Undoubtedly, investing in a recreational vehicle (RV) will change the way you and your family travel for the better. But that doesn’t mean it’s an easy decision; it’s a significant investment, and you have to weigh many factors before you decide to purchase one.
Let’s review five essential questions you must ask yourself before making a final decision and purchasing an RV or camper. That way, you can make the most informed choice and be comfortable with your decision.
1. How Will I Use It?
Exactly, how will you use it? This question might seem obvious, but if you probe a bit deeper, it isn’t. Of course, you’ll use your camper or RV for accommodations while camping and on the road. But what kind of camping do you want to do? If you and your family enjoy a more rugged experience, then you don’t need a camper with all fancy features; just somewhere to sleep and carry your things will do.
In addition, many campsites can’t accommodate big RVs. This is especially true in state and national parks. If that’s where you prefer to vacation, you need to look on the smaller side. Also, how comfortable are you and the other adults with whom you travel driving a big rig?
On the other hand, some people, including retirees, plan to live in their camper, at least part of the year. If that’s the case, I recommend something with more space and comfort and features similar to those found in a traditional home.
Understanding your camping needs is the first step; it helps you not overpay for things that won’t benefit you in the long run. Your budget is the next consideration.
2. What Can I Afford?
Now that you know what you want, you can figure out whether or not it’s realistic for your budget. Unless you plan to live in it, an RV is just that, a recreational vehicle. It isn’t a necessity, and you shouldn’t spend outside your means to own one.
Depending on average RV cost, Most RV dealerships offer some kind of financing. If you plan to get a loan, be sure to check your credit score ahead of time, as you don’t want any surprises at the dealership. Keep in mind that you’ll pay much more than the sticker price over time when you add in interest on the loan.
You may want to shop around for used campers. Dealerships often stock used RV’s, but you might have better luck looking for one on your own from a private seller. There are always people hoping to unload their camper, and they might be willing to give you a good deal. Just make sure that you inspect thoroughly or by an expert before making the final purchase.
While you might get more in your RV by spending outside of your means, the stress about making the payments will rob you of the enjoyment; it simply isn’t worth it.
3. Can I Tow It?
Towing is an excellent option since a camper that hitches to your vehicle is less expensive. What’s more, it’s convenient for travelling in the immediate area. Once you’re at your site, you can disconnect the camper from the vehicle and drive it to run errands, see attractions, and more.
It is crucial to make sure that your vehicle can safely tow your camper. Here is our handy guide for determining what your car can tow:
- The average off-road pop-up trailer weighs 1500 lbs (680 kg) and can be towed by most SUVs and trucks.
- The average small travel trailer (less than 25 feet) weighs 3500 lbs (1588 kg), and midsize SUVs and small pickup trucks can tow them. For example, a Ford Ranger can tow up to 6,600 pounds, or you may prefer a full-size truck such as the Ford F150.
- The average large travel trailer (over 25 feet) weighs 6300 lbs (2858 kg), and larger SUVs and half-ton pickup trucks can tow them. A Ford F150 can tow up to 13,000 pounds, while a Toyota Tundra is limited to about 10,000.
- The average small fifth wheel (under 35 feet) weighs 9000 lbs (4082 kg) and would need a 3/4 ton truck once loaded.
- The average sizeable fifth wheel (over 35 feet) weighs 12000 lbs (5443 kg) and would need a heavy 3/4 ton or one-ton truck.
If your truck or SUV cannot tow the camper that you have decided to buy, you’ll need to buy a more robust vehicle. Buying a new vehicle is not necessary if they can be as good as new ones, make sure you know the exact tow ratings.
4. How Much Space Do I Need? What About Features?
Once you understand your essential needs, your budget, and how you plan to tow your RV, you can start thinking about the size and features. Just be sure to keep the previous three factors first and foremost in your mind!
Campers range broadly in size from small, basic, 2-person trailers to large vehicles that can sleep eight people, with full kitchens and baths, and more.
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5. Where Am I Going?
Finally, consider where you plan to drive your RV or camper. We already mentioned that some campsites and parks can’t accommodate big rigs. Still, you need to think about gas mileage and whether the vehicle you’ve chosen can travel the distances you want to go.
If you plan to camp in more remote places, you’ll probably need to prioritize large water tanks and even solar panels. On the other hand, if you’re going to live in your camper and stick to full-size RV hookups, then you have less to worry about. That should mean more space for your belongings, even the less essential ones.
As you saw, there are many factors to think about before buying a camper or RV. Be sure to ask yourself all five questions above and discuss your thoughts with loved ones. That way, you can rest assured that you bought the best RV or camper for your family’s vacation dreams.