How we found our perfect RV rig.
Buying our new RV rig was kind of like answering the question, “Which came first, the chicken or the egg?”
When you’re buying a new RV rig or upgrading your current rig you need to match the two biggest parts — your tow vehicle and your trailer. If you’re like us, upgrading our trailer also meant upgrading our tow vehicle. Bigger, heavier trailers require more powerful towing capacity.
But where do you start – with the tow vehicle or the trailer?
You need to start with your budget, your lifestyle choices, and what you plan to do with your RV. The minute you start comparing trailers and vehicles, you’re going to be hit with confusing ways of measuring trailer weight and equally confusing ways of specifying vehicle towing capabilities.
Like many things in life, there’s no right “one size fits all” answer for your new RV rig. If anyone tells you they know what’s perfect for you we suggest you smile, thank them, and move on.
In case we can help you decide what’s right for you, we’ll share the highlights of our journey to our new RV rig.
What do you plan to do?
Are you looking to hit local campsites for weekends or hit the road for months at a time?
Is it just the two of you or is it you and your wife, two kids, one dog, and all the gear that goes with that?
Are you into tiny houses and minimalist living or do you like to have all the comforts of home plus your ATV with you?
After learning we loved camping in our teardrop trailer, we were ready to look for a new RV rig that met our long-term plans.
- There’s just the two of us but we’re older and not into tiny houses.
- We’re experienced travelers and can live out of a backpack but we like to be comfortable and have more than enough storage.
- We’re planning trips of two to six months at a time, maybe more than once a year.
- We prefer to buy quality things with long-term value.
- Design and esthetics are important to us.
- We’re getting older and need a rig that’s easy to work with.
It may seem too simple but spending time with all the people involved to build a consensus about these things is the best investment you’ll make. Then you have to decide how to put those plans into action.
What’s important to you?
You can find an amazing variety of RV rigs for sale, especially when you include the previously owned market. We decided to narrow that down by deciding what’s important to us.
After our experience with a great 18-foot teardrop, we believed we needed something bigger. But not too big.
One of the benefits of having an 18-foot trailer is that it will fit easily into almost any RV campsite. After checking the limits of most campsites, we decided that we needed to be under 30 feet.
And we needed enough storage and living space in the trailer to be comfortable for several months at a time. From our research that meant our new RV rig needed to be at least 25 feet long.
Two huge factors are our lifestyle choices and our budget. We wanted to make a great decision and choose something we could live with for a long time.
We knew we had to match all the specs of the trailer and the tow vehicle including the weight of people, water, and supplies stored in the vehicle and in the trailer. We wanted to make sure we have headroom for both hitch weight and towing capacity to safely tow our trailer.
We’re both tech people so we quickly built a spreadsheet to hold all the details. And we got quickly overwhelmed with so many options and trade-offs.
It was like solving an equation with two unknowns that had to balance. We had to lock one side down but where to start – tow vehicle or trailer?
Most people recommend starting with a pickup for a tow vehicle
For decades, pickup trucks were only made for carrying heavy loads and pulling trailers. That is still a core part of the design of these vehicles, especially the ones with larger engines and payload capacities.
These days, people buy trucks for their daily drive and are more concerned with style and comfort than towing capacity. That means that not all trucks are up to the task of safely towing a trailer.
For instance, you can find trucks like a Ford F150 with enough towing capacity for a good-sized trailer but not enough load rating for the hitch.
We’re just not like most people
We had a big sticking point — we didn’t want to drive a truck every day. And, we didn’t want to have to store a truck and maintain two vehicles.
We wanted a daily drive that we loved that would also be a great tow vehicle. That’s how we ended up with a teardrop trailer in the first place.
After talking about it, we realized that we needed to get out of the online world and update our experience just to make sure. We spent a day driving trucks like the Ford F250 and Chevy 2500 in case they were our perfect solution.
Online recommendations vs real-world experience
Here’s what we discovered while test-driving bigger pickups.
It just didn’t work for us.
They were all too high off the ground. We’re getting older and had difficulty getting in or out, even with running boards.
The turning radius was so much more than we were used to. They were too long to fit in our garage. They rode like a truck and we weren’t keen on dealing with a topper to cover the storage in the bed.
We decided it made more sense for us to choose the trailer for our new rig and then find the right tow vehicle to match.
And that’s an important lesson – pick one side and let that narrow the options for the other side.
We choose an Airstream Globetrotter
We were almost certain that we wanted an Airstream, but which model and what size? The pandemic had boosted trailer sales so much that no local dealer had anything in stock for us to check out.
We watched Youtube videos with walk-throughs of every model in the Airstream line. We learned the tradeoffs and benefits of adding another couple of feet to the length.
We put in hours of research, comparing specifications, and reading every related forum entry we could find.
Our final choice — a 27-foot Airstream Globetrotter front bed twin with the dark walnut and Dublin slate interior, solar panels, and a couple of other options.
It’s halfway between 25 and 30 feet. The front twin bed layout adds easy-to-access storage both inside and out. The tow weight and hitch weights were reasonable because Airstreams are designed to be easy to tow.
There’s a surprising amount of storage both inside and out. The solar panels and batteries will let us live off-grid for a few days. And, we have enough water and waste storage if we’re careful.
Above all, we love the look and feel of Airstream trailers.
We managed to find a unit in production with exactly the interior details we wanted. We also managed to get a decent price from the dealer.
With this half of the equation known we could get serious about the tow vehicle.
The right tow vehicle for our new RV rig
We knew we could find a truck with the specs to do the job but we believed it was possible that an SUV was out there with enough towing capacity and hitch load rating.
After another deep search of the online world, we discovered that a Ford Expedition with a heavy-duty two package would meet our needs for the new RV rig.
But would it be right for us as a daily drive?
With all the shortages on car lots these days, we wasted no time searching for dealers within driving distance. We found a perfect 2021 Ford Expedition at a dealer only 20 minutes away.
We loved the way it drove — the turning radius is amazingly short and the ride feels so safe and comfortable. Getting in and out was a bit of a stretch but it was much easier than a truck. We loved the color and accessories and interior storage.
Most importantly, this vehicle has a heavy-duty tow package.
Not only are the towing capacity and hitch load ratings more than we need, but the vehicle also shifts everything when you plugin the seven-pin connector. You can enter your trailer details and even the blind-spot lane warnings extend to ensure enough clearance.
We worked out a great price and drove it home.
Yes, the color is Blue, technically Anti-matter Blue. And we’ve decided that it’s a ‘he’ this time.
With the tow vehicle decision complete, we ordered our Airstream with a mid-September delivery date. The reality turned out to be a bit different than we expected. That story is told here.
What this means to you
When you’re choosing a new RV rig:
- Get clear about what you plan to do with it
- Spend time deciding what’s most important to you
- Do your online research but make sure you get real-world experience
- Lockdown one part of the equation to reduce the options
- Keep going until you’re happy
It’s like they say these days, “You do you!” We did and, yes, we are very happy with how everything worked out.
Let us know in the comments if you have any questions about our new RV rig and thanks for coming along with us on our travels.