Why We Decided To Downsize Our RV

When you go from a 2700+ square foot house into an RV full time, you think you need a LOT of space in your RV. And I think we did when we started which prompted us to look at 39 to 45 foot RV’s when we made the decision to go full time.

*Update* Video Tour of our Winnebago View 23J Below!

Before that we had owned a 29 foot class C for about 4 months, but that felt way to small to us at the time. So we found a great 39 foot Newmar Diesel Pusher Motorhome that we bought and made our own.

You can check the video walk through here of our old Newmar Kountry Star:

Challenges of a bigger rig

1. If something went wrong with this one it was going to cost us thousands of dollars to fix. . . .The tires alone cost over $4K. This started to get a little scary the longer we lived in it.

2 . We wanted to do more boondocking and we did with the 39 footer, BUT we never wanted to go that far off the beaten path since we didn’t want to get in a situation where we couldn’t get out of. Or we didn’t want to get stuck and have to get it towed out!

This always made us hesitant to try to many boondocking sites unless we knew big rigs could easily fit.

3. When we left somewhere, we NEVER wanted to make an unexpected stop since again we were concerned about getting stuck, taking a wrong turn, hitting a low bridge, the list goes on and on. So basically it was a matter of getting from point A to B with the least amount of stops as possible.

4. Gas stations. The only ones that really work with a rig that big are truck stops. They work great for big rigs but they aren’t always easy to find and even when you do find them it is always stressful getting in and out.

5. We found ourselves spending days at a time inside the RV without ever going outside. It almost felt like it was effort to get outside – crazy right?! But it really was like an apartment on wheels.

Downsizing from a 39' Newmar to a 23' Winnebago

All of these reasons led us to start considering downsizing . . . we never planned on ending up in a 23 foot rig! Our original thought was to go around 26 feet with a full walk around queen size bed in the back that we could convert to a king bed and put a bunk bed above it.

We looked and found a few options, but started thinking if we were going to do this let’s go all in . . . a van was not an option with the 4 kids and 2 dogs. We would have loved a Westfalia, but that felt too extreme.

Then we started looking into the Winnebago View which is built on a Sprinter chassis. That means it is basically as wide as a van – so we can fit in any parking spot! With the length being 23 foot we are just like a big dually truck, so we can park almost anywhere.

Downsizing our RV was definitely a challenge, but so far has been great!

I still wasn’t sold on it – I mean 23 feet and 1 slide-out for 6 people and 2 big dogs doesn’t seem feasible. . . But Craig was in love with the View since it looked like a fun little toy and really liked the 2006 model and color scheme (which matches our logo – I swear we didn’t plan on that!). I started to come around to it and really consider how we could make it work.

Our Winnebago View 23J is our fun little toy

We came up with the plan to take the back corner bed and turn it into bunks. 2 kids on each. Then Craig and I would sleep above the cab which would still give us some privacy when the kids went to sleep at night.

It was decided we wanted a 2006 Winnebago View! We started looking and came across a few and also found out that it would not be able to tow our current car since it weighed almost 5K pounds and the View can only tow around 3500. We are still deciding if that means we don’t have a car for a while or if we look at getting a lighter car like the Subaru Outback – where you can add an extra seat in the back – remember the old station wagons where the kids sat in back looking out the back window  – that’s what you can do!

We will see. We haven’t decided yet. As of now I am following Craig with the car. Yes 2 engines, double the gas, and I am losing my work time I use to have when we were traveling. But we are working on a solution. If there is one thing this life has taught us is to be flexible.

Other than that I can honestly say that at night when everyone is sleeping and Craig and I get a chance to take a breath and really think about where we are at we are very happy and content with our decision. It just feels right. We are spending a lot more time outside and even just being in the rig feels more like we are camping or living outside.

We’re figuring out little storage options and places for all of our stuff to fit. We even found a spot for our Berkey on the counter!

It feels right. The kids didn’t skip a beat and adjusted like nothing happened. The dogs are having a little bit of a harder time finding their place in the new rig but it is getting better every day.

We decided to downsize our RV to get into fantastic camping spots like this one

So here are there reasons we wanted to downsize

1. Ease of travel. 23 feet is a whole lot easier to pull into a grocery store parking lot, make a random stop at a farm stand, or turn around if we take a wrong turn!

2. Campsites. When you call and say we are looking for a site for a 23 foot rig – there are normally a lot of options! With a 39 footer, not so much.

3. National and State Parks. We can stay at all of the National and State Parks now. In the 39 footer that wasn’t possible. With 23 feet there are no limitations for us.

4. Boondocking. We feel much more comfortable getting adventurous in this rig and maybe getting ourselves in situations where we never would have fit or been able to get out with the bigger rig.

5. Being outside. We are excited to spend more time outside and love the fact that the outside now feels like part of our living space since the rig is lower to the ground and the door is right there. It really feels like outside is part of our living space.

Video Walk Thru

We are about 3 weeks into the transition and we are really happy with the decision. Yes, I think we are still in the honeymoon phase and I am sure there will be times I am really annoyed with the lack of space. But we are definitely feeling like it is the right place for us to be at this point in our journey. We will check back in – after about 6 months – to let you know if we are feeling the same way!

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54 thoughts on “Why We Decided To Downsize Our RV”

  1. We also have a Sprinter and we travel with kids and dogs. We changed the front passenger seat so that it swings around for an extra chair. After market there is a windshield cover which lets us use that cab area, we placed a rod between/above spanning between the refrigerator and oven with a curtain for a dressing area and the dirty clothes go in a bag behind the driver. I love your shoe bin!

    • Great modifications Ellen! We love hearing different ways to make the space more efficient. We’re definitely looking into the chair swivel as we’re short a seat or two at dinner time 🙂

  2. This is great!!! Do you have a post about what you guys do for a living while traveling? This is my ultimate goal, but as an LPN I don’t see it happening with my current career.

  3. Hey, guys! I have been excited to see your video on the new rig. I love it. You two have genius hacks for RV living. The shoe bin is perfect and I plan on stealing it. 🙂 We too co-sleep so the kids sharing one bed in our camper works for us too. Years ago we had a 26′ tt. Last April we decided we wanted another RV but oddly enough we ended up with a pop-up camper (it’s “fancy” since it has A/C, a shower, toilet, and slide). I never thought we’d be in a “tight” space but it works for the 6 of us. It’s true, you feel more like you are camping and everyone spends more time outside. Again, thanks for sharing and safe travels!!

    • Yes, we love being outside more and with the smaller rig it’s almost as the outdoors is part of our home since it’s so easy to get out. In our Newmar, it felt like work just to get outside lol!

  4. Woooowwwww! Much roomier than I imagined when I first thought “how in the heck are they doing that?” haha I’m so glad you guys did this write up and video. Makes me feel like my 380 sq ft is simply ridiculous! haha Congrats!

  5. Wow! Someone shared this site with me on the Minnie Winnie forum. We are about to purchase a 24J and it seems most people think it’s “impossible” for our family of 5 (and Great Dane) to fit in a 24 footer! I beg to differ, and YOU are doing it full time!!!
    Thank you for sharing this. It makes me feel better about our decision!
    Are you concerned with weight issues once everyone is traveling inside one rig?
    Thanks again. I’ll be visiting back often for tips! 🙂

    • We think you made a great decision! Regarding weight, yes, we are concerned about it. We just weighed it at a CAT scale, with everyone in it and we were 700 lbs overweight. We have quite a few things that we know we will be donating which will bring the weight down some, but we then plan to go through our things again to get rid of some more. We still have things like cast iron pans, pots, and a skillet, a vacuum, etc. It will take some work, but we’ll get the weight down.

  6. I got to say when I saw your video my eyes got big and I thought no way. We are in a 38-foot fifth wheel with a bunkhouse, three kids and two little dogs. It’s only been 6 months of full-timing for us, but I feel this is a nice fit and couldn’t imagine going smaller. BUT….last weekend we were at Camping World and I wanted to look at their Class C motorhomes out of curiosity…thanks to y’all 😉 I saw a 30-foot motorhome with a double slide out and bunk beds. My kids loved it & I thought “hey we could totally do this”. Hubby doesn’t think I’m up for it, but I disagree. There’s not as much “running” space inside for those rainy days, but still I dig it. Who knows you may have just inspired this family to go smaller 🙂

  7. We almost ended up in a View! All that room and that big bathroom was tempting, though then again its just us! Whenever I see one I get just a smudge envious, although we do love, love, love our Winnebago Travato! It’s a fantastic mini rv and it was built for boondocking! We love it, but the few extra feet the view provides would be amazing! Any who, thanks for the perspective! It’s always fun to hear others rationale on the whys and the whats of their rigs!

    Happy travels,
    Katie & DJ
    http://www.venturewild.net

    • Thanks for reaching out! The view was our way of going for the van . . . which we didn’t think was possible with 4 kids and 2 dogs . . . but the view gets us pretty close at only 23 feet long! Glad you are enjoying your Travato – they are really cool!

  8. Interesting post. We are planning on doing the exact same thing for the same reasons. The difference is we have no kids and two cats. We plan to travel and sightsee out of the Class B and stay longer terms on our two RV lots which are in our two favorite places.

    • Sounds good Karen. I know cats can be funny about space, so hopefully yours will transition easily. Best of luck to you!

  9. This is amazing, thank you for sharing. I’m a single mom with three kids. I’m starting an online biz right now and I’m having an all out binge looking up every family I can find living like this. I can’t think of anything I want more than to travel with my kids. But I have a question though. You have your rig and your car, and you’re thinking of going without or downsizing the car. So how would you plan on leaving the campsite to explore/adventure with the kids without breaking camp and driving your rig into town every time you have an activity planned? I’ve been thinking about that a lot. I have a special needs kid and it would be MUCH easier to have a motor home for travel days. But for at camp it would be easier to have a trailer that stays parked while I drive us into town for groceries or a day in Chicago etc. Do you guys know if many campgrounds can help with renting a car to go into town for a day? That would be great but I haven’t seen anybody who has said that’s a possibility.

    • Hi! We have mixed feelings about the no car situation. Honestly yes it would be easier with a car. That being said it is possible with out and yes we would have to pack up camp each time we left. Or we would have to find campgrounds that had shuttles going into cities or locations we wanted to go. The campgrounds that have this are out there but they usually cost more to stay at. Have you thought of a Motorhome and towing a small car. With 3 kids I am assuming you could fit into a car?? If you look into this option just be sure you looking into cars that can be towed 4 down. Not all of them can be. I also wouldn’t look to go without a car unless you were planning on moving a lot – not staying in one place for weeks at a time. That would be hard without a car. But my sister and her family who also travel full time have stayed up to a month in one place without a car. And they did just pack up the rig every time they wanted to leave. They also spent more time just hanging out at the campground then we did. It really is a tough decision! Let us know if you have any other questions!

  10. Thanks for all the info/blogs – we are still in the dreaming stage of such an adventure but I’m curious what does laundry look like for you? I like the smaller RVs for convenience as you mentioned but I really think I’ll miss the option of a washer and dryer in the motor home. Thanks

    • Yeah, laundry is a pain. We usually wear all of our clothes and go to the laundromat when we’re pretty much out of clean clothes. A campground that has a decent laundry room is a little more convenient, but having a washer/dryer in the RV was pretty nice. Even though the RV washers are small, you can do a load each night and stay on top of it. But, just like everything else with this lifestyle, you figure it out 🙂

  11. Thanks for sharing your set-up! I’m thinking about full-time RV living for my family–Family of 5 plus 1 cat and 1 dog. How do you envision your living arrangement as your children get older and bigger?

    • We’re not quite sure on that yet. We’re hoping that we’re building a close enough family that personal space isn’t a huge deal to anyone, but we do realize there will come a time when our kids will like more privacy. We’ll cross that bridge when we come to it 🙂

  12. We don’t RV full time (yet), but we just spent one month, and then two more weeks on the road. We loved it! We have a 19 foot Class C, two kids, no pets, and no tow vehicle. We were able to fit where a pick-up truck fits. We started small, and since it is working great for us, I don´t see us trading. We have made minor changes. My favorites so far are the swivel front passenger chair, and adding a foam topper to the beds.
    I love your story, and hope to RV full time in the near future.

  13. Is there a video of the ‘improved’ 23J yet? I didn’t see one but know you discussed it in the video introducing it. I am aiming for “testing” life on the road June 2018 with our family of 5 & def want a C class I was not surprised to see you downgraded back to a C! One question: my son is asthmatic. When we lived in NJ he was on the nebulizer from Oct-March. Moved to FL in 2015 & he only had one flair up. I worry about water leaks or mold with going full time bc of him. suggestions? things to look for when shopping for my used C class?

    • We haven’t made a new video yet as we’re still in the process of changing a few things in the RV. We’ll try to do an updated one soon. As for asthma, I’d suggest really checking the RV good before you buy it, making sure the roof looks in good shape and the ceiling doesn’t have any discoloration from water spots. Also, Class C’s are notorious for leaking in the spot over the cab, so take a good look up there. Also, you may be able to find an RV inspection company that may offer mold detection as part of their services. Best of luck!

  14. LOVE LOVE LOVE! We just started shopping for the perfect “new home” today! You inspired us to live more freely and enjoy the adventure.

  15. Hi , we have two boys , 4 & 6 . I can’t decide between the Winnebago 24J or the 24H floor plan. A friend told me to go with the 24H because you have plenty of seating but I’m not sure If I’ll miss not having a private bedroom. Any suggestions plz?

    • We chose the J model to have the extra private beds in the back for the kids. That worked out pretty well for us. Since the RV was so small, we were outside a lot, so the extra inside seating didn’t really appeal to us. Hope that helps!

    • Right now we have a plan through the state of Wisconsin. It’s not ideal as it only covers emergencies out of the state of Wisconsin – any Dr appointments/follow ups/etc are only covered in Wisconsin.

  16. Family of four here… 15 Sep is our planned transition date 🙂 We had been considering a 41′ fifth wheel until reading your blog. It’s been 15 months, how’s that downsizing working out for you?

    You guys rock!

    • It has its benefits and it has its drawbacks. We love being able to get in pretty much any campsite and driving around is super easy – even minor things like getting gas is a no brainer now compared to when we were in the 39′ motorhome towing a car. On the downside, space can sometimes get frustrating, especially when trying to cook. We have no counter space at all. Overall though, we’re very glad we made the switch. Hope that helps!

  17. I sold my 1500 sq. ft house 6 months ago, and downsized to a 29′ travel trailer. I’d been saying for years that I ‘don’t need a lot of space’. Transitioning was a BIG deal since right in the midst of it; I was called to work 8 states away! I ended up hauling camper with me FULL of boxes and things which I NEVER needed to carry with me- but I hadn’t had the time to go through it all, first to determine what to keep; store or donate! It’s just myself and a small dog. I quickly realized that all the space those boxes occupied; was actually unnecessary space!! When the job was over, I quickly unloaded all the excess ‘stuff’. I’m NOW looking into downsizing to class B (over-sized van). Hauling this thing was a stressful drag (especially in and around metropolitan areas such as Baltimore, Philadelphia and DC!!). I also had to be mindful of tunnels (full propane tanks not permitted). I would LOVE to go on longer trips and to do some boon docking primarily out west and hauling 29’er just doesn’t make sense!

    • It’s so funny how people accumulate so much stuff and have such a hard time parting with it. Glad you were able to shed the stuff and downsize to a cruisable van. Enjoy!

  18. In the video, what are the 3 things you mentioned to check on the Mercedes Diesel before buying? I’m thinking of full timing in one of these 2007 or earlier Views or Navion. Just me but would like to haul 2 E-bikes and one 300 lb motorcycle on the back. Another thought was to tow an older light weight pick up and put the motorcycle in the bed of the Pick up but if the View has 3500 lb tow limit, that idea is quashed.

    I’ve read this chassis is pretty maxed out with this rig so it can’t take much more weight. Did you find the motor was adequate when you were loaded up and did you try towing your car…if yes, how did it work out?

    I think your current setup is ideal for you guys. Big Van pulling 21′ Travel Trailer.

    • The 3 things I mentioned (we switched rigs before I could do the actual video on it) are:

      1. Mercedes Sprinter Black Death – Google this one for more info, but basically it’s a leak in the fuel injectors that causes fuel to gum up around the engine so bad that it eventually seizes the entire engine. And the black tar that forms can’t be removed. I think this has to do with improper work that has been done on the fuel injectors (like reusing a seal instead of replacing it, etc.).

      2. Turbo Resonator – This one is quite common and will happen eventually to all Sprinters. The problem is the resonator is made of plastic and eventually that plastic part fails. The factory replacement is another plastic part (they know how to drum up return business!) but there is an aftermarket aluminum part that will last forever (supposedly).

      And I can’t remember the 3rd thing LOL. I don’t actually think it was anything specific to the View, but it was to make sure belts are in good shape, etc. Basic stuff.

      Here are a couple other things I learned about the View on our journey with it:

      – The oil sensor is very particular. It has a major problem if overfilled. This was the case for me the night I bought it and started driving from Illinois to Texas. The light came on on the dash and I pulled over to a Walmart to assess it. My plan was to do a quick oil change in the parking lot, but I could not get the bolt out of the oil pan. It was totally seized. The only thing I had was liquid wrench and a socket. I ended up breaking the socket and the bolt didn’t budge. Had to siphon out some from the oil fill. After talking to a Mercedes tech, they also use a siphon to do the oil change.

      – The U-joints are not replaceable. You have to replace the entire drive shaft. I found a shop in Milwaukee that did a custom job on a new drive shaft that did have replaceable/repairable U-joints, which is what I went with.

      As for the towing capacity for the View, it’s very minimal. We had the 6 of us, our 2 dogs and all of our stuff. We were overweight. There’s like a 700lb cargo capacity on the 2006 23J model, which is like nothing. Pay attention to that as I think that was our downfall. I never really felt a problem with the engine as far as bogging down or struggling to maintain speed, but the transmission failed totally.

      This was a long reply and perhaps I should write a post on it lol. Hope this helps with your decision.

      One more thing – the 2006 and earlier models are the 5 cylinder diesels that don’t require DEF. This is supposedly the coveted engine compared to the 6 cylinder that started in 2007. More food for thought 🙂

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  20. You guys are amazing! Is this the year that doesn’t require DEF and was that a deciding factor? I’m looking at these but cant decide to stay within the years that doesn’t require that product. Any info would be appreciated.

    Thanks Dee

    • We just liked the color lol. No, we heard really great things about the 5 cylinder Mercedes and it not having DEF was a plus. Unfortunately we didn’t have the best of luck with other things on the rig so it didn’t really work out for us.

  21. Hello! Your video is from a few years ago. Have you added the rest bunks? Despite the Sprinter issues, are you still living in it and making it work for your family? I’ve considered going on the road full time as I am rarely home. Is it still working out for al of you? Thank you for your information sharing!

    • We are still on the road, but have since sold the Sprinter. It had too many issues, so we went the travel trailer route which is working out pretty good so far.

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