Selecting your trailer can be a daunting and tedious process. It’s a big decision and will affect not only your budget, but the quality of the travel that you do. It’s best to take your time, play with ideas, talk to your friends and really think through the pros and cons of each choice.
You also need to have a heart-to-heart with your travel partner, if you have one, and genuinely be honest about your needs and what it would take to really be able to enjoy your time on the road. Be honest and real with yourself and each other!
SOME THINGS TO THINK ABOUT:
Here is a questionnaire to help get you started:
1). What is my Budget?
Camping can indeed be the least expensive way to see the country, but depending on the sticker price and maintenance of the camper you choose, it could be a bigger chunk of your budget than you wanted it to be!
2). Is there anything besides road trips and local camping that I plan to do with my trailer?
I have friends who use their trailer for night stays at a local ski resort where they do volunteer ski patrol, some who use it for business while doing road construction jobs, one who uses it for out-of-state dog show competitions and I know of many other scenarios that might influence your needs.
3). What type of vehicle do I have?
Some trailers require towing. Check the load allowances and make sure that you aren’t tearing up your little truck!
4). How much time at each stop am I willing to spend with set up and tear down?
Remember that you will get quicker and quicker at setting up your campsite as you develop a ‘system’, but don’t think that you’ll be happy spending an hour setting up every other day if that’s not your thing! Also, keep in mind that if you choose a van-type option with little to no set up, you will be taking all your stuff with you to spend the day doing what you came for and will be possibly leaving your campsite looking vacated.
5). What kind of off-season storage do I have available to me?
Don’t forget to factor in storage fees if that is going to be an issue. Also, if you’re storing your trailer outside make sure to get good information on the best way to protect your investment.
6). Do I really need a bathroom in the trailer?
Although most of us would indeed like the convenience of a potty in the middle of the night, consider that you’ll probably be staying in an RV park of some kind with nice bathroom facilities. Find out what the maintenance, disposal, cost, etc….of a bathroom in your trailer really entails. For me, giving up the counter space was just not worth it and we bought a little portable blue water toilet that stores in the truck bed – which we’ve never actually used.
*One thing to note: In the state of Colorado, it is easier and less expensive to finance a trailer with a bathroom as it is considered to be a second home, and the interest on the loan is tax deductible. Also, a law officer has to obtain a search warrant in order to search your trailer if it has a bathroom due to it being considered an extension of your premises. You might want to check the laws in your state.
7). Will I have enough storage space?
Remember that if you choose a bed-on-wheels, teardrop style trailer you’ll need a place to store your coolers and bins of supplies. Do you have a pickup truck with a bed? Does your SUV have enough room for packing?
8). Am I okay with the cost of a larger spot at the RV Park if I select a larger trailer?
The small tear-drop trailers, vans and truck-topper type units can usually fit into a tent spot at the RV Park. Those spots almost always have electric and water hookups for considerably less than a large trailer/RV spot.
9). Do I need indoor cooking ability?
Our first ‘Little Guy’ teardrop required us to cook outside. We set up a quick picnic tent over the table that comes with the camping spot and did just fine with our little portable stove, and no bacon grease spattered on my bedding! It is however, nice to have the indoor cooking option if the wind is howling or it’s raining.
10). How much maintaining, winterizing, etc…do I want to have to do?
11). Do I have Pets? If so, what are their needs?
12). How long do I plan to keep this trailer?
If you are young and haven’t started a family yet, you might think about an inexpensive option with a 3-5yr plan. If you (like us!) are ‘empty-nesters’ and want this to be your last trailer or you don’t plan on having a family, look for something with a reputation for longevity and buy as new as you can afford.
13). How much will the insurance cost?
You might consider some price quotes before you start seriously looking.
14). How many seasons do I want to be able to use the trailer in?
Decide if heating or air conditioning are a necessity as well as 4-wheeling options and 4-Wheel drive.
There are probably many other questions that can come up in a ‘what are our needs?’ conversation. I’d love your responses, so please write to me and include your questions and comments!
If you’d like to print out a Some things To Think About worksheet for your own personal use, you can do that here: Some Things To Think About