Tips for Buying an RV

It's more complicated to buy an RV or motor coach than to purchase a car. Whether consumers are looking for a weekend getaway or a new life on the road, it takes footwork to find the right vehicle at the best price with affordable financing. Make no mistake about it; buying a new or used RV represents a financial commitment second only to buying a house.

The first step in any RV buyer's checklist is to identify the RV that best serves the kind of traveling/camping the family needs. Whether it's a small camping van for weekends and holiday escapes, or a bus-conversion residence on wheels, the cost of owning and maintaining the RV must be considered in the decision making process. Look at:

Routine maintenance and repairs

With the costs of motorhomes now spiraling north of the $100,000 mark, owners will want to spend more to keep their campers running well, water-tight, and trouble free. Actually, leaving an RV parked for an extensive period of time increases the need for changing oil, lubricating doors and windows, replacing pumps, water seals, worn belts, or tires.

Operating costs

By the rule of thumb, the larger the RV, the greater the ownership/operating costs. Insurance is scaled upwards according to the size of the RV. And so is the cost of fuel and oil. Even the most fuel-efficient RVs will only get 15-20 miles per gallon of gas. Fully outfitted RVs can come with bathrooms, kitchens, satellite television, wi-fi connections, and slide out rooms. The more you have, the more that can go wrong. Many owners are astonished to discover that they'll need to find a place to park their RV since it won't fit in their driveway or assigned parking spaces. Some pay for additional parking and those with room build sheltered parking pads.

Smart Tips for Buying an RV

Consumers should consider making a decision on the class of RV before they get into the shopping, test driving, or financing decisions. There are three major classes in motorhomes to consider.

  • Class A motorhomes are the largest self-contained RVs on the market, ranging from $60,000 to over the century mark. They're built on truck or bus chassis and come fully equipped as a second home.
  • Class B RVs are smaller, built on van chassis and achieve gas mileage in the neighborhood of conventional family vans. They're cheaper to own, maintain, and easier to handle on the road.
  • Class C RVs are built on truck chassis and range from 20ft to 40ft in length. They have greater creature comforts than Class B RVs but cost less to own and maintain than Class A RVs.

Once the kind of RV is settled, buyers should proceed to completing this RV Buyer checklist:

1. Line Up Financing. Getting pre-qualified can spare buyers the headaches of wrangling with dealers who prefer to hook consumers into a monthly payment figure rather than on the total cost of the RV. The larger the down payment, the better chances of containing interest rates. Lenders making these simple interest loans typically require up to 20 percent down. Terms usually run 10-15 years but with the larger homes costing up to six figures, consumers will find 20-year terms. Note: RV owners with models featuring basic sleeping, cooking and toilet facilities may deduct interest paid on an RV loan as a second-home mortgage. Know your debt-to-income ratio. Lenders may want to review two years of tax returns. The bottom end of the credit scores for qualifying is around 640 for most lenders. Find out your score. Get competitive offers for RV loans here at LendingTree.

2. Take a Test Drive. Many an owner of a Class A or C RV have sold their vehicle after less than a year after discovering they can't handle it on the road or maintain it. The New York Times reports that RVs depreciate by 25 percent to 40 percent the moment the owner leaves the showroom. The $250,000 models lose about 50 percent immediately. It's wise to take at least a 20-minute test drive, trying out high-speed braking, parking, turns, freeway speed, and visibility. It can be smart to rent an RV in the target class (A, B, C) before shopping.

3. Considering a Used RV. If buying used, search out all the records on the vehicle. AARP recommends that shoppers ask for title, history, repair records, warranties, and maintenance receipts as well as obtaining a history report using the Vehicle identification Number at RV Checks. Give the used RV a complete inspection, particularly the appliances, fittings, watertight seals and weather stripping, septic system, oil pan, tires, and everything else that could need repair. The New York Times adds that it takes about six hours to fully check out an RV, comparted to the half hour a buyer may spend on a car. Remember, humidity is a big enemy. If the inside of the used RV smells, walk away.

Get loan offers customized for you today.