We started by determining what type of RV we wanted. There are quite a few options but for full time RV life there are only two that we felt fit us. The first option, is the fifth wheel type trailer that connects to a fifth wheel hitch in the bed of pickup. The second, is the basic motorhome.
In both cases, it is best to have a vehicle that has a diesel engine. The diesels have the torque to pull heavy loads in mountainous areas and generally last longer than gasoline powered engines. The prices are significantly higher for diesel engines, but I think in the long run, they are worth the difference.
So, the next decision is was which one to go with. The fifth wheel trailer and pickup combination is probably the best way to go for most people. You have transportation you can use when you reach a camping spot by simply unhooking the trailer. The fifth wheel trailers are quite large and offer lots of room and amenities. If your truck breaks down, you can still live in your “house” while it is being repaired. Also, if you want to upgrade your house, or your truck, you can do either independently of the other.
In the case of a motorhome, if it breaks down and has to be taken to the shop, you are stuck with nowhere to live while it is being repaired. Depending on the issue, that can be a week or more at a time. If you want different motorhome, since you’d be selling a complete vehicle, it will probably take longer finding the right buyer.
The biggest drawback to the fifth wheel from my perspective, is having the living quarters separate from the driving area. You can’t just pull over and walk in back to make a sandwich or take a nap. With the prevalence of slide outs, it’s hard to make use of a fifth wheel, or motorhome, without setting them up. In the case of the motorhomes though, most everything is easily accessible even with the slide outs “in”.
Getting out of a pickup, to get in the fifth wheel for lunch seemed like an inconvenience, but the biggest issue to me in that regard, was more about our pets. We’ll be taking our pug Gizzy and probably our birds along for the ride. I can’t seen that working in the fifth wheel scenario as easily as in the motorhome.
The main reasons that I wanted the motorhome, specifically, the diesel pusher motorhome, is that I wanted the reliability of a truck engine like I had in my Kenworth KW-700 that I drove over the road. I put 450,000 miles on that truck and it’s Cummins engine in about three years, and had almost zero issues, in fact, the only significant issues I had involved the emissions system, I had to have the Exhaust Gas Recirculation Valve replaced twice, and a fan clutch went out. That was it. I drove before the anti-idling laws, or just as they were starting to be enacted, so I would go for days without ever shutting off the truck, maybe even weeks.
So, that was one factor, I wanted that heavier duty diesel engine. The second main reason I wanted a truck based RV is for the engine brake, i.e. the “Jake Brake”. The Jacobs company manufactured the original version of the engine brake so most of us who drove refer to all of them as Jake Brakes, even though Cummins, Caterpillar, Volvo, etc. probably make their own.
Anyway, as far as I am concerned the Jake Brake is a must for spending time out West in mountainous areas. Braking issues are not unusual in towed vehicles, hence the emergency exits on some if the longer downgrades in the mountains. Jake Brakes are not generally found in the pickups used for pulling trailers.
So, that narrowed it down to the diesel pusher for us!