Questions by Newbie to RVing

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GaryB

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Hi All - My name is Gary, I'm from SW Indiana.  I've never RV'd before, much less having owned one.  I am thinking about buying an RV (of course, I'll rent first to make sure RVing is for me).  But I have a few very basic (OK, dumb :) questions.  I apologize in advance if these topics have been beat to death in this forum before (I've done some searching):

With the price of fuel so high and expected to rise even more, I want a "comfortable" RV with good fuel economy (relatively speaking).  By "comfortable", I mean a slideout, rear bed, full kitchen and bath, A/C, generator and good handling.  There would only be 3 of us (ok, 4 with poodle) and so I don't I don't need a huge RV, although I don't want to feel claustrophobic in a tiny Class B (I want to be able to walk around without hunching down).  I currently don't have a tow vehicle (only Honda Accords).  So, it appears my options are a lightweight Class C or a featherweight 5th wheel/travel trailer (although I hear travel trailers don't handle very well compared to 5th wheels).  Of course, I'd need to buy a tow vehicle with a 5th wheel/travel trailer.  So my questions are:

1) With regards to fuel economy, what is the best approach - a featherweight trailer/5th wheel along with a truck/SUV, or a small-to-medium Class C?  I'm afraid a Class B would not feel large enough to me.  I don't want to buy an RV but then be reluctant to use it due to the price of gas (I have aspirations of long distance touring, such as out West, Alaska, etc.)

2) Another dumb question - I hear passengers cannot routinely ride in a trailer/5th wheel while the vehicle is moving, but the can ride in the rear of a Class C.  Do Class C's have seat belts in the living area for passenger safety?  I have a 3-yr old boy and would want him to be safely restrained while riding in the living area of a Class C.

Thanks for all your help
Gary
 

Carl L

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Regarding no. 1, there is no simple answer.  RV mileage depends on engine, weight, and aerodynamics.  Most RVs, especially Class Cs have the streamline profile of a brick.  Speeds over 55 mph just murder mileage.

All that said, I suspect that your best mileage would come out of a lightweight travel trailer behind a F-250, 2500 class of pickup with a big understressed engine and a relatively fast rear end -- maybe a 3.73.  A diesel may be attractive tho diesel fuel has a premium price above gasoline.  A stressed engine has poor efficiency.  In towing power, a function of torque, it is hard to beat cubic inches and diesel.  But big gassers can come close in the sizes here.  Forget the lighter engined pickups the 150s, 1500s. 

The travel trailers have a lower frontal area than most all the fivers and class-Cs I have seen and many try for a bit of streamlining.  A trailer that is well below your truck's tow rating will give you better mileage simply because iy permits more use of direct and overdrive, less down shifting or lugging.    There are plenty of queen bed + bunk beds in the 22-26 foot lightweight trailers.  Slideouts add weight and are not all that necessary.  One tends to live outside a vacation trailer.

 

Shayne

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I get 6.5 MPG and thankful I get that.  Of course I'm not the average RVer.  Our rig is Gas 37' plus a 24' enclosed trailer with a vehicle inside along with lots of tools.  No trailer I might get 8+ but I seldom go without it. Some new diesels give pretty good mileage but they are (in my opinion) grossly underpwered for today's travel.  When You accelerate it's like stepping on a wet sponge.  But when buying new 2 indentical MH with 1 gas, 1 diesel, there's 25 to 35K  $ difference and you can buy a lot of gas for that.  Personally I wouldn't want a diesel less thatn 330HP.  But that's me.  I'm sure others will differ and they certainly have a right too, cause we all use them differently and like different things.  If it's mileage you're looking for tahn stay away from RVs.  Old man told me many years ago if you have to ask about mileage on an RV  you can't afford it same goes for big boats. That's just my opinion.  Good Luck
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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There is little doubt in my mind that a truck or SUV and trailer will be the fuel ecoomy winner. It doesn't even have to be all that small/light a trailer.  You should be able to get 11-13 mpg towing a nice trailer with a diesel truck, whereas you aren't likely to get  close to that with a gas Class C or small Class A. A small diesel motorhome would get you 10 mpg, though. Maybe even 10+.

Some of you trailer drivers: let us hear your fuel mileage and what size trailer you tow.
 

Lowell

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RV Roamer said:
There is little doubt in my mind that a truck or SUV and trailer will be the fuel ecoomy winner. It doesn't even have to be all that small/light a trailer. You should be able to get 11-13 mpg towing a nice trailer with a diesel truck, whereas you aren't likely to get close to that with a gas Class C or small Class A. A small diesel motorhome would get you 10 mpg, though. Maybe even 10+.

Some of you trailer drivers: let us hear your fuel mileage and what size trailer you tow.

We get right around 11-12 mpg pulling a 28 ft Cherokee Light TT by Forest River(Trailer weight 5300 dry, 6120 as loaded).? Tow vehicle is Dodge 1500 Hemi 4x4, 3.92 rear end, I tow using cruise control in the tow/haul mode unless truck sifts too frequently.? Generally drive about 60 mph on highway, 65 on Interstates.
Jake
 

GaryB

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Evansville, IN
Thanks all for your advice so far.  Am looking to hearing more advice and mpg stories.

RV Roamer - in your opinion, is your 1500 tow vehicle sufficient in all situations for towing?  Is the 4-wheel drive necessary for that?  I would prefer to stay with a 1500/F150 truck if possible, not only due to mpg and the initil proce, but also because I may be using it as an everyday vehicle as well when not RVing. 

I don't want to buy something that is insufficient, but yet I don't want overkill as well.

Thanks
Gary

 

GaryB

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Evansville, IN
One more question - do I understand correctly that one can get better gas mileage with a larger tow vehicle (for instance a F250 or 2500) than a smaller tow vehicle (F150 or 1500) when pulling the same load because of less stress on the larger tow vehicle's engine/tranny.  Just wanted to make sure I understand that point.

Thanks again
Gary
 

Jim Dick

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Hi Gary,

Welcome to the forum. You've come to the right place for answers. We have a 40' diesel pusher that is averaging around 7.5mpg. Not good for a vehicle but not bad for a house. :)

In some states people are allowed to ride in a 5th wheel but never a travel trailer. After one short trip I would venture to guess nobody would do that again. It will be too bouncy and uncomfortable. Class C motor homes sometimes have seat belts located at the dinette and usually any couch. If there are belts then people can sit in those seats while underway.
 

Shayne

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Seldom , other than on extremely small and lite TT in a 150 capable of handling any kind of trailer.? They are more like a passenger vehicle and not really a truck.? Nothing less than a 3/4 ton and often a 1 ton should be used and then it really needs to be matched up.? Gary and Carl are really great at doing this.? Don;t believe a saleman or salewoman for either trucks or campers cause they are just after your $.? Good Luck
 

Lowell

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I guess I'm in the minority on this but I feel that a half ton truck is an adequate tow vehicle. I know I am completely satisfied with our 1500 and it's capability to pull our 28 foot TT.  I think it is important to make sure that you don't overload the tow vehicle whether it is a half ton or ton truck.  I also disagree with the comment that a half ton truck is not much more than a car with a bed.  The frame, springs and suspension are quite different.  You can get the same engine in a half ton that you get in the 3/4 or ton truck unless you get a diesel. There are transmission differences in some cases.  One also has to consider how much time it will be used for a tow vehicle and how much time it will be used for general purposes. I think a lot of the folks on this forum use their RV quite a bit, even to the point that it is the prime purpose of the truck. I'm on the other side using my truck for general purposes, and as an RV tow vehicle 3-5 times a year.  I like to pull the TT to a campground, drop the trailer and then drive the back roads and trails looking for elk, deer and pronghorn.  The 4x4 half ton does that well. A half ton probably limits one to the "lite" trailers but these are quite capable trailers. I guess what I am saying is that you have to understand your own needs and how you will be using it.  Others can't make the decision for you. You make the best decisions you can at the time based on what you think you know.
 

Carl L

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Jake said:
We get right around 11-12 mpg pulling a 28 ft Cherokee Light TT by Forest River(Trailer weight 5300 dry, 6120 as loaded).? Tow vehicle is Dodge 1500 Hemi 4x4, 3.92 rear end, I tow using cruise control in the tow/haul mode unless truck sifts too frequently.? Generally drive about 60 mph on highway, 65 on Interstates.
Jake

OK, let's run some numbers here.  If your Dodge were the 2005 5.7L quadcab, that trailer weight of 6120 lbs would allow a safety factor of 28% measured against the Trailer Life tow rating of 8600 lbs for the 4WD.  (Our safety criteria for the mountain west is 20%.)  You are driving a relatively unstressed truck pulling a trailer that is well suited to it. 

Good choice of units.    You have the biggest engine offered in the Dodge 1500 series.  You are running it well within its efficient zone.
 

Carl L

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GaryB said:
Thanks all for your advice so far.? Am looking to hearing more advice and mpg stories.

RV Roamer - in your opinion, is your 1500 tow vehicle sufficient in all situations for towing?? Is the 4-wheel drive necessary for that?? I would prefer to stay with a 1500/F150 truck if possible, not only due to mpg and the initil proce, but also because I may be using it as an everyday vehicle as well when not RVing.?

I don't want to buy something that is insufficient, but yet I don't want overkill as well.

Thanks
Gary

Tho this is to Gary Brinck, allow me a comment.? ?We have been kidding around about tow vehicle overkill in another thread, but there is really no such thing.? ? A grossly underloaded unit may look silly but it is safe.? ? It is sort of like shooting a charging Kodiak bear --?there is no such thing as overkill but there is, sure as hell, such a thing as underkill.? ? ?;D

Pulling most of the hills you hit in 2nd and 1st is going to play hob with gas mileage.
 

GaryB

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Evansville, IN
Thanks again all for the replies.  Jake and Carl - great advice!  Sounds like it would be possible to get a high end (i.e., big engine) half-ton for a lightweight trailer or fifth wheel.  I am like Jake in that I would only be using it a few times per year to pull to a campground.  Other times, it would be my work vehicle.  Of course, one or two trips may be long distance and so I'd want sufficient power for the mountains, heat, etc.

Gary
 

Gary RV_Wizard

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RV Roamer - in your opinion, is your 1500 tow vehicle sufficient in all situations for towing?  Is the 4-wheel drive necessary for that?  I would prefer to stay with a 1500/F150 truck if possible, not only due to mpg and the initil proce, but also because I may be using it as an everyday vehicle as well when not RVing.

I don't have an F150 or any pick-up at this time. Used to have an F250 diesel, though.

An Ford F150 or Chevy/Dodge 1500 can be an adequate towing vehicle, as long as you keep the trailer within its limits. Those limits can vary widely, though, depending on the exact configuration of the truck. As you see in this thread, Jake is running one of the heftier half ton Dodges and hauling a decent sized trailer and getting decent fuel mileage. I wouldn't go too much larger than his, though.

A 3/4 ton truck weighs a bit more than a half ton when empty and gas models probably do have a slight fuel mileage penalty when not towing. A 3/4 ton diesel, though, is  a very fuel efficient vehicle and is a really strong tow vehicle. Of course, the diesel cosst quite a bit more too.

4WD is very nice if & when that time comes when you need it.  Grassy camp sites can be mighty slipper at times - the only two times I ever got stuck with a trailer was on very wet grass. Not mud, just grass. Other than that, 4WD costs you a bit of fuel mileage and  isn't necessary for towing. I would opt for limited slip, though, if I did without the 4WD. Very little cost and no fuel penalty.
 

Carl L

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GaryB said:
Thanks again all for the replies. Jake and Carl - great advice! Sounds like it would be possible to get a high end (i.e., big engine) half-ton for a lightweight trailer or fifth wheel. I am like Jake in that I would only be using it a few times per year to pull to a campground. Other times, it would be my work vehicle. Of course, one or two trips may be long distance and so I'd want sufficient power for the mountains, heat, etc.

Gary

With a 5er I would really want to consider a 250, 2500.  A fiver puts more weight on the rear axle of a truck than does the tongue weight of a TT.  The heavier suspension would have some advantage in that department. 

Forget the 4WD unless you want a 4WD for fun or business.  I have a 4WD tow vehicle but it has nothing to do with towing -- I got it to play around on backroads and arroyos in the desert.  I was willing to accept a 400 lb penalty in tow ratings to get it.  I have never used it in 4WD to tow.  Given my doubts about the tow rating of the chain in the transfer case, it is probably just as well that I have never engaged it under tow.
 

scottydl

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Jim Dick said:
Class C motor homes sometimes have seat belts located at the dinette and usually any couch. If there are belts then people can sit in those seats while underway.

Let me jump in on this real quick... you'd need either seatbelts on the dinette or a swivel lounge chair (facing forward) to safely restrain a child and carseat of any kind.  Although most of those seating options will only include lap belts, which newer booster seats are not desgined for.  Riding belted onto a side-facing couch would be pretty dangerous in a crash... I mean you might not get ejected from the vehicle that way, but a side restraint configuration with a frontal crash forces would cause all kinds of injury.  I am a certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician for anyone wondering.  Unfortunately MH's are not made with child safety in mind.  :p
 

Smoky

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Gary:

I would NOT have been happy with a 1500.  In 2003 I towed a 30 foot trailer with a 2500 Dodge RAM gas and it was barely adequate.  The trailer was chosen to be as light as possible, even foregoing slidouts... we had none.  The real culprit was not trailer weight but the weight of all the belongings we felt we needed to have along with us.  It is easy to underestimate what your loads are going to be.
 

Tom

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scottydl said:
I am a certified Child Passenger Safety (CPS) Technician for anyone wondering.

Hi Scotty, we could have used your expertise and knowledge in some prior discussions on child restraint seats, e.g. here and here.
 
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