There are hundreds of options when it comes to RV units and their respective floor plan. We’ve discussed how to narrow down your RV type, but from there, you need to settle on a floor plan that works well and flows for your camping lifestyle. Where do you start, and what should you be thinking about when you research online and visit a dealership?
This article is to help brand new perspective RV buyers figure out what’s important in a floor plan so that they can enjoy going camping and RVing. We asked Derek Kline of Kline’s RV Center (a MARVAC member), Warren, Michigan, for insights on how folks work toward making this essential decision. His experience over the years working with individuals, couples, and families select the best RV for them allows him to share important insights.
Q: There are a lot of options on the market. It can be overwhelming. How do you help people narrow down their choices so that they are directed toward their best fit?
A: We start with a series of questions. What’s your tow vehicle? That’s going to be a huge factor in the floor plan. This is going to kind of put you in a bucket of how much can you tow? And then the next question from there is, do you need bunks or not? How many people are you looking to sleep? Are any of them kids? [Bunks] are essential if you’ve got little ones. From there, it kind of depends. If you have a truck or something that can tow a lot, there are a lot of options out there. If you have a small SUV, that’s when you gotta start to make some decisions. [For a salesperson], there are a ton of lead-up questions to floor plan. And with all those lead-up questions, you kind of get to three models that are going to check all the boxes, and then it’s just what feels best for [the buyer].
Q: For someone who’s first starting out, what do you draw their attention to in addition to other things that you mentioned to kind of get them started? What’s key?
A: A good place to start is cooking. As a first-time buyer, how much are you going to be cooking inside or out? They’ve got to think about that, how much time they’re going to want to spend cooking inside. How important is an outside kitchen to them? They might not know yet. So we just try and paint the picture of: Are you at a campsite cooking dinner and then having a campfire? Or are you going to spend your day all day hiking and you want to come into the camper and have a nice meal inside and then watch the TV and go to sleep? So you’ve got to figure out what kind of experience they want.
This is only one example of camping lifestyle questions prospective buyers should consider. Other questions include, how much time are you intending to spend in your RV on a daily basis? Where are you planning to go camping? Do you want an RV that is very simple to pack up? Can you do with minimal space or is space very important to have? What are you hoping to “get out” of camping with your partner/your family/yourself?
Q: What are some features a prospective buyer should consider, a feature maybe that doesn’t seem that important but ends up (based on your experience) to be very important?
A: A big one is a walk-around bed. Basically, whether or not they want to climb over their partner at night is a big deal. The salesperson kind of gets a feel from the person. If it’s a younger couple, it’s not that big of a deal. But more senior people, they might have to get up in the night, and they don’t want to have to climb over their partner. [The type of bed helps to narrow down the RV type and general floor plan options.]
Another wrinkle in there that we run into a lot is, are you traveling with a dog? If you have a larger dog, you’re going to want to slideout. It just provides that space for them. The dog’s going to be laying right in the middle of the floor, and without the slide aisle, you’re going to be stepping over it. But slideouts aren’t just for dog owners. They provide a wonderful amount of floorspace for all kinds of RVers.
Q: Does somebody’s intended camping style affect which floor plan they end up with?
A: [Yes,] they going to be camping at a state park where they may not have full hookup capabilities, or are they going to be putting it on a site? Do they own property up north, and they just want to go up there and be in the woods? Does it have electrical? Does it have plumbing? If it doesn’t, then you start talking about solar and/or a generator and things like that. But if they’re doing run-of-the-mill camping, they’re going to a full hookup site, then solar is not necessary, they’re just looking for a place to sleep at a campground. As these things relate camping style to floor plan, the size of the camper is a huge factor. Shorter camping stays usually means shorter camper and longer stays open up longer and more slide-out options.
Q: What should prospective buyers keep in mind that would save hassle later on?
A: If you’re a first-time buyer and you have a truck and [interested in] buying a small single axle, I would caution that, because you have the truck to pull more. You could save that money on the first buy and just skip a step. A lot of times, first-time buyers buy a 20-foot single-axle camper and they come back and they were turning around into their partner inside of the camper and they just know that they need more space. There are people who want to start simple, but it may not be the best fit for them. If it’s your first time buying and you don’t really know what you want, buying a pre-owned camper is a good option. You get all the bugs out, you learn what you like and what you don’t like, and then you go back and you buy the right new [RV].
An RV is a significant investment, and the right RV can make camping a breeze and a joy – or not, if you aren’t mindful when making your selection. It’s important, also, to visit dealerships, sometimes multiple times, to make sure you’re comfortable with not just the price, but the floor plan as well. Think about how you imagine yourself camping, the ages of your fellow travelers, and what’s essential to feel “at home” in your RV. Thankfully, there is a wide network of experienced RVers and dealerships (including our dealer members like Kline’s) who are knowledgeable and willing to help.