Carefree Blog

Looking to Buy Your First RV? These Tips Will Help You Out

image of RV at ocean front during sunset

The idea of driving down the road in an RV is a quite idyllic one. Few things represent freedom more than being on the open road, feeling the wind in your hair, and having the ability to travel wherever the mood takes you. Essentially, the RV lifestyle is the American dream on wheels.

RVing has always been a popular recreational activity, and its demand is only growing. According to the Recreation Vehicle Industry Association, RV shipments increased by over 17% in 2017, and over 9 million households own RVs, the highest the number has ever been. It’s easy to see why RVing is so popular. Anyone who loves driving on the road, recharges in the great outdoors, and enjoys budget-friendly travel will fall in love with the lifestyle.

If you’re on the verge of making the plunge to become a full-fledged RVer but are feeling a little intimidated with all of the details that go into buying your first RV, don’t worry. The following tips should help make the RV search go smoothly for you:

Educate Yourself on the Differences Between RV Types

There are many types of RVs on the market. The positive side of this is that you’ll be able to pick the one that best suits your preferences, family-size, and unique needs, but it will take some time figuring out which one is best for you.

The first step is to determine if you want a travel trailer or a motorhome. Keep in mind that if you don’t have a vehicle that you’re able to tow a trailer with, acquiring one would be an additional expense.

Between the wide selection of travel trailers and motorhomes, you have quite a few options to sort through. In order to choose the one that best supports your budget, travel, and personal needs, take the time to learn the traits of each type.

Here is a helpful, to-the-point article to give you a quick summary of the purpose and advantages/disadvantages of each.

Clarify Your Travel Intentions and Needs

To help you decide which RV is best for you, it’s important to think about what kind of travel you actually plan on doing with your new rig. If you intend on eventually living in your RV full time and spending most of your time at luxury RV parks, your needs will be quite different than the occasional boondocker navigating steep, narrow mountain roads.

To help you clarify what kind of RVer you’ll be, here are a few questions to ask yourself:

  • Are you planning on full-timing and/or going on extended trips, or will you be the occasional weekend warrior? If you’re living in your rig, you’ll most likely want more space and amenities, but if you’re only going to embark on a few trips per year, a simpler model should get you by just fine.
  • How many people will be traveling with you? If you’re looking to haul a large family unit around, you’ll automatically rule out certain models, such as a teardrop camper. If you’re journeying solo or with a significant other, most smaller rigs will accommodate you nicely.
  • Do you plan on going far off the beaten path, or will you mostly stay at well-known campgrounds? You’ll have a much more difficult time maneuvering a large, bus-like RV model through narrow mountain roads than you will a smaller rig.
  • What does your budget look like? This doesn’t only apply to the cost of the actual RV. Larger models use more fuel, require more expensive repairs, and have higher insurance rates. Also, plan financially for those unexpected times when your RV needs emergency maintenance and you to find an alternative place to stay.
  • Are you willing to put in the time, money, and elbow-grease to keep up the rig? The bigger the RV is, the bigger the bills and maintenance needs will be. Research the model, and make sure you’re up to the task.
  • How long do you plan on keeping the RV? RVs depreciate quickly, so if you are planning on buying a starter RV and upgrading quickly, you may want to think about how much you’ll be able to realistically sell it for.
  • What would you need to purchase to be able to tow a travel trailer? If you’re thinking of buying a trailer or pop-up camper, you’ll need a hefty enough vehicle to pull it around. You’ll also need towing equipment.
  • Do you prefer an easy campsite setup? Some RVs require a more complex, manual setup, while others are more straightforward.
  • Do you want a rig that can be hooked up at any campground? When choosing your RV, keep in mind that some campgrounds only offer 30 amp service. While many do offer 50 amp, you may be charged a higher rate.
  • Did you research any possible travel limitations a larger model may bring about? Some larger models will not fit under bridges or tunnels. Likewise, some won’t safely be able to navigate around narrow, curvy roads. Because of this, larger sizes of vehicles may be prohibited from accessing certain travel routes in order to keep everyone on the road safe. This may be something to consider if you prefer to adventure in the backroads.
  • At campgrounds, would you be happy with being stationary, or would you prefer to be able to come and go? If you pull a travel trailer with a truck or if you drive a smaller motorhome, you’ll be able to run a quick errand. With large RVs, it’s not that simple, especially if you need to park somewhere with limited space.

Weigh the Pros and Cons of Buying a New or Used RV

When you have a solid idea of what type of RV you’re looking for, your next step will be to decide if you want to purchase a brand new model or invest in a quality used one. There are advantages and disadvantages to each option, which are highlighted below:

What are the pros of buying a new RV?

Most new models come equipped with necessary, modern amenities, and you’ll be able to choose the exact floor plan you want. A solid warranty should also be in place, protecting your investment if something were to go wrong. If you buy a modern, fuel-efficient model, you will be able to save some money on gas costs. Additionally, because a new RV will be in top-working condition, you won’t have to wait to get it out on the road.

What’s the downside?

New RVs depreciate extremely quickly, so if you wanted to sell your model, you probably wouldn't get anything near the original price. The price of buying a new model is also going to quite high, especially if you want all of the bells and whistles.

What are the pros of buying a used RV?

Clearly, the price is going to be much lower, as the depreciation factor of RVs will work in your favor. You’ll most likely be able to find a model that has many of the luxury components you’re looking for at a great deal compared to buying everything new. Insurance will usually cost less as well.

What’s the downside?

There is always a risk when buying used vehicles, and you could end up investing much more in costly repairs. You may not have access to a warranty either, meaning all of the repairs would come out of your own pocket. Additionally, you may have to compromise on the ideal features of your RV, as there is no guarantee you’ll find a used model that meets all of your preferred criteria.

If you do buy used, test everything out before you buy, and bring a mechanically-skilled friend with you if possible. To be on the safe side, it may be worth it to pay a third-party inspector to look over the rig for you to ensure everything is in working order and the seller isn’t trying to hide anything.

Talk With Experienced RV Pros

The RV world is a large, friendly community, and getting first-hand advice from experienced travelers will be absolutely priceless. There are many online social sites for RVers, so don’t be afraid to connect with others and ask questions about buying for the first time. Remember, everyone had to start somewhere, and many RVers would be happy to lend a few unbiased words of wisdom to a newbie.

Have Fun!

Hopefully this advice helps give you a bit of direction on how to begin the hunt for your first RV. It won’t be an overnight process, but once you hit the road and feel the tingles of true travel freedom for the first time, you’ll never look back!

Looking for RV Awning Accessories?

Once you do find that perfect RV, Carefree of Colorado has all of the RV awning accessories you need to create the ultimate outdoor living space.

Premium RV awnings, awning rooms, canopy replacement, and sunshades are just a few of the RV products we offer that will help keep you cool and relaxed during your next vacation.