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The Case for Downsizing: Why a Smaller RV Might Be Right for You

Were RV crazy, We currently own 3 RVs and have traveled in some of the largest and smallest rigs. While we love big rigs, we can say from experience that bigger is not always better. While we can live comfortably full-time in our 45-foot motorhome we frequently prefer the flexibility of our truck camper.

Many people are jumping on the “tiny living” bandwagon as it’s become trendy. However, not everyone is entirely on board with the idea of downsizing. It’s not a decision that you should take lightly.

Today, we’re sharing several reasons to downsize your rig. If you need help deciding, we’ll help you consider the big picture. Let’s dive in and get started!

Small Trailers are Better than Big RV's - Here's Why

Can an RV Be Too Big?

Despite what an RV dealer might tell you, bigger isn’t always better. Large rigs may offer spacious interiors and fancy features, but they’re imperfect. If you’re considering a massive towable trailer, you’ll need a beefy truck to haul it. Unless you already have the truck, you’ll find yourself shopping for one.

Whether you choose a large towable or motorhome, moving your rig can require a tremendous amount of fuel. If you move frequently, you could spend hundreds or thousands of dollars at fuel pumps. With constantly changing fuel prices, you may have to take out a small loan to fill your tank.

One of the most significant issues with large RVs is maneuvering and parking them. The larger the rig, the harder it can be to park. While RV parks and resorts can accommodate these vehicles, not all campgrounds can. Many state and national park campgrounds have length requirements. Finding campsites over 30 feet long in some places can be tricky.

Our very first RV was a 41 foot toy hauler fifth wheel and we quickly realized we could not take it where we wanted to go, so we downsized to a smaller fifth wheel.

Morton Monaco Dynasty Class A Motorhome
We love our giant motorhome, but its not always the best choice and for sure the most expensive.

What Is Considered a Smaller RV?

Many people typically consider small RVs to be anything less than 25 feet long. These are usually travel trailers and Class B or Class C motorhomes. We’re seeing a massive increase in the demand for these RVs.

The rise in remote work leads many to embrace #vanlife or the nomadic life. Thanks to their tiny homes on wheels, they can see and do more. However, don’t think they’re any less expensive just because they’re small.

Pro Tip: We recently downsized our rig! Read more about our experience Downsizing to a Truck Camper from a Fifth Wheel RV.

Are Smaller RVs Cheaper?

Unfortunately, some of the most expensive RVs per size are less than 25 feet. The Airstream Atlas and the Winnebago Revel are two perfect examples. These rigs come with price tags that are easily over $200,000.

However, smaller RVs tend to be cheaper if you’re considering travel trailers and fifth wheels. Their more minor stature results in lower manufacturing and material costs. This allows these campers to come with more budget-friendly price tags.

Like mentioned above fuel, maintenance and taxes are all lower with smaller rigs as well lowering their lifecycle cost of ownership.

Airstream driving on the road
Airstream makes stylish and small sized RVs, perfect for cruising across the USA.

7 Reasons to Downsize Your RV

Still on the fence about downsizing? Here are seven reasons you should embrace a smaller RV. Let’s take a look!

Maneuverability

Maneuvering a big rig can be a stressful and intimidating experience. Whether it’s a packed campground or a gas station, navigating obstacles is more accessible in a small camper. The larger the rig, the wider you’ll need to take turns. Unfortunately, while RV manufacturers have increased the size of RVs, many campgrounds haven’t followed suit.

If you find yourself on a narrow road or city street in a large camper, it can cause some anxiety. Luckily, you can avoid these situations by choosing a smaller trailer. You’ll reduce the chances of accidents and worry less about getting into a tight spot.

Fuel Efficiency

With gas prices going up and down like a roller coaster, it’s crucial to consider fuel efficiency. Smaller RVs are typically substantially lighter than larger units. As a result, they can experience better MPGs than their larger counterparts. It may not be a big deal if you stick to local trips. However, fuel expenses can add up quickly during long trips.

It’s not uncommon for bigger RVs to experience single-digit MPGs. This is why many spacious motorhomes carry a hundred gallons of fuel. Trust us; the pain is real each time you fill the tank.

Travel trailer parked in desert
Smaller RVs allow you to explore spots that aren’t as accessible to big rigs.

Resale Value

You may not think about selling your camper while shopping for it. However, you can’t afford to overlook that RVs, like most vehicles, are depreciating assets. They lose value quickly and are typically worth a fraction of their original value in three to five years.

While practically all RVs lose value, it tends to be less extreme for smaller campers. There’s a good chance that you won’t own it for the rest of your life. When you sell it, you want to get as much as possible out of it.

Pro Tip: If you’re uncertain about how much room you need in your RV, these are 9 Signs Your RV Is Too Small.

Flexibility with Campsites

Many campgrounds can’t handle the massive rigs on the roads today. Once you exceed 30 feet in length, the number of potential campsites drastically decreases. Smaller campers provide much more flexibility, whether you enjoy boondocking or camping in an established campground.

Mortons on the Move truck camper at campsite
We downsized to a truck camper and have since been able to go on many epic adventures.

Adventure Potential

Many get sucked into the idea of RVing by seeing the incredible adventures people share on social media. However, many fail to realize that the larger your rig, the harder it can be to access some locations. Many spots are accessible for big rigs, but many aren’t.

Consider downsizing if you want to maximize your potential for adventure. The smaller your rig, the better your chances of reaching remote and isolated places. This can allow you to break away from the crowds and experience peace during your travels.

adventure camping in a van

Maintenance

Another benefit of downsizing is less expensive maintenance. Larger rigs typically come with fancy features and more luxuries. While these are nice, they can be costly to fix when things go wrong.

Larger rigs can also require specialized technicians or facilities to perform routine maintenance. Changing the oil in a Class A motorhome could cost anywhere from $150 to $200. However, a Class C is around $100, and a Class B is $50 to $90. Do you notice a pattern? The smaller the vehicle, the cheaper the oil change.

Our 45 foot class A has averaged around $3k per year in maintenance costs when you include tire changes. We are also doing most of our own maintenance and this cost can skyrocket when having work done by someone else. We have heard of some big rig owners spending nearly $20k per year on maintenance! This is not better for sure.

Less Intimidating

Getting behind the wheel of a large motorhome can be incredibly intimidating. As the captain, there’s much to worry about and consider. Not only do you have to watch your massive blind spots on both sides, but also overhead clearances. A smaller rig might be a better option if you want to spend more time enjoying the journey and less time stressing.

Some of the largest rigs are nearly 14 feet, 6 inches tall, the maximum allowable height. Choosing a smaller camper means you don’t have to worry about overhead clearances nearly as much. If you struggle with the fear of driving a larger RV, then downsizing is something you should seriously consider.

Small travel trailer
Bigger doesn’t always mean better. Sometimes smaller RVs allow for grander adventures.

What’s the Smallest RV You Can Buy?

When it comes to small RVs, it doesn’t get much smaller than a teardrop camper. These travel trailers are typically 13 feet long or less. Despite being tiny and lightweight, they are full of features for adventures.

They may not all have bathrooms, but they provide a comfortable resting place. In addition, many models come with cooking spaces or kitchens to make it easy to prepare meals to fuel your travels. 

Pro Tip: Smaller and more affordable? Sign us up! Check out these 7 Cheapest Teardrop Trailers on Sale Today

RV Downsizing: Packing the Lance 1172 Truck Camper & Hitting the Road! | Go North Ep 3

Is Downsizing Your RV Worth It?

Deciding to downsize is a significant decision. If you’re living and traveling full-time in your camper, it’s even more challenging. Unfortunately, it’s one that only you can make. We’re all for minimalism but understand that living in a tiny space can be overwhelming.

This is a decision that you should not rush. Take your time and consider all of the pros and cons. Make a list and reflect on it as you ponder the decision. Just don’t let an RV dealer decide for you.

Would you consider downsizing to a smaller RV? Tell us your thoughts in the comments!

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About Tom and Caitlin Morton

Tom & Caitlin Morton of Mortons on the Move gave up the stationary life for one where they are constantly on the move. They are full-time travelers, television hosts, and digital media producers.
They left their jobs, sold their house and possessions, and hit the road in September 2015 in their full-time “home on wheels”. Since then they have traveled the US, Canada, and even internationally by RV.
Now, they are Discovery Channel & PBS TV Co-stars of “Go North” on Amazon Prime Video, co-founders and instructors of RV Masterclass, and contributing authors for Hwy.co and an Arizona travel guide.

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Steve H

Sunday 16th of July 2023

Living in Colorado, we have always had small RVs. That's because our mountains have steep grades, hundreds of public campgrounds with short spaces, and thousands of boondocking sites on roads not accessible by 40' Class A's and toy haulers. We went from a 21'9" travel trailer to a 26'7" fifth wheel to our current 25'5" diesel Class C (without a toad). We have RV'd in 39 states and Canadian provinces and never had difficulty fitting into any national, state, provincial, county, or city campground. We even towed the travel trailer on a 7,000-mile, 3-month western Canada-Alaska trip. And we have averaged 13-15 mpg fuel mileage with all 3 RVs despite traveling over 10,000-12,000' passes and tunnels every time we go camping.

Mortons on the Move

Wednesday 2nd of August 2023

I completely agree CO is particularly good for small RV's in our experience.

Judy H

Sunday 16th of July 2023

We downsized from a 35' TT with 3 slides to a 25' TT with 1 slide, and we love it! The only thing we miss is the fireplace. The payoff is that we can get into State and National Forest campgrounds now, it's easier to pull, and improved fuel mileage. Equipped with a Murphy bed, we have plenty of room for grandkids and a full bathroom. Best TT decision we've made!

Mortons on the Move

Wednesday 2nd of August 2023

Thats great to hear! it is nice to be small and flexible!