Your First RV
Painless ways to lose your
No, this is not written by an RV
salesman. These are the hands-on lessons learned by an engineer who just
completed his first RV purchase.
Easing into an RV is the way to go, that
is, borrowing dad's, but what if you have to make the leap all on your
lonesome? Here are my tips, starting with strategies that were not that
effective and ending with the ones that worked, the ones to
Wandering RV dealer lots places the
virgin RV buyer in front of the veteran RV salesperson. Talk about bringing a
knife to a gunfight. And lots of time lost driving since RV dealers tend to be
far from metropolitan areas where lot acreage is cheaper.
Reading, research, and wandering the web
are standard ways to get smart, but we're not talking about a few choices to
sort out, but thousands. Only a few RV categories (called classes), each with a
few engine/frame manufacturers, but hundreds of floorplans, each with dozens of
choices for refrigerators, water pumps, air conditioners, gazillion
Better is to begin at your local
campsite. Wander among the RVs on a Sunday afternoon, and walk right up to
their owners with a blushing smile. "Hi, I'm looking to buy an RV, and yours
looks like the kind I had in mind."
Your first surprise will be the warm
reception. RV drivers are uncommonly friendly, tickled to interrupt their lazy
vacation to rattle on about their baby, their big baby. They remember being
virgins themselves, and will inundate with horror stories that somehow always
work out OK in the end. Bring a notebook.
Among your many questions, include, "Have
you ever heard of anyone selling half of their RV to someone who will use it
half the time?" Your odds of finding the right RV with an owner interested in
that are slim, but in the emerging sharing economy, it's more than possible.
And if it works out, you can ease into it with a veteran showing you the
Since I needed an RV to live in full
time, I couldn't go down that road, but part-timers should consider it. Half
the purchase price, half the fixed maintenance expenses, and all the current
Lastly comes the RV rental dealers. Not
to rent since the rates are exorbitant, but to buy. Rental dealers sell rental
units after they pass 100K miles, which is a fraction of the design life of the
truck engine and frame below the RV. An RV will go through several
refrigerators, batteries, generators, air conditioners, etc. during its life,
so a rental will be a mix of used and new accessories.
What they do come with from a rental
outfit is a detailed maintenance log showing meticulous care. Remember the
exorbitant rental rates? That's how much the dealer loses if any significant
part of the RV fails during a rental. Much better care than a private owner
whose RV often suffers from non-use and neglect.
The rental dealer has also done the
research to get the best floorplan, and best collection & configuration of
accessories for the novice user, the system most resilient to abuse.
The main disadvantage of a rental dealer
may be post-sale support. Before signing on the dotted line, ask all your
questions about the maintenance log, where to get parts, have manuals in your
hand for all appliances and subsystems, and take notes like crazy. Make a video
of the walk-through. There's too much to remember, and the rental dealer will
forget your phone# after they get your dough..
Lastly, approach all this with one mantra
to keep repeating to yourself, "I will not try to buy the best RV."
Virgins don't know how to buy the best RV, especially since they don't yet know
what is best for them. Trying to buy the best is a prescription for failure
that plays right into the RV dealer's mantra, "You get what you pay for", which
is another way of saying that you will pay a lot. And when something goes
wrong, that means you didn't pay enough. Focus on the least bad RV with which
to gain the experience to buy the "best" RV a year or two afterward. The drop
in stress with that one attitude shift will be remarkable.
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