Picking Our Next RV – The Search Continues!


Well first off, all I can say is “WOW!!”  There were a lot more of you interested in our next RV search than we thought there would be!  We almost didn’t make the video because we thought nobody would be interested, but we couldn’t have been more wrong.  So THANK YOU to everyone that took the time to watch and respond with comments.  So cool!

We were also surprised at how many of you chimed in with, “that’s exactly what I’m looking for.”  If you were one of those, then you won’t want to miss this next video, where we take the giant list of features from the first episode and put it into priority order.  We also take a few minutes up front to respond to some of the more common comments.  Here it is:

 

I don’t want to repeat everything in the video, but I do want to give you the tool that I used.  I first brought up this technique in our original 8-Step Program for Choosing Your First RV article from a few years ago.  I call it a “Paired Comparison Tool”, but there may be other names for it.  I explain it in the video, but it works by basically breaking the process of ordering a large list down into a series of simple “this vs. that” questions.  I’ll provide you our completed spreadsheet in Excel format here.  Just click the picture, and it should download.  There are no macros in the Excel sheet, so it should work for everyone.  If you wanted to use it for yourself, you would just need to add your own criteria in the row and column headers, clear out the cells in the grid, and answer questions.  It should tabulate the number of “votes” each choice gets over on the right.

 

 

But Don’t Just Use Our List!

I’ll caution you that unless you’re Stef and me… you probably shouldn’t use our list and analysis directly.  Many of the questions we answered were based not on how important something was, but rather how achievable it was for me as a mod.  So, for example, a “Proper Work Table” sorted way down the list.  Not because it isn’t important, but because it’s a fairly easy mod for me to figure out in any RV.  (It’s actually hugely important.)  But unless you’ve got the capability to add a table, you might sort that one differently.  The same thing goes for 4 season capability.  I don’t want to do those mods again on a new rig, but I CAN…  So that whole mod gene I have imparts a very distinctive color to the list.  Unless you’ve got the gene too, our list might not work out for you.

Here It Is! Our Features, In Order!

When we were done with a whole afternoon of answering 378 “A vs B” questions, Stef and I were left with a list – in order – that looked like the below:

    1. Under 24 Feet
    2. NOT too wide
    3. Dedicated INDOOR bike storage
    4. Quiet DUCTED AC
    5. Cat storage space
    6. Separate areas for sleep and work
    7. Separate wardrobes
    8. NO PUZZLE BED
    9. 4 season capability
    10. Lithium Battery System 20kWh
    11. AWD or 4WD
    12. Large, Non-Absorption Fridge
    13. Large Pantry
    14. Leveling System
    15. Air Suspension
    16. Dual Pane Acrylic Windows
    17. No TV or Entertainment System
    18. No Generator
    19. See Level Monitors
    20. Proper Work Table
    21. No “pictures of wood”
    22. 7 pin wiring harness
    23. Induction Cooktop
    24. Tables for two
    25. Solar nice (not mandatory)
    26. Surge Suppressor
    27. 360 siphon vents
    28. No pre-installed connectivity

That list represents what we’re looking for in our next RV.  In our original 8-Step plan, this would be Step 4.  Done.  I keep telling Stef that going through this process is “scientifically guaranteed to provide us with optimum RVing happiness”.  I don’t know if she believes me or not, but she’s at least going along!  🙂

What’s Next?

The next step for us (Step 5 in the original program) is probably the step that everyone is really waiting for.  We’ll take our list, and use it as the standard to evaluate available RV models. We’ve already had tons of suggestions for models there, so you can be sure we’ll be looking closely at them, and we’ll be giving you our impressions of specific models in our next video.  It’s gonna be AWESOME!

(Oh, also.  Stef doesn’t know it yet because it’s super nerdy and she’d probably laugh at me, but I’m going to actually work out a way to give the RV models a score.)

 



James is a former rocket scientist, a USA Cycling coach, and lifelong fitness buff. When he's not driving the RV, or modifying the RV (or - that one time - doing both at once), you can find him racing bicycles, or building furniture, or making music. In his spare time, he works for a large IT company.


    57 thoughts on “Picking Our Next RV – The Search Continues!

    1. Riste

      Love you guys.

      A couple of questions:
      1. Do you consider a “Happijack” style bed a puzzle?
      2. How about a Murphy bed?

      Thanks in advance.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Our rule for getting a “Puzzle” designation is: Do you have to remove or reinstall the bedding and pillows between when you get up one morning and when you go to bed that evening?
        Our current murphy bed is not a puzzle bed – we leave it made up and pillows on it and just fold the whole thing up.
        A bed on a lift might not be a puzzle bed if you can leave everything on it and just lower it the next night.

        Reply
        1. Steve P

          My wife and I used your method and thought we would get a Travato until we found out about the Panoramic RV. We just put a deposit on a Panoramic RV which will be delivered February 2022!

          So why a Panoramic over a Travato (for more money and a longer wait)? We like the Pano floor plan better. It has a bigger bed, more storage – and that skylight and all of those windows! There are also a lot of small things, like 3 point seatbelts (instead of just lap belts), the lounge table, the sink (with a residential style faucet), better cooktop, better drawer locking mechanisms, better location of the controls, gages, light switches and 110V outlets, the galley drawers, the larger refrigerator (we are getting the optional 5.3 cu. ft. compressor one), the pantry, the step up to the bed, and the larger tank sizes. It also appears to be a higher quality build. We will verify that once the US/Canadian border opens and we tour the factory.

          The Panoramic has about 16 of the items in your list, but storing two bikes in something under 24′ seems like a tall order! You could move the table closer to the bucket seats and maybe modify the bench seat area to store the bikes out of the way.

          I gave your contact information to the Panoramic CEO, Philippe Marcotte, in the hopes that you could review one, since you do such great reviews! There are two being delivered to California soon. Maybe you could intercept one for a day!

        2. James - Post author

          We’ve actually met the Panoramic team briefly, at RV-X a couple years ago. They didn’t have any of their rigs in the show, or we probably would have reviewed one at that time.
          Still haven’t seen one in person though.

          We still believe storing two bikes in an RV under 24 feet is not that difficult – as long as someone makes it a priority.

    2. beforeGTEX

      Hi
      Because of the bike issue I’m guessing:
      1) LTV Wonder (AWD option I think)
      2) Coachman Crosstrek
      As much as I like the wonder for 60K the Crosstrek seems like the bomb. Take some of the savings and fix up the Crosstrek. Better yet because of your notoriety you might be able to get Coachman to add a few things to the build like insulation, awning windows, etc. (Or nice compromise on the self build/buy issue, convince them to build the box and let you build out the cabinets,add whatever electrical you want, etc!)
      Outside the box guess:
      There are fully enclosed hitch mount bike racks. The companies are hard to find, Canadian I think . One of them is Let’s go Aero but I think there’s another. I’m assuming you know all the options but let me know and I’ll try to find a picture of a really cool one I saw in Yellowstone. If you do the enclosed rack option that lets you pick any class B or even keep Lance! (see if you can get the rack with a swing away feature so the back doors are usable)
      Good luck
      PS Loved the awning video. Well maybe not the acting but the data was great.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Glad you liked the awning video! lol.

        The thing I don’t like about those rear hitch carriers is that they make the van way longer overall. There would be more of an overhang off the back.
        Not only that, I’m completely convinced that if I had one of those carriers, I would certainly back it into something and crush the carrier and our bikes.
        On the other hand, I *never* forget the trailer is back there…

        Reply
    3. Jo

      A couple of questions on your spreadsheet – Am I correct that your #19 See Level Monitors and #25 Leveling System are related – and that #19 would only exist if #25 existed?
      Second – with respect to #26 Air Suspension – what other kinds of suspensions are there? Coils? Or? Do RV’s actually come without ANY suspension?
      Thanks for helping me to understand these items. I have adapted your spreadsheet to my personal list but want to keep some of yours if they are things that I should know and understand. Absolutely love this comparison process.!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Good questions. Let me explain.
        See Level Monitors and a Leveling system are actually *not* related, though they both have “level” in the name.
        See Level Monitors are tank level monitors – which accurately tell you the level of liquids in your fresh, grey, and black tanks, and also LP tanks.
        A Leveling System is something akin to four jacks that level the entire motorhome when you park on an unlevel surface.

        As far as suspension: All motorhomes come with some kind of suspension. On a typical van chassis, there will be heavy-duty leaf springs in the back, and the usual struts, coil springs, shocks, etc. in the front. On our current RV, we *removed* the rear leaf springs, and had a suspension system consisting of air bags installed in its place. We also replaced the coil springs in the front with a different model. The benefit there is that the air bags are adjustable by means of an installed compressor, so you can keep the ride height constant (among other things).

        Hope that clears things up!

        Reply
    4. Rex Anderson

      Great list for all of us analyticals, but do you ever just want to go by how you feel stepping inside an RV? For us the light coming on the Travato K won us over. Is there something intangible that might make you ignore a lot of items on your list. I’m guessing bike storage might be key for you two. Great video. Reminds me of Jame’s process of picking a place to park before you had levelers!

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Hi Rex! There’s something to be said for the “feel” of a rig.
        But since we’ve already been inside most of them that we would consider, I think we’d probably just leave a rig with a bad “feel” off the short list.
        (We only review RVs we like anyway, so if we stick to models we’ve looked at in the past, we’re pretty safe.)

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Nice build!
        The shower IS tiny though. I like how they had to find some minuscule shower control knob to fit in there! lol.

        Reply
    5. Ken

      Ran across this Titan Van build today. Seems to check many of the most important boxes on your list. No work area, but that could be remedied since this is a custom build. The shower is tiny but the good news is that if you slip while you’re in there, the dimensions are so tight, you won’t fall down.

      Reply
    6. Don Kane

      I vote against Stef, and for a self build.

      You are going to pay some 120K or 130K for a vehicle, whereas a High/Long Ford transit is about 50 or 60K. It would seem you could finance the new van and keep Lance while you are doing the build. And, yes, it will take a year or more, if you are working full time.

      The thing about a self build, is you can get everything right.

      And think of the multitude of videos you could do on it. (Okay, that would extend the build to 3 years…)

      Cheers,

      -Don

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Actually, making videos while I’m actually doing a project extends the timeline by a factor of about 5…

        Reply
    7. Ted

      Looks like motorcycle guys also drool over unobtainable campervans…

      https://www.rideapart.com/articles/368688/perfect-toy-hauler-motorhome/
      https://weinsberg.com/en-int/cuv-camper-vans/carabus/caratour-outlaw/

      I don’t know anybody here that makes the high top Promasters and Germany is so far away….

      But wait! Canada is doable. This “Unicorn” rivals the Safari Condo you reviewed.

      https://www.wildernessvans.com/conversions/transmoto/

      It’s too bad Winnebago stopped using the Ford Transit. Maybe you could have built out the rear of a Paseo to match these builds.

      Reply
    8. Phil

      I was expecting an awning feature on your list (actually something like awning-delete option). Did you forget this one? I’ll never forget your awning video!

      Reply
      1. Stefany

        LOL! That awning video was definitely James’ craziest undertaking thus far. And yes we’d be thrilled if we got an awning-delete option!!!!!!

        Reply
    9. BobB

      So a C “minus”? I agree that the Euro models are really attractive. I think Hymer even made one that was under 6 meters. I also think they would do well this side of the pond.

      Have you considered approaching Thor/Hymer USA about this? Maybe they have one on the drawing boards for the US market or would prototype one?

      Reply
    10. Craig

      Excellent…. Love the overlap of logical analysis and emotional wants. Great to see “normal” in action… :^)

      Reply
    11. Adrian Benton

      Hi James,I enjoy watching your videos, you have a great outlook on life.
      Ref your RV list, I didn’t see any reference to your dislike of the whoosh-bang sliding door, no longer an issue?
      Best Regards
      Adrian Benton.

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Well, there’s good and bad with the sliding door. The noise and the weight of the thing are constant negatives, to be sure. But, it’s also nice on those occasions when we can leave it open with the screen in place. Plus, Mel really likes it.
        So in the end, it wasn’t a burning issue for us. We left it off, and if the next rig has one, or doesn’t – we’re OK either way.

        Reply
        1. Don Kane

          I think on some vans now there is an electric closing slide door. That would be the ideal solution, esp at night when that sliding door must wake up every one within a mile.

          However, I have have 4 vans now, 2 with normal doors and 2 with sliding doors, and the sliding doors are much better, despite the whoosh-bang.

    12. JO

      I love your process – it’s fun, thorough, and definitely will increase the potential of getting what you (I) want and need. Why did you choose 24ft as the cut off point? Are there specific advantages to staying within that length?
      In one of the previous blog comments about safety/technology features you mentioned you would be buying a “modern” vehicle. Does that rule out the Dodge Ram since that is definitely behind the curve on those items?

      Your discussions and your review of Solis 59PX have me to think about how important dedicated storage for a bike and a foldable kayak are for me. I don’t want to have to climb over them or move them around constantly. It struck me that if I have to add a 2-4 ft carrier for these items then I’ve already lost the parking and other advantages of a 21ft van so why not just buy a longer RV with dedicated storage! I suddenly became open to options I would not have looked at before. I’m going to try your spreadsheet approach 🙂

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Thanks for the comment.
        1. Regarding 24 feet. We’ve driven the super-long Sprinter vans, which top out at 24 feet 3 inches (or something close to that), and they honestly just feel huge to us. We don’t like driving them – so 24 feet became our limit. We want to look forward to the drive, not dread it.
        2. We’d still consider a Ram ProMaster. What we meant by that is that we probably wouldn’t consider an old Ford Econoline or Chevy 350 or “anything that looks like a truck or van from the 1990s.”

        I hope you do try the spreadsheet! It’s fun, and revealing when you start trying to decide between just two things. Go for it!

        Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Kinda don’t care, honestly.
        The biggest differences we saw were: longer time between fill ups with the diesel; never having to wonder if a station had diesel with the gas van.

        Reply
    13. Cameron Day

      I’m really disappointed that you’re not doing a self-build, it would surly be epic!

      My priorities is to make a small 4X4 Class C With a fixed bed, bike storage, front lounge, like the Activ.

      I am going to use a cutaway chassis, with 78” wide, 12’ long box on a Ford E350 single rear wheel chassis. The total length is 22’.

      A box van will make the build faster. Flat walls will make the installing semi-custom cabinets faster. I know a local cabinet maker who is willing to make them custom for the RV.

      I called Supreme MFG and they are willing to make a “custom” box without a rear door, just a solid panel, so I can install a RV cargo door. Additionally, they can install a “RV” side door instead of their standard door. The cost Is $8,400 plus chassis.

      I like the Ford E350. It can be converted to 4X4 by a number of shops. It can be ordered with dual heavy-duty alternators. My plan would be to use one for charging a large lithium battery bank.

      I too am interested in a quiet air conditioner and I’m going to section off part of the rear cargo area for a mini-spit AC unit vented to the outside.
      Good luck!

      Reply
    14. Ted

      What if you built a removable cabinet over the water tank (seat). It could contain an enclosed litter box, and even storage for for some clothes (solving some of the underwear problem).

      When camped the cabinet could be taken down and placed next to the water tank, maybe making a longer bench seat. The trade off is you’d lose your sliding door entrance/exit in this configuration.

      Reply
    15. Sharon Fields

      I do not own a RV yet, but I am strongly leaning toward a Travato, I too would like inside storage for a bike. My question to you is would you keep the Travato floor plan if it were 1-2 feet longer allowing a storage garage behind the bed like the Solis?

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Interesting thought. Maybe. Especially if I had already modded it all the way out like I have Lance.
        It would make a very strong contender at the least!

        Reply
    16. Rick L.

      J&S – I’m also looking for my next RV. I’ve owned a Lance (no relation) truck camper for the last five years and can no longer navigate the cabover sleeping arrangement. An RV, and RV company, that has popped onto my radar (in large part because of Scott at Go Small, Live Large) is Embassy RV. They do “controlled custom.” It’s midway between off-the-rack big manufacturer RVs and full blown custom. My sense is that you could get pretty close to your full 30 with Embassy. And Terry Minix, who is the lead designer, thinks like James. As an example Embassy uses the Lithionics systems in their builds. So, keep Embassy in the mix. They think outside the box, and I think you’ll need that thinking to get all 30. And their prices are very reasonable, about what you would pay for an off-the-rack RV. Trust me, the build quality is far superior. I know James likes wood, but there is no wood in an Embassy RV. So if wood construction is number 31, then Embassy will not be able to cover that one. However, Terry may concede and give you a wood table 🙂 Good luck in your search. I’ll be very interested to know which RV wins.

      https://www.embassyrv.com

      PS – Embassy’s primary business is specialty vehicles, like mobile surgical equipment repair vans, tour buses, mobile classrooms, and even mobile banking vans. Embassy brings that build knowledge and capability to their RV lines. So if an ATM machine is 32, they definitely can handle that one.

      Reply
      1. Stefany

        Hi Russ & Jane! Congrats on your Coachmen Beyond… wow, I’m shocked they’re that far out from filling orders. Hopefully you’re scheduled to get it soon? Coachmen does a great job; hope you’ll love it.

        Reply
    17. Alastair

      I had no idea that class A, B or C was actually defined somewhere – I just assumed the whole lot was marketing hype or, to be a little more generous, broad classifications to give prospective buyers a rough idea.

      So now I’m curious – what is the difference between a class B and a class C? And, for the sake of completeness, what’s a class A?

      Thanks

      Reply
      1. James - Post author

        Well, on the public site, the RVIA only mentions “Motorhome: A “Motorhome” is a recreation vehicle unit built on a self-propelled motor vehicle chassis. The basic product types, as defined by the Board of Directors, are “Type A,” “Type B” and “Type C.””
        The actual definitions are behind a login and deep in the bowels of RVIA by-laws.
        There are public explanations on line, but beware any of them that call out specific sizes for the different classes, because that’s not it really.
        Class Bs are the camper vans. The manufacturers start with an empty metal can (van body) built by Ford, Mercedes, whomever, and they build everything inside it.
        Class Cs are built on a “cutaway” chassis. Imagine the cab of a van or truck, but then just a giant hole behind that with only rails. The RV manufacturers build their own boxes on top of this platform.
        Class As are generally pretty large, and start out as a chassis that looks like wheels on an I-beam with a steering wheel near the front. They’re the celebrity tour buses with the vertical windshields, etc. The RV manufacturers build pretty much everything including the cockpit.
        Hope that helps!

        Reply
        1. Alastair

          Thanks for the explanation. I’d always assumed it was something to do with size, and was always confused as to why they weren’t A to C in decreasing size. Never occurred to me that it was the construction method but it makes sense now.

        2. Gail MacDonald

          Checking daily for your Next Steps! We are ready to purchase and like so many others our requirements are matched to yours. We were last in the Leisure Van Wonder RTB. The storage is dreamy! But it is such a big vehicle we can’t see ourselves in it. We have toured vehicles across Canada. How is it possible no one makes what so many of us are looking for? We need space for our toys!!!!

        3. James - Post author

          Lol! We’re working on it!
          I expect we’ll have another video up around the first of the month.

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