7 Questions to Ask When Buying an RV

RV Owners

Whether it’s your first or your fifth, purchasing an RV is a big decision. We’re talking about thousands — and in some cases, tens of thousands — of dollars.

And even though it’s such a large investment, “RV” does still stand for recreational vehicle. And as you may know from regular auto purchases, vehicles tend to depreciate, rather than appreciate, in value. So despite the mortgage-sized numbers associated with purchasing a big rig, you aren’t actually making a purchase that builds equity.

Of course, that’s no reason to give up on your dream of being an RV owner. You just have to understand that the money you spend on your rig isn’t likely to come back to you. But that doesn’t matter if you have the time of your life enjoying adventures in your wheeled home-away-from-home!

It does mean that you want to make darn sure you buy an RV you really love, however, and also one that’s going to go the distance as far as staying in good shape and in safe driving condition. A lot of that process, of course, comes down to research. Only you can decide which of the many types of RVs out there is right for you and your family.

But there are some very important questions you should always make sure you get answered before you sign a contract for the purchase of an RV.

First RV Purchase

Wondering how to negotiate a new RV purchase and make sure you’re not getting a raw deal? Here are some things to get straight before you put pen to the paper of an RV purchase agreement.

How Much Does it Cost to Purchase an RV?

For most of us, budget is a key concern when making such a large purchase. Here’s the nitty gritty when it comes to the numbers you see on your RV’s price tag.

1. What fees aren’t included in the ticket price?

No matter what the advertised cost of the rig is, it’s likely it doesn’t cover everything you’ll end up spending before you’re allowed to take it home. You may have an additional dealership fee to worry about, not to mention taxes.

This is an especially important question to ask if you’re trying to find a cheap RV purchase, as some dealers will mark their rigs with low RV prices only to end up hiking them up with excessive RV purchase fees after you’re hooked. Furthermore, you should always make sure you check the actual value of the vehicle you’re looking at by its VIN number, using a service such as the NADA Guides. It’s the only way you’ll know for sure you’re not being price gouged!

2. How much will it cost to register?

Registration fees are just one more thing to deal with after it feels like you’ve already spent your entire savings on your RV purchase. Check what to expect in your state to avoid a nasty surprise when you’re least ready to deal with it.

3. Walk me through your financing policy — thoroughly. 

If you’re financing your RV purchase — and most of us have to — you need to make sure you’re fully versed in the details before you sign ANYTHING. From the credit score needed to ensure you’re qualified to the interest rates you’ll be responsible for once you complete your RV purchase, the key to not being taken for a ride by big loans is making sure you fully understand them ahead of time.

If you only take one thing away from this article, let it be this: always ask if you’ll be penalized for paying off your RV loan early, and ensure that you have a plan in place to pay the rig off in time to avoid paying a huge amount of interest. Otherwise, you’re basically paying for your RV twice!

RV Purchase Guide

Here are a few more things to keep in mind when you’re chatting with the sales rep.

4. If you’re buying used: Tell me about this RV’s history.

Buying a pre-owned RV is super smart; not only do you save the money you waste just by driving a brand-new vehicle off the lot, but you might also end up with a rig whose previous owners have done some work to “debug” the rig and customize it to make it a comfier vehicle.

But it does also come with some risks, of course. You need to make sure your dealer can give you the full records of the RV’s maintenance history, including documentation about any major repairs or, worse, accidents it was involved in.

5. Does this RV have [insert feature here]?

Maybe you’re looking for a well-insulated, four-season cabin because you’re planning on traveling in cold areas; maybe you’re after fancy extras like an outdoor entertainment area or built-in USB charging ports. It’s up to you — but it’s worth taking the time to know what you want and make sure the rig you’re looking at actually has it.

6. Is this vehicle under any kind of warranty?

If your rig is under warranty, you’ll want to be aware of it so you can take advantage of the policy if anything goes wrong!

7. Does my purchase include a service package?

When you purchase a rig from large RV franchises, your rig sometimes comes with a built-in service and maintenance package, which scores you free or discounted repairs and tune-ups as long as you utilize an approved vendor.

Often, this perk only applies when you buy a brand-new rig off the lot, so the savings may not match up to the money you may have saved buying pre-owned. But either way, if you have access to extras, you might as well learn about them and use them!

RV Pre-Purchase Inspection

One last thing: No matter what kind of RV you buy or where you buy it from, always make sure you can get a complete RV pre-purchase inspection from a mechanic of your choice before you sign. This is especially important if you’re making your RV purchase online — there are many motorhomes and campers for sale on Craigslist, eBay, and other auction sites.

Obviously, purchasing sight unseen is always riskier, so even if it looks like a great deal, proceed with caution!

Last but not least: Enjoy your new camper. This is the start of a beautiful friendship.