Top 10 Tips for Buying an RV for the First Time

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These tips for buying an RV for the first time will help you navigate your investment. That way, you’ll buy the right vehicle and be ready to enjoy your camping lifestyle to the fullest! But before you do, be sure to read these essential things to know before buying an RV.  

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CONTENTS – In this article you will learn about 10 important tips for buying an RV for the first time, including: 

10 Essential Things to Know Before Buying an RV

Road trips across the USA increase every year. They have become a favorite form of recreation for many travelers, and as a result, many people like it so much, they want to join the RVing community. 

But the thing to be noted here is that owning an RV should not be a hasty decision. You need to know a lot of things before buying or choosing an RV. Second to your home, it may be one of the biggest purchases you make in your life. 

So follow these essential tips for buying an RV, below.

1. Know your Towing Vehicle

A travel trailer is an RV that you tow behind a vehicle, as opposed to a motorhome, which is the steering and living space all in one.

If you are looking to purchase a travel trailer, it is very important to know that the vehicle you drive can tow it. 

Towing capacity is the amount of weight a vehicle can tow. If you exceed the towing capacity of the vehicle it will put unnecessary stress on your vehicle. If you put unnecessary stress on your vehicle then it will damage your rear axle and transmission. Not good.

So, if you own an SUV or a truck, then it is likely enough to tow a travel trailer. But if you drive a sedan, then you will need to consider other options. The best thing is to find out what your vehicle’s towing capacity is to ensure that can tow a travel trailer.  

2. Common RV Abbreviations

You also need to know some abbreviations when you’re buying an RV for the first time. This will help conversations make sense as you buy your first RV. 

Here are some important acronyms you need to know when it comes your vehicle’s towing capacity.

GVWR (Gross Vehicle Weight Rating)

The GVWR is the total weight your car or truck can handle without towing a trailer. This includes the weight of the vehicle, passengers, and the stuff you carry in your vehicle. 

GVW (Gross Vehicle Weight)

GVW is the total weight of the car or the vehicle with all the fluids like gas, other stuff you carry, and the passengers in the vehicle, etc. The actual weight of your vehicle may vary depending on the stuff you carry and the passengers traveling in the vehicle. 

GCWR (Gross Combined Weight Rating)

GCWR is the total weight of the vehicle, passengers, the stuff you carry, and the weight of the travel you are towing including the stuff you are carrying. It is the maximum weight you can tow with your vehicle. Exceeding the weight will damage your vehicle.

This is the key metric you want to consider when determining whether your vehicle can tow your travel trailer.

GAWR (Gross Axle Weight Rating)

GAWR is the weight that your single axle can handle. 

3. Follow the Same Process for Buying a Car

Here’s some good news.

If you’ve ever bought a car, you basically know the process to buy an RV.

Technically, buying an RV or a travel trailer is nothing more than buying a car, even though it seems you are buying a house. So if you have already bought a car in your lifetime, that will help you know how to purchase an RV. 

However, there are a couple of things to keep in mind before pursuing an RV loan.

First off, the lenders will run your credit report in order to get your credit score, but that shouldn’t be your first step.

You’ll want to speak with a broker who will discuss your financial situation with you prior to running your credit report.

It’s better to have a conversation with a lender about your financial history instead of disclosing problems after the fact.

This way, your score won’t drop needlessly.

The higher the score, the better the rate you’ll be able to get if you qualify.

The other big item if you purchase a used RV is the valuation of the vehicle.

If the valuation doesn’t meet the loan amount, the lender will decline your request.

A loan broker will help you discover the valuation of the vehicle you’re thinking about buying.

Like buying a car, you’ll choose the one that suits you, agree on a price, sign a contract, and then it’s yours to enjoy (and pay for). 

Keep in mind that you can purchase an RV as your primary residence and there are some important considerations if you want to do that. Otherwise, it’s pretty straightforward.

4. Difference Between New and Used RV?

Similarly, you can choose from new or used RVs when you are buying an RV for the first time.

The average RV price ranges from between $10,000 to $300,000, so start with your budget in mind. The price will depend on things like:

  • RV Class
  • Features
  • Whether it’s new or used
  • How motivated the seller is

A new RV will almost always cost more than its used counterpart. You may even find a very good deal on a used RV if the seller is motivated.

But with a new RV, you will have a better warranty that you can even extend beyond the initial time-frame. (It’s worth noting that you can purchase after-market warranties on used RVs after an inspection.)

If you run into the need for a repair and your RV is old, it may be difficult to find replacement parts – especially if the manufacturer is no longer in business. So, it’s best to go with a reputable brand that has staying power.

When you buy new, you’ll have your choice of layouts, fabrics, and other design features. You’ll also know you’re the only owners. 

And, you might get a better interest rate when it comes to financing your RV. Either way, you’re going to want to shop around for the best financing options.

If you plan to keep your RV for a long time, you may want to opt for a new(er) one. Some RVers take the approach of upgrading their camper every few years.

Finally, take a look at where you hope to camp. Some campgrounds limit the age of the RV to less than 10 years old to keep up appearances.

Whether you buy new or used is going to depend on your needs and preferences. There’s no ‘right’ choice — only what’s right for you.

5. Make Sure Your RV is Well Inspected

Before you commit to buying an RV, you’ll want to inspect it. Even when your RV is coming straight from the factory, you’ll need to make sure everything is alright and safe. 

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If you are buying an RV for the first time, and it is used, check the following:

  • First, check the RV engine and generator.
  • Next, check all the electronic and kitchen appliances like the stove and oven, control panel, campervan heater, fireplace, and safety alarms. 
  • Finally, check water lines, propane tanks, ceilings, flooring, slide outs, and awnings.
  • Make sure your camper is tightly sealed so you don’t have leaks!

It’s important to really check everything before you buy. Bring in a friend or expert who can help you with this if you’re not sure how to thoroughly inspect your RV. 

The worst place you will face a problem is when you are hundreds or thousands of miles away from your home. This can become a huge problem when you don’t find any service centers immediately nearby. 

6. Join Any RVing Community

If you are thinking of purchasing an RV whether it is a brand new or a used RV, look into joining an RVing community. RV communities and forums are a great way to learn everything you need to know about traveling in an RV, so try joining in!

You’ll find plenty of online RVing communities and forums where you will learn tips, can ask questions, and become familiar with the RVing lifestyle. 

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You can also use these sites to find some amazing destinations you haven’t visited. One of the best things is you can post your questions and get answers to them from seasoned travelers.

So with all these benefits of joining an RV community or a forum, it’s easy to see why they are so popular. Even better, most are free to join! 

7. You Need a Place to Park Your RV

Before purchasing an RV for the first time, you need to make sure that you’ll have a place to park it

If you are thinking of parking your RV in the driveway, think again. Many communities will only allow you to park your RV in the driveways for 24 hours. You’ll have to check with your own neighborhood as well as those you plan to visit to ensure you can do so. 

If it is allowed, but you don’t have enough space to park your RV in your home, you can also park in paid RV lots. Do a little research to find out what’s available in your area before you buy your RV. That way, you know your options should a neighbor complain. 

A trailer dolly is a special type of mechanical device used to move trailers, RVs, boats, and other vehicles with ease. These are smaller in size yet pack a lot of power, and will come in handy. An electric trailer dolly can tow a lot and the best of them up to 10,000 pounds.

When you’re on the road, Walmart corporate policy allows RVers to park for free overnight. Just be sure to check with the store manager to confirm permission. 

8. Negotiating RV Price – Make a Great Deal

If you’re considering buying a used RV, after you make sure it is in good shape and you are one hundred percent satisfied with that RV, you’ll want to negotiate the price. There is a great chance that you will get an amazing deal. 

Just remember that older RVs require you to set some money aside for any repairs and other necessary maintenance.

Don’t forget that as part of the purchase, you’ll also have to pay sales tax, local taxes depending on your state, and registration fees.

9. Camping Requires Advance Planning

A lot of people buy RVs to enjoy life on the road. 

As you are planning for an adventure, you need to prepare for what you’ll bring while traveling in an RV. This requires advanced planning. 

For this, prepare a checklist with all the important things you need to pack in your RV. Then, check each item off as you pack. This will avoid confusion and ensure you have packed all the important stuff with you.  

If you are not certain what you should bring, use this RV essentials checklist for your camper getaway.

There is an uptick of people going to campgrounds and campsites to get relief from lockdown stress. So, before going to the campsite or the campground you need to book a slot in advance. 

If you haven’t reserved your campsite in advance then there you may find yourself without a spot to camp. So, this step is especially important. Make sure to reserve a place in a campground in advance to avoid a last-minute crisis.

Even though you will be basically footloose in your RV and can go anywhere, expect that you will still need to do a little advance planning. This may come as a surprise if you’re buying an RV for the first time.

10. What is the Best Month to Buy a RV?

Traditionally, the best time to buy an RV is in the late fall and winter. The slow season starts in late September. In October and into November, you’ll find some great discounts, and even more discounts in December and January. 

If you’re looking for the best inventory choice, you might want to aim for the sweet spot between September and January, which is October.  

That said, with the rise in interest in RVing due to the pandemic, prices seem to be holding steady and purchases are on the rise. 

Final Thoughts on Tips for Buying an RV for the First Time

As you can see, there are many things to consider when you are purchasing your first an RV. Now that you know these top tips, you’re better prepared to step into your future adventures on the road.

Continue reading to discover what things you should buy for RV travel.

Nitta Mahidhar 1 | Enjoy Travel Life

Author Bio

Nitta Mahidhar loves spending time outdoors, and discovered the power of the outdoors in my 30s. Now five years later, that critical connection with nature continues to improve his life. Nitta empowers readers with the advice to spend time responsibly in an RV. Find out more at his RV website

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