It can be a little intimidating when buying an RV the first time … I know it was for us! We looked at pop-up campers and travel trailers till we were dreaming about them in our sleep! Now, we are in the early stages of purchasing our fifth RV because life is changing and so are our needs. This time the buying process is fun and we are excited about the next chapter in our RVing life! Psst we’re compensated…see our disclosures.
5 Tips For Buying An RV
Buying an RV is an easy process and can actually be fun IF you start by answering 5 simple questions!
#1. WHO – Who will be using your RV?
You will need sleeping, storage and living space for the people and pets who will be using your RV.
Single person Couple Kids Pets (don’t forget they need to eat, sleep, bathe and go potty too. Personally, finding a good place for our kitty litter box is one of our on-going challenges … no matter which RV we have at the moment.) Guests, how often will they visit and how long will they be staying in your RV?
We have a post that is filled with camping storage ideas that will help you to answer the question about who will be using your RV and how storage space is impacted by your RV buying decision.
#2. WHAT – What do you plan to do in your RV?
Camping, traveling or living? Camping on weekends, vacationing road trips, seasonal living, full time living … you need to really understand how you plan to use your RV because these things matter:
Refrigerator/freezer and closet/drawer storage space Connectivity for internet and TV Full functioning kitchen or BBQ grilling and campfire cooking Fresh and waste water capacity Electrical capacity of batteries (and if you need solar panels or a generator) Towable or driveable (if you buy a Class A or Class C, once you arrive at your RV camping destination, will you need a vehicle or do you plan on using an alternative mode of transportation to get around?)
Personally, we like camping in remote areas where we are self-contained … so … we have portable solar panels that provide an on-going supply of power to our RV batteries to meet our power needs.
#3. WHERE – Where do you plan to take your RV?
Where you go with your new RV plays a role in the type of RV that is best for you. Consider these things:
RV parks with no size limitations and full hookups National Parks and older campgrounds with size limitations and no hookups Boondocking on rough roads without any services
We save A LOT of money and avoid a lot of crowds by dodging campgrounds and RV parks … choosing to stay in free camping locations instead. We like boondocking because we are not on a schedule and we can always find a spot that is beautiful and quite. You will see what that “looks like” later in this post as I discuss our “Must List” we are using as we shop for our next RV.
#4. WHEN – When will you be using your RV?
Most RVs are notorious for having very little insulation … whatever the weather is outside … it is almost the same as the weather inside!
How often do you plan on traveling, for what duration, in which climates, during what times of year? Summer heat with need of air conditioning? Winter cold with need for heater and polar package?
If you are buying an RV to use in cold climates, you should check out our Winter RV Camping Tips post for more information.
#5. WHY – Why are you buying an RV and how are you paying for it?
Some people hate talking about money when it comes to buying an RV but it is necessary to consider it in your decision making process. Ask yourself these questions:
Will this RV be a toy/hobby? Do you need to calculate how much it costs to take it out 3 times a year? That is a different calculation than living in it full time and replacing a house payment with a vehicle payment and house insurance with vehicle insurance. How many years do you expect to own the RV you are buying? Financing an RV or paying cash? Know your budget and understand that RVs are just like any other vehicle … they depreciate. Brand new RVs take a price hit as soon as you drive off the dealer’s lot. Used RVs can save money if they are in good condition BUT it is not always easy to find a clean, well maintained used one with the exact features you have on your “Must List” so you might have to be a little flexible. Consider acquisition and operating costs. For example, diesel pusher motorhomes are substantially more expensive to purchase than an equivalent motorhome with a gas powered engine. The fuel economy between both rigs may be similar, but the diesel pusher will handle steep grades more effectively than its gas powered cousin. You need to determine which RV will be most cost effective in the long run based on your travel needs.
If you are buying an RV for the first time, you should check out our post: RVing Tips For Beginners: Enjoying The Maiden Journey that has lots of information to help you have a totally successful first trip in your new RV!
Tips For Buying An RV That Is Right For You
Once you answer the 5 W’s about buying an RV, it’s time to do some research. The easiest way to know your options is to visit RV shows and dealerships.
Create a “Must List” To Purchase An RV
Take notes and create a “Must List” which should include features you MUST HAVE and those you MUST NOT HAVE in your RV.
We are currently in the research process of buying an RV we plan to live in during the summer months. We are going from the travel trailer weekend camping/annual vacation stage of our RV life … and … moving into the 5th wheel semi-full time, seasonal aspect of RVing. (We are going to use it like a mobile cabin in the summer and commute to work from the mountains because it is just too hot here in Phoenix in August 😓 LOL).
Here is an example of my personal “Must List” which will give you an idea of the types of things to consider when making your own list.
Must be able to make the bed while standing next to it (bed must not be immediately next to a wall so I have to sit on top of it in order to put sheets on it😩) Refrigerator/Freezer must be able to run on propane and electric … and large enough to handle meals for 2 weeks Living space must have a lot of windows Interior and exterior storage must be abundant enough for seasonal living Must be able to access bathroom and refrigerator when slides are in Floor plan layout must have acceptable space to permanently store kitty litter box😻😻 Fresh and wastewater capacity must be sufficient for 2 weeks of boondocking Flooring must have minimal carpet, preferably none If fifth wheel, length must not exceed 35 feet, preferably 30 feet The RV’s specifications must not exceed the towing capacity of our current truck Can be a new one (but does not have to be) if we find a clean used RV that has been well maintained Considerations When Buying An RV
Consider the pros and cons of buying an RV that is new versus one that is used.
PROS to buying an RV that is NEW Get exactly the features you want in your new RV Warranty/service plan Latest technology No hidden wear and tear or damage Convenience of shopping PROS to buying an RV that is USED Not afraid to put the “first scratch” on it Modifications previous owner paid for Lower purchase cost/depreciation hit already taken Lower insurance costs No sales tax in states that charge it (if purchased from a private seller) CONS to buying an RV that is NEW Higher purchase cost/depreciation hit Higher insurance costs Sales tax in states that charge it and dealer fees CONS to buying an RV that is USED Possible hidden wear and tear or damage No warranty/service plan and expensive repairs Inconvenient shopping, various dealerships and private sellers Rent Before Buying An RV
If you have the opportunity to rent or borrow before buying an RV, you should take it! There is no better way to determine what you like and hate about an RV than actually using it.
People are different and their needs are different … here is our personal example.
We rented a Class C Motorhome years ago and I’m soooooo glad we did! We decided we would NEVER want to buy one because of how we used the vehicle.
We had 2 couples staying in it for a 10-day vacation where we visited 3 National Parks (Grand Canyon, Bryce and Zion). We traded beds in the middle of the trip so one couple did not get stuck in the “coffin bed” above the cab for the entire trip.
My husband and I were in the “coffin bed” first … it was terrible. BUT, halfway through the trip when it was time to switch beds, we were disappointed in the main queen bed too. It was jammed in the corner of the RV.
It was next to impossible to make the bed AND I had to crawl over my husband in the middle of the night to use the restroom.
The refrigerator was too small to accommodate food for the entire trip so we had to use coolers for additional cold storage.
Because we “live outside” when we are camping, we didn’t care too much about the interior layout for sitting or eating inside … UNLESS … it was raining, windy, hot or cold and we needed a place to take cover.
Luckily, we had great weather for most of the trip because the interior of this rental did not comfortably accommodated all of us. In fact, we decided it was not comfortable enough for a single couple that camps the way we do.
See what I mean … people are different and their needs are different. Buying an RV is a very personal exercise.
Mistakes When Buying An RV
The single biggest mistake people make when buying an RV is getting overly excited and making a purchase out of impulse rather than out of logic. The second biggest mistake is not “really” knowing what you really “want” and “need” before purchasing an RV.
Buy An RV That Is Right For You
So, take your time … do your homework … sleep on it … and when it comes time to pull the trigger to buy your RV, you’ll be level-headed and won’t regret your decision. Then, you will enjoy every trip in your RV rather than saying “I wish I would have known this before buying an RV!”
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