If the thought of RV life has you dreaming of adventures on the road with friends and family; it might be time to finally say yes and consider buying an RV. But before you do, it’s important to do your research to ensure the perfect fit for your needs, so that you don’t experience the challenges first-time buyers often face.

Buying an RV Can Be Challenging

From fitting your budget and choosing the right brand to familiarizing yourself with available features, amenities, and even financing; here are some tips to help you find the perfect RV for your camping and traveling adventures. 

8 Expert Tips for First-time Buyers

1.  Assess Your RV Needs

When buying an RV, the most important thing is to choose one that will fit the RV lifestyle you plan to live. Since there are so many different styles, features, and layouts to choose from, determining exactly how you plan to use the space is crucial. For instance, if you plan to stay in state/national parks, want to boondock often, and spend a lot of time doing things outside of your RV, pay attention to boondocking features. This includes crucial features like electricity options and holding tank capacity. For those who plan to work remotely, considerations include a comfortable workspace and campgrounds with electric/water hookups and Wi-Fi access.

2. Choose the Right Type of RV

With the variety of different options available, buying an RV can be overwhelming. Once you determine your camping style and needs, you can choose from different RV styles including these popular choices. 

  • Motorhome - Built using a commercial truck or bus chassis, the Class A motorhome is the largest type of RV. They typically offer at least two slide-outs, so it is spacious with a luxurious interior. Class A motorhomes range in length from 20 to 45 feet and only get around eight miles per gallon with your choice of a diesel or gas engine. The space and features make Class A the most like home, and it is a great choice for those who often travel, have small families, or those who want luxury on the road.  
  • Fifth Wheel - Fifth wheel trailers are quickly becoming the most popular towable RVs. The camper attaches to the bed of your truck, which gives it the unique split-level floor plan they are known for. Fifth wheels range in size from 12 to 40 feet long and are available with a private bedroom and a bunkhouse giving extra privacy. In addition, depending on the model and your choices, up to four slide-outs are available to increase living space. When buying an RV, the fifth wheel is a great choice for families or groups that travel together due to the large size, ample storage, and privacy options. 
  • Travel Trailer - Travel trailers are affordable and offer a variety of different floor plans to suit every budget and RVing style. Available in lengths from 13 to 40 feet, travel trailers can be towed by SUVs and smaller trucks, depending on the size. When buying an RV, travel trailers are a great choice for those who like to take off and explore, as they easily hitch/unhitch from your towing vehicle so you can drive to local activities after your RV is set up. Fun for couples or small families, the travel trailer comes in a variety of sizes to fit your needs and offers a large living space, kitchen, bathroom, and some models even offer a separate bedroom.
  • Campervans - Class B Motorhomes are also known as campervans because they look like an oversized van. Although they are the smallest type of RVs, they also offer perks including great gas mileage, and easy drivability and parking. Campervans typically include a small kitchenette, a bed, a bathroom toilet and sink. They range in size from 17 to 24 feet long and are available with gas or diesel engines. The fun-sized campervans are perfect for solo or couples travel since space and storage is somewhat limited. 

3. Set a Realistic Budget

The most important thing to consider when buying an RV is your budget. While luxurious motorhomes are appealing to most of us, the price tag may not be an affordable one. When buying an RV, it is important to establish a budget for your purchase that includes factors such as upfront costs, financing options, and monthly payments. You’ll also want to think about recurring expenses for the upkeep that include maintenance, insurance, storage, etc. Also included in RVing are expenses like campground fees, fuel cost, groceries, internet service, phones, pets, laundry expense, entertainment, and more. 

4. Research RV Models and Brands

Doing your research is the best way to find the perfect fit when buying an RV. Not only should you look online to gather information and read reviews of the various RV models and RV brands but also take the time to visit your local RV dealership. Talk to the salespeople for tips, useful recommendations, and brand knowledge. Explore the different models and brands of RVs to see your choices and preferences for the different layouts, lengths, and brands. Once you familiarize yourself with your options of RVs, go online and check reviews, prices, and features to see which will work best for your adventures.

Download Our FREE RV Inspection and Ownership Checklist

RV Inspection and Ownership Made Simple: A Buyer's Guide and Checklist

5. Understand RV Features and Amenities

Comfort, safety, and functionality are the key things to look for when buying an RV. For safety, you need to understand how to match a trailer with your tow vehicle to get started. It’s also a good idea to research the features and amenities of RVs, so you will know exactly what you want when buying an RV. Choosing the right amenities and features to add to the comfort level is important. Consider features like full bathroom and kitchen facilities, a separate bedroom versus fold-down tables that create beds, tank size for your water supply, solar panels or a generator for frequent boondocking, upgraded seating areas, fireplaces, laundry facilities, and more. 

6. Inspect and Test Drive RVs

Once you have researched and selected a dealer, it’s time to start RV shopping. When buying an RV, a thorough inspection and a test drive is a smart move. The RV inspection should be performed by a professional RV inspector/mechanic and should include all interior and exterior features including everything from the roof to the tires and all the electrical, mechanical, and plumbing components. It’s also important to test drive the RV to ensure its mechanical integrity and to make sure it is a good fit for your RVing skills. Red flags to look for include cracking tires, faded exterior, interior roof stains, lack of service records, high mileage, wall and floor stains, and no gas flame. All of these items require a closer look to ensure there are no issues.  

7. Negotiate the Purchase Price

Part of the fun of RVing is the camaraderie that comes along with it. There is a huge community of RV and camping lovers that can really add value to your RV ownership experience. Not only can these fellow RVers give you tons of insight into the best campgrounds, road trips, and sights to see, but there are also RV clubs to join, forums to participate in, and social gatherings to attend. Find the perfect RVing community for you with a simple internet search.

8. Finance Your RV

When buying an RV, there are a variety of financing options for first-time RVers. While you can typically get financing from your RV dealer, consider other options like your credit union, bank, and even online lenders who offer RV loans with great rates and terms. You should be familiar with the latest interest rates for buying an RV and also the loan terms that are available when financing to get the best deal. You should be aware that securing financing when buying an RV is more like qualifying for a mortgage than a car purchase and can be a challenge. Many RV loans require you to use the RV as collateral to guarantee the loan and rates depend on things 

Make Buying Your RV a Breeze with America’s Credit Union 

When it comes to financing your dream RV, America's Credit Union has got your back. We offer competitive rates and flexible terms to fit your budget like a glove. Our team is committed to helping you and making the whole process a breeze. So, whether you're chasing sunsets or campfire stories, Let America’s Credit Union be your partner in making it happen! If you have any questions, please contact us today

If you are interested in buying an RV are looking for more information, be sure to download our free "RV Inspection and Ownership Made Simple: A Buyer's Guide and Checklist" today. 

Membership in America’s Credit Union is open to anyone who lives or works in Dallas, Rockwall or Collin Counties, Texas, and their family members. Employees of select employers may also be eligible. See our Membership page for details.