What to Know About Buying Your First RV
By Darla Preston
Sailing down the open road in an RV with the wind in your hair and your family and/or closest friends by your side is certainly a dream worth visualizing. It’s an ideal environment for those with a taste for wanderlust, but getting from point A–acquiring an RV–to point B–hitting the road–is far easier said than done. If you’re just stepping into the market to search for your first home-on-wheels, you might be feeling overwhelmed by all of the important points to consider. To help your journey go smoothly, here are a few things to keep in mind when looking to buy your first recreational vehicle:
Consider Your Needs Before Deciding On a Type
Not all RVs are created equal, and it’s important to find the one that best suits your specific needs. There are important differences between motorhomes and travel trailers, as well as with Class A, B, and C motorhomes, and in order to make the right decision, you’ll need to take some time to extensively educate yourself on what these variations entail.
To pick the right model for you, you also need to evaluate your needs, such as:
What will the RV be used for? If you are only going to be using it for sporadic roadtrips, a smaller model would most likely work, whereas if you plan on residing in it full time or for extended travel periods, a larger one might be a better bet.
How many passengers will be traveling with you? Similarly, the more passengers you have regularly adventuring with you, the larger vehicle you’ll probably need.
Do you plan on owning it long-term? Some models depreciate quicker than others, and if you feel that you might need/want to sell your RV in the future, this could be important information to look into.
Do you have the time and resources to upkeep and travel with a larger model? Typically speaking, the larger your vehicle is, the more likely you’ll be spending more on insurance, fuel, maintenance/repairs, etc., so it’s important to make sure your budget and schedule allows for these details.
Are you aware of the possible setbacks of a big rig? More space can definitely be a perk, but it may be harder to find campgrounds that are big-rig friendly. While most campgrounds do have 50 amp hookups available, some max out at 30 amp and some charge more for the full 50. Similarly, some roads are closed off to larger vehicles for safety purposes, so you’ll need to map out your route carefully.
If you will be living in your RV, do you know how to best handle your taxes? For example, some states offer RVers tax advantages while others don’t, and this can be a major thing to look into when deciding where to set up your homebase.
Understand What Up keep and Maintenance Needs to Expect
Keeping your RV in good shape is the key to minimizing costly repairs down the line, so you should thoroughly look into the type of upkeep that the model-of-your-choice will require. Cleaning both the inside and out, changing the oil regularly, checking tire pressure, giving your generator a check-up, etc. are a few examples of what you should be monitoring on a routine basis no matter what type of rig you have.
Also, if you plan on full-timing, you’ll need to create a backup plan for the times that your RV is out of commission or getting serviced. Perhaps you should set aside a small budget that would allow you to stay in a hotel for a few days if your RV ever needed something major repaired. After all, it is your home, so it’s a wise idea to have a strategy for the times you won’t be able to occupy it.
Decide If You’ll Buy New or Used
When it comes to buying your RV, there are pros and cons to investing in new and used models, so it’s best to weigh them out.
The pros to buying a new RV include:
Everything is new, meaning it should be in top-notch mechanical condition.
All of the appliances should be modern and work smoothly.
Some newer models are more fuel-efficient, saving you money on gas.
You’ll have the option of choosing exactly which floor plan you want.
You should have access to a satisfying warranty.
The cons of purchasing a brand new RV include:
RVs depreciate rather quickly, so if you planned to sell your rig down the line or upgrade to a newer model, you would get quite a bit less than you payed for it.
It could be costly upfront.
When it comes to used RVs, there are some positives and negatives as well.
Pros of Buying a Used RV:
You’ll save money.
You could find a great deal on a newer used model, as the value of an RV depreciates quickly.
Now, there are some cons to consider as well:
The person who owned it before you might not have taken very good care of it, meaning you could end up dumping quite a bit of money into repairs and maintenance costs.
You might not find one with the exact floor plan and accessories you want.
You might not have any warranty options available to you, making the purchase more of a risk.
Whether you’re buying new or used, one thing is certain: you need to test everything. Take time to get a feel for what the rig has to offer by testing out all appliances, test driving it thoroughly, sitting down on the furniture, etc. Don’t rush into anything, or you might overlook an important detail. Your purchasing journey should be slow and steady, and ideally, you’ll have a mechanic who you trust look over your potential new RV and inspect every aspect of it, especially if buying used.
Make a List of Must-Have Accessories
In the RV world, the supply of accessories you can choose from is close to endless, and it can be difficult to know which ones to pick when you’re adorning your first recreational vehicle. Eventually you’ll be able to get all of the bells and whistles, but for just getting started, the following list should help you get better enjoyment out of your new rig:
An RV awning. Many new or used RVs will come with an RV awning, but if your new rig doesn’t have one, or comes with one that isn’t in great condition, it would be a good idea to look for one that will best complement your vehicle. Awnings provide shade from the sun, allowing you to enjoy the outdoors without being a victim of the harsh UV rays. Additionally, you can explore many variations of awning room attachments, which attach to your RV, literally creating an extra room outside.
Clean water equipment. Water filters, water pressure regulators, water hoses, etc. are all items that your RV might not come with. Each model is different, but your water source is an item that you should have figured out before your first road trip.
Waste management equipment. Learning how to properly deal with your waste water, also referred to as your black or gray water, is a huge responsibility of being an RV owner, so it’s important to make sure you acquire all of the necessary equipment and knowledge of how to legally dispose of it if your rig does not come fully ready.
Towing equipment. If you plan on investing in a travel trailer or fifth wheel, an RV that you tow behind your vehicle, you’ll want to ensure that your budget allows for the proper towing equipment.
Entertainment items. Are you going to watch TV? What about a mobile WiFi hotspot for your RV? A sound system?
Power sources. Most RVs come with power cords, but if you plan to use your power without being hooked up to an electrical source, consider outfitting your RV with solar panels and/or generators.
First-Aid Kit. It’s always a sound idea to be prepared for emergencies, so take some time to put together an emergency medical kit before hitting the road.
Heating/Cooling Options. Whether you’re planning on traveling in the winter, summer, or anywhere in between, keeping your RV at a balanced, safe temperature is important. There are many tools out there to help you keep your vehicle warm and/or cool, so spend some time understanding your options to ensure you fully understand what the best route is for your rig.
Emergency Equipment. Flashlights, emergency weather alert radios, water filters, and solar powered phone chargers are just a few items that can help you prepare for an emergency. To find a more detailed list, browse through RV forums to find out from seasoned travelers what they have found to be the most useful emergency items when it comes to staying safe on their adventures.
At the end of the day, your first RV purchase will be more successful if you do your research on some basic RV accessories, understand the different types of RVs that are available, evaluate your own needs, and test everything. It’s a time-consuming process, but when it’s all said and done and you’re hitting the road in your new motorhome, it will all be more than worth it.
By Darla Preston