Guide to Buying an RV or Motorhome for Camping

class C Motorhomes

So you want to buy an RV to make your camping trips more enjoyable. Here are some tips and ideas for you to keep in mind while you’re deciding on that perfect RV that is right for you and your family.

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Rent an RV First

First and foremost, before you buy an RV, Motor Home, Camper or Travel Trailer, it is highly recommended that you rent one first and take it on a weekend camping trip. This will help you decided which features you need, and which features you don’t.

It will also help you decide what size is good for you and your family. Simply walking through an RV at a dealer’s lot will not truly give you a feel for if an RV is large enough for your family. You should also consider if your family is going to be growing anytime soon!

Pros and Cons of Owning an RV

The Pros

  • An RV is a vacation home on wheels.
  • You can get closer to nature in a Motor Home than you can in hotels.
  • You will always have a room at national parks (as long as there is a space).
  • With an RV, you never have to hunt for a bathroom.
  • You will meet friendly people who share your camping interests.
  • You can easily and affordably take the whole family on a camping vacation.
  • As long as there is a road, you’re free to vacation the wherever you’d like.

The Cons

  • Motor homes depreciate rapidly, as much as 20% the first year. Travel Trailers depreciate more slowly.
  • On certain holidays it may be hard to find a camping site if you don’t reserve one early.
  • Most auto repair shops don’t have space to work on your RV.
  • Some RVs get less than 8 miles per gallon.
  • You may need to tow a smaller car if you want to sightsee at your destination.
  • There is a lot of maintenance.

Decide on a Type of RV

What kind of camper are you? What kind of camping do you like to do? Do you like to have all the luxuries of home? Or can you do without your television, hot shower, and comfy bed while you’re roughing it?

There are many different types of RVs available today.

  • Travel Trailers: Consider your tow vehicle, the wear and tear on your tow vehicle, and storage costs.
  • 5th Wheel Trailer or Fifth Wheel Trailer: Large Split-Level floor plans. Needs to be towed with a pickup truck. Can sleep six or more. From $30,000
  • Toy Haulers or Sports Utility Trailer: Built-in garage for hauling motorcycles, ATVs and other sports equipment. Convert at destination to sleep up to eight. From $20,000
  • Conventional Travel Trailers / Conversion Camper Trailers: Wide range of floor plans and sizes with homelike amenities. Can sleep up to 10. From $10,000.
  • Pop Up Tent Trailer or Folding Camping Trailer: Folds up for lightweight easy towing. Fresh-air experience with some RV comforts. Some sleep up to eight. From $6,000

Motor Homes

Consider Gas Prices, Storage Costs, engine maintenance, license fees and the fact you may have to tow a vehicle to your destination if you want to do any sightseeing.

Class A

This is the largest and most luxurious of motor homes. It is truly a home away from home, fully loaded and equipped for any trip or for full time living. The Class A is built from the frame up on a chassis specially designed for an RV. Usually over $125,000 new.

Class C

This type of motor home provides most or the conveniences of a Class A motor home in a smaller version and at a substantially lower price. It is usually is built on a van frame with an attached cab. From $60,000.

Class B (Van Conversions)

A Class B motor home is essentially a cargo van that has been converted into a motor home. It usually includes sleeping and eating quarters, and sometimes it will have a bathroom. From $30,000.

Make a List of Must Haves

I am sure there are things you can not live without, even though you’re roughing it. Sit down with your spouse and family, and make a list of things that you need to have.

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Remember, many items can be purchase after-market and added to your RV. Television and Entertainment systems, Awnings, Generators, Microwaves, LP Gas Tanks, and Battery Systems just to name a few.

Know Your Budget

Many RV loans can be financed for 10 years or more. Find out how much per month your can afford and stick to it. Remember, an RV is not an investment, but you will reap many rewards from owning one just seeing the joy it brings to your family.

Make sure you use your RV every chance you get to make it worthwhile. You can also make your purchasing dollar go further if you consider used RVs.

Dealer Lot Checklist

This list will help you to avoid overlooking something before you purchase your RV and it’s too late.

  • What type of RV, Camper or Trailer is best for your family?
  • If you’re buying a trailer, do you have a vehicle capable of handling the weight of the trailer?
  • Do you have a hitch to safely tow it?
  • Do you want an open floor plan, or do you want a separate bedroom?
  • Is the RV too big or too small for your needs?
  • How big is LP gas tank? Is it large enough? Can you add another?
  • Is the RV equipped with a generator?
  • How far do you plan to travel?
  • Are gas prices going to be a factor?
  • Is the fresh water tank large enough for your needs?
  • Are the gray water and black water holding tanks large enough for the way you plan to use the RV?
  • Are there enough places for everyone to sleep comfortably? What if your kids want to bring friends?
  • Is the kitchen suitable for your needs? Is there enough storage?
  • Is there enough seating space for mealtime?
  • Is the refrigerator big enough?
  • Does it have a microwave?
  • Do you want slide outs for additional space? If so, consider how is the RV interior affected when they are in the travel position.
  • Is there enough storage, and are the storage compartments large enough for everything you plan to take?
  • Is there enough closet and drawer space for your clothing?
  • Are the beds large enough for you and your family? Keep in mind that your children will be growing.
  • Are there enough or too many windows?
  • Test the Air Conditioning. Does one room cool down more than another?
  • Is the bathroom acceptable?
  • Do you need a split bathroom, where the shower is separate? Or is a bathroom where everything is together acceptable?
  • Stand in the shower. Does it feel large enough?

Don’t forget to take the RV for a test drive. Consider the type of electrical service the RV has. 30 Amp hookups are becoming more common, but 50 Amp hookups can still be difficult to find.

Consider a Used RV

First time buyers should seriously consider used RVs. RVs depreciate a lot in the first years. Investigating models and floor plans at the dealership, then search on RVSearch.com or RVTrader.com for similar models.

Don’t let an salesman convince you that there’s only one like the one you are looking at. Try to find RVs being sold by older couples.

There are some good deals in local papers in the Snowbird States where nearly new RVs are being sold at a reduced price because a spouse has become sick or passed away and the couple is no longer traveling.

Do your RV shopping in the winter when the camping season is over. RV owners and even some dealers are looking deal, since there isn’t much demand for camping in the winter months in most areas.

When buying a used RV, ask the current owner to show you how all the features work. Make sure the appliances (refrigerator, stove, microwave), and plumbing (toilet, shower, water pump) are in good working order.

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Make sure the roof is solid. Leaks are evident by discolored patches in the walls or ceiling. Check in closets for roof leaks. Water leaks cause rot in the walls and framing of an RV and are expensive to repair.

Happy Camping!