how to buy a rv

WHERE to buy a RV … and WHAT to look for

Does it Matter WHERE you buy your new (or used) RV? 

and… What you SHOULD look for when evaluating that rig!

how to buy a rv
There are many factors to consider when considering WHERE to buy a RV and WHAT to look for when buying a RV

I learned some interesting facts when I first got into RV sales last Spring. I saw people who lived in Wyoming willing to buy from a dealer in Michigan or Indiana and in some cases travel there to pick up their new RV. A wise move? Well, listen to my thoughts below and then see if you agree with my summary posted below

Important note: My comments in the “Where to buy” video are based upon the assumption you purchase from a dealer. I’ll admit right up front, I prefer buying from dealers. This has NOTHING to do with the fact that I’m now working for one (in Wyoming). When I purchased my first two used Class C motorhomes about 12 years ago, I bought from dealers. Why? A dealer has the obligation (at the least the HONEST ONES DO) to inspect the RV before they put it up for sale. They will also share that report with you – showing what was wrong with it when they brought it in on trade. They will also show you what they fixed – and what they left for you to deal with.

A good negotiator (hopefully YOU) can not only get the price down to a point where its a “good deal”, you may get the dealer to toss in a 90 day extended service contract. While these contracts are NOT a full warranty, they WILL cover components (hot water heaters, slide motors, landing gear, refrigerators, a/c, etc…) and this can be VERY important to YOU as you drive off with your new or used RV.

If you buy from a private party, YOU the buyer assume virtually all the risk. The seller is not obligated to know if there is anything wrong with the RV (roof issues, black mold, etc…), so the responsibility is ENTIRELY yours to insure you’re getting a good rig. RV Trader is the #1 site through which used RV’s are now sold. If you’re really lucky, you’ll find a rig that already has an extended service contract applied to it for sale – and then you’ll have greater confidence that you have some level of protection when you drive off after closing the sale.

What to look for when buying a RV…

Summary thoughts on this topic…

  • Virtually ALL RV’s require service/repair in their first year (and beyond!)- be sure you know how you’ll get your new rig serviced when you purchase!
  • Consider the protections you’ll have when you buy from a dealer vs. a private sale
  • Is the rig you’re looking at WELL BUILT?
    • how accessible is the furnace for service? (and if you camp in the cold, it WILL need service!)
    • any refinements to the frame construction?
    • how will the rig drive off-road? do they use shocks on the axles?
    • does it have tires or china bombs?
    • is there attention to “finishing touches”
    • is the plumbing protected/insulated?
    • will the countertops hold up?

AND… Are you willing to pay for a unit that attends to all or much of the above? Some of the best rigs I’ve seen are NOT necessarily the most expensive out there, but they’re also not trying to hit a budget “price point”.

There are several other posts in this How to Buy a RV series. Be sure to check them out HERE. Part 5 – RV LOANS can be found HERE

Additional resources you may wish to consider include exploring the value of an Extended Service Contract and how to prepare for winter conditions if you live in your RV where winters get COLD!

As always… THANKS for visiting… and COME BACK SOON… y’hear? Please DO leave comments below and SUBSCRIBE to us using the box in the upper right corner!

31 thoughts on “WHERE to buy a RV … and WHAT to look for

  1. L just purchased A 1081 Dodge Caravan El Dorado with a dodge 440 engine. The good thing is it only has 52000 miles on it. I only had to do a little work new plugs spark plug wires, I purchased a new 6’x8′ trailer, I have a Honda 250 motorcycle and some other small stuff which I need to take with me. The owner of the RV travel trailer has a camping spot up at Rutheran NM next to Haron lake,. For $200 per month and I watch the place for free electric, so I have a spot for the summer. I am planing to go to florida next winter, to Melbourne Florida. But that could change. I am saving ,999 fine silver and the owner will take silver for rent, and I purchased my RV with silver. Take care Robert

    • i’m no expert on motorhomes – i’d say winnebago is a good and safe choice; perhaps other readers will toss in their two cents on this question

  2. Alan, in your video, you mentioned you have credit cards that give you 6% on food and 3% on gas. Could you please tell me the names of those credit cards. Thanks. We are learning a lot from your videos. Have not yet purchased. Is forest river on your “good” list of manufacturers? Any suggestions on manufacturers would be appreciated.

    • Paul, sorry for the delay in reply. I am having amex send you an invite for the card I referred to. As to manufacturers – at all costs AVOID forest river!! They “show well”, but are (in general) not made well. As to manufacturers I do recommend – Outdoors RV (exceptional) and Arctic Fox (very good). Are you looking 5th wheel or travel trailer? What part of the country are you in? Al

  3. Alan,

    I’m not sure what you are saying about the chassie. Are you saying look for one that is customized from Lippert? Also how do i know if storage area and slide out are insulated correctly?

    Thanks

    • You will not always find a customized chassis, infact, my top recommendations Outdoors RV and Arctic Fox use the Northwood chassis (and it IS custom). As to storage and slide insulation – to date, I’ve found FEW manufacturers I’d ever buy from – in addition to the 2 I already named, I’d consider Augusta and Villano. I’m always ‘on the lookout’ for others that impress me for the money. Glacier Peak (Outdoors RV) is about to release a fifth wheel that will retail for less than $75k. that will have everything I’d ever want in a fifth wheel.

  4. Alan, So I looked at the trailers you recommended. I decided on The Northwood Artic fox. However, there are no dealers near me. The closes one is 180 miles away.

    The other thing is I have been looking at my tow capacity of my vehicles. I have 2008 Buick enclave GCWR 9,700lb tow weight 4,500lb. Also have honda ridgeline tow capacity of 5000lb. All the trailers i see are heavier than that. Not sure how to determine what trailer I can tow.

    Thanks for help
    David

    • David, Lets take a step back and I’m going to ask you a couple of questions I’d ask if you were here on my sales lot in Wyoming – 1) What is your intended use? That is – do you plan to use it 3-5 weekends/ year? extended stays of a week or two? live in it full time? 2) How many folks will be staying in it? Are there kids? 3) Do you need bunk beds? 4) Will you be using the trailer in temperatures that slip well below freezing?

      Currently, your vehicles will only carry the lightest of trailers – and most if not all Arctic Fox (and Outdoors RV eg – Creeksides) will not work especially if you intend to tow these into the mountains. I’m thinking, depending upon your answers to my questions, I’m going to recommend replacing one or both vehicles with a 1/2 ton truck that is well designed and can tow 8000+ pounds. Al

  5. Alan,

    I came across your video series on YouTube the other day. Thanks for providing info that’s to the point.

    Not unlike David above, DH and I are in the early stages of our RV journey — lots and LOTS of research!! We can say this much:
    -For the foreseeable future (~5 yr), what we get will be used on mostly weekend/long weekend junkets, plus 2-3 weeks a summer. After the last kid finishes HS, it might be a different story.
    -We would be spending some of that vacation time in RV campgrounds, but one of our other ambitions is to spend some 2-4 day stretches in state and national parks. I’ve already noted where the latter campgrounds tend to have size restrictions.
    -One kid, nearly a teenager (so figure adult-sized sleeping bunk), so most likely is “party of three”.
    -Home base is North FL (~50 miles north of the citrus line); although we see a a couple of overnight hard freezes a year, we would not be taking this thing into hard winter climates for any extended periods.
    -Our current “large” (haha) vehicle is a minivan with a stated tow capacity of 3500 lbs and over 90K miles. I realized quickly that outside of the smallest of trailers, towing ain’t happening with what we have at present. The game plan was to unload the minivan in another ~2 yr, once older kid finished college. Although I had been thinking “smaller crossover SUV” for a replacement, that was before we considered the RV thing. DH had talked off and on about getting a pickup truck to facilitate one of his hobbies, so we could meet both sets of needs with the right truck.

    Q1:Would we be way off base by considering (eg) a suitably equipped Ford F-150, Dodge Ram 1500, or GMC Sierra 1500? Follow-up Q:What should we look for in a “tow package”?

    Our first round or 2 of looking had us leaning towards a smaller (21-25′) Class C motor home, but once I encountered your video series (and considered the timetable for vehicle replacement), I am intrigued by the thought of a smaller fifth wheel (<25') that could be towed by the (not yet purchased) pickup. In that size category, though, there doesn't seem to be that much. I suspect I'm missing something.

    Re a "local" dealer, there's one in our town, and their reputation is mixed. The dealerships become more numerous the farther south you go (several are within 45 minutes); one of the largest RV dealerships in the country is about 2 hours' drive away.

    Q2: Could you possibly steer me in the direction of reliable manufacturers that make things in this category?

    Many thanks!

    P.S. Science teacher? What subject, if I may ask?

    • Given your current vehicle, if its going to be your tow vehicle – even for a day – you have to consider its limitations. So, if you want to get ‘on the road’ right away, you’ll have to look for ultra small / light to accommodate its capacity to tow. If we open the world to a 1/2 ton truck, I’d encourage you to look at the Jayco bunk-house travel trailers. Since your needs are about to change, buy a used one, from 2009-2012, get it at the right price, then sell it when the last kid leaves high school. For yourselves, only the lightest (read: most cheesy produced) 5th wheels can really be towed by a 1/2 ton, hence my strong encouragement to go with a 3/4 ton DIESEL – it will pull a 5th wheel and at the moment, my nod (likely) goes to the glacier peak I’ve written about on my site. Did you see my preview of that 5th wheel?

      • I think I may have skimmed over the post on the GP initially. I went back to read it and…wow. Info is duly filed for Future Reference.

        The issue with our changing needs is exactly what was nagging at me and making me hesitant to commit to a MH. With the right tow vehicle, the TT can be swapped out for a 5th wheel easily enough. We may just have to accelerate the minivan retirement a little bit…;-)

        So Jayco seems to be a relatively decent manufacturer when it comes to towables? Besides Forest River (and its octopus-like subsidiaries), are there other manufacturers we should steer clear of?

        Do you recommend a trial run or 2 in a rental unit before purchasing? Or is that more trouble than it’s worth, and one is better off taking the plunge with a gently used TT?

    • Hey John, thanks for reaching out. I encourage you to review the new Glacier Peak (http://rvacrossamerica.net/glacier_peak_sneak_peek/) or the Augusta RV Ambition 331(?) – I’m looking at both as my next 5th wheel. Both are built as well (or better) than the Arctic Fox – and – both have the dual opposing slides in the living room providing much more living space than the AF 29.5K. I know the AF 32 model has dual opposing slides, BUT, frankly its too long for where I like to travel/camp. Al

  6. Hi Alan. Outdoors RV or Arctic Fox…is one better? I plan to be on as many dirt roads as will allow and will be in below freezing from time to tome. Also…what is the max tow weight you would recommend for my half ton Ford ecoboost rated for 9600 tow capacity and 1460 payload. I will be mostly full time with many mountains to climb. I am considering the Arctic Fox 25R or the Timber Ridge 24RKS. Any thoughts would be greatly appreciated.

    • JR, the quality of build between Outdoors RV and AF is nearly identical. That said, since Outdoors RV has started fabricating their own interiors, I like their interiors over those in a AF. The underbelly/frame is identical as Northwoods provides both to each manufacturer. Same goes for off road capability. As to weight, given your vehicle and its stats – I’d probably stay under a dry weight of 7000#. If you’re anywhere near Casper, Wy, I know we have several timber ridges in stock. Let me know if you’d like to get a quote on one. You can see our inventory at stalkupsrv.com Al

  7. Thanks Alan, If I were to decide to buy a lightweight fifth wheel (6600 lbs dry)can I get away with 1135 lbs dry pin weight? Pin weight seems to be my restriction at this point with a fifth wheel.

  8. Hello Alan,
    I’ve been looking at 5th wheel toy haulers in the 36-43 ft range but I’m not sure who makes a good quality rig. I’m also confused as to the size truck I should buy. The dealers I’ve spoken to have said a 1 ton vehicle would be sufficient but none have specified a brand. Any advice would be appreciated. Thank you.

    • Kimberly, I strongly believe the Fuzion is one of the best built 5w toy haulers for a reasonable price. Jayco does make Seismic – but it is very pricey. Remember, the longer it is, the greater the challenge taking your rig into the forest/back country. A 1 ton DIESEL Ford F350 will work great for this application. Since 2011, Ford has been making a great 6.7L engine and it is VERY reliable. Regardless of what you decide upon, I’ll be glad to get you a great price on an extended service contract. Also – I do work for a dealer in Casper, Wy who carries Fuzion and if you’re near Wyoming, I’d be glad to discuss what we have in stock. Al

      • Thank you Alan, I’ll check it out. I’ve been looking at the Heartland Road Warrior 5th wheel and am wondering how it compares to the fuzion. Any insight would be helpful. Thanks again.

  9. Hi Allen, thx so much for all info. I have been looking for almost 8mts and I just can’t decide which TT to get. I will be full time and I am trying to find the most dependable TT out there or a set I can consider. I’ve looked at airstream (too$$) but nice. I’ve looked at rock wood windjammer, grand designs imagine line up . I’m finding out that most are owned by one company. I can’t do5th wheels and don’t want any over 30ft. The boxy type TT have me concerned about safety while traveling. I guess my bottom line is a top 5 most dependable and long lasting . I live in FL and I will be buying local (within FL) also dual axels. Looking fwd to more videos i watched all of them in one week. 🙂

    • Chase,

      Thanks for reaching out. There are only 2 lines of travel trailers I truly respect and both are sold only in the western states. The two companies are Outdoors RV (makers of Creek Side and Timber Ridge (and others that move up in price) and Arctic Fox. Both are manufactured in Oregon. Their dealer networks are all west of Denver Colorado and Casper Wyoming. The dealership I work with in Casper handles Outdoors RV, which frankly is the better of the two companies. Both use Northwood Mfg. chassis’, strong 5300# axles (except 3500# on the lightest Creek Side models), tandem axles, shocks on the axles, metal plates over the tires (to prevent interior damage in the event of a blowout), real tires!! (goodyear), 2 inch thick solid foam insulation THROUGHOUT (including the slides!) and much more in the way of full time living quality.

      What kind of vehicle do you have? (These trailers are NOT lightweight!!) I have an article on my website (RVAcrossAmerica.net) that details one of their 5th wheels (its one I’m looking at personally as my next 5th wheel) – and many of the design and engineering features built into their Glacier Peak 5th wheels are also built into the travel trailers.

      I know you mentioned you looked at Airstream (good stuff, but no slides), you also commented upon the price. The Timber Ridge trailers price in the mid-40’s and up, but, I happen to have a couple of 2016 (brand new) Timber Ridges that I can work with you on the pricing. Here is a link to the model: http://www.stalkupsrv.com/new_vehicle_detail.asp?veh=486653&pov=4737260 It is called a 230RBI, but the real length (bumper to hitch) is about 28 ft.
      The weight (dry) is 6450 pounds, so you’d need a truck / SUV capable of pulling about 8000 pounds (or just under).

      A couple of additional thoughts – I like these trailers because they make custom chassis’ for each floor plan (means they pull better and have larger (80 gallon) water tanks; they are TRUE 4 season trailers (which helps a lot in BOTH warm and cold weather); each trailer is checked before it leaves the factory (most companies only spot check); and the cabinetry is installed in a way that it will virtually NEVER come free from its mountings!

      I didn’t want to “pitch” you, but, if you are intending to full time and you care about quality – there IS a difference. As far as being in Florida, the company will allow service to be completed anywhere in the US or Canada by rv repair/ service centers. Contact me if you’d like to explore this option further. Alan

  10. Dear Alan,

    Thanks for the information I received on various topics of Motorhomes, Fifth Wheels and Tow Trailers. I have been researching buying a motorhome for sometime, (2 years)and I have narrowed it down to the Winnebago Via 25t. I chose this unit because it is 26th feet in length,my driveway is narrow and curved, is a Mercedes Diesel, seems well built and the best used pricing seems to be model year 2014. We plan to use it during the week get-away, and the occasional extended trip.I can wait until one comes along in the time frame you suggested on you video. Retirement doesn’t start until June 2017. Any suggestions?

    • The Winnebago Via is a good choice. When you find one, contact me and I’ll get you a quote on the extended service plan – very important in a RV. When you do find one, negotiate with the seller hard – you’ll save thousands. Take it one step at a time and enjoy the process. Al

  11. Hi Alan,
    Thanks for all of the great info. I’m a total newbie with ADD and the choices in the Class B market are making my head spin. My wife and I plan on doing long weekends, and a few weeks a year. Would you be kind enough to suggest the top 2 Makers in this market, and any tips/suggestions regarding this Class of RV?

    Thanks,
    Garret

    • Garret, I’m no expert on Class B’s. I’m a far greater fan of towables (5th wheels and travel trailers). That said, I have a friend (Marlon Knox) – you can see about friending him on Facebook (he’s based out of South Florida (Ft Lauderdale?) and he IS very knowledgeable about Class B’s.

  12. Dear Alan,
    Just found your site after watching your Youtube video on what to look for when buying an RV. I am retiring in 2 years (maybe sooner?) and want to be full time. I am a widow retiring from teaching and will be traveling by myself. I am tired of all my stuff and want to be able to be free to travel and see as much of our country as possible. I have been looking at Class C motorhomes 24-28 ft. because of the ease of driving. What are your thoughts on this? I know you are an expert on TTs, but would appreciate any input you might give me. Thanks so much.

    • Pat,

      Welcome to the world of full time RV’ing! Class C trailers are nice and easy to drive, you’re correct there – however – for full timing, 28 ft would be on the smallest end I’d consider (about 34 ft being the largest). I see a few issues with Class C’s for full timing. These include a) limited storage space (when compared to a Fifth Wheel) b) High cost (even when compared to a 5th wheel and a truck) c) you’re going to need to tow a car – and that car will add to your insurance cost on motorized vehicles and will be a “light duty” car (in contrast with a 5th wheel, you pay insurance on only 1 motorized vehicle, when it needs service, your home is not going in for repair, and your truck can go places a light duty car can’t.) You can see where I lean … a fifth wheel is a great way to travel. The only folks I recommend a motor home to are young families with kids who need to pee every 10 minutes! Al

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