2021 RV Buyers Guide By Bowlus
Our owners love how their Bowlus Endless Highways allows them to travel on their terms. These savvy land travelers have reported to us that they have found that air travel, hotel stays, and car rentals (and the trips and vacations that traditionally came with those experiences) have dramatically lost their luster. They seek ways to meet their travel needs and desires that allow for maximum flexibility and complete comfort. A perfect scenario often includes the desire to easily visit with friends and family and see fabulous National Park and State Parks as well. Additionally, they also require to be easily connected if the need arises since so many are working remotely. Their bottom line requires an RV that will allow them to have complete control and deliver absolute flexibility in their choices.
Unlike buying a vehicle, one needs to do their research (and some self-reflection) to ensure they make the right purchasing decision. So consider this download as your guide to exciting adventures and unforgettable moments with family and friends.
As an overview, there are two main categories of RV's:
- Motorhomes (which have an engine).
- Towables (towed behind your vehicle).
What type of traveling and camping are you planning to do?
- Are you interested in camping on Public Lands or National/State Parks?
- Are you planning to be camping only in RV Parks or be off-grid - away from it all?
- Are you hoping to visit friends and family along the way?
Your camping/travel style will help you to select the size and type of your RV. For instance, anything longer than 26 feet is more at home in an RV Park than off-grid in public lands or a National Park due to size and generator restrictions that require it to be hooked up whenever in use. So if you're looking for flexibility to camp in a variety of settings, keep this top of mind.
If off-grid camping is part of your plans, take a serious moment to consider your power and communication needs, as you will need to ensure they are specifically addressed. Don't let a manufacturer or dealer gloss over this. You don't want to miss out on a critical document download/upload, be restricted by their privacy offering, or be limited in what you can use power-wise. Look for RVs that have all the outlets running off-grid with a variety of heavy-duty power items like microwaves or refrigerators/freezer and AC operating.
If you are considering seeing family and friends, you need an RV that can set up where it can be conveniently located for your hosts, not where it needs to dock due to its size and weight. Additionally, it would be best if you had an RV that can charge by a 15 amp outlet (since no homes have an RV outlet standard). This flexibility will also ensure you're their "favorite" guest while you are incredibly comfortable while your AC quietly hums to keep you cool.
The second question you should consider is just how much RV maintenance is the right amount of care for you?
- Are you the type to love "getting in there" and spend as much time maintaining as you do camping?
- Or would you rather spend your time adventuring?
Rigs like motorhomes and vans (no matter the class) require more maintenance (and it's a lot more) since they have engines. This means you'll spend time waiting for service appointments and, as a result, less time on the road. So if that is something that doesn't speak to you, consider a travel trailer since they are generally much less maintenance.
Also, have a conversation with yourself about what you are willing to do to save time/money and have fewer people enter your RV. For instance, ask how easy it is to winterize your RV. Is this something you can easily do yourself - if you wish. Good design means less maintenance, which is essential as it will make your life considerably easier.
While on the topic of maintenance, consider the warranties - most component parts are covered by each sub manufacturer's individual warranty. So seek out an RV with the best component parts as possible so you'll spend more time camping and less time servicing inferior RV parts.
There is so much to consider when driving. Is there more than one driver? Do you love hitting the small roads, or are you the "I'm driving straight there" type of driver? Also, ask yourself:
- Do you love the challenge of driving a "big rig"?
- Do you like something that handles as well as your luxury SUV?
If you're not sure, consider renting a few different RVs with Outdoorsy and seeing how they handle on the highway, back roads, and in a multitude of weather conditions. A fifth wheel is as challenging to drive as a big motorhome. It may seem like fun to own all that space, but realize if you don't love getting there, you won't go as often in that type of RV, which is why you will often see these big rigs set up for a season at a time in RV parks. Additionally, realizing anything with flat sides or a toaster shape will be more exhausting to drive since it will catch the wind more than something specifically designed with a low center of gravity and curves. Remember, driver fatigue is a real thing in RVing, so you need to be conscious of your safety and health needs as you spend time behind the wheel.
There is also a general observation that one tends to "age out" of driving big motorhomes, large travel trailers, and fifth wheels like a pilot due to the stress of driving something of this size. While fun, van conversions are meant to be service vehicles designed for less time spent behind the wheel than the average commuting vehicle, so make sure you test drive these choices as they may never be as comfortable as your SUV or crossover. This is why mid-sized travel trailers are the largest category by far of RV purchases.
Also, always consider safety. If you have fantasies of making dinner while you're in a motorhome or van, please consider your safety first. Did you know that motorhomes are not crash-tested when they are assembled as RVs? Yes, the motorhome exterior gets crash-tested, but only when these are in their unconverted state with the two front seats. So while you and your partner will be safe, can you feel good about loading your family into something that hasn't been crash-tested for your children? With a towable, you can rely on your tow vehicle's crash test rating, which has impeccable safety ratings and tests the crash result of all passenger seats and car seats.
If you enjoy driving your SUV, you need to be familiar with just how much you can tow. Generally, you are looking for the sweet spot of 4,000 pounds (check with your manufacturer what is your towing and hitch limit) as this will give you the comfort of space with the ability to tow it with a vehicle you own. This will mean you won't have to maintain a second vehicle, and you can enjoy the one you own on longer trips. Even better, you won't have to break down your campsite if you wish to venture off as a towable travel trailer gives you more flexibility when camping. Also, look for easy hitching, watch a few Youtube videos, and consider looking for something easier if the owners are breaking a sweat to hitch.
There is a difference between design and quality. So before a salesperson starts talking about trim colors, consider how the floorplan will suit your lifestyle. Consider the following questions:
- How many are going to be traveling?
- What are their ages, and what are their needs over time?
- Are there pets?
- What portion of your time will you be working versus kicking back?
- Is everyone on the same schedules?
- How much am I willing to do to set up each night?
These questions will help guide you to the right decision. For instance, are the beds easy to access, and can you change the configuration depending on who is on the trip? Consider the likely scenario that you're exhausted and ready to hit the sheets when you arrive at your destination. Is it easy to crawl into bed? Or do you have to make them up? The reality is your standards will slip, and in no time, you'll consider sleeping just about anywhere if you have to make up beds and rearrange rooms.
Are there solid doors? Privacy is critical, especially if someone is making a call or is on a different sleep schedule. Having separate spaces matters if you are traveling with family members, working, having a late-night binge streaming session, or don't want to wake everyone up while you're enjoying your latte in the morning. Also, space between the bedroom and the rest of the RV to act as a sound barrier is something to consider.
Here is a big one - is the flow of the space right? Sometimes you feel you have to go to a 30 feet unit to get a separate shower. However, this isn't necessarily the case, so look around and think about if you are showering small children (or a puppy) how easily this is.
The design also is critical when looking at the electrical, water, and toilet systems. Today no one wants to spend time with a toilet system that isn't super hygienic, so look for better options than the traditional "stinky slinky." Ask how the greywater is emptied for more sustainable uses. Is the heating and water system designed in a way that can ensure you can enjoy your RV in four seasons? Before you fall in love with an interior color scheme, there is so much to consider, so ensure an RV meets your design requirements.
Remember, design matters because it will protect your investment. First-time buyers often roll-over their purchase within three years as they regret the decision they made. So they are taking an unnecessary hit financially because they didn't really consider what their needs were and often fell in love with something that just wasn't right. The RV industry is known for its poor design. Poor design manifests itself in leaks that result in mold and odors and a reduced product lifespan. Although an RV may be more expensive, consider how long you will have it, just how sought after it is, and that will help you decide if the investment is worth it. Churning RVs every few years is not only extraordinarily expensive. It means they are filling dumpsites faster than they need to be.
Luxury & Quality
These days everyone is looking for a seamless, sheltered, and ultra-comfortable round trip between home and their destinations. The simple fact is, the better you feel in your space, the more you'll enjoy your adventures.
Although there is an obvious esthetic to quality (you usually know it when you see it), high quality built RVs last longer. You don't want to worry about "bottoming out" when you exit the gas station or hit the occasional pothole or take a less traveled road. For that reason, the "tighter" the shell, the better. Do your research and ask about the manufacturing of an RV. Is the RV manufacturer mixing metals? You can expect bimetallic action, which isn't good. Is the RV manufacturer using steel? If so, expect rusting. How is your RV assembled? If there is a high use of glues, consider they will not only off-gas (forever) and contribute heavily to costly repairs. Gluing in components means that they will need to be "ripped out" and replaced instead of quickly unscrewed, such as getting to the interior of an outside wall.
Ask about the appliances, specifically the refrigerator. Three-way refrigerators are known to not last in the RV industry. Not to mention, it is illegal to drive with propane appliances turned on. So look for a 12V freezer/refrigerator that is of high quality.
All future RV buyers should dig deep into the electrical system.
Most campers are looking for extended power range so they can stay "anywhere" off-grid for weeks at a time, perhaps to cast a line or hit a trail while still enjoying a couple of nights of air-conditioning. You should have the freedom to go anywhere. No one should be satisfied with being tethered to RV Parks to power up every day. So look at your options. There are a lot of dealers and distributors who offer after-market solutions to power. Don't be fooled by how these after-market installs work. Only a fully integrated holistic solution will serve you best. And remember a generator is a noisy anti-nature poor choice to camping off grid.
So while you are out there, if your travel trailer has lots of power, consider HipCamp, Harvest Host, National Forest, National Parks, State Parks, and National Lands. With a power supply that can last at least a couple weeks off-grid, you can enjoy the latest on Netflix, HBO Max, Apple TV+ or Amazon, and run your favorite blender and get your work done.
Also critical to consider is the proper communication systems to have complete privacy and the ability to connect anywhere since now we are all working everywhere.
These days, everyone is looking for incredible quality and comfort, which is something few manufacturers offer in the RV space. Ergonomically designed with fantastic fit and finish that brings you comfort and ease is critical. Of utmost importance is the kind of sleep cocoon that feels like you are at the Four Seasons or the Ritz Carlton. With the type of bedding that is the finest in the world. These are the kind of things that will make your purchase a sound sleep. Remember, don't confuse "roughing it" with a poor night's sleep.
Finally, run the numbers. Often certain brands give the impression they build to last, but the message boards tell a different story. Realize that while it might be easy to buy into the fact your motorhome or van has a Mercedes logo on the front, it is very far from Mercedes's quality of your SUV. The badge is referring to just the shell of the Mercedes, so be more critical.
Consider, most importantly, what will make you happy. Think about why you want to get out there. Look for manufacturers who design for user centered needs. After all, that's all that matters.
Why does Bowlus Check All The Boxes?
Here's a dirty little secret about the RV industry. Most of those in the RV C-suites aren't campers - they are executives, which is fabulous when looking at the bottom line but not so great when designing the perfect RV.
At Bowlus, our designer is someone who understands your needs. That’s why as Chief Designer, Founder and CEO, I take a user-centric approach to design. I walk the talk, whether knowing what it’s like to hike Whitney, camping off-grid for extended periods while working with my teams back in California and Nevada, or traveling with family, friends, and pets. To me, the design isn’t theoretical or a cost-cutting exercise. It is about designing for a lifetime of adventures.
Good design and execution are just that easy. That's why the Bowlus Endless Highways Performance Edition has met every requirement we have touched on in this guide.
If you are looking for more information on the Bowlus Endless Highways, consider the following articles:
If you'd like to experience more, contact our sales team and book a FaceTime appointment. They love to understand your needs to ensure we'll exceed your expectations and bring joy to your life.