5 Things You Should Know before Buying Your First RV

Imagine the freedom of the open road, the comfort of a home on wheels, and the endless adventures awaiting you. This is not just about buying a vehicle; it’s about embracing a lifestyle that cherishes freedom, adventure, and the great outdoors. As specialists in motorhomes, we understand this isn’t a decision to be taken lightly. That’s why we’re here to guide you through the essential things you should know before making your first RV purchase.

In this article, we’ll discuss the crucial aspects that every aspiring RV owner should consider. From understanding the different types of RVs and their unique perks to the not-so-obvious budget considerations that go beyond the sticker price, we’ve got you covered. We’ll also share some tips on the importance of test drives, the modern amenities you might not want to miss out on, and the pivotal role of maintenance in keeping your RV adventure-ready for years to come.

You’re investing in a lifestyle that many dream about but few get to experience. Whether you’re planning to hit the road for weekend getaways or transitioning to full-time RV living, our expertise and passion for RVs will ensure you’re well-informed and ready to make the best choice for your needs and aspirations.

The RV Types: Finding Your Perfect Match

Each type of RV offers unique features and caters to different lifestyle needs, and picking the right one can significantly enhance your enjoyment and comfort. 

Class A

Class A motorhomes are the epitome of luxury and space in the RV world. These are the largest RVs available, often stretching up to 45 feet. With their room-like feel, complete with full-sized bathrooms and kitchens, Class A motorhomes are like rolling mansions. They’re perfect for you if you’re planning on long-term travels or full-time living on the road. The ample space and amenities make them ideal for extended stays, ensuring you don’t miss home comforts. However, their size can be a challenge for novice drivers and might restrict access to smaller campsites.

Class B

Class B motorhomes, commonly known as camper vans, are the smallest in the RV family. These are perfect for you if you value ease of driving and parking. Ideal for weekend getaways or solo travels, Class B offers excellent fuel efficiency and the flexibility to explore off-the-beaten-path destinations. They pack essentials like a small kitchen, sleeping area, and sometimes even a compact bathroom. If you’re a traveller who loves spontaneity and simplicity, Class B is your go-to choice.

Class C

Class C motorhomes strike a balance between Class A and Class B. Usually ranging from 20 to 33 feet, they often come with a distinctive over-cab sleeping or storage area. These are great for families or couples who want more room than a Class B but find Class A too intimidating. Class C motorhomes usually have more sleeping space, making them ideal for family vacations or group trips. Their size provides a comfortable living space yet remains manageable on the road.

Travel Trailers

Travel trailers are towable RVs that come in various sizes. They offer the flexibility to detach your vehicle for separate excursions, a feature that motorhomes don’t provide. Ranging from small, lightweight models that can be towed by a car to larger models requiring a more robust vehicle, travel trailers cater to a wide range of needs. If you already own a capable towing vehicle and seek the freedom to set up camp and explore locally, a travel trailer could be your ideal choice.

Fifth Wheels

Fifth wheels require a pickup truck with a special hitch in the bed but offer more living space compared to travel trailers. They are known for their stability and ease of towing. With split-level designs, they often feature high ceilings and multiple slide-outs, providing a homely feel. They’re perfect for longer stays and those who prefer more living space and amenities. If you’re a traveller who enjoys spacious, stable accommodation and owns the right towing setup, a fifth wheel could be your dream home away from home.

Budgeting Beyond the Price Tag

The RV lifestyle is also a financial commitment that goes beyond just the initial purchase price. You, the enthusiastic soon-to-be RV owner, need to be equipped with a comprehensive understanding of what it really costs to own and operate an RV. It’s not just about the price on the tag; it’s about the total cost of ownership.

The Total Cost of Ownership

Firstly, there’s maintenance. Regular upkeep is crucial to keep your RV running smoothly. This includes routine oil changes, tire rotations, and occasionally more significant repairs. Think of your RV as a house on wheels – just like a home, it needs regular care and sometimes unexpected repairs.

Then, there’s insurance. RV insurance rates vary based on the size and type of your vehicle, how often you use it, and even where you store it. It’s different from standard car insurance, often more comprehensive, covering things like personal belongings inside the RV.

Fuel costs are another big consideration. The type of RV you choose plays a significant role in how much you’ll spend at the pump. Larger, heavier models will generally consume more fuel, so consider fuel efficiency when selecting your RV.

Park fees are also part of the equation. Whether you’re planning short vacations or a full-time RV lifestyle, the cost of RV parks or campgrounds can add up. Some parks offer amenities like electricity, water, and Wi-Fi, but these come at a price.

Lesser-Known Costs

Now, some lesser-known costs can catch first-time RV owners by surprise. Depreciation is a big one. Just like a new car, a new RV starts to depreciate the moment you drive it off the lot. It’s important to consider this when making your purchasing decision, especially if you plan to sell or upgrade your RV in the future.

Seasonal maintenance is another aspect often overlooked. If you’re not using your RV year-round, preparing it for off-season storage is crucial. This involves winterizing the plumbing system to prevent pipes from freezing and ensuring your RV is properly covered and stored to avoid damage.

To avoid unexpected expenses, it’s vital to do your homework and budget accordingly. Research different RV models and their associated running costs. Talk to other RV owners or join online forums to get first-hand accounts of what to expect financially. When planning your budget, always include a buffer for unforeseen expenses – it’s better to be prepared.

The Test Drive

Understanding how an RV handles on the road, the comfort it offers, and its layout are crucial in making an informed decision. Here’s a checklist to guide you through what to look for during a test drive, ensuring you feel confident in assessing an RV’s suitability for your needs.

1. Handling and Maneuverability

  • Feel the Drive: Pay attention to how the RV handles. Does it feel smooth on the road? How does it navigate turns and highways?
  • Braking System: Notice the responsiveness of the brakes. Are they efficient and reliable, especially in unexpected situations?

2. Comfort and Living Space

  • Interior Comfort: Spend time inside the RV. Sit on the furniture, lie down on the bed. Is it comfortable enough for long trips or full-time living?
  • Climate Control: Check the effectiveness of heating and air conditioning. You want to be comfortable no matter the weather outside.

3. Layout and Functionality

  • Space Utilization: Evaluate the layout. Does it feel spacious and well-organized? Can you move around easily without feeling cramped?
  • Storage Solutions: Look for storage options. Adequate storage is key for keeping your space tidy and organized on long trips.

4. Kitchen and Bathroom Facilities

  • Kitchen Setup: If you plan to cook, inspect the kitchen area. Is there enough space and amenities to prepare meals comfortably?
  • Bathroom Essentials: Don’t overlook the bathroom. Is it practical for daily use? Remember, this will be an important part of your living experience.

5. Technology and Connectivity

  • Tech Features: Test out the technological features. Are the navigation system, backup cameras, and other tech elements user-friendly and helpful?
  • Internet and Power Outlets: In today’s connected world, check for sufficient power outlets and internet capabilities.

6. Overall Feel

  • Personal Connection: Lastly, listen to your intuition. Does this RV feel like it could be your home away from home? Sometimes, the emotional connection is just as important as the practical aspects.

Modern RV Amenities 

Modern motorhomes are also embracing cutting-edge technology. Today’s RVs come equipped with features that could make even the most tech-savvy person take a second look. From WiFi capabilities to solar panels, these advancements are not just about luxury—they’re about enhancing your travel experience and providing cost savings.

WiFi Capabilities

In this digital age, staying connected is more important than ever, especially if you’re planning long trips or considering full-time RV living. Many modern RVs offer built-in WiFi systems, ensuring you stay connected with the world, whether it’s for work, entertainment, or keeping in touch with loved ones. This feature is particularly invaluable for those who work remotely or have an online business. Imagine being able to send emails or attend video conferences surrounded by nature, rather than being confined to a traditional office.

Solar Panels

Now, let’s talk about solar panels—a feature that’s gaining popularity among RV enthusiasts. Solar panels on your RV aren’t just good for the environment; they’re also great for your wallet. By harnessing the power of the sun, you can generate your electricity, reducing reliance on generator use or RV park hookups. This means more freedom to explore off-grid locations while being kind to nature and saving on energy costs. Plus, solar panels require minimal maintenance, making them a practical choice for the eco-conscious traveller.

Necessary Amenities vs. Luxury Add-Ons

As you consider these modern amenities, it’s crucial to distinguish between what’s necessary and what’s a luxury add-on. While features like WiFi and solar panels offer significant benefits, assess how they align with your travel style and frequency. If you’re a weekend traveller, extensive solar setups might not be essential. But if you’re leaning towards full-time RV living or long road trips, these features could be game-changers in terms of comfort and convenience.

Keeping Your RV Road-Ready

Owning an RV is an adventure, a joy, and yes, a responsibility. To ensure your motorhome remains your trusty companion on countless journeys, regular maintenance is key. It’s about much more than just keeping your RV looking good; it’s about safety, longevity, and preserving your mobile haven. 

A Routine Check-Up Schedule

Just like you, your RV thrives with regular check-ups. Create a maintenance schedule – this isn’t just a suggestion, it’s your road to a hassle-free RV lifestyle. Tackle the basics: check tire pressure, monitor fluid levels, and inspect seals and seams. These simple acts can save you from unexpected troubles down the road.

Sealant Inspection

Water damage is an RV’s silent nemesis. Twice a year, make it your mission to inspect every inch of sealant on your RV. Look for cracks or gaps in the sealant around windows, doors, and roof fixtures. A small tube of sealant can prevent a future of water damage woes.

Don’t Underestimate the Power of Lubrication

Your RV is a complex system of moving parts, and they all need love. Regularly lubricate hinges, locks, sliders, and anything that moves. This isn’t just about smooth operation; it’s about protecting these components from wear and tear. Think of lubrication as the secret potion that keeps everything moving smoothly.

Brake Maintenance

Your safety depends on them, so give your brakes the attention they deserve. At least once a year, have them inspected by a professional. You want to be sure that when you hit the brakes, they respond reliably and effectively, every time.

The Electrical System

Your RV’s electrical system is its lifeline. Check connections, keep an eye on your batteries, and ensure your generator is in tip-top shape. Simple actions like cleaning battery terminals and testing your generator regularly can prevent power failures that nobody wants to experience mid-adventure.

Keep a Maintenance Diary

Document every check-up, repair, and replacement. This log will not only help you keep track of your maintenance schedule but also adds value to your RV. Should you ever decide to sell, this diary is golden proof of your love and care for your home on wheels.