An Idea for Choosing the Right Size RV

One of the most important questions you’ll ask yourself early on when shopping for an RV, before you even get to brand or floorplan, is what size is right for you – and it’s not an easy question to answer. Touring an RV on a dealer’s lot for ten minutes is not the same as spending years living in it, and imagination can only take you so far.

One tip I heard when I was looking at RVs years ago was to rent first and that would clue you in on sizing. This isn’t a bad idea, but RV rental is expensive and for the person on a budget, it’s just not a practical option.

Here’s a cheaper method that really worked for me, and maybe it’ll help you too: take note of what parts of your home you use.

I’m not talking about the square footage (although certainly you could mentally cordon off one room of your house to live in as an experiment), but more about the furniture you use. I never sat in my living room on the couch, ever. I used just a fraction of the available counter space. Most of my time was spent in my bedroom, either reading or sleeping in my bed, or at my desk on the computer. So I used my bed, desk, and enough counter room to set stuff on that I pulled out of the fridge, really that was it.

Most people who go full-timing opt for a large RV, which often come with a bed, dinette, couch, and recliners. If you don’t think you could live without those things, that’s the route you’ll want to go. My 17′ Casita on the other hand has just a bed and dinette – mirroring what I made use of in my apartment.

When I was preparing to RV shop so many people told me that since I was full-timing I needed a large RV and would end up upgrading if I went with something smaller. But because I paid attention to my habits in my apartment, I was quite confident in my decision to buy a smaller trailer and it turned out to be the right decision for me.

So if you’re in the planning stages of full-timing and wondering what size RV will work best for you, spend this next week paying attention to what furniture you’re using in your house and see if that doesn’t shed some light.

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At IO I teach people how to ditch the status quo and travel full-time before retirement, and share stories of my adventures (and misadventures) to inspire future nomads and armchair travelers alike. Included at no additional charge: seizing your dreams, living boldly, and making a difference.


  1. Graham on August 29, 2017 at 1:16 pm

    This is so on point! A lot of people just assume that RVing is way too expensive, and it really can be. If you try to imagine every single thing you’d ever want in an RV, you’ll end up spending well into the 6 figures. Instead, look at what you NEED, and you’ll probably end up spending less than you would on a house/apartment.

    • Becky on August 29, 2017 at 2:11 pm

      Exactly Graham. Glad you enjoyed this.

  2. Becky on July 10, 2017 at 3:45 pm

    I’m back from BC! Thanks for the well-wishes and for being helpful to each other in the comments (I read every one of them), you’re the best audience a blogger could hope for. 🙂

  3. Reine in Plano(when not camping) on July 4, 2017 at 7:11 am

    I’m not Becky but we camp in a 17′ Casita and really like the ability to set up camp and then roam around the area in our truck. We rented a motor home many years ago and found it much more cumbersome to navigate in tight spaces. And then if we wanted to go anywhere we had to re-level when we got back to camp.

  4. desi on July 2, 2017 at 9:27 pm

    hi have a fun trip up there becky ,anyway ive lived in a 18 and 24 ft travel travel for a couple of years but didnt travel about with them .im eyeing a 16 and 20 ft one to pull on the road next year in the summer butcheckingout class b and c rv in rv shows .the cost is cheap on the travel trailors under 20k class c 50k and v around 70k ,to determine the choice i could buy a newer truck and tow for the price of the bs and cs but wonder if it too much daily a drag using them traveling and parking in a safe spot ,id just like your opinion after having towed a while on the road thanks

  5. Michael on July 2, 2017 at 5:13 pm

    For those of you wanting to rent an rv, check out craigslist. One way is to rent an rv near an area you want to explore, call ahead reserve the unit and fly or drive out to the location. I had a used rv retail lot for years and you would be surprised the number of folks who started out small upgraded over time and then went smaller after they realized a large rig can be a real hassle. I noticed that the owners of the smaller rigs seemed to use them more often. I often would buy back or take in trade a unit that only had a thousand miles or so more than when I sold it three or four years before.

  6. Maria on July 2, 2017 at 7:04 am

    Really great advice, Becky! I am paying attention to what rooms I most use in my home! I need my first RV decisions to be a good choice. I am saving money for the tow vehicle right now but that is another decision….

  7. marijka on July 1, 2017 at 7:57 pm

    Expensive or not, I haven’t been able to find a 15-19′ camper to rent anywhere in the southeast US. I’ve only seen RVs and a few 5th wheels. I’ve even called a few dealers to see if they would rent even though it’s not advertised, but nope. I don’t want to buy for a few years but do want to try it since I’m pretty claustrophobic. My next step is to try to meet people when I’m tent camping in hopes of renting directly from an individual.

    • Tom on July 3, 2017 at 12:38 pm

      Marijka – Sounds like you currently tent camp. If you’re not claustrophobic in a tent then you probably won’t be claustrophobic in a small trailer or RV. Especially if you camp in the open countryside, you will be spending a lot more time outdoors than inside your RV.

  8. Reine in Plano (when not camping) on July 1, 2017 at 8:56 am

    Katy, you make a great point. What kind of camping are you going to do? Full hookups all the time, state parks with water and electric, boondocking away from everyone with no hookups, or some combination. Are you going to be full timing, part timing or occasionally camping? And size affects cost of operation and ease of travel. We’ve camped in many campgrounds in our Casita where a bigger rig wouldn’t fit.

    And don’t dismiss Katy’s word “initially” either. You may start out camping one way and find that your likes or needs change over time.

  9. Katy in NH on July 1, 2017 at 8:27 am

    I think some depends also on the majority of type of camping initially.

    I really want to take my electric pressure cooker, but a stovetop is likely better unless i upgrade by battery storage or run the generator.

  10. Roger on July 1, 2017 at 7:32 am

    Great advice. We were certain we wanted a motorhome when we retired. The question was “how big”? We bought a 21′ Winnebago Travato partly because of the relatively low cost, but more importantly, it had the floorplan we needed. And the Simplicity! We’ve found that just having the basic features allows us to be on the road more. Less things to break down. We feel like we’re having 100% of the fun the fancier rigs allow far less cost and aggravation.
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  11. Sherry on July 1, 2017 at 7:23 am

    What great suggestions Linda for knowing what to take and what to leave. I’m pretty sure I could live in a 17′ casita if I were solo. I think I’d love it though I have other solo friends in Winnebago Views and swear by them. Right now 35′ is about perfect for 2 people full timing. We don’t really need more than 27 or 30′ inside but the outside storage bins are key since we travel with tools for repairs and chairs and kayaks and bikes and their gear.

  12. Linda Sand on June 30, 2017 at 3:12 pm

    We also took note of what kitchenware we used. Once used we put it on the counter instead of back in the cupboard then looked on the counter first the next time we needed something. There were a lot of things in our kitchen that never got packed into our RV.

    We did the same with clothes; turning hangers backwards until we actually wore something then turning them the right way around.

    But, none of that told us how big our tanks needed to be. 🙁

  13. DANNIE V RIOS on June 30, 2017 at 3:11 pm

    I know this is off subject, but are you going to the total solar eclipse?

    • Becky on July 10, 2017 at 3:39 pm

      Nope. I know a lot of people who are though.

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