Choosing an Recreational Vehicle – Which RV Is Right for You?

Motorhome, Travel Trailer, Fifth Wheel, Pickup Camper or Park Model? – Which RV Is Right for You?

Modern RVs are as varied as the RVers who own them. But one thing is for sure, there is no right or wrong choice. Each type of RV has features that are attractive to some RVers, and less attractive to others. It’s really not a matter of a towable is better than a motorized, or vice versa, rather, it’s a matter of what will fit best with your RVing lifestyle.

To be considered a recreational vehicle, in North America, a unit must provide at least four of the following permanently installed living systems: cooking, refrigeration or ice box, self-contained toilet, heating or air conditioning, a potable water system including water tank, faucet and sink, separate 120 volt electrical system, sleeping facilities and LP gas supply.

Below you will find descriptions of the various RV types both motorized or towable. Within each of these main categories you’ll then find subcategories.


Except for its larger size and longer stopping distance, a motor home responds much like a car and learning to drive one comes easy to most.

Class A Motor Home

Class A Motorhome RV - RV Basics .comClass A motor homes can be defined as an RV that is built on, or as an integral part of, a self-propelled motorized chassis. The conventional Class A is one whose living unit has been entirely constructed on a bare, specially designed motor vehicle chassis.

Bus conversions are motor homes built from intercity buses. They tend to be the most expensive motor homes since the cost of the bus is included in the total price.

Bus-styled motor homes look like bus conversions, but are built on a conventional Class A chassis and are therefore less expensive.
– Relative ease of driving
– Does not require a second vehicle
– Single level floor plan
– can use the living space while driving

– Most owners find it too cumbersome to drive the motor home for shopping, sightseeing or running errands. So many owners tow a small car.
– Can’t back up while towing most cars.
– Fewer places to get engine work done.
21 to 45 feet.
Cost: Prices range from $50,000 to $500,000, with an average retail value of $117,500.

Class B Camper Van

Class B Motorhome RV - RV Basics .comThe van camper is defined as a panel type truck to which the RV manufacturer adds any two of the following conveniences: sleeping, kitchen and toilet facilities, 100-volt hookup, fresh water storage, city water hookup, and a top extension to provide more headroom.

– Retains the versatility of a large family car or SUV but provide many of the self-contained motor home attributes as it’s bigger brothers.

– Small size and relative high cost. You can often buy a larger Class C for the same price.
Size: 16 to 21 feet
Prices range from $35,000 to $65,000, with an average retail value of $56,520.

Class C Motor Home

Class C Motorhome RV - RV Basics .comClass C motor homes, often referred to as mini motor homes, are defined as RVs that are built on, or as an integral part of, a self-propelled motorized chassis.
But what differentiates the Class C from the Class A is the unit’s attached cab section. On the Class C, the RV manufacturer completes the body section containing the living area and attaches it to the cab section.

– Class Cs offer most of the same comforts, conveniences and even living spaces as their larger Class A counterparts
– Generally less expensive than a class A

– Tend to be smaller with lower GVRWs.
– Smaller and fewer cargo compartments.
Size: 20 to 32 feet
Cost: Prices range from $45,000 to $75,000, with an average retail value of $56,770.


Recreational Trailers are designed to be towed by a motorized vehicle, and which is of a size that does not require a special highway permit. It is designed to provide temporary living quarters for recreation, camping and travel use, and does not require permanent on-site hookup. The category is broken down into the following:

Fifth Wheel trailers

Fifth Wheel RV - RV Basics .comThese units can be recognized by a raised forward section. The fifth wheel trailer’s raised neck section, sometimes called a gooseneck, rides over the bed of the tow vehicle where it connects to the special fifth-wheel hitch. This overlap reduces the overall length of the two vehicles. Having the trailer tongue weight over the rear axle of the tuck contributes to improved traction and handling.
– Better handling than conventional trailer.
– Over all length of trailer and truck combo is shorter for the same trailer length.
– The raised gooseneck section allows for a large storage area designed underneath the raised part of the floor.
– Higher profile than conventional trailer
– Fifth wheel hitch limits use of truck bed.
– Split level floor plan
– Can’t be towed by cars or vans
Size: 21 to 40 feet.
Cost: Prices range from $12,800 to $97,000, with an average retail value of $23,790.

Conventional Travel Trailers

Travel Trailer RV - RV Basics .comTypically, the conventional travel trailer, also called travel trailer, ranges from 15 to 35 feet in length and is towed by means of a bumper or frame-mounted hitch attached to the rear of a towing vehicle.
– Single level floor plan which is desirable to many RVers.
– Lower profile than fifth wheel trailers.
– If towed by pickup allows use of truck box.
– Can be towed by a car or van.
– The larger the trailer, the more sway and handling becomes a problem.
– Somewhat more difficult to hitch than fifth wheel type trailers.
Size: 12 to 35 feet.
Cost: Prices range from $9,500 to $63,000, with an average retail value of $14,700.

Pop Up Trailers

Pop-up Camping Trailer RV - RV Basics .comPop-up trailers also called camping trailers or tent trailers have collapsible walls made of canvas or fiberglass. Today’s models provide many of the amenities found in other RVs. Galleys provide sinks, multi-burner stoves, and both ice boxes or refrigerators. Holding tanks are sometimes available but are usually small. Sleeping facilities can accommodate up to eight people.

These trailers tow as small low profile units but expand into roomy accommodations upon reaching the campsite. Once erected, they can extend to twenty feet in length; depending on the model.
– Low profile and light weight saves on gasoline, provides greater stability when towing, and decreases buffeting by wind and passing vehicles.
– Sleeps up to eight people (depending on model)
– Combines the experience of open-air tent camping with the comforts, conveniences, and weather protection found in other RVs
– Necessity to set up and take down the tent.
– Often require using the bathroom facilities at the RV park or campground although some models do offer a shower and/or bathroom.
– Small holding tanks if any.
15 to 23 feet (when opened) 8 to 15 feet (when closed)
Cost: Prices range from $3,600 to $11,600. The average retail value of a folding camping trailer is $5,230.

Park Models

Park Model trailers while technically recreational vehicles are used primarily as destination camping units rather than traveling camping units and are not generally self-contained. When set up, park models are connected to the utilities necessary to operate home-style fixtures and appliances.

While these trailers can look like typical eight-foot-wide RVs, they are normally pulled infrequently, usually to and from an owner’s summer and winter haunts.

Now, with some exceptions, park models are evolving into miniature mobile homes, sometimes 12 feet in width. These units are usually never moved once set up.

Park models are popular with people who return to the same place for the season year after year. Advantages:
– More space than typical RVs and a more home-like feel.
– Home style appliances, fixtures and furniture.

– Lack of mobility.
– Not usually self contained.

Pickup Campers

truck camper RVPickup campers, also called slide-on campers or truck campers, are defined as a recreational camping unit designed to be loaded onto, or affixed to, the bed or chassis of a truck. Modern truck campers offer most of the features of larger RVs including slide outs.
– Load on and off a standard pickup truck with relative ease
– Popular among weekend RVers who use their truck for work during the week.
– RVers choose truck campers because they want to tow a boat or other recreational equipment or the relative small size of the unit and 4 wheel drive available on pickups allows them access to remote locations.
– Relatively small size versus cost.
– Small holding tanks.
Size: 18 to 21 feet
Cost: Prices range from $4,500 to $21,900, with an average retail value of $13,380.

How to Weigh a Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel

by Steven Fletcher
For safety and to prevent unnecessary damage, you need to know the weight, of your travel trailer or fifth wheel RV.

Every RV Fifth Wheel and Travel Trailer has a Gross Vehicle Weight Rating… the maximum weight including all supplies and passengers which the trailer can safely carry. RV manufactures will list the GVWR on a sticker somewhere on the RV. But unless you know the actual weight of the RV you can’t calculate the amount of passengers and supplies you can carry and still be under the GVWR.

You can’t rely on the manufacturers brochure or other source to tell the actual weight of your RV. Manufacturers are often optimistic about weight and seldom factor in options like air conditioners, generators, extra batteries, awnings etc. which can add hundreds of pounds to the rig.

With travel trailers and fifth wheels you will also need to know the Gross Combined Weight Rating (GCWR) of the tow vehicle. That’s the maximum weight the tow vehicle can pull plus it’s own weight including fuel, cargo and passengers.

For example, your pickup truck fully loaded with fuel, cargo and passengers weighs 6,500 pounds. If the truck has a GCWR of 15,00 pounds you can safely tow an 8,500 pound trailer. Understand it doesn’t matter at this point that your trailer may have a higher GVRW. You can only tow up to 8,500 lbs. Also know that the GCRW for a truck may be significantly different depending on if you are towing a fifth wheel or travel trailer. Typically, the GCWR will be higher for fifth wheels.

To get a true weight for your tow vehicle and towable RV you need to find a drive-on public scales. A town of any size should have a public scale. Look under public scales in the phonebook yellow pages.

They are most often found at truck stops and moving and storage companies. Don’t be intimidated by all the ‘big rigs’, most scales welcome RVs. If you don’t find a listing call a local trucking company and tell them what you need. If they don’t have a scale they can probably refer you to one.

Recreational Vehicle Weight Related Terms Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR). Amount the Recreational Vehicle may weigh when fully loaded.
Tow Rating Weight a tow vehicle can tow. This figure may
vary depending on the vehicles equipment, such as a manual or automatic transmission and whether it is equipped
with four-wheel drive.
Gross Combination Weight Rating (GCWR) Permissible combined weight of the tow
vehicle, rv travel trailer, passengers, equipment,
fuel, etc., that the tow vehicle can handle.
Gross Axle Weight Rating (GAWR) Weight a single axle can carry.

Here’s how to find all the necessary weights for a tow vehicle/trailer combination.

You will need to weigh the tow vehicle separate from the trailer but if the scale is some distance from where the trailer is stored take the trailer with you and unhitch in the scale yard or nearby.

With full fuel tanks and typical passenger load aboard weigh only the tow vehicle.

To properly weigh the trailer your propane tanks should be full. If you plan to travel with fresh water onboard the fresh water tank should also be filled to the level at which it will be when traveling.

Hitch up the trailer and go back to the scale. Drive on just far enough that only the tow vehicle (still with full fuel and passengers) is on the scales and get a weighing. This weight minus the tow vehicle’s weight equals the hitch weigh.

The tongue weight of a travel trailer the range of 10% to 12%. For a fifth wheel, the hitch weight should be more in the range of 20% of the fifth wheel’s weight. Of course, at no time should the weight exceed the tow vehicle’s maximum rating.

Now drive the tow vehicle and trailer fully onto the scale to get the Gross Combined Vehicle Weight. This weight minus the tow vehicle weight equals the trailer weight. The Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (from the manufacturers sticker) minus the trailer’s wet weight equals the amount of supplies and personal gear you can load.

If you have dual axles on the trailer you can get a weight for each one by stopping with the first axle on the scale and getting a weight. Then drive all the way onto the scale.

Weigh masters are accustomed to this procedure and as long as you discuss what you’re trying to accomplish they will work with you.

By the way, you don’t need a certified weight. Truckers need this to get paid but of course you don’t and a certified weight would probable cost you more.

The last time I had my rig weight at a commercial scale the weigh master was an RVer and since I didn’t need a certified weight he didn’t even charge me. You probably can’t expect to get weighed for free but I doubt it will cost more than $10 to $20.

Since it is easy to under estimate the weight of all the stuff that accumulates in an RV it’s a good idea to weigh the trailer again after it’s loaded and ready for travel.

You may also want to read : Why You Should Know Your RV Travel Trailer WeightRV Tow Vehicle Basics… weight ratings, tow packages & hitchesHitching & Unhitching a Fifth Wheel RV

RV Fires Can be Deadly

The National Fire Protection Association (NFPA), and professional firefighters today issued a national consumer advisory requesting the public’s help in preventing vehicle fires in the United States.

According to recently completed research by NFPA, U.S. public fire departments responded to an estimated 266,500 highway-type vehicle fires during 2004. These fires claimed 520 lives, caused 1,300 injuries and nearly a billion dollars in property damage. Also, highway vehicle fires accounted for 17 percent of all reported fires and 13 percent of all civilian fire deaths. Highway vehicles include cars, trucks, motorcycles and other vehicles commonly driven on roads or highways. Highway vehicle fires are most often caused by mechanical or electrical failure.

“In 2004, highway vehicle fires caused more deaths than apartment fires,” said NFPA President James M. Shannon. “The public needs to be more aware of this serious fire safety issue and take measures to lessen the risk of an incident.”

AAA President Robert L. Darbelnet said, “The size and seriousness of the vehicle fire problem in the United States is prompting AAA to advise all motorists to be alert to vehicle maintenance issues that can cause fires, and to know what actions they should take if their vehicle is involved in a fire.

“Although drivers may believe fires occur mostly from collisions, this is not true. Many more are caused by failed vehicle components that could have been maintained or repaired prior to causing or accelerating a fire. For this reason, AAA and NFPA are urging all vehicle owners to arrange for a comprehensive maintenance inspection of their vehicles this fall, if they have not had one performed in the last 12 months,” Darbelnet said.

Vehicle owners and the technicians that inspect their vehicles need to be especially alert to damaged wiring and loose electrical connections, worn or blistered fluid lines and leaking connections, severely worn brake components, and damaged heat shields; especially those protecting catalytic converters, exhaust manifolds and other high temperature heat sources, AAA said.

According to NFPA statistics, more than two-thirds of highway vehicle fires resulted from mechanical or electrical failures or malfunctions. Collisions or rollovers caused only 3% of these fires, but 57% of the associated deaths.

To further reduce the risks associated with vehicle fires, consumers need to be knowledgeable about what to do – and not to do — if their vehicle catches fire. Fire Chief Otto Drozd of the Hialeah, Florida fire department advises, “If a vehicle fire occurs, stop, get out and call for help as quickly as possible. Attempting to fight the fire yourself can lead to serious injury or death and should be avoided.”

Drozd recommends the following:

STOP – If possible, pull to the side of the road and turn off the ignition. Pulling to the side makes it possible for everyone to get out of the vehicle safely. Turn off the ignition to shut off the electric current and stop the flow of gasoline. Put the vehicle in park or set the emergency brake; you don’t want the vehicle to move after your leave it. Do not open the hood because more oxygen can make the fire larger and exposes you to a sudden flare up.

GET OUT – Make sure everyone gets out of the vehicle, but do not waste time and increase risk by removing personal belongings. Then move at least 100 feet away. Keep traffic in mind and keep everyone together. There is not only danger from the fire, but also from other vehicles moving in the area.

CALL FOR HELP – Call 911 or the emergency number for your local fire department. Firefighters are specially trained to combat vehicle fires. Never return to the vehicle to attempt to fight the fire yourself. Vehicle fires can be tricky, even for firefighters. Pressurized components can burst or explode, spilling or spraying highly flammable liquids, or eject projectiles than can cause serious injuries.

To reduce the risk of a vehicle fire, AAA makes these recommendations:

— Have your vehicles inspected at least annually by a trained, professional technician. As a public service, AAA inspects and approves thousands of repair facilities in the U.S. and Canada as part of the AAA Approved Auto Repair program. Names and locations of AAA-approved repair businesses can be found at

— Watch for fluid leaks under vehicles, cracked or blistered hoses, or wiring that is loose, has exposed metal or has cracked insulation. Have any of these conditions inspected and repaired as soon as possible.

— Be alert to changes in the way your vehicle sounds when running, or to a visible plume of exhaust coming from the tailpipe. A louder than usual exhaust tone, smoke coming from the tailpipe or a backfiring exhaust could mean problems or damage to the high-temperature exhaust and emission control system on the vehicle. Have vehicles inspected and repaired as soon as possible if exhaust or emission control problems are suspected.

— Avoid smoking. If you must smoke, use your vehicle ashtray.

— Drive according to posted speed limits and other traffic rules. Remain alert to changing road conditions at all times.



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Used RV Buying Checklist

Article provided by: RV America Insurance

Its a home on wheels.

Keep that statement in mind as you begin your motor home or travel trailer buying project. Take a moment right now to inventory in your mind everything that needs fixing in your home right now. You might be imagining items as simple as a loose doorknob all the way to the intermittent problems youre having with your heating and air conditioning system.

Now, add an engine and or wheels to the mix, and you have the idea its going to be difficult to find the perfect used RV. You might have to settle for a few little problems, or decide to pay a few extra bucks for something thats in pristine condition. There are a myriad of things that can go wrong with a RV travel trailer fifth wheel or motor home, so a careful pre-buy inspection is a must.

Here then, is a starter used RV buying guide of what to look for when purchasing a used motorhome, RV travel trailer or fifth wheel.

Used RV Pre-Buy Inspection Checklist:

1. Check everything that relates to your propane system. RV fires do happen and many times theyre the result of a neglected propane system. Check the tank, the hoses, and the regulator. I cant stress how important this is. You could be risking your investment, and your life if you overlook even the simplest of problems in this area.

2. Check the condition of the house batteries. The house batteries hold the charge that powers your lights and other items when youre not connected to shore power. They can be expensive to replace, and there might be as many as six of them. Are they properly topped off with water, and do they hold a charge? These batteries are heavy so you really dont want to be doing this job yourself, and youll have to take the cores back for your deposit.

3. Check to make sure the refrigerator works on both propane and electricity. It should automatically switch from electric to gas when you unplug your shore power. Repairs can be costly so run this little test before you finalize the purchase.

4. Check the furnace and air conditioning equipment. These can be expensive units to repair, and youll want to ask for a little discount if these arent working correctly. It’s not enough that the fan runs…make sure furnace burner lights and you can feel warm air. Let the air cinditioner run until you feel cold air.

5. Does the toilet hold water? If the RV has been sitting for a period of time the seal in the toilet will have dried out. Add a little water to the toilet and see if it holds water for more than 15 minutes. Keep in mind that the water in the toilet is what holds back the fumes trying to escape from the black water holding tank.

6. Check for soft spots in the flooring especially in the bathroom and kitchen areas. These could be symptoms of a much larger problem. The unit may have leaky supply pipes or drains that are causing the wood to rot.

7. Check the skin on the outside of the RV. Look for bubbles. Although cosmetic, youre probably dealing with a corrosion issue. These can be resolved, but will involve removal of paint, treatment of the affected area, and repainting. Sounds expensive to me.

8. If the RV has a gas engine, then carefully inspect the engine records. A good owner will have kept receipts of all engine maintenance. It would even behoove you to have the engine looked over by a trusted mechanic. What do you suppose it would cost to replace an engine?

9. Finally, do a THOROUGH walk-through. Open and close everything. Turn everything on and off. Be suspicious and take notes as you walk through the rig, and at least youll go into the purchase with your head up.

One final thought. Youll never find the perfect used RV travel trailer, fifth wheel or motorhome, but you can minimize the hidden expenses by following the above guidelines.

RV America Insurance, your one-stop location for recreational vehicle insurance


You may also want to read: A Checklist for Buying an RV

Safety Tips for Fifth Wheel & Travel Trailer Towing

When you tow a travel trailer or RV fifth wheel on the road you experience challenges that you will not encounter in a car, SUV or pickup when not towing.

Towing a travel trailer or fifth wheel is a responsibility you should undertake with great care and safety should be your first concern. An accident while towing a travel trailer or fifth wheel can have much greater consequences than one with a small car.

Consider the following safety tips each time you tow your fifth wheel RV or travel trailer.

General Travel Trailer and Fifth Wheel RV Towing Tips

  • If you are new to RV towing, take time to practice towing your travel trailer or fifth wheel before driving on main roads. Most seasoned RVers recommend finding a large vacant lot and setting up some traffic cones to practice turning and backing.
  • Never allow anyone to ride in or on the travel trailer.
  • Before you leave on a trip, remember to check routes and restrictions on bridges and tunnels.
  • Use the trailer hitch system the manufacturer recommends for towing.
  • Drive at moderate speeds. This will place less strain on your tow vehicle and RV trailer. Trailer instability (sway) is more likely to occur as speed increases.
  • Avoid sudden stops and starts that can cause skidding, sliding, or jackknifing.
  • Avoid sudden steering maneuvers that might create sway or undue side force on the travel trailer. Fifth wheels are less susceptible to side force sway but you should still be aware of the possibility.
  • Slow down when traveling over bumpy roads, railroad crossings, and ditches.
  • Make wider turns at curves and corners. Because your trailers wheels are closer to the inside of a turn than the wheels of your tow vehicle, they are more likely to hit or ride up over curbs.

Parking a Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer

  • Try to avoid parking on grades. If possible, have someone outside to guide you as you park. Once stopped, but before shifting into Park, have someone place blocks on the downhill side of the trailer wheels. Apply the parking brake, shift into Park, and then remove your foot from the brake pedal. Following this parking sequence is important to make sure your vehicle does not become locked in Park because of extra load on the transmission. For manual transmissions, apply the parking brake and then turn the vehicle off in either first or reverse gear.
  • When uncoupling a travel trailer or fifth wheel, place blocks at the front and rear of the trailer tires to ensure that the trailer does not roll away when the trailer hitch coupling is released.
  • An unbalanced load may cause the tongue to suddenly rotate upward; therefore, before uncoupling, place jack stands under the rear of the trailer to prevent injury.

Backing Up Your Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer

  • Put your hand at the bottom of the steering wheel. To turn left, move your hand left. To turn right, move your hand right. Back up slowly. Because mirrors cannot provide all of the visibility you may need when backing up, have someone outside at the rear of the trailer to guide you, whenever possible.
  • Use slight movements of the steering wheel to adjust direction. Exaggerated steering control will cause greater movement of the travel trailer. If you have difficulty, pull forward and realign the tow vehicle and trailer and start again.
  • Apply the parking brake, shift into Park, and then remove your foot from the brake pedal. Following this parking sequence is important to make sure your vehicle does not become locked in Park because of extra load on the transmission. For manual transmissions, apply the parking brake and then turn the vehicle off in either first or reverse gear.
  • When uncoupling a trailer, place blocks at the front and rear of the trailer tires to ensure that the trailer does not roll away when the coupling is released.
  • In smaller trailers an unbalanced load may cause the tongue to suddenly rotate upward; therefore, before uncoupling, place jack stands under the rear of the trailer to prevent injury.

Braking While Towing a Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer

  • Allow considerably more distance for stopping.
  • If you have an electric trailer brake controller and excessive sway occurs, activate the trailer brake controller by hand. Do not attempt to control trailer sway by applying the tow vehicle brakes; this will generally make the sway worse.
  • Always anticipate the need to slow down. To reduce speed, shift to a lower gear and press the brakes lightly.

Acceleration and Passing While Towing Your Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel

  • When passing a slower vehicle or changing lanes, signal well in advance and make sure you allow extra distance to clear the vehicle before you pull back into the lane.
  • Pass on level terrain with plenty of clearance. Avoid passing on steep upgrades or downgrades.
  • If necessary, downshift for improved acceleration or speed maintenance.
  • When passing on narrow roads, be careful not to go onto a soft shoulder. This could cause your trailer to jackknife or go out of control.
  • To control swaying caused by air pressure changes and wind buffeting when larger vehicles pass from either direction, release the accelerator pedal to slow down and keep a firm grip on the steering wheel.
  • When excessive sway occurs, activate the trailer brake controller by hand. Do not attempt to control trailer sway by applying the tow vehicle brakes; this will generally make the sway worse.

Towing Your Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer on Downgrades and Upgrades

  • Downshift to assist with braking on downgrades and to add power for climbing hills.
  • On long downgrades, apply brakes at intervals to keep speed in check. Never leave brakes on for extended periods of time or they may overheat.
  • Some tow vehicles have specifically calibrated transmission tow-modes. Be sure to use the tow-mode recommended by the manufacturer.

You may also want to read:
RV Tow Vehicle Basics… weight ratings, tow packages & hitches
RV Travel Trailer Hitch System Ratings
Why You Should Know Your RV Travel Trailer Weight
How to weigh your Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel
Proper Downshifting and Braking Procedure for RVers

Travel Trailer & Fifth Wheel Leveling

by Steven L Fletcher

Purchase two levels at Wal-Mart, Camping World or local RV outlet. One should be large enough to read from the cab of your truck. I like the type with the large scale and has a large ball bearing in the tube. The other level can be smaller. You will also need a level you can use temporarily to insure the trailer is level before attaching the two permanent levels.

Using a level driveway at home or other level concrete slab is the easiest but do what you have to to get the trailer level.

Install the large level wherever you want on the front of your trailer as long as you can see it from the drivers seat of your tow vehicle.

Install the small level on the side of the trailer where you can watch it as you operate the tongue jack or landing gear.

Now that you can tell if you travel trailer or fifth wheel is level you’ll need a way to make it level.

If you have a single axle trailer I believe the commercially made plastic leveling ramps are the best solution for you. They are inexpensive, lightweight and durable.

If your trailer has two axles, you will need three lengths of 2 x 8 wood with no knots or cracks. Since tires should never be allowed to hang over the edge of your leveling boards I like to use 8″ wide ones just to allow a little fudge factor.

The length of first board is determined by measuring the distance between the axle hubs and adding about 18 to 24 inches. The board should be long enough to allow each tire’s footprint to be completely on the board with a little fudge factor so you will be able to stop the rig before rolling off the back of the board. How well you can control the rig when backing onto the boards will determine the actual length of that first board.

The second board should be cut 5″ longer that board one.

Board three should be cut 5″ longer that board two.

If you want, you can bevel one end of each board but it isn’t really necessary.

I can’t remember ever needing more than three boards to get the trailer level although I suppose it is a possibility. But for a two axle trailer that fourth board is going to be pretty long so make sure you really need it or maybe cutting it in half is a good idea. Anyway I generally only need one or two boards.

You may need an assortment of smaller boards for use under jacks and stabilizers although I like the plastic ‘blocks’ for this use. Again, they are inexpensive, lightweight and dribble as well as stackable.

The RV Travel Trailer Leveling Process

Okay, you have your levels installed and you have your leveling boards. You should find leveling your trailer fairly easy if you follow the instructions below.

The Need to Level RV Refrigerators

Many RVers, especially old timers, may tell you that the RV has to be perfectly level in order for the refrigerator work correctly. In the old old days, this was the case, but manufactures changed the design a little to make leveling less critical.

Unless your RV refrigerator is twenty years old, it only needs to be reasonably level. The rule of thumb is that if the RV feels comfortably level,to you then it is level enough for the refrigerator.

An Alternative Method to Leveling

  1. Using the leveling boards you made before your trip, place one or more beside the LOW side tires. When using more than one board stack them as a ramp so the wheels roll up the boards one at a time.
  2. Drive the rig forward or backward enough to clear the board(s).
  3. Position the board(s) in the tire tracks.
  1. Determine where in your campsite you want to park the trailer. Ideally you’ll want to find the most level area of your campsite and place the trailer there. But there lot of reason why you may want to park the trailer somewhere that is not level.
  2. Always level side to side first.
  3. Position the trailer where you want it. Watch the large level on the front of your trailer as you position it. Sometimes it’s only a matter of a foot or two whether the trailer is level or not. If you can find a level spot close to where your want to park the trailer maybe close is good enough if means you don’t have to get out the boards. If the large level on the front of the trailer indicates the trailer is level great, you’re done. Otherwise continue…
  4. Using the leveling boards you made before your trip, place one or more in front of or behind the LOW side tires.
  5. Drive onto the board(s) and recheck your level. Repeat this adding or removing wood as needed. (After you’ve done this a procedure a few times you’ll be able to tell by the level how many boards you need.) This method results in the trailer being parked as much as three feet from its original position. If that works for you okay. But if you want to be level in the original spot use the Alternative Method to the right.
  6. When you are satisfied with the side to side level you can chock the wheels, detach your tow vehicle.
  7. Use the tongue jack (travel trailer) or landing gear (fifth wheel) to adjust your front to back level.
  8. When you are satisfied that your trailer is reasonably level (perfection sometimes alludes us) then lower any stabilizers to the ground to reduce rocking and bouncing. There are heavy duty plastic blocks you can purchase to use instead of carrying wood. Your choice.

RV Travel Trailer Hitch System Ratings

Travel trailer hitches are classified by the trailer towing industry according to the amount of weight they can carry. This rating system addresses tongue weight and total weight. Keep in mind that within each classification are numerous travel trailer hitches made by a variety of manufacturers.

The three most common types of RV travel trailer hitches are the weight-carrying hitch, the weight-distributing (or load equalizer) hitch, and the fifth-wheel hitch or gooseneck.

Weight-carrying trailer hitches are designed to carry all of the travel trailers tongue weight. Weight-distributing trailer hitches are used with a receiver hitch and special parts that distribute the tongue weight among all tow vehicle and trailer axles.

Make sure the hitch has provisions for the connection of safety chains, which are required by most states. When connected, safety chains should have some slack to permit sharp turns but should not drag on the road. In addition, they should cross under the trailer tongue to help prevent the tongue from dropping to the road in the event the trailer separates from the tow vehicle.

Fifth-wheel hitches are designed for mounting the trailer connection point in the middle of the truck bed. When purchasing a fifth wheel hitch, use the recommendations of the manufacturer of the tow vehicle and fifth wheel trailer based on the type and weight of the trailer.

Weight Distribution Hitch

Fifth Wheel Hitch

Gooseneck Hitch

weight distributing hitch fifth wheel hitch gooseneck hitch

Hitch Terminology:

GTW = Gross Trailer Weight – the weight of the trailer fully loaded
TW = Tongue Weight – the weight put on the hitch ball by the trailer coupler
WC = Weight Carrying – towing capcity of a hitch without a weight distribution system
WD = Weight Distributing – towing capacity of a hitch with a weight distribution system

Vehicle Type –>

Compact Cars

Mid-Size Cars

Full-Size Cars
Mini-Trucks & Vans

Full-Size Trucks,
Vans & SUV’s *

Hitch Class RatingĀ 

Class I Trailer Hitch
WC GTW – Up to 2,000 lbs.
WC TW – Up to 200 lbs Light Duty Light Duty Light Duty

Light Duty

Class II Trailer Hitch
WC GTW – Up to 3,500 lbs.
WC TW – Up to 350 lbs Medium Duty Medium Duty Medium Duty Class III Trailer Hitch
WC GTW – Up to 5,000 lbs.
WC TW – Up to 500 lbs Heavy Duty Heavy Duty Class IV Trailer Hitch
WC GTW – Up to 7,500 lbs.
WC TW – Up to 750 lbs
WD GTW – Up to 12,000 lbs.
WD TW – Up to 1,200 lbs Heavy Duty Heavy Duty Class V Trailer Hitch
WC GTW – Up to 12,000 lbs.
WC TW – Up to 1,200 lbs
WD GTW – Up to 14,000 lbs.
WD TW – Up to 1,400 lbs Extra Heavy Duty

* Even Full Size Trucks & SUVs have weight limits. Make sure your tow vehicle rating matches your travel trailer.

You may also want to read:
RV Tow Vehicle Basics… weight ratings, tow packages & hitches
Safety Tips for RV Fifth Wheel & Travel Trailer Towing
Why You Should Know Your RV Travel Trailer Weight
How to weigh your Travel Trailer or Fifth Wheel

RV Stabilizing – Leveling Hints & Tips – Stabilizer Jacks & Leveling Jacks for Fifth Wheels & Travel Trailer RVs

by: Steven Fletcher

Stabilizing your rig is not necessary but doing so may make your RV more pleasant to be in. The smaller the Fifth Wheel or Travel Trailer the more it can benefit from stabilizing systems.

RV Leveling jacksYou might want to have a few six to eight inch long 2×6 blocks and some stabilizing jacks. How many of each will depend on the size of your RV and how stabile you want it to be. The blocks are placed under the jacks to give them more support if you are parked on soft ground or if the jacks are too short.

Orange stabalizer blocksPlastic ‘blocks’ are also available and have some advantages over wood blocks. The biggest advantage is less weight to carry. They are also stackable and have a larger surface area.

rv stabilizer jacksSome travel trailers and fifth wheels have stabilizing jacks attached, usually toward the rear. If yours doesn’t you should consider getting some. They just make stabilizing the rig easier. If you do add them be sure to note the lifting capacity. Generally the scissors type have the greatest capacity. If your jacks can lift your RV then they may be able to double as leveling jacks too. Make sure your RVs frame can handle the jacking without damage. Ask the manufacturer if you’re not sure.

rv stabilizer jacksOur fifth wheel had the crank down type stabilizers already installed, otherwise I would have the scissors type because they will lift more weight. When leveling the trailer front to back I like to set the rear stabilizer jacks snug then lower the front landing gear raising the front of the trailer up to level. This lifts the trailer up slightly off the axles. I found by doing this I can get the trailer more stable without having to really crank hard on the stabilizer crank handle. Because my stabilizers can’t bare much weight I have to be especially careful about how much I lower the front landing gear.

If we will be parked for more than a few days I also set a couple of the jack stands under the frame behind the back axle for more stability.

I also use and recommend a king pin stabilizer for fifth wheels RVs. It really does work.

Power Your RV with the Sun

by Guest Author: Rick Chapo

Jumping in your RV and leaving the rat race for the weekend is an American tradition. Did you know you can provide power to your RV with the sun while getting away from it all?

Solar Power is Ideal for RVs.

If you enjoy taking the RV out for an excursion, you can use solar power to provide your electrical needs. Whether you are going camping or to a NASCAR race, it is an exceedingly simple process.

Unlike homes, RVs run on direct current electricity. This makes them perfect for solar electricity since solar systems produce direct current electricity instead of alternating current. Put another way, there is no need for bulky converters to flip the electricity from direct to alternating. Instead, you can use the sun to power up your batteries directly.

Portable solar systems consist of pop-up solar modules with four or five panels. Essentially, they look like small ladders with solar panels instead of steps. You just pop them up on the roof of the RV or in an area where the sun hits them. The systems tie directly into your batteries and power them up during the day. Super easy and super clean.

The real advantage to solar RV systems has to do with noise. The traditional method for recharging your RV batteries is to run a generator Even the quietest generator makes noise but solar systems make no noise at all. There are no moving parts, just the sun shining on the panels. Youll never know they are even there.

If RVing is your thing, portable solar modules are worth taking a look at. With high fuel prices, you need to save a buck wherever you can.

Rick Chapo is with, a directory of solar energy companies. Visit us to read more articles on solar power and renewable energy.

Article Source:

Note from Steven & Fran: We offer web space for guest author articles because we believe there is always room for another viewpoint and because we surely don’t know everything there is to know about RVs and the RVing lifestyle. in that spirit we invite you to submit your own articles. We’re happy to give you credit and provide a link to your website.

The 7-C’s of Camping and RVing

Whether you are visiting a state campground or commercial RV park, the camping etiquette guidelines below are meant to enhance your Camping and RVing experience.

  • Care: Care how you camp by being considerate of your fellow campers or RVers and use campground manners.
  • Caution: Be cautious in the use of or camping equipment both on the road and at campsites. Improve your camping skills, knowing the right way is the safe way.
  • Courtesy: You are never so sensitive to others as when we are camping and that is why courtesy is so important. Practice politeness because it enhances the camping experience. Respect the privacy of others, control your children, leash and pick up after your dogs.
  • Cleanliness: Be clean in your camping habits and teach your children the importance of cleanliness. Pick up litter no matter who left it and be proud of the campsites you leave behind.
  • Cooperation: Observe the letter and spirit of camping regulations and the rules established to protect your enjoyment of the outdoors. Since camping at its best is sharing, work cooperatively with others to make it better for everyone.
  • Conservation: Protect the environment in which you enjoy camping and help those whose job it is to guard and wisely manage your country’s natural resources. Leave a better outdoors for those who follow us.
  • Common Sense: Apply common sense to every situation knowing that reason, understanding and humor make camping better for you and others.