How To Determine The Best RV Size For Your Needs

different RV sizes in campground

If you’re searching for your perfect RV, there are some things to consider to determine the best RV size for you and your family. Some people need larger rigs with many beds and others only need room for one. Finding the best RV size for you depends on who you are and what your goals are.

Best RV Lengths for National Parks

The best argument for a smaller RV is that larger RVs won’t fit in the RV campgrounds at the National Parks. Get something under 30 feet, they say. It’s not as bleak as all that. Some of the National Parks have limits of 30 feet for an RV or trailer and tow car combined, but others allow up to 40 feet combined or unrestricted lengths. Know before you book what the capacity is for the campground. When booking, make sure the long site you need is available. The National Parks are looking at upgrading the facilities in the near future to accommodate larger rigs and more of them.  

Want to camp in National Parks? Make sure you will fit or get turned away!

If you book a site but your RV is too long, they will not let you stay and it could ruin your vacation. Enter your email to join our email list and get a complete list of RV length and other restrictions for National Parks.

Benefits of Choosing a Smaller RV

Small RV back into driveway in Venice, CA

More Parking and Storage Options

It is definitely easier to park and maneuver a smaller RV. When parking something under 30 feet, there are just more options. Some fit in traditional parking spots, others only take up one or two spaces.

When it comes to storing the RV, finding places that will store the RV inside can be tricky and expensive since you pay by the foot. The larger the RV the more expensive it will be. Not all storage lots are created equal. A small RV can be tucked away next to your house or under an RV cover or roof structure, which is free.

Easier Driving

Driving a big RV can make you feel like a boss. However, driving a smaller RV is usually easier and more fun. Not having to worry about the big swing when turning a corner or freaking out about driving a large RV down a city street, is a bonus. Taking a Class B or a van into downtown areas is going to be simpler and more convenient than trying to take a Class A RV into Downtown Boston.

More Campground Options

It’s not only National Parks that have limits on sites, but also State Parks and private campgrounds. Owners of larger RVs know to book early for the large sites. Those with smaller rigs can generally have more options when booking a site. Some RVs can fit into tent sites, and some campgrounds have sites on the water that are smaller and back-in only. You don’t want to miss the best sites because your rig is too large.

Man drinking in front of his small RV on a beach

Boondocking

Boondocking happens. It may take someone a little longer to jump on the bandwagon, but whether it’s overnight in a Walmart parking lot, at a Harvest Host location or BLM land, it will happen. Smaller RVs are able to get into more remote, scenic locations, compared to bigger RVs. They might have to do a little more prep to have enough water and storage tanks for black or gray water, but they have the advantage of maneuverability. They also can stealth camp, which means parking in a neighbor on the street, or somewhere else that most RVs would draw attention. This could be a big point in making the decision for the best RV size for you.

A Flexible Travel Pace

It’s easier to drive a smaller RV. Not just for the flexibility, but it takes less brainpower to drive a 23-foot van than it does to drive a 40-foot RV with a tow vehicle. There is so much more that can go wrong with a larger unit on the road. Drive days with a smaller rig can be longer if that’s what you choose since you won’t be as fatigued after 3 or 4 hours. Want to stop and visit friends? Mooch docking in a driveway is easier with a smaller unit.

Considerations

Purchasing an RV is a big decision. Ask yourself some of these questions before you head out to determine which size and type of RV would be best for you.

Use (weekend, living, vacations)

How often are you going to use the RV? Smaller RVs are great for weekends and vacations. After a few weeks or a stretch of bad weather, you might be wishing for more space from your travel mates that a small RV can’t offer.

Women holding puppy in her arms while camping

Number of People/Pets

Consider how many people will be traveling with you, or should it be how many bodies are traveling with you. One person and three big dogs it a lot for a small van camper, but it would be the same with two adults and one big dog. If you as a couple plan to live in your RV, but your adult children might want to stay for a while, you want to keep that in mind when searching for smaller RVs. How many people do you want to be able to sleep in the rig?

Where do you want to camp

If you are only going to camp in traditional RV resorts, it won’t matter the size of your RV, but if you want options like boondocking, stealth camping, National Park campgrounds or at friends’ homes, you might want to explore smaller RV units.

Spend more time indoors or outdoors

If you like to eat outdoors at the picnic table or spend time around the campfire, rather than being inside watching TV, eating at your dinette, then a smaller unit should be fine. Using the outdoors makes your living space larger. Some campers choose to get a screen house to create a larger living space free from bugs and falling acorns.

Line of trucks from the front

Do I have a truck to use? Is the truck BIG enough?

If a trailer is in your future, do you have a vehicle to tow with? What is the towing capacity? It is possible you will need to upgrade your truck to tow a fifth-wheel or a larger tow-behind trailer. It’s better to be safe than sorry. Also, don’t rely on the salesperson to tell you if the truck you’re considering buying will be good to tow your camper. Get the info from a reliable source before signing on the dotted line.

What is my budget?

Do the math. Can you afford a payment of $1,000 a month between truck and RV payments? Or, is your budget more like $350 a month? This will help determine the age and type of RV you can afford. Generally, newer RVs will be more expensive, as will smaller RVs. Don’t forget to budget for insurance, taxes, doc fees, and other miscellaneous fees.

Women driving RV to see if it is the right one

Who’s going to drive?

Buying an RV that everyone feels comfortable driving is ideal. It’s hard if one person is the only driver and travel days will be shorter due to fatigue. When checking out the RV, make sure you and your travel companion are at ease behind the wheel.  

What are the three most important features of my lifestyle?

Name three things that you don’t think you can live without while on the road. Is it being nimble and able to get into most areas? Do you need a dishwasher (other than your spouse)? Is it a comfortable bed that you don’t have to convert every day into a living space? What are those things for you?

How long do you plan to RV?

You don’t have to set a time and stick to it. If you choose to RV for six months and you love it…extend your journey. If you have decision fatigue and want to have consistent hot water for long showers…maybe after six months you return home. However, keep in mind, when looking for RVs, you’ll be staying in this RV for a long time, or at least until you trade it in. Can you be comfortable here and is this the right RV size for you?

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16 comments
  1. Hi After doing a lot of research we bought a Grand design 315rlts. It’s 37ft 11 inches we just felt that it would be perfect for us and our 2 small dogs 🐕
    We love the rv.

  2. IMHO there is no “right” or perfect size. One size does not fit all. We’ve had numerous RV’s over the last 40+ years. As income, budgets, family size and travel styles changed; our RV’s did as well. We feel pretty strongly that we will not go back to a tent, but lots of options are on the table for the next one…. We’ve enjoyed them all…

  3. We wanted a house too with a specific floor plan. We sold our house for an RV so we still wanted space. We purchased the Solitude 390RK-R and love it. Feels like a one bedroom apartment. We have been full timing for the last 6 months and have been enjoying every minute.

    Jack and Lynne Sharp
    Texans

  4. My husband and I purchased a 2018 Grand Design Solitude 310GK-R when we decided that we would eventually go full-time RV’ing. We decided that the 310 was the perfect size for us because it is just the two of us in our retirement years. We liked the length of it and should be allowed to go into most national and state parks.

  5. Hi…we recently acquired an Airstream Atlas, 25-ft of refined luxury mingled with a suite of hi-tech gadgetry we’re still attempting to master. For us, an older retired couple more interested in migrating from place to place on short timeframes, the Atlas is ideal, especially with a few modifications we’ve made to enhance its livability. We treat the Atlas like a free-ranging vehicle, taking it on excursions and into downtown parking lots, which we couldn’t do as easily with a larger RV. We’ve started out without a tow vehicle, but that is about to change with the addition of a mini-cooper convertible to give us even more local mobility…while it must be nice to have showy Prevost-like accommodations, being compact in the Atlas means more time outside and stretching our horizons…at least for us.

  6. It’s just me, but a wanted the option to go full time and wanted all the comforts of home on wheels. I have a 38 foot class a motor home.

  7. We have a 43.5 Wildwood Heritage Glen fifth wheel. Interestingly enough it’s our first rv. We had looked at some travel trailers but couldn’t find one that we could downsize to from a 2400 square foot house. My wife had voiced some concerns about space to our salesman and he directed us to several 5th wheels and when we saw this unit my wife said “this is it, this is the one I want”. So here we are. We sold our house in November and we’re on our first outing at Raleigh Oaks RV Resort in Four Oaks, NC. When we leave here we’ll be going to VA to spend time with my wife’s mother. Our tow vehicle is a Ram 3500 Laramie dually and the ride is fantastic. I enjoy your videos and articles and find them to be informative and inspirational.
    Keep up the great work!

    Robert

  8. Hi Jason,
    My wife and I have been camping for close to 30 years. We started with a tent while dating. We always liked the out doors so this was a good fit. We then moved to a 23’ motor home. Now we are on our fourth 5th wheel. The latest one we just bought this past summer.
    We retired and decided we needed something bigger. So we ended up with a 2018, Alpine 3500RL. Hoping to do some traveling if this pandemic ever gets under control.
    Oh, we like beer too.

  9. Over the past 35 years, we have gone from a pickup camper to a 19′ 5th wheel to a 26′ 5th wheel pulling a 2nd 12′ trailer with our motorcycles and quads, then took a break to put the kids through college, then bought a 29′ Class C with another 12′ trailer to haul a dirt bike and quad, and finally, a 35′ Toyhauler for our Harley and a Rzr to camp with the kids and grandkids! We are severely limited by the size of our garage- it is only 36 feet, we have only 6″ to close the door!
    Yes, I would like a bigger 5th wheel, and I want a Solitude!! But, hubby gave up his Class 1 license so we can’t pull doubles anymore. I guess our current Toyhauler will have to do! 🙂
    So many RVs, so little time…….

  10. Hi we are Anthony & Lucia we have a 2019 380FL Solitude. We love the space that we have in this unit and we went with the full body paint job which really stands out. We are looking to retire in three years but we didn’t wanna wait that long to purchase our RV so we decided to sell our sticks and bricks home and buy the RV. We currently live in it full time while working. This gives us a chance to get familiar with the RV and all of his components and travel at the same time. So far it has been a blast really really looking forward to retirement.

  11. Hi Jason,
    After about a year of going to RV shows and dealers in our area, we decided on a 2021 Grand Design 315rlts. We have been on the road since June and we love it! We went with this floorplan because of the living space and closet space in a travel trailer and because we had our truck first, so this was the most weight we could pull. We have talked about upgrading to a Solitude fifth wheel but that would require getting a new truck as well. So for now we are loving what we have and enjoying our best life traveling the United States!

  12. We have a Northwood Arctic Fox 27-5l 5th wheel which is 29 feet because we prefer boondocking, State and National parks. We are full time and enjoy the smaller size.

  13. We bought our TT specifically because we wanted to fit into state/national parks and to boondock. Our first rig almost 7 years ago was a 25-foot entry level model (no slide) to see if we’d even like the RV life. We did!! When we retired almost 3 years ago, we took off for 3 months, and visited 14 states and several relatives we hadn’t seen in forever. We loved it even more but realized we wanted a more durably built, true 4-season TT with thought toward either full time or traveling months at a time and more boondocking. Last year we traded up to a 25-footer with a slide made by Outdoors RV, which builds units for more rugged-style camping. While travelling thru Oregon & Idaho this spring, we realized our 4 golf cart lead acid batteries were failing. During our 3-month southwestern trip this fall, we upgraded to Battle Born batteries and added an inverter-charger. We have considered maybe upgrading to a slightly bigger rig if/when we do go full time, but we are very happy with our 21KVS and it likely would work well even for full time travel.

  14. This is our fifth RV. We now have a 34 ft. Class A, having worked up from a 23 ft. Class C. Our 34 ft. is the perfect size for the three adults, my husband, my adult daughter, and myself. My husband has always been the driver while I navigate. However, my husband is now having some medical issues, and we are thinking of downsizing to a unit I would feel comfortable driving.

  15. We live in the Florida Keys. We chose a 16′ inTech Sol Dawn travel trailer. Perfect size for us (2 adults and a small dog). It serves 3 purposes – 1) Hurricane evacuation plan 2) Vacation getaway 3) Guest room for visitors. And, it is easily towed by our Jeep. Couldn’t be happier with it!

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