RV travel is more popular now than ever before. You can travel across the nation in your own comfortable bubble. As you see people pulling their RVs out of their driveways and heading to scenic campgrounds, you may be asking yourself this question: Should I buy an RV?
My family bought a brand spanking new pop-up trailer many years ago, and we’ve never looked back. Of course, there are things we learned along the way that we wish we knew before we bought our first RV. These questions will help you decide whether or not buying an RV is for you.
Can I afford to buy an RV?
Before purchasing an RV, you should take a look at your financial situation. If you’d like to pay outright for an RV, how much money do you have set aside? You can buy well-used pop-up trailers for as little as $500 (elbow grease may be required!), while fancier travel trailers may cost between $20,000 and $40,000. Motorhomes can cost anywhere between $75,000 and $500,000.
If you plan to finance the purchase, how much can you afford to easily pay each month? And, will your bank or another bank be willing to lend you the amount you need? Financing an RV is more complicated than financing a car, so research your options ahead of time. It’s wise to end up with an RV payment that looks like your cable bill, not your monthly rent or mortgage.
Once you know your purchasing budget, you also need to think through all of the extra expenses. Storage fees (if applicable), insurance, and maintenance may be the biggest costs. Plus, you want to make sure to leave plenty of funds for traveling with your RV!
Will I use an RV?
Chances are, when you purchase a car, you know you’ll use it almost every day. With an RV, you should think through how often you will use it in order to decide whether the expense is worthwhile for your family.
If your life and work schedule will not allow you to frequently travel, you may find it more budget friendly to rent one occasionally. If you have ample vacation time and have the desire to take quick trips on the weekends, then purchasing an RV might be right for you.
Do I have a place to store an RV?
An RV is a large purchase—a very large purchase! In addition to making sure the RV will actually fit in your driveway (or another storage location at your house), you’ll want to check your neighborhood and township covenants (if you have any) to ensure you’re allowed to store an RV. If you can’t park an RV at your house, there are places where you can store one for a monthly fee. Check around to compare locations, prices, and policies.
What kind of RV should I buy?
Before purchasing an RV, weigh all of the options and the pros and cons of each type. This will help you decide what kind of RV is right for you. Pop-up campers and hybrid models are often the least expensive to purchase, but involve a little more work to set up at the campground.
The term “travel trailer” or “camper trailer” refers to RVs that you pull behind a tow vehicle. These come in a wide range of sizes, weights, and prices. If you purchase a travel trailer, you must make sure your vehicle can tow it. Check the tow capacity and payload of your vehicle before you begin shopping. If a vehicle upgrade is required, make sure to add that to your budget.
Finally, motorhomes or motor coaches are usually the priciest to purchase. These are the kinds of RVs you can drive. With these, you’re getting a vehicle and a living space in one. They offer a fun way to travel down the road, but they may involve more costs. Plus, you’ll have to consider whether to tow a car behind the motor home so you can explore an area once you arrive.
Will I enjoy RV travel?
RVing is such a great way to spend time with your family, to connect with the great outdoors, and to see the nation. But, that doesn’t mean RVing is for everyone. Before deciding whether or not to buy an RV, think about the logistics of towing or driving one. Will you feel comfortable towing one behind your truck or SUV, or getting behind the wheel of a motorhome? Again, renting one first may be a great option and help you avoid making a costly mistake.
Also, RV travel is different from staying in hotels, due to the tasks involved in setting up and living in one. Yes, this includes emptying wastewater tanks. While some of these things are awkward or difficult at first, they do get easier very quickly.
Luckily, after purchasing our first RV, we discovered we truly did enjoy RV travel, and we continue to love it many miles down the road. For us, the answer to “Should I buy an RV?” was a clear yes! I think it will be for you, too, but definitely put some thought and advance planning into your purchase before you hit the open road.
Jeremy Puglisi is the co-author of See You At The Campground: A Guide to Discovering Community, Connection, and a Happier Family in the Great Outdoors and the co-host of The RV Atlas podcast.