9 Tips When Buying a New RV

by | Jan 13, 2023

Joan and I had the perception that you buy an RV and the experience in this wheeled wonder will always be trouble free. We found the buying experience, service after the sell, and life on the road was different than what we expected. We love RV life from the beginning and still do, but we needed to do a little more homework before our purchase.

My advice is do your research before you buy. I thought I did, but prior to our first purchase, we had a van conversion too many years ago, then purchasing our first 40 foot fifth wheel opened our eyes to all the intricacies owning a modern RV. Fortunately we were prepared when we bought our new Montana 5th wheel in 2022.

I’m still waiting to meet a fellow camper who has not had problems with their travel trailer, fifth wheel or that Class A mile-long land yacht. Issues can be from minor to major, from something small as an inconvenience, to a total malfunction leaving our fellow RV travler stranded along a roadside. I have yet to find a RV manufacturer that is trouble free. Some manufactures seem to have more issues than others. What seems to be a recurring theme with most RVs is quality, regardless of price, feature or function.

From our experience and working with many RV owners, here are 9 tips when buying a new RV.

9 tips when buying a new RV

1. Do your research. Before you look at your first RV, Google the manufacture and model for your interest.  Regardless of any manufacture, the Internet will be full of manufacturer website and RV dealers with floor plans, specifications and pictures of RVs. Narrow down your search to those models that will fit your families needs and RV lifestyle.

2. Talk to other RV owners. Go to an RV show. Find those who may have a manufacturer or model similar to your interest. It’s easy. Just stand near a unit for a few minutes and you’ll hear others talk. As an example, I’ve talked to owners of older and new models of my 5th wheel and we’ve had similar issues and differences as well.  What I’ve found is we RV’ers love to talk about our rolling homes. The good and the bad.

YouTube and Facebook are loaded with those who have recently purchased a new RV. One other tip. Don’t go on Facebook and ask: “What is the best RV to purchase?” You will get hundreds of responses and the answer fog will be so thick, it will be impossible to determine if there is one RV better than the other. Do you research, find a unit you may want to consider, then ask if anyone owns that unit. Most will share their likes and dislikes.

3. Read a manufacturer’s forum concerning the model of interest. These forums are rich in information, tips, fixes, remedies from the manufacture and more.  Look for recurring issues. See if the problems are specific to one model, manufacture or year of a unit. If you find the RV you’re considering to purchase riddled with problems, it’s a good idea to consider another unit and even another manufacture. Just remember, these are forums for help and every one is posting a problem looking for a solution.

4. You bought your first RV. Don’t leave the dealer’s lot yet! Before you buy your new RV, have the dealer show you each feature and function first. If something doesn’t work, then look at another model or a different manufacturer all together

Once you purchase the new RV, do not leave the lot until an RV tech shows you every button, switch, nob, valve, circuit breaker, fuse location – everything you need to know about operating your new RV. As the tech is demonstrating each feature and function, follow along with your cell phone recording each step. Don’t be afraid to step up close, ask questions as each is used. Now you will have a video instruction manual for reference until you become familiar with your new RV.

If the unforeseen happens and a feature or function doesn’t work, take note, show the salesman and ask how long it will take to correct before you drive the unit off the lot.

5. Read all the manuals. You should have received owners manuals for the RV and everything that’s been installed. If you don’t have them, then do a little Google search and download from the manufacturer. I know this goes against the male honor code, but read them. All of them. Not once, but twice.

6. Test everything before your first trip. So you’ve purchased that perfect RV. Congratulations! Take it home and park it. Next weekend, try everything that’s in and on the RV. Turn it on, off. Extend it. Retract it. Fill it up. Flush it. Open it. Close it. Not just once, but dozens of times. Spend the night in it. Trust me on this, if it’s going to break or malfunction, it’s better for it to happen in the driveway than a couple hundred miles from home.

7. Don’t go crazy buying every RV gadget for your first trip. I get it, you’re excited. Joan and I were too! You will want to purchase every new RV gadget, fancy pots and pans, and the list can go on and on. I’d suggest you stop and take a breath. If you’re not careful, you’ll spend money on things that will never be used or worse, purchase the wrong thing and now you’re at the campground in a pickle.

When Joan and I started our RV travel, we had no idea what RV accessories were needed to start RV life. We knew we needed a number of essential items just to get started, but what was important.  We’ve created a list of RV essential items to help you get started.  We’ve used these since day one and continue to use on every trip.  We have a complete list of RV Accessories you may want to consider as you expand your RV travels.  

8. It’s now time for the shakedown trip. So we know how everything works. We know what each switch and lever does. We know what’s behind every door. Take a short trip to a campground an hour or two from home. I’ll assure you, if it’s not tight, it will shake loose. If it wasn’t sealed properly, it’s going to leak. Take a pad and pen and document everything that isn’t working. When you return home, call your dealer and set an appointment for repairs. Walk through each issue at drop off. When you pick up you RV after the warranty work, test a couple of times before you leave the dealer. Also, make sure something else wasn’t damaged during the repairs. Unfortunately, it can happen. From our experience, it took weeks to get our warranty slot for repair and weeks to get the RV back.

9. Let’s hit the road! But, first theirs something you need to know. What we never took into consideration was driving or towing the RV on highways that was full of pot holes, construction hazards and uneven pavement that can turn into something short of miles of a giant washboard. We call it RV Shake Rattle and Roll – going from point A to point B can be an experience something short of a multi-hundred mile long earthquake.

Things are going to get loose, fall off and knocked against. It’s ok. Don’t worry. It’s just part of the RV lifestyle. Keep a small tool kit and fix it if you can. Sometimes nothing more than a slight twist to stop the drip or a nail to put the molding back. Maybe a trip to the local Lowes or Home Depot to replace that cheap plastic thing installed by the manufacturer with a metal replacement.

Don’t let the broken things build up. When they break, fix them when you get to your destination. And if it’s something big, take care of it before the warranty expires.

One Last RV Tip. You’re going to be heading down the road driving thousands pounds and it’s long. There’s going to be road hazards. There will be things in the road or something will run out in front of you and an incident may arise when there is nothing you can do other than hit it.  Our first incident was a deer.  Ouch!   This thing is just to big to stop immediately or swerve out of the way. All you can do is hold on and hope it’s not going to be to bad. Make sure you have emergency road service.  Also, watch your speed. I know the highway says 70Mph, but most 5th wheels and travel trailer tires are rated at 65Mph.  What’s the rush?  So what if it takes you a few extra minutes to reach your destination, the road will be much smoother, that shake, rattle, and roll so much more manageable and most of all, the family and those around you will be much safer.

Enjoy the time in your new RV.

9 tips when buying a new rv
Not sure about what RV accessories you need as you start RV travel?
RV AccessoriesCheck out our RV Accessories page where we have listed a wide range of products from essential items to those “nice to have” RV products to make RV life more enjoyable. Every item listed is being used or has been used by Joan and I as we’ve traveled across the country in our RV.
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