June 14, 2019
Welcome, new RVers, and thanks for joining us for another great issue of our Beginner’s Guide to RVing newsletter. We look forward to helping you get out on the road!
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By Chuck Woodbury
Truths about buying an RV
Here are 20 truths about buying an RV that you should know before making a purchase. Some of this advice is not flattering to the RV industry. I’m not trying to discourage you from buying an RV but simply encouraging you to be very careful when you do. In many cases, an RV will be the most expensive item you will ever purchase after your home. Don’t blow it!
• First and foremost, RVs are not an investment! They’re a luxury that depreciates fast. The minute you drive off a dealer’s lot, you lose 25 percent of what you paid for the RV. So, let’s say you paid $100,000 with a 10 percent down payment. It’s now worth $75,000. If you or your spouse gets sick, or for some reason you can’t afford your payments (often financed for 20 years), you’ll need to come up with $15,000 just to pay off your loan. Got that kind of money to spare?
• Whatever you do, never buy on impulse. Take your time. Wise buyers research for a year or more. There is no Consumer Reports for RVs, although businesses claim to be that will gladly take your money.
• When buying a new RV, offer at least 35 percent off the MSRP (if it’s a low-priced tent or travel trailer start at 25 percent). If you can’t get the deal or close to it, don’t buy. Walk away. Or try a different dealer. Try again at the end of the month or in the off-season, when a dealer or salesman is trying to meet a quota. If you buy an RV at 15 percent off MSRP and think you got a great deal … well, you’re the sucker of the month.
• You can usually get a good deal at an RV show. But you can almost always get the same deal later at a dealer’s lot.
• RVs are NOT the cheapest way to travel. The RV industry preaches it, but it’s a lie. To figure an RV’s true cost, consider its monthly loan payments, interest, maintenance, repairs, license, camping fees, insurance, fuel (gas, diesel and probably propane). Be sure to factor in depreciation, too. Most RVers will use their rig for a month or less each year. So total up your payments for another 11 months, when the RV is sitting, and plug that into one 30-day period. Sure, once you buy your RV, if you want to travel with it for a year, your expenses will be far less than if you stayed in hotels every night. But who travels a year, staying in hotels? Nobody! And, really, you can’t ignore the $50,000, $100,000 or $300,000 you paid for your RV to begin with.
• Salesmen earn their income from commissions. Some really do care about you and will treat you right. But too many others will say whatever it takes to make a sale. Be sure anything they say of significance is in writing.
• Be careful buying from Camping World. You may get a good price, but the service after the sale is all-too-often terrible. Visit PissedConsumer.com to see for yourself. If you’re a member of Facebook check out the group RV Horror Stories.
• To be really smart, buy a used RV, one that’s a few years old that’s been well cared for, where the owner has kept good maintenance records. You can often buy such an RV for half what it cost new in near-perfect condition — with all the bugs worked out by the original owner.
• Whether you are buying a new RV or a used one, have it inspected by a professional RV technician or RV inspector. And we mean always! Dealers will tell you not to worry if there is something wrong when you take it home. “Just bring it back and we will fix it.” But what they do not tell you is it could take weeks or even months to get an appointment to get the work done.
• RV dealers will try to sell you an extended warranty. They make a lot of money selling them. But maybe you don’t need one. Do your research. Some RVers swear by them, others swear about them. Not all warranties are created equal. Read (and fully understand) the fine print.
• The RV industry is cranking out RVs at a record pace these days, close to a half-million a year. They have trouble finding qualified factory workers so end up with many with marginal abilities. The manufacturers push the workers so fast they make mistakes and take production shortcuts. RVs are often shipped off to dealers without a final inspection. And even if they are inspected, dealers are expected to fix what is wrong before selling them, which some do and some don’t. Read what one RV delivery man says about this.
• Only a few states have lemon laws covering RVs. If you get stuck with an RV that has fatal problems in a state without lemon laws, too bad: Find a lawyer. RV manufacturers will do all they can to avoid paying you for a piece of junk they churned out because money was more important than doing it right.
• There is no national organization that represents the interests of RVing in Congress or state legislatures. The most powerful RVing association is the RV Industry Association (RVIA), which represents RV manufacturers, not consumers. One of its mandates is to fight lemon laws wherever they are proposed. The largest association in the campground industry, the National Association of RV Parks and Campgrounds (ARVC), is focused on helping its 3,000 RV park members make more money, with no interest in promoting new, badly needed places to camp.
• Getting service on an RV is harder and harder with so many new RVs on the road, and so many new ones needing repairs of problems that should have been fixed before they were sold. RV technicians are in huge demand, but there aren’t enough of them. Dealers don’t pay them very well, so they take their skills elsewhere.
• If you buy a new RV from a dealer a few hundred miles from your home, then need to get it serviced locally, good luck! Your local dealer may refuse to work on it. “You didn’t buy it from us; we won’t service it.” Sounds illogical right? But it happens all the time.
• RV manufacturers know that most inexperienced buyers purchase an RV based on its appearance — the “bling” — most often the floor plan. They don’t take the time to look at the details, the little stuff, the hidden stuff, the cheap components. Buying impulsively is like playing Russian roulette: You’ll make out okay sometimes, but too often you’ll end up with a nightmare.
• Never assume when you’re looking over an RV that those who designed it knew what they were doing. They often don’t. Most RV manufacturing executives and their designers have never owned an RV or even traveled in one. And when it comes to design and functionality, RVs are prettied up for their “bling,” not how practical they’ll be for you and me. Next time you’re at an RV show, check how many RV televisions are positioned in a way that you need to bend your neck awkwardly to watch.
• Never buy an RV without seeing it with its slideouts pulled in. In some cases — and this happens too often — with the slides in, you will not be able to get to the refrigerator, bedroom or even bathroom. At a highway rest area, when you want a snack or a nap, you’re out of luck unless you extend a slide or two.
• Before buying an RV, talk to owners who already own a model you’re thinking of buying. They will be your best source of information. Do not trust reviews in RV magazines. They’re supported by advertising and are afraid to say bad things and risk losing future support — ditto for most large websites.
• Camping or Living? What do you plan to do with your RV: use it to camp on weekends or live in it full-time? Whatever the case, be aware that with so many new RVs on the road these days, campsites are getting harder to find without making reservations, sometimes a year or more in advance in popular areas. The day of “going where you want, when you want,” is fast disappearing unless you want to stay in Walmart parking lots (where stays are free). Many RVers these days do just that. If that’s your idea of camping, then have fun. But no campfires, please! “Boondocking” on public lands is still a great option, but mostly if you live or travel in the Southwest, with millions of acres of public lands.
In summing up: While RVing is still a wonderful way to travel, it will be no fun if you don’t do your homework before buying and understand the quickly evolving, often crowded environment. Sign up for the weekly RVtravel.com newsletter before you sign on the dotted line: You’ll learn a lot which will help you avoid making buying mistakes.
Besides editing and publishing the RV Travel Newsletter, Chuck Woodbury is the host of the Better Business Bureau DVD, “Buying a Recreational Vehicle.” He has been profiled on ABC World News Tonight, the Today Show, on CNN, NPR, and in hundreds of newspapers and periodicals including People Magazine, USA Today, the Los Angeles Times and Washington Post. For six years, his dispatches as a roving reporter appeared in newspapers around the world through the New York Times Syndicate.
Are you really insured? Really?
Many RVers operate a business while they travel. If that’s you, then here’s some advice you should heed: If you have a logo of your business affixed on the side of your RV, then you better have RV business insurance, which may cost you twice as much as a personal policy. Do you write off some of your expenses while you travel, then list them on a Schedule C on your tax return? Then you are operating a business, so you better have business coverage as well.
We know one RVer whose RV was burglarized while he and his wife were dining out. About $9,000 of video and other electronic gear was stolen. When the insurance company’s claims adjuster showed up, he asked my friend many questions including, “Do you post YouTube videos where you earn money?” My friend said, yes, he did. The insurance company then determined he was operating a business from the RV and denied his claim because he did not have a business policy.
Imagine, if you operate a business from your RV and get in an accident, say you caused one where someone died or was handicapped for life — you can bet your insurance company will go to great lengths to find a way to avoid paying you. If that should happen and you’re operating a business and don’t have business insurance, your insurance claim will likely be denied, which could rob you of your life savings. Check with your insurance agent to ensure you are doing things right.
Terrific book for newbies
Mark and Julie Bennett did a wonderful job with this book, which should be incredibly useful to new or aspiring RVers. “It’s the best copilot you could have as you get ready to hit the road,” said RVillage founder Curtis Coleman. We agree. Learn more or order.
Hmmmmmm! Well, maybe and maybe not. RVtravel.com readers Eve and John Burton spotted this unusual RV in Twisp, Washington. We hope those straps hold!
“If you smell ammonia, either inside or outside your motorhome, especially around the refrigerator, you may have developed a leak in the sealed cooling loop. Monitor your temperatures carefully.”
Checking battery condition
When you check the condition of your battery using the monitor panel make sure the RV is not plugged into shore power. If so, you will get a false reading (fully charged). To get a more accurate reading of the battery’s condition, check the monitor panel when the unit is not plugged in and turn on a couple of overhead lights to place a small load on the battery. — Mark Polk, RV Education 101
Beating the summer heat
A 12-volt fan or two can help you cool off on a hot summer day. It uses a fraction of the power of an air conditioner and doesn’t require shore power or use of your generator. Another good way to cool off is to pick a shady campsite (although we probably don’t need to tell you that, do we?).
Want more quick tips? Be sure to sign up for our RV Daily Tips newsletter, which you’ll get in your inbox every Monday–Thursday. Tons of great tips and information you won’t want to miss! Sign up here.
ATTENTION PROSPECTIVE RV BUYERS:
Join our Facebook group, RV Advice, where prospective RV buyers can ask veteran RVers what they think of an RV they’re considering buying. Click here.
The RV Show USA
Listen each Wednesday evening on Facebook or YouTube for the live taping of America’s only syndicated radio program about RVing.
Motorhomes on Fire
This is not pretty – dozens of videos of RVs burning up. But the point is to help viewers understand that RVs burn fast, and they need to practice good fire-prevention habits and practice an escape plan … just in case.
What does financing an RV for 20 years REALLY mean?
In case you missed this article the first time around, here it is again. Important! Click here.
Best Club for RVers: Escapees. Click here to learn more or join. Endorsed by RVtravel.com.
Stuck with a lemon RV? Contact Ron Burdge, America’s premier RV lemon law attorney.
Free & almost free RV camping
More than 14,000 campgrounds and other places where you can stay for free or nearly free. Learn more at Overnight RV Parking.
UPCOMING RV SHOWS
It’s always wise to attend a few RV shows before you buy — a chance to compare many RVs in one place, talk to salespeople and even factory representatives, and maybe even pick up a bargain (but not always, which is another story…). Here’s a comprehensive list of upcoming shows.
LEAVE HERE WITH A LAUGH
School children were lined up for lunch in a Catholic elementary school cafeteria. A pile of apples was at the head of the table. The nun made a note and posted it on the tray: “Take only ONE. God is watching.” A stack of chocolate chip cookies was at the other end of the table. A child had written a note, “Take all you want. God is watching the apples.”
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Beginner’s Guide to RVing Staff
Publisher: Chuck Woodbury. Managing editor: Diane McGovern. Contributing writers: Russ De Maris, Gary Bunzer, Roger Marble, Mike Sokol, J.M. Montigel and Andrew Robinson. Advertising director: Emily Woodbury. Marketing director: Jessica Sarvis. Financial affairs director: Gail Meyring. IT wrangler: Kim Christiansen.
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Everything in this newsletter is true to the best of our knowledge. But we occasionally get something wrong. We’re just human! So don’t go spending $10,000 on something we said was good simply because we said so, or fixing something according to what we suggested (check with your own technician first). Maybe we made a mistake. Tips and/or comments in this newsletter are those of the authors and may not reflect the views of RVtravel.com or this newsletter.
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