RV Buying Tips From a Pro

An RV pro offers his advice on purchasing a recreational vehicle.

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Buying an RV is a major investment, similar to a home or automobile. It is extremely important that you make educated, well-informed purchasing decisions. It's easy to overlook something, forget to check something or most importantly, not be properly informed about something. Whatever the case may be, you may not realize it until after you buy it, and then it's too late. Take a look at these 10 tips before you hit the market.

Rent before you buy. If you are not absolutely sure an RV is right for you and your family, try renting one first. Rule No. 1 for owning an RV is you have to use it. It can be difficult to determine that if you have never done it. Plan a weekend or weeklong trip and kick the tires of one before you make a decision. But I caution you, once you catch the RV bug, it's hard to get rid of it!

Figure out which type of RV is right for you and your family. RVs come in numerous types, sizes and price ranges. Determine which type is right for you and the price that fits your budget. Take the time to research your specific needs, and factor in how you'd like to use the vehicle. If you plan to travel cross-country, a motorized RV might make more sense than a towable RV. If you plan to go camping off the beaten path, a pop-up or truck camper would probably make more sense.

New or Used? This is a major consideration before you purchase an RV. To assist you with making this decision, again, think about how you plan to use the RV and what your budget is. If you only plan to take a couple of weekend trips or use it for one week out of the year, a used RV might be best for you. Remember, it won't do you any good to own an RV if there isn't enough money left in the budget to enjoy it.

Choose the right floor plan and options. Determine what features are required to meet the needs of you and your family. Ask yourself these type of questions during your planning process: Do you need one bedroom or two, and is the bed big enough? Would a split bathroom work better than a walk-through bathroom? Is there enough counter space? Is there enough storage space? Do you want the kitchen in the middle, front or rear of the RV? Is the shower big enough? Are the holding tanks large enough for the type of camping you plan to do? Do you need a generator?

Test drive it. If you plan to purchase a motorized RV, be sure to drive it before you buy it. Driving a motorhome for the first time can be a little intimidating, but it's important that you test drive it before signing the check. You want a motorhome that you feel comfortable driving because you will spend a lot of time behind the wheel. Check out all of the controls, the view, mirrors, and make sure it performs the way you expect it to.

Do your research. You need to do your research before you buy. There are lots of RV manufacturers and brands from which to choose. You want an RV dealer and a manufacturer that will stand behind the product after the sale. You can research manufacturers on the Internet, request brochures, take factory tours and attend local RV shows to learn more about all of the options available.

Buy from a reputable dealership. A reputable RV dealer will have a reputable, professional staff. Don't be afraid to ask them to give you a tour of the grounds. Look at the service department. Check to see if they have certified technicians. Determine if you think they have the capability and facilities to do routine maintenance and warranty work on the units they sell. Look at their parts and accessory department. Do they offer a good selection? Do they have a wide variety of RVs on the lot? How long have they been selling certain manufacturer brands? How long have they been in business? A reputable RV dealership can make your ownership much more pleasurable.

Protect your investment. When you purchase an RV, consider some other factors that will help protect your investment. I recommend looking into some type of extended service contract that goes beyond the manufacturer warranty period. There are numerous plans available, so shop around for the best deal. Make sure to get specialized RV insurance coverage. It's different from your home and auto policy. When you need specialized coverage, you'll be glad you have it.

Now that you own it, where can you use it? The Recreation Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) states that there are approximately 8,500 RV parks and campgrounds located near national parks and forests, popular tourist attractions, along interstates and in cities and small towns. With the Internet you have instant access to most of these public and private campgrounds, RV Parks and RV Resorts. Other good resources are travel guides, magazines, campground directories and state tourism boards that you can consult when planning your next RV trip.

Back to rule No. 1. I mentioned earlier that if you own an RV you need to use it. Otherwise it's just an oversize lawn ornament. So pack up the RV, the kids and the pets, and head out to explore this wonderful country we live in and build some lasting memories with family and friends.

Happy Camping!

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