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7 Guidelines for the First-Time RV Buyer

Couple receiving keys to their new RV

When we were searching for our first RV we had a ton of questions. After attending several RV shows and multiple dealerships, talking to service technicians, and answering viewer questions we came up with these few essentials for the first-time RV buyer. Remember: do your research; these guidelines are here to help you make an educated decision.

  1. Rental:You can rent almost any type of RV from a number of companies. Renting is a great way to test out the RVing lifestyle. Instead of staying in a hotel for your next vacation, try renting an RV. The rental company will help you choose the appropriate RV for your destination and the number of people traveling with you. Consider it your Intro to RVing.
  2. Find your RV match: There are several classes of RVs, and there’s a type and style for just about every traveler. Here are some questions that will help narrow down your options:
    • What type of camping do you want to do? (What kind of roads will you travel?)
    • Where do you plan on camping? (Some parks have length restrictions)
    • How often do you plan on traveling? (Trailers are easier to winterize and store)


  3. New vs. Used:Purchasing an RV is a major investment. Yes, it’s a depreciating asset just like a car or truck; main difference: you’re going to live in this vehicle. If you’re not overly picky about looks and don’t need the latest gadgets, you can definitely find a quality used RV. If you’re like us and know exactly what you want and don’t plan on settling, then you might need to purchase new. Be prepared: as soon as you drive that shiny new RV off the lot it’s going to lose value.
  4. Visit an RV show:Attend an RV show for a sneak peek at new and current RV models. Most RV shows are well rounded, offering a sample of all types of RVs. You can get a good deal at a show if you know what you want before you go. We recommend going to see/touch all the RV’s within your budget. If you find a few you love, talk to the dealers and the manufacturer reps. If you have a good feeling about one in particular, grab a card and call them when you’re ready to purchase.
  5. Pre-approval for a loan:If you don’t have enough cash to pay for the RV you’ll need to get a loan. These days applying for a loan can be a pain, so make sure you’re pre-approved for a certain amount BEFORE you go to the dealership. Talk with your bank or check out some online sources such as Good Sam or Costco.
  6. Discount off MSRP:Right off the bat you’ll see the MSRP and the lower dealer list price. Many salesmen will tell you immediately that they can go even lower with the price. The big question is: how low will they go? We’ve seen dealerships discount as little as 15% off MSRP, and as much as 35% off MSRP. Just like purchasing a car, you need to have your budget and stick to your guns. An RV is a huge purchase, if you’ve done your research you’ll walk out of the showroom with your head held high. (Don’t expect to drive the RV off the lot, it will need to be prepared for you.)
  7. Visit a dealership: After searching, researching, and asking friends; you’re finally ready to go to the dealership. Walk in and find a friendly salesman: if you’re not happy with the first one don’t worry, ask to speak to another salesman. Remember this is your hard earned cash you’re laying on the line here. Go out on the lot and see the few RVs you have it narrowed down to (many RV dealers sell only certain brands, so you might have to visit a couple dealerships). If you are not ready, that’s ok. Thank the salesman for his time and walk out of the dealership, no high pressure sales tactics necessary.

If you have any must-do steps of your own, let us know with a comment below. The more information we all share, the stronger the RV community will become in helping newbies get into RVing.