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What you need to know when buying an RV | RV Safety Tips and Tricks
What you need to know when buying an RV

What you need to know when buying an RV

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Hello, everyone. In this post, I want to talk to you about what you need to know about buying an RV. I’ll mostly be talking about travel trailers and 5th wheels but, really, these things apply to Motor homes as well.

Buying an RV, whether a trailer or a Motorhome, is a pretty big investment and will be one of the biggest decisions you will make in your life. Right behind marriage, a new house, having kids and what vehicle you want.

It also includes learning how to tow it properly and/or driving it. The bigger the trailer the harder it is to park it and the same goes for Motorhomes.


What are My Choices?

Fun For 1 or 2

First, you need to know what you want and what your choices are.  Well, let’s see. Is a travel trailer (14 ft – 32+ ft) or fifth wheel (bigger and more room) the right choice?

Do I want a teardrop trailer or a “Tent Trailer”? Do I want a small travel trailer designed for a couple or a 32+ footer for a family? Does it need to be rugged for off-road travel?

Then there are the fifth wheels. Small, medium, large, sleeps 4-6-8 or more. Do I need a toy hauler?  Those come in different lengths as well mostly big.

Motor homes are the same deal. Do I want to purchase a Class A, Class B or Class C and what are the differences between them?  Do I want 20 feet, 30 feet or more?

Maybe all you want is a truck camper. They come in a variety of sizes as well and some models come with pop – outs.


What Kind of RV’ing Do I want to do?

Freedom In the Back Country

Is your big dream to camp “Off the grid/boondocking”? If that’s the case you will either want to check out generators (at least 3500 watts so you can run the air conditioner) or solar power (a minimum of 200 watts to keep the batteries at maximum). Or you may want a combination of both just in case it’s a gloomy day.  Some research will give you an idea of what you will need.

Ask questions and make sure that you can get what you want in your RV.

Perhaps you just want to camp at an RV resort or other privately owned camping grounds that have electricity, water, and sewer hookups. Most will have all of these, some will have water but not electricity, some might not have sewer hookups. Most RV Camping guides will have a list of these amenities for each RV park or Resort.

If they don’t have electricity, then you will still need one or the other or both of what I mentioned above.

Are you considering 4 – season camping? In that case, you will need an RV that has extra insulation, heated tanks and, a sealed undercarriage in order to avoid frozen pipes and tanks in the winter. Sorry, more questions.


How MUCH do I Want To Spend?

Not 1.38 Million But Still Big Bucks

And now we come to the dreaded “Budget”. You could just spend a few thousand for an older RV like the one pictured above and fix it up. That is an excellent option if you’re a handyman.

Or, if you want new, you might be looking at $10,000 – $25,000 for a teardrop all the way up to $1.38+ million or more for a top of the line state of the art Motorhome. Some people spend way more than that. How much do you want to spend?

And remember that some RVs have options that you can add on.  Not everything you want will be standard equipment so the more options you included the more your unit will cost.   It all adds up so, if you don’t need it right away, put it off until you can make it work.


Endless Questions

I could go on and on. Do you want it Solar ready or already installed? Do you need interior space when you’re parked… 1 slide-out or 5 or NO slide outs. Or, are you good with just the basics?  Do you need bunks?  Are you planning to do a lot of traveling in your RV or just short trips to the nearest RV park? Boondocking or not boondocking?

See what I mean? The questions can be endless but they’re questions you have to ask yourself when buying an RV whether it’s your first or your second or, in our case, third.

My wife and I just recently purchased our third travel trailer. Our first had bunks because we had our granddaughter living with us. When she moved out and didn’t want to go with us anymore we bought one without bunks.

Now we are a little older and retired and we want to save money on gas so we bought a smaller trailer just for the 2 of us and our dog. It’s perfect for us. We have enough storage for our needs and it’s functional for us.

We looked online and went to several dealerships before we made up our minds. It was a great experience.


Do You Have A Tow Vehicle? (Rabbit Hole)

Definitely Needs Some Work

I know, it’s not a Ford F 250 or a Dodge Ram or a GMC but, if you don’t have A suitable tow vehicle, that is something else you will need to consider. This one would look rather nice if it was fixed up though. Spruce up the engine? Vintage truck pulling a vintage trailer?

On the other hand, if you DO have a tow vehicle and you’re new to this RV life you need to know what your vehicles towing capacity is and make your purchase based on that information. You can find a towing capacity chart here.

If you’ve been RV’ing for a while you know that backing up a trailer and tow package is NOT the same as just backing up a vehicle. There’s a learning curve there too. I remember the first few times I tried to park our travel trailer. Good thing I had my wife as part of the team.

If you’re on your own, you can install a good backup camera to help with hitching your trailer.  Some of the newer trucks now come with the backup camera already installed.

And if you’re thinking about purchasing a Motorhome and towing a vehicle (commonly known as a dingy) behind your coach, you can’t back it into a spot without unhooking the vehicle. Not doing this can and will have serious consequences.


Websites Are A Good Source As Well

Websites Are Great Places To Find What You NeedIf you are new to RV’ing, websites are a valuable resource. Maybe you have already checked out a few of these. It all adds up so, if you haven’t, I suggest checking them out. They are a great place to get a feel for what you might like. They offer different models, sizes, floor plans, and even interior decorating combos.

You can visit manufacturer websites as well as retailer websites. there is bound to be a couple of the latter in your area to choose from. In fact, visit as many as you have time for and don’t make any decisions until you are ready. DON’T let the sales guy convince you otherwise. you need to make sure YOU pick the one that is right for you.

On the manufacturer side of things, there are many in North America. Here are a few you can check out.

And many more. Too many to list here. Just key in RV Manufacturers in North America. Google the same in your country and you will probably get a similar list.


Magazines as a Resource

One of these is worth $1.38 Million

I was checking out the 2019 Good Sam RV Buyers guide the other day and there were more than 600 new models included as well as other information related to the subject. There’s something to suit every budget and every need.

In North America, there is RV Lifestyle, Trailer Life, and Motorhome as well as one for Snowbirds. These are full of great information and also have reviews on different RV’s in each edition.

Trailer Life also publishes an annual towing guide that is available at You should be able to find out all you need to know there and the guides go back quite a few years.


Do An Inspection

Again, let me say that whatever you decide on, please, don’t be rushed to close the deal especially if you’re buying a new RV. And for that matter, this counts for used ones as well.

New trailers and Motorhomes are all nice and shiny and it’s exciting to finally know what you want. But, and this is something my wife and I learned, take a closer look. Take a flashlight with you so you can see inside darker areas.

Check out the quality of the product. Not all trailers are the same quality so, here are some things to look for.

  • Gaps between the cabinets.
  • Cupboard doors – solid or flimsy. One trailer we had… the door joints started to separate after just one season. We had to have them replaced. Yeah, the second set did the same but I was able to fix them myself (cabinet maker and finisher).
  • Check the shower enclosure. Step into the shower to see if the floor is solid, doesn’t move up and down. Check the caulking around the enclosure. This is especially important if the shower is a corner unit.
  • Look in places they don’t expect you to look like inside the cabinets and storage areas. (This is where the flashlight will come in handy).
  • Check for dust and metal filings or exposed screws and nails, unacceptable wiring or plumbing.
  • Look down the sides of the exterior walls for any bumps or bubbles and other defects.
  • Check the undercarriage and make sure it’s all sealed up properly with no gaps where things like drain pipes and plumbing come through.
  • Check to make sure all the tape joints and moldings are tight and fit properly.
  • Make sure they give you a proper walkthrough of your unit and explain how everything works.  If you’re not sure you understand, ask questions.

Bottom line?  BE THOROUGH!

If you have any doubts check out online chat rooms to see what people might be saying about the RV your interested in. If there are any serious issues, they will more than likely be found in these forums.

Most RV retailers won’t let you test out a trailer but you can do that with a Motorhome. If your new to RV’ing and a Motorhome is the one for you, if you can, rent one for a week or two to see how you make out and if it really is for you.

You don’t have to go far but don’t just take it around the block. Start with a short trip, get used to how they handle on the freeway if it’s quiet or noisy (squeaks).



What Kids Think
What Kids Think

This is not a popular topic but I think it’s one that has to be covered. I talked a little about this earlier when I was talking about “How much do I want to spend”

Right off the top, I want to advise you NOT to sign up for a multi-year plan to pay off your RV. It may be that your RV is, say, $14,000 – $16,000 but if you pay that off over 5+ years it’s going to cost you $1,000’s more in interest costs. It all adds up so, if you’re spending $30,000, $50,000, $100,000 or more, well… you’ll have higher payments, It will take more years to pay it off and those interest charges will just skyrocket.

I mentioned earlier that you shouldn’t be in a big hurry to buy that RV of your dreams, here’s why. My wife is very a smart cookie when it comes to finances (she was an accountant for over 25 years) so when she talks money, I listen.

Because of her smarts when it comes to money, we have always, for the most part, managed to put
enough money aside when we want to make a significant purchase. She is so smart that we managed to pay for our current travel trailer 100%, No bank loans, No private financing. I’m pretty sure that someone wasn’t very happy about that.

Now, I know that’s not possible for everyone, I understand that but, I would urge you to seriously consider saving as much as you can so you can finance as little as possible. In this day and age, it just makes financial sense.


Extended Warranty or No Extended Warranty?

This is the last thing I want to cover in this post and for sure there is some controversy over this issue. Some say you don’t need an extended Warranty and some say they are a good idea. Personally, I like them and because we have had them on our RV’s we have saved because of them, our second one especially but that’s another story.

I mean, you just never know when something is going to come up and it could cost hundreds or even thousands to get the issue resolved if you don’t have an Extended Warranty (EW). You know, things happen. Things break down.

We have been able to get what I would call a pretty good EW. It covers bumper to hitch for 5 years and only cost us an additional $1500.

They really shouldn’t cost too much more than that. If your dealer tries to talk you into paying a couple of thousand more, then I would consider going somewhere else. Oh… and don’t let them talk you into financing that EW.


Closing Comments

Well? I know there is a lot to digest here and there are a lot of questions that need to be answered as well as other things that need to be addressed when purchasing an RV but, they are all things that need to be considered when we are buying an RV and we shouldn’t take that lightly.

There are sharks out there in the RV world as well that will take advantage of those who are lacking knowledge, especially first-time buyers.  So… be aware and do your research… of the product and the retailer.  You can even check out the BBB (Better Business Bureau).

We are going to be living in this RV and possibly enjoying it for many years so, we want it to function well for our needs. It really is not that much different than that first house or that first car.

My main concern here is that I have helped you in some way and that your first/next purchase will go a lot easier.

RV’ING is a lifestyle with a steep learning curve. When you find the right one for you and or your family, I hope you will have many happy memories. It all adds up so, if you’re new to this and aren’t sure what to do, find a place close by and start there with short stays until you get familiar with your RV.

You can start with checklists for set-up and break-down, for things you need to take with you. We’ve been at this for a while now and we still use lists just to make sure. You know what? We still forget things from time to time, to time.

Check out some of the other people around you and see what they are doing. Ask questions. Seasoned RVers are more than happy to share their experiences and tips they have learned along the way and you will for sure make some new friends as well.

Well, that’s about it for now. As I said, I hope this has been helpful and if you have any questions or comments, I would be happy to help in any way I can. I would also like to hear your stories surrounding your RV purchases, things that you were looking for and stuff you learned during the process. Until then…

Happy Camping and Please Drive Safe,


Owner of RV Safety Tips and Tricks.

12 thoughts on “What you need to know when buying an RV

  1. Hello, Daniel and thanks so much for your comment.

    As I mentioned in another comment,  it’s more important than ever, in our time, to do more things that are family oriented and, in my opinion, camping/RVing is one of the best ways to do that.  Memories are important not just for us but for our children as well. The time we spend with them now will be remembered for a long time.

    I also glad that I was able to give you information that will help you in the process of making this decision.

    You are right when you say they aren’t cheap but take heed and really inspect them. Look where they don’t expect you to look and really do the research.  Not just the product but the RV dealer you want to purchase from.  Check with the BBB and find chat rooms where people talk about the different trailers and see what they have to say.

    Come back and read my post again to make sure you haven’t forgotten anything.  Let me know if you have any further questions.

    May you have many happy camping memories and, Please come back an let me know how things go.


  2. Hello, Ronald and thanks for your comment.  Glad I was able to introduce you to the “World of RVing”.

    Not being a camper is a great reason to give it a go.  There is nothing like getting away from the busy city life and experiencing the beauty and quiet of life in the great outdoors.  

    It’s a great way to relax and let go of the tension and stress that so often surrounds a busy life not to mention the memories we can make with the people we love and, you know… If you have children, it’s also a great way to give them some of the attention they soooo need.  They will thank you for it later.  

    Yes, A tow vehicle is a necessary evil for towing a trailer.  With all this talk about Global Warming (which I’m not convinced about yet.  I’ve lived long enough to know that weather changes) and Governments wanting us all to switch over to electric vehicles,  I hope it won’t too long before auto manufacturers come up with a viable electric truck with a decent range SND AFFORDABLE PRICE that won’t hit the pocketbook too hard.  

    If you’re really serious about wanting to look into buying an RV make sure you check out those links and Google “RV manufactureres” for more info.  And make sure you read my post again and take my advice.  There are sharks in the RV industry as well so, you’ll save a lot of money if you do.

    Just don’t be in a big hurry and do your research.  These two things are very important.  It’s easy to get caught up in the glitz and glamor of the RV lifestyle so be cautious.

    If you have any further questions, let me know.  And, let me know how your search goes.


  3. I am not a camper and never owned an RV. Until I read your article I hadn’t given it any thought. You did a good job of explaining types of RVs from trailers, to motor homes to luxury RVs.

    You well-explained the issues surrounding financing and factoring interest payments into the idea of making a purchase, along with whether an extended warranty is advisable. 

    It was also very helpful to understand the need for a towing vehicle if you buy a trailer. You told us what to look for and to do research on websites and in magazines. The links to the various manufacturers was a bonus.

    These tips and tricks have made me want to check out purchasing an RV. It seems like you and your wife love RV’ing and your obvious enthusiasm is catching.

    Thanks for introducing this to me.

    God bless you!

  4. Hello Wayne, I must say that this article is very helpful and informative. I always wanted to have an RV for me and my family because we like to travel so much. 

    This is great to know and you have explained everything so well.  It is much easier now for me to make a final decision and I’ll save a little bit of money in the process. They are not cheap but definitely worth the price.

  5. Hey, Jenny, thanks for your comment.  

    I’m glad to see that you want to expand your horizons.  There are just so many beautiful places to see and you’re right, it is way too expensive to stay in hotels especially if you are on a tight budget.

    Traveling by RV opens up a bunch of new territories though because you have your hotel room with you where ever you go but keep in mind the things I have written here in my post.

    Ask yourselves all the questions and do the research.  Decide what you want and how MUCH you want to spend and, if possible, pay cash. Doing this will save you thousands in the long run.

    I have heard some things about a particular dealer that don’t make me very happy.  This dealers name is Camping World.  Among other things I have heard that they have two ways of pricing their RVs.  One price (which is less) is for those willing to finance, (usually 5 – 7 years with interest which equals $1000s more) and the other is more for those wanting to pay cash.  Apparently, this is illegal in the U.S.

    They have also been known to add in extra charges under the guise of “It’s only another $10 or $20 more added to your payment”  I would recommend that you stay away from this company.

    Click on this link to see what I’m talking about.  Please, watch the video.

    This came as a shock to me because my wife and I shop there when we visit the U.S.  They have some pretty good deals on accessories but I’m beginning to wonder about that as well.

    I don’t know if I should be saying these things but I just want people to be aware of what’s going on.

    Follow my advice in this post and you should do well for yourself and your boyfriend.  Let me know how you make out.

    Happy Camping and Please Drive Safe,



  6. I want to get an RV to start travelling with my boyfriend. We saved some money and we want to go to a bunch of new places for a couple of months with some friends. We decided it would be better to get an RV than staying on hotels. It’s too expensive in some of the areas we’ll visit and at the end, we’ll have the RV for future trips.

    We definitely need one with electricity and with extended warranty. 

  7. Hi, JJ and thank you so much for your comment and question.

    Yes, there is a lot to think about when buying an RV.  However, I’m not entirely sure of what you mean by “fully self -supported”.  So let’s see if I got it right.

    If you’re talking about EW’s, they come in different size packages.  the more years you want to be covered, The more it’s going to cost.  I think we can all agree on that.

    However, as to the life of an RV?  That all depends on how well it’s taken care of.  It really is no different than that new house or car.  It will last for a good long time if it is properly maintained.  The RV owners manuals cover this in detail and it’s really up to the individual to make sure that it happens.

    Things like checking the tires and lugnuts, checking the sealant around the windows and the stuff on the roof as well as the corners where there are moldings on the front and back of the trailer.

    Then there’s checking the wheel bearings every 5000 miles or so and the undercarriage for damage and so on.  Just some general stuff that should be done every few months to a year.

    Just like you would keep a house clean and painted and take care of stuff that needs to be repaired, so the proper maintenance on your trailer or other RV and it should last for many years.

    Proper maintenance of an RV will be a topic of an upcoming post so, keep your eyes peeled.

    Hope that answers your question, JJ and, if there is anything else I can help you with, do let me know.  Until then,

    Happy Camping,


  8. Greetings, Mother of Matt 🙂 and thanks for your comments and questions.  

    Yeah, when my wife and I first got married we started out doing tent camping but then our granddaughter came to live with us so we upgraded to a “Tent” trailer.  This could be one option for you to consider.  They have one or two pull-outs, a small fridge, a little storage inside and across the front of the outside. Some, like Colman tent trailers, have a small pop-out on the side for a small dinette.

    It worked well for us until she got a little older and needed more privacy.  Then we upgraded to a travel trailer that had bunks.

    Teardrop trailers would be good for a young couple just starting out and who want to be adventurous.  They tow well behind a car or small SUV.   

    I’m not sure about your situation but if it’s just you and a husband this might work as well.  If there are children involved, however, it might be better to go for something a little bigger like the tent trailer or a small trailer that has a dinette that can be converted to a bed.  There are several options for this under 4,000 LBS.  Check out Forest River Inc.’s Cherokee/Grey Wolf/ Wolf Pup.  It weighs 3097 LB and is 21′ 5″ long.  The suggested retail cost is about  $16,500.

    If you think the teardrop would do, there is a pretty wide range depending on what your needs might be.  They run anywhere from around $10,000+ up to about $21,000+.  There are a couple of extreme versions (for off the beaten track) built by “Conqueror North America” That range between $31,000 and $50,000.

    If you buy “NEW” do your research on what you could expect to pay for an “Extended Warranty”.  I have heard some disturbing things out there about some customers getting talked into expensive ones and paying for years.

    Going to be doing some research an that as well to see what I can find.

    Anyway, I hope I haven’t given you to much to digest here.  I suppose the main things would be, what will your budget allow and what your needs are.  Do your research (things I have mentioned) and I’m sure you will make the right decision for you.

    As I said, I hope this has been helpful and answered your questions. If not, you know where to find me.  And let me know what you decided.

    Happy Camping, Wayne.

  9. Hi Wayne, thank you for a discussion of what to look for in buying an RV. Some tips I would have guessed, but there are some that you mentioned that I would never have thought of, and I see how important it is to pay attention to every detail and ask all the questions. 

    Do you have any idea as to the life of an RV that is fully self -supported? My family is thinking of one and we will be using this and your site as a guide.

  10. We have actually been considering an RV.  Nothing big, just something beyond camping in a tent.  So we like the idea of the first picture of the one “fun for 1 or 2” is perfect for us!  Do you know what the price range would be for this one?  

    I did not really think about all of the considerations, other than I know I want to buy new, that way I know I am not getting someone else’s problems and it comes with a warranty.  I do also like the idea of an extended warranty which I always get on my vehicles.  

    Thanks for the great information!

  11. Hello, Vicki and thanks for visiting my site and taking the time to read this post.  Definitely send your friend over to have a read as well.

    Not sure if the Good Sam one is available on the newsstands but I sure they could pick one up at Camping World if there is one in your area.

    Retirement… gotta like it.  That’s what we just did and because we live in a 50+ co-op that has some spots for RVs, we bought one that is 25FT 4IN long.  They call them “Couples Coaches”.  Some are smaller which would make them more convenient for singles as well.

    Give your friend a “Happy Retirement” from me and send her along.  If She has any questions, I would certainly be glad to answer them to the best of my ability.

    Thanks for the comment,


  12. My friend has been searching for good articles about RV’s and she is going to love this site.

    She is retired and wants to upgrade her current smaller trailer for alive in comfort RV. I might buy the magazine for her and I am definitely recommending she visit your site to learn more tips and tricks

    Thank you

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