Selecting the Right RV for YOU

pic of antique motorhome

Selecting just the right RV for you and your family should be a lengthy and educational experience. The worst thing that you can do is visit, for the first time, an RV lot, fall in love with a particular model, and then be the unwitting victim of an RV salesman more eager to make a commission than he is to be sure that the RV is right for you.

Only you can decide what is best for you, your life style, and also for your budget.

Remember, when you drive your new RV off the lot, it depreciates immediately to much less than you paid for it! The best advice I can offer you is to take your time!

Selecting the right RV for you should be a family decision. Remember that the lady is usually the one to cook and clean and is more concerned with her home on wheels. When I selected my first RV, my wife chose the interior layout, upholstery colors, and cabinet finish, and I selected the chassis that it would be built on.

Please do your homework as a family. Most motorhomes and fifth-wheel trailers are purposely built to "look good" when you first enter them (and are not necessarily livable)—but you need to take the time to check on the livability of the unit and also its usability—for your particular style of living.

For example, one of my pet peeves is having to open three different compartments in order to get the utilities hooked up when I arrive at a camp site. I did not like one particular RV that I looked at, since the water hookup was in one compartment, the electrical connection was in another compartment, and the water and sewer connections were in yet another compartment. I much prefer the usability of opening only one compartment and being able to do all my hookups—including cable or satellite TV.

Similarly, the female partner may not like a motorhome where the toilet is in one room (some fellas call it a "thunder closet"), but the lavatory sink is in another space. Or she may not like sharing the toilet area with the shower area. Everyone is different, with sometimes very different preferences. The right RV for you is the one that you like—not necessarily the latest idea of an engineer who really doesn't understand the needs or life style of an RV enthusiast.

There are many different RV manufacturers, hundreds of different RV floor plans and RV lengths, and a vast spread of pricing—much of which is beyond the reach of most of us.

(It is interesting to me to walk through a $600,000 coach and find that the layout is not at all livable nor is it very functional to use—but it looks terrific!)

I suggest that you start looking at RVs at least a good year before you think you really want to own one. Visit as many RV shows as you can, collect literature from the ones that you like, and then start comparing one against another. If you are married, it is strongly suggested that this process be a joint one with your spouse. Beware the consequences if you suddenly bounce in the door some afternoon and gleefully tell your spouse "Come see what I just bought for us."

After you have visited several RV shows, you will begin to have an idea of what you like and what you don't like, as well as tempering your fantasy RV with what you can really afford. For most RVers, including myself, there is a big gulf between the RV that we want to have and an RV that we can afford! Unfortunately that is one of the biggest hurdles to overcome in your choice of an RV.

I cannot emphasize enough the importance of knowing the Net Carrying Capacity of the motorhome that you are thinking of buying. It makes no sense, for example, if you intend to be full timers and then select an RV with a Net Carrying Capacity (NCC) of only 400 lbs! For most people, it is much too easy to load an RV up with more than 1,500 lbs. of "stuff" and still have space left for "more stuff"!

For those of you who have Internet access, I strongly suggest that you visit several of the Internet sites that have RV-related Bulletin Board Systems—before you finalize the decision on your choice of RV. Spend about six months just browsing, seeing the types of questions and answers that are so freely shared. When you are getting close to a decision, get brave and post a question on one or more of the Bulletin Board Systems asking others what they think about your potential choice. You will find that most answers will be brutally truthful—both positive and negative— about their experiences with the same kind of RV or the experience at a particular dealer. You will then have the benefit of experience and knowledge from other RVers more experienced than yourself. If in doubt, get on the Internet and ask—but be prepared to get your feelings hurt if your potential choice has some shortcomings!

When I was contemplating buying an RV some eight years ago, the six months or so that I spent browsing the Internet on the RV-related Bulletin Board Systems eventually educated me on what to stay away from, as well as what I should be looking for—and I have been most happy with my choices. Before I settled on my choice of RV, I knew what brand of refrigerator, what brand of generator, what brand of air conditioners, what type of roof, and what chassis I wanted—and I had a good idea of which RV manufacturer I would prefer. Eventually, I settled on an RV that had all my preferences. The final step was finding, after quite a lengthy search, a reputable dealer who handled that particular brand of RV.

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