So you’ve taken the plunge, and you’re buying an RV for the first time. First of all, congratulations on your big decision! But after the initial excitement, you may find yourself a little nervous. There’s no need to worry. We’re breaking down exactly what you should expect when shopping for and purchasing your first rig.
What to Consider When Buying Your First RV
Knowing what you need out of an RV is half the battle. Once you know exactly what you’re looking for, you’ll be able to find and check out suitable options much more quickly.
This is perhaps the most significant decision you’ll need to make when buying an RV for the first time. Do you need a colossal 40-foot class A rig with multiple bathrooms, an outdoor kitchen, and a washer and dryer? Or can you get by with a more modest class B or C or a travel trailer? Bigger RVs with tons of features will appeal to full-timers or those looking for luxury vacations. Those only taking the occasional trip may not need quite as much space or as many features.
Price may be the one area where many first-time RV buyers can’t compromise. You should ensure you know what you can afford and be confident in your ability to make payments. Factor in the ongoing ownership costs, including registration, any taxes or fees, repairs, gas, and more.
This information will inform all of your other needs. Are you and the family setting out for a few years on the road, homeschooling the kids, and working from the RV? Or are you a single retiree looking for a camper for occasional weekend trips or visiting the family? While plans can and do change, you should know how you plan to use your RV before purchasing it. You don’t want to regret buying an overly large or expensive rig or find you’re unhappy with the tiny living space.
New Versus Used
Whether you’re looking for a new or used RV can make a massive difference in your shopping process and experience. Those looking for new rigs will spend most of their time at dealerships and contacting manufacturers. What you can purchase will depend on which new models are on the lot or ready for construction.
On the other hand, used buyers will need to look to dealerships and keep an eye on the vast private market for used RVs. Selection will depend on what RVers in the area are selling or trading, which could force you to compromise.
Depending on how you plan to use your new RV, you may want to get one type of floor plan over another. Think about how you plan to eat and relax, both inside and out. Families may wish to opt for a bunkhouse-style rig or models with sleeping space above the cab. Some floor plans will put the shower, toilet, and sink together, while others will place the shower on the opposite side of the main walkway. Towable RVs have even more variation in floor plans without the need for seats in the front.
What to Expect When Buying Your First RV
Now that you know what you’re looking for, what should you expect when checking out a potential RV?
The Sticker Price Is Negotiable
Much like buying a car or truck, the sticker price is by no means the price you have to pay. Sellers often expect you to negotiate. You never know if you’re dealing with a motivated seller or a dealer looking to clear out space for new stock. While you may sometimes find sellers unwilling to budge much on the price, they may offer additional features, warranties, or other enhancements instead.
Prices Will Be Cheaper in Off Seasons
As with buying a home or fresh produce, RVs have seasons. Generally, you’ll see higher prices in the spring and summer as more people look to get on the road for vacations. Once fall and winter roll around, you’ll likely have more options as a portion of the RV community either trades in their rigs for new ones or decides they’re no longer interested in the RV lifestyle.
There Are a Lot of Options (Do Your Research)
Even in recent months, where demand has skyrocketed, there are still a ton of RVs and trailers out there for interested buyers, ranging from fresh off-the-line new models to ones that have been on the road for decades and need a little TLC. Research is crucial to know exactly what you should look for and what you’re getting out of a rig. This is especially true if you anticipate making major repairs or upgrades in the coming years.
Remember to Ask About Add-Ons
Beyond the RV itself, make sure to know about any add-ons. These could entail extra costs. However, you might get a chance to add valuable upgrades to make your new RV even more comfortable.
Ask for a Full System Walkthrough
RVs include many complex systems, from water to propane to leveling systems. Since this is your first RV, you may not be 100% familiar with how each operates. That’s OK!
However, you must understand how to use them before taking your new rig out on the road. You don’t want to find yourself at your first campsite with no cell service and no idea how to empty your black tank. Have the seller walk you through how to work your electric, water, sewage, propane, leveling, and any other systems. That way, you can work out any questions or issues right on the spot.
If Buying Used, Request an Inspection
While it’s unlikely that someone will try to sell you a total lemon deliberately, not all RV owners or dealers know everything about their RVs. That RV may have sat outside for years uncovered or on the brink of a major system failure.
That’s why it’s crucial to get a full inspection from an experienced inspector of your choice. They’ll give you a heads up on any potential trouble spots or issues. The cost is modest compared to the price of your RV, and you’ll sleep easier knowing your new rig is in good shape. The National RV Inspector’s Association even has a tool to help you find licensed inspectors in your area.
Be sure to read the 11 RV Buying Mistakes You Can Easily Avoid for more tips and tricks to ensure you get the best deal.
How Much Should You Spend on Your First RV?
How much you should spend buying an RV for the first time is a personal decision that depends on your financial situation and plans for using the rig. You’ll need to do some research ahead of your purchase to see which models and styles are in your price range.
Services like RV Trader and RV USA will help you search for available models and explore their specs. Sites like craigslist and eBay will also give you an idea of what you may end up spending. Motorhomes will cost significantly more than comparably sized trailers, but don’t forget the cost of acquiring a truck or other tow vehicle if necessary.
With all the styles, models, options, and upgrades, buying an RV for the first time can seem overwhelming. But with a bit of research and a good handle on your budget, it can be an exciting and fun process. And the reward for getting through it is a whole new lifestyle and level of freedom. Are you considering making the switch?
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