HOW TO BUY AN RV

Step One: Where do you start, once you've decided to buy an rv? First, decide what kind of RVer you are. How are you going to use the RV? The answer to this question will help you determine the type of RV that will suit you best.

For an in-depth description of each type of RVer, check out RV Lifestyles.

Step Two:

Take a good look at the pros and cons of the different types once you've decided to buy. Which one will suit your needs and your budget best?

Keep close to nature's heart...and break clear away, once in a while, and climb a mountain or spend a week in the woods. Wash your spirit clean. -- John Muir

Snowbird WannabeSnowbird Wannabe

Once you’ve decided what kind of RV suits you best, you’re ready for…

Step Three: Do lots of research on how to buy an rv!

• Visit dealers, ask questions, investigate models and floorplans

• Check out rv blogs and rv forums online

• If there’s an RV park in the area, visit it. If you see a model of the motorhome that you’re thinking of, ask questions. 

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Blue Penstemon

• If possible, go to an RV show and check out all the models, talk to the sales staff and attend some of the information seminars that may be available.


Try before you buy an rv. Renting an RV of the type you’re considering for a weekend is a very good idea. The cost will be considerably higher than renting a car, but you’ll learn a lot. There are several companies that specialize in rv rentals: Camping World, Cruise America and El Monte RV are the ones I see most often on the road. I talked to several of the folks who rented from Cruise America and El Monte - they were all satisfied with the service and performance of their particular RV.

There's a new company, RV Share, that's definitely worth checking out. If I understand it correctly, they act as a clearinghouse to bring together RV owners who wish to defray the cost of owning one, with wannabe RVers, who would love to rent one. Here's a great article they've shared, How To Get The Best Deal On An RV Rental Near You.

Here are some good things to keep in mind if you decide to rent an RV:

    - Some rv rental companies do not allow pets; if they do there is an additional, non-refundable fee.
    - Most companies do not allow smoking in the RV; if you smoke there could be a fee charged for deodorizing.
    - There may be mileage fees if you go over a certain number of miles per day.
    - There likely will be a fee for each hour you use the generator.
    - Most companies will not let you tow a car; if you need to tow, there will be an additional charge.

Read books about the RV lifestyle, how to buy an RV, etc.


Frugal Shunpikers Guides to RV Boondocking - If you love boondocking, you'll find these books invaluable. There are two new ones that cover California. Definitely check them out! 

Boondockers Welcome - Be My Guest RV Parking

Here's a network of people around the world who are willing to offer a night or two of free parking to RVers on their own property. This is a wonderful idea for all those who love boondocking. It costs about $25/year to become a member and there are great perks if you do. Definitely worth checking out.

Before You Buy an RV

Step Four: You’ve decided what you want, and you’ve done your research, now what?

• RVs are just like cars – they depreciate a lot in the first few years, so take a good look at used rvs.

At Mt. Rainier National ParkMt. Rainier NP - Washington

• Inspect a used RV carefully; make sure the seller demonstrates how everything works: refrigerator, stove, toilets, water pump, water heater, awning, etc. (If you buy a new RV, the dealer should demonstrate everything.)

• Look inside cabinets and closets to check for roof leaks – they can cause a lot of damage.

• Ask for maintenance records; are the operating and owner's manuals available?

Abundance for Life

Caution:  Using this program could cause radical changes in your life. It certainly did in mine. I ended up selling my house and all my belongings to become a full-time RVer! Best decision I ever made! Basically, it changed the way I look at the world.

• How old are the tires? Since 2000 the serial date code has been 4 digits - the first two indicate the week of the year and the last two indicate the year. RV tires wear more from sitting than from driving and are not designed to wear out; it is recommended to replace them at 3-5 years. Cracking is more common than tread wear, so look at them carefully.

• Find a reputable RV mechanic, have them go through the rig, especially the heating, AC, electrical, and plumbing systems. If you know someone who understands gas or diesel engines, have them check that part of it out.

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Lake McDonald - Glacier National ParkGlacier Nat'l Park, Montana - Lake McDonald

• Check out the blue book value of the rig you like and use that as a starting point. Then negotiate, negotiate! It’s your hard-earned cash!

• If you’re going to be negotiating with an RV dealer, do a background check on them. Go to the Better Business Bureauwebsite, type in the zip code of the RV dealership and then put in the dealership's name. If they have a decent rating, you will be able to see it. If the dealer in question has poor ratings you may need to be cautious.

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Bighorn Sheep at Glacier National ParkBighorn Sheep - Glacier National Park

General Information: RVs, motorhomes, trailers and fifth wheels are designated by length. If you go over 35’ in a motorhome, it will usually have a diesel engine, in the rear of the rig.

When you buy an RV, keep in mind that many parks, especially state and national parks, are not able to accommodate rigs over about 35'. It’s also harder to find a gas station you can get in and out of easily if you’re driving a 40’ rig and towing a car!

Gas or Diesel? Diesel powered motorhomes are generally heavier, offer more floor plans and have more luxurious interiors. They also cost more. Diesel engines get somewhat better mileage and, if maintained well, have a longer lifespan than gas engines. They also produce fewer CO2 emissions. The ride is said to be smoother, likely due to the heavier chassis. The weight-carrying and towing capacity is higher. Fuel usually costs more.

Finally, you’ve made a decision and are now the proud owner of a recreational vehicle. Whatever type you have chosen, I bet you will  never be sorry that you've decided to become an RVer. Now get ready to take the next very important step. Take some time to get to know your RV.

Wild Salmon Since 1957 - SeaBear Smokehouse

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Class C RV Makes & Models 
My name is Mike, and I'm from Wichita, Ks. I'm thinking of giving up my apartment, and buying a class c RV. I'm just starting to get the info I need, …

Good info for potential 1st time RVers 
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Glacier National Park

Glacier National Park - Montana

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RV Education 101 is a source of excellent e-books on just about anything you could think of related to RVing. If you follow the steps in this RV buying guide you will be on your way to an enjoyable RV ownership experience for years to come. The link will take you to a page with this book, as well as others, specific to rv batteries; the gas, water and electrical systems, etc. Click Here!

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