There are some 52 makes of new RV's for 2013, and 10 different basic styles of RV's, and then there are all the floor plans and options... literally hundreds. When you're looking for a new RV, where do you start?
If RVing is new to you, or even if you're an experienced RV road warrior, an RV show is a great place to go and see many different models and floor plans. Winter is RV show season in many parts of the country, and it’s likely that there's one near you.
Before you go, take a look at some online resources to help your decision making. GoRVing.com is a great place to start, if you've never owned an RV before. In addition there are numerous websites, like RVTravel.com, trailerlife.com, FMCA.com, and others that will all have resources to help you out.
Selecting an RV is like buying mobile real estate. It’s a substantial investment, so take your time and try to make the right decision. Some questions to ask yourself, and your family:
1) What do we want to do with the RV? Do you want to use it for the occasional affordable vacation, go to the races, tailgate, a semi-permanent cabin at a seasonal park, or travel in it full time?
2) How much do we want to spend? How close to nature do you want to be? Do you like deluxe or Spartan? Again, an RV is an investment of time and money, so you want to make sure that you'll use it. Keep this number in the back of your mind as you do your research, but remember, you have to enjoy the unit you buy, so if you need to buy used to get what you want, that should be a consideration.
3) How much RV do we need? An RV for one or two people is drastically different from an RV for a family of six. While an RV may have room for six to sleep, it may be a challenge at bedtime every day…or even cumbersome. Weigh the pros and cons of permanent or semi-permanent sleeping berths, based on the number of people regularly sleeping in the unit.
4) When traveling, where do we want to go? This can be an important consideration, as many state and national parks have size restrictions for RV’s. As an example, many California State Parks have a 35 foot length limit. If you’re intent on spending time in those parks, then an RV longer than that might not be appropriate for you. An alternative would be to stay in a larger RV in a commercial park outside of the state park, and drive in for daily visits, but that decision is up to you.
5) How important is fuel economy? Most folks are not driving an RV everywhere they go, just from campground to campground, so fuel economy isn’t as big an issue, but if it is for you, there are a number of fuel efficient options available to you, from small towables, to small motorhomes.
When choosing a new or used RV there are a few other points to ponder:
• Previously enjoyed RV’s can be a good deal, or a total bust. It’s a good thing to buy second hand when you’re new to the lifestyle, just be aware that there may be underlying problems that need to be taken care of. Some people don’t know how to take care of their RV. It’s a good idea to have a used RV inspected by an independent technician to get an idea what condition the coach is really worth. Look for evidence of leaks, rot, mold or mildew, bugs and mice.
• There are many ways to finance an RV purchase, which makes it pretty simple to make a purchase. Look at the terms carefully, and keep the term of the loan as short as you can, or your LTV (Loan to Value) will be upside-down pretty quickly.
• RV’s require specialized RV insurance that will cover the RV completely, which regular auto insurance won’t. Things like TV antennas, awnings, bike racks and so on are seldom covered in auto insurance policies. They also don’t include trip interruption or contents coverage, or campsite liability.
• Service plans are a great thing for peace of mind, but must be reviewed carefully. I highly recommend them for motorhomes, especially the higher end ones. Make sure the company is reputable, and that your preferred service facility works with them. Remember, that with new vehicles, the ESP coverage takes effect after the manufacturer’s warranty stops, but not the clock. If you buy a new RV that has a two-year warranty, and you buy a five-year service plan at that time, you’re actually getting three-years of coverage.
• Shop globally, buy locally, if you can. Purchase the RV that fits your needs, but do it as close to home as possible. This is especially important with a new RV, as RV dealerships are not franchises, and as such, are under no obligation to repair your RV under warranty unless they sold it. Some will, especially the big box stores, but you could be stuck taking your RV back to the factory for warranty service. If you’re a fulltimer, this is less important, as you’re always traveling, and most dealers will understand that and work with you.
• Note than some states don’t require an RV dealer to provide a used warranty, and so they don’t. Assume the used RV you are purchasing is sold ‘as-is’ unless the dealer provides written evidence to the contrary. Purchasing an extended service plan from the dealer or from an outside source will help alleviate this concern.
By keeping these few points in mind, you will be sitting outside your RV under the stars, enjoying a beverage, with friends and family by the campfire in no time!