How to Buy a RV… What to Expect AFTER you purchase

 Ready to buy your RV? Issues to consider BEFORE you sign –

This is (perhaps) the last post in the “How to buy a RV” series. Enjoy the content and please feel free to chime in on the discussion at the bottom of the post as it develops.

Buying the right RV is a big decision. There are many types of RV’s (visit our post on this topic See “Choosing the Right Type of RV) and loans are available with terms of up to 20 years (for loan advice and thoughts click HERE for RV Loans the Inside Story), but what happens when you drive off the dealer’s or seller’s lot? Are you prepared for “what’s next”??

How to Buy a RV… The Big Picture as you end your journey – 

Summarizing what I shared in the video above, and reflecting a bit further – one of the big “knocks” on RV’s in general is they break, and they do so often. You need to consider this “fact of life” before making one of the biggest purchases of your life and signing documents committing you to a loan that may last a decade or more. The simple reality is some manufacturers are better about paying warranty claims than others. A few visits to RV service centers and a frank conversation with the service writer at those centers will reveal which manufacturers are good about it and which are not.

When it comes to RV’s, people often wonder why the manufacturers (most of them) can’t just “make it work” for the long term. Many blame the quality of workmanship. Truth be told, there is some of that in the “overall equation”, but the reality is, the manufacturers are trying to make (especially towables) as light as possible – so you with the Jeep Cherokee can tow it, and hit “price points” that they know the average consumer can meet (and get financed for). Does that require compromises? Yes, for certain, however that said, I believe travel trailers and fifth wheels represent an incredible bargain considering what they can do and where you can take them. In short, RV’s are the gateway to an amazing lifestyle – whether you choose to full time or travel just a few days at at time.

how to buy a rv, getting the most from your walkthrough
Learning how to buy a rv makes all this possible… Oh the places you’ll go! (Flathead Lake, Montana)

Buying a RV? Here’s what SHOULD happen when you take possession…

First, you need a thorough walk-through of YOUR unit. You need to have two goals for your walk-through: learn what all those knobs and switches do and check the unit for any issues that should be addresses BEFORE you pull away (and ideally BEFORE you sign the papers!) One suggestion – VIDEO the walk-through presentation so you have something to refer back to in the coming days as you learn about your unit. Alternately you can record audio if you have a smart phone and use a free app like “Smart Voice Recorder”.

Did you buy LOCAL?

As I recommended in my earlier post (click Where to buy a RV and What to Look for), buying local has its advantages – particularly if you buy a new RV with a full warranty. I’ve seen folks pull up to our store here in Casper, months after their purchase here and the service manager will always try to spare one of his techs to address an issue they’re having and potentially fix it “on the spot”. That level of service is most certainly reserved for those who bought from us. The same is likely the standard you’ll find across the nation. So… buy local – it DOES help! Plus, whatever you didn’t quite “get” during the walk-through, you can return and get a briefing as needed! Last thought here – if you buy from a dealer that has to ship (drive) the unit to you, there will be no walk-through at the time of delivery. 

how to buy a rv
You’re going to LOVE the “RV Lifestyle” – Deserted Flathead Lake in late October with mild days/chilly nights.

Winterizing a RV

Be sure you really understand how to winterize (and UN-winterize) your unit. If you are not living in it, this is a necessary action for all U.S. residents living north of the frost line in Central Florida.

Slides and Landing Gear

Learn how to work your slides, what must be closed before sliding in the slides and how to manually work these in the unlikely event the electric motors fail. ‘Nuf said?

rv buying advice
BLM Campground near Helena, Mt. in Autumn

Keeping your tanks sanitary and clean

Learn how to keep the grey and black tanks from producing ungodly odors and just as importantly learn how to keep your fresh water tank clean and potable.

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Containing Future Repair Costs *IMPORTANT*

RV’s are not like cars. When I’m offered extended service contracts on a car, I always refuse; on an RV, it’s something I want and need. Recall my comments above about the nature of RV’s and the FACT that failures WILL occur as you travel here and there. That said, when it comes to an Extended Service Contract you do not have to go with the dealer’s offer that they will inevitably make to you during the “document signing ceremony”. You can shop extended service contracts – and know this… not all contract companies have a great rep among the RV service centers you’ll eventually deal with due to payment issues, so, find one that has a good reputation – and then learn the procedures for filing a claim. I have a personal story I want to relate HERE about an “ESC” (extended service contract) that I purchased (and heartily recommend) and what I learned as I filed my first claim. If you do google any particular service contract company, be sure to read carefully into the nature of the complaints you’ll inevitably find as some are filed by folks who simply failed to follow written procedures established by the ESC company.

Incidentally, there are multiple levels of coverage on a ESC. New units (generally within the first month of purchase) can qualify for an exclusionary contract – these contracts cover EVERYTHING in the RV EXCEPT what is specifically excluded. Older RV’s (like mine) can still qualify but the plan lists what is covered and anything NOT listed is NOT covered. Again, you can learn more about Extended Service Contracts here.

how to buy a rv
Yep, RV Lifestyle! Camping near Lolo Pass – on the Montana / Idaho border.

RV Maintenance 101

As I noted earlier, be sure to know how to maintain your water tanks (all of ’em!) In addition, your roof, landing gear, hot water heater, water filter, slide outs and batteries all require routine maintenance. The more you learn to do (and what to NOT do), the less you’ll be spending on these relatively mundane tasks. Something as simple as installing and then regularly replacing an anode in the hot water heater can extend its life by years. Landing legs require periodic cleaning and lubrication, as with slide outs. Most batteries of course require distilled water to be topped off periodically. The bottom line is – learn the routine maintenance tasks and what supplies to purchase and then get to it!

Hitches, etc.

I’m not going into depth here on types of hitches but a few words here about SAFETY are appropriate. If you’re buying a travel trailer, have you considered a weight distribution hitch (if your vehicle needs it with the trailer you are buying), an anti-sway bar (controls how well your travel trailer tracks as it travels down the road), a brake controller (insures when you hit the brakes in your vehicle, the trailer brakes also engage) and a 7 pin connector (if your vehicle does not have one).

If you are going the fifth wheel route, do you have a long or short bed truck? With a short bed, have you considered a sliding hitch? If so, manual (less expensive) or automatic (more expensive).

There are also occasions where a gooseneck should be considered. If you’re buying from a dealership, there will most certainly be staff there between sales, parts, and service that can help you to make the right choices to these very important options.

As you can see, RV ownership requires choices be made when you are buying the unit as well as down the road, however with some basic knowledge, routine maintenance and a few other actions to protect your investment (in fun and time if nothing else!), you’ll enjoy years of use from your new (or “slightly used”) RV.

RV Insurance

So you’re ready to drive away with your new (or gently used) RV… one question… Is it insured? You have several options – your current insurance carrier (for your truck or auto) may cover the RV for a few days – call them to find out their policy on this. Alternately, you can get a quote from your current carrier and compare it to whatever offer you get from the dealer you’re purchasing from (if that’s the case). RV Across America has a post about 3 important riders to include in your RV insurance that talks about some specific riders or features you may wish to include in your insurance policy – and we have a solid recommendation for you in an insurance carrier dedicated to covering RV’s.

A last note – if you full time, now is not the time to hide that reality! Tell the insurance company the truth!! The premium you’ll pay for full timing is small compared to having a claim denied if they find out you hid that important fact.

Enjoyed this post? This is part 6 of a “How to buy a RV” series, you can find the first post “How to buy a RV – Motorhome, Travel Trailer, or Fifth Wheel” here.

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4 thoughts on “How to Buy a RV… What to Expect AFTER you purchase”

  1. These are some pretty good points, especially the one about knowing how to properly maintain your RV. After all, as the article points out, your RV likely will break down over time as you use it. Because of this you want to know how to perform some basic maintenance in-between major repairs.

  2. I bought a 2017 RV cash and have not received any paper-work yet. When I was at the shop, there was a couple who had waited four months and were threatening the dealer that they would return the RV if they did not have them within a week. All I got was a sheet of paper with what I paid and the VIN number. Upon taking 23,500 cash from me and getting my signature, the dealer told me that the DMV website was down and could not give me anything else. Today, a week and a day later, she tells me something about her password difficulties on the DMV webpage . What should I be expecting ? I know nothing about this purchase that I regret making, I am actually willing to take a loss and sell it back to them. Please advise.

    • Have you taken possession of the RV? If not, the sale is NOT “consummated” and you are entitled to your funds back. If you did take the RV, do you have title to it? If not, they have violated the law (unless you have a loan on it) – CONSULT A LAWYER.


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