A Quick Tip on Shopping for your First RV

My "camp site" in Lubbock

My “camp site” in Lubbock

Take your time making a decision. I know full-timing is exciting. I know you’re eager to get started. I know you wanted to be gone yesterday. In these circumstances it can be tempting to buy the first RV you find nearby in your price range just to have that step over with and be closer to your goal, but that’s not the best way.

If you buy the first one you can afford without researching all the options, you may discover that it doesn’t meet your needs well. Take trips to dealerships or RV shows and tour as many different sizes, types, and floor plans as you can. Imagine yourself living in them. Will all your stuff fit? Is the bed long enough, the shower tall enough? Give it plenty of thought.

Once you have found your ideal RV, don’t just assume the current owner or salesperson is being honest about its condition (this goes for new RVs as well as old). Do your own thorough check of all the systems and make sure everything works as advertised. Inspect the RV for leaks and damage. Be nosy, ask questions, and ask to see maintenance records if it’s used. Think about bringing a friend along who is mechanically inclined to inspect it with you if you have no experience yourself, or you can even hire a third party RV tech to go over it for you. It might mean more work now, but it’ll pay off later with an RV that lasts.

Don’t let a salesperson (or previous owner) talk you into a purchase you’re not sure of, and don’t make a purchase decision in a heightened emotional state. Let the idea simmer overnight, and if you still feel like it’s the right decision a day later, then make the purchase.

I’ve heard of so many people who jumped the gun on buying an RV and then it turned out to be a lemon, or they lost money trading it in shortly after for something different because they couldn’t stand some aspect of it. You won’t regret taking the time to make an informed decision.

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  1. Alvin Tosh on October 3, 2016 at 8:24 pm

    Great advice. I am in several facebook RV groups and I am forever seeing people buying RV’s that are not right for them. Some get angry when they find out that the brand new RV that they bought last month and got 30% off the MSRP is not valued at what they currently owe on it. So many do not do any research before they make that purchase. I started out with a wild and crazy thought that I was going to buy a RV to live in fulltime and thankfully I ran across your blog as well as a few others and I researched heavily the 5th wheel that I currently have and have been in it fulltime for 3 years. Around the first of the year I am looking at trading it for another 5th wheel that has had even more research done on it. In addition to people not buying the right RV for themselves, I also see many that jump into full time RVing without researching it and leave the lifestyle in less than one year because it is not for them, or the way they choose to live it ends up being more expensive than they dreamed.

    • Becky on October 4, 2016 at 3:09 pm

      Glad you did the research and found what worked well for you Alvin.

      Yeah, Facebook groups where where I most often see this problem come up.

  2. Cathy on October 2, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    Hi Becky, we purchased our Casita new in 2012. Took her on the road for 16 months and 44,000 miles. Never had a single problem…our tow vehicle is a Nissan Pathfinder so we had plenty of storage room…one thing lacking in a Casita, at least for full timers. My husband has vision problems, so I drove almost all the time and never knew we were pulling a camper! Boondocking was a breeze, we have solar and an agm battery. Also have a grey boy for places with no hook ups but a dump station. For us, she is the perfect choice!

    • Becky on October 3, 2016 at 3:34 pm

      Yep Cathy I love the huge camper shell on my pickup, I call that my “storage locker” haha.

      Glad the Casita has worked out so well for you two!

  3. Chris on October 1, 2016 at 12:58 pm

    I bought my 5th wheel RV a year and a half ago. I had never been RV’ing before, so I was a complete newbie. I found one that I liked and put a down payment on it but I kept thinking about a concern that I had about the kitchen not having enough counter space. I went back to the dealer and asked about another RV with the same layout but more counter space. Found one and moved my down payment to that one. I LOVE it! I have heard about people trading in whatever they buy after a year or two because they find out what they don’t like about the old one. I lucked out because I am very happy living full-time in my 5th wheel. I must admit that I do look at other RV’s but I still like mine the best. I do remember when I was RV shopping that a friend asked if it passed the “drop soap” test in the shower. My RV has a large shower so it, indeed, passes the “drop soap” test. Many of the RV’s that I looked at, did not. Ha ha.

    • Becky on October 2, 2016 at 9:52 am

      So glad you took that concern seriously and ended up with something you loved Chris. That’s a good way to explain it: the “drop soap” test, haha!

  4. Ed@Chasing Sunrises and Sunsets on October 1, 2016 at 9:38 am

    Our first RV was a new travel trailer. But, within a year after purchase, we knew we wanted a motorhome. So, your advice rings true. We lost money on the trailer due to having made an emotional decision. On the otherhand, the motorhome was with us for 26 years until our recent newer motorhome purchase that is more suitable for the fulltme lifestyle that we are now enjoying. Our tip, which we used with this latest purchase, is to make a list of what you want in an RV. And then only look at those RVs that are so equipped. Of course, knowing what you want relates to budget and experience. Good hunting!

    • Becky on October 2, 2016 at 9:25 am

      Glad the second one worked better for you Ed! Having a list of desired features is a good idea. I’d also say having a list of questions to ask and things to check the functionality of is also good

  5. Terri on October 1, 2016 at 5:35 am

    So very true, Becky. I did a lot of research ahead of time of buying my fifth wheel, but there were still things that I ended up not liking. And I had a limited time to buy mine (bought it in Utah while I was out there for my working interview with BF, so it could be delivered to my RV/mobile home park, and then would be there for me to move into a month later.) But most of us aren’t dealing with that situation – most of us have plenty of time and another home to live in while we buy it.

    I’ve heard of people having problems with brand new ones too – so many problems with RVs! I’m so glad the Casita has worked out so well for you. I’ve seen a lot of them lately and they are just “adorable.” (Sorry, but it’s the word that comes to mind.) Every time I see one, I think of you and how smart you were to buy one.

    So glad you are able to get to Amazon now!
    Terri recently posted..Tuesday Thoughts, Thankfulness and Some Cool LinksMy Profile

    • Becky on October 2, 2016 at 9:22 am

      Yeah Terri your situation was different. But it seemed like it worked well enough for what you needed it for.

      Yep, my Casita is adorable. 🙂

  6. Onyx on October 1, 2016 at 4:52 am

    Timely advice! I’m currently dreaming dreams of full timing and shopping for my first rig right now! Of course, I’ve got a house worth of stuff to divest myself of first, I’m giving myself about a year before I’m even ready to hit the road. I’ve really enjoyed reading your blog.

    • Becky on October 2, 2016 at 9:19 am

      Glad this came at a good time for you Onyx! I hope your RV shopping goes well and wish you the best as you prepare to hit the road.

    • Rob on October 2, 2016 at 9:49 am

      Getting rid of the “stuff” was (still is) the hardest part. If you’re serious about hitting the road right now is the time to start clearing out that “house worth of stuff”.
      It may sound silly but I’m serious.

      I probably should have followed my ‘original’ plan… get the RV & pack my stuff in it. If it doesn’t have a place to live it doesn’t go.
      Then have an “everything goes sale” or auction. The left overs go to Goodwill or the dump and not a penny spent on storage.

      Good luck!

      • Onyx on October 2, 2016 at 7:48 pm

        Tell me about it. I had a house worth of my stuff already, and then I moved into the house I’m in now to take care of my ailing mother a few years back. Now I have all my stuff and all her stuff to get rid of…it’s a little overwhelming at times I’l be honest. I’m glad I have the luxury of time, and don’t have to rush getting rid of it all.
        Needless to say all the stuff has me craving something much simpler.

  7. Linda Sand on September 30, 2016 at 6:24 pm

    Excellent advice! We bought based on my emotions and it took us only four months to be ready to trade in that brand new rig.

    • Becky on October 2, 2016 at 9:16 am

      Yeah Linda you certainly aren’t the only one. I hope your second rig worked for you better!

  8. Jerry Minchey on September 30, 2016 at 4:54 pm

    My advice is that your main goal when buying your first RV is to buy one that you can resell in one or two years and get your money back. This can be done if do your research and negotiate a great deal. There are bargains out there. Be sure to find one.

    The reason for looking at it this way is this a lot of full-time RVers have get different rigs within two years after they start RVing (and probably a lot more wish they could get a different rig).

    It’s hard for you to know what type of rig is right for your lifestyle until you’ve been on the road for a year or so.

    Becky, I think the RV you bought is one you really like (but you did a lot of research). I like mine too, but I think I just got lucky. I didn’t do that much research.

    Of course, in my opinion, your first RV should never be a new one.

    Just my two cents worth.

    • Becky on October 2, 2016 at 9:14 am

      It’s good advice Jerry, but most RVs depreciate so fast that I’m not sure how easy it would be to sell a year or two after purchasing and be able to get all your money back – even if you did negotiate a great deal on the purchase. Do you know people who’ve managed to pull this off?

      The only people I can think of who’ve done it are those that bought a old RV in poor shape then spent a lot of time fixing it up before selling, or those that had a RV that was considered something of a collector’s item (one was vintage and kept in great shape, the other was a high-end fiberglass trailer that had stopped being manufactured a couple years before during the recession). Plus, being a non-mechanical person myself, I’d always worry that a bargain price meant something was wrong with the RV.

      • Jerry Minchey on October 2, 2016 at 1:38 pm

        Bill Myers, who wrote the book, “How to Buy a Used Motorhome” buys a used motorhome almost every year and sells it for more than he paid for it.

        I have been offered more for my motorhome than I paid for it and I’ve had it three years.

        Also, RV dealers almost always sell used RVs for more than they pay for them. That’s how they make money and stay in business.

        I think the key is to check eBay and Craigslist and look for bargains. Of course, you have to be able to recognize a bargain when you find it and that’s hard for a newbie to do.

        Even if you only come close to getting your money back, it makes it easier to sell and get a different RV.

        • Becky on October 3, 2016 at 3:32 pm

          Thanks for sharing.

  9. Rob on September 30, 2016 at 4:29 pm

    I’m glad you pointed out the ‘standing in the shower’ test, the other one I’ve found useful is the ‘sitting on the toilet’ test.

    • Becky on October 2, 2016 at 8:52 am

      Ah yes Rob, also a good thing to do. 🙂

  10. Lara on September 30, 2016 at 12:09 pm

    Good tips. I encourage people to get under the RV or look under it, at the very least, and ask if there are records for service, maintaince, etc. I bought mine from a dealership where the owners had traded up. It came with the original manuals, bag to hold it, plus the chassis booklet filled with what service was done, when (miles included.) I so appreciate having that and continue keeping this together for myself and any future owner.
    Lara recently posted..St. Cloud, MN: Lake George and Munsinger Clemens Gardens (lots of photos)My Profile

  11. Rodolfo on September 30, 2016 at 10:21 am

    Great advice. Thank-you

    • Becky on October 2, 2016 at 8:48 am

      You’re welcome Rodolfo.

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