If you’re looking to purchase an RV, you should know a few things to ensure you make an informed decision. No matter your financial situation, you might run into unforeseen expenses and maintenance costs that can put you over your budget.
Consider these points when purchasing an RV to ensure you get the most out of your vehicle.
1. Have a Clear Vision
An RV is a huge expense, so you need to have a clear vision of how you’re going to use it. You should ask yourself the following questions when you being your search:
- Why will you use the RV?
- How many people will use it?
- Where will you use it?
- When will you use it?
- What is your lifestyle?
By going through this self-evaluation, you will determine what type of RV will best suit your situation. Certain activities require certain amenities, so you need to think long and honestly about how you plan to use your vehicle. Once you visualize the RV you need, you can begin to explore options that fit the mold.
2. Explore All Options
While it’s helpful to narrow down your search, you shouldn’t limit your search to new vehicles. Standard new RVs cost up to $75,000 and can reach six figures with additional features. Keep your search open to used and rentals while exploring RV listings.
A rental is the best option if you will only use the RV once or twice a year. You don’t have to maintain the vehicle as frequently, and you can also rent several RVs over a year to test out different models firsthand.
As with other used vehicles, used RVs come with varying levels of mileage and damage, which means prices have a wide range. You could find a great deal that saves thousands of dollars, or on the other hand, you could fall into a scam and end up losing thousands. Keep a clear mind and your eyes open.
Focus your search on a handful of RVs in a similar price range so you can determine how much you’re going to spend and prepare your funds for the purchase well ahead of time.
3. Closely Inspect the Vehicle
Let’s say you’re interested in a specific RV and want to see the vehicle in person. Since an RV is a car and a home rolled into one, the inspection process takes some deep digging. You need to know where to look.
First and foremost, use the RV’s vehicle identification number (VIN) to investigate its history online. There you will see its complete record of reported damages and repairs. Keep an especially close eye on the tire condition, as RV tires require special maintenance.
Once you cover the basics of vehicle inspection, you need to take a look inside. The following elements are unique to RVs and should also be towards the top of your checklist:
- Plumbing: Make sure the sinks, toilets and other bathroom fixtures work correctly.
- Electric: Turn on all the lights, TV, radio, and other electrical appliances.
- Cabinets: Open each cabinet and inspect the inside for damages.
- Furniture: Check the seats and sleeping arrangements for tears and stains.
- Mold: Check the walls, ceilings, and floors for mold. You’ll probably smell it before you see it.
- Water Damage: If you see/smell mold, the RV probably has water damage.
- Floor Damage: Test the floor’s integrity to feel any soft spots. Soft spots often indicate unseen water damage or rotting.
- Exterior Walls: The RV’s outside walls should be sturdy with little give. Also, check the outer panels for corrosion.
If you’re satisfied with the RV’s condition, take it for a practice drive as a final confirmation. At this point, you’re probably set on buying the vehicle, but take an extra moment to consider other expenses. Some models – especially used vehicles – have additional features that affect the price and how you need to maintain them.
4. Consider Other Expenses
Different RVs require differing levels of care, which means you might have to do some extra unforeseen spending. Keep these expenses in mind during your RV search:
- Taxes: Between state taxes and luxury taxes, you could end up paying thousands more than you expected.
- Trailer Plate Fee: Some states have permanent plates and others don’t, which causes fees to vary.
- Insurance: Insurance also varies by state.
- Towing Gear: Your RV needs the right towing equipment, a brake controller and a tire pressure monitor.
- Parking Gear: Chocks, leveling blocks, locks, and surge protectors will keep your vehicle stable and secure.
- Outdoor Essentials: You need water supplies, dump station supplies and bug screens.
- Indoor Essentials: Food, kitchen supplies, bedding, toiletries and other essential expenses quickly add up.
- Maintenance: RVs require frequent maintenance to stay in good condition.
The above expenses will help make your RV legal for driving and fully operational, but another expense deserves its own section.
5. Find a Reliable Storage Location
Most owners use their RVs sparingly, so the vehicle spends most of its time sitting in storage. With that in mind, you need to find a secure and reliable storage location for your RV before you make your purchase.
If you don’t have an area with sufficient protection from the elements, your RV’s condition will slowly deteriorate both inside and out, even with minimal use. Most locations have several RV storage facilities for this specific reason.
Strongly consider renting a storage unit for your RV if you don’t plan on using it frequently. It will prevent needless damages and increase your vehicle’s longevity.
An RV is a Full-Time Commitment
With numerous moving parts, a long maintenance checklist, miscellaneous expenses and the necessity for reliable storage, an RV is a full-time commitment. It might be a recipe for a great trip in the outdoors, but it’s not a toy.
Before purchasing an RV, consider the factors above and understand that it requires your full attention, no matter what vehicle you choose.