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RV Buying Dos and Don’ts for Newbies

Published on December 1st, 2021 by Peggy Dent

Getting an RV is a huge decision that you should not base on price alone. These RV buying dos and don’ts will surprise you if you’re shopping for a new motorhome or trailer.

Pick your new or used RV wisely, and you can enjoy your camper for years to come. But if your choice is only based on the selling price, you might never feel comfortable in your RV. In fact, you may not want to even travel or camp in your new rig!

RV buying dos and don'ts
RV buying tips for newbies

Don’t let the price of the RV be the first and most important factor in your decision-making process. Doing so will cloud your judgment. Here’s what you should think about.

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Learning RV Buying Dos and Don’ts the Hard Way

We have friends suffering from a bad case of RV fever. It started when they saw the RV that we just purchased. It took us over a year RV shopping before making the final decision. We went to every RV show within driving distance and spent countless hours on RV lots talking to salespeople. At campgrounds we talked with RV owners, and read anything and everything about buying an RV. This is what we learned.

When price is the only consideration, bad things can happen

We loved the Class A motorhome we picked out. It was ours for nearly 20 years and we drove it over 120,000 miles. But our friends with RV fever rushed through their RV buying process. They ignored the five most important RV buying dos and don’ts. Instead they focused solely on what RVs cost to buy. 

Finally, they bought a new Class A motorhome. Unfortunately, they bought an RV lemon with serious design flaws. This caused endless problems which the dealer was unwilling to fix. Our friends were forced to trade in this new RV, less than 6 months after buying it. What had seemed like such a good deal when they bought it, cost them an additional $20,000 in lost value. 

Are you considering buying a new RV (or a used RV)? If so, these five RV buying dos and don’ts are a must before signing your bill of sale.

DO: Consider The RV Class For Your Needs

What class of recreational vehicle will best fit your needs, lifestyle, and family? Will a van conversion, or a large fifth wheel work? How about a travel trailer? Maybe a Class C or Class A motorhome is best? Sometimes a truck camper best fits a camper’s needs. Do you want to start a full-time RVing adventure?

RV buying dos and don’ts include careful consideration of the RV class and type.

If you’re new to this lifestyle, RV buying dos and don’ts means considering your personal travel goals. Activity aspirations also determine the type of RV that will meet your needs. 

Don’t get stuck on RV “classes.” For example, you might consider a toy hauler as a specific class of RV. But today, many fifth wheels and Class A motorhomes have toy hauler garage spaces. A toy hauler is not a class of RV. The garage space is a feature.  

There are only a few true RV classes:

  • Class A and Class C motorhomes
  • There’s Class B, and B+ vans
  • Towable travel trailers and fifth wheels
  • And finally, camper vans and truck bed campers

Within each RV class, there are many variations or “types.” Consider renting different classes of RV’s to see what works for your lifestyle.   

DON’T Buy an RV Based on Size

In the world of RV living, size really does matter. BUT, bigger is not always better. You need to buy an RV that is large enough to be comfortable. But it must be small enough to meet different criteria. For example:

  • Does a van conversion or truck camper sound appealing? That rig will be smaller than most RVs. Will it give you enough room?
  • If you are drawn to a Class A motorhome, the size is going to be on the the larger end of the spectrum. Where you store your RV, and the cost of covered or open air RV storage, can also determine if that works for you.
  • Say you are thinking of buying a towable RV. Can your current or future tow vehicle safely tow the trailer?
  • RVers with kids need RVs with bunk beds.

The list goes on and on depending on each RV buyer’s lifestyle. Consider yours carefully.

DO Know Your “Must-Have” RV Features

There is a direct link between the size of the RV and its features. Understanding your lifestyle needs will help you define your “must have” RV features. Those features directly link back to the RV size and type.

When it comes to RV buying dos and don’ts, any deal-breaker feature needs to be considered. This must happen at the same time you’re considering the type and size of your future RV. For example:

  • Is an on board, fully functional bathroom your must-have feature? Then small travel trailers will not be the right type or size for your needs. 
  • If you absolutely need a toy hauler for gear, you’ll need a larger fifth wheel or Class A motorhome. And the right truck for towing it.

There are dozens of features in RVs. Some of them are essential. Others are just desirable luxuries. Having a refrigerator that is large enough to meet your family’s needs is a necessary feature. 

A washer and dryer, recessed accent lighting, heated floors, solar panels, fireplace, and an outdoor entertainment center, are enjoyable features. But those things may not be necessary for your camping enjoyment.  

When buying an RV, consider all of the various features in RV types you like. Then determine which features are essential. You may decide that bunk beds are essential. But that second bathroom might not be a deal-breaker.

RV buying dos and don'ts
Older RVs in great condition have many luxury features

DON’T Let the RV Age Be a Deal-breaker

The RV’s age is another major consideration among RV buying dos and don’ts. Many people feel it’s silly to purchase a new RV. After all, RVs depreciation impacts the future selling price. I, on the other hand, don’t care about the immediate loss of value. I keep my RVs for many years.

I want to know everything about it. Where it’s been and how it’s been cared for. I want to know what maintenance has been done, and when. I’ve bought two new Class A motothomes and been thrilled with both.

The RV age can impact where you travel. Many parks with a ten year rule. This means they only accept newer than 10-year-old RVs into their parks. However, there are many well-maintained older RVs that look and run great. And many have exciting luxury features you would enjoy.

An older Class A diesel pusher could enable you to own a high-end motorhome with thousands of miles left in the engine. It might not be new, but it might be the right type, size, and have the best set of features for your needs, at a price you can afford.

DO Your RV Manufacturer Research

The final consideration of RV buying dos and don’ts is the manufacturer brand and reputation. This is where talking to other RVers and RV service technicians may help you avoid a costly mistake.

Do your research, read reviews, and talk to as many owners as possible. You might discover RV deal-breakers. For example:

  • We met a family that bought a brand-new fifth wheel. It caught fire within the first month of ownership. When having the damage repaired, they learned that other rigs by this same manufacturer had similar problems. The fire danger was known but not disclosed by the dealer.
  • Another couple told us the only place they were authorized to have warranty work done on their high-end Class A diesel pusher was at the factory. Unfortunately, the factory was over 1000 miles away.

Always investigate the RV model you are considering. Your RV buying homework always pays off.

Conclusion: RV Buying Dos and Don’ts

All these RV buying dos and don’ts, may not seem to be as important as the price. But each one significantly impacts the price you pay up-front and the overall costs of owning your RV. The real costs of buying an RV extends well beyond the initial purchase.

Make the right decisions about the type, size, features, age, and brand of your new acquisition. You’ll see that the price will work itself out now, or later.

This post may contain affiliate links or mention our own products, please check out our disclosure policy here.

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