Mistakes In RV Shopping And How To Avoid Them

Various social and economic shifts have led to a renewed interest in the RV lifestyle and a massive increase in first-time buyers shopping for their dream RV.

If you are considering joining the ranks of first-time RV buyers, make sure you take the time to read our guide on the top RV buying mistakes and learn what you can do to avoid them.

It is easy to get overwhelmed by the dizzying array of options to choose from. Without question, buying a new RV is an exciting event, but before you sign on the dotted line, take the time to do a bit of research and learn from the mistakes of others so you can enjoy your brand new RV for years to come.

Let’s take a look at the top 5 mistakes people make when shopping for an RV and the steps you can take to avoid them.

Mistake #1: Failing To Make A Budget

It is easy to get tunnel vision on the sticker price when shopping for an RV. While the purchase price of an RV is undoubtedly a vital budgeting consideration, several other factors can influence the total cost of an RV, both during the initial purchase and throughout the time that you own the RV.

Here is a generalized breakdown of some of the factors impacting the overall cost of an RV.

Purchase Price

Powered motorhomes can range from around $60,000 to $500,000 or more. Tow behind RVs are less costly, with purchase prices ranging from around $10,000 to $150,000; however, if you do not have a vehicle capable of safely towing the RV you choose, then you will need to factor in the purchase price of an appropriate tow vehicle as well.

Maintenance Costs

The type of RV that you choose will have a significant impact on the costs that you will need to budget for throughout the life of the RV. Certain RVs simply require more maintenance than others. For example, powered RVs are going to require mechanical maintenance and mechanical repair work by virtue of the fact that they have engines and drive trains that tow behind RVs do not have.

When considering the cost of future maintenance, it is important to think about how you intend to use your RV. If you are going to be traveling great distances over rough terrain or spending a great deal of time in your RV, then it may make sense to spend a little more at the time of purchase to take home a more rugged RV that is specifically built to stand up to the rigors of full-time RV adventure lifestyle.

Fuel Costs

Gas costs are another expense that often gets overlooked. Hauling a full-fledged house on wheels up and down hills and over various terrain uses a lot of fuel. Powered motorhomes generally get somewhere between 6 – 10 miles per gallon, so consider the cost of fuel before going this route. The cost of fuel must be taken into consideration when choosing a towable RV as well. Despite not having engines, the size and weight of the towable RV that you select will have a significant impact on the fuel economy of the vehicle that you will use to tow the RV.

Mistake #2: Not Considering BOTH New & Used RVs

When shopping for a new RV, first-time buyers often gravitate to the glossy ads and brochures from the RV manufacturers. But before you take on the purchase price of a brand new RV, spend some time shopping around at your local RV dealership to check out both new and used RV options.

Both new RVs and used RVs have their own unique set of advantages and disadvantages, so you owe it to yourself to carefully consider the pros and cons of each option before making your final decision.

For example, new RVs have a fairly steep value depreciation, meaning that the moment you take possession and drive it off of the dealer’s lot, it will already be worth significantly less than the price that you paid to purchase it brand new. Of course, the steep drop in resale value versus purchase price can be offset if you plan to own your RV for several years. Buying a brand new RV offers the obvious advantage of lower maintenance costs during the first year or so, as all of the components will be brand new and will not have already suffered wear and tear from previous owners.

On the flip side, gently used RVs can offer first-time buyers the opportunity to get more bang for their buck by purchasing a gently used version of an RV that may have been out of their price range when new, but it is now steeply discounted due to it’s used status.

Mistake #3: Failing To Properly Inspect An RV Before Purchase

Regardless of whether you opt to purchase a brand new RV or a gently used model, it is vital that you take the time to thoroughly inspect every single system and feature of the RV before signing the purchase order and taking your new RV off of the dealer lot.

Remember, even brand new RVs may have manufacturer defects or shoddy construction, and a thorough pre-purchase inspection will help you avoid purchasing a lemon that winds up costing you a fortune in repairs.

A pre-purchase RV inspection should include a demonstration of all of the systems, including plumbing, electrical, and mechanical, from the slide-outs to the waste systems, to the overhead lights and electrical outlets. This functionality test is crucial for both new and used RVs.

If you are purchasing a used RV, you will need to pay close attention to the condition of the roof and the sides of the RV, as well as the interior walls and ceilings. As RVs are exposed to the elements in a variety of different climates, they are particularly prone to developing water leaks over time. You will want to carefully inspect the RV, both inside and out, for any signs of water damage, as this can lead to costly repairs if allowed to go unremedied for an extended period of time.

Mistake #4: Buying The Wrong Type Or Size RV

One of the most common mistakes that first-time RV buyers make is getting caught up in the excitement of choosing the prettiest or the fanciest RV with all of the coolest features and failing to consider whether the type and size of the RV is the proper fit for their family and their lifestyle.

For example, while large Class A Motorhomes and luxury fifth-wheel trailers are often decked out with creature comforts that rival any traditional home, including king-size beds, full-size closets, island kitchens, and entertainment centers complete with electric fireplaces, these gigantic mansions on wheels are not the best choice for an adventure-loving family looking to travel deep off the beaten path to remote camping locations.

By the same token, a pop-up camper or toy hauler may be a bit too utilitarian and rugged for a large family who is planning to live a full-time RV lifestyle.

The best way to make sure that you select the right RV style and size for your lifestyle is to take the time to visit your local RV dealership to tour a variety of RV types and sizes so that you can get a first-hand look and feel for the space and amenities available.

Mistake #5: Not Purchasing An RV Extended Warranty

The final mistake on our list of the top 5 mistakes that RV shoppers make when buying a new RV is perhaps one of the costliest. It is easy to overlook or disregard the importance of purchasing an RV extended warranty when you are caught up in the fun and excitement of picking out the RV style and options for your new RV. However, failing to purchase this important protection at the outset will have you kicking yourself down the road.

Regardless of the type of RV that you purchase, or whether you buy a new or gently used RV, your RV is going to require maintenance and eventually repairs. Depending on where you are and what type of maintenance or repair is needed, you can easily find yourself stranded in some remote location facing a sky-high towing and repair bill.

An RV warranty helps to protect against those unexpected, budget-busting costs by allowing you to spread the cost of maintenance and repair out over time through the use of a monthly payment option or an upfront purchase price.

Like every other aspect of RV shopping, it is important to shop around for the best RV extended warranty coverage to make sure you are getting the best value for your dollar. Check out RVing Solutions to learn more about the benefits of an RV extended warranty before you sign on the dotted line.

Published February 15, 2022