Buying a New RV in Five Steps
Before You Start - Stop and Think
Buying an RV is a major investment. Asking yourself (and those affected by your travels) these questions early on can save much heartache later:
- Is the RV lifestyle right for you?
- Will you miss family and friends?
- What home comforts can you not do without?
- What type of touring will you be doing?
- How many will be travelling?
- How many drivers?
- Is everyone in your travelling party committed to the RV lifestyle?
- Do you intend to drive off-road?
Camper Trailer, Caravan or Motorhome?
Camper Trailer Pros - small, lightweight, easy to tow, low cost, some suitable off-road
Camper Trailer Cons - take time to erect, wet canvas (and adjacent items) gets smelly if packed wet
Caravan Pros - more spacious, no canvas, can take more essentials and accessories, tow vehicle is usually comfortable and can be used when not towing
Caravan Cons - medium sized, heavier, harder to tow, more expensive
Motorhome Pros - no towing involved (unless towing a small car behind), everything in 'one box'
Motorhome Cons - most expensive, truck suspension, inflexible as transport at destination
Step One - Make a 'Needs' List
Have those conversations with your proposed fellow travellers and work out what your RV needs are in general terms. Where, when and how often? Large or small, a weekender or an extensive tourer, easy to set up for short stays or long stays in one place? Number of beds, the facilities you cannot do without and whether additional transport or sports equipment (boats, kayaks, surfboards, fishing rods?) is needed at your destination.
Step Two - Choose Your RV Type and Budget
Based on your likely needs, decide in principle which fork in the road you wish to go down – caravan or motor home? This decision is not irreversible at this stage, but it helps to narrow down the number of RVs you will need to look over in the early stages.
Agree on your RV budget, not only for purchase but also for running costs. Make sure that your purchasing budget includes any options that you feel are necessary but are not included in the base price of the RV.
If your budget does not stretch to a new RV, then decide what compromises you are willing to make in terms of age and facilities to get the RV you can afford. Then look at used RVs.
Step Three - Do Your Research
Spend as much time online as possible looking at manufacturers’ websites, online brochures and videos. Go to RV shows, look, ask questions, but don’t buy yet. If possible, find other people who own an RV and seek their advice, always bearing in mind that the RV they own is nearly always the best.
You could even go to a local caravan park and talk to owners there (with the permission of the park owners). RV owners are almost always happy to talk to other prospective RV owners. And read books (particularly this one) and magazines, including those available for free in libraries. See also the many constantly updated Articles here. From your research, make a short list of three or four RVs.
Step Four - Visit, Test and Hire
Get behind the wheel, in the beds and ideally underneath each RV on your short list. Compare the cost, comfort, facilities and ease of use of each one, and see if a preferred candidate emerges.
If one does, move on to Step Five. If not, then keep researching, talking and comparing until your clear favourite steps forwards.
Step Five - Decide and Buy
This is the fun part. Head off to the seller and buy the RV that you now know will come closest to meeting your needs. Don’t hesitate to ask for a discount – if you don’t ask you won’t get.
Buying at a show does not necessarily get you a cheaper price. Discounts are generally lower than in the passenger vehicle sector due to smaller sales volumes. If the price does not move, or moves but not as much as you’d like, ask for one or more accessories or services to be included at no extra cost.