Once you know what kinds of RVs are available, and which types you might enjoy owning, it’s time to consider how you are going to use your RV. Choosing the biggest, most expensive Class A may not be reasonable if you’ll only use it two weeks out of each year, but choosing one that’s too small may test your patience, especially if you plan on full timing, either now or later.
Be Clear About Why You Are Buying an RV–Recreation, Businesss or Housing
How you plan to use your RV will help answer this question.
- Are you finding ways to take less costly vacations?
- Do you want more family oriented vacations like camping?
- Do you want to boondock or stay in parks with full hookups?
- Do you plan on full timing?
- How much space do you think you will be comfortable with?
- Do you want to tow your auto or tow your RV?
After you learn about the different types of RVs available it’s time to go to some dealers, get some spec sheets, and do some research.
Choosing based on floor plan or amenities as the priority may prove disappointing in other areas. Price alone shouldn’t be the deciding factor, either. Consider quality, performance, customer satisfaction, customer service, cost of upkeep, safety, resale value, and how well it holds up over time and use.
Spend plenty of time researching, reading reviews, taking your time, and letting the right RV show itself. With over 60 RV manufacturers and each producing several models, you’ll be busy for a while. A good place to start is at Jr. Consumer Resources.
Join RV forums and ask questions. Read what other RVers have to say.
Pay particular attention to comments by RVers who use their RVs the way you want to. What concerns another type of RVers may not be significant to you.
Subscribe to a few magazines like “Trailer Life” or “Motorhome”–or just pick up a few issues while you’re at the store. Run web searches for RVer sites. There are hundreds of them.
Of course there are other ways of choosing. You might start with a smaller RV to see how well you like this lifestyle, then trade up to the one of your dreams if this is what you want to do. You might buy a used RV, or just rent or borrow one before investing in your own.
What Kind, Size, and Price Range
After researching the types of RVs, the pros and cons of each and knowing how you are going to use it, now and later, you’re in a much better position to decide on a make, model and year. Which ones are in your price range? Do you want to finance one or pay outright?
Look into RV insurance before making a purchase. Call a few RV insurance agents and ask about safety records for RVs that you are considering. A higher rate may indicate more insurance claims and safety issues with a specific model. A less expensive model may require more repairs making it more costly to maintain.
When you find RVs you are interested in, get their specific VIN numbers, even if they are new floor models or a private party RV. You may need it for an agent to give you a quote or even an estimate. Get all the specs as the insurance rate will be based on the safety features, engine size or accessories.
Take every opportunity to drive every make and model, or tow any trailer or fifth wheel to see how it handles. Is it comfortable or intimidating. Do you feel like you have it under control? Find out where you can take an RV driving course, if necessary.
Gas or Diesel
Larger RVs use more fuel than smaller ones. If you plan on full timing and staying in one place, this may not be an issue. But if you want to travel, spend time researching fuel costs and actual mileage reported by people who own any model you are considering.
Gas engines may be (as of this writing) more cost effective, but that can change. Diesel engines require more maintenance and are less forgiving when you delay maintenance. Gas engines can’t pull heavier RVs as well as diesel engines can.
If you plan to travel over mountains research the difference in cost and power between gas and diesel engines for the RV you prefer. This includes tow vehicles for trailers and fifth wheels. Don’t forget to consider the total weight of your RV, including people, supplies, clothes, utensils, food, etc.
New or Used
Would a new or used RV suit you better? Are you willing to do, or pay for repairs or upgrades on a used RV? Can you get financing, or are you going to pay cash? It’s difficult to get financing on older RVs.
RVs tend to wear out faster, or in ways other than you might think. As camp host my husband often commented on the number of fiberglass sided RVs he saw with the skin peeling off, or awnings broken, or slideouts stuck in the “out” position. Use caution buying a used RV and check to be sure everything functions. Get a warranty whenever possible.
On the other hand you might find a nice used RV that has been repossessed. The RV market was hit hard because banks were financing RVs with the same abandon as homes. You might find a bargain in a repo.
Prior to the housing market crash 70% of RVs sold were motorhomes. Now, it’s the reverse with 30% being motorhomes and 70% being fifth wheels and trailers.
Some RV parks won’t allow RVs in if they are over 10 or 15 years old. One of the advantages we’ve found with our Airstream is that the older ones look much like the newer ones. It’s hard to tell a well-kept older model from a newer one, and many parks have made exceptions for us or not even asked the age of our RV. Which leads to another purchase consideration …
Where Do You Plan to Stay
Whether full timing or vacationing, where you plan to stay may affect which RV you choose. As I mentioned, older models may not be allowed at some parks. Larger ones may be too large for many parks, including State and National Parks.
Do you need 30 or 50 amps of power. If you’re going to stay in hotter climates you’ll need 50 amps and two air conditioners. If you’re going to stay in cold climates, you’ll need a well insulated RV? Propane and electric heat can be expensive.
Will you be boondocking? If so, you’ll need larger water and holding tanks. A smaller RV is easier to maneuver off road or on back roads.
RV Recalls Continued on page 2 ...