If you’re buying your first RV, then you’re probably wondering what the buying process for your first RV will be like? In this article, I’ll share what my buying process was like for my first RV purchase so you have a general idea about what to expect.
Talk with your auto insurance agent to verify cost and terms of the insurance policy for your new RV.
Get pre-approved through your own bank for RV financing before you visit the dealership to purchase so you have a ball park idea about what you’re qualified for in terms of interest rate, purchase price and to make sure you’re comfortable with the monthly payment. Note, I believe RV financing can go up to 15 year terms, so your monthly payment will be much lower than if you were doing a 3-6 year typical auto loan term.
You’ll also want to discuss with your bank (and the dealership) if they offer GAP insurance and an extended warranty for your RV purchase. Extended warranty is self explanatory. GAP insurance protects the borrower if the car is totaled by paying the remaining difference between the actual cash value of a vehicle and the balance still owed on the financing. Some banks offer these products at a cheaper price than dealerships. If anything you’ll get an idea about pricing so you can negotiate with the dealership. You’ll want to go over the policies carefully with your bank’s representative to confirm they meet your needs.
You’ll want to take into consideration your tow vehicle’s specifications when purchasing a towable RV. Or, the RV’s towing specifications if you desire to tow a vehicle behind your motorized RV. You should consider consulting with your tow vehicle’s owner’s manual, talk with your tow vehicle’s dealership, do your own research online and talk with the RV dealership about their clients’ experiences with various tow vehicles. You’ll want to confirm it is safe to tow the RV that you’re purchasing with your tow vehicle.
Note, I purchased a weight distribution hitch through the RV dealership as required by my tow vehicle’s owner’s manual, but the hitch broke on the third camping trip. So, I purchased a different brand and over 17 camping trips later I haven’t had any problems with my replacement weight distribution hitch. To read my review about my replacement weight distribution hitch, click here.
If you’re able to keep your RV at your home, that is ideal and saves you money. Be sure to check with your city/county (and HOA if applicable) to verify if there are any restrictions about parking your RV at your house. But, for most people parking a RV at home is not possible, so it is a good idea to research RV storage options before you purchase so you know where you can store your RV. Note, some RV storage facilities have a waiting list. If you’re positive you’re going to buy an RV, then you may even want to consider signing a RV storage agreement upfront. Some are month to month agreements, so you could always cancel if your plans to buy an RV change, but you’ll want to verify the storage terms and review the contract to confirm.
In addition to getting pre-approved for a RV loan, you’ll want to consider the basic upgrades/equipment to include in your RV purchase price when you’re negotiating to buy your RV if you want to minimize your out of pocket costs. If you have unlimited funds and don’t care about out of pocket costs, then you can skip to the next section of this article. But, if you care about minimizing your out of pocket costs, then you can either add the upgrades/equipment costs to the purchase price or try to negotiate the dealership pay for it.
Typically, RV financing requires 10% down payment (verify financing terms with your bank). So, if you’re buying a RV for the out-the-door price (includes taxes and license fees) of $25,000, then your minimum down payment will be $2,500. In addition to your down payment, the typical basic upgrades/equipment that most people will want installed upfront and added to the out-the-door RV purchase price are:
– Battery disconnect switch
– High capacity vent fan & cover
– Weight distribution hitch
– Brake controller (for your tow vehicle if needed)
– Porcelain toilet (most RVs come with a plastic toilet)
– Back up camera
– Large RV grab handle (2 if you have two entry doors)
– 2nd RV battery and harness
– Electronic keypad lock for entry door (2 if you have two entry doors)
– Other miscellaneous upgrades
Note, every RV is different, so the RV you plan on buying may already have these options installed and they are already included in the purchase price. But, if your RV doesn’t include these options, they can cost between $3,000 – $4,000 or more. So, if you are able to include these options in the RV purchase price, then your 10% down payment will be $300 – $400 more versus paying for these options out of pocket all upfront. Note, if you do include these options in your purchase price and RV loan, you will be financing the cost of the options through your RV loan and will pay interest on these costs over the life of the loan.
Also, keep in mind that I believe you’ll easily spend $1,000 – $2,000 or more for all of the additional equipment and furnishings you’ll need or want for your RV. See my articles below about basic equipment you’ll want to consider buying for your new RV:
Visiting the Dealership
I would recommend you visit the dealership on a weekday or a day that your bank is open just in case the dealership has any issues with your financing. If you have a significant other, it’s a good idea to go to the dealership together. If you don’t have a significant other, you may want to bring a parent, sibling or close friend for emotional support so you don’t feel pressured into doing anything.
For people with kids, I would recommend leaving them with your parents or with a baby sitter because the kids may distract you or cause you to make a rushed or emotional decision. Similar to buying a car, I would recommend starting the buying process in the morning and you’ll want to allow all day to purchase your RV so you don’t feel rushed into making a decision. Also, viewing the RV during the day versus at night will help you see the interior and exterior of the RV the most clearly.
RV dealerships appear to be set up differently than car dealerships in that RV dealerships have exclusivity to sell particular RV brands in a particular region, whereas a car dealerships have no regional exclusivity. So, it can make shopping around more inconvenient if your trying to leverage the price at one dealership to get a lower price at another dealership FOR THE SAME BRAND RV because you have to drive further to compare pricing of two dealerships that sell the same brand of RV.
But, there are two ways to get around this unique aspect of the RV industry: 1) Is there another brand of RV that has very similar RV with similar RV model with a similar floor plan and features? 2) Does the RV manufacturer makes two different brands of the same model RV? Sometimes RV manufacturers make two different brands of RVs, but the RVs appear to be the same except for the brand logo on the side of the RV. Having another price from another RV dealership for the same or similar model can give you leverage for negotiating the price and options for your RV.
For example, if you want to buy a Honda, there are probably many Honda dealerships within an hour from where you live. If you wanted to buy an Open Range brand of RV, there may only be one Open Range dealership within an hour from where you live. But, there may be a dealership that sells the Mesa Ridge brand within an hour from where you live and both Mesa Ridge and Open Range have RVs with similar floor plans because they are both owned and manufactured by Highland Ridge RV.
Similar to car buying negotiations, I would recommend negotiating the out the door price (taxes, license fees, etc.) on your RV purchase. Typically, the more time you spend with a sales person, typically the more invested the sales person is when selling you an RV, hence my recommendation to allow for the entire day to buy an RV.
After you’ve negotiated final price and included options you desire, then you’ll move to the financing department. If you are buying during the day and you’ve already been pre-approved for an RV loan with your bank, you should have no issues with this part of the process. Also, as previously discussed you will have to negotiate an extended warranty and GAP insurance if you want these policies.
Some dealerships will conduct their own pre-delivery inspection before your delivery inspection to address any issues before they meet with you to walk you through the RV. When I purchased my RV, the dealership allowed me to visit the RV prior to my delivery inspection to walkthrough the RV by myself. I actually hired an independent RV inspector to walk through the RV with me so that I could address any issues with the RV dealership prior to my delivery inspection. It cost around $100. Some RV dealerships may allow this, some may not. You’ll want to check with your dealership.
The RV inspector didn’t find any issues (I was buying a new RV) and after the inspection I verified with the service department that the missing options and the delivery inspection date were still on track and will be completed on time. You may want to bring a list of things that you want to check with your RV inspector and a list of the options that you had installed so you don’t miss anything. Some RV inspectors will give you a report and others will just go over their findings with you orally, so you’ll want to verify what you’ll receive before you hire the inspector.
The service department staff will spend some time with you going over the RV features at your delivery inspection, provide you with instructions for necessary functions and demonstrate how things work. You’ll want to bring a note pad with any questions and your options checklist so you don’t miss anything. When the service department staff are demonstrating how things work, you can ask if you can record the demonstration. Some staff may be okay with this, some may not, so you’ll want to ask first. My dealership allowed me to record on my phone some of the demonstrations.
Note, since I visited the dealership prior to my delivery inspection meeting, all of my concerns were addressed by the time I met with service staff for the delivery inspections. I read when I was doing research before I purchased my first RV that some dealerships will expect you to bring home your RV immediately after your delivery inspection is complete even if there are issues. But, if there are items that need to be addressed, I would recommend requesting the RV dealership address the items that concern you before you bring your RV home. If you’re not sure how your RV dealership will handle this portion of the process, then you’ll want to discuss with the dealership upfront when you are negotiating the purchase of your new RV.
In my situation, while I was doing the walkthrough of my RV with the service department staff, their other staff were working on installing the weight distribution hitch and trailer brake controller on my SUV. Some SUV and trucks come with a trailer brake controller, but mine didn’t so they added it. And, after this and my walkthrough was complete, I drove the trailer to my storage facility.
I hope this high level overview of the Buying process for your first RV was helpful. Note, every person’s situation is different, so you’ll want to conduct your own research prior to purchasing an RV. Happy RV hunting!