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)

What You Need To Know Before Buying a Pre-Owned RV

Are you thinking of buying a pre-owned motorhome or travel trailer? That’s such an exciting decision that also comes with a long list of questions regarding how to make the best purchase decision possible.

An RV is a serious investment and buying one should not be taken lightly. Many people opt to buy a pre-owned RV rather than a new one due to the lower price. This practice is fine but there are certain things you should look for to avoid an unfavorable deal.

In some cases, the seller may not be consciously trying to take advantage of you or they end up charging more than the vehicle is worth (whether intentionally or not). Underlying damage may be hard to spot at first but it can wreak havoc on your RV down the road.

It’s important to understand the value of each RV you look at and examine the whole thing for any hidden flaws or issues. Below is a simple guide of a few things to watch out for if you’re in the market for a pre-owned RV. Even less-expensive models cost a lot of money so it’s worthwhile to do your research.

When buying a pre-owned RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Dealer or private owner?

If you’re interested in a pre-owned RV the first thing to do is decide where you will buy from. There are tons of forums and resources available for those who want to buy and sell RVs. Your two main options will be to go through an RV dealership or buy from a private seller. Both have their pros and cons.

When you’re dealing with a private seller there are a lot of unknowns. They may not have all the paperwork to confirm records of maintenance, repairs, or upgrades. You’ll find a large range of prices when you go through private sellers which can be good or bad.

The seller could be pricing the RV cheaply because they just want to get rid of it. In other cases, they may mark it up because they don’t have records to show that it’s seen a fair amount of wear and tear. They could also be counting on some haggling so they may price it higher than they expect to sell it for.

As a general rule: Be wary of deals that seem too good to be true. 

On the other hand, a dealership is often more expensive but more trustworthy as well in most cases. They’re likely to have documentation on the RVs they are selling as well as qualified mechanics and inspectors who can confirm the condition of each vehicle. Because of this quality assurance, they can afford to make up their prices more than the average private seller. 

No matter who you choose to buy from, it’s worthwhile to arrange a third-party inspection. 

When buying a pre-owned RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Confirm manufacturing year/original price

Let’s talk depreciation. This is not positive for people who bought their RV new and are attempting to sell them. However, it can be a real benefit to those who are in the market for a pre-owned RV. 

If you want to know how to buy an RV without getting ripped off you’ll need to know the average rate of depreciation for RVs. As time goes on, an RV will be worth less and less money. There are many variables to the problem but an RV will usually depreciate between 20 percent–30 percent each year until it’s about 10 years old. At that point, it’s worth 50 percent or less of the original price. 

When you’re looking at a pre-owned RV, always confirm the original year and model. You can then look up the original MSRP and compare it to the asking price. For instance, if someone is selling a 10-year-old RV for anything more than 50 percent of the original cost, you’re probably being overcharged,

Do some cross-referencing research as well. Look for models of a similar size, features, and brand that are listed for sale. You’ll be able to spot if someone is pricing theirs higher or lower than the average asking rate. 

When buying a pre-owned RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Take a test drive

In many cases, you won’t know if the RV is in good shape until you take it on a test drive. Ask the seller if you can take it out for a short drive. If they say no without a sound reason consider that a major red flag and walk away. 

If buying a trailer, check to see if it connects to the hitch smoothly and if it seems stable on the road. If you’re checking out a motorhome, listen for any concerning rattles or signs of strain. 

Don’t forget to check out the living space as well. Test the kitchen and bathroom faucets, and examine the floors, walls, and ceiling for any signs of mold or warping. Leave no stone unturned during your test/exploration phase. This is a good tip for anyone who wants to know how to buy an RV (whether pre-owned or new).

When buying a pre-owned RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Perform an inspection

Now we get to one of the most important parts of any pre-owned RV sale: The inspection. Even if the model is listed for a reasonable price (considering its year) you should still perform a thorough check of the inside and outside. A salesman could be hiding serious issues under the guise of a fair price.

Knowing how to buy an RV without getting ripped off includes not buying an RV with interior or structural damage. These issues will only get worse over time and the vehicle will turn into a money pit. 

There are several important areas you need to check before you even think about buying. These areas of interest include:

  • De-lamination/water damage
  • Mileage (or frequency of usage)
  • Tires (condition and age)
  • Mold
  • Pest damage
  • Window, door, and vent seals
  • Black streaks
  • Awning functionality
  • Condition of slide toppers
  • Engine condition (if applicable)
  • Water heater and pump functionality
  • Roof integrity
  • A/C and heating effectiveness
  • Battery health
  • Outlet number and functionality
  • Overall stability and ability to level
  • Any stains, fading, or other aesthetic damage
When buying a pre-owned RV © Rex Vogel, all rights reserved

Some of these issues are more important than others but all of them could bring the value of the RV down. The most important concerns are anything that has to do with water damage and structural integrity. If you’re dealing with a motorhome, you’ll also need to make sure that the base vehicle is roadworthy and has been well-maintained. 

Almost every RV has some quirks and flaws. Ask the seller about every appliance and piece of hardware in detail. If anything is rattling, blocked, or clogged, you should know about it before you buy. This is partly why a test drive is such a good idea.

Now you have some good base knowledge that will help you know how to buy an RV without getting ripped off. Never be afraid to ask questions or dig deeper. Sometimes even the seller doesn’t know there are issues if they don’t look hard enough!

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Worth Pondering…

The journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step.

—Miyamoto Musashi