Are you overwhelmed by the many decisions you have to make when buying an RV for the first time?
Here’s the deal, choosing an RV is a big deal. It’s okay to take your time and ask a lot of questions.
From the time we settled on this rv lifestyle we’ve been searching for what would fit our lifestyle best. Asking questions and googling our fingers off.
I bought ebooks and read blog posts about rving full time with kids.
There isn’t a “best starter rv” nor is there a perfect rig. It all comes down to how you will use it and what particular RV lifestyle you will lead.
So let’s dive in shall we?
Choosing & Buying an RV For the First Time
When it comes to choosing and buying an RV for the first time there are quite a few factors to consider.
The first question I would ask myself is how I plan to use the RV?
For Nate & I we plan to live in and drive the same rig and tow a vehicle behind us. We knew for that to happen we couldn’t buy a travel trailer or a 5th wheel.
Once you know how you plan to use the RV then you can pick out a type.
What types of RVs are there you ask?
There are a variety of RVs out there. Here are the most common to name a few.
- Class A – This is the biggest drivable RV option and what we opted for. The entire cabin and coach is all living space.
- Class B – Smaller than a class a but still drivable.
- Class C – Think box truck with a home behind it. These are typically built on Ford F-450 engines but can still haul a tow vehicle behind it. The cabin isn’t livable but it’s part of the open living space.
- 5th Wheel – This is an extra large travel trailer in my opinion and you need a large truck to haul it. They typically come with really nice amenities and lots of storage. I see a lot of families opting for this option because of the mass amount of space.
- Travel Trailer – These are smaller versions of the 5th wheels and you can typically haul these with a standard truck.
So now that you know what each type is lets take it a step further.
What does your family look like? Will you need lots of sleeping space because you have a lot of kids?
For us, we have two kids and wanted them to have their own sleeping space. Our girls have never slept together and are 5 years apart in age so they need their own space. We knew we would need a bunk house if we were to be successful with this RV lifestyle.
If you already have a large diesel truck you could probably opt for a 5th wheel unless you absolutely didn’t want to travel in a vehicle all of the time.
We didn’t want to be stuck in a small space while pulling our home so we opted for the class a.
Next you will want to figure out if you will buy new or used.
New or Used?
There are pros and cons to both options but I will always tell you to buy used. Coming from a finance background buying new doesn’t sit well with me.
The amount of depreciation when you drive it off the lot is too much for my little saving heart too handle. Not to mention the shakedown period you will go through with a new RV.
A shakedown period means you will have to work out all of the kinks from the factory. There will be issues and you want to make sure those are addressed before you get on the road.
We bought our Class A that had 14k miles on it so the shakedown had primarily happened before we took it home.
Factors to consider for buying used:
- You can save a lot of money
- Shakedown has already happened
- You can remodel or rebuild entirely
- You can find what you want easier due to more units being available
- Someone else has lived in it
- It may need work
- Hidden problems like leaks, electrical, plumbing, etc.
- Warranties are more expensive and cover less
Factors to consider when buying new:
- No one else has lived in it
- If you order it you can pick and choose interior elements
- Warranties for powertrain, house and chassis
- You can get rebates and discounts
- You have to work out the kinks during shakedown
- Depreciation is greater
Now that you know a little bit about what to expect, ask and look for when buying an RV for the first time lets move on to shopping.
When you start shopping you will want to figure out what your budget is so you don’t go into the process looking at RVs that are way over your budget.
Related: Our Decision to Become A Full-Time RV Family
Shopping for an RV
When we started shopping for an RV we started looking online. We took note of make and models in our Trello board so we could remember which ones we liked.
There is quite a lot you will want to decide on in this area of the buying process.
For instance, once you know what type of RV you want then you will need to figure out what floor plan will work for your family needs.
We needed bunk beds so we looked at only RVs with bunks. We could have purchased a different variation of a class a and remodeled but we didn’t want the work it would take to do that.
Once we had looked at quite a few online (and I mean hundreds) to get a feel of what we wanted we took to the lots.
Going and walking through RVs will help you get a feel of what it will be like in it full time. We looked at new and used models just to get a wide array of ideas.
Shopping was stressful for me. I hate going shopping and driving all over the place and not finding what we wanted. But you might enjoy this part.
Once you settle on a rig you can start the next phase which includes test driving!
If you’re buying from a dealer they will let you test drive once they know you’re serious about it. At least thats what happened to us.
Negotiating for an RV
This part can be fun for some and stressful for others. If you’re not great at negotiating then you could be in a world of hurt when it comes to settling on a price.
I have a few tips for you in this area since we are decent at negotiating.
Trade & down payments
Once you are ready to start negotiating you will want to factor in trade and down payments. For us we had both.
When buying from a dealer they can take trade for just about anything. We traded an 18 foot utility trailer and put a down payment on the loan. This helped us to get the rig we wanted.
So consider both of these options when negotiating.
What does your credit score and debt-to-income look like?
We have excellent credit and a low debt-to-income ratio so we were able to secure a loan for the rig we wanted which fit all of our wishlist items and more.
Keep this in mind when buying because you don’t want to go into the buying process and not have the credit to back it up.
What is the true value of the RV?
Here is where we get into the truly fun part of buying an RV. The RV market is a sellers market right now. There are more people looking to buy, than there are RVs out there that fit their needs.
Being in a market like this makes demand soar and dealers as well as private sellers will overprice a rig because they think it’s worth it.
Here’s the truth… more than likely the RV you’re looking at is overpriced.
That’s where getting an appraisal comes into play.
Yes, you can purchase an appraisal and know what the real value of the RV is! Who knew.
No, you cannot trust NADA. Those values are over inflated and dealers as well as private sellers want you to believe that is the true value.
Most likely the rig you’re looking at if it’s on a lot came in at a much cheaper price than what they are asking for it.
Our rig was priced nearly 30k over the trade value. We got that down nearly 15k between negotiating, down payment and trade value on our utility trailer.
Get an appraisal! It’s worth the money. You can get one right here and learn all about values and pricing of RVs straight from guys who have been in the industry for decades.
This will make you an informed buyer and informed buyers save thousands especially when buying an RV for the first time.
Check out RV Pricing & Values for more information on getting your potential RV appraised.
Ask for the Buy Rate
Something that most banks and even dealers will never breathe a word about is the buy rate.
The buy rate is the lowest percentage at which the bank will buy your loan based on your credit.
The F&I (finance and insurance managers) don’t want you to get the buy rate. If they can talk you into a little bit of a higher rate on top of what they bank will buy your loan then they will earn money.
For example, the dealer runs your credit and the banks comes back with a buy rate of 5% but the dealership calls and offers you 7.5%. That extra on top of what the bank will offer is what they will earn on top of their price for the RV.
How this worked for us…
We went with no down payment or trade. The dealer never gave us the buy rate at first but offered us 7%.
We negotiated back and forth and eventually got that down to the lowest possible rate of 5.49% which is incredibly low in a recreation vehicle market… This is where having excellent credit, a down payment and a trade can work in your favor.
Always ask for the buy rate and if the finance manager refuses to deal because they are getting greedy then ask for the sales manager and explain to them the situation.
It’s likely they won’t want to lose the sale and may work with you.
Now an F&I manager nor the bank have any obligation to disclose to you the buy rate on the loan. So this can be a tight rope to walk but with a steady hand and the willingness to walk away you might just secure yourself a great rate.
Let’s wrap this post up with financials!
Must Have Financials
There are a few things you will need when buying an RV for the first time and those are here.
I’m not going to lie but insurance on our RV wasn’t cheap. It added nearly $200 more to our payment each month. But this is your home you’re talking about and you need insurance.
Some extra coverages you may want are roadside assistance and a Good Sam club membership.
These will provide discounts and extra services when you’re in need.
For instance, if you break down Good Sam will tow you at no extra cost and you can get a hotel room and they will refund you for it.
So are you ready to dive into buying an RV for the first time? I hope by reading this post you are more prepared. We went through a lot in a short time and walked away with a smoking hot RV.