You've decided that you want to buy a Recreational Vehicle. But where do you find out how to buy an RV?

Why, right here, of course!

Figuring out how to buy an RV can be a daunting task. What do you need? Are there must-have amenities on your list? How much is this going to cost? Will they take a trade-in of your first-born child?

Figuring out where to start is your first hurdle. And you're here. So go ahead and cross that item off your to-do list. You have figured out where to start.

MAKING YOUR WISH LIST

wishlist

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Ah... the wish list. When learning how to buy an RV, the best place to start is with a wish list. What exactly do you think you might want in your new RV?


Start with a list of everything you think you might need in your RV. You're making this the perfect home-away-from-home. Write down everything, even the silly things.

The sky is the limit with your wish list.


All of these extras will add to the bottom line, but we'll discuss that later. For right now -- add everything you can think of to make your life on the road awesome.

DETERMINING YOUR PERSONAL NEEDS


car tools

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Now it's time for another list. This one will have your deal-breakers on it.

These are the absolute must-have items that you cannot live without. If an RV doesn't have these amenities, you're going to walk away from it. Right?

Well... maybe not, but you'll be hesitant to sign on the dotted line if the vehicle does not meet your needs.


This list will have all the things you need. What can you definitely not live without? The TV? That probably won't make this list. The solar panels? You'll need them if you plan on boondocking, but not if you're planning to camp in RV parks with electrical hookups.

Use your wish list. Anything that you add to this list you can remove from your wish list.

HECKING IT TWICE


Yes, this is really how you buy an RV. You decide what you want and what you need before you go to the sales lot.

Sales personnel work on commission and will try to talk you into everything, whether you can afford it or not. It's not their fault. They're usually really nice people, but they have to feed their kids, and those commissions are how they do that.


So make your lists, and pull a Santa. Check them twice. Set them aside for a day or two. The chances are that when you pick them up again, there will be slight adjustments. There will be new items you want to include, new wishes, and new must-haves.

Check your lists twice before going to the sales lot.

BACK TO SCHOOL FOR YOU -- EXPLAINING THE CLASSES

motorhome

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Part of learning how to buy an RV is determining how RVs are classified.

Just as our motor vehicles have identifying classifications, RVs also are defined by classes.

Here is where it gets a bit confusing, because they used an alphabetical designation, but they didn't classify them in alphabetical order.

CLASS A -- BUS CHASSIS AND A MORTGAGE PAYMENT


Class A RVs are the largest of the classes. These are frequently called motor coaches or motor homes. They are huge.

The average Class A motor home can weigh between 13,000 and 30,000 pounds, depending on construction, amenities, and cargo.


And they are expensive. Unless you happen upon an amazing deal, the price tag on a Class A motor coach will run you about the same as a mortgage on a single-family home.

Depending on where you live, you may have to obtain a special driver's license to operate a Class A RV. The laws vary from state-to-state. Make sure to do your research before going to the sales lot.

I know -- we're making you do homework, and all you want to know is how to buy an RV.

We are getting to that. But now, more on the smaller classes of RVs.

CLASS C -- RV MAKERS DON'T KNOW THE ALPHABET


Based on the size, Class C motor homes are the next step-down in size from Class A rigs.

An average Class C motor home will usually weigh in between 10,000 and 12,000 pounds. The weight, like the Class A RVs, is dependent on amenities, construction design, and of course, the cargo you choose to haul in it.


Class C motor homes usually have a van-front with an over-cab sleeping area. They are built on larger frames than the Class B RVs and are longer.

Most states do not require any special licensing for operating the Class C RVs. The deciding factors are weight and length. So, again, do your research before you head off to the sales lot.

Class C rigs are a perfect mid-range selection if you want more room or have a larger family. They are generally well-equipped and have plenty of convertible dual-use space.

CLASS B -- POPULAR, STYLISH, AND AFFORDABLE


By far the most popular class of RV, the Class B motor homes combine functionality, a smaller size, and affordability. Weighing about as much as 2 sedans, Class B rigs average between 6,000 and 8,000 pounds.


Although there might not be room for that 72-inch TV mounted on the wall, Class B motor homes come packed with nifty amenities. Designers have figured out ingenious ways to incorporate as many extras as the mind can imagine in a compact space.

Generally able to accommodate four to six sleepers, many Class B RVs are only slightly cramped, but comfortable. With the addition of slide outs, these smaller rigs can expand to become quite roomy.


If you are on a strict budget, consider a Class B RV. They are completely functional but have a considerably lower price tag than the larger classes. They will offer all the same amenities, but in a smaller space and may be not so lavish.

WHAT YOU NEED VS. WHAT YOU WANT

man having a breakfast

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Remember those lists you made? It's time to finalize your lists and make a final checklist to take with you to the sales lot.


Yes, we are going to get you to that sales lot. Eventually.

But first, let's streamline those lists.

MUST-HAVE DEAL-BREAKER AMENITIES


Pull out that list of your personal needs again. What did you have on it?

  • Flush toilet
  • Shower
  • AIR CONDITIONING
  • A small kitchenette with sink and cooking surface
  • Refrigerator with freezer, at least 1/2-size

Remember, this is the list of minimum requirements. If a salesperson wants to show you a rig without these basic amenities, you walk away, right?

That's the plan at least.

NICE TO HAVE AMENITIES


This is the second part of your list. Bear in mind that all of these items are available in most RVs, but they will add to the price tag.

Will you die without that 72-inch TV? Probably not. So it should be on this list. It would be nice to have it, but you really don't need it.


What else is on this list?

Don't stop there. Add that flip down ironing board if wrinkle-free clothes are a concern for you. Some models even have options for countertop dishwashers. So, indeed, the sky is the limit on your wish list.


When you get to the sales lot, the salesperson will probably help you cull this list just by telling you the associated additional costs. So, if it crosses your mind, jot it down.


HOW TO BUY AN RV: MEETING WITH THE SALESPERSON

handshake

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Your lists are in-hand, streamlined, and refined. You know exactly what you're looking for. Wait. You DON'T have a clue what you're looking for? That's okay too. You will know it when you see it.

Exploring several options during your shopping excursion is a great way to refine your wants and needs further.


Your lists are in-hand, streamlined, and refined. You know exactly what you're looking for. Wait. You DON'T have a clue what you're looking for? That's okay too. You will know it when you see it.

Exploring several options during your shopping excursion is a great way to refine your wants and needs further.

THIS IS WHEN YOU KICK THE TIRES


As you walk around the local RV sales lot, try to resist the urge to actually kick the tires. The sales people tend to frown on that.

What we mean when we use that phrase is to check out all the features and amenities included in RVs.

  • Operate the sun awnings
  • Open the cargo areas
  • Convert the dining area table into the extra sleeping area
  • Open the cabinets, drawers, and closets
  • Stand in the shower and reach up like you're washing your hair to make sure you fit.

Depending on the RV center, you probably won't be able to flush the toilets or run the showers (some do have models that allow for this practice).

Ask questions about everything on your list. Take notes. Jot pricing next to those items on your list.


You're going to get sticker-shock, so you might as well prepare for that before you get to the sales lot. Covering your shocked face is one of the best tricks you learn when learning how to buy an RV.

NO, YOU CAN'T TRADE IN YOUR FIRST-BORN FOR AN RV


As tempting as it may be, especially if you have a hormonal-crazed teenager, you cannot trade in your child for a discount on a new RV.


We know it is heart-breaking. But it is what it is.


LOANS, COLLATERAL, INTEREST RATES. AND SIGNING THAT CONTRACT


Although some RV sales lots will arrange to finance for you, it might be more prudent for you to shop around for loans on your own.

Most banks and credit unions will do a collateral loan for you at a much lower interest rate than a dealership vehicle loan.


So, do your research, set a budget, get a pre-approved loan, and then go shopping.

When considering how much you can afford, do not forget the insurance!

If you walk into a sales lot with a pre-approved loan, you may receive extra bonuses. The reason is simple. With a pre-approved loan, it is like buying with cash for the dealership.

The salesperson will receive their commission as soon as your check clears, and you will be their new favorite customer. With a deal financed through the dealership, they may not receive that commission for several months.


So, yes, they treat you like gold if you make your own financial arrangements.


ADDITIONAL MUST-KNOWS IF YOU ARE BUYING A USED RV

If you are buying a used RV, there are several factors that you need to consider. Because used RVs are often beyond any factory warranty period, you need to ask specific questions when you go to check out your possible purchase.


What you learned about how to buy an RV is easily applied to purchasing a used RV. But there are a few extra things to know too.

1

ASK FOR PAST SERVICE RECORDS

Many RV owners keep meticulous records of service intervals for their rigs.

Private owners probably have a whole file with receipts and a historical record of every time a wrench has touched their "baby."

2

SORE FEET CAN BE AN EXPENSIVE ENDEAVOR

Check those tires. Dry rotting is the most common failure on any RV. Because the RV generally spends more time sitting than it does rolling, tire life decreases.

You can quickly check the date of manufacture for the tires, at least for tires made after the year 2000, when standardized marking was incorporated.


If the tires were manufactured before 2000, they would display a 3-digit code. That denotes the week and year of manufacture, but it gets a bit confusing. The first 2 digits are the week and will range from 01 to 52. The last number is the final digit of the year of manufacture.

But here's the catch.


There is no decade identifier, so a tire showing the numeral "4" as the final digit in the DOT code sequence could mean 1984 or 1994.

That anomaly has been corrected for tires made after 2000, where there is a 4-digit number at the end of the DOT code. That denotes the week (01 - 52) and the last 2 digits of the year of manufacture.


The DOT only requires tires to be marked on one side. So, if you don't see the DOT code on the outward-facing tire sidewall, it means it is on the inside. Grab a flashlight and crawl.

3

MAINTENANCE ISSUES ARE NOT ALWAYS DEAL-KILLERS

When considering a used RV, don't automatically rule out an RV that needs maintenance.

Evaluate the problems. If you are mechanically savvy, they may be easy repairs for you to make. You can call a few repair outlets and get estimates. If you know what an RV needs to be serviceable, you can plan those expenditures into your budgeting.


So, mechanical issues and old, dry-rotted tires shouldn't be an absolute deal-killer when shopping the used RV market. New tires will cost you a bundle, but if you are prepared for that expense, it's all good.

YOU NOW KNOW HOW TO BUY AN RV -- START SHOPPING

We are sure that after reading how to buy an RV, you are confident that you can navigate your way through the sales maze.


We found these tips very useful:

Learning how to buy an RV, while somewhat similar to buying a car, is also similar to buying a house.

It will be a considerable investment, so knowing what you are doing before walking onto the sales lot is crucial.


A quick rehash:

  1. 1
    Make a must-have list of amenities
  2. 2
    Add a wish list with everything else
  3. 3
    Determine the size you need/want
  4. 4
    Do your research before going to the sales lot
  5. 5
    Kick those tires (try everything out)
  6. 6
    Set a budget and stay within it
  7. 7
    Figure out your best financing options

The last thing on your list is to enjoy your new RV.

We hope you have enjoyed our foray into how to buy an RV and learned some great tips to make your buying experience a good one. Drop us a comment and tell us about your new RV.


featured image source: pixabay.com

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