Your Expert Guide to Buying an RV: 10 Topics You Need to Know

Are you ready to break free from the constraints of everyday life and embark on exciting adventures to the great outdoors? If so, the key to unlocking unforgettable adventures lies in purchasing the perfect RV.

Whether you’re a seasoned traveler or new to the world of RVs, this guide will empower you to make an informed decision before buying an RV. Let’s dive into the world of RVs and explore the key aspects to consider before making a purchase.

Let’s start with the basics.

What is an RV? “RV” is an acronym for “recreational vehicle”. RVs are motor vehicles or trailers that have living quarters for accommodation. They can be moved by their own motor or towed by another vehicle.

Now that we got that out of the way – let’s continue! If you are buying an RV for the first time, purchasing a recreational vehicle is a significant buying decision that can redefine the way you spend your free time. At AmericaGoRV, with locations in Seguin & Comfort Texas, we live and breath all things RV.  In the sections below, we’ll cover every aspect you need to know about choosing the right RV for your needs. Here are the 20 topics you need to consider before buying an RV.

1) Types of RVs: Finding Your Perfect RV

When it comes to RVs, variety is the spice of life. From compact campervans to spacious motorhomes, there’s a style for every person and every preference. At AmericaGoRV, we sell a wide variety of both new RVs and used RVs from our two locations in Seguin & Comfort, Texas. Because choosing the right RV is a complex decision, we’ve provided a breakdown of the different types of RVs, their key features, and recommendations based on the type of traveler you plan to be!

Class A Motorhomes

  • Description: Class A Motorhomes are the largest and most luxurious types of RVs on the marke. They resemble commercial buses in size and shape.
  • Key Features: They often include full-size kitchens, bathrooms, bedrooms, and ample living quarters.
  • Ideal for: Long-term travelers or full-time RVers who want the comfort of a home on wheels.

Class B Motorhomes (Camper Vans):

  • Description: These are the smallest fully enclosed motorhomes, built on a van chassis.
  • Key Features: Despite their compact size, they efficiently pack necessities such as a bed, kitchen, and sometimes even a bathroom.
  • Ideal for: Solo travelers or couples, & those who prefer easier maneuverability and better fuel efficiency.
Example of Class B Motorhome

Class C Motorhomes:

  • Description: A middle-ground between Class A and B – they’re built on a truck chassis with an over-cab sleeping area.
  • Key Features: They offer more space than Class B with many of the amenities of Class A but are much easier to handle and manuever!
  • Ideal for: Families or those looking for a balance between space and maneuverability.

Travel Trailers:

  • Description: Travel Trailers are non-motorized RVs towed by another vehicle.
  • Key Features: They come in a wide range of sizes, some small enough to be towed by a car, others requiring a truck.
  • Ideal for: Those who prefer to use their vehicle for day trips without the RV attachment.

Fifth Wheels:

  • Description: Fifth Wheel Trailers are also are towed, but they require a pickup truck with a special fifth-wheel hitch.
  • Key Features: They offer more living space (typically) with multiple levels and often have slide-outs to increase space inside the RV when parked.
  • Ideal for: Full-time RVers looking for spacious living. Those who own, or plan to buy, a compatible truck for towing.

Pop-Up Campers:

  • Description: These are lightweight, collapsible trailers that require towing. Pop-up campers typically offer a step up from tent camping.
  • Key Features: Pop-up campers often have pull-out beds, a small kitchen, and sometimes a bathroom.
  • Ideal for: Those on a budget with limited towing capacity. Also suitable for those who prefer a more authentic camping experience.

Truck Campers:

  • Description: Truck Campers are camping units that slide into the bed of a pickup truck.
  • Features: Surprisingly well-equipped with beds, kitchen facilities, and sometimes a bathroom.
  • Ideal for: Adventure seekers who venture off the beaten path and need an RV that can handle rough terrain.

Toy Haulers:

  • Description: Toy Haulers are a type of RV designed to carry motorcycles, ATVs, and other “toys” in a rear garage while also providing living space.
  • Features: Toy Haulers have a large cargo space with all the living amenities found in other RVs.
  • Ideal for: Enthusiasts of outdoor sports and activities who want to take their equipment with them.

Teardrop Trailers:

  • Description: Small, lightweight travel trailers known for their distinctive teardrop shape.
  • Features: They usually provide a bed, kitchenette, and are easy to tow.
  • Ideal for: Weekend warriors & those looking for simplicity and convenience.

Expandable Travel Trailers:

  • Description: These trailers have sections that pull out or pop up, providing extra living space when stationary.
  • Features: They offer a compact towing size but expand to provide more room when set up.
  • Ideal for: Families needing extra space who still want the convenience of a smaller trailer when on the move.

2) Determine Your Budget Before Buying an RV

Before you start shopping, it’s essential to set a realistic budget. RVs come in a wide price range, from a few thousand dollars for a used pop-up camper, to several hundred thousand for a new, fully-loaded Class A motorhome. Newer models with all the bells and whistles will come at a higher price point, where older or more basic models will be more affordable. At AmericaGoRV, we have a wide selection of RVs at both our locations in Seguin & Comfort Texas, no matter your current financial situation.

Here are some upfront costs you need to be aware of:

  • Purchase Price: This is the price you pay to acquire the RV, which can be influenced by the type, brand, features, and age of the RV.
  • Sales Tax and Fees: Don’t forget to include sales tax, registration, and any dealer fees when calculating the total upfront cost.
  • Insurance: The cost to insure your RV will depend on its value, how you plan to use it, and your driving history.

Before setting your eyes on a particular RV, make sure the ongoing costs are manageable & within your budget. It’s important to remember that the cheapest option upfront may not always be the most cost-effective over time, especially if it’s prone to breakdowns or doesn’t suit your lifestyle.

3) New vs. Used RVs: The Pros & Cons

Deciding between a brand-new RV and a gently used one is a critical choice. With over 30 years of RV experience, you are in good hands shopping at AmericaGoRV. While a new RV offers the latest features and warranties, a used one might save you money. Each choice has its pros and cons, which we have highlighted below:

  • Pros of Buying a New RV
    • Latest Features and Technology: New RVs will have the most up-to-date amenities, designs, and technological advancements.
    • Full Warranty: A new RV comes with a manufacturer’s warranty that typically covers repairs for at least the first few years.
    • Customization: When buying new, you may have the option to customize the RV to your specific tastes and needs.
    • Condition: With a new RV, you don’t have to worry about how the previous owner treated it. There’s no wear and tear, and it should be in perfect condition.
  • Cons of Buying a New RV:
    • Higher Costs: New RVs can be significantly more expensive than their used counterparts.
    • Depreciation: RVs depreciate quickly; a new RV can lose a large percentage of its value the moment it’s driven off the lot.
    • Unknown Issues: Sometimes new models can have unforeseen issues that haven’t been worked out yet, which might be discovered only after you’ve made your purchase.
  • Pros of Buying a Used RV:
    • Lower Price: You can save a considerable amount of money by purchasing an RV that’s even just a year old.
    • Less Depreciation: The initial depreciation hit has already occurred – a used RV can offer more value for your money.
    • Tried and Tested: Any initial manufacturing issues are likely to have been identified and fixed.
    • Extras Included: Previous owners may have made valuable upgrades or additions that you won’t have to invest in yourself.
  • Cons of Buying a Used RV:
    • Unknown History: There may be little to no warranty left. Also,  you may not know the full history of maintenance or accidents.
    • Potentially Higher Maintenance: Used RVs might require more maintenance or repairs, which can add to the overall cost.
    • Outdated Features: Older models might lack the latest features, technology, and fuel efficiency of newer RVs.

Whether you decide to buy a new RV or used RV, aligning this decision with your budget, lifestyle, and comfort level with potential repairs or depreciation will help ensure that you make the best choice for your needs. 

4) Amenities & Features: Tailoring Your RV Lifestyle

Your RV should be your home away from home. Think deeply about the amenities and features that matter most to you. To ensure your RV meets your expectations, consider the following aspects before buying an RV:

  • Kitchen Facilities:
    • What are  your cooking preferences?
    • Do you need a full-size refrigerator, a microwave, an oven, or a stovetop? 
    • Also consider the amount of storage for food and kitchen supplies.
  • Sleeping Accommodations: 
    • How many people will be sleeping in the RV regularly?
    • Look into the quality of the mattresses and  bed frames.
  • Bathroom Features:
    • Do you need a full bathroom with a shower?
    • Look at the storage for toiletries and linens.
    • Consider the size of the water tank – this dictates how often you need to empty and refill.
  • Living Space:
    • Do you need a dinette, a sofa, or theater seating?
    • Consider all entertainment options ( built-in TVs or sound systems).
    • If you need more space, slide-outs provide more living space when parked.
  • Storage Options:
    • Ensure there is ample storage for all of your necessities and extra gear.
    • Look for smart storage solutions that make the most of the space available.
  • Climate Control:
    • Depends on the efficiency of the heating and cooling systems
    • This is important, especially if you plan to travel in extreme weather.
  • Connectivity:
    • If staying connected is important, check if there is wiring for satellite or cable
    • Will you need Wi-Fi boosters or cellular extenders?
  • Outdoor Living:
    • If you enjoy spending time outside, consider features like awnings, outdoor kitchens, and exterior entertainment systems.

Take your time to prioritize which features align with your vision of RV living, as these choices will impact your overall satisfaction with your investment.

5) Size Matters: Towing, Maneuverability, & Storing Your RV

RVs come in various sizes and selecting the right dimensions is crucial. Here’s why size matters and what you should consider regarding maneuverability and RV storage:

  • Driving Comfort:
    • Larger RVs, like Class A motorhomes, can be more challenging to drive, especially for those without experience handling large vehicles.
    • Smaller RVs or trailers offer greater maneuverability, which might be less intimidating for new RVers (if this isn’t a word – it should be!).
  • Maneuvering in Tight Spaces:
    • How comfortable are you with backing up or navigating tight corners?
    • A larger RV can limit your ability to explore smaller roads, parking lots, and remote areas.
  • Towing Considerations:
    • If you’re looking at towable RVs, ensure your current vehicle can safely tow the weight of the RV you’re considering.
    • A larger trailer will require a powerful towing vehicle (which may mean purchasing a new truck or SUV).
  • Storage Space:
    • When not in use, you’ll need to store your RV. Larger RVs may not fit in a standard driveway and could require paid storage space.
    • Check local regulations as some neighborhoods may not allow large RVs to be parked on the street.

6) Researching RV Brands & Models

When you start your research for buying an RV, you’ll encounter a wide variety of brands and models, each with its own set of loyal community and unique selling points. Here’s how you can approach researching RV brands and models before you buy an RV:

  • Check Industry Ratings:
    • Resources like the RV Consumer Group and other independent rating agencies offer unbiased ratings on the build quality, road performance, and overall value of RVs.
    • Consumer Reports can be a valuable tool for understanding the reliability and satisfaction ratings of various brands and models.
  • Consult Online Forums and Social Media Groups:
    • Join RV-related forums, Facebook groups, or subreddits where you can ask questions and get advice from experienced RVers.
  • Seek Out Reliability and Safety Records:
    • Look for recalls and safety notices issued for specific models. The National Highway Traffic Safety Administration (NHTSA) keeps a database that can be searched for this information.
  • Consider the After-Sale Support:
    • The quality of customer service post-purchase can be just as important as the quality of the RV itself. Look for brands with a reputation for excellent customer support and service networks.
    • Check for the warranty terms and what they cover. Longer and more comprehensive warranties can offer peace of mind.
  • Understand the Resale Market:
    • Some brands and models hold their value better than others. If you plan to sell your RV in the future, consider those with higher resale values.

By taking the time to thoroughly research and understand the various options, you’ll be better equipped to make a well-informed decision that aligns with both your needs and preferences.

7) Inspecting for Quality & Condition

Whether buying a new or used RV, the inspection phase is critical. Here’s a detailed checklist to guide you through inspecting for quality and condition before buying an RV:

  • Structural Integrity:
    • Exterior Inspection: Look for any dents, scratches, rust, or damage to the exterior. 
    • Roof: Check the roof for any signs of leaks, damage, or patches. Ensure that sealants are not cracked or peeling.
    • Windows & Seals: Make sure all windows and doors seal properly and that there is no evidence of water leakage or sealant failure.
  • Water Damage:
    • Walls & Ceilings: Look for stains, discoloration, or soft spots on the walls and ceilings, which could indicate past leaks.
    • Floors: Feel for soft spots on the floors, particularly in high-risk areas like below windows, near doors, and under the plumbing.
  • Electrical Systems:
    • Lighting: Test all interior and exterior lights, switches, and monitors.
    • Appliances: Ensure that all appliances are functioning correctly and efficiently.
    • Outlets & Connections: Check all electrical outlets and connections for damage or wear.
  • Heating and Cooling Systems:
    • Check the air conditioning and heating systems for proper function and safety.
  • Interior Amenities:
    • Furniture & Upholstery: Check for wear, tear, or stains
    • Cabinetry: Open and close all cabinets and drawers to ensure they function properly.
    • Entertainment Systems: Test the operation of TVs, radios, and satellite systems if available.
  • Tires and Axles:
    • Tire Condition: Check tires for adequate tread depth, signs of uneven wear, and sidewall cracks.
    • Axles: Inspect axles for any visible damage or bending.

While a personal inspection is beneficial, hiring a professional RV inspector can provide an even more thorough assessment, particularly for those without experience in what to look for.

8) Financing Your RV Purchase

If purchasing your RV outright isn’t feasible, explore financing options you have available to you. Financing is a common route many take when buying an RV considering the significant investment. Here are some tips for navigating the financing process when buying an RV:

  • Research Lenders:
    • Begin by checking with banks, credit unions, and online financial institutions that offer RV loans.
    • Some RV dealerships also provide financing options, but it’s wise to shop around to compare rates and terms.
    • At AmericaGoRV, we offer RV financing options from National banks & credit unions.
  • Compare Interest Rates:
    • Interest rates can vary widely between lenders and are influenced by your credit score, the loan term, and the age of the RV.
  • Loan Terms:
    • RV loan terms can extend for longer periods than standard car loans, sometimes up to 20 years for more expensive models.
    • Understand that while longer terms can lower monthly payments, they may also result in higher overall interest costs.
  • Down Payment:
    • Be prepared to pay a down payment, which is typically between 10% to 20% of the purchase price.
    • A larger down payment can reduce your monthly payments and the amount of interest you’ll pay over the life of the loan.
  • Pre-Approval:
    • Getting pre-approved for a loan can give you a budget to work with when shopping and can sometimes give you leverage in negotiations.
    • Pre-approval can also speed up the buying process once you find the RV you want.
  • Read the Agreement Carefully:
    • Review all financing documents carefully. Look for any hidden fees, the possibility of prepayment penalties, and what happens in the event of late payments.
    • Don’t rush the process! Take the time to understand every part of the agreement before signing.
  • Insurance and Extended Warranties:
    • Lenders will require proof of insurance before finalizing the loan.
    • Consider if an extended warranty or additional coverage options make sense for you, keeping in mind they will add to the overall cost.

By carefully considering these aspects of RV financing, you can ensure that you make a well-informed decision that aligns with your financial situation.

9) RV Insurance: Protecting Your Investment

Securing insurance for your RV is a critical step to protect your investment and ensure peace of mind during your travels. Explore insurance options that safeguard you against accidents, damages, theft, and liabilities. Here’s a list of what to consider when shopping for RV insurance:

  • Types of RV Insurance Coverage:
    • Liability Insurance: This is often legally required and covers damage or injury you cause to others while operating your RV.
    • Collision Coverage: This pays for damage to your RV in the event of a collision with another vehicle or object.
    • Comprehensive Coverage: This protects against damage to your RV not caused by a collision, such as theft, vandalism, or natural disasters.
    • Uninsured/Underinsured Motorist Protection: This covers you if another driver is at fault in an accident and doesn’t have sufficient insurance.
    • Contents Coverage: Considering that many people travel with valuable personal belongings, this covers the loss of items inside your RV.
    • Roadside Assistance: This can be a lifesaver if you experience a breakdown or other issues while on the road.
    • Full-Timer’s Coverage: If you live in your RV full-time, this acts as a substitute for homeowner’s insurance, providing comprehensive coverage.
    • Total Loss Replacement: For newer RVs, this coverage can provide you with a new, comparable RV if your vehicle is totaled.
    • Vacation Liability: When your RV is parked and being used as a residence, this coverage acts similarly to liability coverage on a home insurance policy.
  • Customizing Your Insurance Policy:
    • Identify your needs based on the type of RV you own, how often you use it, and whether you live in it full-time or part-time.
    • What is the value of your RV and the assets inside it?
  • Determining the Right Amount of Coverage:
    • Your coverage limits should be high enough to protect your assets in the event of a lawsuit resulting from an accident.
    • Pro Tip: insure your RV for its replacement cost rather than its actual cash value to avoid depreciation affecting your payout after a claim.

RV insurance is not just about fulfilling legal requirements –  it’s about safeguarding your lifestyle, investment, and financial situation.

10) Understanding Needed Maintenance & Upkeep

Owning an RV comes with maintenance responsibilities. Regular upkeep is essential to ensure the longevity and functionality of your (most likely significant) investment. Familiarize yourself with maintenance schedules, required services, and basic troubleshooting for any issues that arise.

  • Regular Maintenance Checks:
    • Engine and Generator: Regular oil changes, fluid checks, and filter replacements are essential. Follow the manufacturer’s guidelines for service intervals.
    • Batteries: Check the battery levels and keep terminals clean. RV batteries typically need replacing every 3-5 years.
    • Tires: Monitor tire pressure and tread wear. Tires should be rotated and balanced according to the manufacturer’s recommendations, and generally need replacing every 3-6 years, regardless of mileage.
    • Brakes: Have the brake system inspected regularly, as a fully loaded RV requires more stopping distance than a car.
    • Water Systems: Sanitize the water system at least once a year and check regularly for leaks.
    • Appliances: Ensure all appliances are in good working order. Clean and service them according to the manufacturer’s instructions.
    • Seals and Slide-Outs: Inspect seals twice a year for leaks and apply lubricant to slide-outs regularly.
  • Seasonal Maintenance:
    • Winterizing: If you live in a cold climate, you’ll need to protect your RV from freezing temperatures by draining water systems and applying antifreeze.
    • De-winterizing: Before hitting the road in spring, flush out antifreeze from the water systems and check all systems for proper operation.
  • Routine Upkeep Tasks:
    • Roof Inspection: Inspect the roof regularly for cracks or leaks and reseal any potential problem areas.
    • Exterior: Wash the exterior of your RV and apply a UV-protectant sealant to protect against sun damage.
    • Interior: Clean the interior regularly to prevent wear and tear, and check for signs of mold or mildew.
  • Record Keeping:
    • Keep a log of all maintenance and repairs. This will help you stay on schedule and can be valuable information for future buyers or for warranty purposes.
  • Emergency Readiness:
  • Keep an emergency repair kit on hand that includes essential tools, spare fuses, extra motor oil, and other items for quick fixes.
  • Know the location and basics of using your RV’s spare tire, jack, and any associated tools

Understanding and staying on top of these maintenance aspects can make RV ownership a more enjoyable and less stressful experience. Plus, it helps retain the value of your RV should you decide to trade it in or sell it in the future.

By arming yourself with the knowledge and insights from this ultimate guide, you’ll be well-equipped to select the perfect RV that aligns with your personal preferences and RV needs. Embrace the freedom of the open road and create lasting memories as you embark on your RV adventure!

RV Buying Guide FAQs:

What’s the best type of RV for a family of four?

For families, a Class C motorhome or a travel trailer with bunk beds can offer ample space and comfort. At AmericaGoRV, we have over 30+ years of RV experience and one of our seasoned sales representatives can help you make the best decision for your family! Contact us today by clicking here.

Can I tow a trailer with my SUV?

It depends on your SUV’s towing capacity. Check your vehicle’s manual and ensure it can safely tow the weight of the trailer.

Is buying a used RV a reliable option?

Yes, buying a used RV can be a great option if you do thorough research and inspections. At AmericaGoRV, we provide assistance in the inspection process and will only recommend units that we’ve fully inspected ourselves.

How much does RV insurance cost?

The cost of RV insurance is influenced by several factors, each contributing to the overall price you’ll pay for coverage. Here are the details that typically affect the cost:

  • Type and Value of the RV: Higher-end models, such as Class A motorhomes, are more expensive to insure than smaller models like Class B or C. The more valuable your RV, the higher the insurance premiums will be, due to the increased cost to repair or replace it.
  • Usage Frequency: If you use your RV full-time, insurance will be more expensive compared to using it as a vacation vehicle because the risk exposure is greater.
  • Location: Where you live and where you travel can impact insurance costs. Areas prone to severe weather, high theft rates, or higher accident rates tend to have higher premiums.
  • Driving History: Just like with car insurance, your driving record plays a significant role. A clean driving history can lower your rates, while accidents or traffic violations can increase them.
  • Storage: How and where you store your RV when it’s not in use can affect insurance costs. Secure, off-street storage may lead to lower premiums than street parking.
  • Coverage Options: The types and amounts of coverage you select will impact the cost. Liability-only coverage will cost less than a comprehensive policy with collision, contents coverage, and add-ons like roadside assistance.
  • Deductibles: A higher deductible generally lowers your premium, but it means you’ll pay more out-of-pocket in the event of a claim.
  • Discounts: Many insurance companies offer discounts for various reasons, such as bundling policies, installing anti-theft devices, taking safe driving courses, or being a member of RV associations.
  • Claims History: If you have a history of making insurance claims, your provider may consider you to be a higher risk, which can increase the cost of your premiums.

What’s a full-hookup campsite?

A full-hookup campsite provides amenities like water, electricity, and sewer connections directly to your RV.

How do I maintain the RV’s engine?

Regular engine maintenance includes oil changes, fluid checks, and inspections to ensure optimal performance.

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