“Actually, the best gift you could have given her was a lifetime of adventures.” –Lewis Carroll
I had the TV on the other day, just for noise. I wasn’t really watching but a commercial caught my attention when I heard the voice over announce that “2020 is The Year of the RV vacation.” For us, that has been very true and we have plans to take our new RV out through October. My guess is that we are not alone and we know that a lot of you are out there shopping! Good for you!
As we reflect on our purchase, we want to share some advice that I hope you find helpful as you look for your new home on wheels.
- Do Your Research
When shopping for an RV, the options can seem endless and I can’t recommend enough that you research, research, research! We shopped RV shows, watched YouTube videos on the models we were interested in (EVERYTHING is on YouTube), and read reviews & blogs on RV manufacturers and their products. We are pretty certain that by the time we made our purchase, we likely knew as much or possibly more about the RV we bought than the salesman who sold it to us and by the time we were actually standing in our RV with that salesman, we had no questions whatsoever.
Understand that our purchase was not a sudden one. In fact, we researched and shopped for two years. That might seem extreme but we felt that this was a major purchase of a piece of equipment we wanted to be sure we understood how to operate safely. We also wanted to be sure our new RV would be well made and had all the features we were looking for. Having camped as kids, we remember the fun and adventure of it all but as kids, we didn’t understand all the ins and outs of owning and maintaining an RV and there is a lot to learn!
2. Rent an RV before you buy
We rented an RV early in our marriage and went from Miami to Key West and had a great time! In the fall of 2019, as we were working on our decision to buy our own RV, we rented again in the Amish Country of Pennsylvania to make sure we still enjoyed RVing.
Renting gets you into an RV at a reasonable price without making a commitment you might find out is not a good one for you or your family. Renting helps to get a feel of the space and a chance to try out basic equipment. It’s a great litmus test before jumping into a major purchase.
We enjoyed our two rentals with Cruise America, www.cruiseamerica.com.
3. Know your budget
How much do you want to spend? When you start looking, it’s easy to fall in love with the RV you don’t want to afford!
4. What kind of camping do you want to do?
As you consider what kind of RV you want, the right choice means considering your needs and abilities and knowing your boundaries.
Are you a weekend warrior or full timer? Will you camp in a RV park with full hookups or will you consider boondocking? How many do you need to sleep? Do you have “toys” you want to haul? Are you an empty nesters and want to be nimble and small or big and luxurious? WHERE will you camp and can those places accommodate the size of your rig?
Consider the size of your rig. Along with how many your RV needs to sleep, how large are the holding tanks? If you want to go to the National Parks, could you fit your 40+ foot Toy Hauler in a campsite? We asked ourselves, how small where we willing to go? There was an answer! One of the biggest issues for us was bed position. We didn’t want to have to crawl over each other to get in or out of the bed. We are tall so a corner bed felt coffin-like and was a firm no!
We are all different in our opinions of how we enjoy the camping experience and no one way is right or wrong. However, considering what type of camping you are open to is a good place to start.
5. Know your resources
Do you have RV dealers in your area that are reputable and have good reviews? Do they sell the type of rig you’re interested in? For us, we are not fans of what we refer to as a “slick salesman.” We prefer someone that is informative, helpful, knows the product, and is not going to give an intense sales push. We will run from a dealership or a salesman that seems desperate to have us sign on the dotted line. We also recommend that you consider the level of customer service your dealer will offer. Are they open to helping you with questions? When you reach out to them, do they respond quickly? If you aren’t comfortable with how you’re treated, find someone else! If you have family or friends that bought an RV, ask them where they made their purchase and if they were happy with the experience.
6. Go to an RV show
I lost count of how many shows we went to! However, I can identify the biggest ones: the Hershey RV Show in Hershey, Pennsylvania in 2017 and the Florida RV Supershow in Tampa, Florida in 2020. We also hit every local and regional show we could in between.
RV shows are a great place to see a wide variety of RVs with very little sales pressure while still giving you the opportunity to kick the tires, sit in the space, and take a look up close. Keep an open mind. This was great advice we got in Tampa. Believe it or not, while we had an idea of what we wanted, we had still not made a decision when we arrived in Tampa.
Look at everything! Can you see yourself in the space? Check out the storage spaces, bathroom, and the bed. Do you think you can handle the size of the RV you’re considering? Will you pull and if so, do you have a vehicle that can tow the weight of your dream RV? Every tow vehicle is rated differently so do your research. Check the owners manual for your specific vehicle (most can be found on line). Don’t take any salesman at his word when he tells you, “Sure! Your truck can pull this!”
7. Consider all the options and narrow down your choice
By the time we went to Tampa for the RV Supershow, we were getting close to a decision. On the first day at the show, our focus was on trailers and Class Cs. We had been going back and forth with the pros and cons of both options for months and hoped that a big RV show might help us decide. When we stopped for lunch, I felt it was time to check our progress so I asked my husband, “Trailer or Class C?” Our responses were trailer for me and Class C for him. After all the research and shopping we had been doing since 2017, I must admit that I was a little frustrated that we were still undecided, believing that this was the show where we could make our decision at last. We were struggling. So after we finished lunch, we kept going. By the end of the day, we had found what we thought was the perfect fit for us and we decided to sleep on it and come back the next day to talk with the representatives of the RV again and possibly make a deposit. The next day, we decided to take one last look at Grand Designs before making a final decision. I had fallen in love with Grand Designs at our first ever RV show in 2017, we examined them again at the 2017 Hershey show, and their RVs got my vote from the very beginning. My Husband liked them too and going back that last time, helped us to make a decision. We did not buy at the show but we left feeling that it was time well spent because we finally knew what we wanted, without a doubt.
We bought a 2020 Grand Design Imagine XLS, 22RBE. While we eventually came back to nearly the first RV we ever considered (and fell in love with, by the way), we made sure to consider all the options and we are confident knowing that we chose the right rig for us, for now… We named her Blanche. We paired her with our RAM 1500 Bighorn! We call her Bad Ass, or BA for short.
8. YouTube & Thinking Outside the Box
If you aren’t wild about buying a new RV, consider the other alternatives, which can be just as diverse as buying new. As part of our RV purchase, we have watched hours and hours of RV YouTubers, listening to their advice and enjoying where they take us on their travel.
There are YouTubers out there that live in vans, buses, and used RVs of every shape and model. These are people that are handy and creative and see potential in building out their tiny homes on wheels to fit what they want their adventures to be. We’ve watched in awe as they’ve taken an empty van or dilapidated RV that no one would give the time of day and turn them into the coziest homesteads on wheels. This is always an option for the brave, creative souls that want to live simply.
Whatever option you choose, I would always recommend doing so with research and consideration, knowing that, it’s okay if it ends up not being perfect. We learned so much through our process and now that we own an RV, the learning is still happening! I think even the most seasoned full timer would agree that every day brings something new to learn. The RV community has great advice in on line groups as well. Just check Facebook and Instagram to start following a group or an individual that inspires you or you feel a kindred spirit with. Please feel free to reach out if you would like some suggestions.
Best wishes to you as you look for your home on wheels and safe travels!