A recreational vehicle is like a small, portable home. But unlike a regular home, RVs almost always come fully furnished. In other words, buying an RV is like buying a house complete with furniture and major kitchen appliances.
Here are some of the furnishings and equipment you will find on all but the very smallest motorhomes, trailers, fifth wheelers and other recreational vehicles.
When you buy an RV, you buy a fully furnished bedroom, kitchen and living room. Depending on the model, beds can be between a double and a king size, and some may contain a couple of twins. Some come with bunk beds. Other beds aren’t so obvious at first glance: dinettes and couches fold down easily to make twin or double beds. Class C motorhomes have a bed atop the cab, most often queen sized. Living areas will typically include one standard-sized couch, and/or an easy chair or two. Most RVs today come with at least one slide-out (though usually at least two), which expands the interior space of an RV and means plenty of room for furniture. Most RVs have a dinette area that seats four, sometimes more. In the bedroom, they may have a vanity. And, lest we forget to mention, there is no need to buy carpet for your new RV, as it’s already installed.
No need to buy an oven or stove when you buy an RV. Nearly all RVs have a stove — most often with three or four burners — and most will also have an oven and a microwave oven. Some RVs come with built-in coffee makers or even blenders. All but tiny trailers come with a refrigerator (tiny trailers and pop-ups will often have an ice box). Most RV appliances will run on both electricity or propane, although stove burners are almost always propane powered. Of course, it goes without saying that 99.9 percent of RVs come equipped with a sink, in most cases with hot and cold running water.
Most RVs these days have a propane-electric powered furnace. Propane fuels the flame, providing the heat, which an electric fan circulates throughout the RV. Most RVs have a thermostat just like in a regular home. Some RV heaters are in the same unit as the air conditioner, which may be on the ceiling. RV furnaces will keep an RV very cozy. Some RVers carry a small electric heater to run when hooked up to utilities, saving themselves propane in the process.
RV AIR CONDITIONERS
Most RVers these days opt for an air conditioner. All but the longest RVs will have one unit, normally on the top of the RV. Long units — those over 35 feet — may have two. Some new model RVs have sleek, low-profile central air conditioning systems. RV air conditioners need a lot of power and so cannot be operated except when the RV is hooked up to electricity in an RV park (many public campgrounds with hookups do not provide enough juice to run an air conditioner), or when the RV’s generator is in operation. If an RV does not have an air conditioner, one can be easily installed. Most RV dealers sell and install them.
RV WATER HEATERS
Water faucets in RVs have both hot and cold running water. Most RVs have a six-gallon water heater that is lit by flipping a switch inside the RV, usually on a control panel in the kitchen. A full tank of water will heat up in about 12 minutes and will provide one shower (don’t linger too long, however), before heating up again for another shower. RV water heaters are normally powered by propane.
RV TOILETS, SHOWERS AND BATHTUBS
All but the smallest RVs come with a toilet, and most will also have a shower. Some will have a combination shower/bathtub. The toilet is a little different from the ones we have at home. It uses a pint of water per flush, which is important when an RVer is “boondocked” — in other words, camped without hookups. Showers, toilets and bathtubs use water from an onboard storage tank when the RV is not hooked up to a city water line in a campground. Taking a bath in such a circumstance would be unwise because it would drain the tank. But many showers can be taken, each only taking a couple of gallons of water, even less with practice. Wastewater from the bathroom as well as all sinks goes into a holding tank and can be emptied later at a waste dump station (available at some rest areas and public campgrounds, and most private RV parks).
RV WATER SYSTEM AND WATER PUMP
Unlike most regular homes, which get their water via underground pipes or a well, RVs carry a supply of water for when they are not hooked up to a city water system in a campground. The size of these tanks varies from a couple of dozen gallons to a hundred gallons in large fifth wheels and motor coaches. When an RV is hooked up to an exterior water faucet, the water pressure on board will be the same as what is in the incoming line. But when the RV is on its own — not hooked up to an external water source — the water will be pumped from the onboard water storage tank to the sinks, shower and toilet by a 12-volt electrical water pump. These devices are hidden from view and only operate when a switch is flipped to activate them.
Generators are usually optional equipment on most except for the largest and most expensive RVs. With a generator, most or all of the electrical equipment on an RV can be used, even when the RV is parked in the middle of the desert. Generators can also be used to charge a dead engine battery. RVs with air conditioners will often need to use a generator to use the air conditioner. Unless an RV is equipped with a power inverter, a generator is also needed to power a microwave and other power-hungry devices like blow dryers.
Most RVs come with an awning as standard equipment. An awning provides extra living space outdoors, even in the rain. Awnings are available for all sized RVs and are easy to set up and down once installed.