Buying a Travel Trailer

oplsetupOur decision to buy a travel trailer as opposed to a Fifth wheel or a Class A or C motorhome was the best decision for us. I explained how and why we chose our truck, Bruce, in this article. Today, I want to explain why and how we chose our travel trailer, Opal.

Why We Chose a Travel Trailer

There are several reasons we chose a travel trailer instead of a fifth wheel or a motor home:

Expense

We looked into buying a motorhome and a small car to tow. It was going to cost us way more to buy both. Even keeping one of our existing vehicles would have been a lot more expensive than getting a truck and travel trailer. We did not want a used RV because we wanted our own, new home. We didn’t want to fix one up. New travel trailers are less expensive than the other options.

Vehicle Availability

We definitely wanted a vehicle that we could used unattached from our home. We didn’t want to have to move our home just to go to the grocery. We didn’t want to have to tie everything down just to go sight seeing. And some places just aren’t drivable in an RV. We wanted the freedom of having a regular vehicle that we could take for short trips most anywhere without bringing along the whole home.

Our options were to get a motorhome and pull a small car or get a big car/truck and pull the home. We chose to pull the home because we didn’t necessarily want the expense or the maintenance of two motors.

Vehicle Repairs

If the motor was in the home, then when the motor needs maintenance and repairs, you have to take the home along. If the vehicle needs to be kept overnight, then they would be keeping my bed too. That meant I would have to get a hotel room or find some other accommodations while they fixed my engine. This doesn’t sound very appealing to me. At least not at this point in our full-time RV experience. Maybe later, but for now, it wasn’t something that we wanted to deal with.

Home Repairs

We wanted our vehicle and home to be separate so that if one needed repairs, we would have the other. We couldn’t justify the expense of two engines, so getting a toad (small car to tow behind the motor home) just wasn’t an option yet. That meant that if the motorhome needed repairs, we would be without a vehicle. Being stranded in a repair shop was not something we were ready to experience.

RV Size

Fifth wheels have a lot more room inside, but they take a lot of our storage room in the bed of the truck away. We depend a lot on the storage room in the bed of our truck. We didn’t want to lose that space for living area. For the two of us, we just didn’t need that much room inside.

Many of the motor homes we looked at were larger than our small travel trailer. We love the idea of minimalistic living and getting down to just what we need. The smaller the better. We did have our limits though. We wanted something large enough to have a separate living area from the bedroom. We decided on a 27.5 foot inside, which translates to 30 foot outside. It works well for us.opltowing

Towing Experience

The thought of towing a 30 foot camper was a little intimidating for me. I’ve not had any experience towing anything, much less something that big and heavy. But, Lizabeth stepped up to the plate and assured me she could do it. She had experience pulling campers from her childhood and has done an EXCELLENT job through wind, storms, mountains and everything in between. She’s pulled our Opal through way more than I would even attempt. If she had not have known she could pull a travel trailer, we probably would not have even considered the travel trailer option.

How We Chose THE One – Opal

Once we had decided on a travel trailer, we then had to find THE One. Our first decision was how much room we needed in a travel trailer.

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Length

We looked at everything from 14 foot to 36 foot and decided on a happy medium. The smaller the better we decided but 14 to 24 feet was just too short. Twenty five to 26 feet would have worked, but would have been pushing it on the small size. Twenty-seven feet seemed perfect for us. It was big enough to have separate living and sleeping areas, but not too big that we were hesitant to pull it. Our 27.5 foot inside, 30 foot outside has worked exceptionally well.

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Slide Outs

We first thought we would spend quite a bit of time dry camping or boondocking with no power, water, or sewer. We thought we may even have to stay in some parking lots since we were having trouble finding any camping areas close to home at the time. We thought that not using the slides would make camping in parking lots a little more inconspicuous, so we tried to find something without slides. It’s almost impossible. Everything has slides now.

Another reason we didn’t want slides is because you can not travel with the slide out and if the slide quit working correctly and wouldn’t go back in, then you are pretty much stuck where you are. Since we couldn’t find a travel trailer we liked with no slides, we decided that the fewer slides to malfunction the better. Again, we were not looking for a lot of room. We wanted to have a minimalistic life style and wanted to keep things as small as possible, so extra room was not on our want list.

We also wanted to find one that we could walk through with the slide pulled in. This is helpful when you need to pull over to the side of the road to access something inside (like the bathroom) while towing. That’s not an easy find either.

The first trailer we thought we wanted was beautiful. It had two slide outs with an island in between. This made for a very large living area and kitchen, which was nice. But, when the slides were pulled in, there was no walking in the RV because the island was in the way. It was just not practical for what we wanted.

Our Opal has one slide. When open we have more than enough room for living full time. When closed I can still get through to the bedroom. I can’t get in the bathroom without pushing the slide out a couple of inches, but it’s enough that we can make it work on the side of the road. It’s nice having your bathroom with you most everywhere you go!

As for our ‘fear’ of getting stuck somewhere with the slide out, there are RV roadside assistance plans that help with that. More on that in another article.

Extras

Although we looked at them, we decided we just didn’t need some of the extras that come on the RV’s now days. We looked at outdoor kitchens which are super cool with refrigerators, stoves, water, grills, etc. built into the outside compartment. Although nice, we didn’t need the extra kitchen. Our small grill (another article for later) works just fine. Some had gas fireplaces, which were also super cool, but just not something we needed or wanted to make room for. And then there were the islands that I mentioned earlier. They certainly helped with counter space for the kitchen, but not something we wanted to add space for in our minimalistic home. There were some other really nice extras such as TV’s, shelves, etc., but being practical, we decided we could live without them and chose drawers and storage space – or a smaller overall space, instead.

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Rocking Chairs

When looking at the MANY different trailers available, I only saw one that had an option with rocking chairs. That was definitely a part of my decision. The others may have had more couches, more beds, more kitchen space, etc., but I truly love our chairs that sit in front of our huge back window. Other than my work area (I’ll explain later), the chairs are my favorite part of our home.

Bathroom Access

As I mentioned before, it was important to us to be able to access the bathroom while traveling or camping in parking lots if needed. It was also important that the only access to the bathroom not be through the bedroom. When others spend the night on our pull out couch, it’s nice that they can get to the bathroom without coming through the bedroom. Many of the trailers we looked at had only one entrance through the bedroom. Our bathroom has only one entrance, but it’s in between the living area and the bedroom.


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Office Space or Dining Space

Most of the trailers we looked at, had dinettes which consists of a table and booth type seating. This is a good alternative if you need more guest sleeping areas since the dinettes usually fold down to make an extra bed. But, for us, we didn’t need the extra sleeping space. Our couch/love seat folds down to make a bed and sleeps two fairly comfortable.

We loved the fact that the one we chose had a small dining table and 4 chairs. Although we liked the table and chairs, I needed office space for my computer, extra monitor, desk, and office/tech supplies so that we can work on the road. I LOVE my office with a view! I love that I don’t have to constantly work from my laptop and can have dual monitors in my work area. I truly love my mobile office!


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We Love our Home!

We love the travel trailer that we chose. You can see our floorplan here. It really is perfect for us. It’s the perfect size. It has everything we need and nothing more. We have ample space underneath the bed and in our pass through (which is also under the bed). We have lots of closet space and drawer space in the bedroom. We have plenty of cabinet space in the living area and just enough counter space. We have everything we could possibly need and room to carry those things most important to us.

I think we made the best choice for our current lifestyle. There has not been a day yet where we wished we had chosen another trailer that we looked at. We love our new home. We love the mobility. We love how easy it is to pack up and move. I will admit hitching up, breaking camp and moving out can be time consuming and a pain at times, but we get quicker and better at it each time. Living on the road can be a lot of work, but it’s totally worth it. We LOVE our new life!

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