3 reasons we road trip in a small motorhome

Bigger isn’t always better. A small RV can be your just-right home on wheels.

Does it ever seem like trailers and drivable RVs just get bigger and bigger? It’s wonderful that options abound for people who want and/or need lots of space and amenities. Sometimes a small motorhome can be your just-right home on wheels, and that was the case for our family of four.

Figuring out the right motorhome for your family is a deeply personal choice that combines space needs, activities, packing, budget, types of traveling, and other factors. Here are the 3 main reasons we considered, and why our family road trips the USA in a 25’ Class C motorhome.

Why we know what we’re talking about

We’ve driven our motorhome over 10,000 miles, across the entire USA, with kids.

In April 2023, our family of four purchased a used 25’ Class C motorhome. Then, from April to November, we drove it from one corner of the USA to the other. Our roundabout trip from the San Juan Islands of Washington State to Miami, Florida took in mountains, oceans, lakes, rivers, prairies, forests, hills, and cities. We’ve camped in luxurious RV parks, state park and national forest campgrounds, as well as boondocks at farms, breweries, museums, and even the driveways of a few dear friends.

3 reasons our family travels in a small motorhome

1. Budget

Nowadays, brand-new RVs can cost well into six figures. When we were RV shopping in the spring of 2023, though, we did not have that sort of budget. A Class C motorhome is often a sweet spot of size, amenities, and cost. The more we considered our family budget, the more a Class C matched up with what we could afford.

We didn’t only look at the purchase price, though. Since we’d be using our RV to travel extensively around the USA, we also considered purchasing a passenger vehicle and staying in hotels and rentals. Since an RV combines transportation and accommodation, the math worked out more in our favor to buy an RV and camp, than buy a passenger vehicle and use other tourist accommodation.

How budget influenced our motorhome choice

The rental company Cruise America cycles out its rental fleet every few years. The RVs receive extensive maintenance, repairs, and refurbishing before they’re put up for sale. Plus, we got to review the maintenance records before buying, so we could see what work and remodeling our RV had.

While the rigs have higher mileage, we considered that a plus: Our RV was broken in. If systems or appliances needed repairs or replacement, that work had been performed. When we bought our motorhome in April 2023, it had 127,000 miles on it. However, it’s on a Ford E-350 chassis, and those rigs are renowned for their durability. Since it’s not uncommon for E-350 vehicles to be in service for over 250,000 miles, we’re confident our motorhome can keep us busy for a while to come.

2. Transportation and accommodation all in one

A motorhome puts your transportation and accommodation all in one vehicle. While we thought this would have some benefits, our cross-country experience has taught us that this all-in-one approach had even more advantages than we had considered.

We always have our beds, kitchen, and bathroom with us. Anytime we want a nap, snack, toilet break, or beverage, we can make that happen.

Filling up our 55-gallon gas tank took some getting used to, but we soon adapted to understanding that a higher fuel cost balanced out a much lower cost for accommodation. Gas and camping always penciled out much less costly than paying for hotels or vacation rentals.

Sometimes we took breaks from the motorhome too. During our cross-country travels, we also stayed with friends and family in their homes, or we splurged on the occasional hotel room or vacation rental. Then we simply drove our motorhome wherever we needed to go.

How an all-in-one motorhome influenced our decision-making

Since we were driving a motorhome, we could stay just about anywhere in the country. When getting to know cities such as Omaha, Charleston, or Savannah, we stayed in campgrounds or RV parks close to town, and used our motorhome to get around the city. 

We could also camp anywhere. Our travels took in state parks, national parks, and campgrounds on the Oregon Coast, Washington’s San Juan Islands, Yellowstone National Park, some of Wyoming and South Dakota’s incredible public lands, and a pretty sweet state park just outside of New River Gorge National Park in West Virginia.

Since we always had our possessions with us and we could stay in a range of places, our motorhome made it easier than ever to give ourselves and our children a range of urban and rural experiences across the entire USA.

3. We could fit anywhere (just about)

Our RV is 25’ long, or about the same length as one and a half cars. We could park in two back-to-back parking spaces. Plus, older campgrounds were never a challenge for our small rig, even in campgrounds where larger motorhomes or trailers might be too long.

Occasionally parking was tricky. Across the entire country, the only truly challenging time we had was in St. Louis, Missouri. While trying to visit the Gateway Arch, the only parking was in multi-story garages nearby. Unfortunately for us, none of them had enough height clearance for our RV. Even that worked out though: We were able to park on the street and make our way to a viewpoint.

Older cities such as Charleston, SC, or Savannah, GA could also be challenging to navigate. However, many destinations understand that RV travelers want to visit too. One thing we learned? Always check with the local tourism board. Charleston’s helpful folks revealed that they had a special downtown parking garage sized for RVs. Savannah also had a downtown lot that could fit RVs, but with a time restriction that parking had to end at 8 p.m. (to discourage overnight camping).

How size influenced our purchase and travel decisions

Our small motorhome made us bolder in our decision-making. We drove right into the heart of America’s cities, and while it wasn’t always easy, we always managed. The peace of mind of being able to drive and park gave us the confidence we needed to explore not just natural and rural areas, but to have plenty of cities and towns be part of our cross-country travels.

What motorhome did we choose?

In April 2023, we purchased a used Thor Majestic 25’ Class C motorhome from Cruise America. It cost about $38,000. The kids sleep in the cabover, and there’s a bed area in the back for me and Jodie. There’s excellent storage (we can even fit our two inflatable kayaks), and we have the kitchen facilities and outlets we need for our food-loving, device-needing lives.

How has it gone having a small used motorhome?

Other than two routine oil changes (one in Washington and one in Florida), the only repairs we had to contend with were getting two windshield chips filled in Virginia. We also had to install some replacement mirror glass when an eejit in Illinois clipped our driver-side mirror.

There are times when we’ve been glad to take a break from the rig. Between April and November, we were in the RV for about 6 months. On future trips, we don’t plan to be in the rig more than 3 months at a stretch. We enjoy the RV, but if we’re in it too long, it stops being fun and we start wanting more space.

Should you buy a small motorhome?

As I said, the size of rig you get is a deeply personal decision. We are very happy with our choice. A small motorhome has been decently fuel efficient, helps us manage our travel costs, and we can go pretty much anywhere we would in a passenger vehicle. Our home on wheels has been a good size for our family of four.

Bigger isn’t always better. A small RV can be your just-right home on wheels. The key in making the right choice for you comes down to understanding your needs, priorities, and circumstances. Once you understand those, you can find the right rig—and it just might be smaller than you think.

About the author
Learners and Makers
We are the St. Clair Family: Anthony, Jodie, Connor, and Aster. As Learners and Makers, our family of four slows down, connects, and enjoys the world and each other's company. We have been traveling full time since 2022.

1 thought on “3 reasons we road trip in a small motorhome”

  1. the article makes a compelling case for choosing a small motorhome for a road trip. Small motorhomes can be more affordable, easier to maneuver, and allow you to camp in more places than a larger RV. If you are on a budget or want to explore a lot of different areas, a small motorhome may be a good option for you.

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