe this is what you want (or maybe not...) - You won't know till you do some research

Create your Masterpiece Shopping List

As you do your research and check out possible RVs, make a few lists to help narrow the search down.

The first list should include the necessary things you must have in your new RV. For example, it must have a bathroom (necessary for us because our first trailer was actually lacking in this area.)

Some things that were on our "must have" list when we bought our new trailer a month ago:

  • A bunk house with double over double bunk beds (something I didn’t know existed before we recently started shopping) - and now my son will be able to bring a friend camping!

  • An outdoor shower for those beach camping trips

  •  A bike door under the back bunk beds for storage (the bottom bunk lifts up to reveal a giant storage area with a door from the outside. Great for the toy bin, sports equipment, a kids' bike, lawn chairs, etc.)

  • Storage space under the front end of the trailer with access from both sides of the unit ( I had no idea you could store so much outdoor stuff under the trailer until we started looking around! We are now storing all outside gear including the barbecue, kitchen table, and RV matt in this front storage area.)

  • A bed for the parents that is always a bed! (No pull down bed, no murphy bed, no sofa that pulls out into a bed, and no slide out bedroom. We want to be able to pull into camp and go to bed with minimal effort!) - and it was the same with the bunk beds for our son. We wanted his bed to always be a bed as well and the kitchen table to remain a table at all times.

Other lists you might want to create would include “features we’d really like to have but could live without,” and the “dream wish list” of items you likely won’t get but that might become more important in the future as your family grows up. (an outside kitchen would fall under one of these categories for me.)

Tent Trailers, Fifth Wheels, Hybrids... - Lots of Choice! (each with its own advantages)

Join Online Camping Forums

It can be very helpful to seek out advice from friends with RVs and to ask two important questions:
“What do you love most about your current RV or model of trailer?” And “What would you change if you were to buy a new RV?”

I asked these two questions in an online group forum and built my entire shopping list around the answers. It was one of the best camping discussion I’ve ever had and I gained a lot of wisdom that helped us become more informed and educated when we went to purchase our new trailer.

I will never camp in anything that it not fully hard sided over the May long weekend ever again

Compare, Compare, Compare

Don’t just go to one dealership and fall in love with your first trailer.  Guaranteed, you’ll fall in love with a dozen more before you choose the right one for your family.

Every time you find one that you like, add the features that appeal to you to your shopping list until you know exactly what you want.

Still not sure what features you need in your next trailer or RV? A quick google search of “best RV features” should have you reading for hours on the subject. 

Our new trailer had to have an outdoor shower!!

Service and Warranty Facts

Before choosing an RV dealership to buy from, ask about the service policies of the dealership and about the manufacturer warranty for the RV you want to purchase. 

  • Avoid manufacturers that aren't good with accepting or approving warranty.

  • Find out where you’d have to take the RV to for warranty work to be done.

  • Avoid warranties that require returning the RV to the manufacturer in the US for repairs

Does size matter? Sometimes...

Did You Know…


  • Some slide outs prevent you from accessing the fridge or kitchen when the slide is in, or prevent you from accessing the full trailer (including the bathroom)

  • To avoid frustrations with pulling your new RV, take the weight your vehicle can pull and divide that weight in half. Aim for that number with your new RV weight.

  • Smooth flooring is easier to clean than textured flooring

  • LED lights last up to 20 years and require a lot less electricity than traditional RV lights. While they cost more up front, they will save you money in the long run

A good starting point is to walk around a campground, writing down names of trailers you like

Happy shopping and I'll have a story written soon about our first trip out with our new trailer. 

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