The Best Way to Buy an RV

Updated on February 12, 2020
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I have had a great deal of experience both buying and selling RVs and think people should understand the mechanics of doing these things.

Many people who decide to purchase campers, travel trailers or motor homes simply start shopping.

When they find one they like, they buy it.

Sometimes this method works out, but more often it does not because making a big ticket purchase like this requires more than just “liking” something and making arrangements for owning it.

Any expensive item carries a certain amount of risk with it, but this especially the case when it comes to RVs because the average person knows so little about them and all of the things that are involved in owning, living and traveling in them.

Thus, if you are in the market for a travel unit, you might want to pay close attention to what I’m going to tell you.

My husband and I have owned, traveled and lived in recreational vehicles of all types for more than 50 years. As a result, we’ve learned a great deal about them.

Some of the lessons have been painful, but all have brought us to valuable conclusions that can save potential buyers money, legal problems and a great deal of aggravation.

How to get the best deal when  buying an RV
How to get the best deal when buying an RV | Source

Rent First

If you are serious about buying an RV, I strongly suggest that you rent a few and take several short trips in each so that you’ll know whether this form of travel is something you will enjoy.

Although millions of people vacation this way, it isn’t for everybody. For this reason, it’s better to find out before you buy than after!

Consider Your Plans

Once you have decided that you want to own an RV, you should think carefully about the type of unit you want to buy and how you plan to use it now and in the future

This is an important point because things change as time goes on. Making the right choice in the beginning can carry you through many of those changes, thus saving you a great deal of time and money.

For example, you may initially want to purchase a unit to use on weekends every once in a while but later may realize you want to take longer RV trips.

If this happens, which it often does, you’ll find that you will need to trade your weekender for something larger, more comfortable and more durable.

On the other hand, if you initially purchase a unit that can be used for both purposes, you will save time, money and effort because you’ll be good to go wherever you like in the coach you already own!

Think carefully before making any RV purchase.
Think carefully before making any RV purchase. | Source

Set Your Financial Limits

Another important decision is to decide how much you can afford to spend for a camper, travel trailer, or motor home.

None will be inexpensive, but some definitely cost more than others.

There are many hidden and unexpected expenses involved in buying and owning any of them, so while setting your limits, you need to know what those are.

How Much Does It Really Cost to Own an RV? will enlighten you about this issue.

Know What You Want

Before you start shopping, make a list of the things you want to have. To do this should consider questions such as these and other similar ones:

  1. How much living space will you need to have?
  2. Do you want to tow a vehicle?
  3. Would you prefer a large or small coach?
  4. How much counter space will you need in the kitchen?
  5. What size bed will you want to have?
  6. What size unit will you be comfortable driving?
  7. What type of RV do you want to own?
  8. Will you have a place to store it?

It takes a lot of time and a great deal of research to come up with a good list.

RVs are made up of many components, so you have to know what they are before you can decide about them.

Items such as the type of roof, refrigerator, bathroom, storage areas, tires, and others can make a huge difference once you start traveling, so you need to learn about them if you want to get the best bang for your buck!

For example, recently certain manufacturers started placing frameless windows in their coaches. This hasn’t worked out well for many consumers because in some cases they actually have fallen out!

How much living area will you need to have in your RV?
How much living area will you need to have in your RV? | Source

Understand the Financials

While it’s great to set up your buying budget, doing this won’t mean a thing if you do so without knowing the facts.

Things you need to think about are

  • sales price,
  • taxes.
  • storage costs,
  • depreciation costs,
  • finance charges,
  • maintenance and repair costs,
  • insurance and any other expenses involved in buying and owning a recreational vehicle.

The best way to learn about these things is to go to RV shows, talk to parts and service people about repair costs, check your local area for storage fees, learn how depreciation works, call your insurance company and bank to ask important financial questions and also talk with people who own the type of RV you think you want to purchase.

You can find much of this information with online searches, but you have to be thorough if you do this.

Your two biggest enemies will be depreciation and financing, so do whatever you must to learn about them as they can create major problems for you.

For example, did you know that new RVs depreciate 20% as soon as you drive off the sales lot with them? This means if you become unhappy and want to sell or trade, you’ll take a major financial loss. If you have financed instead of paying cash, you’ll also be upside down on your loan which can mean you won’t be able to get rid of your unit!

Investigate Buying Venues

It’s also important to understand that there are many types of RV selling situations. When making a purchase, you need to consider the pros and cons of each.

Again, this means doing some homework. You want to buy from a seller who will give you a decent coach for a fair price. He also needs to be trustworthy.

Where do you find him?

Well, you can check out

  • dealerships,
  • consignment shops,
  • individuals,
  • auto sellers,
  • businesses,
  • banks and credit unions,
  • newspaper ads and
  • online sellers.

Each has its pros and cons, so before you buy, you need to make sure you understand what and who they are.

Time to Start Shopping

Once you’ve gathered all of your basic information, you should have a very clear idea about what you want, how much you can afford to pay and where you want to make your purchase.

It’s now time to start shopping!

Doing this is time consuming and tedious, but it is the only way you can really get the travel unit you want to own.

You may well find it at any of the above-named venues, but if you have done your homework, you’ll be able to spot the good ones.

I can tell you from personal experience that two of the best motor homes we have ever owned came from car dealerships, so you just never know! Keep an open mind.

One book that can help you immensely is How to Select, Inspect and Buy an RV. My husband and I have used the information from this book numerous times and by doing so found that we saved ourselves a good deal of time, money and problems.

I like the fact that we can carry it with us when shopping so that we can remind ourselves about the things we need to do. It is easy to forget if you don’t have a book like this one with you in addition to your list when you start looking for a unit.

Examine Carefully

Once you think you’ve found the RV you’d like to buy, take the time to examine it carefully. The details in The Best Way to Avoid Buying a Defective RV will show you how to do this.

Use all of your senses.

  1. If it doesn’t smell good, there’s a problem.
  2. If the wallpaper is coming loose or is discolored, there’s a problem.
  3. The tires should be less than 5 years old and show no major signs of wear.
  4. The roof should be clean and well sealed.
  5. Check for rust both inside and under the unit.

What you see, smell, touch and hear are going to be more important than any excuses you hear from your seller.


Once you have satisfied yourself that the unit you want is in good shape, it’s time to make your deal.

Don’t be afraid to let the seller know that you are not going to accept their asking price but will accept a reasonable deal.

This would be one that you can afford and, if possible, carries some sort of warranty.

  • If you have found problems, ask the seller correct them. To do this, make him write those promises into your contract. Do not pay him until after he has completed the work.
  • If he doesn’t want to make repairs, ask him to reduce the price to cover your costs for making them yourself!

No matter what your seller says, if it is not in writing, it won’t matter.

Read your contract and warranty information carefully. If you do not completely understand this information completely, pay a lawyer to read and explain it to you.

Make sure, also, that you understand the total amount you will have to pay, not just the selling price. This figure would include things such as preparation fees, sales tax and registration costs, detailing and any excess repair costs.

The bottom line of the contract should be exactly what you were told it would be and not one penny more!

During this process, you’ll have to decide how you plan to pay for your unit.

Cash is always king, but with RV prices being what they are, most people opt for financing.

If you must finance, shop around for the best deal. You do not have to finance through your seller.

If you are satisfied and understand and agree to everything, sign the contract.

Watch Out for Fraud

While following these guidelines, make sure to keep an eye out for scams. How to Protect Yourself From Online RV Scams and RV Dealership Scams That Will Shock You will help you to do this.

Unfortunately, because there is so much money involved in the buying and selling of recreational vehicles these days, there have been many sellers perpetrating frauds.

These do a great deal of financial harm to consumers, so it is up to the individual buyer to make sure he does not become a victim.

If you do your homework, ask lots of questions, use your common sense and investigate RVs carefully, you’ll be able to buy that camper, travel trailer or motor home that is the perfect one for you.

Do you now feel that you can do a better job of buying an RV?

See results

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.

© 2018 Sondra Rochelle


Submit a Comment
  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile imageAUTHOR

    Sondra Rochelle 

    23 months ago from USA

    Thank you. Hope it helps.

  • Eurofile profile image

    Liz Westwood 

    23 months ago from UK

    You give great advice in this article.


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