Happy couple standing next to RV
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Dos and Don’ts of RV Buying

Caption: Taking delivery – plan time for the dealer to perform PDI

Written by Dave Helgeson

Editor’s note: The following article is reprinted with permission from the Northwest RVing Blog hosted by MHRV (Manufactured Housing and Recreational Vehicle) Show Association.

Most people thinking about buying their first RV typically visit an RV show (or two) to get an idea on what RV might be best suited for their needs, find a dealer they like and get a feel for the whole buying and delivery process. Since there are no RV shows scheduled for the Pacific Northwest in the immediate future, following is a Do and Don’t list to help first time buyers through the process.

Do search out a reputable dealer that sells the type of RV you are looking for and offers quality service after the sale.

Search for a dealer that will take the time to help you find the RV that is right for you and doesn’t employ high pressure sales tactics to sell the RV they want off their lot. Remember, an RV is a home on wheels and just like looking for a sticks and bricks home, you will need to spend some time finding the right RV for you and your family.

Next, check to research what kind of service the dealer offers in their service center. Are they able handle any type of RV repair or will you have to take your RV to an outside service center for appliance repair, another for chassis problems, etc. Odds are you will need an item or two repaired under warranty and you will want confidence that the dealer will stand ready and able to take care of you when the time arises. Ask friends and relatives that currently own an RV for recommendations, plus check online reviews for the dealers that you are considering patronizing. Don’t let price alone determine where you buy your new RV.

Do know what your options are if you plan on financing the RV

Find out what your bank or credit union offers in the way of RV financing before you begin visiting RV dealers. While a bank or credit union may offer a better interest rate, RV dealers can often offer longer terms and/or smaller down payment options which may better fit your budget. You can read about leaving a deposit with the dealer here.

Do research what towing equipment you will need to stay safe

Don’t assume that because your tow vehicle has a factory mounted receiver that it is ready to tow any RV you purchase. You will likely need an equalizing hitch along with a brake controller and possibly a sway control among other things.

Trailer hitch
Travel Trailer buyers will likely need an equalizing hitch.

In either of the above two cases most RV dealers can sell and install what you will need. Often times they can conveniently perform the work while you are being shown how the RV works minimizing the time spent at the dealership. They can also include these items in the RV financing minimizing your upfront out of pocket expenses.

Don’t expect to take your RV home the day you purchase it

Taking delivery of a new RV is totally different than taking delivery of a new car or truck. Since an RV is a house on wheels, the dealership will need time to prep the unit for the new owner. This process is known as a PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection). Steps the dealer will need to perform include: installing the house batteries, filling and checking the freshwater system, filling the propane cylinder(s) and checking the integrity of the propane system to assure there are no gas leaks or other oversights by the manufacture, operating all the appliances to make sure the refrigerator gets cold, the water heater heats water and the furnace delivers hot air throughout the RV. Finally, your new RV will be cleaned inside and out.

Happy couple standing next to RV

Taking delivery – plan time for the dealer to perform PDI.

Most RV dealers provide a walk through as part of the delivery process where you will be shown the proper operation of all the systems and components. It is very important that you pay attention to what you are being shown. Take notes or video what you are being shown for later reference. Don’t assume you can just look at the owner’s manual later and know everything that you need to. The internet is full of posts from new RV owners asking questions they should have learned during the walk through, don’t be one of them. First time RV owners should expect to spend a couple of hours on their first walk through.

RV interior
Expect to spend a couple of hours and take notes or video when you have your walk-through.

There is a whole host of extra items a new RVer may not realize exist. Things like pressure regulators, power adapters, toilet chemical, etc. will be needed at some point so ask during your walk through. It is likely the dealer has a parts and accessory store where you can purchase the items while you are there negating searching for them elsewhere.

Do schedule a shakedown trip as soon as possible

Make the first outing in your new RV close to home or better yet in your own driveway. Don’t make the mistake of taking off on a grandiose RV trip until you have the chance to spend a night or two in your RV making sure you understand how everything works and that everything works properly. By “camping” at home you can quickly retrieve items you forgot to pack like kitchen utensils, bedding and toiletries. Plus, if you forgot how the furnace works or how to make hot water come out of the shower head you can always retreat back into your house until you master the use of your RV.

Camp close to home for your first trip

By following the above steps, first time buyers are likely to have a much better buying and delivery experience allowing them to get out and enjoy their first RV.

Man head shot

Author: Dave Helgeson, DaveH@northwestrving.com Dave Helgeson is the MHRV show director. He and his wife love to travel across the west in their RV. Dave writes about all things RVing but loves to share destinations and boondocking advice.