Do you dream of traveling the open road, or are you looking for a way to spend quality time with your family? Owning a recreational vehicle (RV) is the goal of many freedom-seekers, and purchasing one is a big decision. Determining which type of RV is the best investment for you, and deciding when to purchase, can be daunting. Here are RV buying tips to help you find the camper that is right for you.
For many, RVs are seen as the path to carefree, wanderlust-filled vacations, long weekends, and extended trips. For others, RVs can be a temporary “home away from home” while visiting family or a way to save money during retirement. Knowing your reasons for buying an RV will help you determine not only which type and model of RV to own, but when the time is right to make a purchase.
Leisure travelers may be willing to make the investment on an RV based on the return they’ll receive in the form of quality time spent with family and friends. Other travelers, including those who plan to frequently upgrade their RV, may be more interested in how well an RV holds its value over time. Would you prefer to buy a new RV, or would you consider buying a used RV that has already seen some use? Used RVs can be a great way to save some money upfront, but often lack the warranties offered with new RVs. How you plan to use the RV, and your motivations for purchasing one, are factors that will help you in your decision-making process.
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Much like buying a car, there are a lot of theories about when the best time is to buy an RV. Some will say that the best time to buy is at the end of camping season when sales are slow for the dealerships and the salespeople are more likely to make a deal to move inventory off their lot. Others will say that waiting until late winter is the best bet, as new models will begin to appear in the showroom in early spring.
Both of these methodologies can make sense, but as any experienced RV buyer will tell you, the best way to get a great deal on an RV is to do your research and know what you want. Going into a dealership without a clear understanding of what you’re after, and what is a reasonable price point for the type of model you’re looking for, sets you up for either buying “too much” RV for your needs or paying more than you anticipated.
To get the best deal on a new RV, do your research. Begin by determining what you plan to use the RV for, and then decide what type of monetary investment you are prepared to make. With these two requirements figured out, begin searching online, at dealerships, and at RV shows for campers that meet your criteria. Do not fall into the trap of blindly buying the brand of RV that your neighbor or friend has. What works for those owners may not work for you. Go in with an open mind and look inside many RVs to see if the layout, amenities, and price fits your purposes.
Another key metric to take into consideration, beyond price and amenities, is what additional expenses are involved beyond the sticker price. If you are looking at travel trailers or fifth wheels, determine which kind of truck or SUV will be needed to tow the RV. If you are planning to use your existing vehicle, make sure it is capable of towing the size and weight of the RV you have your eyes on. If you are looking at RVs that have an engine, such as a Class A or Class C motorhome, research the fuel efficiency and additional towing capacity. Factor these into your decision making so there are no surprises when you take your new RV home.
When it comes down to it, finding the best deal isn’t a matter of “when” but a matter of “how.” By understanding what you are looking for in an RV, and researching what options are available and in what price range, you will have equipped yourself with the knowledge needed to get a good deal any time of year.
Knowing what you want also allows you to jump on opportunities as they arise. Perhaps a dealership is having a sale in conjunction with a local RV show, or maybe motorhome financing has been made especially attractive due to a holiday or event. Making a list of which RVs you are interested in before these sales happen means you can walk in, pinpoint your desired RV, and start negotiating smartly.
It is important to understand that all RVs depreciate. If you are purchasing a new RV, you can expect to see a 20-30% depreciation when you drive it off the dealership’s lot. The RV depreciation then slows over time, with many RVs being worth about 50% of their list price by the time they are five years old.
Depreciation is influenced by many factors including which amenities the RV has, the perceived build-quality of the RV, the market demand for a particular make and model, how well the RV has been cared for, and how many miles the RV has been driven or towed.
Those who plan to invest in a new RV every few years would be wise to research which RVs hold their value best over time. Similarly, those who are in the market for a used RV can benefit from understanding which makes and models of RV retain their value and are known for their sturdy build and minimum amount of required maintenance and fixes. At the end of the day, with a few rare exceptions for classic RVs, all RVs will continue to depreciate throughout their lifetime.
Owning an RV can be a ticket to freedom, a way to spend quality time with family and friends, and a gateway to adventure. By understanding your reasons for buying an RV, determining an acceptable price range for your situation, and arming yourself with information, you can get a great deal on an RV no matter when or where you decide to make your dream a reality.
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