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Important Advice for First-Time RV Buyers

Updated on April 9, 2017
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an avid RV enthusiast who has traveled, lived, workcamped and volunteered nationwide for more than 50 years and am still going strong!

You may be thinking of buying a recreational vehicle. If so, there is some important information you should arm yourself with before you head down to your local dealership.

Buying a motor home, trailer or camper is not the same as purchasing a car because they are expensive, complex and generally have more problems.

It is fairly easy to repair or trade in a car , but this is not the case with RVs.

Therefore, anybody wishing to own a coach should take great care during the buying process.

Jumping into the purchase of an RV without knowing how to protect your interests is a big mistake.
Jumping into the purchase of an RV without knowing how to protect your interests is a big mistake. | Source

Assume Nothing

Most people decide to buy an RV so that they can either

  1. avoid the high costs of flying, hotel, car rentals and dining that plague them every time they want to take a vacation or
  2. eliminate the high costs of home ownership and the physical labor that goes along with it.

Because many of these individuals have little experience with recreational vehicles, most don't understand the importance of learning what they can about them before they start searching for one.

They assume that buying a coach is similar to making the purchase of a car, but this type of faulty thinking can be a mistake that will likely end badly for them.

To protect themselves people need to do their homework ahead of time so they can stop "assuming" and start using facts to guide their buying decisions.

Never Trust RV Salesmen

Most individuals have a natural distrust of car salesmen. However, they assume that the people selling RVs also own and travel in them and thus are credible.

The truth is that those who sell recreational vehicles are nothing more than people working on commission, most of whom know little or nothing about their products and have never owned or traveled in them.

In fact, many of them used to be car salesmen!

This being the case, their only goal is to close the deal and make as much money doing so as possible.

Your salesman may look like just another RV owner, but he usually isn't.
Your salesman may look like just another RV owner, but he usually isn't. | Source

Examine Everything

People who have never owned recreational vehicles are often amazed at how luxurious they are.

This is because most of them are professionally designed with quality products that are much better than those that most people have in their homes!

Because of this, buyers assume that all parts of a coach are also "quality constructed", so they don't take the time to carefully examine units.

Many interior cosmetics can be easily upgraded and repaired if need be, but replacing a roof, eliminating underbelly rust, replacing flawed engines and generators or installing new windows are all major issues that can cost consumers tens of thousands of dollars.

How to Know If an RV Is Well Designed and Constructed and What You Need to Know About RV Manufacturing Rip-Offs provide excellent advice about what you should look for and inspect when making a recreational vehicle purchase.

Examine and check every inch of a coach before agreeing to buy it.
Examine and check every inch of a coach before agreeing to buy it. | Source

Test Everything

Dealerships often show coaches with the slide rooms in the "out" position.

Always ask to see them closed so that you will know how much room you'll have when driving. Some have so little that you can barely walk to the kitchen or even be able to open the refrigerator door. This can be a serious inconvenience when you are forced to park on a site that does not allow enough room to open slides.

There are a number of similar issues a buyer should address prior to signing on the dotted line. These include but are not limited to

  • refrigerators,
  • inverters,
  • engines,
  • generators,
  • ice makers,
  • furnaces,
  • hot water heaters,
  • smoke alarms,
  • gas alarms,
  • microwaves,
  • windows,
  • locks,
  • doors,
  • lights and
  • brakes.

Don't forget also to take a coach for a test drive and make sure the shower and seating areas are big enough and kitchen counter space is ample.

Ignore Verbal Promises

RV sales people have little authority when it comes to fulfilling any promises they make, so buyers cannot count on what they say.

So, for example, if they promise to update a unit's television set or put an ice maker in the refrigerator, chances are these things will never happen!

This is because that the cost of these items will be taken out of the salesman's commission check, unless his boss gives him permission to provide them. His boss is highly unlikely to do so unless refusing means losing the deal.

Furthermore, since what a salesman says is not put in writing (unless you know enough to insist), he is not legally bound to provide service or products to a buyer.

The bottom line is that anybody purchasing a recreational vehicle should never sign a sales agreement that does not include every item that was discussed.

Once you sign, you own the coach and those promises of repairs and upgrades will simply disappear!

Understand That There Are No Guarantees

People often flock to large, well known dealerships or buy brands that are well known.

The problem is that the terms "big and famous" do not always equate to quality and honesty.

Some of the most well known brands of RV are known to be fraught with problems, and some of the biggest dealerships will steal client money faster than many of the smaller ones.

There are no guarantees, and those who think there are often find themselves buried with financial, legal and mechanical problems.

The only way for people to protect themselves is to

  1. take all the time necessary to learn what they need to know,
  2. comparison shop and
  3. read contracts and warranties carefully before signing them.

How to Avoid RV Contract and Warranty Problems provides important information about this topic and is a "must read" for anybody wishing to purchase a motor home, travel trailer or camper.

The Bottom Line

As you can see, there is a lot more to buying an RV than you might think.

You need to remember that, unlike a car, a recreational vehicle is something you spend time living in, either part time or full time.

You need to buy one that you can afford but also will endure. It's also important to make sure that the deal you thought you were getting is the one you received.

Good Luck.

Before reading this article, were you fully aware of what you need to do when buying an RV?

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© 2016 TIMETRAVELER2

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