If you are feeling the call to hit the road and go adventuring, but you don’t have an RV yet, you are in the right place. This article will go over all the ins and outs of buying an RV. From deciding if you want to buy an RV, what type, the options, and additional expenses that go along with owning an RV.
Things to Consider
Buying an RV is an exciting, long term investment, similar to buying a house or condominium. There is not a one size fits all RV just waiting for you to buy. Each RV is as different as your RV lifestyle needs and wants are.
One of the things you need to consider before purchasing an RV is what kind of camping will you be doing. Will you be going on short weekend trips, or more substantial adventures that last a couple of weeks or more? Or do you plan on becoming a semi full-timer who does it for months at a time, or even a bonafide full-timer who lives out of their motorhome?
What Type of RV
There are eight different kinds of RVs. Each one meets a particular need. Once you have decided what type of camping you will be doing and what your needs will be, you can start the process of shopping for an RV.
Class A Motorhomes
The Class A motorhome is truly a home on wheels with all the luxury and amenities of home right at your fingertips. These rigs are perfect for families and long-distance travel.
Class A motorhomes are the most expensive rigs on the market. Prices start around $60,000 for a basic model and can go over a million for something similar to a palatial rolling estate.
Class A motorhomes come equipped with a living room and full-size sofa, dining table, TV, full-service kitchen with granite countertops, full-size refrigerator, stove, oven, microwave, and sometimes even a dishwasher.
In the back, you have an actual bedroom with a queen-size bed and plenty of closet space. There’s a separate bathroom with a real shower and a flushing toilet. Some units even offer a washer and dryer.
You can choose a rig that has up to five slide-outs. Slide-outs are those extra rooms that extend electrically from the two long sided walls to give you even more space. There’s also the “basement,” huge storage compartments below deck that can store anything you might need during an extended vacation.
Class B Motorhomes
Class B motorhomes are generally known as Camper Vans. The size of a full-size van, these motor homes can have the craftmanship and many of the features that the Class A motorhome has, but in a much smaller, more compact package.
Some Class B’s come equipped with a compact bathroom and a small kitchen with a TV. These rigs are ideal for multi-week trips and up to three travelers. Driving this rig is very similar to driving a large SUV or cargo van.
Class C Motorhomes
The Class C motorhome falls between a Class A and a Class B motorhome. These rigs are the most popular unit to rent for summer vacationers around the country.
More comfortable to drive than a Class A, this motorhome has enough sleeping room for your family, ranging from a compact 20 feet to an impressive 40 feet. Although it has a lot of the same amenities as the Class A, this rig does it more modestly with a smaller price tag.
With a few slide-outs, this rig is an excellent choice for a long weekend adventure or traveling for several weeks away from home.
Travel trailers range in size from the small “teardrop” units that are about 12 feet long, to the 33-foot triple axle units. The travel trailer’s sturdy lightweight construction allows them to be easily towed by standard pickup trucks, SUVs, and even some minivans. One huge plus for the travel trailer is that you can leave it at the campground and use the towing vehicle to go out and explore.
A significant benefit of travel trailers is their sturdy but lighter weight construction that allows them to be towed by standard pickup trucks, SUVs, and even some minivans. One thing to keep in mind when considering a travel trailer is whether your tow vehicle can handle the weight of a fully-loaded travel trailer when traveling through the hills or even the mountains.
The new generation models can come with fancy designer-grade interiors, slide-outs, built-in generators, and even a satellite TV. With bunk beds, this unit can sleep up to six. Prices range from $7,000 to close to $100,000.
The fifth-wheel trailer has a raised kingpin that connects the trailer to a hitch mount in the bed of a heavy-duty truck. Since a good portion of the rig is above the truck’s rear axle, the fifth-wheel trailer is a more stable haul than a similar-sized travel trailer that typically hangs off a trailer hitch behind the tow vehicle.
Fifth-wheel trailers come in all different sizes from 18 to 40 feet long. Because of the size, you need to make sure your tow vehicle can pull the load safely.
Because of the special hitch arrangement, the fifth-wheel trailer is more comfortable to back up into a campsite than a conventional travel trailer.
The pop-up or folding trailer is smaller in size, lighter than the other trailers, and the most economical to own with prices starting at as little as $4,000.
The pop-up trailer’s hard roof rises on telescoping metal legs. Then the bed trays with the canvas sides attached, slide out from the front and back of the trailer. This camper can sleep up to six people and can include a shower, toilet, and a small kitchen.
Because it’s the smallest of the camper trailers, it’s the easiest to park and can be towed safely with a minivan. Pop-ups are an excellent and economical way to try out RVing. They are perfect for weekend trips and the occasional longer trips by dedicated families.
The Sport Utility RV, or SURV, is the newest member of the trailer family and is often called a “Toy hauler.” It has a garage area built into the rear that is separated from the rest of the trailer by a solid wall with an access door. This area can be used for hauling 4-wheelers, motorcycles, and jet skis, and with a built ramp, offloading your “toys” is quick and easy.
The garage area can be used as additional storage or as a sleeping area once your gear and your “toys” have been unloaded at your campsite.
These trailers can range from $14,000 – $80,000 for a top of the line model. They vary in size from a 14-foot trailer to a 40-foot trailer, as well.
Remember to consider the weight of your added gear and recreational vehicles and make sure they fall into the allowable towing capacity of your vehicle before you purchase a SURV and hit the road.
Because the truck camper slides into the bed of a standard pickup, it can go where trailers and motorhomes can’t go, while still offering many of the comforts of home.
With prices starting around $2,500 for a used model and up to $5,000 for a new one, the prices can go as high as $60,000 for a top of the line luxury camper. Some of the amenities you can expect to find in the higher end campers are a small kitchen, a toilet, and sometimes a shower, and a bedroom over the cab of the truck.
Due to the heavy payload capacity, a 3/4-ton truck is highly recommended by the manufacturers. With the durability and ruggedness that enables it to be hauled over rough terrain and steep grades, the truck camper is a favorite among outdoorsmen. The truck camper can then be offloaded at the campsite and left behind.
Rent or Buy
If you have never driven a motorhome or towed a travel trailer before, you might consider renting an RV similar to the one you would like to purchase to make sure that it’s a good fit for you. Drive it around, make sure you can handle it easily – backing up, parking, driving on the freeway. You want to stay in it for a few nights to get the feel of camping in an RV before you commit to buying one.
If you find that you love RVing and you plan to do it enough to justify buying one for yourself, there are a few other things to consider before you make that commitment. However, if you find that RVing isn’t your cup of tea, or you don’t plan to do it enough to justify buying your own, then you can rent whenever the urge arises and not worry about making a long-term commitment.
You will find that test driving an RV for a weekend adventure is a smart move that can save you heartache and money in the long run.
New or Used
Another thing to consider is whether you want to buy a brand-new RV or a used one. Both options have significant pros and cons to weigh before making a decision.
Buying Brand New
- Pro – You can get a brand new, fully customized RV with the exact options, colors, and layout that you want
- Pro – You have a full manufacturer’s warranty
- Pro – You don’t have to worry about wear and tear, damage, or other issues after you drive it off the lot for the first time
- Con – You may not be able to get your RV customized through the manufacturer, requiring you to pay more in the future
- Con – You might have to pay shipping costs if your local RV dealerships don’t have the one you want in stock
- Con – Getting all the features you want can get expensive if brand new
- Con – Insurance premiums will be higher
- Pro – You will save a significant amount of money buying used
- Pro – Insurance premiums will be cheaper than buying new
- Pro – You can redecorate, restore, or even rebuild to your liking
- Pro – If you don’t find one with all the options you want, you can customize as you go
- Con – The manufacturer’s warranty may have expired
- Con – Buyer beware, you may not see any damage or mechanical issues before buying, which could be costly in the future to repair
- Con – Upgrades and customizing could end up costing a lot of money
Where to Shop
RV Shows are an excellent place to look at all the latest styles and models on the market, all in one place. You will have the RV dealerships and manufacturers there, as well, to answer any questions you might have and to help you determine the best fit for your needs.
RV shows are staged throughout the year all over the country, so finding one and possibly waiting for one shouldn’t be a hardship. These are also great places to get a deal if you are ready to buy since all of the RVs are for sale.
You can look up RV Manufacturer’s websites and find all the information you need on an RV you are interested in. They usually have videos, brochures, model comparisons, and some even build-your-own customizing tools on their websites.
RV dealerships are everywhere. You can look up their websites, as well, or go in person to see what they have on the lot. The downfall of RV dealers is the salespeople. Don’t let them bully or pressure you into buying something before you are ready.
You will need to take into consideration some of the many other factors of actually owning a motorhome.
- Insurance – shop for insurance before you decide to buy so that you can get an idea of what your monthly or yearly premiums will be. The bigger the rig, the higher the premiums. Also, buying brand new will cost you more for insurance than buying used.
- Maintenance – unless you plan on doing most of the maintenance and repairs yourself, things can get expensive. The bigger your RV and the more customized it is, the more things can go wrong.
- Towing – Make sure you have the right vehicle and equipment to either tow your RV trailer or another vehicle behind your motorhome.
- Miles per Gallon – You can very easily spend anywhere from $300 – $500 a month in gas if you are on an extended trip and driving a lot. Your gas costs will depend on the RV you choose and how much you are driving.
- Cost of Camping – There are places you can camp for free, especially if you have a Harvest Hosts membership. Or if you have a Passport America membership, you can stay at participating campgrounds at a discounted price. Otherwise, you will be paying to camp at places that charge a fee, and sometimes the rate varies depending on the length of your rig.
- Storage – When you aren’t on the road, you will need a place to park your RV. Some homeowner associations will not allow RVs to be parked at your home. Storing your rig at a storage facility can cost you anywhere from $20 – $100 per month, depending on whether it’s outdoors or indoors.
- Connectivity – You will need to consider the options and costs of mobile internet, WIFI booster, GPS, or satellite TV and whether the RV you want to buy can be connected.
- Meals – Does your RV have a kitchen and food storage areas? Will you be cooking over a campfire, or will you be dining out at restaurants outside the campground?
Now that you have a few things to consider, you can make an informed decision about whether RVing is right for you.