Buying A Motorhome? Purchasing A Travel Trailer? Buy A Camper With Confidence using this RV Buying Guide!
Buying an RV is not just buying a camping vehicle for weekend trips to the lake with the family. Purchasing a camper is buying a membership into a wonderfully adventurous lifestyle! Whether your buying your first RV, used camper or new travel trailer use this RV buying guide to uncover common RV buying mistakes. Best time of the year to buy a camper! Essential camper accessories you’ll need to purchase after buying your new camper. Buy your new motorhome with confidence after reading this camper buying guide and ultimate RV travel blog!
Learn about the diferent types of RVs. From Class A RV, Class B RV &Class C RV. Which motorhome gets the best gas mileage, or even what is the most popular camper on the road today. Which type of RV is my favorite. After all that information I will break down all the different towable campers you can choose from. Such as a travel trailer, 5th wheel (also known as a 5er) or the entry level camper known as the popup trailer. Check out this article to find out what camper you vehicle can tow.
I’ll even go so far as to break down why the most popular and biggest bang for your buck lands on the travel trailer. From pull behind campers to driveable motorhomes there are a ton of choices and options to consider when buying an RV. And we haven’t even covered Truck Campers yet. Who many full time RVers believe are the most versatile camper you can buy on the market today.
When it comes to choosing which camper to buy for your upcoming adventures don’t get discouraged by the overwhelming options, new technology or fancy gadgets. Don’t let the salesman mesmerize you with the fancy transformer technology, or shift your focus away from the important details. This RV buying guide will show you when the best time is to buy an RV, travel trailer, motorhome or camper, and when is the worst time to sell an RV. This RV buying guide will cover: “Where can you buy an RV?”, How much is an RV to buy and even the best place to buy an RV! The only thing this RV buying guide doesn’t cover is buying an RV to live in. Because there are so many variables for that I want to cover Full time RV living on its own.
When buying an RV there are so many things to consider. From price and location to design & functionality. Whether your buying a new travel trailer or a used camper this motorhome buying guide will answer all your RV buying questions.
To how many people a motorhome can sleep, RV gas milaege, camper weight and so much more. Book mark this RV buying guide to help you along your RV buying journey and make the process that much easier on your self. Purchase your camper with confidence from learning how to buy an RV the right way from this RV buying guide. So that you don’t buy the wrong RV for the wrong reasons. Buy the right camper, motorhome or travel trailer the first time and skip all that buyers remorse that other camper owners suffer from.
After using the tips in this RV buying guide you’ll be well on your way to camping next to cascading waterfalls and towering mountains. Visiting iconic destinations. Staying for extended periods of time while deciding whether to travel to Alaska or the beaches of Brazil. Buying an RV is an exciting event. So whether you’re buying new or a used RV you’re not just buying some random camping vehicle you’re buying a lifestyle. Which is more than just buying an RV, but before you buy your membership to “RV life” let me help you learn how to buy an RV the right way.
RV Life is filled with tradeoffs. Do you want a cheap used RV or a high tech modern expensive RV? With slideouts, satellites, outdoor kitchens, and waterslides? Are you thinking of towing or driving your RV? Remember gas prices when buying an RV or you may end of with buyer’s remorse every time you go to the gas pump. Buying an RV means becoming a plumber, electrician or mechanic to do your own maintenance instead of taking it to a costly professional.
Buying an RV is an adventurous long-term investment that may not be suitable for everyone. So if you’re considering buying an RV, let me help you select the right RV by preventing you from buying the wrong RV in this RV/Motorhome buying Guide.
Buying An RV Guide
When I was 20 I jumped off the “RV” cliff and fell right into the RV Lifestyle. Never looking back again. Now I’m 40 years old and have owned 5 different RVs. Class A, Class B, Class C, Travel Trailer & Truck Camper. Which is pretty common for most RV owners because of family sizes, destinations, needs and wants all change over the years. Most people’s first RV was just a cheap introduction to get them hooked on RV Life.
For me, it was a desperate attempt to delete the bills I couldn’t afford, but that’s a story for another time. Before buying your first RV there are some things you should know and questions you should ask. So a smooth-talking salesman won’t be able to misguide you into buying an RV based off commission tiers with their slick videos, sales pitch or deceptive floorplans.
You see, most people want to do more than just say they own an RV. They buy an RV for a specific purpose. So the more you understand what you need and want from a motorhome the less likely you are to buy the wrong motorhome. Notice I’ve said the wrong motorhome twice now because most people buy an RV for the wrong reasons, and end up with the wrong motorhome. Buying an RV is not like buying clothes. It’s a process that requires a method to ensure you don’t regret it later. It’s a lot like buying a house, and how many first time homeowners do you know with regrets? Click here to Read about my first RV.
Avoid Rookie buying RV mistakes
To buy an RV the right way it should be a process because buying an RV is not an easy decision. Before you open up the internet, browse the classifieds, set budgets or even step on the RV lot the first thing you should do is ask yourself some pre-buying RV questions. You don’t buy an RV based on features or amenities. You buy an RV based on the lifestyle you want to live you want to purchase the right RV. So what are these magical RV buying questions?
34 RV Mistakes I made and the Lessons I Learned
Essential Camper Accessories ^ First Time Travel Trailer Owners
1. What are you going to use your RV for?
- Will you be boondocking in remote locations or staying mostly in RV parks? Campgrounds generally charge about $400 a month, but I have come across two campgrounds that charge more than $9,000 a month. Most people think they can get away with temporary workable compromises like folding the bed up every morning which is fine for 8-12 day trips with your hunting buddies but easily become unbearable annoyances over the course of a 120 day trip with family.
Do you require special storage needs? Ski’s, snowboards, mountain bikes & wakeboards don’t seem like much sitting in your garage but try finding storage for them in your Class B RV. If you plan on pulling a small trailer for your gear you need to know the towing capacity before buying an RV. Towing capacities range all over the board. Knowing how much you need to tow is not something you want to figure out after buying an RV.
- **What are you going to use your RV for is the most important factor when buying an RV!**
2. Who are you going to use your RV with?
- Most RVs can handle 2 occupants with ease, but some are designed for more while some are designed for less. Knowing the number of travelers will help you determine if this is an important consideration when buying your new RV.
- Who will roll with the punches, and who will become frustrated in the small living quarters? Have you considered who will be doing the driving? If you’re planning on sharing driving responsibilities than before buying an RV you need to consider motorhomes that will be easy to drive for everyone.
3. Where are you going to use your RV?
- Urban boondocking environments & rural boondocking environments both have unique benefits as well as challenges. Ever try to turn a semi around, or parallel park a school bus? Parallel parking becomes a factor when buying an RV if you plan on seeing the sites of major cities. Accessibility becomes a consideration when buying RV’s over 20 feet. Its ok to run a generator on privately owned land out in the middle of nowhere. But how do you think Walmart is going to react to a generator idling in their parking lot?
- Campgrounds are wonderful. Full RV hookups. Great place to meet other RVers and travelers. Safe & conveniently located to area attractions. But RV Campgrounds can also be expensive, noisy and crowded depending on the time of the year.
- If you’re going to camp on public lands(also known as boondocking), which is amazing by the way, you need to factor in tank size, power options, water supply, food storage & possibly cell service or even entertainment when buying an RV. Where your going to use your RV will most likely decide what type of RV you’re going to buy? You’re not always going to stay in RV campgrounds or Casino parking lots. Might want to consider how practical or comfortable you’d be towing a 40 ft travel trailer down a jacked up dirt road. Or driving a 40 foot Class A motorhome into the backcountry of America. Maybe I am the only one that drives their RV over logs, rocks & rivers.
4. When are you going to use your RV?
- It would be wise to know when buying an RV if you plan on using it in the summer or winter or both. Just because your RV has insulation, heat & A/C doesn’t mean it was meant for both climates. Some RVs are better suited for different climates. Winter package RV means they have flexible water pipes, heat tape & various other options. Desert option RVs mean they have outdoor showers, solar panels & larger water tanks.
Who wants to use an outdoor shower while on a ski trip in December, or go on a desert camping trip with no A/C? If you plan on storing your RV for the winter or migrating to warmer climates than maybe winter capabilities isn’t a concern for you when buying an RV. However, to narrow down your needs and wants in your new RV you should consider where you’re going to use your new RV camper/motorhome. Don’t be the couple I met last week who are trying to live at a ski resort during the winter in a canvas-walled popup trailer.
5. What are you going to do with your RV when you’re not using it?
- In the RV world, this is the most neglected concern when buying an RV. Most people think they can just park their motorhome in the backyard or driveway when not using it, but did you know in most cities this is illegal? Most police officers will resort to education instead of ticketing first-time offenders, but parking an RV in your driveway could result in fines or liens on your home!
- Besides the police, image the difference in storage costs between a pop-up tent trailer and a 40-foot diesel pusher. To overcome the sticker shock of RV storage rates. You need to do your research and make a plan.
Shooting from the hip to find solutions for RV storage at the last minute costs more money and usually not very convenient or secure.
6. Why do you need an RV?
- A lot of people think this is the same as the first question, but “what are your going to do” is different than “why are you going to do it”. If you think you need to buy an RV for a 4th of July family camping trip once a year there are better ways to spend $10,000! After storage fees, weekend supplies, campground rates, insurance & gas your reason for why you need an RV needs to justify these camping expenses.
Ski season? Family vacations? Full-time RV living? Road trip? Don’t be afraid to be specific! Remember when working these things out this is YOUR RV, YOUR vacation, YOUR motorhome, YOUR life, YOUR DREAM! Drill down and make sure why you want an RV justifies the expenses of buying an RV.
You owe it to yourself to answer these types of questions before buying an RV to ensure you don’t buy the wrong RV. So, later on, you won’t be saying things like:
- I wish it had…..
- Yeah, I love it but……
- There’s no…..
- The floor plan…
- I wish I knew “….” beforehand
- Why does it….
- Who thinks of …
- I didn’t realize….
- I learned from my other RV…..
- It’s too small
- It’s too big
- We paid too much
- We barely use it
- It doesn’t….
- RV Winterizing….
- RV Storage………
These are great conversation starters at campfires around the country, but I hope you’re not trying to buy an RV just so you have something to talk about with strangers. This RV buying guide is to help you avoid buying an RV you’ll regret later, and the goal of these questions is to narrow down the entire world of RV choices into something that will work for you. The more thought you put into how you are going to use your RV, who you’re going to use your RV with & where your going to use your new RV will save you a lot of money and headaches down the road.
Types Of RVs
Now that we’ve started along the process of buying an RV let’s look at the different types of RVs you can choose from. There are 7 main styles of RVs which are separated into three main categories: motorcoaches, towables & slide-ins.
Self-powered RVs with their own engines are considered motorcoaches. Rigs that require a separate vehicle to tow them for obvious reasons are considered towables. While slide-ins, as their name implies requires a truck for them to, well, slide in/on.
The difference between these three categories is critical for a variety of reasons. For example, you can’t access any of the amenities of a towable or slide-in until you stop driving for the day. Depending on the size of the rig in some states you may be required to obtain various other license certifications to drive your RV. While motorchoaches, on the other hand, allow your fellow travelers access to the amenities while driving. One of the disadvantages of motorhomes though is local transportation once you reach your destination. Which is why you see so many RVs towing vehicles behind them because it’s not very practical to use an RV as a commuting vehicle. Slide-ins try to bridge this gap as much as an RV can, but there is no such thing as a perfect RV. But let’s dive into the types of RVs a little bit more so that you can get a better idea of the perfect RV for you.
With all the amenities and features that can be built into or left out of an RV, for now, I am just going to focus on the outline perception of the 7 main styles of RVs. Which means this section is NOT going to cover wish list item RV wants & needs (RV counter space, 2 door camper refrigerator, stand up RV shower/bathtub combo, outside camper kitchen, king size RV bed, 30 amp, 50 amp, solar power or anything else that you might want). This next section is a basic generalization of each type of RV. Think broad strokes –Shape, Bed/s, Kitchen, Bathroom, and Storage.
Self-Powered RVs also known as Motorhomes, Motorcoaches or RVs
Class A RV
Class A RV’s are large bus-shaped motorhomes and their living accommodations can range anywhere from 20 feet to 60 feet in length, but the most common length is 40 feet of fuel consuming luxury.
You’ll have to overcome some serious sticker shock at the gas pumps when fueling up these mobile penthouses. Depending on the year, make, your gear and driving environment some of these rigs get as little as 6 miles per gallon. With that said, a Class A RV is built for luxury & accommodation.
Class A RVs technically don’t need a destination like a campground or RV park, but they aren’t very stealthy. Generally speaking modern Class A RVs will include a master bedroom, guest bedroom options (bunk bed, murphy bed, etc), at least 2 more temporary bed options (fold out bed, fold down table bed, etc), full kitchen, full bathroom, lots of storage and full-size living room.
The easiest way to determine if an RV is a Class A RV is its flat front end. Read about my Class A RV experience it’s one of a kind!
Class B RV
The most popular RV on the road today is most likely a Class B RV. These guys are designed for the active adventurer, and a whole lot easier on the wallet than a Class A motorhome. Known as camper vans they don’t have the spacious interior of travel trailers, Class A RVs or even some Class C RVs. They come equipped with a small kitchen, bathroom, bed and minimal storage. They are very manageable to drive and allow you to access campsites other RVs can’t. There’s a community of RVers living out of Class B’s that have nicknamed their lifestyles #VANLIFE, and you can find them all over Youtube.
Class B RVs don’t need a destination like a campground or RV park and are probably one of the stealthiest RVs you can own. Generally speaking, modern Class B RVs will have 1 permanent bed, 1-2 temporary bed/s(fold out couch, fold down table, etc), small kitchen, wet bath(toilet & shower head possibly a small sink), and minimal storage.
If I were to choose another RV to live in full time for my RV lifestyle I would consider a Class B RV with living room slideout and solar power, but my heart is set on a Class C. The bed over the cab offers more storage options and “real” bed for guests if need be. The easiest way to determine if a motorhome is a Class B RV is to look above the driver’s seat. If there is no bed or sleeping area directly above the driver’s seat than it’s probably a Class B or A RV. Want to read about my Class B RV experience?
Class C RV
Class C motorhomes are easy to drive, come with plenty of storage, more fuel efficient and still come with all the amenities. Class C RVs are geared more towards comfort and convenience. They are not as luxurious as the Class A’s, but they are also not as restrictive. Class C RV’s come in a variety of lengths, styles & designs. The most common length for Class C RVs is 28 feet, but they can range from 18 feet to 45 feet. They will come with a full-size kitchen, full bathroom, bedroom, living space, and storage.
Class C RVs don’t a need destination like an RV park or campground but aren’t as stealthy as Class B RVs.
Generally speaking, modern Class C RVs will include 2 permanent beds (1 in back, 1 over the driver’s seat), 1-2 temporary bed/s (fold out couch, fold down table, etc), full-size kitchen, full-size bathroom, plenty of RV storage and living area. The easiest way to determine if an RV is a Class C RV is it will have a sleeping area directly over the driver’s seat.
Want to read about my Class C experience?
Towable RVs Also Known As Travel Trailers, 5th Wheels & Pop-ups
Travel trailers are cube-shaped trailers with no universal set of features, amenities or even floor plans. These campers can range from 8 feet to 60 feet in length, but like the Class C RVs, the most common length is 28 feet. Unlike previous RVs, a travel trailer requires a separate tow vehicle. Depending on the size and model travel trailers can be towed with everything from a small car, hefty SUV, midsize truck or in some cases require a 1-ton truck.
Travel trailers come in so many different lengths, styles, models & designs there is no “universal” guarantee for amenities, appliances, features or even a bed. Let me take that back. Every travel trailer will have walls, windows, floor, ceiling, door, plumbing & some type of electrical power source. That is where the similarities stop.
Every travel trailer design has a specific focus. Large living space, luxurious bathroom, gourmet kitchen, just a bed, storage, outdoor kitchen, private bedroom, maneuverability, gas mileage, weight, climate, basic essentials or hauling vehicles. Because of this your answer to question #1 at the beginning of this RV Buying Guide will narrow down the massive amount of choices a travel trailer brings to the table.
Travel Trailers *NEED* a destination like a campground, RV park or private land. I’ve unhooked mine in a parking lot and explored the town with my vehicle, but I would never consider that situation for more than a day or two. Generally speaking, modern travel trailers will include a master bedroom, living room, bathroom, kitchen & storage. The size and capability of these features will depend greatly on the year, make & model. The easiest way to determine if an RV is a travel trailer is it will have a trailer tongue at the front that attaches to a normal bumper ball hitch. Want to read about my Travel Trailer experience?
Somewhat like the travel trailer, 5th wheels are these oddly shaped trailers with no universal set of features, amenities or even floor plans. 5th Wheels can range from 15 feet to 80 feet in length, but the most common length is around 35 feet. These type of towable RVs require a special 5th wheel attachment in bed truck-tow hitch to be installed on your vehicle so that you can tow it down the road. You will not be able to tow a 5th wheel with anything other vehicle than a FULL-SIZE truck!
5th wheels also *NEED*a destination like a campground or RV park. They are the opposite of stealthy. These RVs focus on one thing and one thing only – SPACE. 5th wheel RVs are spacious, luxurious & modern. Generally speaking a modern 5th wheel RV will include 2 permanent bedrooms, full size kitchen, full size bathroom, full size living room, excessive storage, modern technology, 2-3 temporary beds(fold out couch, fold down table, murphy bed), full size outdoor kitchen, full size outdoor entertainment setup & possible washer/dryer combo as well as an RV dishwasher.
To determine if an RV is a 5th wheel it will have 2-3 axels (wheels on each side), and the hitch will look like something for a semi-truck. The hitch will be located under the front overhang compartment of the RV.
Popups are considered by many to be campers not RVs. Popup campers are basically a tent on steroids that can range from 3 feet to 20 feet, and the most common length being around 15 feet of fuel economy freedom. Popup tent RVs are made for couples, small families & short weekend getaways. These RVs are the gateway to RV life. I don’t know the exact numbers, but I would be willing to bet that over half of the RV community got their start with a popup trailer. Their mobile, lightweight, can be towed with anything including a motorcycle. Check out the how much each pull behind popup camper weighs.
They come equipped with all the basic needs for a weekend adventure. Small kitchen, bed, and storage. The basic concept behind a popup is, well just that, they popup. There are hard sided popups out there, but majority of the popups are made of a canvas material. To keep the weight down, and make them more versatile.
Popup tent trailers don’t require a destination, but they’re not functional unless you pop them up. Which makes them NOT stealthy. The most common sentence popup owners make: “Buying a pop-up camper was the worst and best decision we ever made.” From what I gather it’s because Popup tent trailers allow exposure to the RVing “lifestyle”, but because of the limitations of popup trailers you’re not able to fully submerge yourself into this wonderful & adventurous lifestyle. Generally speaking a modern pop up tent trailer will include a small kitchen, 2 beds, and some basic storage. To determine if an RV is a pop-up tent trailer it will have a collapsible roof & a trailer tongue that fits on a normal bumper ball hitch.
Slide-In Truck Camper
The most unique RV campers are the slide in truck campers also known as backpacks. Which slide into a truck bed and features over cab space for sleeping. Slide in truck campers range from 5 feet to 16 feet, and the most common length being 10 feet of creative unique living space. Slide in campers require a truck, NO destination, and one of the stealthier RV options on the market today.
Truck campers are a cross between a towable and a motor coach. Their mobile, but restrictive. You can’t access any of the amenities while driving, but there’s no sticker shock at the gas pump to recover from. They’re equipped with a bedroom, kitchen, living room, bathroom, A/C, and heat. But storage can be limited. There’s an endless number of designs, layouts, features & amenities. But they have to fit your truck’s dimensions. When you want to upgrade to a more luxurious model you simply upgrade your vehicle.
Truck campers can be stored in garages, yards or driveways without violating city codes or laws. Slide in truck campers also don’t require license plates, tabs, registration or titles. Unlike other RVs, the options to upgrade your RV engine to go further off road is extremely costly or impossible. Whereas for a truck camper you just buy a different truck. The bigger the truck the bigger the camper. The bigger the truck the more features and amenities it will have.
Some truck campers consist of bed, table, bench, sink. While others have 3 slide outs, a center island kitchen feature, Jacuzzi tub, guest beds, master bedroom, and waterslides. Ok, maybe they don’t have waterslides or a jacuzzi tub, but I wouldn’t be surprised. To determine if an RV is a slide in truck camper it’s in the shape of an upside down “L”, has no wheels & slides into the bed of a truck. Generally speaking the average modern slide in truck campers will include 1 bedroom (located over the cab of a truck), living room, small kitchen, small bath & limited storage. Read about my slide in Toyota Tacoma truck camper experience.
Buying an RV Review
If you’ve made it this far it means you’re serious about buying an RV. So let’s move on to the final step of the process of buying an RV. There are sooooo many features or amenities that can be included or left out of an RV you need to prioritize what you need from a motorhome so that you buy the right RV the first time. It’s a lot like buying a house you need to create a wish list, must have list & can’t have list.
Don’t worry about putting them in order. Just brainstorm things that would make your life more comfortable or at the very least be compatible with your lifestyle. Who knows after doing so there may be an RV out there that hits all the checkboxes. We’ll find out. This is my must have, can’t have, wish list. Copy it, use it for guidance or completely ignore it. But keep in mind I ski 150 days a year and can live off peanut M&M’s and beer for 6 months. Just saying.
Must Have ~
- Bathroom with toilet and shower
- Kitchen with sink, at least 2 burners & fridge/freezer combo
- Living area ~ Bench with table
- A/C & Heat
- Under 27 feet
- Counter Space
- No odd shaped cabinets
- Mold, water damage or rot
- No storage
- No bedroom
- No Bathroom
- No Kitchen
Wish List – list below has clickable links to things I have bought
- Slide in Cutting board (love cutting vegetables & making stir fry’s)
- Solar Power
- Water purification/filter system
- Storage for clothes
- Washer/Dryer Combo
- Slideout/s(1 is fine but 2 would be awesome)
- Electrical outlets with USB options everywhere
- Windows that open
- Vents with Fans
- Outdoor Kitchen
- Direct sink & shower drains
- Big Flat screen TV(a lot of movie nights during ski season)
- Skylight would be cool
- Doggy door (Kota gets 1 vote :D)
- Water heater
Buying an RV is Supposed to be FUN
I think that’s all, but don’t worry if you didn’t think of everything. And don’t try to think of everything. Paper towel holders are like $3, and where a manufacturer would put it is not where you would. So just try and think of the big picture items. Plus the knick-knacks and paper towel holders of life are what makes things yours. It’s fun to add those things or put them where you want them, but those are things you bring in after buying an RV. You definitely want to think about them when you’re out looking and comparing RVs, but they don’t need to be on any of your lists.
Once you think you have your list now it’s time to prioritize it. For example, at the bottom of my “wish list” I have a water heater, and when you read it you might have asked yourself why didn’t he say tankless water heater? An endless hot shower has a lot of appeal for someone that spends 150 days in the mountains during the winter, but how practical is an endless hot shower when I only have a 20-gallon freshwater tank? It’s an amenity that would be cool, but not practical.
RVs are full of these type of shiny object trap amenities. Unless you’re going to be staying at RV parks & Campgrounds with water hookups maybe you should reconsider how important a tankless water heater is when you’re buying an RV. The same thing goes for solar panels. If you’re going to be staying majority of the time in places with full hookups than solar panels may be a waste of money in your case. Maybe you live in Texas and couldn’t ever imagine spending a weekend in an RV in the Texas heat. A winter model may have just moved up your priority list for buying an RV.
Recon RVs before buying an RV
Some of you will have a hard time creating your lists because first time RV buyers don’t know enough to even know what they don’t know. If you feel this is the case there is an easy solution to this. Go look at RVs and ask questions. Instead of cleaning out the garage this weekend take a field trip to your local RV dealership. The bigger the dealership the better.
Go look at all the different models, designs, features & floor plans. Ask about the windows, countertops, cabinets, flooring, RV tires, plumbing, tank sizes, electrical, mattresses, faucets, gas mileage, heater, A/C, storage, emergencies, warranty, appliances, manufacturer, upgrades, base model, awnings, fabric, slide outs, towing, driving, registration, insurance, solar, drains, walls, insulation, pipes, circuit board and whatever else you can think of. The only dumb question is the question never asked.
Now that you have answers & information make your lists. Keep in mind what you learned on your field trip to help you prioritize them. Most likely you’re not going to get everything you want in an RV, but knowing this upfront makes it easier to compare when buying an RV. This is the fun part of buying an RV which is why most people start here. It’s like skipping straight to dessert, but this is also why most people buy the wrong RV. Because they didn’t ask themselves any questions.
They just looked at shiny new floorplans, sat on unique beds and tried out comfy couches without thinking does a box of cereal fit in this cupboard? Can I stand in this shower without banging my elbows? How would I wash a pan in this tiny sink? Where do my clothes go?
It’s easy to become paralyzed from all the choices when buying an RV, but your answers will become the crutch that guide you through the RV buying process. Keeping you focused and on track when you’re out comparing RVs, and when you get to the point it’s time to buy an RV. You can do so with confidence.
Rent an RV before Buying An RV
You’ve got your information! You’ve got your questions! You’ve got your answers! You’ve got your lists! You’ve got your priorities! You know the different types of RVs!
Rent an RV through this link and save 5% on your next RV Rental
If you already own an RV explore how much you can earn through this link
You couldn’t be more ready to buy an RV than you are right now, but there’s one last step to ensure you buy the right RV. If you’ve never owned an RV or used an RV – then RENT AN RV! A couple hundred dollars spent renting the wrong RV is better than spending thousands buying the wrong RV. Browsing RVs on showroom floors or from private owners can only answer so many questions, but renting an RV can answer all of your questions.
It’s not cheap renting an RV, but think about it like this. How many apartments did you rent before you bought a house? Your supposed to learn from each apartment about what you want in your dream house? How many wrong houses did you buy before you bought your dream house? What did each wrong house teach you about what you wanted in your dream house? Looking at an RV and using an RV are two different worlds.
By renting an RV you can confidently answer:
- Did splitting the driving work or did your wife drive it for 15 minutes and refuse to touch the steering wheel ever again?
- Was the 30-foot motorhome easy to drive or do you need to look at smaller sizes? Were you able to take it to a place you would likely take yours? Was it difficult to maneuver into the campsite? Do you just need more practice or is just too big?
- How was the living space? Acceptable or annoying? Did you feel cooped up?
- How was getting out of bed in the middle of the night? Did you have to strategize how to exit without waking up your partner? Have to butt scoot to the exit point? Did you have to climb over someone? Any workable compromises that were acceptable for the test run trip, but are they practical to do for long term trips?
- Speaking of bedrooms, did you find out that you prefer two beds or a floor plan that closes off the bedroom and the living space by more than a curtain?
- What about the outdoor grill? Did you even think of using it? How about the outside TV? Stereo? Great features, but did you even think about using them? Are they worth the extra money?
- What about the bathroom? Does that style of toilet work for you? Did you have enough hot water for a full shower? Or were you rushed to finish? Were you able to brush your teeth? Did you need to take turns? Did you fall out of the shower when trying to wash your feet? Do you have bruises on your elbow from washing your hair? Did you even use the shower, or did you use the campground shower house? Why?
- What about the kitchen? Did you use it? Honestly, did you use the oven? Did you try washing dishes? What about the fridge? Was it enough space? Did it keep your items cold?
- For me, storage is a massive factor when buying an RV. How was your RVs storage? Did you have enough? Too much? Did everyday things fit into spaces or cupboards? Did you bring things you never used, but took up storage space?
- What about destination? Did you plan 7 days at a remote campsite, but had to leave after 5 days because your tanks were full or empty? Or batteries died and ran out of solar power? You become more efficient with water and energy from experience to help you extend these things, but everyone has different habits and requirements. So maybe tank sizes need to be a higher priority or a larger solar system.
- What time of the year did you use your rental? Was it the same time of year you intend to use your RV in?
- Did you play with gauges? What did you do with 20 gallons of human waste? Did you have enough propane?
- How about the furnace—was it warm enough? Was the A/C cold enough? Were they needed?
Rent an RV through this link and save 5% on your next RV Rental
If you already own an RV explore how much you can earn through this link
Comparing RVs Before Buying An RV
Now comes the fun part of buying an RV. You’ve done all your homework, research and now it’s time to buy an RV. What do you do? From your recon, research & renting you’ve most likely created a short list of candidates you want to buy. Now it’s time to narrow it down to the right RV for you. You could be spending a lot of time in this RV so you want to mimic and envision some of the ways you will be using it in your new RV life.
- If you’re looking at motorcoaches hop into the driver’s seat, both of you. Were you able to adjust it to where you needed it? Was it still comfortable after 5 minutes? 10 minutes? 20 minutes? Was it comfortable at all? Could you sit in that seat for 2,500 miles? How did it work getting out of the driver’s seat and going into the RV? Did you almost knock yourself out from the low overhang? Trip over the seat belt? Have to adjust the steering wheel to get out of the seat? Did you have to go outside to go back inside through the RV door?
- Sit on the toilet. Could you close the bathroom door? Did you hit your knees on the shower door, or sink or RV cabinet?
- Can you stand up in the shower? Will you be able to wash your hair without banging walls? Can you reach your ankles without falling out of the shower? Is the showerhead convenient to reach? Where will you put your shower supplies?
- Lie on the bed. Was it long enough for you? Would you hit your head on something if you got up wrong? Is it possible to get up without disturbing a partner?
- Was the fridge, stovetop & sink proportionally spaced for cooking? Is the fridge too high? Too low? Did you bring some items to see how they fit in RV cupboards or camper fridge?
- If you’re looking at a model with slides did you put them in and out? When you travel the slides are in would that affect the things you thought you could pack? Would your RV still be functional if you couldn’t put the slides out?
- Was there a TV or entertainment area? Sit down for 10 minutes on a chair, couch or bench. Was it comfortable? Was it at a good viewing angle? Did your legs fall asleep?
- What about the exterior storage? Where they accessible for you? Was it a normal movement for you to access them? Did you hit your head on the storage door or slide above? Did you pinch your fingers holding it open?
- What about interior storage? Where cupboards and drawers in logical places? Did you bring a pan or other items to see how they fit? Where would cleaning supplies go? See any place for the broom, mop or garbage can? Where do band-aids, toilet paper & mouthwash go?
- Did you look for electrical outlets? Were there any on the same wall as the dining room table? Any near the couch or chairs? Were there any in the bedroom? Bathroom? Kitchen? Where will you plug in the laptops, cell phones, shaver, toaster, blender, electric toothbrush, alarm clock or TV?
- Where will you put the camera? The clothes? The food? Keys? Change? Lighters? Bug spray? Dog Food? Coats? Shoes? Fishing rods? Gas Cans? Sheets? Towels?
There are lots of things that can go into an RV and many more to personalize it, but all of those will be governed by what’s truly important to you. The type of RV life you want to live will determine your personal list of tests & questions.
Buying an RV.
I haven’t mentioned price at all in this post because this is a guide on how to buy an RV, and because what I think is cheap or expensive may be different than what you think is cheap or expensive. But this wouldn’t be much of a guide to buying an RV if we didn’t talk about the cost of an RV or where to buy an RV. For me personally, I’ve never bought a brand new RV. I’ve purchased every one of my RVs off craigslist, and two of them I hopped on a 1-way flight to go buy. I’ll browse rvtrader or some of the other RV websites out there, but 90% of the listings are dealerships trying to sell trade-ins or last years inventory at prices I don’t consider deals. In fact campers on RVtrader are usually marked up by as much as 50%!!!! I bought a Class C RV in Virginia for $4200 that was listed for $9,900 on RV trader; just saying.
Craigslist, on the other hand, is a double-edged catch 22 sword. Half the listings on their people don’t know what they have and are just giving them away. While others have so much sentimental attachment they value them galaxies above what they are worth. Then you have the whole unknown of how did they take care of their camper or maintain their RV. Craigslist creates another set of concerns when buying an RV, and the best RV advice I can give you is be very proactive, observant & inquisitive. But trust me there are some crazy amazing deals on Craigslist.
Best Time to Buy An RV
The absolute best time to buy an RV is in February. The dealers are hurting for numbers because everyone was still recovering from Christmas. So January RV sales are usally pretty low. Plus over half the country is covered in snow and nobody is thinking of outdoor camping except dumbass ski bums like myself.
The best time to buy an RV is during the winter months. Anyone selling their RV at that time of year is doing it out of desperation. Which means lots of savings for you
Another good time of the year to buy an rv is May. Everyone is excited about the upcoming summer adventures, and ready to explore the great outdoors. Girlfriends & wives put pressure on boyfriends and husbands to sell that thing collecting dust in the backyard! There is so much inventory in the month of May to choose from that RV owners have to drop their price to as low as 30% of book value just to get inquiries!
The best time to buy a new or used camper to live in full time or just for summer vacations is February and May. You can purchase RVs from the dealership for up to 50%off, and you can purchase used RVs off of craigslist for as much as 80% off!!!
I scored a $100,000 RV for less than the cost of a flight from NY to Paris. A lady I know in San Francisco who was all set to sign papers to buy an RV from a dealership in CA when she found the exact same RV in Montana for $28,000 less! I know a friend that scored a $50,000 travel trailer for the cost of a shitty one because the owner was going through a spiteful divorce and didn’t have a truck anymore. There are some amazing deals on craigslist, but there’s always an RV deal on craigslist so don’t rush into anything. You could set up a business flipping RVs from Craigslist if you wanted. There’s always a deal and sometimes its flight away, but THERE’S ALWAYS A DEAL!!
When you’re buying an RV off of Craigslist do your research, do your due diligence, ask your questions & reach out to RV forums. Make sure you know more about what you’re buying then the guy selling it. When people ask me for advice on buying an RV off of Craigslist. The first thing I ask them is, “Did you do your homework?”
When you’re buying an RV from a dealership your concerns are features & amenities, but when you’re buying an RV from Craigslist you need to be concerned with its past as well as your desires. Most of the time you can define its past from its price point.
Worst Time to Sell an RV
The Absolute worst time to sell your used RV is in the spring and fall. Every year the market gets flooded with inventory in May & November. New RV owners who purchased a camper in the spring didn’t realize how much gas their new RV was going to consume. College kids just wanted something to tour America for the summer. Families can’t afford RV storage rates. New camper owners don’t know how to winterize or pay someone to winterize their RV. Whatever the case may be the worst time to sell your RV is in the fall. Everyone is selling in the fall. Including the dealerships. Because RV season is coming to a close and they won’t see sales again until May!
The worst time to sell your RV starts in the fall, and runs from October to May. There is too much inventory to get top dollar for your camper. Plus people are thinking about the upcoming holidays, and RV dealerships are desperately trying to unload their remaining inventory before the books close on the season. RV depreciation rises to over 65% in May and October because of the amount of inventory available around the country.
Used RV Values
Buying an RV for under $3,000 may or may not be a massive project. It may just be old, but reliable. On the other hand, it may leak when it rains or require a transmission to be rebuilt. There’s a lot of good quality reliable used RVs at this price point, but there is also a lot of project RVs at this price point. When buying an RV for under $7,500, but above $3,000 you better know more about what you’re buying then the guy selling it. This RV price range attracts everything and everyone. From massive money pit RV projects to amazing deals this price range has it all.
Buying an RV for over $7,500 you will find fairly modern, well taken care of and reliable motorhomes. Most RVs in this price point are being sold to get something bigger or liquidate assets. Anything over $20,000 should be in perfect working order. Your only concern should be features and amenities instead of its past at this price point.
Buying an RV Guide
I’m sure when you started reading this “how to buy an RV guide” you didn’t think it was going to take an hour to read or be more focused on makes & models. Instead of a process of questions and methods. Maybe you thought I was going to break down all the amenities and features of the RV world, but if you give a man a fish he eats for one day. If you teach a man to fish he eats for life. I hope that when you’re buying an RV you realize the best RV advice anyone could give you is to ask questions. Even after you buy your RV ask questions. RV owners are a friendly bunch, and they love to showcase their knowledge.
The internet is filled with information and RV groups to answer your questions. Facebook has tons of private RV groups that are focused on specifics like brand, age or even location. Some RV manufacturers even have ambassador programs where owners have agreed to share their experience of a particular make & model over the phone or in a personal meetup. Simply call the factory to inquire if they have any ambassadors near you, or if they even had an ambassador program. Not all manufacturers have an ambassador program, but the big boys of the industry do.
It’s finally time to head out to the dealership or open up the internet and wrap things up. It’s time to buy the right RV for you! You’ve done your homework. Answered the questions. Taken possible suspects out for a test run. You aware of how to find alternatives for a better price, and what each price point generally means. You won’t have any nagging doubts about your choice. It won’t matter if a new model is released after your purchase. You won’t be anticipating the release of next year’s model. You’ll feel good about buying an RV within your budget with your wants and needs on board. Which is what I hope we accomplished with this RV buying guide.
Comment below, share this page with your friends or just enjoy your new RV Adventures. After you finalize buying your RV check out my FREE CAMPING GUIDE or CHEAP RV HOOK UPS GUIDE
My Favorite Travel Booking Resources: Most Affordable & Efficient Travel Booking Tools I Use Everyday
Book Your Flight
Find a cheap flight by using Skyscanner or Momondo. These are my two favorite “flight” search engines because they search through websites and airlines around the globe and offer a calendar view to find even cheaper flights for flexible travelers. Check out these UNIQUE destination deals or my favorite All Inclusive Booking Travel Tool!
Rent An RV
Find cheap RV rentals for your next adventure by using Outdoorsy or RVshare. These are my two favorite “RV” search engines because they allow you to rent from private RV owners, and offer a wide variety of chooses at affordable rates. Want to start making money by renting out your RV? List it with Outdoorsy or RVshare.
Book Your Accommodation
You can book your hostel with Hostelworld. If you want to stay elsewhere, use Booking.com as they consistently return the cheapest rates for guesthouses and cheap hotels. Get a $40 credit for booking with AirBnb. Need to book a private campsite use my favorite RV booking site Hipcamp!
Looking For A Travel Community
Join the Escapees travel club to meet fellow travelers and talk about all things related to RVing and overland travel.
Travel Packages & Tours
Are you looking for worldwide tours and travel packages? Check out my go-to source — IntrepidTravel! Looking for more family related travel packages and tours book with GAdventures.
Don’t Forget Travel Insurance
Travel insurance will protect you against illness, injury, theft, and cancellations. It’s comprehensive protection in case anything goes wrong and will cover things like transport security, crisis response and medical transports such as Life Flight. Why go on any trip without a safety net that costs less than a case of beer? I’ve been using SafetyWings for years without any issues.
My favorite companies that offer the best service and value are:
- SafetyWings (ONLY $35 & Covers USA Travelers)
- World Nomads (for everyone below 70)
- Insure My Trip (for those over 70)
- Medjet (for additional travel insurance coverage like medical transport, travel security & crisis response)
Looking for the best companies to save money with?
Check out my resource page for the best companies to use when you travel! I list all the ones I use to save money when I travel – and I think will help you too!
Just Want To Support This Amazingly Resourceful Website
Websites incur constant fees! From hosting costs to massive amounts of personal time creating beneficial content for readers to consume at their leisure. To help offset those costs or just to say, Thank You. You can help support this community by shopping through any of the links found on my resource page. Shop on Amazon through this link and I’ll get a small commission, or you can directly support this site through Paypal donations. None of this is a requirement its just helpful and creates a better community for all of us.
Wow! You really put a lot of work into this list – not only in giving us ideas of what to keep in mind but also breaking down the different classes. $9,000 for a lot rental? And while I’ve never owned one, I do think that considerations like where you’re going and how are important. Very informative!
Thank you for visiting my travel blog. Glad you enjoyed my RV buying guide. Suppose I have to give a lot of credit to the 5 wrong RVs I have bought over the years that taught me how to buy the right RV. Hopefully, these lessons can help you or someone else purchase the right RV the first time, and enjoy all that RV life has to offer. Thanks again for your kind words and taking the time to stop by my travel blog. Enjoy the rest of your summer.
Coming from a country, where RV isn’t even a thing, this is rather very informative for me.
Whoa! You’ve owned 5 different RVs. That’s some dedication.
You can’t park your own RVs in your own backyards? That’s something you really gotta take into consideration.
When I bought my first RV I didn’t know any of this. I’ve learned a lot from the 5 RVs I’ve owned, and I still have a lot to learn. And you usually learn the hard way like I did when a cop tried giving my brother a ticket for allowing me to park my RV in his backyard. RV Life is a wonderful and adventurous lifestyle, but to take full advantage of it you have to be a little handy, sometimes creative and always have a plan “B” HAHA. Thanks for stopping by my travel blog.
I just shared your posts with my parents since they are planning to buy an RV next month. Thank you so much for these brilliant and practical tips. They are very helpful.
Awesome sauce!! 😀 😀 So glad you found some benefit in my post. If your parents have any questions or need any pointers I would be happy to correspond with them. There’s a lot to consider when buying an RV. They will have a blast. RV life is so much fun if done the right way. Thanks for visiting my travel blog.
This is an excellent and very detailed guide to buying an RV. Honestly, I’ve never even seen let alone been in an RV! I think they’re more popular in the US than here in Europe. From all the choices, I definitely like the sound of the class B. It has all the necessary amenities and sounds like a good newbie option!
I think you’re probably right about RVing being more popular here in the states than it is overseas. Class B’s are my favorite too especially if they have a slide out giving you more living space. I think in Europe RVlife is termed Vanlife which is basically a Class B motorhome. They are definitely more compact but just as functional as the big boys. If you ever get a chance dip your toes in the water of RV life. Its a tremendous way to travel around. Cuts the cost of lodging and airfare by over 50%. Plus all the people you get to meet in between your destinations are super friendly. Give it a try. Thanks for stopping by my travel blog.
Thanks for the tips. I’d love to buy an RV but had no idea where to start. Renting an RV before buying one is an excellent idea, which I will definitely implement.
Thanks for checking out my travel blog. Renting an RV isn’t the cheapest thing, but renting an RV is the only way to address all your concerns or questions about buying an RV. Knowing what I know now I would go back in time and slap myself silly until I rented an RV before buying my first RV. Would have save me so much time, money and effort. Renting may be more expensive, but extremely educational. If you ever need some guidance on buying an RV drop me an email or another comment I would be happy to help guide you through the RV waters.
I know a few friends looking to buy an RV so definitely sharing this with them! I’ve personally never thought to purchase one (although I do dream of going on an extended trip in one), but these are really awesome tips and insights that I’m sure will help first-time RV owners!
Thanks for stopping by my travel blog. RVing lets you stretch your budgets and travel so much longer than if you were to stay in hostels or hotels. Plus the cost of flights. Definitely an investment and a lot to think about before buying an RV, but they are so worth it. I have a friend that bought an RV a couple of summers ago just so he could delete his monthly bills in the summer. Now he rents an apartment for 6 months out of the year and lives in his RV the other 6 months. He did this to pay off his student loans and truck payment. Talk to him the other day, and said he should be debt free by the end of the summer. So you don’t have to buy an RV just to travel either. They are a great alternative to conventional life allowing you more options and freedom. If you ever need help or have any specific questions let me know I would be happy to help you.
Thanks for sharing your comprehensive RV buying guide. I wish to have an RV as well, its practical, especially for moving around to many cities. Maybe on my retirement I will get one!
Thanks for visiting my travel blog. RVs are pretty convenient, but some of the big ones can become a pain. Which is why I prefer the Class B’s, but I just picked up a slide in truck camper for this upcoming ski season. So I am sure there are all kind of lessons I will learn from that. Which style of RV do you think you would like to own for retirement? If you ever need any help comparing or want a 2nd opinion please reach out I would be more than happy to help you. Enjoy the rest of your weekend.
This is an amazingly elaborate post on buying an RV. Even though I have never rented or thought of buying one, I was quite interested in reading it all. There are so many aspects to think around and then take the plunge of buying one.
Right! And I am still learning about all of those aspects.
So thorough! I appreciate ALL of the information and the TIME you put into this.
Mr. SBF and I have been talking about looking into getting an RV and this article is PERFECT!
Thank you for those kind words Mrs SBF. RV life has taught me a lot, and there have been a lot of generous souls along the way that have shared their time and knowledge with me. Just figured the best way for me to do the same was this. If you decide to go after an RV and have any questions my door is always open!! And if you want a good laugh I am about to publish “my first RV experience”. So naive I was back then hahaha.
My dad wanted to have an RV when he retires and then travel a lot. It was explained here that when planning to buy an RV, he should consider if he needs to have special storage and where is he going with his RV. Furthermore, it’s recommended to consult shops when considering an RV.
Thanks for checking out my travel blog. RV Life is a wonderful option for anyone looking to travel cheaper, better and longer, but when buying an RV there are many things to consider. Where your going to store it when not in use is often overlooked, but how your going to use your RV is even more overlooked. If your dad is just planning on using it for long weekends, thats different than living in an RV full time. I know its not the most cost effective, but you should look into borrowing a freinds or renting an RV for a weekend. Find out what you like about it, what you don’t. Than you can start to get a feel for what you need in an RV. Hope that helps.
[…] If you have never been to Banff Canada you’ve never had your breath taken away. Truly one of the most beautiful places in North America is Banff Canada. Banff & the Lake Louise area have some deep heritage & jaw-dropping landscape that captivate millions of visitors every year. Apart from the Rocky Mountains, Banff is located in Canada’s Alberta province bookended by Mount Rundle & Mount Cascade apart of the Selkirk loop trail. The landscape of this not so humble resort town draws adventure seeking souls from around the world for year-round escapades, and in the fall they submit their best footage in hopes to be apart of the Banff Mountain Film Festival World Tour. Nestled in the valley of the Canadian Rockies Banff is visited by more RVers than any other city in the world, and if you’re thinking about doing the same next year you should check out this Complete Guide to renting or buying an RV. […]
Thank you for pointing out that you should consider if you need storage in the camper. My husband and I are wanting to buy a camper to travel in and need to find the right one. I’ll have to do some research and find the best campers possible, and I really enjoyed reading your Free camping post https://aowanders.com/free-camping/ as well as your RV Tires post https://aowanders.com/cheap-rv-tires/ thanks for taking the time to write all of this for us new rv owners. It was really informative and helpful.
Thank you, Ellie, for visiting my RV Travel Blog and taking the time to comment. I love logging in to new comments. They make for a wonderful day, and I am glad you found something useful. Have you bought an RV yet, or do you have a short list of RVs your considering? If you can ask the dealer or owner if you can rent it out or test it out for a night or even a long afternoon. The more time you spend in an RV or new camper the more you will get a sense of if its the right camper for you. If your buying an RV for full-time living make sure you test everything before buying. Especially with how fast RVs depreciate nowadays. I wouldn’t recommend buying a new RV, but if you are take advantage of the salesman. They will do just about anything for that commission check. Some will let you camp out in the parking lot. While others will let you take the RV/Camper overnight. Once you’ve selected your RV don’t stop asking your questions until you’ve purchased your RV. Make sure to test the drivers seat. Pretend to cook a meal in your new RV. Pretend to bring groceries home to your new camper. Where will you store everything? When I helped a friend buy a new RV years ago we brought a laundry basket full of items to see where they could fit in the camper. Salesman probably thought we were crazy, but we found out milk doesn’t fit in the fridge and boxed cereal doesn’t fit in the cupboard. It sounds crazy but the more things you bring the more things you can test, and the more things you test the more comfortable you can be when buying your new RV. If you have any questions or want a second opinion about buying an RV email me or leave another comment. Always eager to help out.
Thanks again for visiting my travel blog. Send me a pic when you buy your new RV.
Best of luck to you,
Thank you for all this wonderful information about buying an RV. I was wondering if you have a quick hit list of things you look for when buying a new RV?
Thanks for visiting my travel blog. I’m guessing your on the verge of buying an RV. You must be super excited and a little nervous. Don’t worry we have all been there, but to answer your question. I do have a hitlist/checklist when buying an RV. First thing I look at is storage because I do a lot of outdoor activities (hiking, camping, climbing, fishing, skiing, kiteboarding etc etc). So I need room for that stuff. The next thing I look for is cupboard space. One of my first RVs had triangle cupboard spaces that looked tall, but couldn’t fit more than one can of soup. It left such a bad impression on me that I now bring things with me to see if they will fit in the cupboards before buying my new camper. Then I look at the floorplan and try to imagine how I would live in it. Where would the office be? Would I ever use the table or would the bed pull triple duties for table/sleeping/office? Some people might focus on waterlines & appliances or other big ticket items like satellite TV. But all of those things can be fixed, bought or replaced for a reasonable price if you do it yourself. Changing floorplans, design and structure is always expensive no matter who does it. So I pay more attention to the logic of a floorplan and how I will use it more than anything else when buying an RV. I also live in my RV FT so I might be a bit pickier on some things and more relaxed on other things. If I were to buy an rv tomorrow the minimum items on my checklist would be:
living room slide out
cabover sleeping compartment
20-25 feet Class C
Open logical floorplan
As long as a motorhome had at least these few things I could make it work for my traveling lifestyle pretty easy and quite comfortably. Hope that helps! Be sure to let me know what you buy. We would love to see it.
I’ve been looking at RVs for sale for a while now. Always looking at used campers for sale & RV sales near me. Not at a buy here pay here RV lot or other RV dealership. I am looking for RV for sale by owner. There’s a lot of used travel trailers for sale in my area, but I want to buy a Class C RV for me and my family to enjoy. What do you recommend to find a used Class C RV for sale?
Thanks for visiting my travel blog. Sounds like you’ve been putting in a lot of time trying to buy the right RV for your family. Hopefully I can help answer these wonderful questions. I would never recommend anyone buying an RV “new” because of how high RV depreciation is, but you can still find great used RV deals at dealerships & buy here pay here RV lots. Maybe try take a tour of their inventory to see what they have. Now is a great time to buy from the dealerships and in house financing RV lots because the end of the year is right around the corner. This is the last quarter they have to pad their stats, and move out this year’s inventory. The closer you get to Christmas and the new year the better. Feburary in the Northern states is the best time to buy an RV. Because people are getting credit card bills from holiday shopping. No one is thinking about their RV or camping in the woods when there is a foot of snow on the ground, and the temperatures are below zero. Its a great time to find amazing RV deals. Especially from RV dealerships and buy here pay here RV lots. You didn’t say what area you from, but you are right. Used travel trailers are the most popular RV on the market today. Because they are the most popular trend in the RV world right now. Mainly because RV depreciation is so high even new models are cheap, and used travel trailers are even more affordable. So manufacturers are trying to capture this market share by flooding the market with their product. Lowering prices because their is so much inventory right now.
If I was looking for a used Class C RV Motorhome to purchase I would start my search in areas that have a larger “alternative” population. Off the grid communities, hippies, ski bums, vegans. Areas that “unconventional lifestyles are not just accepted but more the majority than they are the minority. Places like Seattle, Denver & Portland. Denver or anywhere in Colorado is usually the first place I look. Everyone out there camps or does some type of summer outdoor back country activity. Every other house has an RV parked in the backyard or along side the garage. I’ve had great experiences shopping for used RV’s in Colorado over the years, and Denver has an International Airport. One way flights are very affordable and almost every airline flies to Denver. Not to mention the biggest RV rental company in the US is located in Falcon Heights, CO.(cruise America) They will actually pay for your flight out there is you purchase a used RV through them. They have some of the best deals on the market if you don’t mind buying a used rental RV. They’ve caught my eye more than once, but I haven’t pulled the trigger yet. If your looking for a used RV that’s been well maintained “mechanically” buying an RV from them is a no brainer. Especially at the end of a fiscal year.
Buying an RV from Oregon & Washington is also a great marketplace for used Class C’s. For whatever reason there is always cheap RVs on craigslist. You can find amazing RVs for under $10,000 all day long on craigslist, rv trader and other RV sale websites in these areas. Other places to find “cheap RVs” are Montana, Wyoming & Idaho. Montana especially. I consider Montana the RV capital of America. Its like a right of passage to grow up in Montana at some point you have to live in an RV year round. Than they sit in storage or next to the garage for a few years. Until wives, girlfriends, husbands or family members get sick of looking at it and want their money back. I bought a $120,000 travel trailer for less than $5,000 because it reminded the wife too much of her husband who passed away. Your not always going to find a deal like this, but you can find $30,000 Class C motorhomes for less than $10,000 every day of the year. Wait until Christmas time or after the New Year and dealerships will be fighting over your business.
Arizona is another great place to look for used Class C RVs. People buy an RV and then store it down south to use during the winter months. Life changes and they forget to pay a storage bill, or they get too old to continue migrating south for the winters. Away from doctors and families that they are forced to sell it cheap because they just need to sell it. Usually from long distance. Its also not uncommon to find someone who didn’t know what RV life was all about and needs to sell their RV out of desperation down there just to get home.
If you want to buy a cheap used RV for under $10,000 thats highly reliable, comfortable and modern. Look in Colorado, Arizona, Washington, Oregon, Wyoming & Montana. And the best time to buy an RV is November – Feburary.
Hope this was helpful. Thanks for visiting my travel blog Scott and asking such great questions.
Love the post! It is super informative and I wish I would have read this before we bought our motorhome! Thanks for all the wonderful tips on how to buy an RV. We bought our motorhome at a buy here pay here RV lot, and wish we would have done more research into how to buy an RV to live in. Going to bookmark this page and next time someone asks me the best time to buy an RV or whether or not they should buy a used RV or new camper I’m going to send them here. So glad I found this RV Buying Guide.
Thanks for visiting my travel blog. I wish I would have found something like this before I bought my first RV. What a disaster that was, but I am glad I learned everything I did about RV life from that cheap RV. It may have been an old outdated RV but it taught so much about what to look for when trying to buy an RV to live in. Thanks for bookmarking my page, and if you want a short answer to when is the best time to buy an RV or whether you should buy a used RV or new RV tell ’em to buy a used RV from the northern part of the country in Feb. Even if they do decide to go with an in-house financing (buy here pay here RV dealership) February is the best month to buy an RV in the USA. Everyone has had enough time to recover from the holidays. Dealerships are feeling the pressure from slow sales in January. Families are frustrated with RV storage fees because of the limited amount of use they get out of their RV, and holiday credit card bills trigger “how to save money” alarm bells. Plus most people aren’t thinking of camping or their RV when there is a foot of snow to be shoveled. Best time to buy new or used RV is February. Enjoy your travels.
Thanks for the tip about considering what you are going to use an RV for before choosing them. It would make sense to find something that will be able to fit your purpose. My husband and I are looking for an RV, so we’ll have to consider the purpose.
There are so many variables that come into play when buying an RV it would be a shame to spend all that money an RV if it doesn’t fit your intended purpose. Make sure when you decide on why you want to buy an RV you also consider what you are going to do with it when not using and who is going to perform the maintenance. Those two things often get overlooked when buying an RV. Have you narrowed it down to what type of RV your looking to buy yet? Or where you plan on using your new RV? Would love to see some pictures of your new RV after you buy it.
Thanks for visiting my travel blog,
I appreciate how you mentioned that from research to purchase, RVs live up to their reputation of freedom and open road adventures. I think that something important, however, is to make sure you have a place to store such a large vehicle when you’re not using it. My husband and I are thinking of planning a vacation where we travel across the country with our kids to give them experience and adventure. We’ll have to find an RV storage facility that can keep our RV protected, though, when we’re not using it, so we can get the most out of it during our open and adventurous trip.
Thanks for visiting my RV Travel blog. I am so glad you found some useful information in my RV buying guide. Took a lot of time to put that together, and sometimes us bloggers forget about the little bits of information we include. RV storage is a challenging pursuit. I have never had to store my RV because I am always using it, but if your not a full time RVer you definitely want to properly store your RV. Keeps it out of the elements and away from opportunistic criminals. Some places are more expensive than others, but you want to protect your camper investment as best you can. When looking at RV storage facilities make sure you always choose an RV storage unit with a cement pad. Cement works as a dehumidifier and will help protect your RVs undercarriage from rust and other deteriorating elements. So glad your thinking about RV storage. Its the number one neglected thing when buying an rv.
Your going to love RVlife. Stop back and let me know how everything goes for you, or maybe we could meet up depending on where your travels take you.
You make a good point to determine how many people will be using the trailer and if they want more or less space before you buy one. My husband and I want a small camper we can use for weekend trips so we won’t have to set up a tent, so I’m looking into what to get. Neither one of us really care if it’s cramped since we’ll only sleep in it, so we’ll have to find a lightweight one that our small truck will be able to pull easily.
RV life is wonderful and I’m glad you’re doing research before buying an RV. Have you gone to your local RV dealership to sample the different type of layouts? Lightweight campers for weekend getaways can be a great investment, and there are plenty on the market that a small truck can pull. Check out my article on towing capacity for lightweight campers. If you have any more questions on buying an RV my door is always open.
Thanks for visiting my travel blog,
AN RV can be quite a commitment of both time and money so you have to know why you’re choosing one and what you should be looking for. As you point out in the article, one thing that you’ll want to find out is why you want the RV in the first place. For example, if you plan to vacation with it then you’ll want to make sure that it is spacious and comfortable enough to sleep in.
Its the #1 rule when buying an RV. If you don’t know why your buying an RV in the first place your most likely going to end up buying the wrong RV, and be one of the people that complain to everyone that will listen how bad their RV is. I met quite a few like that over the years. The ones that got tired of complaining finally went out and did some solid research. Bought the RV they love and now can say enough positive things about RV life. To get the most out of RV life you just need to answer one simple question. Why do you want to buy an RV in the first place? Answer this one question honestly and when it comes time for buying an RV you can buy with confidence.
Thanks for visiting my travel blog Duncan
Once I have found a likely RV for purchase – How much is a reasonable rate to have it checked out by a local mechanic before purchase. Many of these are out of state, and while I don’t mind construction restoration, I would need someone else to verify the mechanics and systems are good to go.
Thanks for visiting my RV travel blog. This is a great question! One I should have actually answered in my post. Sorry about that. RV Inspections are a pain. They are expensive and time consuming, but its better to find the issues before signing on the dotted line, right? For a Class A or school conversion RV inspection you are looking at about 6 hours and around $500. For a Class B & Class RV these inspections usually run about $250 and can take just as long. Depends on the features, make and model. A Class C RV with solar panels, generator and 3 slideouts is going to take longer than a Class C RV with no generator, no slide outs and no solar panels. Generally speaking, an RV inspection is going to take about 3 hours for a decent inspection, and most RV mechanics charge between $35-65 an hour. If all you want is the engine mechanics checked than this will be much cheaper and much faster. Probably less than $100.
If you’re looking to have an RV inspection on a travel trailer, pop up camper, or slide in truck camper this also should take only 1-2 hours and be $100 or less depending on what amenities and features are included in the rig. Now if you want an RV inspection that is going to inspect axels, bearings, welds, seams, pipe corrosion, frame rot, pipe calcification and everything else on an RV than your looking at big bucks. Probably somewhere over $1,000 for an inspection, but if you’re looking to buy a $100,000 rig thats a good investment. So its all relative, right? If I were in your shoes and looking to purchase a rig for under $10,000, and all I wanted was a quick inspection of the engine and camper systems I wouldn’t pay more than $100-$150 max. If you can’t find anyone to do an RV inspection for you at an affordable price check out this blog post of mine on cheap RV hookups scroll to the bottom of the blog post and you will find about a dozen RV facebook groups that are open to the public. I am sure you could find someone off of there that is knowledgeable enough to go inspect an RV for you, and the RV community is a very friendly bunch they might not even charge you.
My brother is a mechanic I have never had to hire this out, but after speaking to him he does this quite a bit for “regular” vehicles. Depending on how in depth a customer wants him to dig he only charges $30-$50, but he’s also a local shop that lives by the golden rule, “Do onto others as you would want done on to you.” So he is always on the affordable side. If I was in your position and just wanted the engine mechanics inspected I would expect to pay around $75-$100. I’m sure there are shops that would be cheaper like my brothers, or nationwide shops that would quote something closer to $200 -$250. But at that price they better come with a guarantee of whatever you pay for inspection comes off the bill for repairs or something like that.
Some other options you could explore to get just the mechanics of your RV inspected. In tourist destination towns like Custer South Dakota, Jackson Wyoming, Whitefish Montana there are mobile RV mechanics that charge by the hour and are usually around $35/hr. If your ever in Custer South Dakota there is a guy on the West side of town called Cody who does exceptional work for very affordable rates. He replaced my clutch in a 4×4 manual transmission SUV for only $200. So if your thinking about buying an RV that is located near a high volume tourist town that sees a lot of RVers in the summer maybe reach out to the area’s mobile RV mechanic. There is always one and all the RV dealerships, campgrounds & RV parks know about him. Almost all of Arizona, New Mexico, Florida & Texas are an RV hotspot in the winter months so there has to be multiple mobile RV mechanics to cover those areas. During the summer both of the Dakota’s, Wyoming, Montana, Idaho and parts of Utah are flooded with RVs. Livingston, Montana has 8 mobile RV mechanics located in that town, and the most expensive guy only charges $18/hour.
Another good resource to find skilled and affordable mechanics is off of craigslist gig section. These are either mechanics that are already working at a reputable shop and just trying to earn a few bucks on the side, or mechanics that are trying to start their own shop. This is how my brother got started. Two years ago he went from driveway to driveway, and now owns his own 5 bay auto repair shop 20 feet from a major highway in MN. Beware though there are some hack backyard mechanics that are easy to spot, but just want to make sure your aware of that.
If you can’t find anyone that would be willing to take a look at your RV before buying you could always see if there is an auto repair school in the area, and reach out to the school. They might be able to incorporate it into a classroom lesson, or may have a student that is close to graduating that really knows his stuff that would love to land their first gig. Another place that is usually used for internet/website related things is a site called UpWork. Like I said this site is mainly for digital nomad freelancer, but I have seen people posting gigs for babysitting, housekeeping, lawncare and even grocery shopping. Its not its intended use, but hey if it gets results who cares right.
If the RV your thinking of buying is here in MN I can have my brother go look at it for you. If its near Portland I know a good mechanic out there that I can refer you to, and I might know a couple South of Seattle. And I can tell you without any hesitation that there are no honest, affordable or reliable mechanics of any kind in Sandpoint, Idaho. Just saying.
Hopefully this was helpful. Let me know what you decided to do of if you need any other help.
Wonderful blog! I found it while browsing on Yahoo News. And just wanted to say thank you! We were going to go with a big 40 foot Class A Motorhome, but after reading your RV Buying Guide we realized that wasn’t at all wanted in an RV or how we planned on using an RV. Thank you so much. You save us thousands of dollars and a whole lot of heartache.
We ended up buying a 22 foot Class C RV with basement storage and tow a small side by side ATV behind us. This RV guide was truly a life saver. We are only a few months into full time RVing, but we love it!! After meeting so many people who did what we were thinking of doing all we hear are regrets. Again thank you for writing up such a detailed guide that helps the RV community in so many ways.
I am so happy to hear that you didn’t buy the wrong RV for the wrong reasons. Like you I have come across so many people that bought the wrong RV for the wrong reasons. Its because we grew up in a society were the belief is “bigger is better”, but as you found out that is not always the case. And on a recent road trip of mine through the a remote section of Idaho I had a lot of regret pulling a 30 foot travel trailer. As I had to pass up so many amazing river front free camping sites because of the size of my rig. I am so glad you guys are happy with your new purchase.
Happy travels and thank you for visiting my rv travel blog.
Thanks Adam for this awesome article! I’ve bookmarked it. The wife and I have been reading it over and over again for the last week. We want to buy an RV this spring and travel to all the National Parks over the summer. When is the best time to buy an RV, or where is the best place to buy an RV?
Thanks for visiting my rv travel blog. Your going to have a wonderful summer traveling around an RV to the National Parks. My favorite is Glacier & the Tetons, but be prepared for a lot of traffic on the going to the sun road. Its slow moving in July & August! To answer your question about best time to buy an RV. I need to break that up into RV classes.
If your looking to buy a used RV the best time to buy is in the spring and in the fall. When RV owners need to make the decision to get RVs out of storage or put them away for storage. Most RV owners barely use their RVs for camping trips or family vacations, and if they do its usually over a holiday weekend. Or for extra sleeping space up at the family cabin. Then theres the family factor. Families grow. Priorities change, and finances don’t always stay the same. In the spring RV owners get their rigs out of storage, and then don’t want to put in the effort to unwinterize it. Or the wife says we barely used it last year. Lets get rid of that thing and use the money for home remodeling and repairs. Or whatever the case is. The market gets flooded with used RVs in the spring. So the price points are usually pretty negotiable. And you can always find a comparable used RV somewhere to help in the negotiations, or buy instead of dealing with a hardcase seller.
In the fall its the same dynamic. Except you get a new group of used RV sellers. First timers who thought RV life was going to be awesome, and they were going to travel the country on a shoe string budget. Because they didn’t do any research, and no one told them about the hidden costs & costly RV accessories they need to be buy (https://aowanders.com/just-bought-a-travel-trailer-what-do-i-need-complete-camper-must-haves-essential-rv-accessories-guide/). These first time RV owners don’t want to pay for longterm RV storage or winterizing because they didn’t use their motorhomes as much as they thought they would. You also have festival goers who buy RVs in the spring to travel to all the different concerts and festivals around the country, and than sell it in the fall. There are so many factors as to why people sell there RVs, but for the most part if your looking for a quality used RV under $10,000 the best time to buy is in the spring and the fall.
If your looking to buy a new RV the best time to buy is December and January! Just like car dealerships RV dealerships have their best deals at the end of the year and the beginning of the year. Because thats when the fiscal financial year ends or begins. Most RV salesman work off of commission, and they want to end the year with a bang. As well as start the year off with a bang. Plus the manufactures provide all kinds of incentives to RV dealerships for end of the year close out deals. I would strongly urge you to reconsider though if you are thinking of buying a new RV, camper or travel trailer.
First the depraction of campers is 10x more awful than buying a car. Buying a new RV should be the absolute last resort. Your going to loose hundreds of thousands of dollars before you even put the key in the door. Think about the super Class C RVs that have a price tag of $150,000 in January, but in December you can buy that same Super Class C Camper for only $85,000! Plus campers need to be broken in. They need someone to figure out where to hang the paper towel holder, and all the other camper accessories that don’t come with a new RV. A new RV doesn’t even come with a jack, tire blocks, window shades, and a host of other things. New RVs haven’t been tested, used or lived in. Nothing has been “life proofed”. When buying a new RV you don’t have a previous owner that can explain how things actually work as opposed to how a book says things work. Manufacturers use regular technical jargon that regular speaking people don’t understand. On top of all that if you buy a new RV thats a lemon you than have to deal with the worst part of “RV LIFE”. Maintenance, shops and dealerships that don’t care. They have a schedule thats booked out months in advance, and they charge an hourly rate that equals what most people make in a week! I would strongly recommend buying a quality used RV for under $5,000 off of craigslist. You can find em all over. Especially since most RV owners actually only own lawn art. You know the RV that sits in the backyard for 5 years at a time in betweeen uses.
As for best place to buy an RV thats another loaded question. It all depends on what type of camper your looking for, and how you intend to use that camper. If your looking for something thats been modified, upgraded, 4 wheel drive, solar panels and all the other RV “wishlist” items than you want to look in the Pacific Northwest, Colorado, Montana, Maine & southern Canada. If your looking for almost brand new and unmolested with all the factory installs than I would point you to Arizona, Missouri, Oklahoma, Kansas, & Southern California. If your looking for reliable, gently used, trustworthy and a previous owner that has a box full of receipts and documentation. Than your going to want to look in the midwest. Minnesota, Wisconsin, Dakota’s and Iowa. Could even stretch out to Ohio, Michigan and Pennsylvania. You have to be careful with midwest camper owners though. Some of them tend to price things based on sentimental value versus blue book value. They’re easy to spot though.
Where not to buy an RV, Camper or Travel trailer from is almost all of the SouthEast part of the country. Absolutely, no camper in Tennessee, Kentucky, Virgina’s, Arkansas, Louisiana, Mississippi and the rest of the East Coast. I’m not sure what it is, but everybody over values rigs out there. Hardly any of them have been taken care of properly. Almost every rig has some type of structural damage, and everyone thinks their camper is the best on the market. All ads so low miles and quick fixes. When in reality they are not quick fixes and most engines are on their last leg.
The best deals for used RVs can be found in Arizona, Midwest and Pacific Northwest. Texas has some deals every now and then, but I haven’t had a lot of dealings down there with buying a used camper.
Best of luck to you! Hope this was helpful. Stop back and let me know what kind of RV you ended up buying.
I laughed out loud at this line: “Did splitting the driving work or did your wife drive it for 15 minutes and refuse to touch the steering wheel ever again?” Because that’s EXACTLY what happened to me!
In 2015 we rented a Class C motorhome in Anchorage Alaska. We proceeded to put around 950 miles on it over the course of one week, driving all the way down to Seward and then back up to Denali before heading back to Anchorage.
After a couple of days in the passenger seat my wife must have thought it looked easy, because at our next rest stop she said she wanted to try driving. We were in the boonies on our way to the little town of Hope and had seen very little traffic, so I gave her some pointers and off we went with her behind the wheel.
About 10 minutes later a truck came up behind us and couldn’t pass on the narrow winding single-lane road, and there was nowhere for my wife to pull over either. But she was driving the speed limit so I told her to focus on what was in front of her, not what was behind her.
Nothing doing. She started stressing out and finally blurted “I need to stop driving this thing NOW!” I suppressed my laughter until I spotted a safe pull-out for her to use, where I got back behind the wheel to drive for the rest of the trip. So out of 950 miles, I drove 940 of them and she drove maybe 10, if that!
HAHA heard this all too many times. But at least the rental RV allowed you guys to get out and share in some Alaskan adventures. I love Alaska such an amazing place! Glad you and your wife were able to rent an rv and enjoy all that Alaska has to offer.
Do you have any advice for others who are thinking of renting an RV to see Alaska? Places to avoid? Things to do in Seward? Thanks for visiting my RV travel blog. Really glad you and your wife got to see Alaska. Not many do, and by RV I’m sure it was a vacation packed full of wonderful memories.
Happy New Year PG!
I have a question for you if you don’t mind. I am looking to buy an rv, but what do you think is the best rv to buy for full time RV living? I know there are a lot of things that go into buy an RV, but is there one best RV to buy for full time RV living? And if there is where would be the best place to buy an RV from? An RV dealership? A used RV from craigslist? Do they have RV auctions? Is there a used RV classifieds website? Sorry for all the questions just trying to take the best approach to buy an RV the right way like you say.
Thanks for all of your wonderful questions and having enough faith in me to answer them.
First off there is no “best” RV out there that covers all the basis, but there are a few criteria that make other RVs better than others when looking to buy an RV. Every RV comes with its limitations. Smaller RVs and campers overcome most of these limitations. Like parking space, lower campground fees, more manuverability, less fuel consumption and easier maintenance.
If I were to look for the best RV to buy for full time RV living I would look at a diesel Class C RV ranging from 19-26 feet. This type of RV provides plenty of storage capacity. Better fuel mileage. Allows you to park anywhere. Which will provide plenty of free camping options. You don’t need a special license or a heavy duty tow vehicle. With a Class C RV under 26 feet most will still come with an onboard generator. Allowing you to boondock in many more places, and because of its size will also allow you to explore places larger RVs wouldn’t be able to go. Which will lower your monthly costs of full time RV living, and allow you to explore areas other full time RVers aren’t able to.
The key to buying this type of Class C RV is to get the right floor plan. To maximize comfort & storage capacity you want the Class C RV floorplan with a corner bed. This gives you a bed on the main floor, and doesn’t require you to climb up into bed everynight. Having a floorplan with a corner bed and corner bathroom also allows you to use the sleep over cab area for additional storage. Making it the best RV floorplan to live in full time in my opinion. By providing all your basic RV needs while also providing much needed storage and camper accessories.
The best place to buy an RV is in an area with an a surplus of inventory, and a mainstream public that don’t look to live out of their camper full time. Locations like Florida, Arizona & California. These 3 states have a ton of used RVs for sale, and usually well below market value. States like Washington, Colorado, Montana, Idaho, Utah and Oregon also have a ton of used RV inventory, but they also have a very outdoorsy population. So campers in these states can be all over the pricing map, but still worth checking out. States like Minnesota & Wisconsin generally have a huge surplus in older used RV for sale. You can find used RVs for less than $10,000 all day long. Last summer there were over 100 Winnebago Class C RVs with the 15 foot slide out for sale for under $5,000.
Finding the perfect used RV for sale will be a challenge, and you will just have to put in the internet “leg” work of finding it. Not being able to do a walk thru will be frustrating, but when calling out of state RV listing’s ask the owner to shoot a video with their phone. Ask for more pictures. Ask technical questions about tank size, mile per gallon, towing capacity to get a feel of how well the current owner knows their rig. This will also help you determine how well its been maintained and cared for. Find out when they last used it and when they normally use it. Most RV owners only use thier campers a couple of times a year. The rest of the time its nothing more than RV lawn art in the backyard.
See if the current owner will let you borrow or rent it from them for a couple of nights to get a better feel for it. The more you know the better decision you’ll make.
They do have RV auctions, but they are very rare. I would never buy an RV from a dealership unless it was a steal of a deal. The markup and depreciation of an RV from a dealership is ludacris!!! Absolutely absurd! The best place to find quality RVs is online. Using craigslist and RVtrader. Even facebook marketplace is a better option to find used RVs, but there is no organization with the facebook marketplace dashboard.
When looking to buy an RV the rule of thumb is sample sample sample and sample some more. Walk through as many different RVs as possible. Really look at the floorplan. Take a look at how the floorplan intends to make you live? Imagine what things will get in the way or be very accessible when cooking. Try to replicate scenarios like watching TV, showering, cooking and meal prep. Is there enough counter space? Enough cupboard space? Do you bang your elbows when walking or turning? Where will you store all of your gear? Clothes? Books? Electronics?
A small Class C RV is more manageable, functional and adaptable for a variety of full time living scenarios. Which is why I think a diesel Class C RV under 26 feet long with a corner bed floorplan is the best RV for full-time living.
Hope that helps. Happy Camper hunting.
Great info. Looking to purchase my first rv to live in long term. You answered every question I could think of at this time. Thank you again. I will continue to enjoy your newsletters, I’m sure. Kate
You’ve got to be so excited! Hope you get the RV of your dreams and enjoy all that RV life has to offer. Remember its not the best RV on the market your after its the best RV for you that your after, and you want an RV you can grow into and not out of. Thats where some RVers stumble when looking to buy an RV, and bigger is not always better. Good luck and if yo have any questions while buying an RV shoot me an email I would be glad to help. I’ve been helping a friend of a friend for the last month trying to narrow down her perfect RV.
Happy hunting and safe travel. Thanks for visiting my RV travel blog.
Hey Adam- I read through the whole section on buying an RV you put together. Incredible job. Thank you.It blows me away at how much information and time you put into the blog. It also impresses me how you answer all comments and emails- wow. I’m looking to live full time in an RV. I’m convinced it’s the way to go. But I have no experience owning or buying an RV. So it’s pretty intimidating. I’ll have to find someone who will give me an RV loan. My credit is good but I’ve been turned down twice because of other factors. Are you familiar where to find the best loans for an RV or have anyone I can talk to about it with? Thank you. – Alex
I am so happy your considering RV life and the freedom you are about to experience. I would be happy to talk with you at great length the difference in RVs. Which RV is best to live in, “for you,” because each person’s RV life will be different. But I would highly recommend not buying an RV from a dealership with a loan. The depreciation level is more than a vehicle and RV loans are just like house loans stretching out over 30 years!!! Meaning if you bought a brand new RV today for $60,000 tomorrow it would only be worth $25,000, and by the time you paid off your loan you will have spent $120,000. Depending on your interest and terms.
If I were you I would look at a quality used RV, and I can even help you locate one as well as help you inspect it from a far. We can get to that if you like, but have you read this article https://aowanders.com/how-i-saved-20000-in-3-months-at-a-temp-agency-job-to-travel-for-a-year/
Buying an RV can be an intimidating process. Especially a used from an individual you know nothing about. My first RV was a 1978 dodge nightmare that didn’t even make it a mile away from the guys house, and the transmission took 5 quarts of tranny fluid every 5 miles. The alternator ceased up and the bolt broke so I couldn’t even get it off because I didn’t have the mechanical knowledge I have now. Don’t let that scare you though because RV life is all about solidifying your independence and broadening your skill sets. And even after you become an “expert” you’ll still make “rv mistakes” because you were rushing or hadn’t uncovered that “rv scenario” before. Just like in life there is always something to learn.
I’m glad you think RV life is an option for you, but before you go out buying an rv or getting a loan to buy an RV you have to decide on what type of RV life you want to live. If your going to be doing a lot of conventional RV activities (campgrounds, road trips, National parks) almost any RV within your budget will work. If your going to be doing a lot of winter camping than you need one with a different set of foundational camper accessories, and if your going to be doing a lot of activities than you need a rig with a lot of storage. Which you’d think camper makers would be aware of, but storage, counter space and “normal” cupboards aren’t big on their priority list. If you want to do a lot of backcountry, off roading and off gridding you need something in a 4 wheel drive package. You need to define what type of “rv life” you want to pursue so that you don’t buy the wrong RV for the wrong reasons.
That should be priority #1 so that way you can start to narrow down which type of RV you need to buy to have the best RV life for you. I would tell you to rent an RV to get familiar with them, but than can get costly quick. So if I were you, even if you had $100,000 I’d still tell you this, go buy a used RV/camper that you can afford within your budget, and just use it around your home area. This will give you tremendous insight into what you like, hate, want and require. I know this can be intimidating, but I’ll walk you through it, and remember when your done you can sell it to recoupe your “learning investment.”
If you know what your looking for you can find quality RVs for as little as $500, and now is the time people are selling them so they don’t have to winterize or store them. Just remember your not buying this first RV as your permanent RV. Its just to expose you to the possibilities of full time RVing. I’d much rather have you spend $1,000 and find out you hate it before spending $85,000 and signing a 30 year loan. You can find all kind of quality class C RVs for under $5,000 all around the country both through private owners and dealerships. Just type this into your search bar “class C RV” site:craigslist.org –and just start weeding out all the possibilities. You can also look on sites like rvtrader and RVT, and if you find one of out state you can find one way flights for under $50 all day using spirit airlines or frontier airlines to go pick it up.
I recommend doing a search for Class C RV’s because they will give you the most bang for your buck, but they are highly sought after becasue of this. Class B’s are usually more expensive and less living space. Class A’s are generally the cheapest “driveable” RV, but they are also the least versatile. However, class A’s generally have more storage than most other motorhomes. The absolute best bang for your buck are travel trailers. You can find used travel trailers with slides and storage for less than $3,000 all day long, and you don’t need a massive vehicle to tow them. I tow a 40 foot travel trailer with a 15 foot slide and all my gear that weighs close to 7,000 pounds with a Tacoma. You can find a lightweight 20-25 foot travel trailer that any SUV or small truck could tow for couple thousand dollars easily. Do what my friend did and buy a cheap travel trailer and then remodel it for only a couple thousand. His initial travel trailer cost him $800, and then he spent $3,000 over 4-5 years upgrading everything from counter tops to ceilings and walls. He sold that travel trailer a couple of weeks ago for $18,000.
Tell me the RV life you want to live and I will guide you down the most affordable path to obtain this.
My wife and I bought our first motorhome the other day, and we did it using this step by step process you laid out here. it was so much fun looking at all the different types of motorhomes available. Thanks to your camper buying advice we were able to avoid a couple of disastorous used RVs that would have devistated us. Thank you so much for putting this out there and helping us buy the perfect camper for our family. We are so grateful for all the information you provided us along the way to buy an rv.
Very happy your family found the rite RV for the rite reasons. Send me some pics of that new camper you just bought. Loved to see what you finally decided to buy? Did you go with a class B RV or the rolling penthouse Class A diesel pusher?
Thank you for this helpful article! I’m looking to buy a used class C RV to live in full-time or a Tacoma truck camper. Any tips for a first-time RV buyer?
The best advice I can give any first-time RV buyer is to bring regular household items that you will want to pack in your new camper and try to put them in the cupboards or counters. This is the best way to train your “RV eyes.” Because most camper designers are brain-dead 2nd-grade dropouts, who have no concept of reality. They build cabinets that can’t hold basic items like cereal boxes, or canned goods. They install sinks that aren’t big enough to wash a common glass, pan, or plate. They install drawers that can’t hold normal size silverware and other cooking accessories. They ut sinks and stoves right in the middle of the countertop leaving you no counter space to prep meals, or they put the sink right next to the stove so you have to carry your food over the sink to the stove. Some of them like to put in crooked sinks so they follow the countertop “lines,” but then that usually leaves the camper owner with a tiny 10×10 inch space to work. Every camper designer should be forced to live in their designs for one weekend to see the error in their floor plans. I’m getting off on a rant now, but the best advice any first-time RV buyer could ever get is to make sure you know exactly how you’re going to use your RV so that way you can buy the right RV for the right reasons the first time.
Go to any campground and ask RV owners how many wrong RVs they owned before buying the right RV. All comes down to not fully examining the functionality of the interior floorplan.
Hope that helps you purchase your new RV with confidence Brian.
Thank you for this helpful article! It’s well thought out and inspires a lot of consideration. I’m looking for a class C in PNW and not finding anything I would consider cheap. I’m told RV’s are a hot commodity, would this reduce supply and increase price right now? Thanks!
This is a great question, and right now RV sales are through the roof. Prices are absolutely delusional! I found a truck camper the other day that sold for $15,000 brand new 6 years ago. The guy is now selling it for $28,000. There’s a 4×4 shuttle bus that sold for $19,000 3 years ago with 220,000 miles on it. It’s on sale in North Dakota for $32,000 with 410,000 miles. There’s a 1985 4×4 factory class c camper on eBay right now for $40,000 that sold for $8,000 last year. I have no idea who is paying these prices right now, but give it a couple of years when everyone starts losing their camping lust. Or what will most likely happen is these people will realize they only go camping on Memorial weekend, 4th of July weekend, and Labor day weekend, and can’t justify $20,000 a year in payments, insurance, and maintenance for 6 days of camping. Then the market will be oversaturated, but that’s a few years away. Like I said I have no idea where all this disposable income is coming from or who is buying used campers at the prices they are commanding, but I wouldn’t buy a camper right now. With that said I also wouldn’t ever NEVER EVER buy a camper made in 2020, 2021, 2022 because all of those campers were made by overworked employees or brand new employees to the industry. On top of limited product availabilities across every industry.
There are still some good deals to be found on Craigslist & Facebook Marketplace you’ll just have to look a little longer and harder to find them.
I have just read your great ULTIMATE GUIDE on buying an RV it is very informative and your answer are chocked full of vital information.
I went to a huge dealership over the weekend in Downey California with my husband called Giant RV, 5 acres of all types of RV’s. I went into a 40ft toyhaulers with one of those drop down patios which is the door of the toyhauler and a modern Airstream trailer and saw bunkhouses and straight trailers. I had only been in one trailer before my trip to the dealership.
I used to camp and travel a lot has a teenage went around 15 countries and we had a van and camped all over Europe what fun!!
What is your thoughts and experience with Toyhaulers. I want space to put paintings in and use as a studio. We were looking at a 40ft” used” 5th wheel one with 1 and 1/2 bathrooms. It would be for myself husband and son we need to live in it for about 6 months in LA to pay off some debts. Then go down to the Southern States to see friends and family in our RV. My husband is a Contractor and we have our client base here in Los Angels. We are spending 1000’s per months on rent and I wanted to not pay this. The campsites around here are expensive and full up. I want to pay a couple of hundred on rent and get debt free. Your advise I am following and am looking at land that is cheap or free in our area.
Thanks for visiting my RV travel blog. Let’s see if I can help you out here. So when camper shopping the first thing you need to do is train your eyes what to look for, and look past what the slick salesman wants you to see.
For starters, look at the countertops. Specifically at their functionality. Is there any prep space? Do you have room to put out plates, silverware and other cookware? Or do you have to constantly spin around and use the table on the other side of the room? Is there a sink right smack in the center of your counter that only leaves you about 8 inches on either side of it to cook? Now check out the cupboards? Are they big enough to hold normal size grocery items (boxes of cereal, glasses, pots, pans)? RV designers routinely drop the ball when it comes to things like this. Now go to the fridge. What can realistically fit on those shelves and in the door?
Now that you have trained your eyes on what to look for on the inside take a tour of the outside. Specifically looking at the storage options. Where are you going to put your camping chairs? Skis? Water toys? Camper accessories? Everything else that needs storage?
After all that, the next thing you need to ask yourself is, “Bigger always better?”
A 40 foot fifth-wheel needs a destination, and a permanent parking spot. There isn’t a lot of boondocking or freely winging it when you driving a semi-truck-sized camper. Meaning there isn’t a lot of free camping choices when you’re traveling around in a rig of that size. In fact, a rig that says is always going to command the highest prices at every campground & RV resort in the country. Fifth wheels of that size are going to be luxurious and comfortable, but they are expensive and inconvenient. You constantly have to be aware of the roads you are on. Exit points? Overhead clearance? Parking lot designs? Not to mention maintenance on those rigs require $300/hour mechanics.
If your ok with all of that you’re on the home stretch, but “most” toy haulers are not meant for full-time RV living. Their floorplans are geared for temporary living by only providing the bare essentials and the ones that try to provide a more comfortable living space fall short when it comes to functionality. My brother purchased a $100,000 Raptor Toyhauler this last summer. It’s got all the bells and whistles, and completely all dolled up. Including 2 patios & a rooftop deck. The problem with this $100k rig is you have to watch TV at an angle. The kitchen funnels all walking traffic through the back door. The patio door opens up into the couch. While the fridge door opens up into the walkway, and the main door opens up into the stairway. The bed is shoved into one corner so that the dresser can take up all the valuable real estate it wants to. The shower door opens up into the toilet, and the towel cupboard is located outside the bathroom in the hallway. The kitchen counter has a whopping 4-inch x 12-inch food prep space. Oh and the bar stools that came with it sit right in between the TV and the couch. All those inconveniences are most likely manageable for a weekend camping trip, but dealing with them for 6 months of full-time living would become pretty annoying pretty quickly.
Don’t get me wrong there are some toy haulers that have a wonderful floor plan for full-time living, but you’ll need to hunt them down. Because toy haulers will always have more focus on hauling your toys than providing its occupants a comfortable floor plan. The one thing you’ll find out about campers is there is no universal rule, and there will always be a sacrifice or comprise that you’ll have to make when living out of a camper full time.
You also mentioned RV lot rents. The best bit of advice I can give you to finding cheap RV hookups or Cheap Full time RV lot rentals is to check out this guide of mine. https://aowanders.com/find-cheap-rv-hookups-for-less-then-200-a-month-for-full-time-rv-living-in-america/
In that guide, I explain step by step how I find cheap RV hookups everywhere I go, and the three platforms I use the most are Craigslist, Facebook and Hipcamp
I am starting to use Hipcamp more and more because its basically the Airbnb of camping, and the hosts on there are easy to convince letting me stay on their property long-term for super cheap. Right now I am camping on 11 acres with 2500 feet of Mississippi River shoreline for $100/month because its the winter and they have no bookings until March.
Let me know if you have any other questions or need any more help on what to look for when buying your camper.