Have you ever passed an RV with a smiling driver and thought, “One day, that’ll be me?” If so, you’re not the only one itching to hit the road in a van, class b, class c, trailer, or RV motorhome. Buying an RV can be overwhelming as essentially you are buying a home and vehicle. Read on as I will give you some key RV buying tips to consider.
Choosing the right RV is important. Trust me, I know, as when I look back, I say “I wish i would have known this”. To help you make a confident and informed decision — and get it right the first time! — a list of important things to consider when buying an RV.
In a recent SpareFoot survey on leisure vehicles, 42 percent of respondents said they’d buy an RV or Trailer if money were no object. However, there’s a lot more to owning an RV than whizzing down the highway and hanging out at RV parks and campgrounds.
What Type of RV Do You Need?
There are two things you need to consider before buying an RV: What type of RV do you need, and do you want a new or used RV? There are many different types of motorhomes and towables to choose from.
Motorhomes can be driven and towables, well, they need to be towed by a separate vehicle.
Depending on your comfort level, towing can be as expensive as buying a motorhome. It comes down to the towable you opt to buy, such as a fifth wheel RV or a travel trailer.
If you want to tow, that’ll require you to invest in a towing vehicle, such as a large truck or SUV. If you don’t already own a vehicle capable of towing an RV, this is an added expense to factor into your budget.
If you do own a towing vehicle, then it’s a matter of getting comfortable with driving while towing.
Pop up campers, truck campers and small travel trailers are often the best way to ease into the RVing lifestyle. For those looking for more room, investing in a mid to large travel trailer or fifth wheel RV is the way to go.
While most towables from campers to fifth wheel RVs offer the same functionality and features, sometimes it’s all about the size of the trailer or RV due to the comfort level of those traveling and using it.
RV Buying Tips #1 – Comfort & Safety
If we’re being honest with ourselves, full-time RVers will be the first to admit that most RVs aren’t as cushy or comfortable as the houses we left behind. For full-timers, that’s a fair trade-off for the freedom and adventure that life in an RV offers. But that doesn’t mean you should settle for an uncomfortable RV!
Find a rig that feels good to you. You don’t want to feel claustrophobic or cramped on long trips. Do you cook a lot? Make sure you like the layout of the kitchen. Do you need your privacy? Look for an RV that has doors and dividers.
Some people love the Class As because of the large windshield. They say it provides a more open feel with stellar views while driving. Others love fifth-wheels or travel trailers because they feel the most like “a regular house.”
Personally, I love our Class C because the seats in the driver’s cab are so comfortable for traveling and the overhead bunk gives my our son a place of his own without sacrificing any space.
RV Buying Tips #2 – Sometimes New RVs Can Arrive With Problems
When buying a new RV, you’re getting a model that’s between a few weeks and a couple of months off the assembly line. In some cases, you may even be getting an RV or trailer straight from the manufacturer. This means that the RV is brand new with the features or customizations you chose at the dealer. This is the most expensive option for buying an RV beside building one from the ground up through a manufacturer.
- No need to worry about damage, wear, and tear or issues when driving off the lot for the first time
- Custom options, such as color choice, room layout, and more are available
- A brand new, top of the line RV off the assembly line
- Manufacturer warranty coverage starts the second you make the buy
- Get exactly what you want for the price you want off the line
- Not all RVs and trailers are customized through the manufacturer, requiring more expenses in the future
- Insurance premiums will be higher
- Can be expensive depending on the features you want
- May have to go out of your way to having a trailer or RV shipped if local dealers don’t have one in stock
- May have to invest in a towing vehicle
RV Buying Tips #3 – Consider Buying a Used RV or Trailer
When buying a used RV, there’s no telling how long it’s been since original production. The wear and tear on a used RV can cause issues you have to fix. Buying a used RV is done through a dealer or a third party, such as on Craigslist or a private seller. When you buy a used RV, it is buyer beware because you never know for sure what might be wrong or what you’ll have to fix in the future. These fixes can add up. In addition, you may never know if proper care and maintenance was performed by prior owners.
- Insurance will be cheaper for a used RV
- May be able to find the exact RV you want that’s not currently in production
- Save a significant amount of money
- Can opt to rebuild, redecorate and restore the RV to your liking
- Can take the time to customize, repair, and upgrade components
- Spend a considerable amount of money on upgrades or deferred repairs
- Damage may not be visible, which means you’ll invest more repairing the RV
- You never know what might be wrong with the RV
- You may not be aware of how depreciated the RV is in value
- The manufacturer’s warranty often has run out
RV Buying Tips #4 – Perfect RV Hard to Find
Choosing the perfect RV can be very time consuming. After all, there are literally thousands of them!
With so many floor plan options, choosing just one can feel overwhelming.
Pick a floor plan where every camper has their own place to sleep (unless you plan to regularly travel with eight people — good luck finding a vehicle large enough for eight separate beds!).
Whether you use your RV for weekend trips or want to become a full-timer, this decision is going end up affecting the quality of your experience for better or worse. You should also consider your pets and if you will bring them — they also need a place to rest.
Make a list of “must-haves” and stick to it. Different floor plans offer different amenities.
Do you need a washer and dryer? How many TVs would you like? Are bunk beds essential or can you make do with fold-out couches? How many bathrooms do you need? Would you like a door that closes to your bedroom?
A single RV model usually comes in many different floor plans.
When we first started RV shopping, we thought we wanted a travel trailer with a separate bunkhouse. On paper, this layout looked perfect! After walking through a few of those floor plans, they were way too big for our family. A small trailer may has sufficed but in the end, we ended up choosing a Class C RV. I recommend you see all types to get an overall sense of each type of RV.
The best way to get a feel for different floor plans is to visit a dealership and walk through them all. If you’re torn, you can rent an RV to get a feel for what the space is like when you’re actually living in it.
RV Buying Tips #5 – Financing within Budget
Once you’ve settled into what type of RV you need, you’ll need to work out your budget and financing. Most RV dealers offer to finance through a variety of lenders. You can also take out a vehicle loan from your bank or a third party to help finance it.
Depending on your credit score, how much you’re willing to put down for a down payment and other factors, financing may be easier said than done.
If you can finance through your dealer, you’ll get interest rates closest to what your bank would offer with good credit. If you finance through a third-party lender, you’ll often pay a higher interest rate.
It’s important to make sure you can afford the monthly payments on an RV or trailer, along with looking to pay it off early whenever possible.
Most RVs can last up to 15 years or more if general maintenance is performed, says West. You’ll need to set aside at least a couple thousand dollars for annual RV maintenance and repairs. A sealant inspection of moldings, windows, doors and hatches is crucial every spring and fall. Other maintenance costs include brakes, bearings, bushings, sealant work, a propane gas test and general wear and tear repairs.
RV Buying Tips #6 – RVing has expenses but it is Fun
Can you drive the RV? Even a small RV can be intimidating, especially if you’re not a confident driver to begin with. While I loved the idea of a 35 foot Class A, I was just too intimidated by its size, weight, and height.
When you get started RVing, it can come at a high price: Sticker shock. RVing is expensive. It’s not just buying a new or used RV. It’s also storage, maintenance, repairs, insurance, and everything between. It’s food for on and off the road. It’s entertainment once you park.
For some families, this may not be possible, and that’s why buying used might save them money. For others, they’re ready to invest upfront and take advantage of the savings down the line.
RV Buying Tips #7 – Other Things to consider in RVing
Keep in mind that buying the RV itself is only half the battle. There are a handful of extra expenses that come with buying an RV, such as:
- Insurance and gap coverage
- Maintenance and repair costs
- Insurance and registration
- Gas and propane expenses
- Access to cable and the internet
- Where you’ll park during trips
- How you’ll make meals
RVing is a long-term investment. If you go into the buying process understanding that you’ll be able to make the right financial choice for you and your family. While RVing will save you up to 50 percent in the future on vacations, you’re going to need to put a significant amount of money upfront to get started. I hope these RV buying tips have helped you out. Do your research and in the end, I hope you get the RV that will bring happiness and enjoyment to you and your family.