How to get the RV you want, the first time

You can get the RV you want the first time, instead of buying and selling one RV after another as many people do before they get their ideal RV.

How to get the RV you want

The following steps will help you get an RV that works for you. The steps will vary depending on your interests, abilities, budget and planned use. Choose the ones that fit your purpose and use them. If you're sure the others are of no use, discard them.

  • Current vehicle? Is your present vehicle potentially suitable as part of your future setup? If so, you will probably get the most benefit if you go through this exercise two ways:
    1. Assume that your present vehicle will be part of your future RV setup.
    2. Go through the exercise from the beginning again but this time assume that your present vehicle will NOT be part of your future RV setup.
  • Off-road? Is the ability to go off-road essential? If so: To get the RV you want, choose a suitable off-road RV. If not, you don't need to avoid off-road RVs, just ignore any off-road capabilities when selecting your RV.
  • Comfort level: Do you need all the comforts of home? RVs are usually tagged by length: A 40' motorhome. A 16' caravan. And usually, the longer the RV is, the more luxurious the fitout. And of course, the more expensive. Generally, the length does not have much impact on the height and width. So you are left with Option one: Big and fancy and Option two: More realistic? More affordable and perhaps more practical.
  • Driving ability: What sort of drivers are you and your partner? When you look at an RV, bear this in mind and assess how easy it is to drive, park, maneuver into a tight space, store. Large RVs require greater skill, attention and space. Smaller RVs are usually easier to maneuver, less stressful to drive and give you more choices of parking spots and campsites. Before you get the RV you want, you will need to do a test drive of an RV, so:
    • How large a vehicle can you handle confidently?
    • Are you comfortable reversing it or backing it up?
    • Will your partner be comfortable driving it?
    • Do you need a special type of driver's license in your state?
    • Can you cope with the stress of driving this size of vehicle under the sort of conditions you will meet?
  • Luxury level: How luxurious do you want your RV to be?
    An RV can be fitted out as opulently as a mansion: Full-on entertainment systems, king-size beds, dishwashers and hot tubs.
    For some, this is too much, they want just the basics: A container of water; campfire cooking; take a shovel into nature for bathroom facilities.
    Most of us want something in between.
    To get the RV you want and can afford, pick a practical level of luxury, not an unrealistic one that isolates you from nature. After all, getting out in nature is probably one of the main reasons you are thinking of buying an RV.
  • Style of RV: What RV class do you want? This is not about your social standing, nor whether you're traveling steerage or in a ship's upper-deck cabin. RVs have categories: Class A, Class B and Class C all refer to motorhomes and campervans. To find out more about how to get the RV you want, look at RV classes and types.
  • Negotiate first, before you lose power Just as with buying a car, you have all the power right up to the moment you sign on the dotted line. From that time on, the power is with the person who countersigned. Therefore, to get the RV you want, negotiate everything that you need beforehand.
    In most areas, you will find there are far more RV manufacturers than car manufacturers. This competition gives you the advantage: If you can't find the style and options you want at a price that you find reasonable, you can haggle with the salesperson or head to the next dealership.
  • Know what you want and go for it. Do your homework: Read magazines, watch TV programs, talk to other RV owners, think about it, talk with your partner and family about how it will all work on a day-to-day basis as well as longer-term. Go to RV shows. Visit dealers. Talk, and particularly listen, to owners, dealers and other people who are still shopping around for the best RV and the best deal. These people may have found out something that will make a big difference to your choice. Do it right and you are more likely to get the RV you want.
  • Try before you buy: One of the beauties of RVs compared with non-mobile homes is that you can try before you buy. To get the RV you want, the first time you buy one, rent a similar RV and take it on the sort of trip you plan to take yours on. You can rent or hire most types of RVs and take them on the sort of trip that you think you might do when you have your own RV. Try RVing in a vehicle or combination similar to what you think will have you get the RV you want and you will make a more informed decision. Otherwise, your first RV is likely to be a testbed for your second RV - that's what most people do.
  • Choose a vehicle you can afford to run. Allow for registration, regular maintenance, occasional repairs, general running costs, fuel costs, campground fees and all the other things you will pay for on the road. Factor in your normal food budget plus all your permanent expenses such as insurance. Review how this fits with keeping, renting or selling your home to suit your long-term plans.
  • Pick a price range that you can afford and stick to it. You can spend anything from a few hundred to hundreds of thousands to get the RV you want depending on quality, condition, location, style, age, wear, your negotiating skill, the seller's negotiating skill and many other factors.
  • Assess whether you and your partner are in agreement on how you will use it, how often you use it and how much effort, time and money to be put into it. Strong agreement makes for a good chance for success. Weak agreement, particularly if one of the parties feels bullied, bamboozled or outsmarted, is likely to lead to a low chance of success.
  • Go on a virtual RV journey: Run through a normal day on the road. Do it a couple of times from a couple of perspectives:
    • Pick a day when you arrive in camp from somewhere else, find a campsite, position your RV, set up camp and go through your nightly routine until the following morning.
    • Pick a day where you are on a particular spot for more than a few days. Run through the routine from waking up one day to waking the next day.
    • Pick a day when you'll break camp and travel to another campsite. Review everything from 24 hours before you break camp through to the time when you're well down the road.
    • In each case you may need to run through it from the perspective of each member of the party to make sure that there is nothing left out in your understanding of how you will live on the road.
  • Enjoy the journey: Take your time, finding your ideal RV is a process that you can enjoy. Too many people put off that enjoyment until they have the RV and that is often a disappointment. By enjoying the journey, you are inclined not to rush the decision but to really get the RV you want, the best RV for you and live your life as it happens, rather than waiting for it to happen.

There is a straightforward way to get the RV you want. It does take time and effort. It can save you money and time and get you just what you want and need.

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