Many of you are dreaming of, preparing for, or considering making another RV purchase in the future.
There’s nothing worse than buying an RV that doesn’t suit you. With extra planning, you can find an RV that fits who you and feels just right!
Problem is, it takes time, research, and RV walk throughs to learn what’s available and what works for you.
I’ve done all the research and shopped for over a year, visiting private owners and dealerships in many cities. Plus, I’m a full-time RVer, living in my RV selection since November 2015. I like the choice we made and I couldn’t have made the right choice without all the research and visiting RV dealerships–unless someone had given me a list like the one I’m giving you!
I’ll help you get in your own head and determine the RV features that matter most to you.
With my RV Shopping Checklist, you can review it before shopping so you’ll know which features are most important and quickly find an RV you want and need.
Use the RV Shopping Checklist again to help you save money and time, by checking off items on the checklist that are present and working well. I also point out safety features you want to have included with your RV.
You can print out the checklist pages and take them with you while you’re shopping, so you don’t forget important items. There are many things to remember and it’s easier to have a list.
Free Contest: RV by Campfire Giveaway
It’s fun to plan an RV life or how to enjoy RVing more! I’ve taken some items that I enjoy and bought them for my first giveaway.
Whether you hope to RV soon, or are traveling the country in your RV now, you can enter the giveaway free.
To enter, write a question you have about RVs, or if you already are an RVer, give a tip you’d like to share with readers.
The contest ends soon, so sign up now and good luck! ~Christina Goebel
Our motorhome’s Onan generator, supposedly a great brand, is Not Quiet. It operates on gasoline and has a smell, like many things that operate on gasoline, such as your lawnmower, maybe.
Though generators can be quieter when they’re regularly used, I learned that , yeah, it’s never gonna be quiet.
I surmised that tent campers hated the smell and the noise at our campground in St. Mary, Montana, near the east side of Glacier National Park.
After a while, we realized that to cool the RV into the mid 60’s that we like to sleep at, and to charge our batteries sufficiently for the evenings without generator use, we had to leave camp.
I can’t open all the windows in the RV and let in the cooler air because I’m allergic to a lot of trees, grass, and maybe just plain air. That ‘s why I travel with air purifiers, which we only had enough power to run during generator-use time.
Took us a few days to learn we could go to the nearest visitor center parking lot and let our generator run and charge our batteries as long as we needed.
Before we did that, sometimes we’d wake in the morning and the coach batteries were dead. My husband Gerald tried using the battery boost button, but it didn’t work well.
He realized he could use our jumper cables to jump start the coach batteries, which are housed under our steps.
We weren’t doing this from car to car, but from battery to battery, an advantage to having more than one 12-volt battery. Yep, memorable tip.
I now believe that the only people who truly understand RVs from the moment of their first purchase are: mechanics, engineers, truckers, and people who grew up RVing. Engineers practically skip around RV parks, so happy and at ease with all the modifications they can make to their home machine, while watching non-engineers
curse at their RVs at random intervals.
At first, we parked at a hotel parking lot most evenings to run our generator more time. It took until 11 p.m. or midnight to cool the RV like we liked it.
Here we come rolling in to camp at midnight, and tent campers are next to us.
Poor them, but it wasn’t our fault the National Park Service decided they could make more money having all campsites open to whoever books, which results in campers surrounded by RVs running generators. This causes discomfort all the way around.
This isn’t a good idea. Generators can put off carbon monoxide and they make noise. We could start using our generator at 8 a.m., so if they weren’t up already, they would be if they were noise-sensitive.
Worse, a generator puts off gas fumes and it depends on the direction it flows as to the effect. RVs should be equipped with carbon monoxide detectors, and ours it, but tents aren’t, so they have no way of knowing if they’re in danger.
While campsites aren’t cramped in the East Glacier area—we stayed around St. Mary’s—there is potential for the fumes to travel.
Best-case scenario is that tent campers have their own area, RVs with electricity another (paying more), and RVs using generators in another.
But, it was not to be, and one evening at 11:30 p.m. or midnight when we drove into our campsite, a tent camper accosted us.
As soon as we parked, Bam! Bam! Bam! Someone pounded on our RV door.
We hadn’t had a chance to level the RV (this is for the refrigerator to function properly, but also can affect your sleeping comfort because jacks stabilize the RV and keep it from swaying while you sleep).
My husband opened the door.
We woke them up, she said, could we turn off the engine?!
She’s so lucky my husband opened the door because I realized we had rights too, and one of those was that—as adults—we could come and go as we please.
Let no adult put another on curfew unless it’s in the event of crisis.
Thus, we became the hated RV motorhome campers that dared enter camp late at night and awaken them.
Do you know what boondocking is? Did you realize you can camp without being connected to electricity? This way of camping could save you money. Learn from my lessons so you get more enjoyment out of boondocking than I did.
While you may be an experienced RVer, boondocking throws us all for a loop now and then, so I hope every RVer can get something out of this.
Lesson 1. Not being allowed to use your generator as long as you need sucks
Limited Generator Use
When you aren’t connected to electricity, your RV uses a combination of its batteries and your generator.
We also have some solar power that trickle charges our batteries with the sun. At first my husband thought the trickle charge solar was crap. Since then, he’s changed his mind. It keeps the coach batteries from draining out completely.
I want to use newbie-friendly language, so the vehicle part of the RV is called the chassis (pronounced chass ee) and uses one battery, like a car.
The back part of our motorhome, called the coach, has two more of these 12-volt batteries that help run some systems. (When you’re looking into buying an RV, having more than one of these batteries in an out-of-the-way space for it would be a good thing. Ours are under our indoor steps, out of the way.)
Your 12-volt batteries power the light systems among other things and have to be recharged by the generator running and maybe a little bit by a solar charger, if you have one (worth having).
12-volt batteries are charged best by electricity. Since we’re talking about boondocking, that means no electricity, and using the generator, 12-volt batteries, and maybe solar.
One campground we were at limited generator use to a few hours, three times a day. This is the height of suckiness.
A generator takes hours, sometimes a whole day to fully charge your batteries, something that was never going to happen at the campground we were at with limited hours.
During the limited hours we could run our generator, we ran it.
Almost every night, at exactly 7:00 p.m., a ranger would knock loudly on our door and tell us generator use time was over. Maybe we were close to their office, but it was irritating.
Having been RVing full-time around the country for around 8 months, we’d had almost no one knock on our door—at least with bad news—so it was something new and yucky.
We ran the generator to the minute because it charged our batteries, which enabled us to have lights at night and watch some TV before bed.
Every morning, because of the various things that draw from the 12-volt batteries, their charge was gone.
My husband adds that since we used the generator to run the air conditioning because even in Montana during the day it was in the 80’s, that took away from the generator’s ability to charge our 12-volt batteries.
We didn’t get to run the generator long enough to give them juice. We knew this in our motorhome because we have a panel that lets us know how charged our batteries are.
The generator powers much more than our batteries, so we ran our air conditioning during the 6 hours a day we were permitted to use it.
In Montana, July days approached 80+ degrees, and sometimes the RV would get as hot or hotter inside than outside. It retained heat well after the evening cooled.
The other day, I was on the computer and dropped my hand down alongside the wall and felt–water.
Water and RVs don’t mix. Most of the materials in RVs are susceptible to water rot. RVs aren’t made of brick and stone, so they need to be sealed and those seals need to be maintained to make sure water isn’t entering where it shouldn’t.
Problem was, we were in Branson during a rain spell. So, was it a leak, or condensation?
I’d noticed condensation on the front windows.
And I’d read that condensation shouldn’t be happening, but hadn’t pursued it. So, here it was and I didn’t know.
I ran my fingers around other windows and seams and discovered moisture at the bottom of the windows. Oh no, eventually that would become more moisture. After all, it wasn’t going anywhere.
After more research, I got a reminder. I should have vented the bathroom when taking those hot showers and vented the kitchen when cooking. Now, that moisture was inside the RV. People also put off moisture in their breath, and we had three breathing people and a breathing dog at the time, so yeah, moisture.
What is venting? Maybe you don’t have an RV yet or don’t know.
Many RVs have fans in the ceiling. The fans are often small and some vent two directions-work as a fan or to pull out air. Our RV, a 2004 Itasca Sunrise 30W, is 30 feet and some inches long, has three vents, one in the living room/kitchen, one in the bathroom, and one in the bedroom. (Yes, it’s not a long motorhome–floor design makes a difference, as I’ll explain in a future post.)
The fan in the bathroom just draws air out, while the ones in the other parts of our home can pull or push air. We made some adaptations right upon purchase of the RV and we’ll cover that later.
When water is produced, venting should happen. So, when I take a shower, I should vent the bathroom. When I do, no condensation forms on the mirrors, so that’s a plus. You can see yourself after showering.
Cooking produces vapor, and also fumes from propane. I should use both the vent in the ceiling and the fan over the stove to pull that juicy cooking air and some toxins as well, away from the rest of the good air.
Things like temperatures outside and inside affect things, as well as pulling the curtains across the front of the RV. When I pull the curtains across those big glass windows, condensation forms. It looks like the water on the mirror after a shower.
When you’re panicking and thinking your RV will melt–which it won’t–but this is our first motorhome and our new baby, it’s not a great time to shop for something to help.
I’d read about dehumidifiers before, in fact, I have nontoxic, bamboo desiccant bags around the RV to prevent this problem. However, they didn’t do the job.
I conducted reverse research. I went to Lowe’s and Home Depot, then researched whatever was on the shelves. Lousy way to do it, but it works too. After trial and error, we located one in the price range other RVers seemed to be recommending, which was around $170.
We purchased a 30-pint GE ADEL30LR Humidifier. The 30-pint pulls that much moisture out of the air in 24 hours. Way!
I’m going to give girl-friendly answers now and then. Not that girls can’t understand, but we’d rather have fun. Men and women can learn from my experiences, and most men will find themselves trying to explain these things one day to their wife, mother, daughter, etc., and less technical explanations make life easier.
Girl-friendly explanation of what a dehumidifier does: freezes the air going through it, then melts it. To do that, it has coils. That’s as far as I care to understand.
Things to consider about dehumidifiers when buying one:
Size of the room/RV
Price might dictate the size you can afford, and if that’s the case, buy the best you can afford.
As far as the size you need, RV forums are vital for understanding what other RVers use and what works with certain types of RV. For our use, it seemed a 30-pint was large enough to work for the entire motorhome. Plus, we had a neighbor who used a smaller one for her trailer and it was still damp, so I didn’t want to waste time with a smaller dehumidifier when I saw moisture on all the windows.
The final factor, proper care of the dehumidifier is my research secret. After reading user reviews, I learned that dehumidifiers can [insert expletive, your choice] your RV up!
When used improperly, they can flood the surrounding area. Take care to follow directions, empty them when needed, and consider what adaptations you make.
For the GE unit we have, I learned that when people didn’t change the water reservoir, duh, they had flooding. Seems as if users might be plugging the dehumidifier in, walking away, and coming back 24 hours later. You’re going to do this with a unit that is filling up with water until it’s emptied?
Now, why isn’t that wise? How do you know how much water it will pull if you haven’t observed? We waited for an hour, tested it. Waited four hours, saw how much it had. We turned it off during our sleep, because we didn’t know how much water it would pull in 8 or 9 hours.
Now, we turn it on until our windows are clear and it can some days pull around 20 pints of water in eight hours or so.
Another problem with our unit is that it’s possible to rig it up with a hose to drain in your sink. I don’t think this would appeal to many women in the first place, because we use sinks to cook and clean. From a practical standpoint, I don’t trust a hose not to slip, and that leads to the flooding problem.
If you’re storing your RV, however, some people are using the hose method because they aren’t there to empty it. This would require you to research a lot to avoid flooding your RV while you aren’t there to save it.
Gerald and I agreed that we want the water in the reservoir and will treat the dehumidifier with cautious respect. Better safe than . . . you know the rest!
How much humidity is good?
Girl-friendly answer: Keep using it until the water leaves the windows and they are clear.
I’m sure some of you want to know the numbers. From what I gathered from forums, RVers were saying between 40-60 percent humidity. After all is said and done, each RV will respond differently.
Though I can tell you about my process for locating information in RV forums later, here is one: iRV2. They have groups of RVers who discuss issues related to RVing, and sometimes, about your specific unit. Another is the Open Roads Forum.
If the GE dehumidifier gives me any problems, I’ll update you here, and if you know of any tips I need, be sure to share!
Update: We used it whenever we had condensation during the winter of 2015-16 and have rarely used it during the summer. We are still careful with our dehumidifier, and only run it when we will be awake or near it so the water reservoir doesn’t overflow. No problems with operation or anything.
During the summer of 2016, the dehumidifier offered another benefit. If we noticed our A/C wasn’t working well, we turned on the dehumidifier and the A/C seemed to work better after that–every time!