What to Know Before Buying an RV

RV driving on beautiful road trip by lake

Buying an RV is a major investment, which makes it important to do your research and know the facts before you take the plunge.

You Should Negotiate

RVs can be pretty pricey! For that reason, you should try to be a savvy shopper and negotiate the price if you decide to purchase one. Offer about 30 percent off the MSRP when buying one and go from there. Chances are, you’ll end up paying less than the RV is marked. You should also shop during certain times of the year for the best deal. The end of the year tends to be the time to score a deal, as companies are looking to make their quotas and are thus putting items on sale.

You Should Consider Shopping Used

If you want to spend less on an RV, you can shop for a used one and save quite a bit. Like cars, these vehicles depreciate about 25 percent the minute you get them on the road. For that reason, it’s a good move to purchase one that’s a few years old. If you’re doing so, though, make sure it’s been well kept during its previous ownership to avoid hefty maintenance and upkeep costs.

man cleaning RV with a pressure washer

They're Expensive to Upkeep

Many people assume since an RV is a moving vehicle, the associated costs are around the same as that of a regular car. However, that’s not necessarily true. The fees associated with RV ownership are generally much heftier than those that accompany a traditional car or truck. RVs differ in some key ways—they need to be stored, they are affected differently by road vibration, and they carry a higher sales tax.

Additionally, since RVs are much larger than regular vehicles, getting them detailed costs a great deal more. Another thing that buyers don’t always consider is the fact that RVs get much fewer miles to the gallon of gas than cars do. While a car could get 30 or more miles to the gallon, RVs get tend to get just 10 or 12. All in all, the cost of operating and maintaining an RV is significantly more than that of a car.

Standard RV upkeep and repair can amount to at least a few thousand dollars each year—RVs typically last around 15 years with routine maintenance. This includes brake replacement or repair, bushings, sealant work, propane gas tests, molding inspections, window and door upkeep, and hatches. Tires are also very costly for RVs, running about $500 each. It can also be tricky to find the right maintenance personnel who have experience and expertise working on RV, which is an important consideration, especially if you live far away from any major urban areas.

woman and man discussing costs in an RV

They Have Special Safety Challenges

It can also be tough to get an RV salesperson to discuss safety considerations. There's a certain amount of risk associated with owning and operating an RV. For instance, dangers such as improper wheel base ratios, slide rooms, and fire hazards are all things to think about. When used and maintained correctly, of course, RVs are safe, but it’s important to know the risks.

RVs are susceptible to mold problems, which is something to look for before you make a purchase, particularly if you’re buying a used RV. Check floors and ceilings for signs of mold or water damage. The corners of these areas and bathroom caulking are good to look at for signs of water. Also check the inside of cabinets and closets with a flashlight for moisture damage or fungal growth.

Vehicle History is Important

If you’re buying a used RV, it’s important to know the history of the vehicle before you seal the deal. Like any used car, you can use the vehicle’s identification number or VIN to learn more about its past. The report associated with this number could reveal information such as past damages, rebuilding measures, theft, recall notices, and other notable specs.