A younbg man with a full head of hair and beard stares out the window of an RV over lake.

How to Avoid RV Buyer Regret

When you’re planning on spending $40,000-50,000 or more on an RV, you want to make sure you’re making the right decision. Is it big or small enough? Does it have too many slide-outs or not enough? Is it too heavy or too light? Should I get one with an island or without?

There are so many things to consider when buying an RV, used or new. Let’s look at a few things to consider so you don’t experience buyer’s remorse.

A younbg man with a full head of hair and beard stares out the window of an RV over lake.

Do Most People Regret Buying an RV?

It’s not clear. You’ll find people who do regret buying an RV and others who have made it their home. You’ll also find many people who don’t necessarily regret getting into the RV lifestyle but might have a few changes they’d like to make to their current rig.

What your RV salesperson wishes he could tell you! (or “Reality check!”)

Tips for Avoiding RV Buyer Regret

Here are a few tips for avoiding RV buyer’s remorse. Of course, you may follow all of these guidelines, camp a few times in your RV, and still decide it’s not for you. But hopefully, these tips will help ease your fears during the buying process.

Know Which Features You’re Looking For

Do you have to have a washer and dryer hook-up? Does your family need a residential fridge? Do you have to stay under a certain weight? Are camp-side windows a deal-breaker?

There are so many features to consider. You need to go into the buying process knowing what you want.

Make a list of must-haves and then a second list of nice-to-haves. What are your deal-breaker items, and which features can you get by without?

Sometimes you don’t truly know until you start camping. But as you tour different floor plans and models, your must-have features will probably surface.

An Airstream travel trailer shining in the setting sun, parked in the desert with mountains in the distance.

Visit an RV Show

One way to tour a lot of RVs at one time is to attend an RV show. Dealers from all over the country send their models for consumers to walk through.

You can compare the quality and craftsmanship of different brands, compare various floor plans, and usually get a pretty good deal on pricing. If you haven’t seen a lot of RVs in person and you’re trying to make that must-have list, visiting an RV show can help.

Budget, Budget, Budget

If you don’t have a budget, you really don’t have a place to start. Decide what you can afford and how you’re going to pay for it.

Are you paying cash? Will you finance? Which bank will you use to finance?

Not all banks will finance RV purchases. Do your research to find the best rates. If you’re also buying a tow vehicle, make sure this is part of the budget. 

Having a budget will narrow down your search, so it’s not so daunting. Maybe you have $45,000 you can spend on a fifth wheel. That probably rules out the higher quality, top-of-the-line brands unless you find a really good deal somewhere.

Know that going in so that you’re not looking for residential finishes when you tour models. Have realistic expectations based on your budget, and stick to them. 

A woman with a blanket blowing in the wind standing behind her camper van.

Buying Used? Check the VIN

When buying used, it’s always a good idea to check the VIN. On travel trailers, you’ll find the VIN on the tongue or frame. On fifth wheels, you’ll find it on the frame of the pin box or front exterior wall. And on motorhomes, you’ll find it around the driver’s area of the cockpit. Motorhomes will have two VINs. One is for the chassis, and one is for the motorhome.

When doing an online search, you can find out the history of the RV via the VIN. You’ll get information such as how many people have owned the RV and where they lived.

If you don’t want an RV that’s been near the coast for fear of rust or corrosion, you can find that out. You can also find out the warranty claims, accident reports, outstanding liens, or reports of damage.

Keep Your Emotions at the Door

One of the hardest things to do when looking for an RV is to keep your emotions in check. Sometimes this is hardest when sticking to a budget.

You want to see what a Grand Design Solitude looks like, so you go inside and immediately fall in love with it. But you only have $35,000.

Unless you have excellent control over your emotions and budget, don’t tempt yourself. Do thorough research before starting to tour RVs because once you get inside them, you’ll have a hard time separating your wants from your needs.

Sleep on It

Depending on the market, this may or may not actually be realistic. If dealerships are selling RVs the day they arrive on the lot, your best bet is to do your research and know exactly what you’re looking for so that when you see it, you can move on it.

However, if it’s not such a market, don’t rush your purchase. If you’re comparing two or three models you really like, make a list of pros and cons. Sleep on it. Perhaps get feedback from owners. And if you still feel like the top one is the top one the next day, be confident in purchasing it.

A large fifth wheel pulled by a dually boondocking in the desert.

Can You Return Used RVs?

You can’t return an RV just because you changed your mind. Maybe you realized you paid too much for it or decided you’re just not comfortable towing a 33-ft travel trailer. Or maybe it’s more serious like the water heater isn’t functioning or the roof is leaking. Unfortunately, you won’t be able to return an RV — either to a dealer or private party. You don’t have any laws on your side.

It can be scary purchasing an RV. There aren’t many government regulations on quality control. Even new units can end up having serious issues. Some RVs look so clean and shiny that you can’t spot potential problems. But, these tips will help you avoid having any regrets. 

Check the VIN. Tour several models. Stick to a budget. If you don’t do these things, you may fall prey to an inaccurate sales pitch or end up with an RV that’s not the right fit.

What are your RV-buying tips?

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