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Over The Network

How long an RV should I buy?

We are often asked "How long an RV can I get and still be able to go anywhere?". This question can the subject of much debate. Forum staffers Carl, Gary, Karl and Tom had these collective thoughts.

For sure, there's a tradeoff and the only real answer is that the shorter you are, the more choices you will have. We don't even think about taking our 38' coach to places we frequented with our prior 29' motorhome. California state parks have length limits, although they'll allow some degree of overhang. Many state parks in Oregon and some I've visited in Utah have huge sites with easy access. Many National Forest campgrounds are out of the question for us.

In private campgrounds, the issue for us is sometimes the length of available sites and sometimes an issue of trees that make it tough to get to and through a campground. Sometimes it's both.

If you have a coach less than 32 feet, you should have few problems on length as far as campgrounds are concerned. However, I know of some wilderness Forest Service campgrounds where anything over 25 feet will be problematic and a few where 21 feet is about the limit.

Issues of length with trailers are pretty much the same as with motor homes except that a trailer-truck combo does bend in the middle which helps, and hinders, backing into sites. There is the tendency of fifthwheels to track inside the turn of the truck which necessitates wide turns. That issue will logically get worse with increasing length.

If "pretty much anywhere" includes parking on city streets, in small business parking lots and fast food drive throughs, then even 31 feet is going to be too much. Stick with 21-24 feet if that is your goal.

Driving dowwn the road, increasing length increases the lateral cross-section of a trailer which increases the yaw of the rig due to crosswinds and the shockwaves of passing high speed truck/bus/motorhomes. Moreover the length increases the lateral leverage the trailer has over the hitch system of a travel trailer and the tow vehicle rear axle of a fifthwheel. The same effect on the vertical harmonic motion in porpoising - the longer the trailer, the more the impact on the truck and hitch.

Often overlooked (until it's too late) is finding, much less negotiating, filling stations that can handle big rigs. So-called travel plazas, even those near well traveled expressways, may not always accommodate larger rigs. Diesel powered rigs have it a bit easier by being able to use the truck pumps, but gassers need to plan their routes carefully and maybe carry extra fuel in case they run low away from the mainstream highways. The size factor is also magnified by pulling a toad. Again, good planning is required to avoid the tight, twisty turns and small parking lots normally found in the smaller towns and on secondary roads, which may require unhooking the toad. Backing up, regardless of what type or size of RV, is usually not an option.