If you are new to the recreational vehicle (RV) lifestyle, you owe it to yourself to become well informed before jumping in. Uninformed RV consumers are likely to make unwise choices financially, emotionally, and concerning safety.
Experienced RVers should also review this list when goals change and before buying a new RV.
Below we have compiled a list of steps to guide you through the planning and purchase of an RV. We stopped short of numbering the steps because many can be done out of sequence. We do recommend the sequence as listed below, especially when it involves buying decisions.
Our text contains glossary terms underlined with green dashes to indicate that you can hover your mouse or click for the definition. You may also take advantage of our full listing in the Glossary of RV Terms.
Define RV goals
How do you plan to use your RV? Is it for weekend outings, longer vacations, as a snowbird, or as a fulltimer?
Become familiar with RV types
Take some time to review the introduction pages to each RV type. No need to research each type in detail at this point.
Class A Motor Home
Class B Motor Home
Class C Motor Home
Review issues important to different RV lifestyles
All RVing lifestyles have many things in common, yet each has its own special requirements.
List RV amenities
Create a list of amenities that you would like to have in an RV based on your selected lifestyle. Divide the list into “must have” and “optional” sections. Use our RV Amenities checklist as a guide.
Create a budget
At this point you should have a rough idea of your desired RV lifestyle and the specifics are coming into focus. Now is the time to create a budget. Knowing what you are able and willing to afford will save you precious time by narrowing down your choices.
Rent various RV types
In the following steps you need to make decisions on the type and size of the RV. Consider renting several RV types to help you decide. Living in an RV for a few days will give you insights that you cannot get on the sales lot.
Choose RV type
Review the RV Type Pros & Cons checklist and then decide which one will suit your needs best.
Choose RV size
After choosing the RV type, determine the size based on your needs. Review Understanding RV Weights and research all relevant weights. For large RV’s also review RV Driver’s License Requirements.
Tow vehicle type and size
If you chose a towable RV such as a travel trailer or fifth wheel, determine the size of vehicle required to tow it.
Choose RV manufacturers to consider
Choose the RV manufacturers that meet your criteria with the help of RV Consumer Group. Consult our Manufacturers list where you can search by RV type.
Choose RV models to consider
Choose a small number of RV models that meet your needs from each manufacturer selected previously. Keep in mind that the average owner keeps their RV for five years, so do your best to anticipate your needs for this span of time.
Request RV insurance quotes
Request one or more preliminary RV insurance quotes using the likely RV and truck models you are considering. Add the preliminary insurance premiums to your budget. After you select the exact RV model, you should request quotes from multiple insurance companies.
If you request a quotation from your existing insurance agent, be aware that he may or may not have specialized RV insurance.
Determine fair market value
Before heading out to buy, do some research to determine the fair market value of each RV model you selected. Do this even if you are planning to buy a new unit.
Inspect before buying new or used
When you find an RV that you are interested in, give it a thorough inspection before signing any papers.
Set up your RV as soon after buying it as possible. If you do not have immediate travel plans, find the nearest RV park and set up your unit there. Live in your new RV a few days to find potential problems before you head out on your big trip.
Join the community
By now you have gained a lot of knowledge about RV’s and the RV lifestyle. Join the RV community to further your knowledge, find helpful information, and share your experiences with others.