First Time Buyers Guide: His and Her Perspectives

When you go to purchase your first RV, you might be surprised that your significant other will have different ideas about what is important to them.  Hear from Heartland owners, Matt and Brandy Gleason from Gleason Family Adventures on what they looked for when purchasing an RV.

Matt and I shopped for months and looked at over 60 models before we finally settled on the Heartland Sundance 294BH. It all came down to finding one that we BOTH liked. While shopping for a camper was an exciting and fun endeavor, in retrospect, knowing what each one of you considers essential would have been good to know in advance.

What to Look for on the Exterior of a Towable Fifth Wheel, Travel Trailer or Toy Hauler

Brandy: First impressions are influential, and when I walk up onto a unit, one of the first things I look for is the availability of an outdoor kitchen. When I flip the cover to expose the mini kitchen, I want to know what kind of cooking area I have to work with and the storage that’s available. For example, I desire a place for all the things. I want my tablecloth for the picnic table handy, cast-iron pie irons at the ready, cooking utensils ideally stored, and spices and sprays within easy reach. Another thing that is quite important is at what height does the outdoor kitchen slide comes out. You might wrinkle your forehead and ask, “Why is this even an issue?” I come in at a tall 5’2” and some outdoor kitchens I have looked at come out at me right to my forehead, on a level asphalt parking lot! This won’t work and it is an absolute deal-breaker for me.

Matt: In contrast, the first thing that I look at is GVWR and ask myself can we even pull it with our vehicle. As I always tell Brandy, “It’s one thing to find the RV of your dreams; it is quite another to be able to tow it.” She tells me I can be a real buzzkill, whatever that means. Knowing if you have to purchase another vehicle to tow your RV could make or break your decision on your unit. Check the RV’s GVWR (loaded weight) and make sure your vehicle can handle it. If you’re unsure, check with your dealer or look online for a towing guide for your vehicle.

Brandy: The next thing on the outside that I look for is cargo space. One of my “must-haves” for camping is my zero-gravity chairs. Unwinding by the campfire at night is one of my favorite activities and having a place to store my chairs, large outdoor rugs, and even my birdseed is crucial to happy camping for me. So, I want to make sure I have plenty of garage space for all the things I need to make my camping experience enjoyable. When you’re shopping for your next RV, try and think about all the outdoor items you might need at your campsite and plan for it to have a space to be stored.

Matt: This is where Brandy and I can agree - miracles do happen! I like to have my own garage space as well. Having a place to store our water hoses, electric cord and sewer connections on the outside, makes setting up super convenient. Using storage containers helps contain the clutter and it makes organization a snap. Also, you’ll want a place to keep your wheel chocks and jack blocks in a convenient space so you can make setup quicker than a tire change at the Talladega Motor Speedway. Fortunately, most RVs have pass-through storage that allows Brandy and me to have the best of both worlds.

What to Look for on the Interior of a Towable Fifth Wheel, Travel Trailer or Toy Hauler

Brandy: When I walk into the inside of an RV, there are four questions I ask myself as I walk in, How is the kitchen set up? How big is the bathroom? Where will I put all the kids? Can I find room to set up the grandkids port-a-crib?

Let’s talk about the kitchen because this is a biggie for most camping chefs. No matter what size RV you are looking at you will want to take a moment to imagine yourself working and cooking in it. Consider if the unit you are looking at has enough counter space for your cooking needs. If not, how can I utilize the space well? I like to stand where all the appliances are and see how they flow to make sure it will work for me. Kitchen storage is another “big deal,” and I envision how I will store everything from cookware to utensils. When I walked into the Heartland Sundance 294BH, the massive storage closet was the first thing that caught my eye. Immediately, in my head, I began putting things away inside and could imagine everything just the way I would want it. #SOLD

Matt: For me, I look at the overall functionality of the space on the inside. In the bedroom, for example, I like to read before bed and so I want to make sure there are individual reading lights for us to use. Also, having an outlet or even USB charging ports nearby is very practical and makes charging your cell phone quick and easy overnight. Then, I move into the living area where I look around the table for the same outlet options. My wife sometimes has to write while we’re on the road, so the dining table doubles as a desk on some mornings, so we need a place to plug in the laptop. Then lastly, I look for inside storage space. From food to first aid kits and everything in between, I want to make sure we have plenty of storage for all of our camping gear.

Brandy: Another thing that we agree on is knowing where everyone will sleep. This is a common question, and if you are a mom like me, you want to enjoy camping, so sleeping space is key. Waking up with all the kids in your bed is not in that mix.

Pro-tip: If you’re a mom of little ones, remember they grow up into teenagers so try to think long-term when purchasing. Matt and I have teenagers and even though we have a bunkhouse, one of them sleeps out on the pull-out couch every night because of his sheer size. If you are a solo traveler or couple traveling together, you might want to consider where your travel guests would sleep.

Before Buying Get Time Alone in the Unit

Brandy: Matt and I ALWAYS ask the salesman to step out for a moment, and then we sit down on the couch for at least five minutes to take in everything about the unit. We ask ourselves; Can we see ourselves cooking in this kitchen? Does this have all the storage needs for our family? Do we feel like this could be our home away from home? If we can answer yes to these questions, we know we are sitting in a strong contender.

Shopping for your first camper should be an enjoyable experience. You are investing in years of family trips or your dream retirement; take your time and imagine yourself doing everything you have planned. With your camping bucket list in hand and a clear vision for future adventures picking out the perfect unit should be easy.

Matt and Brandy Gleason, Heartland RV Owners