Monday, December 4, 2023


RV buying – Why you should shop ’til you drop

RV Shrink

Dear RV Shrink:
We have a dilemma that I am sure many people would love to have. We want to buy some type of RV and travel. The problem is, we have no clue what we want or need. We have gone from putting down a payment on a 32-ft. motorhome to seriously considering a 17-ft. travel trailer. We change our minds every day.

Money is not the issue, although some people might think we are cheap. And it’s not a problem of what my husband wants versus what I want – we are just both hopelessly confused. Please offer some advice. —Confused in Columbus

Dear Confused:
There is a big difference between being cheap and being frugal. You are doing exactly what most people should do: Shop ’til you drop. So many people get over-excited with all the bells and whistles and buy the first thing they step into. Everyone has to find their own path. Having the financial wherewithal to pull the trigger on whatever you decide makes the decision-making a bit easier. That said, RVs are an investment in a lifestyle, not the best ledger column if you are looking for appreciation on return monetarily.

Now, let’s try to tackle some of your doubts and needs. A lot of the decision-making comes down to comfort: comfort in driving, parking and maneuvering. Comfort in living space, entertaining and storage. Comfort in amenities. That can include everything from a bigger shower to satellite TV with 400 channels of bad programming. Not knowing what to expect and how you will travel leaves many options a dart-throw guess. That is the reason many people end up with two or more rigs before they figure out the perfect fit.

Here are a few things you may not have figured into your buying decision so far: To start with, “weather happens.” Often you are forced inside your rig for days when the weather turns sour. Don’t buy something that will make you feel claustrophobic. One of the great things about RV travel is all the fantastic people you will meet. If you want to invite them over for drinks, dinner or cards, will you have a comfortable space to accommodate entertaining?

Most RVs are engineered to offer all the basic needs of a living space. They are “tiny houses.” If you study enough floor plans you will begin to notice that they are all trying to accomplish the same thing. As you get longer and add slides, those spaces just give you more room in each compartment – bedroom, bathroom, kitchen, dining, living. As you get shorter and slideless, those compartments get smaller and often blended. This gives you the option to sleep in the dining room and cook in the bathroom.

Do you want to drive a puller or a tower (toad) when you reach a destination? Have you figured out where to store the kayaks, ATVs, motorcycles, mountain bikes, fishing boat? Do you have a power plant and frame hefty enough to haul whatever load you plan to tote around? Do you have enough floor plan space to accommodate a business, hobby, craft or pet?

Let me begin to finish with advice I give everyone that ponders your questions. Talk to at least a dozen RVers, with a dozen different rigs. It will be the best investment in time you can make. You will get so much more honesty about pros and cons from individuals than you will from commission-starved RV salespeople. Walk around campgrounds. You will see everything under the sun and find a lot of jovial people more than willing to tell you more than you probably want to hear. Take it all with a grain of salt. Glean from it the nuggets of information you may not have considered, and make your final decision.

At that point, you could also rent one of the finalists in your RV beauty contest and try it out for a week. Even though RV rentals are usually not cheap, it could save you a lot of time and money if a hands-on experience convinces you to make a different choice.

Remember, your final decision may not be your final decision. On that note, you might want to consider starting out with a used unit. That way someone else has already taken the big investment hit, while you discover your actual needs. If you go used, from an individual or a dealer, make sure everything on the unit is fired up and in working order. It can be very expensive if you get down the road and find mechanical issues.

This answer sounds long-winded, but it is just a few of the things to consider and I hope it helps you to narrow down your choices. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink

Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-books, including the brand-new Book 2 in his two-book series: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.





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Scott Ellis (@guest_42789)
4 years ago

We don’t claim to be exceptionally wise or patient shoppers (in fact, we’re kind of the opposite) but I would advise letting go of the idea that whatever you buy now is likely to be the last thing you’ll buy. We started with a used bumper-pull, traded it on a pop-up pickup camper, sold that and bought an A-frame pop-up bumper-pull, traded that for a double axle bumper-pull with a slide, and sold that to buy what finally feels like exactly the right camper for us–a hardside truck camper. Along the way we learned some things that made the shopping easier (for instance, we must have a north/south queen bed), but it just took some years of going out camping to figure all that stuff out.

Bill (@guest_42746)
4 years ago

” If you go NEW, from an individual or a dealer, make sure everything on the unit is fired up and in working order. It can be very expensive if you get down the road and find mechanical issues” Either new or used, in fact if you buy a unit that has been WELL used the defects should have been fixed and the maintenance done.

John Koenig (@guest_42703)
4 years ago

Confused, do yourselves a HUGE favor. Find and attend an “RV Boot Camp” Escapees do an EXCELLENT RVBC, often over a weekend. Several other RV groups offer their own versions of RVBC (under different titles). Mistakes made with RVs are often expensive and, sometimes dangerous. RVBC graduates are safer RVers and, smarter RV buyers. Attending an RVBC BEFORE you buy ANY RV is the smart way to do it. At RVBC, ALL the systems found on a modern RV (motorhome OR trailer) will be explained and demystified. Some insurance companies give discounts to RVBC graduates. A typical RVBC will have 200 ~ 400 “newbies” attending. The RVBCs I’ve attended provided excellent handouts which I was able to re-read later when I needed “reminders”. Many attendees will already own an RV. These folks are usually happy to talk about their rigs. This is a WEALTH of information! I recommend that, when speaking with RV owners, ask them what they’d like to CHANGE on their rigs. The positives are gravy; it’s the “negatives” that will give you an ulcer. If you’ve never actually used an RV, it might be well worth the expense to rent an RV. A week or two in a rental will help clarify many things (and one or both of you might realize that the RV lifestyle isn’t really right for you). MUCH better to learn something like that BEFORE you spend tens / hundreds of thousands of dollars on an RV. I started with a 2010 Casita Spirit Deluxe Travel Trailer that I could pull with the minivan I then owned. It was IDEAL for one or two people just starting out. I quickly learned that I REALLY like RVing! I put 50,000+ miles on that little Casita over four years and, when I sold it (to “graduate” to a Super-C RV that took me FOUR YEARS of searching to find!). I got back much of its’ initial cost (Casitas hold their value MUCH better than most RVs). As the RV Shrink said, “shop till you drop”! Doing so will GREATLY lessen the chance of “Buyer’s Remorse”. Good luck in your search.

jim (@guest_42675)
4 years ago

Good advice. Knowing what you want really boils down to what you like to do. If you are an “inside person” you will need a larger RV than if you will not spend much time in it. My wife and I are outside people. Even when the weather is bad, we will be outside more than inside. This allows us to have a smaller RV.

We also like to cook. We are still (after 3 years) modifying the components we take which allow us to cook like we want. We have been flexible, allowing us to make most situations fun.

Linda (@guest_42653)
4 years ago

If ‘money is not a problem,’ consider a Prevost Marathon. New ones are EXTREMELY expensive, but you can find real deals on pre-owned units. These are made solidly—not like most other RVs (TTs, 5ers, or motorhomes) which are very cheaply made. Start with This is a free group to join and some units are listed for sale. Not all are Marathon conversions, though. Our unit is a 1995 bc we did not want slides. We remodeled the interior ourselves. My husband did some of the other upgrading (new water heaters, new faucets, new black and gray dump valves, etc.). All of the mechanics are handled by the professionals.

Mary Patzer (@guest_42581)
4 years ago

I definitely recommend that you rent a RV before buying. My husband thought he wanted to travel the country in retirement and we bought a 34 foot toy hauler. My husband never was a camper. He discovered it wasn’t for him and we took a big hit to sell the rig and the truck. If we had rented first we would have discovered this.

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