Choosing an RV: How to Find the Perfect Camper

Finding the Perfect RV

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When choosing the right RV, it’s important to keep in mind that there is no one perfect RV. There, I said it. The best RV is the one that gets you on the road. In fact, you may find that your RV wants and needs change after you get out on the road. Below are the important things to consider before buying or renting your first or next RV.

Choosing an RV: Things to Consider


Budget When Choosing an RV

Above all, we believe that your budget is the most important factor when choosing an RV. While you may be drooling over the 100K or even 500K+ campers, your actual budget may be far below that. Fortunately, RVs come in a wide range of prices to fit any budget. After you have determined what your budget is it’s time to figure out how you will pay for the RV: financing or paying cash.

Financing an RV

When obtaining a loan from a traditional bank you will need a physical address that the bank will accept. For example, a mail forwarding service address is usually insufficient for a loan approval. Additionally, you will need to have an acceptable credit score and a few other requirements to be determined by the financing institution.

Paying Cash for an RV

Paying for an RV with cash provides a lot more freedom when compared to obtaining a loan. However, buying an RV with cash may take away from your emergency fund should the unexpected arise, so that is something to keep in mind.


Choosing an RV’s Condition

Few can seem to agree on this hotly debated topic. Fortunately, you only need to figure out what is right for you, not anyone else.

Brand New RVs

When buying a brand new RV, one may think that their RV will be without problems for quite some time. However, that is not always the case. Even brand new RVs can have issues that keep their owners in and out of the repair shop. Fortunately, most new campers have warranties to cover these repairs.

Photo by Togo RV

Extended RV Warranties

Dealers often offer extended warranties for your camper. Deciding whether the extended warranty is right for you will require reading the fine print. Some RV owners feel that the extended warranty was a complete waste of money. This is usually because they never needed to use their warranty or it ultimately did not cover needed repairs. Others say their RV’s extended warranty was an excellent purchase and saved them a significant amount of money. Review the fine print and your budget to help you decide whether an extended warranty is right for you.

Used RVs

Many RV owners swear by their used RVs. Used RVs do not loose their value quite as rapidly as new RVs. Additionally, an RV that is only a few years old will have had most of the initial issues already taken care of while the RV was under warranty. Then again, an older RV may require repairs no longer covered by a warranty.

Photo by Frankie

RV Inspections

An RV inspection will help you avoid costly repairs and unknown issues. For unbiased results, a third-party professional should complete the inspection for your RV. Having an RV inspected will provide peace of mind both before and after your purchase. Any issues found during the inspection can provide negotiating power and help ensure these issues are fixed before you buy.

RV Safety

Safety regulations have changed over the years. Older RVs may need modifications such as an emergency exit or the addition of fire extinguishers. Make sure the RV you choose is up-to-date on current safety regulations so you can enjoy it for years to come.


Frequency of RV Use

The amount of time you will spend in your RV is an important factor. For short trips, many of your “must-haves” are likely to be “nice-to-haves.” If your RV is to be lived in for many months at a time, or even full-time, you’ll want an RV with as many of your “must-haves” as possible.


Type of RV

There are many types of RVs to choose from. In fact, it can be quite overwhelming choosing the type of RV you want. Here is a brief overview of the most common types of campers.

Driveable Campers

A driveable camper aka a motorhome is a vehicle that you can live in and drive from place to place. There are three classes of motorized RVs: Class A (bus), Class B (van), Class C (van with a cab or cut-away chassis). Class A and Class C motorhomes have the ability to tow a separate driving vehicle. While a Class B motorhome is typically the vehicle you would both live in and drive around town in. Most Class A motorhome owners will tow a vehicle. While some Class C owners choose to use their motorhome to drive around without towing an additional vehicle.

Towable Campers

A towable camper is an RV that requires a tow vehicle to move it from place to place. These campers range in size from the small tear-drop and pop-up campers to the larger travel trailers and fifth wheels. Towable campers come in a wide range of prices, layouts, and features as well. A towable trailer does not come with an engine so you are able to avoid maintenance items and expenses that would come with a second engine. The capacity of your tow vehicle will play a factor when determining what size towable you can tow.


Tow Vehicle or Towed Vehicle

The type of RV you choose will determine if you need a tow vehicle or if you’ll tow a vehicle. It will even determine if you can get by with no additional vehicle. If you are towing a vehicle, then you will need the appropriate tow hitch to do so. Be sure your hitch and tow vehicle meets the requirements of your RV and that of your towed vehicle. It is best to check with the manufacturer of your RV and your tow vehicle for this information. This will ensure a safe travels and minimize the chance of voiding your RV’s warranty by using the wrong set-up.


Length and Drivability of the RV

Now it is time to determine the RV length and drivability that will fit your needs. Keep in mind that longer and larger is not always better.

RV Campgrounds for State and National Parks

Many parks and some campgrounds have restrictions on the size of rig they can accommodate. This is due to the size of the campsites themselves and the roads leading to the campsites. The larger the rig, the harder it may be to find a campsite to accommodate it’s size.

Driveability

Who will be driving the RV? What experience do they have pulling that type of RV? How comfortable are they driving? You may find yourself stuck in traffic or on winding roads. The shorter the camper is the easier it will be to maneuver. However, an experienced driver may be perfectly comfortable with a large rig.


Camping Style When Choosing an RV

Full Hook-Ups

If you will be camping with full hook-ups, you will not need an additional power source. That being said, it is recommended that you bring along a generator just in case of emergency.

Boondocking

Most campers do not come equipped to boondock without additional RV supplies or modifications. If you will be camping without full hook-ups, you will need a source of power to charge your RV’s batteries. Many RV owners use either an RV generator, solar power, or a combination of both. When choosing an RV for boondocking, it is important to consider the size of your fresh water tank and your grey and black tanks. As this will determine how quickly they will need to be refilled or emptied.


Layout and Capacity of the RV

Sleeping Capacity

The number of people who will need a place to sleep is an important factor when choosing an RV. A single traveler will require far fewer places to sleeping than a family of six. Keep in mind that, sleeping areas provided by a pullout couch or fold-down dinette may not be the most comfortable. RVs with a bunkhouse or loft area typically offer more comfortable sleeping areas and are great for larger families or those who have frequent overnight guests.

Pets

If you are bringing along furry, feathered, or cold-blooded friends, what type of space do they need? Do you need a space for their toys, food and water bowls, litter box, cage, etc? Keep these things in mind when when reviewing the layout of potential RVs.

Storage Capacity

The amount of storage both inside and underneath the RV, also known as basement storage, is another factor to consider. How much storage do you require? Does the RV you are considering accommodate those needs both in space and in total weight?


Try an RV Before You Buy an RV

Rent an RV

Renting an RV can be a great way to try an RV or see if RV life is for you before you buy.

Visit an RV Dealership

No video or number of pictures will provide a true sense of an RVs design quality or layout. Visiting a dealership will allow you to view potential RVs in person to get a feel for if an RV is right for you.

Attend an RV Show

A great way to view many different types of RVs in person. RVs at an RV show are likely to be priced below retail. Meaning you are more likely to score a deal on an RV at an RV show than you might at a dealership during a typical weekend.


What Else Should Be Considered When Choosing an RV?

Comment below: If you have bought an RV or are in the process of looking, what else do you consider before pulling the trigger? Which of the things listed above did you find not to be all that important?

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