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ndna

Guidance for "right" RV for first time full timers

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Hi all. I've been reading on this forum quite a bit and love how active it is. I was hoping all you experienced RVers could give my husband and me some guidance on what rig to buy.

Here's our plan: We want to travel the country for at least one year with our (now) 2 year old. We are open to the idea of buying a Class C or Class A, but here are our main criteria:

1. NEEDS to have a sleeping solution for our toddler that we don't have to set up everyday (leaning towards Class C because it's more common to find bunks in those). We're also open in remodeling a closet or other space into a bunk if that's a viable option.

2. USED and under 40k, we don't mind doing cosmetic remodeling.

3. Max length 32, preferably 30'

4. CCC of at least around 2,000lbs (We found a Bigfoot that we REALLY liked, but turns out the CCC is only 455lbs)

5. double sink (or is that something that can be installed afterwards in any rig?)

6. good insulation as we plan to take it up North (but not in the midst of winter, so expecting no colder than 20 degrees at night)

7. Car seat safety - needs to have a dinette or seating that can accommodate a car seat rear-facing

8. Some counter space would be nice since we'll be cooking a lot

9. Reliability. We've been saving for this trip for quite a while and don't want to spend too much time in repair shops or broken down

10. Tow rating - needs to be able to pull a dinghy (make and model TBD after we purchase the rig)

 

I'm hoping you can give us some guidance on any or all of the items we need! Please let us know what you think what brands/models to look for and which ones to avoid! Also, I'm not sure what age is "too old" for a used unit that we need to

Thank you and happy travels!

 

 

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Thank you for that suggestion. Unfortunately the closest ppl is over 10 hours away...

Edited by ndna

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A nearby Rv dealer preferably  a larger one that may have many used units on the lot that you could look at. What city and State are you located in.

 

Edited by richfaa

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57 minutes ago, ndna said:

Thank you for that suggestion. Unfortunately the closest ppl is over 10 hours away...

I understand that.  PPL has hundreds of choices though.  Their website is user-friendly and they post 10 pics of every rig, plus the floor plan of that rig.  Use it as a tool to help eliminate what you don't want, then go find what you do want.  If or when you find a model you like, find the owners club forum.  You don't have to join to read about them.

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Welcome to the Escapee forums!

While it may be easy for us to give advice, to make a good choice for someone else is quite another matter. Part of the issue is whether you plan to keep the RV after that year of travel or do you intend to sell it?  Have you considered one of the towable RVs and a truck or SUV to tow it with? There are many factors to consider and the expense of a towable RV would be significantly less if you do not plan to keep it at the end of the year but keep the tow vehicle.  The cost of a reliable motorhome of either type is comparable to that of a reliable tow truck and travel trailer and bunk beds are more available in trailers. If you have not done so, I strongly suggest that you visit the largest RV show that you can find and look through every type of RV there before you make up your mind about which type will suit your family best. 

Another thing that should be considered in looking at used RVs is the skill level of those occupying it in terms of maintenance and repairs. If you are a good mechanic, a skilled electrician, or perhaps an experienced carpenter, that makes a great difference as compared to one who is not comfortable in the use of tools. 

Edited by Kirk Wood

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1 hour ago, richfaa said:

A nearby Rv dealer preferably  a larger one that may have many used units on the lot that you could look at. What city and State are you located in.

 

We’re located in SE Alabama. Not many dealers with used inventory here, so hopefully that will change soon with all the spring trade-ins.  

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49 minutes ago, Alie&Jim's Carrilite said:

I understand that.  PPL has hundreds of choices though.  Their website is user-friendly and they post 10 pics of every rig, plus the floor plan of that rig.  Use it as a tool to help eliminate what you don't want, then go find what you do want.  If or when you find a model you like, find the owners club forum.  You don't have to join to read about them.

That’s a good idea! Thank you, I’ll check out their website! 

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42 minutes ago, Kirk Wood said:

Welcome to the Escapee forums!

While it may be easy for us to give advice, to make a good choice for someone else is quite another matter. Part of the issue is whether you plan to keep the RV after that year of travel or do you intend to sell it?  Have you considered one of the towable RVs and a truck or SUV to tow it with? There are many factors to consider and the expense of a towable RV would be significantly less if you do not plan to keep it at the end of the year but keep the tow vehicle.  The cost of a reliable motorhome of either type is comparable to that of a reliable tow truck and travel trailer and bunk beds are more available in trailers. If you have not done so, I strongly suggest that you visit the largest RV show that you can find and look through every type of RV there before you make up your mind about which type will suit your family best. 

Another thing that should be considered in looking at used RVs is the skill level of those occupying it in terms of maintenance and repairs. If you are a good mechanic, a skilled electrician, or perhaps an experienced carpenter, that makes a great difference as compared to one who is not comfortable in the use of tools. 

Thank you for your elaborate reply. Originally we were going to get a 5th wheel and a tow truck, but since we intend to travel and explore (instead of staying put in one place for extended periods) we decided it’s better for us to go with something that’s quicker to set up and break down. Also class A or C are inherently self-contained which we prefer since we want to boondock a lot too. Essentially we think of our rig as a bedroom and kitchen area, our living room will be outdoors (too hipster? ;-) )

Our Intention after our year of travel is to sell EVERYTHING since we’ll be moving to Europe after. 

 

Good point about checking the previous owner’s competency... I’m already shocked to find out that 90% of owners I’ve talked to don’t know what CCC is or where to find it... 

We really had our heart set on that Bigfoot we found... is there a way to increase CCC? (Probably a stupid beginner question). I’m not talking about ‘bring less stuff’... but are there modifications we could get to increase what the rig can handle? 

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2 hours ago, ndna said:

Originally we were going to get a 5th wheel and a tow truck, but since we intend to travel and explore (instead of staying put in one place for extended periods) we decided it’s better for us to go with something that’s quicker to set up and break down.

I see people make this statement a lot about motorhomes and I usually let it go, but you are new to the RV world so I figured I would respond this time.  This is not exactly an accurate statement.  It depends on how the towable RV is set up.  My 5th wheel takes me less than 5 minutes to be fully set up and ready to occupy.  This is mainly because it has hydraulic leveling, but it has a few other features as well that help.  I pull into the site, put the front jacks down and drive out from under the trailer.  This is less than 2 minutes of work.  I then press the auto level button and the coach levels itself while I plug in the power cord.  Another minute (maybe).  I then go inside and open the slides.  Another minute (maybe).  That is it.  If I need to connect to water, that will add another minute to pull my hose out and run it between the spigot and the trailer. 

If the towable doesn't have hydraulic/electric leveling, then it will take longer to get it up on blocks, etc, but this would apply to a motorhome without hydraulic/electric/air leveling as well.  In my situation,

I do not have to connect to power or water if I don't want to.  I also do not have to disconnect from the truck if the location allows this, but I almost always do other than for a quick overnight stop.

I grew up RV'ing in motorhomes.  None of these steps are significantly any different with a motorhome.  The motorhome needs to pull into the site just like the towable.  If you have a towed vehicle, you will want to disconnect it (this takes a similar amount of time as unhitching the 5th wheel - I tow a toad behind my 5th wheel on occasion and know the process quite well).  There is less to disconnect between the truck and 5th wheel than between the towed and motorhome, but the 5th wheel requires the front jacks to be put down (which depending on the type of jacks may increase the time to disconnect a 5th wheel over the towed, but not by much).  If it is a back in site you will be required to unhitch the towed first.  A towable RV may be able to back in and stay connected, but will eventually need to be disconnected if staying for longer than an overnight.  If it is a pull through site that is long enough, you may be able to leave the towed vehicle attached to the motorhome to save a little time.  A 5th wheel can also stay attached to the truck in a long pull through site that is relatively level, so this can be a wash as well when you are in a hurry.  The motorhome will still need to be connected to power (if desired), leveled and put the slides out.  It will also need to be connected to water at some point (no different than a towable if staying put for more than an overnight).  The only advantage the motorhome really has is most of this can be done from inside the motorhome, so if it is raining you can stay dry.

Some will say their motorhome has an inverter and large battery bank and solar and etc so it doesn't need to be connected to power when they arrive.  They will also say they have large water tanks and don't need to connect to water.  These are not motorhome specific advantages.  My 5th wheel has a whole house inverter, large solar array and large battery bank along with a large water tank.  As a result I do not have to connect to anything if I don't want to.  Again the only real advantage the motorhome has is you don't have to go out and get wet in the rain to set up (assuming it has self leveling capabilities).  With my set up, I would have to at a miniumum get out and lower my jacks to stabilize the trailer as I walk back to get into the trailer to put the slides out for the stop so I would have to get wet for a few a short time.

I am not trying to sway you one way or the other, I just want to make it clear that set up and break down (which is just the reverse of the process I described above) can be very similar for a motorhome or a towable RV if the towable RV is properly equipped.

2 hours ago, ndna said:

Also class A or C are inherently self-contained which we prefer since we want to boondock a lot too. Essentially we think of our rig as a bedroom and kitchen area, our living room will be outdoors (too hipster? ;-) )

Again, this is a not really a complete statement.  A towable RV is also inherently self-contained.  Self contained just means that it has water and waste storage, cooking facilities, bathroom facilities and sleeping facilities; along with a power source (batteries or a generator).  Most RV's meet these requirements.  Some to a lesser degree than others, but they remain self-contained. 

Any type of RV you wish to boondock in will need additional equipment to make it better capable of boondocking.  This equipment will include a way to power the RV.  This can be with a generator or solar.  It will also require power storage.  This means additional battery capacity.  It can also include an inverter (or inverters) to power 120 volt appliances from the batteries.  It also means you will want larger capacity fresh water storage and waste water tanks to allow for extended stays without hook ups.  Not every Class A or C or towable will have these things.  Some will and some won't.  It depends on how the RV is equipped (either from the factory or in the aftermarket) whether it will be a capable boondocking rig.  It really has nothing to do with the type of rig it is. 

In fact many Class C and travel trailer RV's tend to have small water and waste storage tanks so they are not necessarily good choices for boondocking, but can work with proper planning.  Class A's and 5th wheels tend to have larger tanks so they are typically easier to boondock in because of that.  Any of them can have the additional equipment needed for extended boondocking outings added either from the factory or in the aftermarket (I'm referring to power storage and power generation here).  You will find, though, that very few RV's of any type will come from the factory as capable boondocking rigs (although there are some that do).  Most people who enjoy boondocking have upgraded their rigs in some way to make them better suited for that type of RVing (usually with added battery capacity at a minimum and a generator or solar and an inverter as desired options).  It is difficult, if not impossible, to increase tank capacities from the OE.  So ideally you start with an RV that has acceptable water storage and waste storage for your needs, otherwise you will have to compensate in other ways for this.

For example, my 5th wheel has 100 gallons of fresh water capacity, 1040 amp hours of battery capacity, 1410 watts of solar, a whole house inverter and a smaller point of use inverter and a 6500 watt generator.  Some of these things I added in the after market and some came from the factory.  My set up allows me to, in essence, stay off grid indefinitely.  My only limiting factor is water and waste water storage (propane can also be a limiting factor, but with most towable RV's the propane tanks are easily removable to be taken in to refill - this is not the case with most motorized RV's but they tend to start with larger propane capacity on board).  I have enough solar and battery capacity that I never have to plug in if I don't want to (assuming I don't need to run an air conditioner).  I know of many 5th wheels and Class A's similarly equipped with similar capabilities.  I know of a few smaller RV's that are equipped to be good boondocking units, but they have to make some concessions because they just don't have the physical space for all the same storage capacities.

Again, I am not trying to push you in one direction or the other, I am just trying to give you additional information that you may not have.  I have a personal preference on the type of RV I like, but everyone is different and has different needs so I never tell anybody what type of RV they should buy.  Simply make an informed decision and buy what best meets your needs.

2 hours ago, ndna said:

We really had our heart set on that Bigfoot we found... is there a way to increase CCC? (Probably a stupid beginner question). I’m not talking about ‘bring less stuff’... but are there modifications we could get to increase what the rig can handle? 

To answer this question, no there is no way to increase the manufacturers rated capacities.  There are modifications that can be made to make the rig more capable, but the set ratings will not be changed.

Edited by Chad Heiser

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Wow, thank you for taking the time and typing this out for us, Chad Heiser. I’m going to have to read all of this at least one more time to soak it in. We really appreciate all the info we can get in order to realize our ‘crazy’ dream without ever having owned an RV before. We’ve been going back and forth between a towable and a MH, so honestly we’re still not quite sure which best suits our needs and wants. The main reason why we originally decided to definitely get a 5th wheel was car seat safety so that’s definitely still in the back of my mind... 

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2 minutes ago, ndna said:

Wow, thank you for taking the time and typing this out for us, Chad Heiser. I’m going to have to read all of this at least one more time to soak it in. We really appreciate all the info we can get in order to realize our ‘crazy’ dream without ever having owned an RV before. We’ve been going back and forth between a towable and a MH, so honestly we’re still not quite sure which best suits our needs and wants. The main reason why we originally decided to definitely get a 5th wheel was car seat safety so that’s definitely still in the back of my mind... 

I'm happy to help.  Like I said, I am not trying to push you one way or the other.  I just want to give you correct information to help you make an informed decision.  There are people who will say what they have (their RV type) is best.  I try to avoid this.  I will say I like what I have and here is why and give examples.  My needs may be different than others, so what I like and why I like it may not apply to the next person.  Budget is always a factor as well.

A child seat and where to secure it is a valid concern.  You need to look at all the factors and decide what is best for you. 

Go find a big RV dealer with multiple types of RV's or a big RV show and spend time in all the different types of RV's.  Act out all the things you will do in the RV.  Sit and pretend to watch TV.  Is the viewing angle comfortable?  Pretend to cook in the kitchen.  Are things laid out conveniently to cook?  Is there enough counter space?  Can you wash the dishes later or will you have to do them as you go because of space issues?  Go in the barroom and "take" a shower.  Do you have enough room?  Sit on the toilet.  Do you knees hit the wall/door/cabinet?  Lay in bed.  Do you fit?  "Make" the bed.  Can you do it without leaning over the bed?  Can you access both sides of the bed?  Look at where your clothes would go.  Is there enough drawer/closet space to hold enough clothes?  will you need to do laundry every other day or once a week or?  Is there a laundry option in the RV?  do you want to use a laundromat on a regular basis?  There are many more questions that you need to answer as well to make an informed decision.

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If you are using this full-time and need to have a quick stop while on the road or rest area, ensure you can use the majority of the trailer with the slides in (if you have slides). On mine we cannot access the fridge with the slide in but with planning we pack a cooler, everything else is accessible.

David

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Chad Hieser is pretty quick on his 5 mins to set up. We have never tried that. We have about the same set up and have been doing it since 2006.We do not move that fast.5th wheel off truck, auto level, slides out, water and sewer hookup  sometimes the site is not very level and perhaps a  block or two must be used  to allow the auto level to not over extend. We figure 1/2 hour complete setup is fast for us  but then we are old folks and never in a hurry.

 

IMO a MH with a toad is more suitable  for travel than a 5th wheel and truck. You can unhook the toad and not have to motor around in a perhaps a 1 ton,LB,CC Dually, Diesel. We have been on the road with a 1 ton LB,CC,Dually and 40 Foot 5th wheel (two of them) since 2006. We do fine and have been to all of the lower 48 states and over 100K miles of travel.

I would say there is still a lot of homework  to do but the correct choice is what you feel comfortable with and meets all your needs.

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12 minutes ago, richfaa said:

Chad Hieser is pretty quick on his 5 mins to set up. We have never tried that. We have about the same set up and have been doing it since 2006.We do not move that fast.5th wheel off truck, auto level, slides out, water and sewer hookup  sometimes the site is not very level and perhaps a  block or two must be used  to allow the auto level to not over extend. We figure 1/2 hour complete setup is fast for us  but then we are old folks and never in a hurry.

 

IMO a MH with a toad is more suitable  for travel than a 5th wheel and truck. You can unhook the toad and not have to motor around in a perhaps a 1 ton,LB,CC Dually, Diesel. We have been on the road with a 1 ton LB,CC,Dually and 40 Foot 5th wheel (two of them) since 2006. We do fine and have been to all of the lower 48 states and over 100K miles of travel.

I would say there is still a lot of homework  to do but the correct choice is what you feel comfortable with and meets all your needs.

You are correct, it is not a 5 minute or less set up every time.  I should have been more clear.  I was talking about the typical argument in a quick overnight stop comparison between 5th wheel and motorhome.  While I can be set up in 5 minutes or less pretty much every time if I wanted to.  I usually take my time and check and double check things.  Most motorhome owners, when you press them will usually say the same thing.  It can be very quick to stop for an overnight, but the typical set up for a stay will take longer and is usually more methodical in nature.

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We were in the same position you are, I went thru our means of getting there in our blog:

http://banbrv.blogspot.com/2014/11/you-can-get-there-from-here.html

The best thing to do is go and look at LOTS of RV's and mime watching the TV, cooking, taking a shower. Try the rig with the SLIDE IN to make sure you can access closets, beds etc when you just pull over for a quick night stop.

If there is one thing I would recommend to the first time RV buyer it would be Go to RV Boot Camp BEFORE you buy an RV. We did it that way and we saved so much time and money when we finally did buy our rig.

BnB

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1 hour ago, Chad Heiser said:

You are correct, it is not a 5 minute or less set up every time.  I should have been more clear.  I was talking about the typical argument in a quick overnight stop comparison between 5th wheel and motorhome.  While I can be set up in 5 minutes or less pretty much every time if I wanted to.  I usually take my time and check and double check things.  Most motorhome owners, when you press them will usually say the same thing.  It can be very quick to stop for an overnight, but the typical set up for a stay will take longer and is usually more methodical in nature.

 

1 hour ago, Chad Heiser said:

You are correct, it is not a 5 minute or less set up every time.  I should have been more clear.  I was talking about the typical argument in a quick overnight stop comparison between 5th wheel and motorhome.  While I can be set up in 5 minutes or less pretty much every time if I wanted to.  I usually take my time and check and double check things.  Most motorhome owners, when you press them will usually say the same thing.  It can be very quick to stop for an overnight, but the typical set up for a stay will take longer and is usually more methodical in nature.

Agree, for a overnight stop we in nearly all cases do not even unhook just drop the front jacks for a bit of stability hook up the sewer and water for a nice shower and open the slides of course there are two of us doing this. There are many variable .I wanted the MH when we started our long timing and still  prefer the MH over the 5th wheel and truck but I was outvoted one to one on choice of camper. We  convoyed with some friends in a motor home last summer and on every stop we used the MH .They just fired up the generator and everything worked even without the slides out.They also pulled a toad so when sightseeing we used the toad instead of the big ole truck. 

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IMO-It is 6 of one and half dozen of the other. I think you can get more for your $$ with a towable and the possibility of a bunk. Many towables are meant for families. Some Class A's now have bunk beds.

My bigger concern would be the safety of your child above all else. He would be much safer in.a truck/suv with all the safety equipment. MH's(A or C) when in an accident end up with a lot of flying missiles. Many unintentional until the accident.

I  would seriously consider a big suv and a towable. Using a truck/big suv is no  inconvenience when touring.

We have had both, there is a time and place for both.

Another thing to consider is your medical insurance.

You can many times get a good deal on one of the RV forums as people trade up. YOu just need to be ready to jump if you see one you want.

 

 

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Chad made some good comments but look at his 'signature' at the end of his post.  You're looking at a 30'32' and his is 40' pulled by a huge truck.  He's also made many upgrades.  When you're gathering information on tank size, weights, batteries, solar, layouts, etc. keep this in mind.

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Given your parameters I would be looking for a travel trailer with an anti-sway hitch. That would let you all ride safely in your tow vehicle but have all the comforts of home when parked. I like this floor plan for you: https://www.pplmotorhomes.com/used-rvs-for-sale/travel-trailer/2015-forest-river-windjammer_rv-38293. The bunks are permanent with a door to close to that bedroom and their location would make putting in a guard rail easy. There is a tub for bathing kids. Both slides are on the driver side which makes it easier to fit into tight campsites. The U-shaped kitchen provides a place for appliances. And there is a pull-out kitchen for outdoor living. I'm not fond of the TV location but you don't intend to spend a lot of time inside anyway and the kids can sit on the floor to watch if that becomes a rainy day activity. Those are some types of things I would be looking at as I shop.

Linda Sand

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Before you get too deep into things, never forget that the posts on these forums represent the person posting's opinions and are often very biased. Most of us like to believe that we are the wisest in our selection of RV and so often attempt to sell others on our way of thinking. Make sure that you read both sides of each argument as you may not be listening to the right opinion for you.

21 hours ago, ndna said:

We really had our heart set on that Bigfoot we found... is there a way to increase CCC?

While it is possible to increase the CCC of an RV, it is far from practical as you would need to completely rebuild it in ways that would cost more than it did to construct it when new. Don't waste your time in that effort. I would commend you for having learned about the weight ratings before you buy as very few new folks do so. If you have not done so, study all of the weight ratings.

On which type of RV is best for you, we have traveled with both motorhomes and towable RVs and we loved both ways. The best choice is one of personal preference and each one has their supporters who will insist it is best. I will say that ability to use the amenities of a motorhome while traveling is far superior to that of any other means and with children I would clearly recommend the class A for most purposes. Even if you never move about while traveling in a class A, the ability to use the toilet and refrigerator is far better with a brief stop on an onramp or another place to get off of the roadway. Our grandchildren could sit at the dinette with seat belts and do things to stay entertained while traveling in our class A but not towable RV is safe to be occupied while traveling. On the other hand, the towable does have somewhat higher safety rating while traveling as the tow vehicle will generally provide better protection in a major accident than would any motorhome. 

As to setup difficulty, with a motorhome you could pull into a parking lot in a nasty storm, lower the jacks, start the generator and be quite at home without ever going outside of the RV. Not true for any of the towable RVs. I have done this many times. In addition, the motorhome is kept at a comfortable temperature while traveling but the towed trailer is not. 

On 3/7/2018 at 10:11 PM, ndna said:

5. double sink (or is that something that can be installed afterwards in any rig?)

I have seen very few RVs that have one and most do not have the space to add one. 

The main problem that I see in your plan is financial. While you should be able to find something functional for your plan for the $40k, you need to realize that you probably will lose a major part of that money when you sell, especially if you are in any hurry to sell and move to Europe. I think that you should be prepared to sell for at least 25% less than you pay. A great part of this cost will depend on your ability to drive a hard bargain and to know a quality used RV that has been well cared for. A great deal of what is important isn't obvious to one not familiar with RVs and RV construction. Most people who buy an RV that is sold after only 1 year take a major loss.

Edited by Kirk Wood

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I would start my search on the internet by looking at anything and everything in my price range.  Pay attention to any floorplans that could work and narrow it down from there.

My first stop while doing research would not be going to any RV dealers.  They are there to sell RVs and most will lie and do about anything to get that accomplished.  

Most of what you are asking about you will find on-line.  Like wanting a double sink set up in a 30' to 32' RV.  Probably does not exist and even if it did an RV that size probably wouldn't have a bathroom that two folks could use at the same time anyway.  

Once you narrow your search down to a few possibilities then start trying to figure out where to locate them or get additional information about them.

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54 minutes ago, Kirk Wood said:

I have seen very few RVs that have one and most do not have the space to add one. 

A double sink? 

All of our RVs, including our current Class C, have had double sinks.  I know it seems to be the "cool" thing now to have one single sink -- usually a round one (which seems pretty much unusable for actually washing stuff, particularly large items like frying pans) -- but there are lots of RVs out there with double sinks.

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Get used to the idea of something towing something else. Even a Class C is not all that practical for running to Wal-Mart. Even if you don't have any slides you still have to put things away inside before traveling. Since you need a proper place for a car seat I'd suggest that you consider a towable, either a fifth wheel or a travel trailer. That way the car seat will be in the back seat of the truck. Yes, you will have to move to the trailer for lunch, and it might be that the slides won't allow decent access. If that's the only problem with the trailer you like you can always plan on a picnic lunch on travel days. Just pack a cooler with lunch and drinks and put it in the back seat of the truck.

Bathroom breaks are another issue, especially with a little one. Make sure that you can access the bathroom with the slides in.

IF (and that's a big IF) you are a minimalist, take a look at an Airstream. No slides to deal with, so everything is available all the time, and even the largest ones are easily towable by an F250-class truck.

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