Stef hey... sounds
like you are in the same place I was about..10 months ago.
I agonized over the setup for a long time, weighing different factors. And for ME (your needs will surely be different) I'm happy I went the way I did.
***If I could go back in time, here is what I would tell myself***
Size: Don't be afraid to go large (But OVER 40 feet gets prohibitively hard to park.)
I have never had an RV before and never pulled something this big. Plus I even have another trailer I tow BEHIND that. (check the laws in your area...triple tow is not legal everywhere)
I was really nervous at first...but it's not that bad. It's doable. And it gets easier as you go.
And if you are like most people you'll only have to do it every-so-often. I like to set camp in a place for several months at a time, and then radiate out from there exploring with Bianca, or Bunny. Only have to white-knuckle the big rig around when I have to move camp.
Furnishings: If you are not in LOVE with the interior, you will probably end up gutting it and starting over eventually. (actually quite easy in such a small space) Don't get hung up on the interior--consider it a blank canvas.
Purchase Advice: Reserve DAYS at a time to shop for RVs--it takes a long time because there's lots to test on an RV.
Don't limit yourself to your local market. LOTS of great deals on the internet. TONS of markup in RV dealers RVs. And they don't give jack for trades, so they have plenty of profit built in. Weep not for them.
If they have it up for 60k you can probably get it for 39k, and still have room for them to fix anything you find that is broken.
When you find one you like, go make an inspection of it. Call ahead and have them get it ready for you. They may have to charge the battery, put water in tanks, and give it some propane before you get there. So you can test the systems. It's not out of line--they expect this.
Make them show you how it fills with water, and dumps gray and black tanks. Make them demonstrate that these systems work. And that the tank valves articulate EASILY and COMPLETELY and don't leak. Demand that the tanks be drained and rinsed. (If I am hauling a load of poop across America, I want it to be 100% MY poop.) Confirm that tank level gauges work.
Repairs on the road are a PITA. You are spending a lot of money here, so they can step up--you are going to be living in this thing after all.
Make sure all the ACs blow cold.
Look for water leaks--look for any evidence of water damage near the windows, ceiling seams.
Don't take it until they have fixed everything. MAKE them fix anything you find that is broken before you take delivery.
Don't assume it works unless you have personally seen it work. Also, on the inspection, bring a little pad and write everything down. It beats the salesman down psychologically--de-valuing the vehicle in his mind. Will save you money at the negotiation table later. Don't even tell 'em what you are doing just frown concernedly, as you jot down everything WRONG you can find on the unit.
Watch for this common trick and don't fall for it:
They had the unit listed online for 60k (example).
The first pass they come down with lists it at 80k with some handwritten notes about a 20k 'discount' This is bs. 60k was the list price--the inflated fake 'sales price' gimmick is to try and keep you from beating them down. It's crap. Ignore it.
Then glare at the salesman and jot something down on your pad.
Haha...and THIS JUST IN...consider making them upgrade the tires!
Class A, VS Class C, vs Trailer.
I went with the trailer. Specifically a 5th wheel Toy Hauler. It's like a 5th wheel travel trailer except it has a smaller living space, but features a small vehicle garage. Let's me carry Bianca (the bike) back there. Once I set camp, the bike gets deployed, and I can use that space for a workshop, or storage or whatever.
Also, the ability to detach the trailer and take the truck into town is awesome. You get the living space and all the bennies, and you still have something to drive in town. Ever need a truck when you lived in a sticks-and-bricks house? You still will.
So since I already find I like to have a truck in my life at all times--a trailer setup was a natural choice.
If you go with a class A or C you will almost surely end up wanting to tow a car behind it. The ability to break the rig up into smaller vehicles allows much flexibility.
Slides--yes...love em. Some people will tell you they don't like slides because it's just one more thing to fail. True. But it doubles your living space, so...I say yay for slides. No problems yet with my slides. (knock on wood) Make sure the seals on the slides are good--they are meant to be airtight, so they should be glider-proof. (NOTE--this is barring gliders actually chewing through the rubber seals to get to the outside.)
**Mine don't like to go outside...Justin tells them scary stories...**
Awnings: It's funny everyone tries to sell you on awnings. "Oh it's got a GREAT electric AWNING syetem. Look at that beautiful AWNING! And it goes in and out so easily! And you can hang Christmas lights on it!..." and on and on.
I have never used mine. Every time I put it out, the wind kicks up and I have to pull it down before it ends up in OZ.
Awnings OVER your slides: Yes. You might flinch at the added cost, but this will cut down the HEAT your RV absorbs, by a lot. Also--the over-awning slides are moored to the awning--pretty much wind-proof, so you don't have to worry about them crushing some munchkin farmer down the road. Once installed they just go in and out with the slides automatically.
Insulation packages: YES. Even consider a good, portable fabric skirting package if you can.
Fighting the temperature costs you money. Either in propane or gasoline or electricity.
Go *NUTS* up front on insulation options for BOTH cold and heat. There is no such thing as too much in the insulation dept.
Refrigerator: Dometic or Norcold are the big manufacturers. Don't let someone woo you with a "RESIDENTIAL" fridge. You WANT the ability to switch that fridge from propane operation to electric, and back. Fridge--bigger is better. Must have big freezer to hold much frozen glider food.
Washing machine: If you have the space, consider a small stackable unit like for a small apartment (make sure it's not 220 of course--your RV will probably only support a 110) Or a RV washer-dryer unit like the Splendide'. Laundry on the road adds up. Unit pays for itself quickly. Craigslist good source for this. I find the gliders generate plenty of their own laundry.
Having a cage that size on the road is totally doable. I have my Critternation 162 up with plenty to spare--just like before. And because the back folds down into a RAMP, I can just roll the whole cage outside through the back and hose it off if I need to.
It's a big scary move. Unhooking your identity from a place and suddenly carrying your whole life on the road. You definitely give up any sense of routine. No such thing as routine anymore. Every day is something new to see, to learn, or to fix. And new places to clean glider poop out of.
But totally worth it.
And new people to meet. Wild, crazy cool people. And a few authentic nut-jobs. It takes a village.
And it's sooooo CHEAP.
It's the Spacer life. Moving whenever you want, making a buck where you can--with new characters coming in and out of the show every episode. You are Malcolm Reynolds, Han Solo, John Crighton, Peter Quill...
Hey, where are all the female spacer heroes? Hmm. :-(
You give up some luxuries.
My butt, for instance, longs for the feel of a real toilet. (Don't get me started on the toilet.)
I have to wait 30 min for hot water to heat up. I have to clean a lot. The shower is small.
Some luxuries come at a cost...the price of freedom, as you say. You get used to not having those luxuries pretty quick. And then you don't really miss 'em.
Glider-proofing goes to the next level--since it's always tent time in an RV (unless you have the space to actually set up your tent) you have to glider-proof everyTHING.
Not just where they can get to but WHAT they can DESTROY with their PEE! (the TV is acting funny now....PLEASE not the tv!)
But all things considered: RV life ROCKS, and I'm never going back. :-)
(NSRB Warning: Individual experience may vary during online play)
That's my brain dump on that. I hope you find it helpful...
(geeze I talk too much)
Gliders are totally doable as RV pets.