Recreational Vehicles (RV’s) come in a variety of sizes, shapes and abilities so it’s understandable to be a bit stuck when coming to a decision about which one is right for you. Freedom is one of the biggest reasons people decide to buy an RV. You can hit the open road and always have a place to sleep, cook, and store your things. It’s a home on the road. Of course, some RV’s aren’t as equipped as others so you should consider why you’re interested in getting one before you go all in and purchase one of these luxury vehicles. Remember that everything you add onto your RV adds in cost and weight. Weight’s important because it is directly related to how much money you can expect to spend on gas during a trip. Cost is important because, well, it’s your hard earned cash we’re talking about here! RV’s are a great way to see the country. Learn how to document your travels in the Art of Travel Photography.
There are some things you definitely want to look for when you’re scoping out a potential RV, especially a used RV. Brand new RV’s are nice, but like buying a brand new car, depreciation occurs the minute you drive or tow it off the lot. Buying a used RV is much more affordable but you’ve got to know what to look for so you don’t get duped.
Things to Check First
1. Check the frame of the trailer. Is there any rust? Are there any impact sites or other damage? Rust indicates that the integrity of the RV foundation is compromised and I suggest moving on to another RV.
2. Make sure the tires are under five years old. The owner may insist that the tires have low mileage and are in great condition, but the sun’s UV rays do damage to a tire too, even if they’re not being used. You don’t want to have a blow out on the road and risk getting hurt or damaging the RV.
3. If you’re looking at an RV with a drive train, make sure the brakes are fully inspected before you purchase. RV’s are heavy and slowing one of these suckers down without quality breaks is not going to be easy or safe. Additionally, ensure the wheel bearings are in shape and relatively new.
4. Check the inside of the trailer, floor to ceiling, for leaks, soft spots and properly working doors and windows.
5. Test out the appliances. Make sure they all work. Ovens, fridges and heating/cooling units are expensive and buying replacements after spending thousands of dollars on a trailer can be a real bummer.
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Features to Consider
RVs come with different featured based on how they were customized and what model you are buying. Here are some features, along with why you may want to consider them for your RV.
There can be awnings over the main entrance or over large windows to help protect you from the elements when you’re sitting outside of your RV. The large window awnings provide great shade and help keep the sun from beaming in on you while you sit inside. Typically awnings are retractable. There are electrical and manual awnings, so you can choose to get physical with unwinding and rewinding your awning by hand, or you can push a button. Up to you.
- Sliding storage tray in “basement”
It’s storage! If you’re thinking about buying an RV you are probably considering a life of leisure. You may take the family camping, or maybe your retirement will be spent hopping from National Park to National Park. Either way, extra storage is never going to be a downside. You can decide whether to use it each time you take off.
- Leveling jacks
Want to sleep lopsided? Probably not. If you don’t want your dishes sliding off your kitchen table then you may want to consider including either electric leveling jacks or an automatic leveling system in your RV package. No matter what kind of landscape you find yourself on you’ll be able to adjust the jacks accordingly to make a nice level home to enjoy.
Have a car? Looking to buy an RV with a drive train? I’d gander that when you get to Yellowstone National Park with your awesome RV that you don’t want to try to go through town to shop the cute boutiques in said awesome RV. It’d probably be a lot easier to just hop in a car you towed behind your trailer, right? Make sure you have a hitch. You’ll thank me later. If your RV doesn’t have a motor and you’ll be towing it behind your car then just ignore this one.
- Enclosed bathroom
It sounds like a given – but it’s not. Make sure that you double check that toilet has a door, that the door isn’t see-thru glass and for added comfort, that the bathroom isn’t only accessible through the bedroom. If you have guests staying in the RV it can be a pain being woken up when someone has to come through the already cramped bedroom to use the john.
Easy, how many people do you need to sleep? Most RV’s come with either one, two, or no separate bedrooms. Sleeper sofas are a great space and money saver as they can function as both seating and sleeping areas. If you want a little more privacy for the residents of the RV – go with two bedrooms.
- Water heater
Cold showers are no fun. Most shower equipped RV’s will come with a water heater, but double check on the capacity before agreeing to purchase. If you can’t upgrade the heater you can always buy a water heater separate and install it (or have someone install it for you). See that your water heater runs on AC power and/or propane.
When you are on the road and want to use your appliances you’ll need an inverter to convert DC power to AC power. Get an inverter so you’re not SOL keeping food cool in the fridge while traveling. Inverters can handle anywhere from 600W to 2800W so just choose one that will suit your needs.
- High output propane stove
Plan on visiting the mountains ever? If the answer is yes, you’ll need a high output propane stove to accommodate higher elevations. It really depends where you plan to travel with your RV and how much cooking you intend to do. If you like using a campfire or eating at restaurants, this may not be as big of a concern for you.
- Counter top extension
You aren’t going to be able to fit a full kitchen counter in your RV. Include a counter top extension so when you’re preparing a meal and run out of room, you’ve got a surprise counter every time.
- Heating and Cooling
Being cool when it’s hot and being warm when it’s cold out make life just a bit more comfortable. You can equip the RV with a few things that will make this easier for you. First, insulation. It doesn’t come with all RV’s but it’s something that you can add-on to help with keeping warm and noise reduction. Second, double pane windows for cold weather. Third, electric heater or some kind of heat production source.
In my mind this isn’t a necessity. Only because most campgrounds have laundry facilities and otherwise, washing your clothes by hand isn’t all that bad. Having a washer and dryer is not only more expensive, it’s heavy, takes up a lot of room (unless you get stackable appliances) and you have to deal with eliminating water waste.
- Ceiling Fan
Living in tight quarters be a bit challenging at times. Nothing sucks more than having stagnant air hanging around. Have a simple ceiling fan to stir things up (or open the windows).
Don’t be afraid to ask every question that comes to mind when you’ve got your eye on a RV. Knowing before you buy is much better than finding out there are expensive repairs to be made in the aftermath. If you’re looking for cheap ways to see the country (or the world) check out this course on Travel Hacking. It’ll teach you all you need to know to see more for less. If that isn’t enough to get you riled up – learn about cheap travel tips that everyone can use.