Ready to buy the RV of your dreams? If your answer is yes, then you should know that there are some things you need to consider before giving in to your wanderlust feelings and actually making the purchase.
Factors such as where and when to buy, price, floor plans, warranties and so on can turn your dream RV into a horrible nightmare. To make sure you prevent the buyer’s remorse and enjoy life and traveling in an RV to the fullest, here are some important aspects to take into consideration before buying such a vehicle.
Speaking of purchases, here are 13 Things You Shouldn’t Purchase During a Recession.
Do your research first
One of the golden rules of purchasing major items (and less important ones, for that matter) is to always do your research. If you’re thinking of buying an RV for you and your family, Bob Hamilton, founder of RV Dream, suggests starting with online resources. “There are many RV forums online, and seasoned RVers are more than happy to share opinions on their coaches,” he says.
Be practical about it
Apart from online sources of information, it’s important to experience life in an RV for yourself. “Rent an RV and do a weekend or longer with it to decide if you like the lifestyle. There are many different sizes and kinds of RVs — classes A, B, and C, travel trailers, fifth wheels, toy haulers, and more. Your perfect RV depends on the size of your family, how often and where you are going to travel to, and how comfortable you are with driving. The big class As are wonderful but for many, they are very scary to drive,” recommends Hamilton.
Something else that could be of use to you in making up your mind is to go to an RV park, and find out more about “other people’s rigs and get their personal critiques on the good and the bad,” Hamilton says. “RVers are almost always friendly and willing to share their stories.”
Don’t exclude private sellers
Thinking of buying your first RV? Apart from certified dealers and RV parks, you can also buy the right vehicle, at the right price, with just the right features for you, from a private seller. That’s what Kimberly DeCarrera, author and creator of RV Tailgate Life, did when she purchased her second RV. “You can go to RV Trader and RVT to find private sellers. Some people also have success on Craigslist, eBay, and Facebook Marketplace.”
You can also join online communities and social media groups to find out more information and tips about RVs and even get in touch with private owners. “Surprisingly, Facebook groups and RV forums are another good resource for buying an RV, especially a used one,” says Brooke Baum of TrailingAway.com, who travels all over the country with her husband Buddy.
The advantages of second-hand RVs
If you’ve decided to purchase your RV from a private owner, it’s pretty obvious that it’s now a new vehicle. This is not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, according to Kelly Beasley, co-founder of RV education and product review site Camp Addict, “it’s quite common to hear stories from people buying new, and the RV has issue after issue and stays in the shop for months,” she says. In which case, you can get a problem-free vehicle that has even had certain upgrades made to it.
Avoid coastal vehicles
It’s not that we’re discriminating, but RV purchased on the coasts, especially the East Coast, have a shorter service life than their inland counterparts. “I would always hesitate to buy an RV from a coastal region,” DeCarrera says. The reason? “The salt and water will cause corrosion. Also, be on the lookout for salvaged RVs damaged from flooding. These are often uninsurable due to severe water damage and mold, so a deal can be too good to be true.”
Get an inspection
It’s true that “you can usually tell if they have taken care of it or not,” but this is not reason enough to not have the vehicle inspected anyways. An inspection by a certified expert can confirm that you are going to make the right purchase, or, the other way around, that you shouldn’t go ahead with the transaction.
“I’ve seen lots of stories from RV buyers that got scammed because they trusted sellers online,” DeCarrera says. More than that, “there are hundreds of components in an RV,” Baum says, “and certain things like mold or faulty wiring aren’t things you want to find out about on your first RV trip.”
Auctions are not for everyone
If this is not your first rodeo or you are confident that you know everything there is to know about RVs, you can find pretty good deals at auctions. Only one small warning: auctioned vehicles can come with hidden defects; if you’ve paid for an RV and find out something’s wrong with t, you’re left to your own devices.
For that reason, “I would never buy from an auction,” says Baum. “There are too many possibilities for the vehicle to have big issues.”
Consider a local dealer
If a private seller is not trustworthy enough for you, stick to the traditional way of buying your RV: get it from a local dealer. “For my second RV, I bought new from a dealer,” DeCarrera notes, “I bought from Campers Inn in Byron, Georgia, and have been very satisfied with the purchase process and follow-up service.” Beasley agrees. “Your local dealer is the obvious first place to look for RVs,” she adds. “This is a great way to get your eyes on many different layouts and designs.”
If you opt for a dealership, it’s also a good idea to read what other people had to say about their “shopping” experience. Don’t trust everything you read but pay attention to reviews, nevertheless.
“We haven’t found a particular dealer or brand of RV to be especially stand-out enough to recognize them,” Hamilton says. “If you do research online, it will be obvious as to where you will be treated the best and what rigs other people love.” According to Beasley, “just like with car dealerships, their main mission is to sell as many RVs as possible. They probably aren’t looking out for your best interest.” As it is the case in most situations, knowledge is power!
Time your purchase right
Buying an RV is not something you can decide at the spur of the moment, no matter how adventurous you think you are. It is something that should be done after thorough research and financial scenarios. It is also something that should be done in fall and winter, according to most experts, because that’s when you can score the biggest deals.
According to Grant Sinclair, creator of Our Wander-Filled Life blog, who travels with his wife for years, autumn is the season when new RV models come out. This means dealers will try to get rid of the older models to make room for the new ones and are usually willing to sell the older RVs at substantial discounts.
Consider an end-of-month purchase
When is the best time of the month to purchase an RV? Just like seasons are not created equal in terms of RV purchases, the days of the month are also not the same in terms of getting the best RV deal. That being said, “it can be beneficial to purchase new near the end of the month,” Beasley says. “Salesmen often have a quota to reach. They are better able and more likely to give you the best deal at months’ end to make quota and improve their bottom line.”
Check out RV shows for good deals
RV shows are giant events where you can meet with salespeople, find out more about the RV model you’re looking for, compare prices, specs and, even purchase your dream RV. If you’re looking to score a good deal on your purchase, that’s definitely one of the places you should visit. “The [shows] are really great for figuring out what you want — lots of different types of RVs with a lot of different features in one place — and for talking with salesmen and finance companies for initial approvals or preliminary discussions, even if you don’t buy at the show,” DeCarrera says. “I definitely recommend that you cruise several shows before buying.”
Like we’ve said before, RV shows are great places to browse for models and compare prices. One small suggestion: don’t fall prey to impulse purchase and buy the first RV you set your eyes on, no matter how good the price might seem. “Once you find the make and model you want, get on the internet and look for models around the country,” Sinclair suggests. “We ended up buying ours 90 miles away and saved a lot of money by making the drive.” DeCarrera also recommends going to local dealers near the shows. “Buying at RV shows can be hit or miss. They often have great deals on RVs, but you can often find ‘show prices’ at the local dealership.”
Always negotiate until you get a discount
You might dread negotiation, but it can save you hundreds and even thousands of dollars. And in the sales business, negotiation is key. If there’s even the slightest chance to get a lower price for your dream RV, don’t you at least want to try?
“Never pay full price for a new RV,” Hamilton warns. “They are extremely overpriced.” When he found a 2010 travel trailer in 2014, he managed to pay way less than the asking price of $16,000. “I told them I would pay $10,000 out the door, with no extra fees on top, and that’s what I got after much negotiation,” he says. “I just waited them out. It’s the same with buying any other type of vehicle. Be prepared to walk away from the deal. Don’t fall in love.” Baum agrees. “RVs are marked up pretty high,” she says. “So, if you negotiate, you could get 20%-25% off MSRP.”
Ask for extra features
Try to take your negotiation one step further and ask for extra features. Don’t worry, these are also part f the negotiation process and sellers are more than used to such kinds of discussions. It’s up to you to get what you want.
“In terms of getting the best deal, negotiate as far down as you can with the dealer,” Sinclair says, “then ask them to throw in important items like a weight-distributing hitch, slide toppers, or solar panels. These are costly but useful add-ons, and you will be glad you put them on.”
Consider floor plan over instead of brand
If a good floor plan is important in your home, it becomes even more important in the limited space of an RV. Therefore, set aside your ideas of purchasing a certain RV brand and keep an open mind for other brands as well. According to Sinclair, the floor plan should be your main focus, not the RV’s manufacturer. “The main thing is to pick a floor plan you like and that meets your needs. Then look at brands — which have the bells and whistles you want?”
Go for the brand instead of the seller
Just as a good floor plan is more important than the manufacturer, according to Beasley, the brand should trump where and who you are buying the vehicle from. “More important than who you buy from is what brand you purchase,” she says. “There are many RVs out there that are made with such cheap construction, they are bound to have issues pretty much from the start.”
If you want a motorhome, Beasley suggests Tiffin, Newmar, and Coach House; when it comes to trailers, opt for Outdoors RV, Northwood Manufacturing, and Grand Design.
Go on a factory tour
If, despite all your research and efforts, you’re still not sure which RV brands sell what, consider a factory tour to solidify your knowledge about RVs. Certain manufacturers allow potential clients to take a tour of their factory and convince themselves of their products’ quality. More than that, “their websites are also filled with valuable information like floor plans, specifications, and video tours,” Baum says. “While going to a dealer can greatly help with seeing which RV will be your best fit, it is also important to do a lot of your own research since the dealer won’t likely know all of the features and quirks of every RV.”
Get information about the warranty
If you’ve decided on the model, price, features and whatnot of your future RV, there’s another extremely important issue you should clarify: the warranty. There are various warranties for various items on/inside your RV, therefore it’s important to know what warranty covers what.
“You will have guarantees on your new RV. Don’t get confused on the chassis guarantee vs. the house items inside such as a refrigerator, hot water heater, air conditioner, generator, etc.” warns Hamilton. “Replacing an item in the RV house is a lot more expensive than doing the same in your home.”
Insist for a walkthrough
Once the papers are ready to be signed, there’s one more thing you need to do. Make sure the seller offers you a step by step presentation of all the RV’s systems and elements. “When you buy an RV, get the seller — whether a private seller or a dealership — to do a complete walk-through of all the systems, inside and out of the RV,” DeCarrera says. “Video it because, even if you are taking notes, you are getting so much information thrown at you at one time, there is no way to remember everything. And you probably won’t know what was important enough to write down or not.”
Ask for follow-up service
This is one of the most important factors when buying an RV. That’s because, according to DeCarrera, it can make or break your RV experience. “It’s quite common in the RV industry to have problems getting service completed on your RV,” she says. “Because of the limited number of RV service centers and complicated nature of RV repair, there is high demand and low supply on quality repair shops. As a result, many RV dealers will refuse to work on an RV, even if it is under warranty, if that dealership did not sell the RV. From that perspective, buying from an RV dealership near home is a good idea.”
In Hamilton’s experience, “it is an adage that this first year of a new RV’s life is a shakedown cruise with frequent visits to the service department. Local dealers will generally give the first consideration to people who bought their RV from them. If you bought a new RV from a dealer hundreds of miles away, your local dealer may be obliged to service it, but you may have to wait in line and that could even be weeks before they can or will help you.”