With all the newbies coming into the RV world; we want to welcome you to a great community and lifestyle and to what we know and what we love. Just like the rest of us, you’re gonna make some mistakes along the way. Seven years ago we knew nothing about the RV lifestyle and we just had this desire to get out there and see the country. Yes, we’ve been to plenty of RV shows but we actually had never even driven an RV until the weekend we decided to buy one.
Now I would not recommend that to anyone who is considering the RV lifestyle, whether it be weekend warriors, seasonal travelers, or even a full-time RVer.
There are too many pitfalls that you could fall into. So let us share the top five things we wish we knew before we began to RV.
1. Try Before You Buy
We love the RV lifestyle and everything it has given to our family, but we made the mistake of not renting before we bought our first RV. There are plenty of places where you can rent whatever type of RV you think fits your family. Check out RVshare for peer RV rental options. Renting from current RV owners gives you the opportunity to learn from their experiences, and selection will be much greater than those offered by corporate RV rental companies.
Insider tip – You might want to try multiple rentals with different types and sizes of RV’s to see which best fits you and your family.
2. Where You Buy is as Important as What You Buy
We bought our first RV from our local dealership, National Indoor RV Center. We were so excited to begin our RV adventures, unfortunately, it turned out to be a piece of junk. On our maiden voyage, only 2 days after buying it, we had both air conditioners break. This occurred in the middle of 100° July. Upon return, the dealership replaced the broken AC units at no cost. The next trip had us traveling down to South Florida, and everything seemed fine, that is until a typical Florida rain started. We noticed water dripping on the dinette table which indicated a water leak. We contacted our dealership and they sent out a mobile RV tech to inspect the roof for any possible leak points.
He liberally applied a generous amount of sealant to the RV roof. Problem solved right? Wrong. Not a day later, another hard rain came in the middle of the night. My wife was awakened by what she thought sounded like the same leak. After inspecting the dinette no leaking was found but the sound continued. That’s when we noticed that water was literally over the entry door. To their credit, our dealership stood by their promise and tried to fix everything, and when it was deemed unfixable offered us a huge discount on buying a new motorhome from them. That purchase and the experience we had with the dealership established a relationship built on trust. Our family has now purchased four motorhomes from NIRVC, and we hesitate to go anywhere else.
This relationship has helped whenever we’ve had any problems or questions about the RV. I’ve gotten to know the service manager and service techs, and they’ve even offered their cell phone numbers in case we had questions while we were out on the road. And yes, I have called and texted them more than a few times.
Insider Tip – Price will always be a major factor in where you choose to buy a RV. Establishing a relationship with a local or national dealership where you can count on continued support is worth more than the discount you might get purely going with the cheapest price.
3. You Will Experience Equipment Failures and Breakdowns
We learned this lesson very early on. It doesn’t matter how much you spend on an RV, whether you bought it used or new things are going to break. An RV is no different than a sticks and bricks home. RVs are designed as recreational vehicles that are not typically for full-time living. Nowadays, many people are using their RV as longer-term housing or even full-time living. RV manufacturers have a delicate balance of building cost effect products, weight limits constraints, and making RVs more durable.
The biggest key is to know what to do when things break. Whether you’re handy or not, it would really help out your experience if you took the time to learn your RV. By that I mean learn your systems, get to know all the sounds that your RV makes, and do the routine monthly and annual maintenance that the manufacturer calls for.
By doing these things, you can head off a lot of the major problems that RV owners face.
Insider tip – Don’t forget to do your homework on your RV manufacturer and brand before you buy. Avoiding problem RV units can save on future headaches!
4. There is No Perfect RV.
We did tons of research, which we highly recommend you do before you buy. In that search, we came across a common saying in the RV world, “Buy your 2nd RV first”. We heard this saying on numerous RV podcasts and multiple blogs. What were they saying? It didn’t really make any sense at that time. By the time we were in our third season on RVing and in our 3rd RV, the meaning became crystal clear. The reality of RVing is that there is no perfect RV. While your first RV purchase may fill most or all of your needs then, things change. For example, maybe you buy an RV that sleeps 4 and you have another child or take on a relative. Kids grow, or your RVing style changes. Not to mention the effect of the vast technology upgrades that seem to change in months rather than years. It may seem like an impossible task, but do your best to look into the future and try to determine what your needs will be for the next 2-5 years.
When buying an RV, ask yourself these questions:
- Will you need more space? How about less space?
- How often will your typical trip last? How often will you use your RV?
- Do you foresee future family size changes?
- Is your goal to camp mostly in National or state parks?
- How do you feel about making up beds nightly? Do you need bunks?
By answering these questions, you can try to pick the best possible choice. When we got an RV seven years ago there wasn’t talk about lithium batteries. Now we just upgraded our batteries to all lithium batteries. Wi-Fi at the campground was a novelty, now it’s a must-have and campgrounds are furiously trying to upgrade their existing systems to meet the demand. So just know the RV that you buy today, you’re probably going to be trading in or selling in a few years. So enjoy it now to its fullest.
Insider Tip – Not ready to trade in or sell? Upgrade it with the things you can, and maybe even remodel it. Just remember there will never be one perfect RV for everyone.
5. Slow Down, Learn to Relax and Go with the Flow
When I planned our first big RV trip, we decided to visit the iconic Mount Rushmore. I planned a spectacular two-week trip out there and back with stops along the way. We have a 43-foot motorhome for our comfort and security. I made reservations for every single stop, so that placed us on a pretty strict timeline, which now I know was a big mistake. It wasn’t the timeline or the planning of all the stops along the way that turned out to be the problem. The thing that I didn’t realize was we needed to slow down, 24 hours was not nearly enough time to soak in everything we might want to see.
We learned quickly, there typically is so much more to see, do, and experience than we had scheduled for. After that trip to Mount Rushmore, we vowed to never do that to ourselves again. We now try to build in extra days to explore each stop and even build in “rest days”. On those days we plan nothing. Kids can just play at the campground or hit the pool. We can chill at our campsite, read a book, or even take a nap. Those rest days allow our bodies and minds to relax and recharge. We learned our lesson. The next time we wanted to do an epic trip, we set aside two months to head from Atlanta to Acadia National Park in Maine and back. That trip planned for two months turned into 75 days. We had an incredible time, but you know what? If we had to do it all over again we probably would allocate 90-100 days. Just remember to slow down, this is not a race to see and do everything as fast as you can. Give yourself a chance to soak all you want to experience.
So there you have it, my top five things I wish I knew before we bought our first RV. The RVing lifestyle can be very special and these tips should help you make the most of your time on the road. Make all the memories you can, enjoy each moment. Remember there could be a new adventure around the next corner…
About the Author: Keith is the Dad of Soulful RV Family, an African American family loving the RV lifestyle and traveling as we homeschool our 3 preteen boys exploring all this great country has to offer. Keep up with the Soulful RV Family on Instagram!