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You must know the answers to these twenty-five questions before you start RV shopping. Trust us. It’ll make looking at campers at the dealership simpler!
So. You’re thinking ‘owning an rv and camping sounds cool, but where do I even start?’
This is for you.
I grew up camping with my family. I had *years* of camping experience. I knew what I wanted in our RV. I knew what I didn’t want in an RV.
But these questions still helped my husband and I come to a decision on what WE wanted and needed as a family.
Questions to Discuss Before RV Shopping
Why are you buying an RV?
No really. Why? Is it because you think it’s a cheaper way to go on vacation? Or because you want to spend more time with your family? Maybe it’s something in the middle.
Regardless, understanding you WHY is super important. It will help you determine what you actually need and what you don’t.
Who are you buying an RV for?
Is it just for you and your partner? Or will you be camping with 5 kids, 2 dogs, a guinea pig, and a magical unicorn?
My family of four has totally different needs than a retired couple or large family.
What kind of RV is best for you?
Do you want to drive it? Or tow it?
Once you know the answer to that question, then you can jump into the different categories in driveables and towables.
If you’re really not sure, watch some youtube videos and see which ones you like better. Cost is important here too – your budget may determine what kind of RV is best for you.
What’s your tow vehicle?
If you’re going with a towable, you need to know the limitations of your vehicle.
You’re not going to tow a 12,000lb 5th wheel with a Ford Expedition. Ain’t gonna happen.
If you’re open to changing your vehicle to get a different camper, keep in mind the cost associated with buying a camper AND a new vehicle.
Do you want slide outs?
Some folks just don’t want slides. Others want ALL. THE. SLIDES. to maximize indoor living space.
Deciding if you do or don’t want slides will help you narrow in on the kind of RV you want.
How much room do you need?
Do you need a 42ft 5th wheel? Or is a 26ft travel trailer sufficient?
This question might be a little hard to answer until you start going into different campers, but it’s important to know that you DO NOT need the biggest mama jamma on the lot.
Just because it’s the biggest on the lot, doesn’t mean it’s the best option FOR YOU on the lot.
Where do you plan to travel with the RV?
Will your RV be parked at a seasonal or permanent site? Or do you want to do some adventuring?
Are you going across the country? Or planning shorter, more local trips?
Want to go to the mountains?
All of these things are important when you’re considering what kind of RV will work for you.
What features do you need?
The basic features we needed were simple:
- Bunks for each of the kids. I was not converting the table or couch every night.
- An outdoor kitchen.
- Two AC units (or at least ducted for 2 ACs)
- Ample AC vents in the bunkroom. This was honestly one of my top priorities. As a kid, I spent so many trips hot as hell because triple-decker bunk coffins didn’t get much airflow.
We didn’t *need* two bathrooms, a king size bed, bath tub, residential fridge, or a big pantry.
Some folks *do* need those things. And that’s ok. Just be clear on your must-haves versus your would be nice to have.
What features do you want?
We had four NEEDS. We had a lot of wants. And we compromised on our wants to get more of what we needed. It worked out in the end. Again, just have a good idea of the features you want versus the features you need.
Are you a camper? Do you have any camping experience?
If you’ve been a camper before, you likely have a better idea of what kind of RV you want and the features you’re looking for.
If you’ve never stepped foot in an RV, the options available might be overwhelming. And you might not know exactly what you need.
Don’t be afraid to go to RV shows. Go in and out of TONS of units to get an idea of what you like and don’t like.
If you’re thinking about making the jump from travel trailer to fifth wheel, don’t hesitate to chat with folks when you go camping.
Ask them what they like about their rig. What they don’t like. What they’d change or do different with the next one.
Their answers may give you some additional insight into what features and floor plans you consider.
Do you have a place to store it without paying storage?
This is a biggie. Where will your RV live when you’re not using it?
If you don’t have space or the ability (some HOAs don’t allow it), you’ll have to find a storage facility. Make sure you the price range for places near you. In some areas, costs aren’t too high.
But in others, you could pay up to $250/mo for storage. That will ultimately factor in when you decide how much to spend on your camper.
Do you like cooking, or do you love to eat out while you travel?
If you plan on eating out for dinner most nights, your needs will be drastically different than someone who wants to cook every night.
We’re a solid mixture of both. We usually like to plan one night to eat out and the rest of the time, we cook at our campsite.
That’s why an outdoor kitchen was important to us. We grill or use our Instantpot for almost every meal.
Do you have some handyman skills?
Yes. You’re going to need them. Thankfully my husband is a mechanic and pretty mechainically inclined. We’ve had to fix fuses, batteries, brake wiring, and all sorts of things when on the road.
If he hadn’t had a general idea of what to fix, we would’ve been stranded (more than once).
There are some folks that can help with the learning curve when it comes to fixing your RV. RV Repair Club is one of them. Definitely check them out if you need a hand.
How often do you plan to use it?
If you think you might go out one weekend a month during the spring and summer, your RV needs will be very different from someone who plans to full-time or go on cross country road trips.
Will you camp primarily at campgrounds? Or will you try some boondocking? Those questions matter when you’re considering the kind of camper you need.
Is there a particular type you’ve always wanted to own (like an Airstream)?
Having a clear discussion about what you’ve always wanted will help your family decide what to look at.
If you want a 5th wheel, but your spouse is thinking pop-up, you’re going to have to chat it out and make a decision together.
Is saving money your main reason to try RVing? How bad would it hurt if you did invest, didn’t like it, and lost money getting out?
RVs depreciate. If you buy the wrong RV for you and figure it out after a few camping trips, it’s going to hurt to go upside down and swap it for one that will work for you.
Likewise, if you’ve never gone camping before, and then drop mad cash on a brand new rig, just to decide camping isn’t your jam… how bad will it hurt if you don’t get out what you put into it?
How much does it cost?
Cost. The ultimate deciding factor. Know what you can comfortably afford before setting foot on a dealer’s lot. If your hard limit is $30k, don’t look at a $75k unit – even if it’s your dream camper!
‘If I spend more , I’ll use it more.’
NOPE. If you spend more than you’re comfortable with, you’ll end up resenting that monthly payment. And have all the bad camping juju every time you go out on a trip.
TALK to your partner about everything before you start your hunt for the perfect RV. If you can get the details figured out, you’ll be on the same page and can quickly rule campers in and out while you’re searching.