5 Important Things To Consider While RV Shopping
There are 5 key considerations when RV shopping that should drive your decision and you’ll be surprised to learn that price is not even on the list. Unfortunately, most RV shoppers consider the price of the RV as the very first and most important factor in their decision-making process, and that clouds their judgment.
Choosing the right RV is a huge decision and if you choose wisely, you will enjoy your RV for years to come, but if your choice is based on price alone you may find that you never really feel comfortable in your RV and you may not want to even travel or camp in your new rig.
Don’t only consider the price of RVs
As a case in point, we have friends who were suffering from RV fever, as a result of having seen the RV that we had just purchased. In the interest of full disclosure, we had spent over a year shopping for our rig before making the final decision.
We went to every RV show within driving distance, spent countless hours on RV lots talking to salespeople, visited campgrounds to talk with RV owners, and read anything and everything we could find on this subject. We followed the guidelines below and it worked perfectly for us. We loved the Class A motorhome we picked out.
We owned our RV for nearly 20 years and drove it over 120,000 miles, but our friends with RV fever rushed through the process, ignoring the guidelines below, and focused solely on the prices of the various RVs that they were considering. They ended up buying a new Class A motorhome from a dealer and manufacturer, neither of which would stand behind the sale.
The rig they purchased has serious design flaws that caused endless problems with the black tank holding and discharge system. The dealer was unable and unwilling to fix it, and the manufacturer was equally unconcerned.
Our friends were forced to trade in this new RV, less than 6 months after buying it, and what had seemed like such a good deal when they bought it, cost them an additional $20,000 in lost value.
So I beg you, if you are considering buying an RV, consider these five keys elements in the order in which they are presented before you ever start to compare prices.
1. Type of RV
When buying a recreational vehicle, the first thing you’ll need to decide is what type of recreational vehicle will best fit your needs, lifestyle, and family. There are many different types of RVs from which to choose. Will a van conversion, or a large fifth wheel, travel trailer, Class C or Class A motorhome, or truck camper best fit your needs?
Perhaps a small pop-up trailer is all you’ll need for your recreational activities. But if you’re new to RVing and have never experienced any part of this adventure, you’ll need to carefully consider your personal goals and aspirations, to determine the type of RV that will best meet your needs.
Don’t get confused about type. For example, you may think of a toy hauler as a type of RV, but you can find fifth wheels and Class A motorhomes with toy hauler garage space in the back.
The main categories are Class A and Class C motorhomes, Class B, and B+ vans, travel trailers and fifth wheels, camper vans, and truck canopies. Within each of these general types, there are many variations. If you’re new to the RV genre, you may want to rent different types of RVs to see what works for your lifestyle.
Another consideration that goes along with the type of RV is the size of the recreational vehicle that best meets your needs. Type and size often go together. If you are looking for a van conversion or truck camper you know that the rig will be smaller than most RVs. If you are drawn to a Class A diesel pusher, the size of your rig is going to be on the larger end of the spectrum.
If you decide that a fifth wheel is the best type of RV for your needs, then the next element down the list is a consideration of the size of that fifth wheel to meet your needs. In the world of RVing size really does matter, and bigger is not always better. You need a recreational vehicle that is large enough to make you feel comfortable but small enough to be maneuverable. Where you store your RV may also be a determining factor in the size that best meets your needs.
A small RV van is about the size of a standard truck or SUV and can be driven anywhere that will accommodate a car or truck. That means you can take your RV to the most remote locations and still have all your essential camping gear with you.
These vans are less costly to drive, easy to maneuver, and convenient to park, but the small size also constrained the size of its features such as the holding tanks, refrigerator, and galley. The size of an RV will define many of its features, so if you know you will need bunk beds for the kids then you’ll need a rig large enough to have space for the bunks.
As mentioned above, there is a direct link between the size of the RV and its features and the features are a key consideration when you’re shopping for a new RV. Understanding your lifestyle and your particular needs will help you define the features that are critical for your lifestyle, which directly links back to the size and type.
I mentioned earlier that you should take this list in order, starting with the type, then the size, before considering the features, but any feature that may be a deal-breaker in your decision process needs to be considered at the same time that you’re considering the type and size of your RV.
For example, if having an on-board, fully functional bathroom is a must-have feature, then an Alpine-style travel trailer or R-Pod will not be the right type or size vehicle for your needs. If you absolutely need a toy hauler, then you know you’ll need a larger fifth wheel or Class A motorhome to incorporate this feature.
There are dozens and dozens of features in RVs and some of them are essential and some of them 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 all enjoyable features, but may not be necessary for your camping enjoyment.
When shopping for an RV, consider all of the various features then determine which of those are absolutely essential for your personal enjoyment. You may decide that bunk beds are essential, however, a second bathroom would be a nice added feature but is not a deal-breaker.
4. Age of the RV
Another major consideration when shopping for an RV is the age of the rig. Many people feel very strongly that it’s silly to purchase a new RV because, like cars, they depreciate immediately and there are usually many little things that need to be replaced or repaired on new RVs.
These folks think it’s better for someone else to work through all the irritants and absorb that loss in value. I, on the other hand, don’t care about the immediate loss of value because I intend to keep my RVs for many years. I want to know everything about it.
Where it’s been, how it’s been cared for, what maintenance has been done, what systems needed attention early on, and what was done to correct the problem. So far, I’ve bought two new Class A motorhomes and I’ve been thrilled with both.
The age of your motorhome may impact the usefulness and enjoyment of your RV. There are some parks that will only accept newer than 10-year-old RVs into their parks. RVs, like cars, wear out and depreciate in value. However, there are many well-maintained older RVs with exciting luxury features available in the marketplace.
Perhaps an older Class A diesel pusher would afford you an opportunity to own a high-end motorhome and still benefit from the hundreds of thousands of miles of functionality left in its engine. It might not be new, but it might be the right type, size, and have the best set of features for your needs.
5. Manufacturer – Will they provide support?
The fifth consideration when buying an RV is the brand and the reputation of that manufacturer. 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 RV owners as possible to learn about the reputations of different RV manufacturers.
We met a family that bought a brand-new fifth wheel only to have it catch on fire within the first month of ownership. Fortunately, they were all safe, but in the process of having that damage repaired, they learned that other rigs by this same manufacturer had similar problems and 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 very high-end Class A diesel pusher was at the factory. Unfortunately, the factory was over 1000 miles away.
All these considerations when RV shopping may not seem to be as important as the price, but each one will significantly impact the price you pay up-front and the overall costs of owning your RV for many years.
These extended costs could be in the form of diminished enjoyment, loss of functionality, and extra expenses for repairs. Of course, you’re concerned about the upfront costs, but as a long-time RV owner, I assure you that the real costs of owning an RV extends well beyond the initial purchase. If you make the right decisions about the type, size, features, age, and brand of your new acquisition, I believe that you’ll see that the price will work itself out.
Some other factors you will want to consider:
I am an author and writer, my partner is a web designer. We are full time RVers traveling around the US and Canada. We’ve been RVing for over 20 years and we’ve traveled more than 130,000 miles in an RV.