I have bought and sold many RVs over my 50 years of RV ownership and want to help people to avoid RV buying and selling problems.
If you plan on purchasing an RV in the near future it will be important for you to question yourself thoroughly so that you truly know what you want to buy and whether it will suit your needs.
Buying a recreational vehicle requires a good deal of physical and financial commitment. Therefore, you need to make sure that owning one is something you want to do, can do and will enjoy doing.
Below you will find a list of questions, some with detailed explanations, that will help in guiding your thinking.
How much will you have to pay to buy an RV?
The price of recreational vehicles varies widely, so it is mostly up to you to decide what you will pay and how much you will get for the money you spend.
- For $10,000 or less you can buy an older travel unit that will generally be outdated and in need of many repairs.
- For $1,000,000 and up you can own a luxury coach that has every possible amenity.
Most people choose a mid point that allows them to purchase a quality previously owned unit for around $40,000 and a decent new coach for around $200,000.
What you spend will greatly depend on your ability to choose well and negotiate cleverly.
How much will ownership cost?
There are many hidden expenses involved in recreational vehicle ownership that go far beyond the initial costs which include the purchase price, sales tax and registration fees.
You will also have to pay for
- gasoline and
While it is true that there are ways to reduce some of these expenses, you still will have to deal with them, and they can be high.
You need to make sure that you are financially prepared to deal with these costs.
If not, there is no sense in even thinking of buying a coach.
How will you pay for your RV?
People pay for their travel units in a number of ways such as
- using the equity from their homes,
- borrowing from banks and credit unions or
- using the financing services of the dealership that sells to them.
If you can afford to pay cash, that would be your smartest choice. If not, you will have to pay interest and other fees and make monthly payments on your loan.
Usually coaches older than 10 years cannot be financed, so do your homework about this issue before, not after, you buy.
How much will maintenance and repairs cost?
These expenses vary from one place to another, but generally, labor will cost about $129 per hour if you have to pay someone to make repairs.
The price of parts will vary significantly depending on seller, but none of them will be cheap.
provides a brief overview that will tell you how much you might have to pay for specific items.
However, prices usually rise as time goes on, so never assume that cost estimates for repairs are written in stone.
How much will insurance cost?
Insuring your RV will depend on its age, purchase price and other considerations, just as it does with a car.
If you add it to your vehicle policy, you can often reduce the amount you might have to pay.
I have never paid more than $600 per year, but I always drive older motor homes.
- Recently I spoke to an insurance agent who wanted $1752 per year to cover my coach.
- Another one wanted $620.
- A third one told me that his company would not insure a unit that cost more than $200,000!
As you can see, it pays to comparison shop and to find out before you buy just how much you will be charged to insure a given coach.
Do you have good big rig driving skills?
Recreational vehicles are more difficult to drive than cars, so before you make a purchase, think about your driving skills.
- Are you prepared to drive a large, heavy vehicle on crowded interstates and in bad weather?
- If not, are you willing to take an RV driver training course?
Buying any RV if you have never driven a big, bulky vehicle is risky.
You can learn these skills, and with practice can do well, but you should do this before making a purchase.
You should steer clear of RVs until you do these things, or you’re going to have expensive and possibly dangerous problems.
Many people buy a coach, take one trip and then quit traveling simply because they are afraid of driving it. Don't be like them!
How good are your mechanical skills?
Buying a camper, travel trailer or motor home can become a problem if you lack mechanical skills.
People tend to assume that their warranties will protect them when things go wrong during travel, but there are many things that happen at times when help is not available.
You're not always located near repair facilities. Furthermore, you need to be able to at least recognize problems when the occur.
Simple tasks such as being able to
- check oil levels in generators and engines,
- knowing when to dump sewer tanks and
- check air pressure in tires
are very important. If you don't know how to do them, you had better learn before you decide to buy.
If you're not willing or able to do these things, then you should steer clear of recreational vehicle ownership and travel.
How do you plan to use your coach?
People use RVs in a variety of ways. It's important to figure out your own game plan so that you can choose a unit that is geared to it. Do you plan to
- take short trips,
- use it as a business office,
- rent it out,
- dry camp,
- use it as extra housing space,
- live in your unit full time,
- travel extensively or
- use it as a vacation home?
Your long term game plan will largely determine what you buy.
What will it take to make trips comfortable for travelers?
Larger people need bigger showers, eating booths and beds than smaller ones, so when you buy, you need to make sure your purchase fits your physical needs.
The amount of space you will need will vary greatly depending on whether you travel with several people, two or by yourself.
If you plan to travel with a number of people, you will want to make sure there will be room enough for everybody to be comfortable.
Don’t think you can cut corners just to save a few dollars, because comfort is a big issue when it comes to taking RV trips.
Lack of it will cause you to want to sell immediately following your first vacation, which will be very expensive for you to do.
Where will you keep your coach when not traveling in it?
If you don’t live in your RV, you may be able to park it on your residential property if zoning allows it, or you can pay to keep it in a storage facility.
However, storage can be expensive. It can cost from $40 to $250 per month depending on the size of your coach and the location of the storage facility.
How much time do you have each year to travel?
Most owners only travel a month or less each year, which means you may want to seriously consider how much you want to invest in purchasing a coach.
It is never advisable to pay a great deal of money for a vehicle that will not be in use regularly.
Who will travel with you?
If you are single, you won’t need a large travel unit, but if you have a lot of friends or are married and have kids, you will need something big enough to keep everybody comfortable.
How many miles per gallon will your RV get?
You can expect to get between 6 and 12 miles per gallon depending on the type of rig you own.
How much will it cost to camp?
Camping costs can cost anywhere from nothing to hundreds of dollars per night, depending on where you choose to stay.
On the average, plan on paying around $40 per night.
What type of connectivity will you need?
Many people now use smart phones to connect to the internet, but you can save money by using the services of
- public libraries,
- some businesses and
- many campgrounds
at no charge.
However, those connections are not secure, so you may want to purchase a hot spot to protect your privacy.
There are a number of these devices available, and prices vary, so it is best to do some comparison shopping if you decide this is the method you wish to use.
Will you need a tow vehicle?
- Most motor home owners find that towing a car is a good idea because doing so gives them more flexibility and is good to have in emergencies.
- By necessity, travel trailers must have one.
- Smaller coaches, such as van conversions and truck campers, don't really need to tow.
People who own larger motor homes and choose not to tow, generally find that they have limitations when they travel.
So much depends on the type of coach you own and your personal desires with regards to tow vehicles.
Can you use the vehicle you now own for towing?
The car or truck you currently own has to be rated for towing or must be weight rated to match the motor home that tows it.
If it isn’t, you’ll have to buy a different one, so you should consider this as part of your purchasing costs.
What type of towing equipment will you need?
If you tow a car with a motor home, you will either need a car trailer, tow dolly or tow bar and base plate.
If you plan on towing a trailer, you will need a Reese Hitch.
If you will be driving a van conversion or truck camper, you won’t need to tow.
Buying an RV Takes a Great Deal of Thought and Research
As you can see, finding the answers to some of these questions will take some time, and this is as it should be.
You should never rush into making a purchase because it is too easy to make a mistake that can really damage you.
Thinking about the issues discussed in this article will help you to make buying an RV a success and will reduce many risks for you, as well.
This article is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge. Content is for informational or entertainment purposes only and does not substitute for personal counsel or professional advice in business, financial, legal, or technical matters.
Questions & Answers
Question: What types of problems might I run into with a 2004 Thor Colorado?
Answer: You're talking about a 14-year-old coach, here, so unless it has been well maintained you could run into all sorts of problems, but no more than any other RV of its age. You should check for water damage, tire wear, odors, rust and similar issues.
© 2016 Sondra Rochelle