Things to Consider When Buying Your First RV

Tips and advice for first-time RV buyers.
Chelsea Day working on her laptop.

Buying your first RV is exciting but there are a lot of things to consider. Not only do you need to understand how you’ll use your RV and what features you’ll need, but you’ll also need to figure out where you’ll store when it’s not being used and how you’ll pay for it. Here are some of the most important things to consider and ask yourself when buying your first RV.

  1. Should You Tow or Drive?

    First, determine if you’ll want a towable or a motorized RV. Towable RVs include lightweight campers, travel trailers, fifth wheels, and toy haulers. Motorized RVs include Class A motorhomes, Class B camper vans, and Class Cs. With towable RVs, you’ll need to ensure that you have a vehicle with the adequate tow capacity to pull your RV. An important number to know is the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR), which includes the total weight of your vehicle—including all passengers, fuel and cargo—and your RV. You can usually find this number in your vehicle’s owner manual or inside the driver’s side door.

  2. How Much Space Will You Need?

    Consider how many people you will be traveling with, and if you plan to have guests stay in your RV. Look for an RV that can comfortably sleep your entire family (with a little extra room). Additionally, if you plan to travel with a lot of outdoor gear and equipment, then an RV with a rear garage space and ample outdoor storage might be a good option.

  3. What Are Your RVing Goals?

    If you’re looking to do a lot of boondocking or dry camping with your RV, then look for RVs that have large holding tanks and solar panels to maximize your power. If you prefer to take weekend camping trips, then consider a smaller RV that is more nimble and can be set-up quickly. If you’re considering full-time RVing, then you might want to look for an RV that has more residential-style amenities, like a full-sized refrigerator and washer/dryer hookups.

  4. What’s Your Budget and How Will You Pay?

    Have a budget in mind when you first start looking at RVs. Various features and amenities can quickly impact the cost, but having a list of must-haves versus nice-to-haves can help you decipher what you truly need. Make sure you factor in any add-on costs, including insurance and taxes, as well as things like special hitches or solar packages. There are a few different ways to pay for your RV, including cash. However, your bank or dealership should be able to provide various financing options.

  5. How Will You Store Your RV?

    Once you buy your RV, where will you keep it? Depending on the size of your RV, you may be able to keep it in your driveway, but you should always check your local city ordinances and homeowner's association (HOA) to make sure this is allowed. Another option is a secure RV storage facility, which typically charges a monthly fee. Some smaller self-storage places even have outdoor lots specifically reserved for cars, boats and RVs.

In addition to these considerations, one of the best pieces of advice we can give is to go tour some RVs in person. There is nothing like being able to walk around an actual RV to get a feel for the size, layout, space, and features. You can ask the dealer questions, get a full tour, and test how different systems and functions work to really decide which RV is right for you.

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