RV Purchase Advice for 1st Time Buyers
Buying an RV is both exciting and overwhelming.
It’s a long-term and adventurous purchase with a huge financial burden. After all, you’re essentially buying a home and sometimes a car attached to it.
And therefore, it’s easy to feel like you’re over your head with how much there’s to consider, especially if it’s your first travel trailer. There are seemingly never-ending options and features to choose from.
Fortunately, you don’t need to beat yourself up about it. Our team has put this comprehensive RV buying guide together to help you make the right decision for your needs.
Our in-depth guide will look at the different types of RVs available, compare the features and give you the best tips for selecting the best RV.
7 Handy Tips to Consider when Purchasing an RV
1) Research First
The first step of the RV purchase process is thorough research. A lot can be done online in the comfort of your home. Reddit, YouTube and RV forums are resourceful.
Hop online and get a feel of what’s readily available in the market. Spend your time looking at the different RV models you’re interested in, research different years and options and see what prices they’re selling for.
Read the reliability ratings of different models and about owner experience on forums. Also, research and find out what a particular RV depreciates at, & check on insurance costs.
Check the RV’s reliability, cross the ones with reliability issues, and narrow it down to a couple of models.
Read the reviews of different manufacturers, and note which options RVers love and those they’re not so fond of. Know which brands you’d be willing to buy and ones you wouldn’t touch.
Outside of that, research is also seeing in person and getting hands-on research. Start by renting an RV and doing a weekend or longer to decide whether a particular RV is ideal for you.
You could also visit RV parks to get critiques of different models from owners. RVers are usually friendly people and willing to share honest experiences.
2) Have an RV “Wish List”
The other handy tip to help you with your next travel trailer purchase decision is making a list of “must haves” and “wants”.
Start by writing down a list of features or amenities you wish to have in your travel trailer. It doesn’t hurt to be specific and picky at first.
And from there, determine what features you consider as the bare minimum. The “non-negotiables”, at least for me, are the amenities you can’t do without and those that match your lifestyle.
For example, if you have kids, having ample space and good storage is a must-have. Also, if you need to tow your RV, consider the weight and ensure your truck can handle the vehicle’s weight rating.
3) Understand the Purpose of your RV Purchase
The perfect RV, at least in my opinion, should match your RVing lifestyle. So, it’s important to determine the purpose of your RV purchase.
There’re different sizes and kinds of RVs- classes A, B, C toy hauliers, fifth wheels, travel trailers and more.
The ideal choice will depend on your family’s RVing needs.
For example, if you wish to travel full-time with your family or as a group and need a true-to-home experience on wheels, I’d recommend the Class A motorhomes. They’re the luxury liners of the RV world, but also expensive.
On the other hand, if you’ll be doing lots of solo camping and need a trailer that packs a comfortable living space into a lightweight and aerodynamic design, I’d suggest a teardrop trailer.
From experience, the purpose of your RVing correlates to the floor space. If you’ve kids or plan on spending a bunch of time in the RV, pick a big trailer with a generous space offering. Otherwise, you’re going to feel cramped and claustrophobic.
However, if you simply need your RV as a base of operations and you’ll be out for the entire day, you can do fine with the smaller RVs.
It’s also important for RVers to be practical when buying an RV. Consider your storage needs for things like food, pans, and pots.
4) Type of Travel Trailer (Motorhome or towables)
Other than the size, the other major split between the different RVs is whether they’re drivable or towable.
Drivable RVs, like the Class A, B, & C motorhomes, usually come attached to a van or truck chassis. While they’re a bit more expensive than the towable options, they don’t need a separate towing vehicle.
The drivable options are also great when moving around a lot. They’re cool and spacious, and the huge windshield provides panoramic views.
Unfortunately, they’ve their own drivetrain, which makes them expensive, especially when you need to repair them.
You can’t also drive these motorhomes to the store because of space limitations.
On the other hand, the towables usually need a separate towing vehicle, and they are suitable when you need to stay in one spot for a while.
The towables are cool because you simply tow them with your truck. And when you don’t need the trailer, you simply detach it from the truck.
Now, if you choose to go for a towable, you must consider your towing vehicle. It should have adequate towing capacity for the camper you want to acquire.
Of course, the choice between the two usually comes down to preference.
5) Consider a Used RV
I know buying a new RV is attractive to many campers on a gut level. However, the fact remains is new RVs depreciate faster than old RVs. They’re also super expensive.
And no, don’t get me wrong; I’ve nothing against a new RV, but getting an old RV would make some financial sense if you’re on a budget.
Along with the high price tag, almost all new RVs usually come with quirks and “bugs” right out of the factory.
It’s surprising to some, but in many instances, investing in a slightly used RV is much easier to repair than a new one because the previous owner might have worked out the little kinks. Not always, but you shouldn’t be afraid of getting an old RV.
While most of the old RVs come as “plug-n-play”, you must still do due diligence before purchase.
The biggest risk of purchasing a used RV is it may have damage that is not easily visible. When searching for a used RV, the first thing to ask for is records of warranty work performed. It’s rare for a new RV to roll off the lot and never to go back for some repairs within the first year.
Another important thing is to get a moisture meter and use it everywhere possible. Don’t be afraid to get underneath the unit and check for the presence of moisture. After all, nothing is more damaging in an RV than water leakage.
Next, step on every square inch of the floor, and take your time inspecting anything and everything out of the ordinary. Look in all cabinets and drawers for sins of mice, and check on the switches, vents, skylights and everything.
And if you’re going to spend quite a bit of $ on the old RV, I’d recommend hiring an NRVIA-certified RV inspector.
6) Stick to a Budget: Don’t Overextend yourself
Having a set budget usually determines the RV you can afford. Once you understand what you’re willing to spend, narrowing down your options is easier.
Whatever you do, it’s always a good idea to stick to your budget. I know it’s tempting to get carried away by the fancy bells and whistles, but always remember what’s important.
Remember, you can always do cosmetic customization on your RV, but replacing the water heater or air conditioner is much harder.
Next, consider how you’ll repay if you take out a loan for your RV. You’d want to understand the financing options to stay within your monthly budget limits.
Putting a down payment on the RV purchase can help to lower the monthly charges.
7) Prepare yourself for RV Life
An RV purchase is different from a car purchase.
New/old cars are usually not maintenance hungry in the first few years, besides oil changes and filter replacement.
It’s different for an RV.
Think about it: An RV is more like a home on wheels. In short, components will likely break down even in the first year.
Electric connections are likely to jostle apart from rough road use, while the nails and screws are also likely to loosen up over time.
To sum up, don’t expect an RV to go for years without asking for minor repairs and maintenance. The good thing is most of these issues are usually cosmetic and minor.
So, with some elbow grease, you could have a rewarding wanderlust experience.
Q: What’s the best month to buy an RV?
A: Slow season for RVs usually starts in September and tapers off in October and November. The sales nosedives in December and January making them the best months for RV shopping.
Q: Is buying an RV worth it?
A: An RV purchase isn’t worth it from a financial perspective. However, it’s a lifestyle investment and worth it if you’re an outdoor person and have the resources to enjoy it and keep t well-maintained.
Q: Are RV price negotiable?
A: Yes, RV purchases are similar to car purchases. You can negotiate the price of your RV just as you would a car. Usually, dealerships have high margins on their RV sales, so they can always go a bit lower.
Q: How hard is it to get approved for RV financing?
A: Getting approved for an RV loan is much harder than getting an auto loan. In most cases, lenders require you to have a credit score of at least 700. Most lenders will finance up to 15 years on some of the larger RVs.
The older the year model the less finance years and some will charge more interest too. A the time of this publication interest rates are just below 6%.
RV Auctions and Financing Resources
RV auctions can be a great way to educate yourself with purchasing an RV. Here is a website with active auctions.
That’s a wrap and everything you need to know about buying an RV.
If you get into the process of purchasing a travel trailer understanding your RVing needs, you’re likely to make the right financial decision for your family.
And if you decide to invest in a used travel trailer, I can’t stress enough the importance of doing a thorough inspection. In particular, check on the water leakage because it seems to be a common problem.