Planning to buy an RV? Read this post and watch this video first! These are the top 13 RV buying mistakes to avoid that both new and experienced RVers make (plus a bonus mistake not mentioned in the video). Do not repeat the same mistakes I made that cost me thousands of dollars and a lot of wasted time! I want to help you to pick the right RV the first time and avoid making these same mistakes. If you have made any of these mistakes yourself, let us know in the video comments.
1. FACEBOOK GROUPS! Not joining the Facebook groups of current owners of the RV brand or models you are interested in. Also not doing the research on the reviews, especially the common problems and repairs that are needed for that RV brand or model.
First, before you do anything else! Research, research, research! Check out the reviews of the specific RV you want to buy. Join the Facebook groups for that brand and see what current owners like and don’t like about their RV. Try to get answers on the exact make, model and year as RV manufacturers make updates from one model year to the next. Ask a lot of questions. You can also use the search function in a Facebook group to narrow down on a specific RV model or issue.
I am so embarrassed to admit this, but I never checked reviews on my first RV before buying it. And I wrote a book and have a course about online reviews! We were so caught up in picking out the RV that we liked the most, that we skipped checking reviews. This was definitely a newbie RV mistake.
2. RV DEALER! Choosing the wrong RV dealer to buy from. Check the RV dealer’s online reviews, especially around service! Are they happy to honor warranty work? This is huge. RV service is more often bad than good. Sorry to say.
TIP: If you walk onto an RV dealer’s lot and you can access an RV that is in for service, do not buy from that dealer. We have walked onto many RV dealer lots to tour new and used RVs only to find that we accidently walked into another owner’s RV that was in for service. This shows an extreme amount of carelessness on the dealer’s part and I would say run, don’t just walk away from that dealer. Not only should your RV be locked when it is in for service, it should clearly be parked in an area that is not open for RV buyers to tour.
Consider going with a family-owned dealership for better service like The Great Outdoors RV Company in Greeley Colorado.
3. SIZE MATTERS! Buying too small of an RV or not getting an RV with enough storage space. Finding the right size RV takes a lot of consideration.
TIP: Ask these questions:
- Are you going to RV full-time or part-time?
- How many will be traveling with you?
- Will you have pets with you?
- Will you spend a lot of time in the RV or outdoors?
- Will you be mostly boondocking or dry camping or will you be in RV parks and campgrounds?
4. RV TOO BIG! On the flip side of that is buying too large of an RV. This could be either too large for you to comfortably drive and feel safe or too large for your tow vehicle. Yep! I made that mistake! I purchased the wrong truck because the dealer just wanted the sale and the salesperson said, “yeah, this truck can pull anything”. You might think that the RV dealer should warn you, but many do not! Many RV dealers just want the sale as well.
Make sure you get the right tow vehicle if you are getting a 5th wheel or travel trailer. No one explained to me at the dealership what tow vehicle we should have or asked what we had. This was not safe and destroyed the backend of my first truck. And I’m not the only one, I’ve seen many smaller trucks pulling RV’s that were way to big! So again, smaller or shorter can be better! I had to upgrade to a 1-ton diesel pickup just to pull our first RV.
Plus keep in mind that very large RVs have more limited camping sites that they can fit into. For example, our huge 43’ Grand Design Momentum can’t fit into many campsites and boondocking spaces. I would say 30 to 40% of all campsites are a ‘no go’ for us.
TIP: So bottom line advice on RV size: Buy the smallest RV you can that will comfortably meet your RV living and traveling needs.
5. NO TEST DRIVE! Not taking a test drive or learning how to drive a big RV or how to tow a trailer. You will likely have the RV you purchase for awhile and you should feel comfortable and safe driving it.
TIP: We recommend renting an RV first. Mostly to decide if you really like RVing and camping in the first place, but also to get a feel for driving or towing that large of a vehicle.
6. NOT NEGOTIATING…EVEN NOW! Do not believe all the hype about RVs being hard to come by. Maybe a few select RV brands or models are more in demand right now. But the market for new RVs is not any hotter than it was a few years ago. Plus, avoid getting too excited! Always be ready to walk out the door.
TIP: Pick out the RV dealers you like and get them to compete and see which one will offer you the best price on the RV model you want. You should be able to get 20 to 30% off the sticker price. Don’t think your local dealer can compete with the big boys? Think again and ask! My local Minnesota dealer beat the price of a so called ‘RV wholesaler’ that was located next to the factory in Indiana (and that was including the shipping/delivery fee!)
TIP: A used RV could be a good option. Depreciation is huge on RVs. So buying a used one could save you a lot of money too! A well taken care of used RV could be a nice option and possibly have less issues going forward if the current owners have already paid to fix any major or minor issues. We did this with our 2nd RV and we have been very happy with the results! Our 2019 Grand Design Momentum 381M had only a few thousand miles on it. So it was basically new, but the owner had already taken care of many of the initial repair issues. Cheri and I have had to do very little repair on it so far, knock, knock!! You could also be buying someone’s lemon if you buy used. So that leads to next point.
7. NO INSPECTION! Not having an RV inspected, even a new one! Do not be too eager to drive off the RV dealers lot. Have your new or used RV inspected by an independent RV expert or repair person before driving it off the lot. Think about it, you are basically buying a small house. You wouldn’t buy a house without an inspection would you? There are so many components and moving parts to an RV. Check out https://nrvia.org/locate to find an independent RV inspector in your area.
8. NO SHAKEDOWN! Not doing a shakedown; that is not doing a proper ‘test’ traveling and camping experience before your first ‘fun’ trip. It’s great when the RV dealer you purchase from has an attached campground or at least full or partial hookups. That way you can spend a few days learning all of your new RVs systems and how they work right on site. Plus, since you are still at the RV dealer, if you find something that does not work, they can fix it before you drive off the lot. Yes, many new RVs will have multiple items that need to be fixed right from the start. This is considered normal so just expect it.
9. HIDDEN FEES! Not catching hidden or extra fees! Watch out for ‘gotcha’ extra fees from the RV dealer especially during the financing process. It’s like buying a new car or truck. You relax after you negotiate a great price only to be offered an extended warranty, exterior protection, financing with extra fees, etc. If you really want these extra items or protections, negotiate them into the deal.
When Cheri and I were considering buying Brian’s infamous RV, (see the crazy videos here) he had purchased several extended warranties, protections, and more adding up to over $8000 in extra fees!
10. NO REPAIR BUDGET! Do you think your RV was expensive? Wait till you see the repair bills! Repairs and maintenance are a thing…a big thing! This added up to $1000’s of out-of-pocket expenses that I didn’t expect on our first RV. From my experience, I’ve learned that you have to expect major and minor repairs. Think about it, owning an RV is like putting tires on your home or apartment and towing it down a bumpy road for 1000’s of miles. It’s like a constant earthquake. One repair shop guy joked with me that ‘RV’ stands for Ruined Vacation and ‘BOAT’ means Bust Out Another Thousand!
TIP: All joking aside, I would budget $2000 – $5000 per year for repairs depending on the RV set up you have. And that includes repairs on your tow vehicle (See our one year full-time RV living expenses here). So you need to budget a significant amount of money for potential repairs. If you are lucky, you will not need to use all of it and can spend it on having more fun!
11. NO EXTENDED WARRANTY! Not getting the right extended warranty! Oh, and that bright, shiny extended warranty does not cover much. I purchased the most deluxe extended warranty offered by my dealer on our first RV. I thought I was covered for almost anything. But in reality, many of the repair bills were only covered by 50%, if they were even covered at all. For example, the underbelly falling off during a trip…NOT COVERED! Diagnosing a malfunction of the microwave, also NOT COVERED! So be sure to read the fine print and understand what you are buying with an extended warranty. Still in the end, this warranty ended up saving me money. I had far more claims covered then what I spent on the policy. I just had a lot more repairs than I expected.
The Grand Design Momentum is a different story though, we do not have an extended warranty because it was purchased gently used from a private seller (See our buying experience here). Which I recommend. It was hard to find this model used though.
12. LOW BRIDGES! Not knowing the height of the RV you purchased! Low bridges are everywhere! Before you drive your new RV off the dealers lot, you need to have an RV trip planner that will take your RV height and length into it’s route calculations. That is why we use RV Trip Wizard. It safely plans routes around low bridges to avoid situations like the one we showed in the companion video.
13. WRONG RV TIRES! Not replacing RV tires right away. As some have said, the tires that come on your RV are just good enough to drive your RV off the lot and into a tire dealership for new tires. Learn from my mistakes about tires (see the video here). Although there has been some improvement in the last few years, this is an area that RV manufacturers save money. Many tires installed on new RVs are just rated for a few hundred pounds more than the weight of the RV. So when you excitedly load a few thousand pounds of camping gear, food, water, etc. you are immediately overweight for your tire ratings.
TIP: Plus, if the RV is used, the tires could look fine, but have something called dry rot. Be sure to check the date the tires were manufactured and replace them if they are 3 – 5 years old.
TIP: If the tires are not adequate on the RV you are wanting to buy, negotiate that into the price with the dealer.
14. WRONG RV INSURANCE! Not getting the right RV insurance! If you just add your RV to your vehicle policy, you may not get the coverage you need. We made this mistake and when we got robbed, we were not fully covered (see the video here). Make sure you purchase RV specific insurance from an agent like http://www.millerrvinsurance.com/. This is a big topic and we have a future video planned on the subject so subscribe to be notified when we release it!
For our RV experts, what buying mistakes did I miss or what would you add to this list? Let us know by commenting below or in the video comments!
Thank you for reading, watching, subscribing and sharing this with your RV friends. Safe travels and say hi if you see us on the road!
Tom, Cheri & Logan
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