Virgins Guide to Buying the First RV
Buying an RV is a long process and a big investment which is why you want to get it right the first time around. Now, how to do that…
We are 30 years old and we are getting ready to purchase our 4th RV, so needless to say, we know the process better than we would like to admit. Lucky you, we are going to share all of our hard earned, money pit, time consuming, mistake ridden knowledge on how to find the right RV for you. Or as my grandmother liked to say, “Let me give you some pearls”.
First things first, let’s figure out what type or class of RV you want and how big. There’re sooo many different types out there; the easiest way to narrow it down is by asking some questions:
- What type of camping do you want to do? (What kind of roads will you travel?)
- Where do you plan on camping? (Some parks have length restrictions)
- How often do you plan on traveling? (Trailers are easier to winterize and store)
For Example: We plan on reaching some remote national forest and BLM campgrounds with potential small and rough roads, some oceanfront campgrounds with under 30ft restrictions and we plan on taking some hair pin topsy turvey scenic roads! We travel full time, log a lot of miles and we don’t have a truck to pull a trailer (and don’t plan on buying one). Important items for us are a good size fridge and ample inside storage space. With all of this info, we now know our new coach will need to be a smaller class A, B+ or C that is less than 30ft.
Of course buying used is nice if it’s an option. You will save on depreciation and someone has worked out some of the bugs for you. Believe us, there are lots of bugs to be worked out on even the fanciest of RV’s. If the coach floor plan, size or type you want is only available spankin’ new, you will have to pony up the cash for a new RV and if not, find a used one!
Now, it’s time to crunch the numbers…figure out what your budget is and stick to it! Get pre approved for a loan before you head to the dealership…that is unless you plan on paying cash for the RV. Talk with your bank or check out some online sources such as Good Sam, Costco and local credit unions. We received our first RV loan with no problems. A year later when we tried to upgrade to a new RV and the process was a much bigger pain. We almost didn’t get the RV because we were not already pre-approved.
It’s finally time to go look at your top choices in the flesh and you don’t want to waste time and energy dreaming and looking at coaches you can’t afford. (If you want to see how we shop, watch this video on our top RV choices)
Don’t buy the first time you look! Let the salesman know that you want to be directed to the coaches you are interested in and then ask them to leave. Give yourself some time to browse around and pretend to use everything! Cook, watch TV, lie on the bed, sit in the captain’s chair, shower and use the John (pretending of course). RVs are small versions of home so you’ve got to make sure you are comfortable with your every day rituals. Ask for a brochure, take some of your own pictures and make notes about your likes and dislikes of each coach. Take time to sit and think on it. Give yourself a few days and then go back again if you need to. After some deliberation you may find yourself with more questions or wanting to test out the bed again. Don’t hesitate, this is a big purchase and you want to choose the RV that best suits you, not your relatives, friends or kids. Yes I said it; you come first on this purchase, not the kids or grandkids! It’s finally all about you and don’t forget it!
What Brand /Type in 38+’ RV to be used for full time living and occasional travel?
Now that I am retired, my wife and I are looking to buy our first RV. We would use it for cross-country travel 3-4 times each year for about a month each time. Our questions for you are: would you recommend a 35 coach with towing capacity to tow a small car, or a fifth wheel pulled with a pick up. Second question, dielsel or gas??
I am interested in purchasing an RV that I can afford. I am seriously considering it as my place of residence. Help me 🙂 I need guidance
I really enjoyed your videos. I traveled alot with my parents but now I am a single Mom parent and my son and I are ready to hit the open road. I would love to know your thoughts on a female that is not a mechanic, but I do know a few things. Don’t want to be working on the camper all the time. Open to hear your thoughts. I also have 2 golden retrievers so we need room but I still love off little paved roads and mountains. Thoughts? Thank you Leslie Bennett
The RV community is very helpful and if you are staying at a campground don’t hesitate to ask your neighbor for help. Good luck out there and have fun.
Any advice for someone who just want/need a camper type ? Nothing too big, It will be used for business and not camping. I don’t have a truck currently to pull so something that I could drive; however If I need to get a truck i could look into it.
A small RV would be perfect. You can look at the RVs built on the Fiat/Dodge chassis if you’re on a budget, or if you’d like to spend a bit more the Sprinter chassis is great. Here’s a post that might help: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/best-small-rv
Totally have devoured your blog. If you weren’t sponsored/testing RV’s would you buy one RV and keep it forever and ever amen? Or would you update/upgrade every few years and why?
Hey Andrea! Just as FYI, we are not sponsored (we don’t get paid or have a free RV) but we do get a great lease deal on our test coach in exchange for our feedback. If we were not testing our current RV, we would have stayed in our Monaco Vesta (https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/windy-the-rv) that we had for 3 years and been very happy. I think if you find the right coach, you can go a long while before feeling the need to update/upgrade.
Do you have any advice for people who want to buy old used RV between 1980-1989 ? i’m trying to find a website or book that will help me pick a type A RV.
Can you share some of your first hand knowledge of service post sale? So many scary things online say that don’t buy at one place and expect another to help with maintenance etc…. What should be look for locally authorized repair enters for the particular make and be sure there is one? There is a deal on a newer used about two hours from our home but not sure if the distance is worth post sale hassle.
I’m finally in the market and VERY close to buying my first travel trailer. Do you have any advice on first time accessories that I’ll need to purchase that don’t come with the RV? Will a clean water and sewage hose be included, do most have generators, etc.
Also, can I expect to be able to talk the seller down from a certain price or do new RV’s tend to be a set price.
Thanks!!! I can’t wait to join your “club” as a full time RVer.
Congrats! I’d spend some time browsing the articles in our RV Shopper Series: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/category/rvin/rv-shopper-series
As far as gear to purchase we hand picked every items in our store based on items we feel have helped us over the years: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/store
I just want to say thank you SO MUCH! All of these articles were incredibly helpful, and put my mind at ease and left me feeling like I knew what I was doing. 🙂 I just finalized my first RV purchase yesterday and was able to negotiat down to 47% off retail. I had to work hard for it but having so much knowledge as to what to expect was KEY in being able to get something so affordably! I can’t WAIT to get out on the road. You guys have been such a HUGE inspiration from day one of planning (2 years ago). THANK YOU!
Tina, that is music to our ears!!! So glad you got a good deal and felt confident in negotiating! Congrats and hope to see you out here soon!
Looking for info/reviews about the Leisure Travel Free Spirit SS and the Winnebago ERA 70C, both Sprinter Vans with solidest.
Both are nice small RVs. We don’t have any plans to do an in-depth review on these but you can get a taste on our opinions here:
I like your suggestion to figure out what your budget is and stick to it. Seeing RVs with every feature imaginable will be tempting. However, overextending yourself will only make it so you can’t afford to get away and use your new RV.
Have you had the opportunity to look at the new 2015 Winnebago 27n? We are looking for our first RV and you make very good points about selecting a smaller unit. We have an opportunity to buy a 2014 Fleetwood Excursion 33D carryover for a great price but I’m concerned about the size. Keep up the great work!
I’d love to tell you smaller is better, but sometimes a slightly larger RV that’s on sale is the best bet! Our dream RV is a 30′ diesel with 2 full wall slides, contemporary styling and never breaks down…remember I said it’s a dream 🙂 Good luck, let us know what you come up with.
I really like the look of the 2015.5 Leisure Travel Van.
How much should you typically expect the dealer to bring the price down from MSRP on a new class A motor coach?
Great Question! It does vary but I would expect at least 20-30% off.
My wife & I want to RV full time & year round. We are planning on volunteering at state & federal parks in exchange for an RV pad. We want a sturdy & reliable motorhome with laundry & island bed. We’ll be pulling a vehicle & since I work from home I think we will need satellite internet service. This plan is 1-2 years down the road & I expect to have a purchase budget of 75k-85k. A tank less on demand water heater would be nice but not a deal breaker. It will be just the 2 of us. Any suggestions on make, model, model year? Any other suggestions & advice is welcome. Thanks
Are you sure you want satellite internet? Our Verizon works in 95% of the areas we visit and is a fraction of the price and way faster: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/mobile-internet
Can’t recommend a good RV for you as everyone’s needs are different, I can say we like our Fleetwood and it’s held up well. I would guess you could get a 2014 Excursion like ours around your budget in 2016.
I’m thinking of heading out for the RV life and wondering what you recommend for a camper/van for a 50ish woman out on my own? I want something simple, easy to drive, no fuss. Just something to bum around in for awhile in and not too expensive….any specific small campers/vans you suggest? I don’t have a ton of $ to spend….up to $25K-$30K.
Wants and needs are so specific it’s difficult for us to recommend anything via email. Best suggestion we have is to visit an RV show and/or dealership and see what you like that is new, then look for a used version in your budget. You might also like to watch this video: https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/top-rv-picks
How much are you selling for Windy for? I’m looking for clean pre owned coach with upgrades
you can call Sullivan’s RV in Decatur Indiana and ask for Michael the sales manager. I believe it’s still available.
Hi, so we were just told by the dealer that we can’t afford anything above $70,000. We want to become full-timers. However, we need the space to live in. We want a class A but all the class A’s in that price range won’t work. Should we get approved at a different location? We have three cats. Renting is not an option any more. Do you have any advice when it comes to dealing with dealers?
Is there a big difference between Newmar and Thor coaches?
Thanks for the help
If you want my honest opinion you should find a nice used 2009 or 2010 RV. Most RVs that list new in the $100k range are “starter coaches” meaning they’re not really made to last for full-time travel. If you can find a good Fleetwood, Newmar or Winnebago that original MSRP was $150k – $200k you should be able to purchase four years old for half price. The best part is (in theory) the kinks will be worked out and your RV will be more reliable than purchasing brand new.
Good luck, it’s not an easy process.
Not sure if this is still active, but I’ve been looking for the past 6 months and still deciding, collecting information, going to RV shows. I’d be a first time buyer, mainly using it for going to Nascar races and doing cross country treks exploring the open roads. I know I want a Class A..but do you know anything about entry level RV’s? Would it be better to buy used and always upgrade to something new if I decide this is what I want to do fulll time/ “snow-birding”
(I’m looking at either a 95 Georgie Boy Pursuit for $9,000 or a 99 Coachman for 10,000) My budget that I’m looking for spend on an RV is 15,000. I already have a budget put aside for traveling.
I would definitely set aside several thousand to repair your used RV. You have to keep in mind a 15 year old motorhome has either sat for many years and all the seals, bearing, etc might need repair; or the owners have driven it often which means it’s been surviving an f4 earthquake for many years! I do like the old Georgie Boy’s but I know some of them have had their issues. For the older RV’s the main ones we still see on the road are the Bounder, Pace Arrow and some smaller Winnebago models.
Good luck, it will be an adventure for sure!
Thanks for the swift reply and advice. I probably won’t be purchasing a MH until sometime in October so it’ll give me more funds to put away for repairs/travel. I’ll look into the models that you’re talking about.
I’m mainly looking to get into something for like going to the races and doing some trekking. I grew up in a campground until I was 14 so it’s already in my blood so to speak, just never was allowed to experience the “when the sun goes down” lifestyle. Can’t wait. lol.
The MH’s that I’ve been looking at are through campingWorlds website and actually one of the salesmembers is the one that refered me to your site..so I’ll keep active on it and thanks again. Safe travels!
I posted this same question on your facebook page, but I figured it was appropriate here too. We are looking for an class a in the 35-37′ range and got worried about some of the sites having size restrictions being limiting. In your experience, how often are campgrounds restricted over that range and (as I’ve read on on other posts) are they “real” restrictions.
Chris and Raven
Chris, often asked and always an excellent question. The restrictions are very real and believe me, because we have tried to squeeze into campgrounds that say 30ft limit and sure enough, we didn’t fit. On the east coast you will find more tight spaces than on the west typically and may have to stay at the occasional RV park vs. a state or national park but really, we find most of the restrictions are for rigs over 35ft. Some of the California beach campgrounds have 30ft limits and some state and national parks have restrictions but even if so, there will be an RV park where you’ll fit nearby almost always. So, buy the rig that best suits you and your needs. You’re not looking at a 40-45ft coach so you’ll be fine.
We love all the information you share. We are pulling the plug, uprooting and heading out to explore the rv lifestyle. We have been actively searching for a green certified (cabin air quality) and have had some challenges finding our first rv.
The credit score is excellent, however, we want to be wise with the funds. Searching and creating lists. So looking forward to getting on the road! Thanks for a great site.
Can you shed light on your switch from the Avanti to the Vesta? They seem to be in the same market niche: small fuel efficient Euro-style diesel Class A. The obvious differences (to me) are that the Vesta has more power, more room, and is a pusher? I’m interested because I’m interested in the same category, but I’m disappointed you’re only getting 9.X mpg in your Vesta. I’m pretty sure the Winnebago Via is too cramped for us, so I’m now thinking of giving up on fuel efficiency and Euro styling and just find the quality and floorplan we want (Newmar). WDYT?
We loved the Avanti because it was the first European Designed coach with a smaller footprint and better fuel economy than most any class A…and that’s why we purchased it. Downside was it was the first RV of it’s kind and we purchased one of the first models off the line. If you’re looking for an affordable coach I can direct you to the 2011 Avanti, this was the last year of production and they fixed the major issues that plagued the previous models.
As for the Vesta we’re 100% happy with our selection, and each RV show we visit we search out a better coach and can’t find one. The Vesta is built like models costing 2-3x the MSRP, plus you get a smaller footprint and better fuel economy.
As for Fuel Economy you’ll see we average between 10 – 12 MPG https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/vesta-fuel-economy, this is 50% better than most class A rv’s. On the other hand we don’t spend as much on fuel as one might think https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/rv-living-cost
I’d say go with your gut, but the RV that you feel best fits your lifestyle. To be perfectly honest we wish our Vesta had a slide in the bedroom…it would make life a lot more comfortable 🙂
Thanks for your reply. Sounds like you were beta tester for Damon! I’m impressed with interior photos of the Vesta, but I do recall reading and agreeing with your comment about only one slide: I feel claustrophobic in beds butted against a corner. I noticed Palazzos and Serranos have more space, but probably aren’t the same quality as the Vesta. Some 40-42′ pushers on iRV2.com claim 10.X MPG at slower cruise speeds with toads (including a 450hp Entegra), while I’ve read about FREDs and small pushers with only 9-12 MPG, so I’m wondering if I shouldn’t just get a 40 footer and call it a day?
or….to throw a wrench in your plans…why not meet in the middle at 36′? Ha ha. Have fun searching, when you find that perfect RV you’ll know it.
The Vesta is not a diesel pusher, it’s a puller. I was very interested in finding one for myself, to bad Monaco doesn’t make them anymore and are hard to find at decent price.
I emailed Jason with questions about their Vesta and he also suggested the Thor Palazzo to me. I’ve done some research and think the 2014 33.2 version would be right for me. But I have more research to do.
Looked at the Palazzo again yesterday with some future RVers, one things for sure Thor is a “High Feature – Low Cost” manufacturer. We had the opportunity to tour the Thor factory with some of the big wigs over there and they assured us they have been putting quality and warranty at the top list for customers. It’ll be interesting to see how well they do over the next few years.
With the parent company of Fleetwood purchasing Monaco a few months back who knows what will become of the Vesta. Still the best designed coach on the road today…and it’s 3 years later! Shows what happens when a big company like Navistar actually invests some time and money into a new design.
Did you ever want an onboard laundry unit? Where do you do your laundry most of the time?
For the BLM limits, is that the size limit on the RV, or total?
For example would a 28ft rv plus your Smart be considered too long? What about a Truck with a 26ft Trailer?
Btw, thanks for the site, its a great fix while I work on getting my rig together and starting to travel myself.
I can see why you upgraded from the Vanagon to the Damon Class A. Lots more room and all the features you need to be a full-timer. I’m guessing that you upgraded from the Damon to the Monaco to get more horsepower and better fuel mileage along with a nicer level of trim and a better floor plan with a larger slide.
Why you would trade out of your current model for anything short of a bus is beyond me. I have been looking at the Allegro Bus in a 42ft with a 400hp that will pull my 24ft stacker trailer nicely. Of course I will not buy it new but look for a 5 year old model at half the price of new ones.
Some people ask me why a stacker? If we are leaving the stick house for a rolling house permanently, I have to take the garage and my toys along too.
Have fun picking a new coach.
John, the downside of owning a 42 footer, and pulling a 24 foot trailer is you’re limited with where you can drive, park, camp….and so on. If you don’t mind staying exclusively at Big Rig friendly resorts then we say Go For It!
For us we’ve been turned down from many state and national parks because our rig is too large. So, hence the challenge to downsize. We’re heading west in 2013 and planning to hit some of those places we missed, and a sub 30 rig is a must!
There sure is a lot to consider. I never realized I need to consider the suggestions you made. I thought it was about how well I like the looks both inside and out and how well I would fit into the space. There really is a lot to consider and I guess one truly knows until you have lived together for a little while. Thanks for the helpful information!
What is a BLM campground?
BLM is short for “Breau of Land Management” …. basically it’s public land owned by the government for the collective ‘us’ to use at no cost. Some the the campgrounds are located in the most beautiful places, and are free! Check out our post on living off the cord https://www.gonewiththewynns.com/boondock-free-camp