Taking Delivery of your RV: Do’s & Don’ts

What to expect when taking delivery of your new RV

The process of buying and taking ownership of an RV can be a bit confusing if not downright daunting especially for a first-time RV buyer. Many folks expect the process to be similar to purchasing an automobile and in some ways it is. Shopping, negotiating, and financing will be very familiar to anyone who has ever bought a car. But after that, things get a bit more complicated.

Remember, you are purchasing a house on wheels so the process might take a little longer than you initially expected. Don’t get frustrated. If your dealer takes time to inspect and prep your rig and you take time to learn how to use it your RV experience will be that much better in the long run.

Taking ownership of our new motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Most likely, you will sign a purchase agreement, put down a deposit, and then make an appointment to return and actually pick up the RV. If it’s already on the dealer’s lot your appointment might be a week or two in the future. If you are ordering from the factory, you may have to wait months.

Here’s a list of a dozen do’s and don’ts for taking delivery of your new RV.

Do: Search for a reputable dealer with a robust service department

Sure, you want to get a great price but you also want to buy from a reputable dealer who will service warranty issues in a timely manner and at a convenient location. RV prices are definitely negotiable but you do not want to sacrifice customer service for rock-bottom pricing.

Read online reviews of the sales and service sides of the dealership. You will most likely need to take advantage of the RV’s warranty and you’ll want to be confident that the dealer will be there for you at that time.

Taking ownership of our new motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t: Expect to take delivery on the day you decide to buy the rig

First-time buyers are often surprised that they can’t take ownership on the day they decide to buy an RV but this is an industry norm. Remember, an RV has a lot more components than the typical automobile and there is quite a bit of work involved in getting it ready for the road and RV park. The dealer will do a complete predelivery inspection (PDI) checking over all the RV systems, cleaning the interior and exterior, and handling dealer-installed accessories and options.

If you buy at an RV show, it’s important to know that you probably won’t be towing the RV home with you. Instead, you will make an appointment to visit the dealership after the show to actually take delivery.

Shoppers, especially first-time buyers, should look for a dealer who is willing to educate them. They should also look for a dealer with a robust service center with positive online reviews.

Do: Research additional equipment you will need to safely tow the RV

Some first-time RV buyers are surprised to discover how much equipment is needed to drive a motorhome or tow a travel trailer or fifth-wheel.

When we bought our first fifth wheel trailer, our truck needed a hitch and brake controller installed. We had to get that work done before we could safely tow the trailer home for the first time.

Even if your vehicle is already equipped for towing, you’ll still want to research towing equipment in advance—for instance, sway bars and weight-distributing systems if you’re buying a travel trailer. Some buyers are successful with including this equipment in their RV price negotiations so it’s definitely worth a try.

On the other hand, some dealers will install the cheapest equipment when it’s included in the purchase order so it’s worthwhile to know the most effective and efficient equipment on the market, rather than relying on package deals.

Check this out to learn more: The 10 Essentials Every RV Owner Should Buy Before Their First Road Trip

Taking ownership of our new motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do: Compare interest rates if you plan on financing the RV

First-time buyers are often surprised at the differences in auto and RV financing. Typical RV loans will range from 10 to 20 years and the interest rates will likely be higher than those for a new car purchase. Avoid being captive to whatever loan terms are offered by the dealership. Arrange for financing in advance. Then you can use these preapprovals to better negotiate with the RV dealer’s finance department.

Do: Research extended warranties in advance

Everyone has an opinion about purchasing extended warranties but the bottom line is that there is no obvious answer to the question of whether or not you should buy one of these service packages. The key to purchasing an extended warranty is to research providers with good track records.

Handy people may prefer fixing problems with their rig on their own though buying a replacement appliance can be pricey so figure that into the equation when considering a warranty purchase. Other buyers will enjoy the RV only if they have the peace of mind an extended warranty can offer.

Either way, you want to do your research ahead of time and have an educated response to the high-pressure sales tactics that sometimes occur during the purchase process. Be aware of what is included in the warranty and what is excluded.

Here is a helpful resources: Best RV Roadside Assistance Plans for Peace of Mind

Do: Set aside time for a thorough RV walk-through

I get it. You want to get that RV on the road. But now is not the time to rush out of the dealership. When you show up to take delivery of your RV, the dealer will give you a walk-through of your new rig, demonstrating the systems and appliances from extending down the stabilizer jacks to filling up the freshwater tanks and opening the awning. We’ve purchased three Class A motorhomes from a wonderful dealer and every walk-through has taken over two hours from start to finish.

Taking ownership of our new motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do: Record the walk-through on a smartphone or other device

There’s a lot of information to take in on an RV walk-through and even seasoned RVers get overwhelmed. Don’t rely on your memory to take it all in. I highly recommend using a smartphone or other device to record the RV tech’s lessons on every system. Record each RV component individually so they are easy to reference in the future. For example, have separate videos on the automatic leveling system and the macerator for dumping the holding tanks, both new pieces of technology that we knew would take us awhile to learn how to operate.

While recording, also ask your service tech to demonstrate how to winterize and dewinterize the RV. Having reference videos for your personal rig is priceless.

Do: Ask the dealer to test all the RV systems

A reputable dealership will allow you to test the systems including running water and checking that the water heater is actually heating the water, the water pump is actually pumping water, and all the electrical outlets are working. The dealer will also take time then and there to fix any small issues that are found.

I’ve heard complaints that some dealers balk at testing everything during the walk-through. I encourage buyers to be persistent with this request as it is incredibly frustrating to uncover problems on your first outing that could have been fixed at the dealership.

Taking ownership of our new motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Do: Test the air conditioning, refrigerator, and other appliances

Make sure that you run the air conditioner (and heat pump or strip) and turn all the appliances on and off and then on again during your walk-through. I highly recommend testing the refrigerator on both the electric and LP-gas settings. Ask to do this at the beginning of your walk-through and then check in at the end to make sure the fridge is cooling down (in most cases, it will not be down to the proper temperature during that time since that generally takes hours). This is a great time to ask the service tech to show you the fuse box and to ask about spare fuses. Some manufactures provide spare fuses with a new coach.

Don’t: Take ownership until the RV is in tip-top operating condition

An RV is a big purchase and there is a huge learning curve even for experienced buyers. If you don’t feel like the dealer has given you a complete walk-through or if you have concerns regarding anything operating correctly, do not take ownership of the RV. No issue is too small to address.

Do: Schedule a shakedown trip as soon as possible

Some of the best dealers have on-site camping for customers to fully test their new rigs and get any bugs out of the system. Our dealer provides four full-service sites for delivery of new RVs and other customers with service appointments. We stayed on site several days to have all issues resolved and questions answered. Since we were on our way south for the winter we wanted to ensure that we were knowledgeable of all aspects of our new coach.

Of course, not everyone is so lucky to purchase from one of those dealers but a close-to-home camping trip is always a good idea with a new RV. Find a full-hookup site near your home or RV dealer and put the RV through its paces. It’s better to discover issues on a shakedown weekend than hundreds (or thousands) of miles away on a bucket-list adventure.

Read: RV Driving Tips: 20 Ways to Stay Safe and Calm

Taking ownership of our new motorhome © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t: Sweat the small stuff

Even if you do everything right, something may go wrong soon after your RV purchase. RVs are homes on wheels and they pack a ton of technology into a really small space and then we haul it around the country. Things are going to break. Don’t let a loose cabinet or a faulty Bluetooth stereo keep you from having the time of your life in your brand-new RV. If it’s not a big problem, don’t turn it into one. Keep a running list of small warranty items to address on your next visit to the dealer and head back out on the open road.

Worth Pondering…

I am an optimist. It does not seem too much use being anything else.

—Sir Winston Churchill (1874–1965)

The Ultimate Guide to RV Shows

Whether you’re a newbie looking to buy your first travel trailer or a seasoned traveler with an upgrade on your mind, RV shows can be very enjoyable and beneficial

What do you think of when you hear RV Show

You might think of an endless maze of RVs lined up in a warehouse with sales personnel jumping out at every corner. But the days of those kinds of RV shows are moving behind us. In 2023, RV shows include live auctions, RV giveaways, play areas for kids, community areas for meeting RVers, product demonstrations, seminars, and workshops. 

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Attending an RV show is an exciting outing for the entire family whether you’re shopping for a new RV, upgrading your current model, selling your RV, or looking to learn about the latest RV innovations and camp gear. 

But, visiting an RV show can be a big disappointment if you go unprepared. They cover acres of space and the amount of information available can be overwhelming. 

These RV show tips will help you make the most of your RV show visit even if you’re just attending to have fun, win prizes, and meet fellow RVers.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What happens at an RV show?

Some RV shows are little more than a collection of RVs sitting on a lot. But most RV shows are fun, educational, exciting to explore and offer opportunities to connect with other campers.

Quality RV shows will offer most, if not all, of the following: 

  • VIP areas: Register early to receive a complimentary gift bag, retail product discounts, VIP Lounge access, refreshments, and a chance to win an RV
  • RV valuation: Find out what your current RV is worth if you’re ready to sell and upgrade to a new model
  • RV giveaways: Enter for a chance to win a brand-new RV
  • New and used RV inventory: Walk through RVs of all shapes and sizes to feel what it would be like to live and vacation in them
  • Kid zones: Inspire the next generation of campers to discover the joys of RVing
  • RV retail spaces: Get the latest on innovative new products in the RV and camping industries
  • Design specialists: Consult an expert about upgrades you want to make to your RV
Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Who are RV shows for?

The short answer is—RV shows are for everyone. If you already own an RV you can explore the possibility of a trade-in or upgrade. You’ll also find new camping gear to make your trips more comfortable. 

If you’ve never owned or traveled in an RV, these shows are ideal for imagining yourself inside a travel trailer, fifth-wheeler, or motorhome. There are more options to peruse than on a typical RV dealership lot. While you explore, you’ll find information on RV financing, service and maintenance, insurance, and other RV-related services.

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

If you’re a DIY RVer, RV shows are inspirational. You can discover the latest RV floorplans or speak with design specialists about remodeling ideas to make your RV more functional and cozy. 

People enjoy RV travel for many reasons—escaping to warmer weather at unsung snowbird destinations, unplugging at off-grid basecamps for outdoor recreation, or traveling with the family to enjoy nature and road trips. You can use an RV to travel your way—there is no one right way.

RV shows are a great way to discover how other RVers enjoy the lifestyle by connecting with other campers. You never know when a new connection will lead to new community RV trips in the future. 

Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Why go to an RV show?

If you’re wondering why an RV show should be on your to-do list this year, here are seven reasons to attend:

  • For RV education: RV shows provide value even if you’re not in the market for a new RV. Most shows offer seminars, lectures, tutorials, workshops, and walkthroughs of RVs and RV-related products.
  • Seminars and workshops: Many shows have veteran RV travelers who share knowledge on topics like Basic RV Maintenance, Trip Planning, and RV Packing Tips. Listen, take notes, and ask questions.
  • Product demonstrations: Many vendors conduct live demonstrations so you can see products in action and discover new options for upgrading your RV before the next camping season.
  • Meet manufacturer reps: Unlike dealerships, RV shows have representatives from various RV manufacturers to answer your questions about how RVs are made and speak to their quality versus the competition.
  • To discover the latest camping gear: Vendors at RV shows offer every type of gear imaginable—surge protectors, sewer products, water hoses, and pressure regulators, water filters, portable grills, tire covers, kayaks, and e-bikes. Looking for a new bed that fits just right in your RV? They’ve got you covered. Need an internet or satellite TV solution? Vendors will have plenty of options for you. Everything you can imagine for camping adventures can be found at an RV show.
  • To find new places to visit: RV shows are great places to discover new destinations and RV parks to explore. Representatives from regional tourism bureaus and RV resorts often have booths at RV shows to showcase everything their destinations offer. 
  • Check the exhibitor list online before the show to make a short list of the booths you’d like to visit.
  • To meet other RVers: Building a community as an RVer can be a challenge. Attending RV shows can help you grow your network and expand your community of fellow campers. Whether you utilize that community to get answers to RV maintenance questions, travel and campground recommendations, or tips for the best RV camping gear, the friendships you forge at an RV show may last a lifetime.
Quartzsite RV Show © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Tips for making the most of your RV show visit

Whether you’re buying, trading in, or exploring RV retail products, use these tips to maximize RV shows:

  • Attend the first day to allow yourself time to return if you find something you like. 
  • Break it up—look at RVs or products one day and attend seminars another.
  • Wear comfortable shoes. Some shows are very large, and you’ll do a lot of walking.
  • Bring nutritious snacks and water. Many shows have food vendors but lines can be long and choices may be limited.
  • Check the schedule and map in advance to identify models or seminars you don’t want to miss.
  • Do some pre-show preparation. Consider your budget and what type of travel you do. Educate yourself on the different RV types to determine whether a motorhome or towable might work best for you. Then make a list of must-haves.
  • Spend time in the models you like. Sit in the seats. Try the bed. Open and close the cabinets and drawers. See how you fit in the shower. It may feel silly, but it’ll give you a better feel of the RV.
  • Take copious notes and photos of your preferred units. Include the brand, exact model and configuration, length, price, and other items you liked or didn’t like.
  • Collect contact information. Business cards are useful for following up with sales representatives or vendors you connect with. 
  • Make a shortlist of favorites at the end. Sit down after you’ve had a chance to think about the RVs you saw and revisit your favorites.

Worth Pondering…

The RV lifestyle is like nothing else.

It’s leaving home, exploring America, and yet bringing your home along with you!

Stopping at a wayside picnic area, preparing lunch in your kitchen.

It’s sleeping in your own bed every night, yet waking up to a new vista each morning!

The sounds of a crackling campfire; of a mountain stream, of frogs, and crickets.

It’s families drawn closer; it’s retirees being rewarded for many years of labor.

—Loren Eyrich, Two-Lane Roads

When Does the RV Season Begin (and End)

Is there a beginning and an ending to the camping season?

The short answer: It depends. While many resume their RV adventures after the winter months pass, there are plenty of resorts open during all seasons. From Ontario and New York to Florida; British Columbia and Washington state to Arizona.

Utah Scenic Byway 12 © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

There really isn’t a month that can’t be considered part of the “RV season.” Any of the 365 days can be appropriate for an RV adventure. However, in many parts of the continent, in-season RV camping typically takes place between April and October while off-season makes up the remaining months.

While some RV sites close for the winter, many are open year-round. This article will provide some variations related to the RV season, but first, here are some pros and cons of traveling during the on-season versus off-season.

Gloucester, Virginia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

The Good and Bad for In-Season RV Camping

Choosing to take a trip between the spring and fall is popular mostly for the pleasant weather. Sunny skies always provide a reason to be out and about. There are warmer and longer days and clearer road conditions.

Another reason in-season camping is popular for many is that more tourist attractions are up and running. County fairs, music festivals, amusement parks, and swimming pools are all open during this time of year and seem to be major draws for travelers.

Great Smoky Mountains National Park, Tennessee © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

On the flip side, in-season traveling also sees crowded conditions within RV parks and tourist spots. Sunny skies don’t just invite a few to come out and play. Many RVers favor this season. Crowded amusement parks and swimming destinations and more people than you might prefer are likely during the in-season.

Riviera Beach, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Pros and Cons for Off-Season RV Camping

The biggest positive for RV travel during the late fall and winter months may be the reduced price of RV parks. Like most things, rent at RV resorts may be cheaper during the off-season. To attract more travelers, parks hope the lower rates will help increase business. This goes right along with another positive side of off-season camping: fewer crowds. Whether at a national park, state park, museum, theme park, or RV resort, fewer folks will be there. This is good if you like a bit more peace and personal space.

Badlands National Park, South Dakota © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some cons during this time frame could range from bad weather and poor driving conditions.

This calendar period will not be as good for overly social people. If you love to make lots of new friends with every resort stay, the odds will not be in your favor. 

So, now you have the very long answer: there isn’t an end to the RV Season. When RV season starts is all up to you. Cold versus warm temps; snow-covered ground versus bright sunny skies.

Sonoran Desert RV Park, Gila Bend, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Snowbird Destinations

Snowbird locations can contradict all the pros and cons of in-season and off-season camping. Florida is the most popular destination for non-winter fans but Arizona, Texas, Louisiana, Alabama, and other southern border-states and parts of California also qualify.

Shuffleboard, pickleball, swimming, golf, and water aerobics can be found nearly year-round at many southern RV parks. Other favorite indoor activities like bingo, karaoke, and dances are often staples, too.

Hiking trails can be found at virtually any resort or within a few miles providing birdwatching opportunities and hiking and biking outings.

Coachella Valley Preserve near Palm Springs, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some popular destinations for snowbirds include the Rio Grande Valley, South Padre Island, and Rockport-Fulton in Texas; Miami, Tampa, Orlando, and the Keys in Florida; Phoenix, Tucson, Yuma, and Quartzsite in Arizona; and Palm Springs and San Diego in California.

Main Street Downtown Las Cruces, New Mexico © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Don’t limit the trip to large metro areas or well-known snowbird roosts, though. Consider some lesser-known destinations for a more unique adventure or a quieter RV park. Places that come to mind include Temecula and El Centro in California; Las Cruces and Deming in New Mexico; Mobile and Ocean Shores in Alabama; San Antonio and Galveston in Texas; and Biloxi in Mississippi.

State parks and county/regional parks are great for nature lovers.

Boondocking at Quartzsite, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Winter Destinations

For those who don’t mind a bit of cold and snow, there are some beautiful opportunities to camp up north. Outdoor adventurers have plenty of opportunities for winter activities such as snowmobiling, cross-country skiing, and sledding/tubing. Spending evenings in the clubhouse by a roaring fire reading a good book also sounds appealing. While traveling to and from might be a bit more difficult, upon arriving you just might find yourself in a real-life winter wonderland. Don’t exclude the winter destinations completely; they might surprise you.

St. Marys, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Seasonal Camping Opportunities

As RV sales continue to grow, seasonal camping is becoming more popular with each passing month. Seasonal camping is the act of renting a long-term lot at an RV resort and leaving the RV there even when you aren’t camping.

Seasonal camping reduces the need to pack/unpack, travel, and set up/tear down as often. Arrive. Stay. Enjoy. Less work and more fun are always win-win, right?

Hunting Island State Park, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buying a seasonal permit can save you money depending on how often you travel to the RV. Before committing, have an idea of many times throughout the season you will reside there and make sure the cost will be justified.

Obvious, but worth the mention, be sure to visit the resort before purchasing a season pass. If ordering via the internet, remind yourself that online photos might not show all the details of a place. Six months is a long time if you aren’t happy with your surroundings.

Buccaneer State Park, Waveland, Mississippi © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Buying and Selling Times

Thinking of upgrading your rig to a newer model? Primarily, we think of spring as the best time but with more RVs being used as a primary residence as well as weekend and holiday travels, the same answer shared about RV season applies here, too. There is no wrong time to sell or to buy. Every day there are plenty of RV sales lots, online ads, and individual buyers ready to take a rig off your hands, and/or place a new set of keys in your hands.

Worth Pondering…

We shall not cease from exploration 

And the end of all our exploring 

Will be to arrive where we started

And know that place for the first time.

— T. S. Eliot, Little Gidding

Buying an RV

Take your time, do your homework, talk to owners of similar models, and locate a good reputable dealer who stands behind his products and provides quality service

We’ve been cooped up for months. Now, we are contending with summer sans festivals, fairs, sporting events, and concerts. Pent-up and ready to pop, we’re in desperate need of a vacation.

Alas, planning a vacation during a pandemic is like marching through a sandy beach in 6-inch stilettos. Aside from health concerns, there are travel restrictions, crowds, closures, mandatory quarantines, mask requirements, and confined capsules otherwise known as airplanes to contend with which may be why many are opting for the open road aboard a rolling abode.

7 Feathers Casino RV Park, Canyonville, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

With so many models, brands, sizes, and amenities to choose from, it can be difficult to know which RV is right for you and your family. Whether you’re a first-time buyer or upgrading your unit, this article will help guide you through the process of purchasing an RV.

Columbia River RV Park, Portland, Oregon © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

What to Consider When Buying an RV

There are 5 major factors to nail down before you can really start looking to buy an RV.

Seabreeze RV Park, Portland, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. Budget

How much do you have to spend on your RV?

Will you be financing your RV?

How much are you willing to spend on fuel, maintenance, and insurance costs?

Do you want to buy a new or pre-owned RV?

Leaf Verde RV Park, Buckeye, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. Use

How often and for how long do you plan to use your RV?

What type of camping will you be doing? Weekend warrior or long-term? State and national park campgrounds or RV resorts?

Canyon Vista RV Resort, Gold Canyon, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Size

How many people do you need to sleep?

How much storage do you require?

Will campsites you plan to use accept your vehicle length?

Durango RV Resort, Red Bluff, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

4. Towing

What size of rig are you comfortable driving or towing?

What is the tow rating of your tow vehicle? You’ll want to stay well within this limit or consider upgrading your tow vehicle.

Will you tow a car behind your motorhome (4-wheels down or dolly)?

Pala Casino RV Resort, Pala, California © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

5. Features

What features are necessities?

What features are nice-to-haves?

Coastal Georgia RV Resort, Brunswick, Georgia © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Where to Buy an RV

Regardless of where you live in the US or Canada, there are many options for purchasing a new or pre-owned RV.

Gulf Coast RV Resort, Beaumont, Texas © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

1. RV Shows

Each year, recreational vehicle associations and RV dealers put on RV shows throughout the United States and Canada. The largest consumer RV Shows take place in Tampa, Florida in January, Hershey, Pennsylvania in September, and Pomona, California in October. At these shows you will find hundreds of RVs for sale and booths packed with RV accessories.

With many RV dealers in one place, you can check out the hundreds of RV models of all different types and sizes. There is something for every budget.

The Barnyard RV Park, Lexington, South Carolina © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

2. RV dealers

If you missed the RV shows, weren’t ready to buy, or plan to special order a unit, dealers are a great option. They’ll have a selection of new and pre-owned RVs. Different dealerships carry different brands and models of RVs and they may offer different incentives. It’s a good idea to check a few different dealerships out, especially if you’re not certain on which RV you want.

Rain Spirit RV Park, Cottonwood, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

3. Private Sales

If you’re looking for a pre-owned RV, check out what is available in private sales. Be aware, though, that you may be buying someone else’s problem. A vehicle inspection is recommended.

Distant Drums RV Resort, Camp Verde, Arizona © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Advice on Buying an RV

Always do your research on the brand, model, and seller. Not all manufacturers and RV dealers are created equal.

Don’t be afraid to walk away if a seller makes you feel uncomfortable or is showing you units above your price range or not what you really want.

Best of luck with your buying journey and your next adventures!

Moving from the old to the new at Midtown RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

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.

Worth Pondering…

Dreaming, after all, is a form of planning.

—Gloria Steinem