How to Buy an RV

Updated on January 1, 2020
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Jerry Fisher has learned a lot about used vehicles and their owners.

An early model RV - A Hanomag-Henschel Orion recreational vehicle
An early model RV - A Hanomag-Henschel Orion recreational vehicle

Getting an RV: The Options

There's a traveller and a dreamer in all of us. RVs have got so many great things going for them that if you've got just a little money you can buy one or convert one yourself. And if you're lucky enough to have a lot of money, you can go out and get the best on the road and have a Hilton on wheels.

Building or Converting Your Own

You can build your own Recreational Vehicle if you're reasonably good with your hands. Even if you're not, you could employ a local builder to convert one for you. Years ago, I converted one myself and had a ball. I travelled away in New Zealand for six months, stopping wherever I felt like on the side of rivers and beaches. And when I needed money, I'd just do laboring jobs in little towns, like strawberry picking. Ah, don't ever do this—worst job in the world. In the hot sun, on dry dirty soil I had to drag myself from strawberry plant to strawberry plant, picking them off. Backbreaking I tell you. Anyway, you've got to take what's given you.

I converted a 1958 split-window VW Kombi into a little VW RV. I thought then that it was fairly big, but i got up close to one a few weeks ago and and saw how small it was. But I had a blast, so who cares. I made a double bed (never know your luck) that folded up, so that in the day time I folded it back onto itself and it simply became a sofa. Then I made a handbasin—well I bought the basin, but made a stand for it that had a cupboard beneath it, for bits and pieces, plus a small two-gallon tank of fresh water and a pump. Just so I could have a wash. So this VW was very very basic and meant that if I wanted to stay somewhere for more than a few days I had to park it up in a holiday park so that I could use their shower and cooking facilities.

In those days, VW's were to be had pretty cheaply because nobody wanted one. Now they are highly collectable so if you want to do a basic RV conversion, you'll have to look out for an older Toyota HiAce, or, LiteAce maybe, and just do the same thing. It shouldn't cost you more than a couple of hundred dollars if you do it yourself, or, perhaps five to six hundred having your local builder do it for you.

Kombi Camper
Kombi Camper

A Fancy Fleetwood RV

The Best RV Campers

You could just opt to buy a fully fitted out RV. An example of a 40 footer that's about 12 years old with fairly low mileage - say about 25,000 miles, but beautifully fitted out, will set you back about $65,000. Once you've checked it out and everything's okay, as long as you service it on time, it should be good for another 12 -15 years, even if you put a huge mileage on it.

This RV Camper will have everything with it. TV, DVD theatre, slide out the side kitchen, leather furniture, and a diesel motor that not only will be economical, but have plenty of pulling power and be good for hundreds of thousands of miles.

Tips on Buying a Recreational Vehicle

Own or Rent:

If you haven't ever owned an RV before, first rent one and discover for yourself what RV's are like to drive and handle. By renting one you'll discover all sorts of things like fuel economy, your skills at parking, and how you like other people at RV parks. Also, if you take your family with you, you'll get a great idea of what kind of space you'll require in the future.

Gas or Diesel:

Gas engines are generally confined to smaller RV's and diesels to the larger ones. Bear in mind that if you are in a larger RV with a gas engine you will go through a lot of gas compared to a diesel engine in a larger RV. Diesel motors do require a little more maintenance than gas motors, but if they are well serviced, they last a lot longer. If you are carrying a lot of weight in your RV, like gear and a large family, keep in mind that ciesels pull a lot more weight economically than gas.

Used or New:

Definitely new if you can afford it. Be careful buying second hand. Just have them thoroughly checked out. If they've been treated badly there could be all sorts of trouble, like the slide-out not operating properly. Get a warranty if possible. You just don't want to spend your vacation in the repair shop. Also, if you want finance, financing older ones is frowned on by the banks. Get the owner to check out in front of you everything. Toilet, lights, air-con, water etc.

Where you plan to travel to:

This should also influence your decision too. If you plan to travel to hotter destinations, you'll need an RV with excellent air conditioning. More expensive RV's come with their own generators, but you can always buy a generator anyway. These days they're not too expensive. If you intend going to colder destinations, your RV will have to be well insulated.


If buying on Ebay, and you're interested in an RV in another state, it's easy enough to get someone there to check it out and report back. Look out for RV's being sold off by older folk. There can be some bargains to be had here. Older folk tend to buy really good ones, and if they can no longer use their vehicle you can get a bargain.

World's Most Expensive RV

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.


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