How to Shop for an RV

The RV buying process can be fun, exciting and stress-free, as long as you’ve done your research and have a clear idea of what’s on the market. If you’re new to RV shopping, or if you’re looking for ideas on how to shop like a pro, we’ve assembled a quick “top 5” list of expert tips to help you get up to speed and enjoy the buying process to the fullest. Check them out and get on the road to becoming a happy camper!

  1. Know your budget. Skipping this important step often leads to heartache — nothing takes the fun out of the buying process like falling in love with an RV and then discovering that it’s outside your budget! Think about the complete picture, including insurance costs, how much your down payment and monthly payments may be if you’re financing your purchase, fuel costs (if you’re using the RV often), etc. Then, you’ll be able to start shopping with a number in mind.
  2. Think about your RV lifestyle. It’s easy to fall in love with something shiny, new and full of features that make you say, “wow I’d never thought of that!” Don’t give into the glitz and glamor — instead, keep your reason for buying and goals in mind. To determine which type of RV best fits with your needs, think about:
    • How you intend on using it. Do you need a lot of cooking space? A large TV?
    • Who else will be traveling in it. Family, friends, pets, children, people with mobility considerations, etc.
    • Where you plan on traveling. Will you be taking your RV down unpaved roads? Are you planning on doing a lot of boondocking?
    • Whether you prefer to tow or drive a motorhome. If you’re looking at a towable, make sure you know your vehicle’s towing capacity. And if you’re looking at an exceptionally large motorhome, check your state’s regulations to make sure you don’t need a special license.

    Taking a few minutes to consider these things will help you figure out which features you absolutely need and which can move to the nice-to-have list.

  3. Consider the cargo carrying capacity and trailer weight. Unlike a car, it can be difficult to know if you’re overloading an RV. Think about everything you want to take with you on your adventures — luggage, water, people, pets — and you’ll have a rough idea of how much weight you need your RV to carry. You can often find information about the RV’s weight without cargo and carrying capacity online and on a yellow sticker, located on the driver’s side door. To be safe, make sure that the maximum amount of weight that the RV can carry is well above what you believe you’ll need. A key aspect of buying a towable RV is understanding the tow rating of your vehicle. Pay attention to the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating, the maximum weight your vehicle should tow before making your selection.
  4. Play pretend. One of the top tips from RV experts is to imagine yourself in the RV you’re considering buying. Rather than just walking through it and opening a couple cabinet doors, sit on the bed, pretend you’re washing your hair in the shower, move around the kitchen as if you’re preparing a meal, sit in the living area and turn toward the TV. You may feel a bit silly at first, but this is the best way to really know whether or not an RV works for you.
  5. Know what’s out there. New technology and features hit the RV scene all the time and you’ll want to make sure that you know about the latest advancements before you start shopping. A few noteworthy things include:
    • Solar power. Solar panels provide greater energy independence, are better for the environment and come with a number of other big benefits. Many newer RVs are equipped with them, and a variety of solar kits are also available.
    • Signal boosters and hot spots. Newer models make it easier to get online and work from the road than ever before.
    • Helium technology. This proprietary process from Keystone RV utilizes different materials and technologies in order to reduce the overall weight of RVs, making them easier to tow and reducing fuel costs as well as wear on your towing vehicle and tires.
    • Better batteries. Lithium-ion batteries have become wildly popular in recent years, due to an increase in demand for more portable power. These types of batteries are essential if you’re considering solar power. They’re also more efficient and lighter, have a longer lifespan and adapt to temperature swings better than their lead acid counterparts.

The latest models and technology will be on display at the California RV Show, the largest RV consumer show on the West Coast. Take your new-found RV shopping knowledge out into the wild and explore more than 1,000 RVs at the Auto Club Speedway in Fontana, California, October 4-13. Get your tickets online and save a few dollars!