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?
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?
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 no 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?
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.
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 travelling 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)
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 vehicle’s 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
If 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.
- Keystone RV Company
- Forest River RV
- Jayco RV
- Coleman Trailers
- Escape Trailer Industries – a Canadian Manufacturer
- Northwood Manufacturing
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
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 https://www.trailerlife.com/trailer-towing-guides. 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. (Flashlights are real handy for this part of the job).
- 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 drainpipes and plumbing come through.
- Check to make sure all the tape joints and mouldings 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).
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.
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.