Apart from your home, your RV may be the single most expensive item you ever buy. These four simple tips are guaranteed to save you time and money during the process.
• Figure Out What You Want Before You Shop. Sounds like a no brainer, right? You’d be surprised at the number of people who don’t have a clue the first time they sit down with that sweet-talking salesperson. These are generally the same people who end up spending $20,000 more than they can comfortably afford for features they will seldom, if ever, use.
Before looking at models, take out a piece of paper and start jotting down your criteria. How much can you comfortably afford to spend? New RV or used? Motorized RV or a towed? How big a vehicle can you handle on the road in terms of your own driving skills?
Budget is the most inflexible pre-condition for most folk. RV loan rates are generally higher than auto rates, and insurance can cost a pretty penny too.
Buying a used RV allows you to stretch that budget further. Like cars, RVs start depreciating the second they drive off the lot: you can get something that’s close to new for a lot less money. Additionally, there are deals galore from older couples who decide after one or two tries that the traveling life is not for them, and are looking to sell their almost new RV at a bargain price. The downside? As with any used vehicle, it’s easy to get stuck with a lemon. It’s best to vet any prospective purchase of a used RV by asking to see the maintenance records and running a vehicle history report.
When you find a unit you like, go to your interview with the seller with the blue book value in hand and bargain! No matter what he tries to tell you, the dealer is in a position to offer a discount – between 18% and 25% on higher cost models, and 10% to 15% on lower cost models.
• Know What You’re Using Your RV For. You don’t need a motorhome with all the trimmings if you’re only going to be using it for one or two weekends a summer; a small pop-up or camper trailer will fit your needs better. On the other hand, if you’re planning to spend the next six months touring the USA, then you want to optimize your living space and amenities.
How do you determine your minimum requirements? Take a trip in a rented RV and see how comfortable you are. Renting an RV is not cheap; it will run you approximately $100 per day. But if you’re a newcomer to RVing, there’s no better way to get a feel for it. What a disaster it would be for you to discover – after you’d signed away your life savings on the dotted line – that your new home feels cramped and squalid, or that the RV lifestyle is not for you.
Spend time investigating the respective floorplans of different models. Plan to visit an RV show or two – not from the perspective of a prospective buyer but for research purposes.
• Skip Costly Options – For Now. Okay, you’ve done your research and found a model you like: it’s still more than your budget will comfortably allow. Skip some of the more expensive options. While AC generators, microwave ovens and TV satellite dishes are very nice things, are they absolutely essential to your comfort? You can always ignore them for the time being and buy them at a later date. There are a lot more accessories available for RVs than there are for cars, and dealers rely on them to suck money out of your bank account. Go in to the dealership with a written list of what you absolutely can’t live without, and don’t let the dealer upsell beyond your written specifications.
• Make Sure Everything Works. Before you buy, check the insides of closets and cabinets for indications of water damage that may signify a leaky roof. You do not want to buy a unit with a leaky roof: Repairs are hit or miss, and sooner or later you end up with dry rot in your walls and framing. Also, before you take your new RV off the lot, make sure the water pumps, toilets, refrigerator, stove, awnings and other feature are working optimally and if they’re not, how the seller plans to replace them.