Getting Started With Your First RV

Buying quality is key to a good RV experience

Happy Couple next to RV
Getting the right RV is a magical feeling. Digital Vision / Getty Images

The first RV defines the quality of your lifestyle experience. Spend the time to find one that will work for you. Here are four tips on buying your first RV.

1. Take Your Time

If starting your research, use the following tips:

  • Spend as much time to find the right RV as you would in buying a house.
  • Search the Internet and RV-related magazines for RV ads.
  • Join e-mail lists where RV owners discuss different types of vehicles. Ask for suggestions about what brand to buy, new and used.
  • If you are interested in purchasing a diesel pusher, join the Diesel-RVs@yahoogroups.com for technical information and suggestions on what type of engine to purchase.
  • Foretravel@yahoogroups.com provides owner experience to help you decide if this high-line coach is the right one for you.

2. Decide New vs. Used

Purchasing a used high-end coach or fifth-wheel trailer gives you long term enjoyment and saves you the disappointment of a new-purchase-gone-bad. Buying used often means the original owner already purchased many after-market enhancements and spent the time at the manufacturer repairing the glitches...now you get to benefit and drive away with a highway-ready rig.

Often the new lower-priced RVs need after-market suspension and safety mechanisms added to make the driving experience acceptable and safe.

If you're out shopping for new RVs, remember, when the glamour of the new RVs begins to overwhelm you -  think of "value for the dollar."

  • Ignore the glitter of brand new interiors. Check the wall and cabinet construction on the inside.
  • Ask about the quality of the insulation, type of suspension, roofing, braking system, engine, transmission, and other outside details.

3. Get to Know the Lifestyle

The best way to build confidence in this new lifestyle is to jump in the RV and roll down to the nearest driving school.

There are driving schools offered by RV clubs and private driving schools that come to your location.

The Escapees RV Club’s next driving school is November 13, 2015, at their home park in Livingston, Texas. Combine that with their RV Boot Camp and you have all the information to get started.

If you're a woman traveler, the RVing Women’s organization offers a driving school in October this year in Oklahoma to coincide with their national rally. They offer a forum, rallies, caravanning opportunities, and many activities nationwide.

Getting involved with other travelers is another great way to find out about the lifestyle. There are rallies, RV shows, group get-togethers, and festivals in every state. The Good Sam Club has something on their schedule every week. Find the great destinations recommended by other travelers at RV Lifestyle Experts.com. Volunteer to be docents or camp hosts at any of the National, State and County parks, this includes beach properties.

4. Find Cost-Cutting Tips

For short stays between destination parks, purchase a discount campground directory, for example, Passport America. This discount club membership costs around $45 per year and provides a 50% discount off nightly rates in commercial RV parks across the country.

Explore membership campgrounds that provide low-cost stays at private campgrounds. Thousand Trails provides the largest number of private campgrounds scattered around the USA. A resale membership can be as low as $750, with annual maintenance fees around $550.

Obviously, there are great savings in the clothing budget. The RV lifestyle is a casual affair. Bring along jeans, shorts, t-shirts, hiking boots, a BBQ grill, lawn chairs, and a LED lantern for nights under the stars. Pack a few light jackets and a knit cap for the Northwest destinations, flip-flops and tiny umbrellas for the rest of the journey.

Cut costs on gas and diesel by staying longer in one location. We have a tendency in the beginning of this lifestyle to travel hard and fast. We want to add another state to our map if it kills us.

Learn to slow down and enjoy the local adventures. If traveling seasonally, decide to travel to closer destinations or stay longer at the far end. If retired, you have years to explore so travel slow and enjoy it.

To sum up, here are the things to remember when you start planning and executing your dream of the RV lifestyle:

  • Buy the RV that works for you, take your time - and buy quality.
  • Get to know the lifestyle by joining clubs, groups, and online forums. Volunteering and workamping help introduce you to the fun and adventure of this lifestyle.
  • Save money by traveling slowly and staying longer at your destination. Purchase discount cards for cutting costs on the overnight stays.
  • Forget the past routine and create a new adventure every day. Reserve judgment on new experiences had until tomorrow dawns. There are many changes in this lifestyle, embrace it.

This article comes to us courtesy of Margo Armstrong. Margo spent most of her professional life writing documentation for high-tech corporations. Now semi-retired, she continues to travel the USA in her motorhome (19 years full-time, the last 5 years solo) exploring, writing eBooks, and sometimes workamping for a season to get the true flavor of a locale. She loves sharing this wonderful lifestyle with others planning to travel the same path. 

Margo’s blog, MovingOnWithMargo.com, follows all things related to the RV lifestyle. For more information on the RV lifestyle, see her eBook, The RV Lifestyle: A Dream Come True