It sounds like these may be a valuable tool in our electrical arsenal, esp. if we might venture into Mexico!
FWIW, we don't have one, having found virtually no need for such a device anywhere in the US. However, we have traveled extensively in Mexico and that is the one place where we wished we had one. We made do without, and I'm not sure the limited number of times, even in Mexico, where it would have helped would have justified the fairly high cost, plus the space and weight in the bay to haul it around...
However, from my limited understanding, it sounds like these devices must 'sacrifice' amperage for voltage. Is that correct? Is there any way to know how much amperage you have 'lost' when one is in operation?
Yes. The formula is very simple. Remember that the amperage coming from the pedestal is fixed at the handle rating of the breaker (instantaneous, or about 80% of that handle rating continuous).
If you multiply the handle rating of the breaker by the voltage at the pedestal (under load), that will be the total watts available. Divide that by the voltage output from the buck/boost transformer, and that will be the maximum amps available at the output.
For example, let's say you have a 30-amp park receptacle, and you measure the voltage under load at 90 volts. 30*90=2,700 watts available. If your transformer is producing 120 volts, then you have 2,700/120=22.5 amps total available.
If you had a 50-amp park receptacle, and you measured the hot-to-hot voltage at 200 volts, and your transformer was producing 240 volts, you'd have (50*200)/240=41.67 amps available.
Remember that the transformer itself dissipates some of the power as heat. I would figure around 5% loss for the typical autotransformer, so knock 5% off those values.
Also, transformers generally create heat. Is it safe to hardwire one of these autoformers into the electrical bay? OR would it be better to use it 'stand alone' outside of the RV?
Depends on the make and model. You should follow the manufacturer's recommendations for installation and ventilation.