Recreational vehicles are a great way to see the country and allow owners the freedom to travel.
They are great for weekends and extended vacations, but they are a major investment. And purchasing an RV is considerably more complicated than buying a car.
Your first step in purchasing an RV is to ask yourself what you would like to do in your trailer or motorhome. Do you plan to use it for family trips to a nearby lake or for extended travel across the country? Or as a second home in the winter and travel south to a Sunbelt state where it’s sunny, warm, and without snow? Perhaps you’re thinking of selling your home and living full-time in an RV.
What sizes and styles do you prefer? Will you buy a new or pre-owned RV?
The more time you plan to spend in your RV, the more carefully you need to consider your purchase. There’s no right way to camp. Some people are shopping for an RV with a clean bathroom and comfortable beds that will keep them warm and cozy at night. Other campers are seeking a smaller version of their sticks and bricks house, with all the creature comforts of home. Will everyone be able to eat a meal, play a board game, or watch a movie? Think about how you want to live in the RV, and make sure the floor plan will support that dream.
If you are a first time RV shopper, you might be surprised—and a little overwhelmed—at how many options there are out there. Once you have settled on the type of RV you are looking for (travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome), you’ll still have to decide the size and floor plan that will suit you best.
While you’re trying to determine how you want to use your RV, do some homework. Use the Internet to browse RV brands and styles. Be aware that all manufacturers are not created equal.
If your friends or neighbors own an RV talk with them about their vehicle and their experiences. Look through the interior; examine various options so you can understand what is available.
A key factor is size. If you are only planning to use it sporadically, then size might not be an issue. But if you plan on living out of the vehicle for extended periods of time, then a larger RV may be more comfortable. Be aware that some older campgrounds and RV parks have restrictions on size.
Additional features can make your ride enjoyable. Choose items that would make your trip as comfortable as possible.
Every RV is a bit different than the next, and some options will be more important to you than others. That’s why it’s important to have a list of “must haves” vs. “nice to haves” before you even start looking. Here are a few features that may or may not be on your list depending on your RV lifestyle:
- Large awning
- Outdoor TV
- Power and automated systems for stabilizing jacks and levelers
- Smart technology to power mobile devices
Once you become more acquainted with the marketplace, start visiting RV dealers. After all your research, you should be better prepared to speak with the salespeople clearly and confidently.
One of the greatest benefits of RV travel is being able to use the bathroom and have lunch in our RV kitchen while at rest stops. If this is also important to you, make sure you can access everything you will need even with the slides in. Can you access the bathroom, open the refrigerator, and get into the bedroom? Ask the salesperson to bring in the slides for you to make sure the travel mode will work for you and your family.
Most dealers have an on-site service department. Most RV repairs are specialized and different from regular vehicles.
Like all vehicles, RVs need maintenance and repairs from time to time. When you need to repair or maintain your vehicle, it is essential that you deal with professionals. You will need experienced and excellent customer service. Be aware that all dealers are not created equal.
After all, your RV is an enormous investment. Don’t trust it to just anyone.
In the interests of full disclosure, we currently own a 2019 Dutch Star diesel pusher. This is our fifth Newmar motorhome and Midtown RV in Penticton, British Columbia, is our trusted dealer. Yes, great customer service matters.
Quality is never an accident; it is always the result of intelligent effort.