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Where Should You Start When Shopping for an RV?

So, you want to buy your family an RV? Awesome! RV ownership and all that comes with it can be one of the most rewarding things you can do.

By buying an RV you’ll learn new skills, travel to breathtaking locations, and show your family all that this great country has to offer. There are state parks, national parks, lakefront campsites, and so much more.

Before you hit the open road though, you’ll need to purchase your RV. Where do you start when shopping for an RV? I thought you’d never ask.

1. Start at the Kitchen Table

Portrait of a mature family couple with documents at kitchen tableImage from Getty

It might sound kind of odd, but you should really start at your kitchen table. You need to sit down with your family, specifically your spouse or significant other, to go over your finances and potential budget to determine what you can afford. Snacks are optional, but one thing should be mandatory: don’t go into the RV buying process without knowing what you can easily afford.

You should have a full dollar amount that you feel comfortable paying for the RV and a monthly amount that you can easily afford. If you’re taking out a loan to buy the RV (the vast majority of buyers choose to finance an RV purchase) then you need to make sure you have a number that you can pay each month without putting needless strain on your family.

RV budgeting as a familySet a budget as a family, and account for everyone’s needs. Image by Karen Akpan.

The good news is that many RVs can be purchased at very reasonable prices. The loan terms on an RV are much different than they are on a car, which means you can get an RV with an extremely reasonable monthly payment.

So, start there. Sit down at your table and discuss your budget with your family. Including the kids isn’t necessarily a must, but it’s an easy and effective way of teaching them about the importance of establishing a budget and how to stick to one. Be realistic and always err on the side of caution to find a number everyone is comfortable with.

2. Think About How You Want to Use Your RV

a couple camping in their RV with a Kayak by the waterImage by Camping World

The next step, before you start digging into the different types and classes of RV is to think about how you plan to use your RV. Are you going to spend a lot of time in it? Do you plan on taking long trips or short ones? Are you traveling to big cities or planning pickleball playoffs? How far do you plan to go? Will the RV and the destinations need to be kid-friendly or pet-friendly or both?

These are all questions you should ask yourself and answer before you even begin looking at motorhomes versus towable RVs.

Literally, write your wants, needs, nice-to-haves, and intentions down on paper in pencil — pencil because once you start, things can jump from category to category. Afterward, when you have all of these things figured out, then you can start thinking about the individual RV you’d like to purchase and travel in.

3. Decide Which Type and Class of RV You’re Interested in Buying

Several RVs in a car parking lotTip: Save more by shopping RVs in the off-season.

Jumping in headfirst without narrowing down the type and class of RV you’re interested in can be overwhelming. There are floorplans, weight capacities, motorized, towable, and much more to consider that doing so all at once can be discouraging. Shopping for an RV is exciting and fun, so don’t let the list of possibilities lead you off-road — unless off-road is where you intend to travel, of course.

A preliminary discussion should occur before visiting the RV lot if only to establish you’re interested in a motorized RV over a towable or vice versa. Knowing the difference between the two will help make your shopping experience more enjoyable and productive.

Motorized RVs

Motorhome Parked in FloridaPhoto by Camping World

Also referred to as a motorhome, a motorized RV consists of three distinct classes: Class A (the largest), Class C (the second largest), and Class B (the smallest). The main difference between the three, other than size, is that a Class A is built on a bus chassis, a Class C on a truck chassis, and a Class B on a full-size van chassis.

More about motorized RVs / motorhomes:

Choosing Your RV: Class A vs. Class C Motorhomes4 Advantages of a Class C RVChoosing Your RV: Is a Class B Right for Me?3 Affordable Class A Motorhomes for Small FamiliesEverything You Need to Know Before Buying a MotorhomeWhy So Many Retired Couples Choose Class A Motorhomes

Towable RVs

Coleman Travel Trailer in FloridaPhoto by Camping World

There are numerous types of towable RVs, however, they tend to fall into five categories: fifth-wheels, travel trailers, toyhaulers, small campers, and pop-ups. The differences within those categories can fluctuate as elements from each are often blended together among them all. The biggest perk of choosing a towable is the option of parking and unhitching your RV once you arrive at your destination.

More about towable RVs:

Are Toy Haulers the Best RVs for Outdoor Lovers?Half-Ton Towable RVs for Couples7 Reasons Small Towable Campers are AwesomeThe Best Lightweight Travel Trailers Under 3,000 Pounds5 Light Camper Trailers You Can Tow with a MinivanTowing Your RVwhy-buy-from-cw-buying-a-used-rv-05-2022Photo by Camping World

As with anything, don’t be afraid to ask questions! Check out Camping World’s guide on what to ask an RV salesperson. We all have to start somewhere, especially when purchasing something as awesome and fun as an RV.

If you’re not ready to make a purchase just yet, try renting an RV instead. Renting an RV is a great way to explore what you like and don’t like before committing to a purchase of your own.

It’s these early preparation tasks that provide the perfect starting place when shopping for an RV and will ultimately ensure you get the right RV for the adventures ahead. After all, life is about the journey and not the destination so make the journey in an RV that you and your family will love.

When you’re ready to start shopping, head over to Camping World’s website to see all of the RVs on sale

Where should you start when shopping for an RV?

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