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19 Top Tips For Buying Your First RV

When you are in the market for a new RV, there will be several things that you need to consider before choosing which RV you want to buy. The last thing you want is to purchase something as expensive as an RV before you’re certain if it’s the perfect one for you. On the other hand, the beautiful pictures of nature and campgrounds you see on social media might make you want to get on the road sooner. However, your new travel life or vacation can quickly become unpleasant if you do not take the time needed to find the perfect RV for your lifestyle. 

With that said, we have gathered a list of 19 tips that you need to know before purchasing your new RV. 

  1. Keep in Mind How You Want to Use Your RV
  2. Do You Want a Motorhome or a Towable RV?
  3. New vs. Used RVs
  4. Do a Ton of Research on Numerous RV Websites
  5. Look for Information about Reputable RV Brands
  6. Study Floor Plans
  7. How Long Do You Want Your RV to Be
  8. Go to RV Shows
  9. Know What Amenities You Want Your RV to Have
  10. Join a Social Media Group with Other RV Owners
  11.  Rent Before You Buy
  12.  Know-How Much the RV You Want Weighs
  13.  Have the Right Vehicle to Tow 
  14.  Keep in Mind that You Might Need to Travel to Get Your RV
  15.  Don’t Rush to Buy Your RV, Wait Until the Time is Right
  16.  Know Where You Need to Take Your RV for Repairs
  17.  Have a Third-Party Inspect Your New RV Before You Buy
  18.  Once You Know What RV You Want, Locate Dealers that Sell that Brand
  19.  Negotiate Your Price Before You Buy

These tips are designed to help you narrow down your choices and align you with your camping goals. Keep in mind that you may have already completed some of these tips. However, there might still be some information you need to know, just in case. 

As you continue to read this article, we will provide in-depth information about each tip on our list.

19 Top Tips To Help You Buy Your First RV

RVs can be very expensive, and the last thing you want to do is spend tens of thousands, if not more on a new RV only to find out that it is missing some essentials. It is imperative that you take your time and not rush to buy an RV. Make sure you do tons of research before committing to an RV. 

With the RV market growing every year and new brands popping up every few years, you will have more options to choose from than you can shake a stick at. Luckily, we have made a huge list of tips that will help you narrow down your choices. 

If you have already started doing your own research, then there is a good chance that you have already completed some of these steps. Some of these tips will allow you to make quick decisions, while others will take some time and research to figure out. But, the more information you know and the more things you decide on before you buy your RV will ensure that you will love your new RV for many years.

Keep in Mind How You Want to Use Your RV

This tip is by far the most important. Knowing what the primary use of your RV will be will significantly help you decide on the right RV for you. However, there is a good chance that you will change your mind or alter the way you want to use your RV a few times before you come to a final decision. The faster you come to that final conclusion, the easier it will be to answer the other questions in our list of tips.

There are near limitless ways that you can use an RV. For example, are you looking for an RV that you can use for occasional weekend camping trips? Perhaps you and your family like to go on road trips or take your family and friends out to a local spot for a party or BBQ. On the other hand, you might be a nomad or someone who always travels and never settles in one place for long. No matter what you want to do, there is an RV perfect for the purpose. 

Do You Want a Motorhome or a Towable RV?

There are two main categories of RVs, motorhomes and towable RVs. Within these two categories are seven main types of RVs. There are classes A, B, and C for motorhomes, which are all different sizes. Furthermore, there are four distinct types of RVs within the towable category: travel trailers, expandable trailers, pop-up campers, and fifth wheelers.

As you can see, there is a wide array of RVs to choose from. Each of the RVs we listed above is best used in different ways. Depending on the size of the RV you want, you can comfortably fit one to eight people inside. Furthermore, every RV type has pros and cons, but you need to consider whether you want to tow or drive your RV.

New vs. Used RVs

As you start to narrow down the list of RVs you are interested in, it is always worth looking into the used market. Sometimes you can find an RV that has been kept in incredible shape and sells for a fraction of the cost if buying it brand new.

Even though buying a used RV will always be cheaper than buying the same RV brand new, there are a few things you need to know. First off, used RVs do not come with a manufacturer warranty that will provide a repair service that will be cheaper than paying for repairs out of pocket. Furthermore, most used RVs are older and do not have modern equipment or modern floor plans. However, you can still find hidden gems in the used market. You just have to be patient.

Honestly, if you are a grease monkey or someone mechanically inclined, buying a used RV might be right up your alley. Fixer-upper RVs can make for a good hobby, and the feeling will be amazing when you finally finish and take your RV out on the road. 

Do A Ton of Research on Numerous RV Websites

As with everything else online, there is a vast amount of information about the buying process from the RV buyer’s perspective. During your research, you should take advantage of all the information you can find. Look for websites that compare and contrast different RV models. It would help if you also used retailer websites that offer virtual tours of the RVs you’re considering. These websites will also have a dealer locator that will help you find where the RV you want to buy is.

While looking at brand-specific websites can offer some decent insights, they are only filled with information that helps sell their own brand of RVs. So instead, look for RV blogs or generic RV websites that will provide you with a ton of unbiased information and the users’ own experience. 

Look for Information about Reputable RV Brands

There are numerous RV brands for you to choose from. Some have been around since the beginning, and some are brand new. Each brand will have great things said about their RVs and company but remember, no brand is perfect. When looking for a particular RV brand to get interested in, read customer reviews and be discerning about what you read. 

You might see yourself leaning towards a specific brand as you compare and contrast your favorite RV brands that you want to purchase from. However, it is not a good idea to rule out any RV brands based on bad reviews.

Study Floor Plans

RVs come packed with amenities like kitchens, bedrooms, bathrooms, and sometimes even entertainment areas. Where these amenities are located can vary, and their location and orientation make up floor plans for RVs. A floor plan is perfect for every need and occasion, and newer and better floor plans are being designed every year. 

This is where you will need to take some time to decide which RV is right for you. First, assess what you want out of your RV and make sure it will have all of the amenities to fit your needs. Remembering what your primary use for your RV will help you decide on a floor plan. Furthermore, it may be wise to eliminate some choice amenities that you don’t absolutely need. Doing so can help you save quite a bit of money. Finally, remember to take your time when looking at floor plans. You will find the perfect one for you and your family.

How Long Do You Want Your RV to Be

Size is an essential factor when it comes to purchasing the right RV. The bigger the RV, the more room you will have for your family or hosting a party or BBQ. RVs are measured in length and width, but the length of the RV is more critical for a few reasons.

Most RVs will have a width of eight to nine feet, but some can expand when parked to offer more room. However, the length of the RV can vary widely. Depending on the RV, you can expect lengths as small as 8 to 15 feet and as large as 40 to 45 feet. 

The RV length will determine how much room the manufacturers will have for amenities. Furthermore, most state and national campgrounds will have a limit in place for how long an RV can be. These limits are put in place to make sure everyone has enough room to move around and park in the main areas of their parks. 

If you know that you want to park inside state and national parks, it will be wiser to go with a shorter RV. However, if you don’t mind setting up camp in RV parks, then your RV can be as long as you want.

Go to RV Shows

RV shows are a fantastic place to get a firsthand look at numerous RVs. RV shows will have quite a few RV companies that want to show off their latest and most popular models. This makes RV shows a great way to do some hands-on research for certain RV brands that you are interested in. The salespeople will be able to give you a tour of the RVs while also providing you with tons of helpful information about their vehicles and company. 

© Chickery’s Travels

RV shows have the potential to be a great place to buy your RV. Most of the time, the salespeople will have great deals on their products on show. However, while these deals may seem appetizing, you should not feel pressured to decide on the spot. Most of the deals the companies at an RV show have will be the same deals you can get at their dealership.

If it is your first time at an RV show, don’t look to buy. Instead, use this event to gather information about brands you are interested in, and it can even be a good idea to take notes and take plenty of photos. However, if you are nearing the end of your research journey, feel free to purchase your RV at the show, but wait until the last week or even the event’s last day. Around this time, the salespeople will be more inclined to haggle or offer a lower price for their product.

Know What Amenities You Want Your RV to Have

When doing your research, you will need to have a list of the most crucial amenities you want your RV to have. Do you plan on grilling or using an outdoor kitchen every day during your outdoor trip? Then you can swing for a smaller kitchen. How many beds do you need to fit your family in? How big does the refrigerator need to be to keep enough food and drinks cold? These are the type of questions you need to be answering when looking at RV amenities. 

There is a decent chance that you will find a floor plan that has everything you need. However, there is still a good chance that you can look for months and not find the “perfect” floor plan with the exact amount and size of amenities you want. If this is the case, then it would be wise to limit yourself to two or three key features you cannot go without. Limiting your options will help you find a great RV for you and your family. You can also find an RV with those key amenities and a bonus or two.

Join a Social Media Group with Other RV Owners

One of the best ways to get information about buying an RV is from other RV owners. There are quite a few RV groups on forums, Facebook, and other social media outlets where you can ask questions about the buying process and their opinions on the RVs they own. Most of the time, these groups are open, happy to help, and love talking about their RV hobby. Furthermore, you will get plenty of unbiased opinions about the good and the bad, which will help you on your research journey. 

Rent Before You Buy

Renting an RV that you are interested in and taking it on a short trip will provide you with valuable experience and invaluable information. If you have a friend who owns an RV, you can always ask them to borrow it for the weekend. You will get the same amount of experience and information in the end. 

In our opinion, this is a crucial step you need to take before coming to a final decision about a specific RV. 

Know How Much the RV You Want Weighs

If you are interested in a towable RV instead of a motorhome, this is an essential step you need to take. Towable RV weight can vary widely. Some smaller towable RVs, like a pop-up camper or a teardrop trailer, can be light enough to be towed by a sedan. However, the bigger the RV, the heavier it will be, and as such, the towing vehicle will need to be stronger, and possibly, bigger. Certain RVs like a fifth wheeler are extremely heavy and can only be towed by a powerful pickup truck. 

When purchasing an RV, the salesperson will likely say that the RV you’re interested in is “ultra-lite.” This is just a buzzword used to help sell RVs. While it is used to describe lighter than average towable RVs, it does not mean that they can be towed by any vehicle. Keep in mind that the RV you purchase will have empty water tanks, no propane, and an empty refrigerator which will add a significant amount of weight once filled. 

As a rule of thumb, always make sure you have more pulling capacity than you need. The last thing you want is to cancel your trip because you are stuck on the side of the road due to your load being overweight.

Have the Right Vehicle to Tow 

While the last section was about having the right vehicle to tow your RV with, if you are looking at getting a class A or C motorhome, you might want to consider having a smaller vehicle to tow around. These smaller vehicles being towed by your motorhome have been given the funny nickname “toads,” which is an excellent play on words. 

You should consider getting a smaller vehicle to tow behind the motorhomes because they are just too big to be convenient for shopping or moving around once you’ve set up camp. 

The ideal vehicle to be your “toad” should be big enough to fit your family and light enough to be towed by your motorhome. Something like a four-door sedan or even a small SUV is ideal. 

Keep in Mind that You Might Need to Travel to Get Your RV

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When looking for the best price for the RV you want, consider looking in nearby states. Frequently, you can find fantastic deals starting at a lower price than anything around your area. These deals can be worth the time and money it will take to drive to the out-of-state dealership. Be careful not to look too far, though, as time is invaluable as well.

Don’t Rush to Buy Your RV; Wait Until the Time is Right

Once you have decided on what RV you want to purchase, it is worth waiting just a little bit before making the final purchase. Every dealership has monthly or quarterly quotas that their employees need to meet. When the quarterly period is nearing its end, that’s when you should buy. During this time, salespeople will be more willing to haggle for lower prices.

Another fantastic time to buy a new RV is right after a new model hits the market. Most dealerships will want to get rid of their older RVs to make room for the new models that they are getting.

If you have the time to wait for one of these to happen, do it. You will save quite a bit of money and even more if a new RV comes out when the quarter is ending.

Know Where You Need to Take Your RV for Repairs

Whether you buy a new or a used RV, it is crucial to know where to take it for repairs. Few things are worse than starting your vacation and getting stranded because you didn’t get a checkup on your RV. 

With that said, if you are purchasing a used RV, look for some service shops near you that can repair RVs. If you are buying a new RV, talk with the dealership about the warranty they will give you. Nine times out of ten, the warranty will cover repairs for a certain period, and the dealership will tell you of a service station that will repair your RV or have an in-house repair shop that you can come to. 

Have A Third-Party Inspect Your New RV Before You Buy

Before you finally settle down and buy your RV of choice, the best thing you could do is have a third-party inspector come and inspect the RV head to toe. They will be able to find any flaws or manufacturing defects that the dealership or previous owner might be trying to hide. 

A fantastic place to look for an RV inspector is at NRVIA, or National Recreational Vehicle Inspectors Association. Their website will provide you with a list of reputable inspectors in your area that you can hire to inspect the RV you want to buy. However, the inspection can take a while and will add additional cost to your purchase, but if the inspector finds any defaults, they can advise you to either look for a different RV or, if you are okay with the defects, use that information for leverage during price negotiation. 

Once You Know What RV You Want, Locate Dealers that Sell that Brand

Find out which dealerships are the leading distributors of the brand that makes the model you want to buy. These leading distributors will have more products from the brand you are looking for. Furthermore, they will also offer better prices than other dealerships that sell the exact RV you want.

Negotiate Your Price Before You Buy

After you have found the RV with a great floor plan and the right amenities to fit its primary purpose, it’s time to get to business. Negotiations are where you will come to an agreement on the final price of your RV, and it is essential that you are happy with the final price before committing to the purchase.

As a general guideline, 30% off of MSRP is a great place to start the negotiations. Don’t be afraid to throw out a low number to see what your salesperson says. As you continue talking, the price will go lower. Eventually, the salesperson will come to a standstill on a price, and if that price is not suitable for your budget, politely decline the offer and leave. Of course, you can always find another dealer. You never know; sometimes, the negotiating salesperson might “break” and agree to your price. 

Final Thoughts

Well, there you have it. That is our list of 19 tips that you need to know while looking to buy your first RV. As we’ve said before, remember not to rush and take your time. RVs are very expensive, and require a great deal of commitment, so you will want to find the perfect RV for you and your family. 

Hopefully, our list will help you keep on track and find that perfect RV.