Buying an RV is as exciting as it is stressful. Here are some things we wish we put more thought into when buying our RV.
1. The Size
Size is the most important decision to make when buying an RV. The size of your rig will determine where you can camp, park, travel, etc.
Think about where you plan on camping: mostly RV resorts or small National Park campgrounds? Your size will limit where you can camp. For instance, most National Parks cannot fit larger rigs; check out this helpful breakdown of National Park campgrounds. Also consider if you will be able to easily backup in the RV. Finding a back-in site is significantly easier (and usually cheaper) then a pull-through site.
Think about how many people are going to be in the RV. Is it just you or do you have your whole family as well? You don’t want to buy a tiny 24 ft RV for a family of eight. Likewise, you probably don't need a 40 ft rig for two people.
Think about where you are planning to take this RV. Are you planning on stopping for groceries, getting a coffee, or driving to the trail head in this RV? Consider that some larger RVs may have a tougher time fitting into parking lots and back-roads. This is something that we took for granted in our daily-driver that really nipped us in the butt when driving our RV.
Also take into account the gas, storage, and maintenance that comes with the size of the rig you are considering.
2. Towing a Car
Are you planning on taking a car along with you on your trip? Be sure to check the towing capacity of the RV and the towing limitations of your car.
Some cars have to be towed with all four wheels up on a trailer, all four wheels down, or two wheels up. The towing restrictions for your car will determine the towing requirements for your RV. For instance: I originally wanted to tow my Subaru Crosstrek, but due to its transmission I would have had to tow it on a trailer. This would have required our RV to have a 7000 lb tow rating; which meant I would have had to get an RV with a diesel engine. (We ended up nixing that idea; out of our budget!)
Towing a car is ideal for exploring if you have a large RV. Having a car will allow you to leave the RV at a campsite and use the car to get into the city, to the trail head, etc.
Are you planning on doing a lot of boondocking or just staying at RV resorts? Boondocking is essentially setting up camp somewhere without any hookups; this ranges from Walmart parking lots and rest stops to beautiful highway pull-offs in the American Southwest.
Though boondocking is as rugged as it gets for RVers, many boondocking locations have rules. A common rule we have seen (especially in store parking lots) is that you cannot use your RV slide outs. That could be no problem...unless your bed requires a slide out.
Also, consider the condition and specs of your generator, coach batteries, holding tanks, and propane. All of these will be crucial to your “boondockability”.
4. Condition (remodeling required)
Do you want a turn key RV or a fixer upper?
The condition of the RV will ultimately determine the price you are paying. For every buyer, it is tempting to forfeit the condition of the RV to save some money. But realistically, are you really that handy to fix all of the issues? Do you want the added stress of knowing something will most likely break before getting to your next destination?
From mechanical to aesthetics in the coach (specifically the cabinets!) establish what your long-term plan is for the RV. If you are saving $3K but know the transmission is about to go, is it really worth it? Or if you buy a retro 1980s RV but can't stand the bright interior, is the headache of all the refurbishing really worth the cost savings?
Having too many issues with the condition of your RV can turn your holiday into another burden of a home.
5. Travel Destinations
Have you thought about where you plan on spending the majority of your time in your RV?
Before buying your RV consider its amenities and what it is built for. If you are planning to be in Arizona in August you better make sure your RV has at least one AC unit! Similarly, if you are buying a large RV you may want to consider one that has multiple AC units.
Similarly, think about the RV’s heat and insulation. If you are planning to be in Aspen, Colorado for the winter be sure your RV has some sort of piping insulation and thick insulation on your coach walls. Also consider the size of your propane tank as this will limit the amount of heat you will be able to use!
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