What’s so great about small RV’s? They are more fuel efficient, easy to drive and they can pack all the amenities of a home in a tiny floor plan…but best of all it rolls down the road on 4 wheels.
We get a lot of emails, tweets and facebook messages with questions from newbies wanting to hit the road in an RV. Normally we try and respond to each one individually and help as many people as we can. Then after too many of the same scenarios, it finally hit us; we should be sharing these answers with all of you! We figure if we miss something, one of you will chime in and offer your take, and if you had similar questions, maybe this will help! So, let’s dive in on selecting the best small RV! (also, check out our full RV Shopper Series)
Before you read too far check out this short video that we created when looking to downsize from Windy (our 32 foot Monaco Vesta) into something much smaller.
Mary from Texas asks: I own a small business that takes me across the USA. For years I’ve been traveling by plane, renting cars and hotels, but I’m tired of all that hassle. I’m considering purchasing a small RV and driving to visit my clients. Along the way I plan to take mini vacations from white water kayaking during the spring, to bicycle races in the summer, and of course snowboarding in the winter. I will be traveling alone most of the time however there is a chance one of my kids might meet up with me along the way for an adventure or two. My style is contemporary, and I despise the look of most RV’s (both inside and out). I’ve never owned an RV and I definitely don’t want a large one or a tow-behind trailer. If you can recommend a few small RV’s for me to look at I’d be so thankful to have the help.
Well Mary, we’re happy to help you start your RV life on the road! I will honestly tell you driving vs. flying is 10x more relaxing. Sure it might take longer, but you’ll save money and your sanity in the long run. Here is our 2 cents:
- Class B or small class C Motorhome seems best.
- With a class B you can travel anywhere, park anywhere, and sleep anywhere without drawing attention to the fact you’re in an RV. If James Bond RV’ed this would be his choice.
- Don’t hold your breath on contemporary styling, there’s not much out there.
- Diesel is the best option since you’ll be driving through mountains.
- Dodge/Mercedes Sprinter chassis is a great option for small RV’s. This allows you to have an engine/chassis that serviceable across the entire USA, which any mechanic can work on.
- You must buy the RV for you, not your kids. Sure they might come out to visit but they can tent, or sleep on the floor. The worst thing you can do is purchase a larger RV than you want with an extra bed you don’t need 99% of the time.
- There won’t be a ton of space to store your toys, but you can purchase a bike rack for the back, strap a kayak on the roof, etc.
- For this size RV you won’t need a tow car.
- All of our recommendations offer everything you need to live both plugged in, or off the cord and in nature.
Below are our favorite Super Small RV’s and a few reasons why we think they’ll work for you. We suggest you visit a dealership and test drive the first 2. After the test drive tell the salesperson to leave. Sit in that RV for at least an hour by yourself (do NOT bring a friend, they will get bored). Bring your laptop and sit and type. Pretend you’re cooking, eating, showering, and using the toilet (remember to just pretend). Open every cabinet and envision where your clothes will hang. Try and find the best and worst of each RV and write it down. If it’s warm or cold outside have the salesman crank up the generator, or plug you in so you can regulate the temperature. This is a large purchase, and if you plan to travel thousands of miles, and live in this RV you need to spend some quality time with the RV at the dealership. DO NOT BUY on the first day: You may need to visit your RV at least 2 more times before making a purchase.
Now that we have all that out of the way, here are our top recommendations.
The Incognito: Airstream Interstate Twin Dual Wardrobe
- Contemporary – the most contemporary class B inside and out.
- Twin Beds – This model has 2 twin beds in the back which allows a separate bed for company (of course this means you’ll be sleeping on a twin bed so you have to be ok with that). There is another model with a fold flat sofa in the back if twins aren’t your cup of tea.
- Understated Exterior – No big stickers or swirls, this RV looks like any other van on the road.
- Wardrobe – What we like best about this model is the 4 wardrobe spaces to hold your clothes/shoes/etc. Many class B motorhomes only have 1 wardrobe space, and with the amount of travel you’re talking about we think the more storage the better.
- Wet-Bath – This means your toilet is inside the shower. Some people love this style of shower, and others hate it. Make sure you understand how it works before your purchase
- Size – Class B’s are small. You need to ask yourself: can I live in such a tiny space?
- Storage – Minimal exterior and interior storage, difficult for long trips.
Base MSRP: not listed, but I’m sure it’ll be greater than $120,000
Dealership: Vogt and Explore USA are the 2 main Airstream dealerships in DFW.
Breathing Room: Winnebago View 24M
- Slide – There is a giant slide on the driver’s side that gives you ample living space when parked.
- No Bed – Our favorite RV floor plan! There is no bed in the back so you get a huge bathroom and shower area. The main bed is located in the loft area above the driver’s seats.
- Pull out sofa – there is a pull out sofa so you can sleep 1-2 visitors.
- Kitchen – larger sink, stove and refrigerator than a class B RV.
- Storage – 5 times more storage (inside and out)
than a class B.
- Bigger Tanks – Freshwater/Black/Grey tanks are much larger for living off the cord.
- Size – This is a compact class C but it’s taller and wider than a standard van.
- Exterior – Looks like an RV.
- Interior – not exactly contemporary, but it’s a clean style.
- Fuel Economy – I would expect this RV to get 2 MPG less than a class B RV.
Base MSRP: $102,687
Dealership: McClain’s is the main dealership for Winnebago in DFW.
The Transformer: Leisure Travel Vans U24MB
- Cool TV – 26” Hidden LCD Screen drops into cabinet!
- Murphy Bed – How cool is that, the bed pops out of the wall when you need it!
- Storage – Large Closet Space with plenty of storage inside and out.
- Huge Bathroom – Might be the largest bathroom of any Class B.
- Contemporary Styling – Curved cabinets and streamlined designs inside.
- Slideout – Slide offers additional living space when parked.
- Size – This is a B+ so the length and height is slightly larger than a class B, but smaller than a class C.
- Exterior – Looks like an RV, but the paint is pretty simple.
- Bed – Murphy bed doesn’t allow for additional sleeping
Base MSRP: $113,000
Dealership: Vogt is the Leisure Travel Van dealership in Ft. Worth, TX
The Custom: Sportsmobile Sprinter Extended
- Custom – Every piece of the interior is customizable. You want 2 beds, you want a big kitchen, you need wardrobe space
- Contemporary – they have cabinets for the traditional or the contemporary
- Sofa Beds – In the back the sofa converts to 1 queen bed, or 2 twin beds!
- 4 Wheel Drive – If you plan to be off-roading (or in snow a lot) 4wd might be an option.
- Pop-Up Roof – Pop up roofs offer additional room and sleeping/storage while parked
- Time – if you’re in a rush I’m not sure how long a build-out takes
- Same as Airstream – Wet Bath, small size, minimal storage
- Loans – A custom van conversion like this is not RVIA, which means you cannot get an extended loan like a standard RV
*Other Brands – There are plenty of other brands doing custom small RVs including GTRV, Outside Vans, Advanced RV just to name a few, so do some online research before diving into one specific brand.
Example MSRP: $76,900 (its custom so you’ll have to build your own for a price)
Dealership: Sportsmobile of TX in Austin
VIP Things to Keep in Mind: (plus check out our Shady Truth About Buying An RV)
- Price – most non-custom RV’s sell for a negotiated 20-30% less than MSRP.
- Used – Buy used and the savings are huge. Expect to pay 50% off MSRP for an RV that’s 3+ years old.
- Loans – Loans for RV’s are structured similar to homes. Length of loans can be extended far longer than a typical vehicle loan, so your monthly payment is more affordable.
- Taxes – You get to take a huge tax deduction, you can write off the interest, and if you’re using this RV for a small business you can write the majority of it off! Talk to your CPA about the rules.
If you have a favorite small RV share the make & model with us in the comments below! We love hearing how different people live small on the road!
Disclosure: The RV Mfrs. did not ask or pay us to create this article. These recommendations are based on RV’s that we’ve seen either in-person or online. We cannot guarantee the quality of these brands and we recommend you take this information as a friendly recommendations and nothing more. Happy Hunting!