RV Shopping Tips

If you are in the market for an RV, you may feel overwhelmed.  This is totally understandable, and I have been in this spot as well.  There are a lot of RVs to choose from and everyone has an opinion about what you need.  You can easily get over your head and underwater financially if you aren't careful.  How do you avoid RV shopping pitfalls and acheive RV buying success?

Before you do any RV shopping, run a budget and the numbers.  You need to consider:

  1. How much RV can you afford?  Factor in your monthly payment or what you plan to pay in cash.  This could be a down payment and others save to pay cash outright for a new or used RV. 
  2. Will you have to purchase a new tow vehicle for your RV?  The cost of his expense can greatly affect your budget and shouldn't be skipped in the decision-making process.
  3. Determine the cost of insurance and tags for your RV and/or new tow vehicle if you are making this additional purchase.
And after all of this, will you have money in your monthly budget to enjoy trips in your RV?  I know.  I sound like a total buzz kill here, but it is really easy to get into a financial pickle if you aren't careful.  And, if you budget everything ahead of time, it will make it easier to narrow down your choices of an RV.  Maybe you should buy a used RV or maybe you need to save a little more money before taking the plunge.  But, carefully consider all of these things.

Outside of your budget, what else should you consider?  I think there are 5 key things that will help you find the RV that will work well for you.

Don't Buy a Bigger RV than What You Can/Will Tow

Having all of that extra space may sound and look great on the lot, but bigger is not necessarily better in the RV world.  Whatever you buy, you are going to be towing unless you hire a driver.   RVs come in different widths, heights, and lengths.  You are going to be driving that RV into gas stations,  travel.  toll booths, campground roads and anywhere you go.  Plus, you are doing to have to store it either at home or in a paid storage facility. 

For us, our cap on size was no longer than 25 feet.  We have a narrow road that leads into our home driveway.  And, we have a 90 degree turn into that drive from the already narrow road.  We felt like anything larger was going to be a problem.  Consider all of those factors before you buy.  A smaller RV isn't always a bad thing or limit you on what you love to do.  

Buy an RV for Your Actual Family Unit

I've heard more than one person that is shopping for an RV tell about needing a bunkhouse for grandkids or extra room when they have company.  This is a hard no for me.  If we want others to join us, they can rent a cabin or bring a tent.  We could squeeze in one more person easily.  But we aren't trying to camp with our family and 10 of our closest friends in our RV.  Buying an RV with other guests in mind in an easy way to get a larger unit that you need and are comfortable with.  Plus, it can greatly add to your expenses.  Keep all of those things in check by shopping for you and your group only.  This may sound harsh, but I encourage you to think practically when RV shopping.  

Make Sure that Everything is Functional for Everyone

I don't have to tell you that RVs are compact spaces.  Make sure that everyone lays on the beds, sits on the toilet, and stands in the shower.  Try out every single space in the RV that you plan to use.  If the space is not entirely functional for everyone, what is your backup plan or should you consider another model?

We bought an RV that is slightly taller because my husband is 6' 4".  The whole point of upgrading from a pop-up camper to a travel trailer for us was having a functional bathroom and kitchen indoors.  If he was not able to adequately use the shower, then it wasn't going to work.  Beds are another place where you can run into trouble.  Many RVs have non-standard beds that result in short queens and other compromises that could turn into a deal-breaker for someone that is tall.  

Planning to use the bath house instead of your RV bathroom may seem okay at the time, but what is the point of having it if it is not being used.  That is wasted space that you don't need.  You could by a smaller set up if you aren't going to use everything.  

For a family with tall people, there are RV's out there that have standard size beds and residential size bathroom facilities.  Grand Design has done a great job of that, and we are so glad we went with this brand because we can all easily fit into the space.

There is an RV out there for everyone.  Even someone who is tall can fit comfortably in an RV.  You just have to find the right one.  

Think Long Term

How long do you plan to own your RV?  We wanted something that we could use for at least 5 years.  That may sound crazy to some RV owners, but we didn't want to outgrow our RV right after we bought it.  Shopping for an RV is a lot of work, and I don't have time for all of that. 

We specifically sought out a model that had double over double bunks.  These beds would work for our growing son for a few years before we needed to consider something larger for all of us.  Many bunkhouse models have narrow, coffin-like bunks.  This smaller bunk set up works for really small children, but they will also outgrow them quickly if they are much past kindergarten.  

Also, are you really willing to make the bed from your dinette every single night for children to sleep there?  This may seem like a solution initially, but over the long term you may grow to hate this and want to trade in rather quickly.  Think about what you are willing to do over and over with set up and take down.  We have a murphy bed that works great for us.  Some friends discouraged us from this when we were shopping, but it was the best way to get everything we wanted in a small space.

Give Yourself Time to Learn the Ropes

Once you are in that RV, don't give up too quickly.  It may take you a while to love your RV and learn how to work everything.  There is a pretty big learning curve, but you will love it if you give yourself time.  Don't throw in  towel the very first year.  Learn how to set up correctly.  

For pop up campers owners, being level keeps the door from closing and working correctly.  This was something we had to learn.  Plus it can be an overwhelming set up.  Over time it got easier.  We just had to figure it all out.  If we had given up after the first trip or two, I wouldn't still be camping.  

It's also important to get the right gear.  Do practical things like replacing your mattresses if you need to.  You will need to budget for these things up front.  And prioritize what you need first and work from there.  It can cost up to $1500 in camping gear and supplies that very first year.  

We love our RV, and I'm so glad we started this journey as a family.  Each year, we can camped more and gone farther.  If you do your homework before you buy your RV, you will love it as much as we do.

If you are new to camping and getting started, check out my Amazon Store.  I have it divided into categories for camping gear, glamping gear, RV maintenance, summer gear and camping kitchen.  If you have questions feel free to drop me a line.

Until next time...

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