Try (rent) Before You Buy
Buying an RV is a big and often relatively expensive purchase, not something to be done without some serious thought. There are hundreds of things to consider when buying an RV. Motorized vs towable, fifth wheel vs travel trailer, how many beds, what kind of layout, and even things like number of televisions and internet connectivity.
Determining which features are the best fit for you and your family is a process that takes time. Browsing the lot, you may be swept away by a unit with exceptional technology features, and not realize until you get out to the campsite that there’s nowhere near enough storage for all of your gear. This can be a very expensive epiphany once you go to trade your RV in and discover it’s worth about 20% less than what you paid for it a month and a half ago.
Renting an RV is a terrific way to give yourself time to discover what works best for you when it comes to your home on wheels. Checking out units on the lot is one thing, but actually walking the walk and living in a rented RV for a week or even just a weekend will really give you the time you need to discover what’s best for you.
I previously listed some features to keep your eyes open for when shopping for your dream RV. Here are some additional characteristics to look for:
Motorhome or Towable – Do you want to drive your RV or tow it? If you want to tow it you need to make sure you buy a trailer that your vehicle can handle. If you’re going to buy a big fifth wheel or travel trailer, you’re going to need a big truck to tow it with (and have a special hitch if you go the fifth wheel route). Small, more nimble towables are becoming more and more popular and many can be pulled by a light SUV or even a car. Motorhomes don’t require a tow vehicle, but they can be a little more intimidating to drive. Make sure you’re comfortable driving that 40ft long class A before you take the plunge.
Size is important. I’m not saying you should head straight to the lot and buy the biggest RV they’ve got, however, it is incredibly common for a first time RVer to have buyer’s remorse and be unhappy with the amount of space they’ve got. Today’s RV’s are exceptionally well designed and can cram a lot of storage and functionality into a small package. All of this efficiency doesn’t make up for a straight up lack of square footage. If you have kids, grandkids, pets, or guests, a little extra space can go a long way.
Too much tech? Another common theme with today’s RVs is that they are constantly evolving and adding new technologies into the product. I doubt your camper van driving grandparents would ever have imagined an RV with power window shades, Wi-Fi, and six TVs. These can make camping feel like never leaving the comfort of your own home. This is great if that’s your goal, but if your goal is to venture forth and see the great outdoors then do you really need six TVs? Probably not. Forgoing some of these modern upgrades can save you a ton of money when buying a unit and potentially more by avoiding repairs down the road. It also allows you to focus on the memory building activities you were trying to accomplish with your family in the first place.
The name of the game today in RV’s is variety. There are hundreds of models to choose from and thousands of variations of those models. This can be overwhelming and exactly why a low commitment foray into RVing is ideal. This list is certainly not exhaustive of the things to look for when buying an RV. Just a place to start to help you appreciate the value of trying before you buy.
The perfect RV to fit your specific needs is definitely out there. Whether you find it the first time you rent, or the fifteenth time, I’m sure you and your family will make some great memories along the way.