If you are new to the RV lifestyle and are thinking of purchasing your very first RV, here are some tips to help you get through it.
- Shop around. You will be surprised how much cheaper you can buy the same RV elsewhere. Look in other states. Depending on what you are buying, it may be worth the savings to fly and purchase the same RV elsewhere. Do not trust what a salesperson is telling you. No offense. But they are known to “expand” the truth sometimes. Many of them don’t even go RVing. Ask them what kind they have. What they like about it. What they don’t like about it. And so on. And if they have two different brands on the lot that are pretty much identical, they are going to steer you towards the higher priced one. Whether the quality is better or not. Do not buy at the end of fall or winter time, especially if you live in a climate that has a limited camping season. If you purchase at the end of the season, then you will probably winterize the RV and it will sit there for months and months, not used. Then come around 6 months or so (depending on where you live) when you bring it out of hibernation, you will discover a myriad of issues that you didn’t catch before. But your manufacturers warranty is running out. Purchase at the end of winter or beginning of spring. You will be more apt to use it sooner and work out the kinks and any major issues. Of course, if you live or will be in Florida or Arizona, that won’t make much difference.
- Look for a discount. You should be able to get most RV’s (especially towables) at 30-35% off the MSRP. There are some brands or types that you may not get that much, but those are going to be specialized type and ones that hold their resale value. But you should still expect a discount of at least half of what I mentioned above.
- Although you may have an excellent buying experience, don’t expect the same type of experience with their service department. Make sure you have options of getting your RV worked on at other locations. We’ve heard of some dealers will not service your warranty items if you didn’t purchase from them. So be sure to ask around.
- Understand that RV’s are expensive. A lot of people spend their life savings to travel during their retirement, some save up money to purchase them to spend quality family time and a lot spend money they probably shouldn’t. But no matter whatever walk of life you come from, it’s a big purchase. RV’s are not perfect. While many cost as much as a house, they are not built to the same standards and are not required to meet the same standards. When a home is being built, there are codes that the local government require. After a certain stage of work, an inspection is required, before progress can be continued. Not so in the RV world. Although many people call an RV their home and they live in it full time, they are not designed (or intended) to be used that way. It’s really a catch 22 thing. If they built them to be intended for full time living, then there would be stricter codes/laws they would have to abide by. You would of course see craftsmanship improve along with the price of RV’s skyrocket. And the time to build one would take longer.
Most RV’s are built with the same components. You will have different levels of quality components, but they will typically be the same. For instance, water pumps, stoves, toilets, refrigerators (except maybe residential ones), slides, and etc are all made from one or two companies usually. If you are buying a $100k motorhome, you are probably going to get a cheaper version (although same company made) water pump than you would in a $300k motorhome. Kind of like in a $100k house, you will probably get a GE stove, but it will probably be one of the cheapest and either black or white in color. Whereas a $300k home, you will probably get a higher end stainless steel GE stove. Just remember that when looking at RV’s.
- Ok, this is the big You’ve found your perfect RV. Do NOT sign any paperwork or accept ownership of the RV until it has been inspected thoroughly by you and the dealership. Spend hours in the RV. Go over it with a fine tooth comb. Make notes, no really, write them down, of issues you are finding. Actually, make two sets of notes. One of things that the dealer definitely needs to take care of. And another of things that you can do in a few minutes. This will save you time and heartache in the long run. RV’s have 100’s if not 1000’s of people go through them. Whether on the lot or if the RV was taken to a show. And although an RV might just have arrived on the lot, doesn’t mean it wasn’t on another lot for a period of time. Camping World does that sort of thing. When an RV sits on a lot for a period of time without any interest, they will move it to another Camping World dealership, hoping people will think it’s coming directly from the factory. And ask if the RV has ever been used. It may sound funny, but dealers have been known to let their employees use RV’s. They can legally sell them as new because the title never changed hand. See my “Don’t Get Screwed Buying a New RV” video at https://youtu.be/tSBIp3U7X1Q.
Preferably, hire an independent inspector. Don’t rely on the dealership to help you find one. Find one on your own. Check out the National Recreational Vehicle Inspectors Association (https://nrvia.org/). They have an inspector locator on their website. They even have their “Code of Ethics” listed on their website.
Make sure you are shown how to operate every system in the RV and in every situation. I don’t care if you don’t plan on spending a week in the middle of the Mojave Desert, figure out how you can. Make sure water is put in the fresh water tank and that a hose is connected to the city fill inlet. Run water through everything and in both situations (fresh water will require the water pump). Make sure anything that takes water has water run through it. Sinks, shower, toilet(s), outside shower, ice maker (if there is one), etc. If you have time only to spend one day with the RV, then go early in the morning and spend all day with it. Run the generator for a couple hours. Turn on the AC. Turn on the heat. Do all things that run on propane work? How do you hook up the sewer hose? Have them physically help you attach a hose and how it works. Same for water. And don’t forget about the freshwater fill also. Even if you never use it. Make sure you know how to and that it works as designed.
This is a long tip section, but a very important one. Probably the most important one. Do not take it lightly. Do not go in all googly eyed and wanting your RV today so you use it tomorrow or this weekend.
Now that you have found out that RV’s are not perfect. Don’t be disheartened. If your list of things the dealer needs to correct is super long, then maybe you should pass on the RV and look for another one.
- When you are sitting down at the table to make the purchase, they are going to try to sell you every other thing they can with it. They will tell you horror stories of how people were out thousands of dollars for this and that, in order to sell you an extended warranty. I’m not going to tell you to not buy one (as we have in the past), but I will give some advice that we have learned over the years. Extended warranties are highly commissioned. 75-85% of an extended warranty is set aside for commission and marketing. Yeah so for every $1000 on an extended warranty you buy, about $750-850 of that is not even involved in repairing your RV. Statistically about 12% if going towards repair of breakage. So, in other words, $120 of the $1000. But there are no $1000 extended warranties. You are probably looking at least 5 times that amount or more. So if $5000 for a warranty sounds good to cover statistically about $500 worth of breakage, then go for it. Oh, did I mention you will have an out-of-pocket deductible? Yep, you sure will. It could be anywhere from $50-200. And if you have one through Camping World, they will charge you shipping of the parts to repair your RV. And we aren’t talking free 2 day Amazon Prime shipping either! And don’t forget, these warranties are usually only 5-6 years long (after your initial manufacturer’s warranty). And that $5000 is really not $5000. Usually people will include it in their financing of the RV. So include all the interest you will be paying on it.
If you are one that has cash to put down on a warranty and wouldn’t be financing it, then the best thing to do is self-insure. Take that same money that you would spend for the extended warranty and put it in a savings or money market account. Let it sit. Then when you need to use it for a repair (that you can’t afford out of your regular checking account), just pull it out from there. If you get the chance, try to replenish it. It may take a little while, but you will have that money still there. Yes, there are true horror stories out there. But the matter of the fact is that the total amount of people that have gotten their money’s worth and more is very little. 99% of the time, if you self-insure, you will come out ahead.
- Do not get overwhelmed with buying a lot of stuff for your RV at first. Make sure you have the essentials: sewer hose, water hose, etc. The next thing to purchase for your RV is a toolbox. Yep a toolbox. Doesn’t have to be a big rolling one with every tool known to mankind. Just a simple little one with screwdrivers, wrenches, sockets, and hammer. Maybe throw in some zip ties and tape (plumbing, electrical and duct).
- And remember, that the RV you purchase, may have no issues, little issues, or a lot of issues. It’s really not the brand, style or model. You can have two identical next to each other, but their issues or lack of issues may be different.
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