You’ve spent years gazing in awe at a variety of recreational vehicles, both on the road and in campgrounds. You dream of sitting in the driver’s seat or unwinding in the cozy living area. And now, the time has come – you’re finally going to take the plunge and get an RV of your own. Congratulations! A recreational vehicle is your ticket to the open road and unbridled adventure. It’s a familiar place to come home to when visiting a brand new town. It’s going to be your very own home on wheels.
Of course, when you think about it, that’s a lot of pressure to put on a purchase. So when it comes time to buy an RV of your own, make sure you take the time to do it right the first time. Think about what fits your personality, what your wants and needs are, where you’ll be going and of course, your budget. You wouldn’t rush into buying a house, and the same care and thought need to go into buying an RV.
Here are the top Six mistakes most rookie RV buyers make:
- Buying the Wrong Type of RV
- Not Considering Their Destination
- Ignoring Features You May Need
- Choosing The Wrong Dealer
- Buying In The Wrong Season
- Ignoring Additional Costs
Before we take a peek at these mistakes and how to avoid them, let’s start at the beginning of the RV buying process. The first question you will need to answer is do you want to:
Buy New or Buy Used?
Brand new recreational vehicles depreciate about 15% the first year, then eight to 10% every year after that. New RVs, however, usually come protected with some form of extensive warranty. Pre-owned RVs are less expensive, but may not be covered by a warranty, especially if you’re dealing with a private seller. If you decide to go this route, make sure you have the vehicle thoroughly inspected before purchasing.
You can never be too prepared or educated when RV shopping, so do your homework before making a purchase. Once you determine whether you want to buy a new or a used RV, it’s time to swerve around the top 6 mistakes most buyers make.
1. Buying the Wrong Type Of RV.
Recreational vehicles come in a multitude of styles, each catering to a particular kind of traveler. Here are a few things to think about before making a purchase:
- How many people will be traveling?
- What will you be bringing?
- Where will you be camping?
- What is your budget?
Once you answer these questions, the type of RV you’ll want to buy should become evident. Is it a huge motorhome, something smaller, more towable, or something in between?
2. Not Considering Your Destinations.
This one is easily overlooked. The best way to decide what type of RV you should buy is to know where you plan to travel. Not only do some campgrounds have size restrictions, but you may want to stay somewhere off the beaten path. If so, you will need an RV that can handle bumpy roads and sharp turns. If the "outback" is your idea of a great camping experience, you may want to choose a smaller recreational vehicle.
3. Ignoring Features You May Need.
The whole reason you’re in the market for an RV is so you can travel in luxury with everything you need within arm’s reach. Having said that, you don’t want a vehicle with features and options you’ll never use. It’s possible to find the RV that fits you and your needs like a glove.
Here are some things to consider before talking to dealers:
Storage Space. In addition to closets, there are plenty of nooks and crannies in an RV to store anything you might accumulate while on the road. People tend to pack too much when they travel, so make sure to bring only what you need, so you don’t get overwhelmed while cruising the open road.
Refrigerator Size. You may be storing enough food to last a week or so when on the road, so make sure your fridge has the capacity you need. Don’t forget you can also pack less perishable items, as well as pick up things on the road to cut down on food storage.
Fresh Water. You won’t always have a fresh water hookup, so for those times when a shower is necessary, consider the size of the vehicle’s fresh water tank.
4. Choosing the Wrong Dealership.
For those that buy a brand new RV, finding a trustworthy dealership is imperative. As when buying a car, you want to deal with someone honest who doesn’t see you as just another sale.
You are looking for a sales rep who knows their product, treats you well and has your best interest at heart. And don’t forget that you’ll be bringing your RV back in for maintenance, so choose someone you’ll want to keep seeing as the years pass.
5. Not Waiting to Buy in the Off-Season.
Summer may be the best time to travel, but unfortunately, it's the worst time to buy an RV. Hold off until the end of summer before pulling the trigger. Many RV owners decide to sell their rig before the winter. Fall is the perfect time to swoop in for a deal on both new and used recreational vehicles. Buying too early could cost you thousands of dollars.
6. Ignoring the Extra Costs and Maintenance.
A vehicle as big and complex as an RV will have many hidden costs associated with its upkeep and storage. There’s more to ownership than just fueling up the RV and hitting the road – it takes a lot of time, effort, and money to keep these vehicles in working condition.
Here are a few things to consider before buying:
Cleaning. You will need to spend time cleaning both the inside and outside of your rig on a regular basis. Think of the interior living area as your home and clean it as such. Vacuum the floor, wipe down surfaces and wash any fabrics, and don’t forget about the windows, blinds, and vents. The exterior should be cleaned regularly of dirt, bugs and any other debris that may build up. Finally, the holding tanks should be emptied and cleaned when they approach about 2/3 capacity.
General Maintenance and Upkeep. RV's are just like other vehicles; they need periodic check-ups to keep running smoothly and to prevent bigger problems down the road. Parts and mechanics for these rigs are harder to find than your average car, so expect to spend extra time to keep your vehicle in good shape.
Generator. When an electrical hookup is unavailable, a generator is necessary. They’re clunky and can take up valuable storage space, but when you’re off the grid, they will come in handy and keep the appliances, lights and other critical devices running.
Towing. Do you plan to tow a vehicle or a storage trailer? If so, it's important to take into account your RV's towing capacity, as well as the cost of the towed item.
Winter Storage. You’ll need to store your vehicle safely in the winter months.
Things to consider before putting your RV away for the season:
- Protecting the exterior from the elements
- Keep rodents away
- Defrosting the freezer
- Covering vents
- Check on the engine and battery
- Bleed the lines and winterize the tanks
If you take all of these precautions into consideration before buying a recreational vehicle, you should have a smooth buying experience. As we mentioned above, there’s no such thing as being too prepared when you’re in the market for an RV, so take the time to study up and become an informed consumer. Don’t make these standard RV buying mistakes; instead, be prepared to make the right choice the first time.