Before we dove into this world of RV living, I had no idea how many options there were for RVs or that any of them would actually be a good option for us. I initially tossed this idea out of my head thinking there was no way a family of 6, including 3 kiddos in car seats, could actually do this.
But here we are! Doing this, and really, most days, doing it very comfortably.
Our RV is a 2017 Jayco Northpoint 377rlbh (that, I think, stands for rear living bunk house). Our truck is a 2017 Ford Super Duty diesel DRW, meaning it has dual rear wheels, or 6 tires, total. As Lowell likes to say, “It’s a doodley.” It’s a dually. It came with the towing package that meant that holes for the hitch were pre-drilled and ready to go, and we have a ton of cameras that let us see 360 degrees as we hitch up.
Many people have messaged asking why we went with a 5th wheel, why didn’t we get a motorhome, so I figured I’d lay out why, FOR US, this is the best setup.
First, you gotta know the language. All recreational vehicles are RVs, yeah? The kind that you drive- those are motorhomes. They are broken down into Class A, B, or C, depending on their size and some other stuff, I’m sure. Then there are pop-ups and truck bed campers, and then you have travel trailers and 5th wheels,
TTs and 5th wheels are both pulled behind a truck, SUV or sometimes a powerful van. 5th wheels must be pulled by a truck because they have to rest on a hitch in the truck bed. This is a really great comparison chart.
So we started out thinking what our top priorities were, and they were SAFETY and space. We wanted each of the 3 oldest children to feel like they had a small spot of their own, and we wanted a room with a door. Plus, we wanted a living area large enough we could all comfortably chill at the same time. We also wanted to feel safe hauling it.
5th wheels offer the most living space of all the options. Ours is configured so that the master bedroom is over the hitch, and the kids bedroom/bunkroom is next to it with a loft just above. It’s called a mid-bunk, and what we love most about the mid-bunk option (many RV brands have a mb option in their lineup now) is that we have a VERY spacious living/dining/kitchen area. We can all be in there watching a movie. There is plenty of room to make a meal while everyone else is in there. And the light from all the windows can’t be beat. There is a noticeable difference when you tour an RV with the living room in the middle of the RV versus the back. That back window makes such a difference.
We definitely considered rear bunkroom options, though, because those bunk rooms were SUPER big and we could have easily put all 4 kids in that one room with all their stuff, but they left us with such small living spaces. We wanted our kids to spend more time with us and less time in their rooms, though I can totally see how that would be reverse if they were teens. Rear bunk houses are an awesome options for families with older kids, especially because those bunk beds can be much longer than the ones in our bunk house now.
Check out our RV tour here!
So once we nailed down that we wanted a 5th wheel mid bunk we checked out the brands. Honestly, Jayco was a clear winner for us. The brand has been around forever, and not only does it have a pretty solid reputation, but also hopefully brand recognition will help when it comes time for resale. From an aesthetic point of view, we loved the super tall barrel ceilings, and while the finishes aren’t really our style, they are some of the nicest options when it comes to an RV in this price range. There’s also storage galore in here.
Not all midbunk models offer a loft over the bunkroom, so that knocked a few brands out for us. And not all have tall enough slides in the bunk room that we could retrofit a bunkbed to squeeze in there. Some brands had lofts that were open to living room through railings, but ours is closed off on that side, giving our son storage in his loft room and extra privacy.
When it was time to find a truck for the RV we wanted, Scott knew for sure it was going to be a Ford, and I think that’s largely because he had a Ford F150 in college that lasted forever, and he just likes the look of them. We knew we’d have to find a truck with a bench seat up front so we could fit all 6 of us in it. Kendall, our nearly 10 year old, sits between us in the front seat, then we have the 3 younger kids in car seats and a booster in the back.
This weekend, we shared a tour of our truck on our YouTube show. Come check it out!
This is a good time to point out that if we couldn’t find a truck to fit us all, our options would be to either drive a 2nd vehicle behind the truck and 5th wheel, or opt for a travel trailer instead of the 5th wheel, and pull it with an SUV. The problems for us with these two options are:
1. The cost and time of driving a 2nd vehicle behind the first would be too much. I get a lot of work done while Scott drives, or I just plain parent the kiddos so he can focus on the road. It would be a challenge if we were both behind a wheel for each long trip. Plus, we felt it doubled our chances of getting in an accident at some point.
2. Travel trailers pulled by SUVs aren’t as stable when you’re going down the road. They can sway and you can lose control a little easier. Not that that can’t happen with 5th wheels, but it’s less likely.
So back to the truck. A couple quick questions to answer-
Why diesel over gas? I’m told this is a power thing- that diesel trucks are more powerful, and we knew we’d have a real beast of an RV on our hands.
Why dually, why not just 4 wheels? We struggled with this because we were worried a dually would make it hard to drive around when we’re not hauling, but ultimately it, again, came down to safety for us. And we were really glad we had those extra wheels back there when a rear tire went low while we were driving to Big Bend. The only place it’s kept us from driving so far is to the hot springs in Big Bend. The road was too narrow, so we walked about a mile there and back.
Now, to answer THE question everyone seems to ask us- why not a motorhome? (You know, the kind of RV you can drive.)
It goes right back to space and safety, with safety really being the biggest factor. With 3 kiddos still needing car seats, there is just nothing on the market that allows you to safely install them in a motorhome, especially not a rear facing seat, without major retrofitting. And even if we could manage to get car seats properly into one, we knew we’d have to live with kiddos who would expect to be able to get up and move freely about the cabin while we cruised down the highway, and that’s just not something we are comfortable with. We could have a follow vehicle with car seats in it, but then we have that issue where both adults need to be driving every time we move.
Also, motorhomes just don’t have the space that this 42 foot fifth wheel with 4 slides does.
So that’s the VERY LONG answer to these questions we keep getting, and I hope it helps any of you who are on the fence or just doing some research. Like I said, this is just what works best FOR US. There are so many families making this life work with a variety to setups, and there’s really no one right way to do it. I say, just start with what your priorities are. Some people want to be sure they can fit into every state and national park campground, so they keep their rigs to about 35 feet in length.
Oh! And one more answer to a question we sometimes get before I cut myself off and put myself to bed. We did not pay cash for this new (to us) setup. We are making payments on both the truck and the RV (with sizable down payments on both). We actually nearly bought an RV for cash, but when the seller couldn’t meet us at a reasonable price, we walked away and opted to finance this one instead, which we’re really glad we did now. It left us with a healthy savings account while we are on the road.
And yes, we did consider buying older and renovating, but a big reason why we went new (ish- this RV was previously owned for about 3 months and we ended up getting it for less than half the price a new one would cost because RVs depreciate like WHOA) was we just wanted to feel like we weren’t going to have to pay for or do a ton of repairs on the road.
Annnnnnd that was another answer to another question, and now I really must go because who knows if anyone is still reading at this point. This is what happens when my kids finally go to sleep at a decent hour and I have time to think.