An RV is an excellent investment if you want to explore the open roads while enjoying home-like comfort. The process of buying an RV is exciting, but it can also be overwhelming, costly, and you risk losing money if you fall for RV scams.
Before jumping in to make your purchase, do your due diligence. The due diligence goes beyond checking consumer reviews on platforms such as Reddit and PissedConsumer.com. You also need to clearly understand your needs, various types of RVs, RV maintenance costs, ownership laws, and procedures involved in buying an RV.
Below are factors to consider when choosing an RV and RV buying tips for a smooth purchase process.
7 Factors to Consider When Choosing an RV
Understand the Various Types of RVs
The exact classification of RVs varies from one state to another. Different laws apply for different RV types, including registration procedures, length and height limit, and required safety features. Therefore, check your local DMV classifications before beginning the purchase process.
With that said, RVs are generally categorized into motorized RVs (motorhomes) and Towable RVs.
Categories of Motorized RVs
Motorized RVs are classified as follows:
- Class A – These are luxurious, modern RVs. They usually have a 6-wheeler bus or semi-truck design. They are equipped with all the necessary amenities for optimal comfort while on the road.
They are quite spacious, and passengers can move about with ease even when the vehicle is on the move. However, the luxurious features come at a steep price ranging from $700,000 for more basic designs and up to $1 million for premium designs.
- Class B – Class B motorhomes have a van-like design with a raised roof to allow you ample headroom when you are standing. Their prices range between $40,000–$80,000, although the more luxurious models can cost up to $125,000.
- Class C – Generally, class C motorhomes have a truck design. They are designed with an overhang that extends beyond the front cab roof, making them easily identifiable. They offer adequate room for larger amenities such as large kitchen appliances. They cost between $50,000 and $120,000.
Categories of Towable RVs
As their name suggests, these types of RVs do not have an engine. Instead, they are attached to a motor vehicle and towed along. They include the following:
- fifth-wheel trailers;
- lightweight trailers;
- travel trailers such as pop-up campers and teardrop trailers.
When determining what type of RV to buy, consider your preferred RVing experience. Compare the features of each type against your needs and your preferred features. Also, choose an option whose price range is within your budget.
Understand Your Needs
How do you intend to use the RV? Will you use it mainly for boondocking? If so, consider an RV with features such as maneuverability, large tank capacity, and an option for solar panels or a generator.
On the other hand, if you want to do RV camping, work, or homeschool your kids while on the move, the RV does not have boondocking capabilities.
Also, consider how many people will be using the RV and whether you will bring along pets. The more the people in the RV, the higher the load space required. You will also need the RV to be spacious and to have at least the necessary amenities for everyone onboard.
Make a list of the features and amenities you would like in your RV. For example, full bathroom facilities vs. a simple shower, full kitchen vs. built-in oven or stove, Wi-Fi range extender, number and type of beds, storage space, entertainment systems, slide-outs, water tanks and pumps, waste holding tanks, air conditioners, etc.
Choose Between Used vs. New RVs
Each option has its pros and cons. New RVs have been off the assembly line for a few days, weeks, or months and have low mileage. You can also order one from the manufacturer with the features and customizations that you want.
New RVs come fitted with the latest technology and amenities. You can choose from a range of color and size options. Most manufacturers offer a warranty on the RV itself and various parts.
On the downside, new RVs are more expensive than used ones. Some manufacturers do not offer customizations, and you would have to customize by yourself at an additional cost. Insurance premiums for new RVs are significantly higher. Furthermore, the depreciation rate for new RVs is higher than that of used RVs.
On the other hand, used RVs are generally cheaper to buy than new ones. Their insurance premium rates are also lower. However, they may have mechanical issues that you may not be able to point out easily. Often, the manufacturer’s warranty has run out, and you will have to incur repair costs.
If buying a used RV, pay keen attention to the history of the RV. Ask for repair and maintenance paperwork, odometer, and check mileage.
Whether you choose a used or new RV, ensure to have it serviced by the dealer, seller, or manufacturer by closing the sale. Also, hire an RV specialist to inspect that it is roadworthy with no significant issues.
To Buy or Rent an RV?
Some people opt to rent an RV instead of buying. Renting allows you to RV at an affordable cost. It allows you to test out different types of RVs. Therefore, when it is time to become an RV owner, you have clarity about the type of RV to go for and its specific features and size.
Renting an RV is ideal if you do not RVing frequently. It is also a great option if you are just starting out with RV camping or boondocking.
If you are a seasoned and frequent RV renter, buying your own RV may make better financial sense. While the purchase cost will be high, if you rent too frequently, the renting costs add up and may exceed the purchase price range for a new or used RV.
Understand RV Ownership Costs
Owning an RV is cash-intensive. Other than the upfront cost of buying, there are additional costs involved in owning and maintaining an RV, including:
- insurance premiums;
- registration fees;
- cost of fuel;
- parking fees during trips;
- maintenance cost;
- heating or cooling costs;
- hitch for towable RVs;
- camping costs;
RV repairs can be quite expensive. Roof replacements can cost up to $7,000, while front-wall rebuilds can last up to $3,000. Annual maintenance cost includes inspecting and replacing brakes, bushings, bearings, and sealant work. It would help if you also took measures to prevent mold and rust. These can add up to thousands of dollars each year.
Consider the RV Laws
Each state has laws and regulations specific to RV ownership, use, and storage. In most states, RV height is limited to 14’. Motorhome or trailer length is limited to 40’ or 45’. In Maryland and Massachusetts, transportation of LP gas is limited past certain points. As such, if you have appliances that use LP gas, plan alternate routes.
Most municipals prohibit parking RVs on the streets for extended periods. Some states have parking spaces designated for RVs. Long-term storage of RVs in private property is allowed. However, property or homeowner associations in your area may have specific rules.
5 RV Buying Tips
Set a Budget
When setting out to buy an RV, start by setting a budget. An amount you are willing to spend on an RV and that you can afford. Once you have established the type of RV to buy and your preferred features, do market research to establish the price range, identify options that have most of your preferred features and are within your budget.
Where to Buy
If you choose to buy a new RV, check out the manufacturer of your preferred model or an authorized dealer. Even for used RVs, it is best to buy from a dealer rather than an individual. Dealers often offer a guarantee, and you can return the RV within the specified period if you encounter issues.
You can also join RV communities to find leads for credible RV sellers and models. You could also ask for tips and advice for buying an RV. There are online and local RV groups and meetups across the USA.
Be on the Lookout for RV Scams
RV scams are common for online listings on Craigslist and Facebook marketplaces by private owners or unverifiable dealerships. Often, scammers create a sense of urgency and require you to make a down payment for booking the RV.
Do not pay for an RV until you have seen it, had it inspected and ascertained that it is worth buying. Even when dealing with manufacturers and authorized dealers, check their reviews to establish their credibility. Check RV reviews for the specific RV model to establish whether there were recalls or issues consistent with it.
Get the Best Price
Check out different dealerships or sellers and keep your options open. Most dealerships are open to negotiations. Don’t just accept the advertised price. Give a counteroffer until you can reach an agreement that is favorable for you and the dealership.
Make sure to enquire about any hidden fees. For instance, whether you or the dealership will foot the cost of inspection and serving the RV. RV experts advise buying towards the end of RV season as prices tend to be lower.
Explore Various Payment Options
Since the price of RVs is relatively high, most dealerships offer financing options. The payment plan usually works the same as when you are buying a car or house. You get a loan from the dealership, bank, credit union, or third-party lender.
Your eligibility for a financing option is dependent on your credit score. The higher your credit score, the higher the chances you will qualify for a payment plan and the lower your interest rate. Lenders usually offer the option between shorter and longer-term payments. Also, find out if the payment plan is flexible and allows you to make lump-sum payments whenever possible.
Buying an RV is a significant investment. Whether you are getting a new or used RV, you want to get the best value for your money. Therefore, take your time to establish your needs. Identify prospective RVs and check dealers’ and models’ online reviews to prove their credibility and reliability. Look out for RV complaints about each prospective model. Negotiate the prices to get the best deal.