If you’re in the process of shopping for an RV, you already know that it’s a big deal. You’re about to put out a lot of money (and probably time) making a huge life purchase. After a house, it’s one of the biggest purchases you’ll make. So, it’s important that you have done your research and are comfortable making some big decisions. That’s hard to do when unbiased information about RV manufacturers is so hard to come by.
Where To Start
There’s a good chance you’ve already started doing your research and that’s great! But there are lots of questions you need to be answering. So, while you’re going to find a list of some really great RV manufacturers a little further down the page, let’s start by looking at some tips for buying an RV and also how to know what’s right for you.
How To Be A Wise RV Buyer
Even with lists of great RVs right in front of you, it’s important to go through a planning stage to make the process of buying an RV easier. The first thing you want to do is ask yourself some questions.
- How much time will you be spending in your RV?
- How many people will reside in it? How many travelers will you be bringing?
- Do you want all the bells and whistles, or just the necessities?
- What is the most you want to spend on your RV?
- Will you be staying mostly in RV parks?
- Will you mostly be camping?
- Do you want more than two seat belts?
- Who’s going to drive? If it’s you, how big are you comfortable with?
- Will you be taking trips longer than 3 weeks?
- What kind of compromise are you willing to make (composting toilet?).
- Are you planning on traveling in bad winter weather, like storms, or in the cold?
- Are you planning on using the RV in a city or other urban environment regularly?
- Will you be towing a car?
- How about a trailer?
Once you have answers to all of these questions you should have the tools you need to figure out pretty much any other element to buying your RV… that is after you rent one and try out living in it yourself.
Before you just jump into further RV research, this is a good point to take a break from researching, and physically rent an RV. While renting an RV is on the expensive side, so is buying an RV that you’ll hate. With that being said, this will help you verify the above questions and determine things like preferred layout and features you hadn’t thought you’d need.
No matter how many questions you’re asked, there are just some things you don’t know about living and driving an RV until you’ve done it yourself. If you can afford to rent a couple of different kinds that might help solidify your budget and the type of RV you want to buy as well!
To start with though, just rent anything that looks remotely like what you have in your mind. During your rental period, take notes about things you liked and didn’t like. Also, try to envision yourself living your RV dream. Do you plan on just using it on the weekends? Maybe the huge touring RV isn’t what you want after all. How about spending 5 solid years on the road? In that case, maybe the RV you’ve rented just isn’t big enough. Keep all of those scenarios in your mind as you enjoy your rental.
Regardless of if your intentions are to use an RV a weekend, or for years, you want your rental to be long enough that you can experience that lifestyle. So try renting for a minimum of two weeks. You’ll learn a TON about what RV life is really like and what you really want to prioritize.
- Did you have enough storage space?
- How was getting up out of bed? Did you hit your head on the ceiling? Was stooping too uncomfortable? How would feel getting out of bed like that weeks at a time?
- Did you all get along? It’s important to bring the whole traveling crew along so you’ll know how it goes. You might shortly realize that living together is going to take some compromise.
There are so many other things you’ll learn as you attempt this lifestyle, so don’t skimp out because you feel it’s unnecessary. If you do, you’ll just be doing yourself a disservice. When RVs typically run over $100,000 there’s no reason to NOT try before you buy. And there’s no true substitute for doing. You can research all day long and you won’t learn what it’s really like.
Another note about trying out an RV: If you are completely new to RVing, you might find this is the first time you’ve had to do things like empty human waste at a waste station. Or use any other RV system. The reality is that regardless of which type of RV you buy, you WILL have to us RV systems. This isn’t a house. It’s a vehicle. So don’t let the basic maintenance throw you off. Just ask a fellow RVer and be open to learning how to operate the system and have fun getting experience!
Beyond having an idea of your personal preferences and budget, you’ll also need to know what size RV you’re most interested in.
While there are technically five types of RVs, we’re going to focus on those that are driven and not towed (such as travel trailers). Eliminating the two types of trailers, you have three classes: Class A, Class C, and Class B.
Class A: Class A RVs are the big boys of the RV world. They are built on a commercial vehicle chassis. In other words, they’re typically built on the framework of a large truck. These RVs are the most expensive and luxurious RVs available on the market. They also are the most diverse offering an array of upgrades like slideout side panels. Basically, if you want it (and can pay for it), this style of RV can integrate a ton of fancy and custom features. This is the type of RV you’ll want to splurge for if you’re traveling with large numbers of people, or you want all the comforts of home.
Class C: While common sense says Class B should come after A, in the automobile world, Class C is the second largest RV option. Similar to a Class A, Class C RVs are built on truck framework. They’re smaller than Class A RVs and offer more of a minimalistic approach. It’s rare to find too many upgrades due to the structure used to design Class C RVs. Nevertheless, they are sturdy, weatherproof and offer a mixture of necessities and comfort living. If you’ve been browsing RVs, it’s likely you’ve seen the sleeping space above the driver. That is what this type of RV is best known for!
Class B: Last, but not least, Class B RVs are built on van framework. So they are technically the smallest and most minimalistic of any RV you can drive. Most often referred to as “sleepervans” or “campervans”, they don’t always have convinces like a full bathroom. While there’s a good chance that you’re looking for something a bit more conventional, this is a great option for weekend campers or those with a tight budget. If you’re not sure you can afford a “traditional” RV, rest assured that there are some great RV manufacturers that create high-quality campervans.
These Features Determine Quality
Once you know a little about what you’re after personally, I would recommend you also add this simple inspection to your list. This will help you avoid hype over quality.
How Is It Configured?
Is the design appropriate and well-thought out? An RV with a design that doesn’t make sense is a big red flag that the manufacturer (even if reputable) didn’t put a lot of energy into that particular model. Ask yourself these questions:
- Is the television mounted safely?
- Is there ample counter space?
- Is the microwave low-end quality?
- Did they pay attention to detail? (such as rounded corners on the counters)
- Is the bathroom easily accessible?
- Is the dining room appropriately sized and positioned?
A lack of attention to the inside doesn’t guarantee you’re buying junk, but there is a reasonable chance that there wasn’t proper attention given to the entire creation of the RV.
New Vs. Old
Now that you have an idea of what you want, what your budget is, and what you should be looking for, you’re ready to start considering the particular RV you want. However, before we dive into that, be aware that many sellers will want to know your preference for new or used. Just because you go with a manufacturer who is reputable, doesn’t mean that a used RV from them is the best way to go!
While obviously there is the benefit of a used RV being cheaper. You’ll want to keep in mind that buying a new RV might be worth it because you’ll know exactly what you’re getting. Yes, you will have to pay more upfront, but your insurance will be cheaper and you’ll get a warranty!
In addition, a new RV means not having to worry about any mechanical issues that may have developed over years of use. Sometimes peace of mind is worth paying for.
If you do decide to go with a used RV ask a lot of questions. You’ll want to know the vehicle history if it’s had regular maintenance if any warranty still exists if there are particular things that will violate the warranty and what costs are going to be required to properly upkeep the RV you’re looking at.
The Best RV Manufacturers
Now that you have a good sense of what you’re looking for, it’s time to talk about the RV manufacturers. To keep it simple, we’ve compiled the top manufacturers along with the top models.
With over 600,000 RVs on the road, Coachmen is a brand you’re probably familiar with. Not only do they have huge sales numbers, but they also have a huge reputation. They’ve been around for over 50 years and their slogan says it all: “Dedicated to the enrichment of your life”.
Coachmen is a great brand because it offers such a wide variety of midrange options for the average consumer. They’re known as being a company that focuses on function and simplicity while listening and integrating customer requests into the newest RV revisions.
With that being said, it’s also a brand you need to watch out for as the lower-end of their products are not always top notch. So don’t think that just because you’re buying a Coachmen you’re getting a great RV. Make sure you do your research and find a year and model that suits your particular needs.
The Best Of Coachmen: The Pursuit
Arguably the best RV Coachmen sells, the Pursuit 33BH has a lot going for it. It’s one of the top low to moderate range Class A RVs reasonably priced around $87,000 brand new. This makes it an excellent choice for anyone who is looking for a reasonably priced Class A.
You can see more Coachmen RVs here.
Winnebago is another brand that stands out just because of who they are. The company has been in the RV industry since the 1950s and they’ve used that time wisely building a reputation as one of the best manufacturers of RVs. The company motto is: “be the trusted leader in outdoor lifestyle solutions by providing unmatched innovation, quality and service in the industries we engage”.
They do this by providing a large selection of RV models and Classes. So whether you’re looking for a Class A, B, C, (or if you go the travel trailer route) they have something that should work for you. They also have a diesel option if you go with the Class A route, which a lot of people really like.
The Best Of Winnebago: Forza
The popular Forza 3T is now out in a 2019 model. With an MSRP of $263,194, this model is a mid-high range, one of the reasons it prices higher is because it has a diesel engine which allows for more power. It’s also known for having upgraded interior features and a luxuriously modern feel.
You can see more Winnebago RVs here.
Entergra started as a small brand focusing on the RV owners themselves and asking what they wanted out of their motorhomes. In this way, they built a company on trust and values positioning themselves as a luxury RV company to watch out for.
Ten years ago Entergra was bought by Jayco. While some were skeptical about whether RVs coming out of Entergra would remain the same, they are still proving to be holding to their original values. What exactly are those values? They focus primarily on functional floorplans, simple, but modern amenities and an engine that is reliable.
Their motto as of today is “The quietest riding, best handling coach on the market today. Period”.
The Best Of Entergra: 2020 Emblem
Entergra focuses on releasing small numbers of luxury RVs which means that everything they release is nice. But recently they released the 2020 Emblem which comes with a King bed, reclining sofa, 50″ TV, and full-size shower. For a starting price of $114,000, there’s no reason an Entergra shouldn’t be on your list if you’re looking for a little luxury.
You can see more RVs from Entergra here.
Newmar is another brand that has been around for a long time (over 50 years) and has stood the test of time. Interestingly, Newmar is a brand founded on the Mennonite religion. Their motto is: “At Newmar, we believe that a motor coach is more than just a vehicle, it’s a passport to countless hours of fun and lifelong memory taken from quality time spent with family and friends”. Newmar specializes in Class A luxury RVs built to fit multiple people.
The Best Of Newmar: Ventana
The Ventana LG starts at $244,993 and is the lower priced of the Ventanas in the luxury line. While Newmar has models that go in price past one million dollars, the Ventana LG is a good low-range luxury RV that has everything you need for an amazing stay. From modern amenities to the high-end appliances and plenty of room, if you can afford it, the Ventana is a great option.
You can see more RVs from Newmar here.
Forest River is perhaps one of the youngest RV brands in the list. It was born only twenty years ago when its founder had the vision to create an RV that was better at taking people to the outdoors. This is a company that has a vast range perfect for those looking for options. Just like in other manufacturers, it’s important to make sure that you carefully review and self-inspect the lower-line to ensure a high-quality product. With that being said, most of the Forest River Class A RVs are really great.
The Best Of Forest River: Georgetown
Georgetown is a midrange luxury RV that has a great reputation for being reliable and comfortable. You can pick up a 2018 for around $100,000. Not bad for being in the luxury range!
You can see more from Forest River here.
Airstream is one of the most recognizable RVs in the world. The old Airstream trailers are also amongst the most desired… but that’s another post for another time. The Airstream RVs are highly recognizable due to their unique bullet shape and the name is recognizable due to over 80 years on the road!
That’s right, it’s one of the longest operating RV companies we’ve mentioned. When Airstream was first created they were trying to fill a gap in the market by providing a way for everyone to be comfortable when away from home. While the simplicity of that goal has probably changed over the years, the initial goal made them a broad company. Which means that they have a little bit of everything for everyone.
You can see more RVs from Airstream here.
The Best Of Airstream: Interstate
Today, perhaps one of the most popular models is the Interstate which interestingly enough, is a Class B RV, but still comes in at $173,000. Considered a touring coach, this is a solution for those who don’t want to drive a full-sized RV, but still want comfort, reliability, and access to the outdoors.
Established in 1972, the KZ brand started as a truck camper fabrication. Continuing to push onwards the brand evolved into a full-access company. Providing everything from RVs down to toy trailers and fifth wheels, KZ has a lot of options depending on what exactly you’re looking for. As an amazing plus, KZ won Best Of Show in the 2018 RV Pro Magazine Awards.
The Best of KZ: Escape
The top rated products for KZ actually travel trailers (Escape and Connect). So if that’s something you’re considering this might be the place to shop. If you’re looking for Class A, or C RVs however, we would recommend checking out one of the other brands who have big reputations in the RV world.
You can see more RVs from KZ here.
Thor Motor Coach
This might come as a surprise to you, but according to their website, Thor Motor Coach sells 24% off all RVs sold every year. That means that they’re dominating a quarter of the buying market! You might find this surprising since the name isn’t as infamous as, let’s say, Coachmen. However, that high sales number is an indicator that they have what the market wants. And that is versatility. The Motor Coach specializes in tons of various options. If you’re looking for something and you just can’t find it anywhere else, you might want to consider Thor Motor Coach.
The Best Of Thor Motor Coach: Four Winds
The Four Winds model is perhaps the most popular Thor Motor Coach model. Which is quite the feat considering the number of models they offer! The Four Winds comes with over a dozen floor plans and a Mercedes diesel engine. It provides enough diversity to satisfy a vast number of consumer needs.
You can see more RVs from Thor Motor Coach here.
Buy Your Perfect Rv
At this point, you’ve considered some questions, and you’ve come up with a list of your personal needs. You’ve rented an RV and lived an RV lifestyle. You’ve learned about things to look for and watch out for to ensure the best quality RV, regardless of manufacturer. And you’ve learned about who the best RV manufacturers are (and what their top models are).
It’s now time to go forth and pick out that perfect new RV!