PICKING UP YOUR NEW RV AT THE DEALERSHIP

Woohoo! You’ve taken the plunge and purchased an RV. All you have to do now is drive it home, right? Not so fast. Unfortunately, the process of taking home a new (or new-to-you) RV is a little more complicated than the process of buying a car.

 

Whether you buy your rig at an RV show or a dealership, there will be a few steps in between the purchase and the time you hit the highway with your new home in tow. The following tips will help you enter this process with your eyes wide open:

 

 

Understand the Behind-the-Scenes Process

Before you can take your new rig home, the dealership wants to ensure the RV is ready for you…and ensure you are ready for the RV.

  1. The dealership must ready the RV for transfer. First, the dealer must do a PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection) to confirm the physical condition of the RV has been checked and all systems are operational. Next, the dealer may need to install any options you requested or any items that generally are not on/in the rig while it sits on a lot (such as televisions, propane tanks, and upgraded air conditioners).
  2. In order to ensure you are ready for the RV, your dealership should schedule a complete walk through. And when we say complete, we mean complete. Since the walk through can take several hours, your dealership will have to schedule it at a convenient time for both parties. The tips in the final section of this post will help you make the most of your walk through.

 

 

Consider your Gear and Equipment

When RV owners think about gear and equipment, we are sometimes tempted to focus on the fun stuff…like patio lights, camp chairs, and colorful décor. However, there are many more important items necessary for the safety and security of the amazing rig you just purchased.

  1. Make sure your tow vehicle is properly outfitted for towing. This can be confusing, so you’ll want to double check all of your specs. Tow capacity, hitch weight, payload, and more all come into play. Some vehicles don’t come equipped with trailer brake controls or proper towing hitches. Figuring this out before you arrive to pick up your rig will save you the embarrassment, time, and extra expense of finding out too late.
  2. You may need a weight distribution and sway set up. You may scoff when the dealership offers to add these on at an additional cost, thinking it’s an unnecessary upsell, but in this case, the dealer is right (if you have a longer/heavier rig). If you don’t bring in your own safety equipment, you’ll need to buy it before you can roll off the lot. The good thing is that these additional expenses can sometimes be added to your loan if you are financing the RV. Research your options and reasonable cost estimates before you go.
  3. Purchase the necessities. Honestly, there is some non-glamorous gear you need to safely and efficiently set up camp. Brace yourself for the additional costs, so you won’t feel shell-shocked on pick-up day. Before your first outing, you’ll minimally need a good sewer hose and proper connectors, a water pressure regulator, a good surge protector or EMS (electrical management system), and power converters (to allow you to move between 50 amp, 30 amp, and 20 amp setups, as appropriate). All the other fun gear is the icing on the cake.

 

 

Make the Most of your RV Walk Through

We cannot emphasize enough how important this step is. A proper RV walk through will lead to many happy trips ahead…a rushed or incomplete walk through will lead to tons of frustration. Most importantly, you don’t want to get your RV all the way home and then discover several reasons why you need to take it back!

  1. Record everything on your smart phone in individual files you can label for later reference. Don’t record the whole walk through in one swoop—you’ll be left searching through an hours-long video. Instead, make a short video of the hitching process, one for tank maintenance, one for fridge operations, and so on. Don’t be embarrassed. You will be thankful for these videos in the months and years ahead. If there are two of you, one person can focus more on doing the recording while the other focuses more on actually listening to the technician.
  2. Force the service technician to show you everything, and we mean everything. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. If the technician points at something, feel free to ask them to explain how exactly it works. Trust us, it’s much better to try to figure out the propane heating system with the help of a technician instead of wrangling with it on a freezing cold night with no backup! This is also a good time to ask about maintenance for all these systems, as well.
  3. Put the RV through the paces. The dealership may have your rig set up when you arrive, but you still need to learn how to do all that set up for yourself. Ask the tech to allow you to open and close the awning, the slides, the stairs, etc. If the air conditioner and refrigerator are already on, turn them off and start again. Also, if your rig comes with electric awnings, stabilizers, etc., learn how to manually operate each, in case of a power outage or other problem.
  4. Inspect everything. Inspect every nook and cranny of the exterior and interior. The manufacturer may have missed small items or others may have come loose during transportation. Inspect all the systems. Attach a water hose, and run the sinks, toilet, and shower. Look underneath for leaks. The most common complaint we hear is from people who discover a leak on a trip and have to schedule a time to take the RV back for repairs. Even if the rig is winterized, don’t skip this step! The dealership may be able to fix several items right away.
  5. Prepare for towing. Don’t focus your entire walk through on your new rig. You should also bring your tow vehicle over and practice setting up and using the weight distribution, sway system, and trailer brakes before pulling away.
  6. Plan a shake down trip. Don’t haul your rig across the country without doing a shake down trip first. Camp close to home or in the driveway (but don’t run the AC unless you have 30 amp) and play with all of the systems to see if you can operate everything independently.

 

 

This is a lot to take in all at once, but trust us, it is better to go slowly on pick-up day in order to go faster later. Take the time to become familiar with your new RV before you hit the road. Before long, you’ll be operating your new RV like a pro! Our next blog post will help you have a great first trip.

 

RV BUYING GUIDE: THE RV PURCHASE PROCESS

This is third blog post in a six-part series aimed at new RV owners. The first post gave tips for choosing the right RV type. Should you buy a Class C, a Fifth Wheel, a Toy Hauler, or some other RV type? We attempted to help you answer those questions. In the second post we gave valuable tips about how to pick the perfect floorplan.  

Now it’s time to dig down deep into the RV purchasing process…

 

The first thing you need to understand is that shopping for a new RV is very different from shopping for a new car or truck. While there may be some similarities, there are many more differences. Chances are you have dozens of car dealerships, representing every major brand, within a short drive from your house.

This is not the case with RV dealerships. They can be spread out far and wide. So while you may have a local RV dealership nearby (we consider a dealer within two hours drive to be “local”), you may also need to drive a few hours to a non-local dealer to find the RV of your choice, or you may need to buy at an RV show. These are all good options, but there are some important things to consider with each.

 

 

PURCHASING FROM A LOCAL DEALER

 

  1. Purchasing local is very convenient for shopping: Shopping at a local dealer saves you precious drive time and if they have your dream RV, may just be the ideal situation.
  2. Purchasing local is very convenient for warranty service after the sale:  Every RV needs to go in for either warranty service or basic maintenance at some point, and when the dealer is close to home a trip into the shop can be very convenient–or at least not too inconvenient!
  3. But a local dealer may not have your dream RV, or a preferred brand: Very few dealers carry every, or even most, RV brands. So, if there is a certain dream RV that tickles your fancy you may need to expand your search geographically to find it.

 

 

 

Purchasing From A Non Local Dealer

  1. Purchasing from a non-local dealer greatly expands your RV brand options: If your local dealer doesn’t carry your favorite brand don’t despair, just get ready to drive further to find it.
  2. Expanding the reach of your search may also increase your bargaining power: The more dealers you look at geographically, the more bargaining power you have when it comes to negotiating a purchase price.
  3. May not be convenient for warranty work or maintenance after the sale: This might be our most important tip–so listen up! If you do end up buying your dream RV far from home, are you prepared to drive it back for warranty work and maintenance? We strongly recommend that you call around to your local dealers to see if they will do warranty service on an RV purchased at another dealership. Having a game plan for this type of situation will save you a lot of irritation in the long run.

 

 

Purchasing at an RV Show

 

  1. RV Shows have a carnival like atmosphere making for a fun shopping experience: We love going to RV shows because they are a complete hoot! RV owners are a tribe of happy and adventurous folks–when we go to shows we feel like we are among our people and you will too!
  2. Free educational seminars prepare you for RV ownership: Many RV shows have free seminars about maintenance, RV travel, and RV culture. As a potential newbie RV owner there is so much to learn, and you can learn a whole lot of it by attending a good seminar.
  3. Many brands and floorplans to explore all in one place: While a good local dealership may carry three or four brands and dozens of floorplans, a good RV show will give you a chance to look at dozens of brands and hundreds of floorplans. A massive national RV show will enable you to look at the vast majority of RV’s in production. Bring good walking shoes!
  4. RV Show pricing is very good because many dealers are competing in one place: If you are not a big fan of heavy negotiating, but you still want a great price, an RV show may hit the sweet spot for you. RV show prices really do tend to be very competitive–dealers are competing with each other and they are motivated to move a lot of inventory in one day.
  5. But you don’t get to drive the rig home that day: You will need to pick up your RV at the dealership even if you buy it at a show. They will want to prepare the rig for you, and give you a walk through to teach you all of the RV’s systems and operating procedures.

 

 

And that is the topic of our next blog post in this series! We will give you a detailed list of items and systems to check while your dealer is giving you the walk through, so that you can be fully prepared to bring your RV home and start enjoying it!

 

 

RV BUYING GUIDE: FINDING YOUR RV MODEL AND FLOOR PLAN

10 Tips for Finding the Perfect RV Model and Floorplan

If you are a first time RV shopper, you might be surprised–and a little overwhelmed–at how many options there are out there! Once you have settled on the type of RV you are looking for (travel trailer, fifth wheel, motorhome), you’ll still have to decide the size and floorplan that will suit you best.

There’s definitely something for everyone out there, and we want you to find your perfect match. So here are our top 10 tips for finding your perfect RV model.

 

  1. Know Your Numbers.

 

Research your tow capacity and payload capacity if you are purchasing a towable. Don’t take guesses or rely on social media for this information. Use your VIN to get the specs directly from your vehicle manufacturer. If you are buying a motorhome, double and triple check the weight of any vehicle you are planning to tow behind the RV. These are the first specs you should look at when shopping. Believe us, picking out an RV that doesn’t work with your current vehicle situation can be expensive and unsafe.

  1. Count the number of dedicated beds you’ll need.

 

We highly recommend looking for RV floorplans that will provide a dedicated bed for anyone who will be sleeping in the rig most of the time. When shopping for their first RV, some folks think it’s no big deal to make up the dinette or pull out the sleeper sofa every night. We know from experience that this can be a frustration in the long run.

Solo campers or couples who need just one bed will find tons of great options across every RV type. Families with one or two children will be happy to find bunk models in travel trailers and motorhomes. If you are traveling with more than two children, travel trailer and fifth wheels offer many bunkhouse floorplans with 3-4 beds in a separate sleeping area.

If you are looking for a small towable that still offers dedicated beds for everyone in the family, check out the Murphy bed floorplan options. This latest trend has grown pretty popular over the past couple of years, so there are quite a few of these models out there!

 

  1. Decide on a wet bath, dry bath, or no bath.

 

Some shoppers love the idea of having a large, private bathroom no matter where they travel. Other folks are just fine with the idea of using campground comfort stations. This is a pretty important part of the RV experience, so make sure you get what you want in this department.

Many smaller RV options like Class Bs, Small Travel Trailers, and Truck Campers only offer wet baths, bathrooms where there isn’t a separate stall for the shower. Think hard about whether this will be a deal breaker for you.

 

  1. Decide if you’ll want to boondock or camp all four seasons.

 

Another trend in the RV industry is more models that offer four season features like insulated walls and underbellies. If you want to camp year-round, or at least in the cooler shoulder seasons, look for RVs that include these options.

And if you are looking to boondock (dispersed camping in places without hookups), make sure to search for RVs with larger fresh water, gray water, and black tanks. Other attractive features for folks looking to get off the grid are on-board generators and solar prep.

  1. Think about how much time you plan on spending inside the RV.

 

There’s no right way to camp. Some people are shopping for an RV with a clean bathroom and comfortable beds that will keep them warm and cozy at night. Other campers are seeking a smaller version of their sticks and bricks house, with all the creature comforts of home. Will everyone be able to eat a meal, play a board game, or watch a movie? Think about how you want to live in the RV, and make sure the floorplan will support that dream.

  1. How much cooking do you plan on doing in (and out) of the RV?

 

Once again, there is no right answer to the question of cooking in the RV. Some people use their RV kitchens all the time like us, and some people have never even turned on the oven. If the RV kitchen is a major draw for you, look closely at storage, counter space, and refrigerator size. If you love to cook in the open air, check out all the amazing outdoor kitchen options. However, if you don’t cook a lot while RVing, skip the outdoor kitchen to get more interior space and storage.

  1. Will you need to work in the RV?

 

The ability to work remotely leads a lot of people to check out the RV lifestyle. If you have to punch the clock, you might as well do it in a beautiful location, right? So, if you’re planning to work on the road, make sure you choose a floorplan with a spot for you to comfortably set up shop. Many people are using the flexible space in toy haulers to set up mobile offices. Another popular option right now are fifth wheel models with office space in the middle.

  1. Visualize where all the stuff will go!

 

Storage varies drastically in different models and floorplans, so think specifically about the things you want to pack. From the big stuff like bikes, kayaks, and golf carts, to the little stuff like clothes, linens and towels, food, and kitchen supplies…actually imagine where all your stuff might go.

  1. Can you access all the important features in “Travel Mode”?

 

One of the greatest benefits of RV travel for our family is being able to use the bathroom and have a healthy lunch in our RV kitchen while at rest stops. If this is also important to you, make sure you can access everything you will need even with the slides in. Can you access the bathroom, open the refrigerator, and get into the bedroom? Don’t be embarrassed to ask the salesperson to bring in the slides for you to double check!

  1. What extra features are important to you? Every RV is a bit different than the next, and some options will be more important to you than others. That’s why it’s important to have a list of “must haves” vs. “nice to haves” before you even start looking. Here are a few features that may or may not be on your list depending on your RV lifestyle:

 

  1. Large awning
  2. Exterior bathroom entrance
  3. Outdoor shower
  4. Power and automated systems for stability jacks, tongue jack, and levelers
  5. Smart technology and outdoor entertainment

Take your time and have fun with this part of the RV shopping experience. There are so many great RVs out there right now, so make sure to find the perfect one for you.

 

We’ll see you at the campground,

Stephanie + Jeremy

 

RV BUYING GUIDE: NARROWING DOWN YOUR RV TYPE

If you are in the market for a new RV, we’ve got some pretty great news for you: there are more options out there than ever before. From lightweight travel trailers to motorized RVs with powerful diesel engines, there is something for every shopping budget.

There’s also something for every camping style. If you want to hold on to the rugged outdoors experience, there are RVs specifically designed for off grid adventures. More interested in feeling like your RV is a luxury vacation home? No problem! Plenty of new RVs come with stainless steel appliances, reclining living room furnishings and residential design features.

But here’s the bad news: you probably have to pick just one RV to buy, and that can be pretty overwhelming.

 

We are here to help you through the process. Over the course of years of podcasting, blogging, and presenting at RV events, we have talked with thousands of RV shoppers. We’ve listened to the lessons that they have learned, and learned a few of our own along the way as well.

 

Want to find that perfect RV? Well, the first thing you have to do is narrow down the RV type (or class) that will work best for your needs. Here are five questions you should ask that will help you decide which RV type should be on your short list.

 

Note: If you’re still trying to learn what all the different RV types are, check out Go RVing Compare RVs tab. You can also check out our post, Which RV is Right For Me?

 

  1. What’s your price range?

 

Okay, in a perfect world there would be no budgets, right? Unfortunately, money matters and we all have a general idea of how much we can afford to spend on an RV purchase.

There is something out there at every single price point, from $7,000 folding camping trailers to $30,000 travel trailers to $200,000 motorhomes. Once you have settled on a comfortable shopping budget, it will be much easier to narrow down your options and focus on the rigs that are in the running for your first purchase.

  1. What is your current tow vehicle situation?

 

Now, this is important! If you currently have a truck or SUV that can tow an RV, you are in good shape to buy a folding camping trailer, travel trailer, or fifth wheel. Make sure you check what your vehicle can tow before buying the RV though. Don’t take someone’s word for it—use the VIN number to get an accurate number. There can be a wide variety of towing capacities for the same automobile model because of optional packages.

However, if you don’t already have a tow vehicle, carefully consider a motorized RV purchase. The price of a tow vehicle plus towable RV can easily be equal to a Class C price. There’s no reason to give up that great commuter car if you don’t really want to!

  1. Who will be traveling in the RV?

 

We’ve seen something common at dealerships and RV shows. Some folks shop thinking about anyone and everyone who may at some point join them on their travels. It’s a good idea to focus on shopping for the people (and pets) that will be in the RV mostof the time. If you’re thinking about towable RVs, would everyone in the family have a comfortable seat in the tow vehicle? If looking at motorized RVs, make sure there are seatbelts for all travelers and think about where you would place necessary car seats.

  1. Are you a road tripper, destination traveler, or seasonal camper?

 

We tend to be road trippers, heading out for weeks at a time and visiting lots of different locations. This means we like an RV that is pretty easy to hitch and unhitch. We also don’t want to worry too much about height restrictions when traveling around our native northeast region.

 

Some folks, however, love to take their RVs to just one amazing spot and set up camp for a week long vacation. For them, a spacious fifth wheel might fit the bill. Traveling in more urban places? Check out Class Bs. Want to cover a lot of distance in comfort and style? Class Cs or As are often perfect cross country options.

  1. Do you prefer private or public campgrounds?

 

If you are new to RVing, this may be a tricky question to answer, but here is a quick tutorial. In general, public campgrounds tend to be more rustic and natural. But they also tend to be older and less modernized. So if you know you want to stay in state and national parks, make sure you don’t purchase an RV that is too big for the majority of the campsites. The rule of thumb is to stay under 30 feet if you want to camp mostly in public campgrounds.

On the other hand, private campgrounds often offer pull thru campsites that can accommodate rigs up to 40 feet long. So if you know you prefer modern amenities and full hook ups, go ahead and get that larger fifth wheel or Class A.

When you imagine that RV dream, what does it look like? Are you escaping from the city and heading for off the grid adventures? Maybe you’re driving all over this beautiful country, exploring urban destinations and national parks. No matter what your RV dream is, there’s a rig that will be perfect for it.

So go start shopping, and then we’ll see you at the campground!

 

Stephanie + Jeremy

MOUNT ST. HELENS

We recently spent an amazing 25 days exploring the Pacific Northwest, and the single most surprising thing was how much we enjoyed our stop in the Mount St. Helens region.

 

To be completely honest, we pretty much expected a cool photo op and not much more.  Look kids…a really big volcano. Smile!

 

Well. It was in fact an amazing photo op. But it was also so much more.

 

Mount St. Helens ended up being one of our very favorite experiences, and we all wished we had more time to explore the area. In fact, we are already planning a return trip when the boys are old enough to do the 10-mile round trip hike up to the summit.

 

So, what is there to do at Mount St. Helens besides look at a big volcano? Here are our top recommendations for your visit.

 

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