A friend contacted us recently because she wants to buy her first RV. Buying your first RV is exciting and a bit terrorizing at the same time. There are so many choices…and the cost is often not insignificant. She had many, many questions. But first, we had some questions for her.
For the purpose of this article, let’s assume you are over the fear of taking the RV plunge. You are certain that you want to purchase an RV and have the resources to do so. Let’s assume you are making this decision alone or have a partner that is fully in synch with your desires.
Let’s assume it just comes down to deciding which RV is the right RV for you. After reading this article, you certainly won’t have the exact make, model and year you should buy. But we will provide you some questions you need to answer before you start your search.
Full or Part Time
You might assume we are asking this question because it will determine the size RV you need. For many full-time RVers, this is the case. Full-timers gravitate to large Class A pushers whose diesel engines last for years and whose basement storage permits one to carry a lot of stuff. However, we met one woman who happily lived in her Roadtrek for the past five years and had no plans to change.
We start with this question because if part time….how part time? If the answer is a few weeks a year, should you buy? Today’s peer-to-peer rental programs offer options well beyond the mainstay CruiseAmerica. If you think $200 a day is a bit steep remember you aren’t comparing this to campsite rental. You are comparing the cost of the RV rental to ownership which includes: initial purchase price, registration, insurance, storage fees, maintenance, etc.
Towable or Motorhome
Towables (pop up campers, travel trailers and fifth wheels) come in all shapes and sizes, and typically are the less costly category of RVs. Some are so small and lightweight you can tow with your SUV. One advantage of a towable is the fact that once you have set up camp, you have a vehicle to explore places you can’t get to on foot or bike.
However, if you are going to purchase a towable don’t forget the cost of the vehicle required. Lots of people have been lead to believe that a truck they were being sold could tow the trailer they intended to buy. Yes, it towed their RV but it towed it at 15 mph when it hit its first significant hill.
We choose a motorhome in part because one of us can make a snack while the other is driving. We also liked the fact that if we ever got somewhere and felt uncomfortable we could leave more easily. Finally, we didn’t want to contend with trailer sway as we drove down the road.
Will You Tow a Motorcycle or Car?
If you want to purchase a motorhome, you need to consider whether or not you will tow. If you are a millennial living in a major city, you may believe that Uber and Lyft are everywhere. Trust us, they aren’t! As much as we believe and hope driverless cars will dramatically change our future, we suspect it will take a long time for them to reach the wide open spaces of Wyoming. That said, we don’t tow. Instead, we rely on bikes, rental cars, Uber and Lyft where available, and the kindness of friends and strangers.
If you decide you want to tow, factor in the cost of a tow vehicle and check to see if the car you intend to tow is easily adapted. These dingy guides go back to the year 2000. Also, as you shop for RVs check to ensure the motorhome is rated to tow the weight of the vehicle you intend to tow.
We’ve mentioned budget or costs several times. It is easy to get carried away by the “new motorhome smell”. The last thing you want is to view your new RV as a burden. Establish a budget you are comfortable with before you go shopping and make sure you consider all the costs associated with your RV purchase. Here are the most common ones:
- Storage fees
- Road Side Assistance Programs
- Extended Warranty Programs
- Tow vehicle (cost, registration, insurance, vehicle modification fees)
As you consider your first RV purchase, consider these additional questions:
- Where will you set up camp? Options range from off the grid and as far from anyone as I can… to luxury RV Resort.
- Do you intend to eat in? If so, how do you like to cook?
- Do you unplug? How important is it to stay connected all the time?
- Are you going alone, or intend to invite friends and family?
- Will you use campground facilities (rest and shower rooms) or prefer your own bathroom?
- What level of comfort/luxury are you looking for?
Buying Your First RV
If you read about us and OLGA you know that our Renegade Villagio is our second RV and we purchased her within a year of the first one. This is in part because our initial budget was lower, as Nancy intended to resell it after our first trip. It was also because we didn’t fully appreciate the level of comfort we expected.
Olga 1.0 was a great entry-level rig…very reliable and functional. But the Class C on a truck chassis, drove like…well a truck. When we turned the coach air conditioner on you couldn’t hear the TV. We didn’t like the booth when relaxing at night. The folding mattress was better than the ground….but.
When we bought Olga 2.0, we tried out everything. We drove her and enjoyed the comfort and quiet. We turned on the AC and could easily converse or watch TV. We found her couch, and the turn around cab seats a more comfortable option when eating and when just lounging. We laid on the mattress and it felt like home.
Take Your Time
As we drove Olga 2.0 off the dealer’s lot, I was reminded of something John Huggins had once told me, “Purchase your third RV first.” Like us, you may not buy only your first RV….but you will make a better choice if you take your time.
- Think hard about the questions above;
- Attend RV shows;
- Talk to lots of RV owners;
- Try out different RVs using rental programs;
- Kick the tires, lounge on the couches, turn around in the shower and play out cooking a meal in the galley.
We are sure there are other questions you should ask yourself. If you are a fellow RVer and have some items to suggest about buying your first RV, please share them in the comment section below.