Josh and I made a video on this topic over a year and a half ago. But I realized some people may not want to sit through a 30 minute video. So now I am compiling everything we chat about in this video into a blog post!
We get lots of questions about the buying process for an RV. For some it takes years. Others, like us, we took 15 days. Which we don’t recommend. But we are go getters so we dived right into the RV lifestyle.
Ultimately it came at a cost to us. Finding water damage and such since we didn’t know what we were looking for. To save you some trouble here is what we learned and hopefully this tips will help you in finding the perfect full-time rig or your weekend.
What Will You Lose If It Doesn't Work Out?
Before we get into the tips, we’d like you to ask yourself a question: What will you do if RVing doesn’t work out? This is something that we encourage everyone to consider.
One of the things we weighed was what would happen if worse case scenario we couldn’t full-time rv? What if we hated the lifestyle and we just spent all this money?
After weighing it all out we decided it was an investment in our favor. We didn’t have much to lose. We didn’t have a mortgage. If we did decide we didn’t like it or couldn’t do it anymore the loss wouldn’t be so drastic we couldn’t recover.
We said all of that to say this: Stay within your means. Don’t get yourself into a huge hole that you can’t climb out of. This is where you see many people a year into RVing lose a LOT of money. RVs depreciate rapidly.
1. If You're Buying a Trailer, Purchase It Before the Truck
We’re obviously not financial advisers, so be sure to do your research. That said, when we were researching buying our first RV we found many people saying that it is easier to get a loan for a truck if you already have the RV. That is because if you own the RV already then they recognize that you need to have a way to tow it.
We were skeptical about this, so when we applied for a loan we asked our bank. They said that the advice is indeed accurate. Owning a trailer does make it easier to get a loan for a truck.
That said, owning an RV doesn’t guarantee that you can get a loan for a truck. They can be very expensive. If you’re worried that your credit or income won’t be good enough to get a loan for both the truck and RV, then speak with your bank about it.
2. Make the Sales Person Go Away!
If you are shopping at dealerships make your sales guy leave you alone after you have your questions answered.
Sit in the various RVs you like and imagine living there. Start with waking up and go through your whole daily routine in the RV. What is it like getting out of bed? Do you like the bathroom? How will you organize your clothes? Is there enough storage? Do you like where the TV is at? Is there enough counter space to cook? Do you have a spot to work on a hobby?
One of the best things that happened to us at an RV shop was getting caught in a rainstorm and getting stuck in a Grand Design Momentum fifth wheel. These things are beautiful! We sat on the LONG sofa and chatted about how this space could work for us. The rain was pouring for at least 45 minutes and we had a long list of pros and cons after that.
3. Strongly Consider Buying Used
If you have the means and if makes sense for you to buy new go for it! But for our first RV we went used. Here are a few reasons why.
First, we didn’t want to accumulate too much debt, and new RVs break sometimes more than used RVs. In an ideal world we wish we would have looked for a fifth wheel that someone had lived in full-time. The reason being they would have kept all the systems up and running. Where as we bought a used RV that was used recreationally (or sat in a storage lot) and deteriorated. When you buy used someone else has already paid the BIG sticker price so you don’t have to.
You also hear that many people in their travel quest changes rigs a few times. Your first RV won’t be perfect. So use it for a year pay it off and then find your dream RV! Nothing wrong with changing it up a few years down the road. Thankfully you aren’t buying a house. You can trade in your RV later.
4. Follow Your Nose
If you smell any kind of musty, wet, damp, mold type smell in a new or used RV walk OUT! We should have known better. We had read this over and over again. We should have walked away.
But in my excitement to want to RV we didn’t follow our nose and we paid for it a few times with having to repair the RV…Any kind of wet smell means that water it probably getting into the interior of the RV and the previous owner didn’t take care of it. Or that particular new RV has some sort of damage or flaw.
We experienced this walking into a new RV. We took what we had learned before and found a leak in the brand new RV. (The sales guy could have cared less).
5. Join Facebook Groups
First ALWAYS read the rules in the Facebook groups you join. And look for files in the groups that may have answers to questions you have. I joined Facebook groups that were geared towards full-timers. And you will learn a ton from the questions other people ask and the answers they get.
Also if you are in love with a particular brand of RV join an owners Facebook group for the brand. For example when we were looking at buying a Grand Design Momentum 5th wheel I joined the Grand Design Owners Facebook page. I learned to much about the brand and most importantly learned that most customers were super happy with there purchase and how the company treated them after the sale.
I also asked questions like “What dealership did you buy from in the Pacific Northwest?” I got a lot of valuable feedback from people that would have helped us with the purchase if we did decide we wanted to buy.
6. Don't Let the Dealerships Bully You
If they do then it might be time to find a new dealership to buy from. We found many of the salesman didn’t know a lot about RVs. They knew a little about a lot of brands but not a lot about any one particular brand.
This is where I recommend doing your own research before going to the dealership. You can even ask if there is a salesman who is the “go to guy” for a specific brand. I found a lot of salesmen to be very condescending and wanted to make us feel like we didn’t know what we were doing.
Also know that many of them have never lived in a RV. They might own one but like most people they take it out on weekends.
7. Look for RVs in Other States
With awesome websites like RVtrader.com, Ebay and Craigslist you now have the whole country to shop for an RV. If you can’t find what you want in your state look at other dealerships that are closer to the RV manufacturer. You may find you get a better deal there than buying one from where you currently live.
I heard many people would hire someone to got inspect the RV they were looking to purchase in another state for them so that they don’t have to. It might be worth flying or driving further out to find your perfect rig.
8. Know What You Should Pay Before Talking Price
You can look up on NadaGuide.com the price of the rig. If it the Blue book for RVs. And of course the dealership will make everything look like it is in mint condition and get you a NadaGuide price that does not reflect what it is worth. Check out what the rig you are looking for is listed on Criagslist, and RVTrader for. This will help with negotiating.
9. Buy Near the Time of an RV Show
Gone With the Wynns discussed this before us. RV shows are the time that the dealerships want to move lots and LOTS of RVs. The best day to buy is the last day of the RV show. They are trying to move the last of the rigs before the RV show closes down. Some RV shows the dealerships are having competitions for who can sell the most rigs!
We actually didn’t buy our rig at an RV show but since we purchased the rig close to when the RV show happened our bank gave us the “RV show” Interest Rate which saved us a lot of money. Also note that after the BIG RV show often they have a smaller RV show for the used rigs that were just traded in. That is a great time to get a deal on a used rig.
Now You Are Ready!
Once you have found you RV, love the layout and you are ready to sign the dotted line inspect that RV LIKE CRAZY! We got a lot of tips from forums and Facebook groups on what to look for in the inspection. Tell the dealership before hand that you are planning to take 3-4 hours doing your inspection. They will insist that they only do hour long inspections. Just tell them that you insist on buying elsewhere then. Film your walk though and ask lots of questions about all the systems. Our RV walk thru guy told us he is only allowed to tell us the systems any questions we have we have to ask. We referred to our video walk thru a lot in our first few months of RVing. Very glad we did that.
Bonus Tip! Don't Be Too Hard On Yourself
You didn’t just buy a house you bought an RV. If things go wrong they are pretty easy to sell. They break in the weirdest ways and anyone who owns and RV knows that. You will work out the kinks as you go and soon less things will break.
Our first 5 months living the fifth wheel felt like everyday something new would break. Now an year and a half later we are staying up on the chores of RV ownership and have had very few problems. I hope you find this helpful.
If I missed any tips and tricks please leave them in the comments down below!