Buying Your First RV–Don’t Make These 5 Mistakes!

Learn from these mistakes when buying your first RV. Don’t make the same mistakes we did. Yes, we made mistakes when we bought our first two RV’s. It’s not unusual for full-time RVers to buy and trade two or three coaches in the first few years of their travels. As you spend time on the road, you learn what you want and need in an RV. With each purchase you make, you learn a little more.

These mistakes are far from the only ones we made and there are certainly other things to consider when buying your first RV. We’ll talk more about other buying considerations in another post so this one doesn’t get too long. We thought these mistakes were the most important ones we made on our first purchases. We learned from those mistakes and, hopefully, you will, too.

1. Not shopping around when buying your first RV

We failed terribly with this one. We got excited and bought based on emotion and didn’t do our research. One of the first 5th wheels we looked at was used, a great deal, and we loved it. We thought about it overnight and the next day it was sold. A few days later we saw another “great deal” and we snatched it up before anyone else could. That RV was a good deal, but it probably wasn’t the right RV for us.

Spend some time walking around different RV dealers’ lots. At first, it might be helpful to have a salesman giving some direction. Remember that RV salesmen don’t get paid unless they sell you an RV. They may have a general knowledge of the RV’s they’re selling but they seldom are experts. Don’t be afraid to ask if you can look without a salesman so you can spend more time looking at the small things that are important to you. One dealer in our area had such a big lot they actually allowed you to check out a golf cart and gave you a map. It was a great way to compare different coaches.

2. Not negotiating the price

You should be aware that no RV ever sells for list price. Most dealers automatically discount their RV’s by 30% to 40%. Make an offer and don’t be afraid to haggle with your salesman over price. Like buying a car, dealers expect you to make a low-ball offer and negotiate from there.

RV Trader and Auto Trader are good online sources for used and new RV’s. Do some homework before you go to a dealer to shop. This will give you an idea of new and used prices before you talk to a salesman.

Another money saving tip we totally ignored when shopping for our first two RV’s was checking out coaches for sale in other states. Sometimes you can find a perfect RV far from home that’s substantially less expensive. The cost of an airline ticket might save you a substantial amount of money and your first adventure in your RV will be your trip back to your home base.

3. Not considering the truck when buying your first RV

Although the truck portion of our Class C had low mileage and ran great, we didn’t consider its features. We looked at the living space in the RV very closely, but failed to notice that the truck didn’t have all the “bells and whistles” that would have made traveling so much more relaxing. Things like, the cab lacked USB charging jacks. The seats were not easily adjustable. There was no leg room on the passenger side. The seats swiveled into the living area for extra seating, but not without great difficulty.

Always check out all the components of your potential coach.

4. Not getting an inspection

It never occurred to us to get an inspection. We didn’t know that was even a possibility at the time. Write your contract contingent on getting an acceptable inspection. Check out NRVIA to find a qualified inspector in your area. All coaches, even new ones, have some problems. Most RV’s are assembled in a matter of days. You have to expect that every time an RV drives down the road, things inside move around and often need minor adjustment. It’s nice to know what needs work before you buy.

5. Not paying cash for your first RV

Although the loan we took out was only a small portion of the purchase price, it was still something we had to worry about as we started our new RV life. In hindsight, we should have considered buying something a little older and doing some renovation before we hit the road.

Jim and I are both do-it-yourselfers, and we could have easily updated an older, paid for, RV. There are lots of on-line sources for inspiration and technical help. Making updates to your RV also gives you an opportunity to learn the inner workings of your coach. Not everyone has skills or the desire to put work into an older RV, but everyone should still keep their budget in mind when making the purchase of their next “home”.

These are only the five biggest mistakes we made. There were certainly others. We made them and you will, too. It’s part of the learning process. Educating yourself upfront can save you a lot of headaches in the long run. Read about some of our other mistakes here.

Happy travels!


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