There are so many different types of recreational vehicles on the road and on the market that if you’re new to the RV industry or world, it can leave your head spinning.
From the various “RV classes” to different trailer names and model numbers, it can get really confusing really fast!
Once you learn the lingo and look at different types of RV’s (or “caravans”, as they’re called outside of North America), you’ll get the hang of it quickly.
This guide will help you learn the different types of RV’s as well as the pros and cons associated with each class and style to help you make a more informed decision as you begin to get your feet wet in the world of RV travel.
Drivable RV’s (“Motorhomes”)
There are three main classes of drivable RV’s, which are often referred to as motorhomes. Motorhome classes are Class A, Class C, and Class B RV’s. Here, we break down each class of motorhome and highlight the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Benefits of Motorhomes vs. Towable RV’s
✓ No Tow Vehicle Required
Motorhomes are all-in-one RV’s. They don’t require a tow vehicle to pull them, you can simply get in the RV and head out. This makes for a much simpler campsite arrival experience.
Towable RV’s typically require a large, expensive truck to tow them.
With motorhomes, you can tow a vehicle behind for easier exploring once you are set up at the campsite. Most motorhomes are able to tow small cars, with diesel RV’s being able to pull more weight.
✓ Passengers Can Ride in the Motorhome
It’s illegal and dangerous for passengers to ride in travel trailers and fifth wheels. But motorhomes are designed for many passengers to ride in safely.
Most motorhomes have seatbelts built into the couches, chairs, and dinette seating areas. This makes a comfortable and safe ride for both human passengers and pets.
✓ Travel Convenience
When you’re traveling in a motorhome and need to pull over to cook or use the restroom, you don’t even need to get out of your RV to do it. Or, your passenger can grab a snack while you’re driving (although this isn’t generally recommended for safety reasons).
✓ Temperature Regulation
If you’re traveling on a very hot or very cold day, the interior of your motorhome will remain at a comfortable temperature all day long. No need to wait for a freezing cold or sweltering hot trailer to cool down or warm up when you reach the campsite before you can start relaxing in it.
Class A RV’s
Class A motorhomes are the largest drivable RV’s on the road. These motorhomes closely resemble a bus in looks and can range anywhere from 29 to 45 feet long.
Class A RV’s come in diesel and gas options, with the diesel versions having more luxury amenities and the ability to handle more weight.
Benefits of Class A Motorhomes
✓ Spacious Interior
Class A motorhomes can have slide-outs and a lot of open interior space. These RV’s can sleep up to 7 people comfortably, depending on the model. Oftentimes, they come with many home-like amenities such as washer/dryer hookups, an oven, and even dishwashers in some models.
Class A RV’s have all the comforts of home in one self-contained vehicle. There is no need for a tow vehicle; you can simply pack up and go.
✓ Panoramic Views
These motorhomes have a comfortable driving experience that sits the driver up high with a panoramic view of the road. While they take some getting used to, the driving experience of a Class A RV is unlike any other.
Drawbacks of Class A RV’s
✘ No Off-Road Camping at Remote Locations
Boondocking, or off-grid / off-road camping, is very popular among RVers, but can be difficult for those in large Class A RV’s. These RV’s are generally very large, making them difficult to maneuver in remote locations.
✘ Difficult To Drive in Cities and Neighborhoods
Because of the sheer size of these RV’s, they can be difficult and frightening to drive in busy cities or on residential streets. Unless you’re a seasoned bus driver, it can be a white-knuckle experience!
✘ Less Easy to Store
Unless you have a huge garage, storing your Class A RV will likely require paying for a storage lot. This is inconvenient and can be expensive depending on where you live.
✘ Less Privacy
Class A RV’s typically have an open layout, and bunks are usually located in the hallway next to the master bedroom, so if you require a quiet office space or a private sleeping area for your kids, you may want to consider a fifth wheel model with more separation between the rooms.
✘ Terrible Gas Mileage
Due to their massive weight (around 35,000 pounds on average), Class A RV’s are real gas guzzlers, averaging between just 7-13 miles per gallon.
Class C RV’s
The next biggest drivable RV is the Class C RV. You can spot a Class C RV by whether or not it has a cabover area above the cab of the cockpit. Class C RV’s come in a range of sizes and lengths and can also feature slideouts for additional room. These motorhomes can sleep up to 7 people comfortably.
These motorhomes come in diesel and gas options, and there are also “Super C” RV’s. Super C’s are typically much larger and more luxurious and have a semi-truck or heavy duty truck (HDT) cab and engine.
Benefits of Class C RV’s
✓ Easier to Drive
Driving a Class C RV feels similar to driving a truck, van, or SUV: you step down into the cockpit to drive. This is a more comfortable driving experience for those who haven’t driven anything large before.
✓ Can Go Almost Anywhere
Because of their smaller size, Class C RV’s are a bit easier to maneuver than Class A RV’s. You can take them into more remote locations than you would be able to access with a larger motorhome.
Drawbacks of Class C RV’s
✘ Smaller Living Space
Class C RV’s are smaller and the cockpit is separated from the living space, so there’s less room inside.
✘ Fewer Residential Features
Since Class C RV’s are smaller, there aren’t always the same residential features you’d find in a Class A RV, like washer and dryer hookups or a residential-sized shower.
✘ May Not Be Able to Tow a Car
Many Class C RV’s can tow a small car, but not all can. It all depends on the engine type and the size of the tow vehicle.
✘ Prone to Leaking
Class C RV’s are notorious for leaking in the cabover area and having hidden water damage. Because of all the curves and seams in the cabover portion, leaks can happen without notice, causing major damage over time.
Class B RV’s
Last on our list of drivable RV’s are the Class B RV’s. Class Bs are small motorhomes typically built on a van chassis.
These motorhomes are small, nimble, and have a lot packed into a tiny space. Typically best for single people or couples, these RV’s have many benefits, but many drawbacks as well.
Benefits of Class B RV’s
✓ Can Go Anywhere
Class B RV’s can really go anywhere. They fit into regular sized parking spots, can be driven on tight curves and scenic drives, and can typically get into the most remote wild campsites.
✓ Store at Home
These RV’s aren’t much bigger than a regular vehicle aside from the high roof. This means they can be stored at your home, ready to go at a moment’s notice.
✓ Fully Self-Contained
Class B RV’s have everything you’d expect from a motorhome: a kitchen, bathroom, fresh and waste water holding tanks, propane, and more.
✓ Professionally Built
Class B RV’s are built by RV manufacturers, making them more efficient and easier to use than DIY campervans. No need to do any conversion yourself–it’s already done.
✓ Easiest to Drive
Driving a Class B RV feels like driving a van or truck. There’s no doubt that these are the easiest of all drivable RV’s to drive.
Drawbacks of Class B RV’s
✘ Most Expensive
These RV’s are the most expensive in terms of price per square foot.
✘ Little Storage Capacity
Since these RV’s are the smallest motorhomes on the road, there is very little storage space both inside and outside. Every square inch is being used for the features and amenities you’d come to expect from motorhomes, leaving little space to spare for personal belongings.
✘ Not Comfortable for More Than Two People
These are not great rigs for families or groups of friends. Class B RV’s are best suited for solo travelers and campers or couples. For extended use, travelers with pets may also want to look for an option with a little more space.
Towable RV’s (“Trailers”)
Towable RV’s consist of several different types of trailers. There are fifth wheels, travel trailers, toy haulers, pop-up campers, teardrop trailers, and more. Let’s dive into the benefits and drawbacks of each.
Benefits of Towable RV’s vs Motorhomes
✓ Much Cheaper Than Motorhomes
Towable RV’s are the cheapest of all the RV types. A new travel trailer can be purchased for under $10k which is much more easily accessible for new RVers. A used camper can be purchased for as little as $2,000!
✓ Separate Vehicle Required
Having a truck or SUV to pull your trailer can be a benefit or a drawback, depending on how you look at it. The nice thing about it is having a vehicle that you can use for exploring, taking day trips, or running errands while leaving your RV behind at a campground, instead of having to break camp and drag your motorhome along, which is a huge inconvenience.
✓ Less Maintenance
With a towable RV, your engine and your RV are separate. This can save a lot of hassle if your engine needs repaired or–worse–replaced entirely. If you have to get a new truck, you still have the same RV! Since there is no engine, you have much less maintenance to worry about with a towable RV.
✓ Feels More Like a House
Travel trailers and fifth wheels don’t have a cab area, and this makes them feel much more residential than motorhomes. In fact, in some larger fifth wheels, there are even multiple bedrooms and rooms!
Types of Towable Camper Trailers
Travel trailers, sometimes called bumper-pulls, are campers that hook up to the hitch on the bumper of a tow vehicle. Travel trailers come in a variety of sizes and weights and can be pulled by anything from a mid-size SUV up to a large pickup truck.
These RV’s can sleep up to 8 people or more, depending on size and model. Travel trailers are great entry level RV’s, and there are many budget options available.
Benefits of Travel Trailers
✓ Budget Friendly
Travel trailers (including pop-ups, teardrops, hybrids, etc) are the most budget friendly of all types of campers. Travel trailers can be purchased new for under $10k, or used for under $5k. This makes them an attractive option for new RVers.
Many travel trailers can be towed with a mid-sized truck or SUV, while pop-up campers and teardrop trailers can even be towed with a car. This fact makes travel trailers even more attractive, knowing you don’t have to purchase an expensive tow vehicle as well.
✓ Easy To Fit In Campsites
Small travel trailers can go just about anywhere a tent can go! This makes them a great option for camping at state parks and smaller campgrounds.
✓ Can Be Stored At Home
Travel trailers (especially the smaller ones) are easy to store at home. Small travel trailers like pop-ups and teardrops can even be stored in a regular residential garage.
Drawbacks of Travel Trailers
The smaller the RV, the more cramped it will feel. Some small travel trailers (like teardrops) don’t even have standing room, a bathroom, or a kitchen. The ceiling height is also typically lower than in most houses, which can make them feel cramped even when there’s plenty of square footage.
✘ Less Stability when Towing
When towing a larger travel trailer, there is more opportunity for sway and an uncomfortable or unstable towing experience. Fifth wheels are much more stable to tow if you’re looking for a larger trailer. There are products you can buy for your trailer and tow vehicle to make the towing experience more comfortable and safe like sway bars and weight distribution hitches.
✘ Sub-Par Insulation
Because travel trailers are designed to be as lightweight as possible, they are often manufactured with minimal insulation, meaning they are less likely to be suited to cold weather or extreme heat. These RV’s are a better choice for campers in temperate climates.
Fifth wheel RV’s are also called “5th wheels” and “fivers”. These types of trailers are attached to a truck via a hitch in the bed of the truck. They are the largest towable RV’s and have the most stable towing experience because of the hitch location.
Fifth wheels can be up to 45 feet long or longer and have all the amenities of a home. Some even have separate bedrooms and offices!
Benefits of Fifth Wheel RV’s
✓ More Stable Towing Experience
Fifth wheels are the most stable of all large towable RV’s when it comes to towing. This is because of where they attach to the truck. The weight is distributed evenly, and there are many different types of hitches and products to make the ride even better.
✓ Greater Variety of Floorplans
Fifth wheels have the best variety of floorplans and customization options of any RV on the road today. You can choose to have a front kitchen, middle kitchen, or rear kitchen. Or front living, rear living, mid-living…bunk house, mid-bunk, corner bunk….The opportunities are endless!
✓ Lots of Luxury Feature Options
Fifth wheels are huge and because of their size, they’re able to have a lot of awesome features and luxury amenities such as residential refrigerators, washers and dryers, dishwashers, electric fireplaces, and even outdoor kitchens.
✓ Great for Families
Fifth wheels are the best RV’s for large families. Because of the residential style of these types of camper trailers, large families can RV part time or full-time with ease and privacy for each family member.
✓ Interior and Exterior Storage Capacity
Fifth wheels are a popular choice for full-time RVers because they have the most storage of any type of RV. From pass-through storage under the RV to plenty of cabinets, drawers, closets, and dressers on the interior, these RV’s can carry everything you need to bring with you.
✓ Higher Ceiling
Because part of the RV is located over the truck bed, in order to have a uniform height along the top, the rest of the camper has an exceptionally high ceiling, which makes them feel very spacious inside.
✓ Feels Like a House
Because of the size and floorplan options for fifth wheel RV’s, they truly feel like a home on wheels. Each room is clearly separated from the next, and the bedrooms have walls and doors and are usually located on opposite sides of the RV.
Drawbacks of Fifth Wheel RV’s
✘ Typically Requires an Expensive Truck
Fifth wheels are large and heavy–this means you need a truck capable of towing them safely. The bigger the RV, the bigger the truck, and the bigger the truck the more expensive it is! Sometimes your truck might be as expensive as your fifth wheel, and this can be prohibitive for some campers.
✘ Lower gas mileage
Your gas mileage and fuel efficiency depend heavily on your towing vehicle, but in general, the bigger your RV, the more you’ll be paying for gas.
✘ Hard to Fit in Some Campsites
You won’t be able to fit large fifth wheels into all campsites. National Park campgrounds usually have a length limit between 25-35 feet, which excludes many fifth wheels (and also many motorhomes).
✘ Learning Curve to Tow
Towing these behemoths takes some time, practice, and learning. But once you get the hang of it, it’s second nature.
✘ May Require Storage Elsewhere
Unless you have a huge RV garage or plenty of land, you’ll need to store your fifth wheel at a storage facility. This can be expensive and it can also be a hassle.
Toy Haulers are towable RV’s that can be either a travel trailer or a fifth wheel, although fifth wheel toy haulers are the most common. They are called toy haulers because they have a “garage” in the back where you can bring along “toys” like ATVs, OHVs, motorcycles, jet skis, etc.
Benefits of Toy Haulers
Toy haulers have the same benefits as other towable trailers, with the added benefit of the space in the garage.
Many RVers travel with toy haulers and don’t even use the garage for “toys”–instead they convert the garage space into a mobile office, an extra bedroom, or just a hangout spot. This is awesome for those who work from the road, because many toy hauler garages can function like an outdoor patio. Talk about an office with a view!
Drawbacks of Toy Haulers
Toy haulers have many the same drawbacks as other large fifth wheels. Typically these campers are very heavy due to the toy-hauling capability, even if they are travel trailers. So, they require a heavy-duty truck such as a Ford F-350 or Dodge Ram 3500 to pull them.
These trailers can also have a smell of gasoline permeating from the garage area if you bring gas toys with you.
Finally, there are fewer floorplan options in toy haulers than in other towable trailers. The living area is usually combined with the kitchen and dining area, and the interior is typically less luxurious and decorated in colors like black and gray, which RV manufacturers believe are more likely to appeal to male RV owners.
Pop-up campers are sometimes called tent campers. The top part of the camper looks much like a large tent, with walls made from fabric. The top part folds into a short rectangular base for towing.
Pop-ups are great for weekend campers, people who are new to RVing, or those who just want to upgrade from sleeping on the ground.
Benefits of Pop-Up Campers
These campers are the most affordable when it comes to travel trailers. You can snag a great deal on a used pop-up and hit the campsite for around $2,000 or even less!
✓ Can Be Towed with Smaller Vehicles
Pop-ups don’t weigh much, and as a result, they can be towed with a mid-sized SUV. Some pop-ups may even be able to be towed by some cars.
✓ Perfect for Glamping
These campers are the perfect upgrade for tent campers who still want to enjoy a real bed. They can also be really cute after a makeover.
✓ Easy to Store
Pop-up campers are easily stored in your driveway, garage, or back yard.
Disadvantages of Pop-Up Campers
✘ Very Small
Pop-up campers are very small. They typically have a small sitting area, a bit of a kitchenette, and one or two small beds. And since the top has to be packed into the base, there isn’t room for a lot of storage either.
✘ Temperature Regulation
Since the walls are made out of fabric, it’s hard to keep a pop-up camper temperature regulated. Many pop-ups do come with air conditioning and heating, but holding the temperature isn’t easy, which means these campers aren’t great for freezing or sweltering weather conditions.
✘ Weather Dependent
Pop-up campers aren’t ideal for use in inclement weather. They are more durable than tents, but you wouldn’t really want to be sitting in one during a hailstorm.
✘ Lack of Amenities
You won’t find a full size refrigerator or full-size anything in a pop-up camper. Everything has to pack down to half the size it was before. There typically aren’t standard RV amenities in pop-up campers.
✘ No Bathroom
Most pop-up campers don’t have a bathroom. Some do, but there is not much privacy other than a curtain. This can be a problem for some campers who prefer to be self-contained.
Other Types of RV’s
Here are some other types of RV’s that don’t easily fit into the motorhome or towable categories.
Slide-in campers are also known as truck campers or backpack campers. These campers slide into your truck bed. Everything you need is right there in the bed of your truck. There are pop-up truck campers and regular truck campers.
Benefits of Truck Campers
✓ Can Go Anywhere
These campers are awesome because you can take them anywhere you would take your truck. Pop-up truck campers are very popular with off-road enthusiasts.
✓ Can Have All RV Amenities
Some of the more expensive truck campers will blow your mind. Truck campers can come with as many as 3 slide-outs and have all the amenities of an RV including a bathroom, shower, sleeping area, kitchen, dinette, bedroom, washer and dryer, and more!
Disadvantages of Slide-In Campers
✘ Expensive for the Size
Truck campers can be very expensive. Some of the newer models with slideouts and all the standard RV amenities can cost as much as $80k!
✘ Requires a Large Truck
Truck campers are pretty heavy, and when you’re traveling with a truck camper you want to think about your truck’s payload capacity vs. towing capacity. Fitting everything you need into a truck camper adds a lot of weight, so most require a heavy-duty pickup truck to carry.
Park Model RV’s
Park model RV’s are sometimes known as destination trailers. These RV’s are meant to be towed to a destination or RV park, set up, and left long term. These towable RV’s aren’t meant to be on the road a lot. As a result, they have much more residential styling and features.
Benefits of Park Model RV’s
✓ Like a Tiny Home
Park models are much more like small mobile homes than they are RV’s. These RV’s are very comfortable for full-time living or to set up on a vacation property, but you can still move them (or pay to have them moved) anytime you need to.
Drawbacks of Park Model RV’s
✘ Not Designed for Frequent Travel
Park model RV’s are taller and less aerodynamic than motorhomes or fifth wheels and have amenities and construction that make them impractical for frequent relocation.
Fish House RV’s
A “fish house” or “ice house RV” is a towable RV that is meant to be towed onto a frozen lake for ice fishing. These RV’s are incredibly insulated and have many features and amenities that would appeal to ice fishermen – like holes in the floor to access to ice beneath to fish from inside your camper!
They aren’t commonly seen outside of Canada and northern U.S. states, but their beautiful wood interiors and cold weather features might make them an intriguing option for full-time living.
Benefits of Fish House RV’s
✓ Built to Withstand Arctic Climates
These RV’s are not only insulated–they’re super insulated. They’re built to withstand arctic temperatures….Because they’re made to sit on top of a frozen lake, after all.
Drawbacks of Fish House RV’s
✘ Hard to Find
There aren’t many fish houses in production compared with other types of RV’s, so they can be hard to find. They’re very expensive to buy new, and it’s very difficult to find them used.
Horse Trailer Campers
Horse trailer campers are towable RV’s that are horse trailers with a portion of the trailer serving as a camper, with typical camper features and amenities.
Benefits of Horse Trailers
The main appeal of a horse trailer camper is implied in the name: the ability to bring along your horses. The living area of a horse trailer camper has all the standard amenities of regular RV’s, and many have luxury amenities and features.
Drawbacks of Horse Trailers
Like most large travel trailers and fifth wheels, you’ll need a large truck to tow a horse trailer camper. But other than that, if you are into horse camping, this is an excellent choice.
Not RV’s, But Other Types of Homes on Wheels Worth a Look
Conversion vans, also called camper vans, are similar to Class B RV’s, but they are built DIY style. While not classified as recreational vehicles, these campervans can have similar amenities. The work of converting a van into a campervan can be done by the owner or hired out, as there are hundreds of van conversion companies all over the United States and beyond.
Benefits of DIY Conversion Vans
✓ May Be Affordable Than a Class B RV
Van conversions can be more affordable if a used van is purchased and the conversion is done on a budget. Otherwise, campervans can be just as expensive as an RV.
✓ Ability to Customize
When converting a van to a campervan, you can design the layout around your needs and lifestyle and can incorporate your personal style into the look and feel. You can get really creative with high-quality materials and beautiful fixtures.
Drawbacks of Conversion Vans
✘ Require Significant Modification
Significant modification is required to turn a regular van into a campervan. If you have the skills to do it, it will take a lot of money and time to complete. If you have to hire a company to do it for you, be prepared to pay anywhere from $30k-70k or more.
✘ May Not Be Allowed at RV Parks
Some RV parks will turn away any self-converted traveling vehicle. This includes DIY campervans, converted cargo trailers, skoolies, and tiny houses. If you live in one full time, you might find yourself waking up to a view of a parking lot more often than a view of a beach.
Just like Class B motorhomes, conversion vans can feel cramped when living in them for an extended period of time, especially if you travel with a partner or pets.
Converted Cargo Trailers
Converted cargo trailers are simply cargo trailers that have been converted into a home on wheels, similar to a travel trailer.
Benefits of Converted Cargo Trailers
✓ May Be Purchased Affordably
Cargo trailers are relatively inexpensive to buy. The supplies will cost a lot, but the cost of the trailer itself is generally pretty affordable.
✓ Perfect for the DIYer
DIYers who love having projects might be elated to take on a cargo van camper build. These are totally customizable, the sky is the limit.
Drawbacks of Converted Cargo Trailers
✘ Need to Be Modified
Cargo trailer conversions require significant amounts of both construction knowledge and trailer modification. If you want to add in plumbing or holding tanks, you will have to do a lot of modification to the structure of the trailer.
✘ May Not Be Allowed at Some RV Parks
Similar to other self-built traveling campers, some RV parks will turn these rigs away.
A Skoolie is a converted school or shuttle bus. Skoolies come in many ranges and sizes, and each is completely custom and different.
Benefits of Skoolies
✓ Affordable to Purchase
Used school buses, shuttle buses, and public transport buses are easy to locate and generally pretty affordable to purchase, especially as compared with a motorhome of a similar size.
✓ Easy to Find Repair Parts
Most buses are produced by just a handful of companies, making it easy to find repair parts no matter where you are in the nation.
✓ Sturdy Construction
School buses in particular are built to much different standards than RV’s. Since they are built to transport children, they are designed to be much safer in the event of an accident.
Drawbacks of Skoolies
✘ Requires Significant Modification to Build
To convert a skoolie, you need lots of time, significant construction knowledge or a willingness to learn, and a lot of expensive tools and materials.
✘ May Not Be Allowed at Some RV Parks
As mentioned earlier, self-built campers, skoolies included, are often turned away at some RV parks and campgrounds due to some people viewing them as “unsightly”.
Tiny Houses on Wheels
Tiny houses are often built on trailers, which makes them mobile. Similar to park model RV’s, tiny houses aren’t really built or meant for frequent travel or relocation, but some use them for this purpose anyway. Let’s look at the pros and cons.
Benefits of Tiny Houses on Wheels
The main benefit to tiny houses is that they can be completely customized in terms of the layout, size, and building materials. They are often constructed more like a house, making them sturdier than an RV and more able to withstand extreme climates. They can also have the same quality and luxury as a beautiful, modern home.
Drawbacks of Tiny Houses on Wheels
✘ Not Ideal for Travel
Tiny homes on wheels aren’t ideal for travel. Relocating them once in a while isn’t too difficult, but their weight, size, and build aren’t conducive to the rigors of frequent travel.
✘ Can Be Difficult to Find Places to Park Legally
Unless you own land–and sometimes even if you do–it’s difficult to find legal spots for tiny homes. Most jurisdictions have building rules and regulations requiring residential buildings to be a certain number of square feet, and tiny houses almost never fit those requirements.
Tiny house owners get around building codes by putting wheels on their home so it can be considered a “vehicle”, but then they run into county laws and city ordinances that prevent people from living in vehicles parked on land, or RV parks that won’t allow self-built vehicles.
✘ Significant Work to Build or Expensive to Buy
A tiny house is literally built from the ground up. This takes a significant amount of time, money, and effort. And, they’re even more expensive to buy new. In some parts of the U.S., a full-sized home or cabin can be bought or built for roughly the same as it would cost to build a tiny home on wheels.
Different RV’s for Different Lifestyles
There are many different options to choose from if you’re looking for a home on wheels to travel with or live in, and each is suited for different lifestyles and preferences.
There is no one-size-fits-all approach to RVing, whether you’re doing it full-time, part-time, or just occasionally camping.
To further narrow down your search, look into the RV types and styles that interest you the most. Visit local RV dealerships and tour lots of units, both the new and used, and including even the ones you think you would never want, because being inside of an RV is a lot different than looking at pictures of it. Rent an RV for a weekend trip and get the feel of what it would actually be like to use. But most importantly of all, do your research!