If you’re new to the RV world it can feel a little overwhelming trying to make a decision. With all the terms, features, and jargon, it’s easy to get lost, especially when you’re around people who have been doing this a while. Questions will run through your head like, “What is a toy hauler?”, “How do I know if my vehicle can tow an RV?”, and “You have to empty what tank?” Don’t let your first-time RV purchase be intimidating. We’re here to help make that process easier! The first thing you need to figure out is the type of RV you want and need.
Types of RVs
There are two main types of RVs, which are fifth wheels and travel trailers. Then there are park trailers and toy haulers which are in their own class but also fall into the first two categories. Let’s take a look at these types and break down what each term means so you can have a good understanding of the basic makeup of them.
A travel trailer, sometimes called a bumper pull trailer, is an RV that rides on a ball hitch. One of the best parts about a travel trailer is that you can add a ball hitch to many types of vehicles, so as long as your vehicle has the power to pull it, you can tow a travel trailer. These can range in size and weight from very compact and lightweight to sprawling and hefty. They come in an abundance of layouts with tons of different features as well as additional options. The most limiting thing about a travel trailer is also the same thing that makes them so great, the ball hitch. While this can easily be added to any vehicle, this type of hitch is attached to the frame of the vehicle. The frame can only handle so much weight so the weight of the trailer has to be limited. That’s where the 5th wheel comes in!
No, they don’t have five wheels! It’s called a fifth wheel because the concept dates back to the 1800s when they had four wheel horse carriages. They used a wheel placed on its side as the hitch connection and then a pin from the trailer dropped into the center of the wheel so it could pivot. This made it the fifth wheel of the carriage. Today you will see on a fifth wheel hitch that the “wheel” looks more like a horseshoe but we still use the same term. A fifth wheel trailer has a pin in the front that connects to a box hitch. The box hitch is mounted in a truck bed over the top of the rear axle. Because this hitch is mounted above the axle, it can handle much more weight than the ball hitch. Just like travel trailers, a fifth wheel comes in many sizes and layouts, but cannot be pulled by a car or an SUV (unless you’ve somehow severely modified it).
The terms park trailer and destination trailer are the same thing. These are travel trailers with a removable hitch! These trailers are for those who have land or a permanent spot at a campground where they want to park the trailer. You can then take the hitch off to make it look nicer and take up less space. Destination trailers usually have more home-like amenities such as larger water heaters, bigger air conditioners and furnaces, and added insulation so they can be used in the winter.
A toy hauler is an RV that offers garage space for things like ATVs, motorcycles, dune buggies, and other large outdoor toys, as well as living space for you. Most toy haulers have a rear garage with a ramp door and then the living space up front. They come in a large array of sizes and weights, and you can get one as a travel trailer toy hauler or a fifth wheel toy hauler. Some are full cargo bays that convert into your living space once you get to your destination, while others have a luxurious dedicated living space that’s separate. A toy hauler, sometimes called a sport utility RV, opens up a whole new way of travel for trail-and-track-loving campers!
After figuring out which type of RV you're interested in, you'll next want to figure out the type of layout you need. Most of them are pretty self-explanatory such as rear kitchen, full bath, or rear garage. Some of the less self-explanatory layout terms are “Bunkhouse”, “Den Area”, “Loft”, and “Patio Deck." Here are the loose definitions of these differing layouts:
- Bunkhouse: A bunkhouse is an RV that offers bunks either instead of or in addition to a master bedroom. These are great for RVers with kids or someone who wants to bring along friends or family! Sometimes the bunks are just part of the main trailer layout while others have a whole private room dedicated for the bunks.
- Den Area: A den area, sometimes called a “bonus room,” is usually one where you will find a sofa and maybe an entertainment center, desk, or other added storage. Some RVs have a den that is also a bunkhouse in the fact that you can usually find a bunk above the sofa, and the sofa typically converts into a bed.
- Loft: A loft can be found in a number of different layouts and it's just what you would most likely guess it is. Many toy haulers have a loft area with a mattress above the garage. Some bunkhouses have a loft with a mattress built in above them. Many layouts that offer the den/bunkhouse combo have a loft above the den as well. A loft is typically for one person and offers a cozy, snug space for sleeping.
- Patio Deck: Some RVs actually have a patio deck that folds out so you can sit up off the ground! Some of them are off the side, usually in front of a sliding glass door, while others are a toy hauler that can convert the ramp door into a patio. These are the ultimate RVs for tailgating so you can enjoy the outdoors away from the creepy crawlers on the ground!
Manufacturers and Brands
Cougars, and wolves, and raptors, oh my! There are a lot of different manufacturers out there and even more brands! If you click through enough layouts and floor plans you may start to see that some of them look a little similar. This is because, just like how vehicle manufacturers have different brands and models, so do RV manufacturers. General Motors produces Chevy, Pontiac, and GMC where Keystone produces Bullet, Montana, and Sprinter. While they may have some of the same qualities, Keystone will designate features specifically for Bullet and others for Montana only, just the same way that GM designates some features just for Chevy and others just for Pontiac, . It allows them to create all different combinations of RVs to offer something for everyone. The three manufacturers we work with here at Lakeshore RV are Forest River, Heartland, and Keystone. You can check out the different brands we carry from each here!
Our Helpful Blog
You’re here! This is our helpful blog where we release articles to help support the RV lifestyle. Along with things like where you can camp, what activities to do, recipes you can make, and general camping tips, we also have our “RV Guidance” section. Here we try to answer some of the burning questions RVers and future RVers have. In this section we offer info on things like how to change a flat, organization tips, how towing and weights work, caring for your tanks, if you can ride in a towed RV, and much much more! You can check out this section 24 hours a day for info and if you don’t see what you’re looking for, let us know!
At Lakeshore RV we have a team of dedicated RV specialists who know these rigs inside and out! The best thing about these men and women is, they’re not into pressuring customers into a sale. Want to go out and look at the RVs alone so you can freely discuss them? That’s fine! You just come let us know when you have a question! Or if you want someone to come along with you for added information and to help you find the right RV, they can do that too! If you’re still unsure about what type of RV you need, it’s recommended that you speak with one of our specialists. They’ll be able to ask you some key questions and help you narrow it down to a manageable number of options so you’re not so overwhelmed.
Once you have your RV picked out, you may be considering heading to your bank for a loan. Our financing team can make it even easier for you! Fill out a credit app and they’ll submit it for you. We work with many different banks to get you the best interest rate out there and many times we find that even if you go to the same bank we submit it to, we can get you a lower rate. Our team works hard to make getting your dream vacation home on wheels a reality.
No matter what it is that’s causing those feelings of intimidation on your first time purchase of an RV, let Lakeshore put your mind at ease! We’re very enthusiastic about camping and want to be able to share the freedom of owning an RV with you! Give us a call today!