What you need to know when buying an RV
Last updated: January 1
The recreational vehicle lifestyle can offer many benefits — no hotel reservations, freedom of travel, having all of your belongings with you and the companionship of other RV enthusiasts at a variety of campgrounds across the country. Even more, the Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) the RVIA cites more benefits of the RV lifestyle, including potentially saving 27 to 61 percent on family vacations compared to more traditional travel and accommodations, and an escape from everyday stress. But first-time RV buyers may be overwhelmed by the possibilities and choices available.
Determine how you will use the RV
If you're in the market to make a purchase, it's important to know that RVs are not one-size-fits-all vehicles. Since they can vary widely in price, the first step is to set your budget. Next, you'll likely want to spend some time thinking about how you will use your RV. GoRVing suggests that you may want to consider some of these questions before you purchase an RV:
- Do you need it to be towable or motorized? Towable RVs offer flexibility, while motorized versions typically provide more comfort.
- How will you use your RV? Will you go on occasional road trips? Are you a "weekend warrior" or do you need it for full-time living? Do you like camping or "glamping?"
- How many people and pets will typically be traveling in your RV? What is the sleeping capacity? Make sure to choose the size and features that fit your lifestyle.
- Where and when do you plan to use it? Will you primarily visit state parks, smaller campsites or full-amenity RV parks? Do you expect to do most of your RVing in summer, or do you like winter camping as well?
Consider what type is right
GoRVing.com divides RVs into four main categories — towable, motorized, specialty and Park Model. Within each category exist more types and options that can offer specific features that may be the right fit for you and your family. By compiling your answers to the questions above, you may be able to determine which type of RV is right for you.
- Towable RVs: This type of RV does not have its own driving engine and must be towed to move locations. Check the owner's manual of your vehicle to determine its towing capabilities before purchasing a towable RV to help ensure that will you not exceed its limits. The RVIA lists six main types within this category: folding camper trailers, conventional travel trailers, sport utility RVs, truck campers, fifth-wheel travel trailers and travel trailers with expandable ends. Popular choices for families on a budget include the folding and expandable camper trailers.
- Motorized RVs: These RVs are self-reliant, do not need to be towed and are often called motorhomes. Motorhomes are built on automotive frames and typically sleep up to eight people. This is what many people think of when they hear the term "RV."
- Specialty RVs: If you have mobility challenges, you can still RV by using an accessible RV with modifications, such as lifts, ramps, roll-in showers, low cabinets and wider doors. Specialty RVs can offer a wide variety of features that can help facilitate all sorts of lifestyles and hobbies. For example, horse enthusiasts can bring along their four-legged partners with a horse trailer RV, while fishing fans can tow their ice fishing shanty onto the ice to help stay warm.
- Park model RVs: RV enthusiasts who want the look and feel of home can get all of their creature comforts with a Park Model RV. These typically larger RVs are designed to look like a home, but need to be connected to electricity, sewer and water like any RV. These RVs are designed for a seasonal camping experience where the users park at one campsite and stay there during the entire season, treating the RV as more of a vacation home than a truly mobile home, according to GoRVing.com.
By taking the extra time to carefully consider your needs and the types of RVs available, your family can have many happy years exploring the country and creating RV-assisted memories.