RV Buying Tips
By Mark Polk
You might be a tent camper that graduated to a Pop Up and are now
considering a travel trailer. Or, maybe you have never camped before but like all of the amenities available on modern travel trailers and are considering the RV lifestyle. No matter what the case may be, as an ex-RV Sales Manager and current owner of RV Education 101, I would like to offer you some advice before you buy.
The first rule is, if you buy it you have to use it! Otherwise it will be nothing more than a very large and expensive lawn ornament. Letís face it, besides your house and automobile, oh and yes, your childrenís tuition fees this could be one of the biggest investments you ever make.
With that said letís get started. Based on my experience the first thing we need to consider is the tow vehicle. You don't want to put your family in harms way, or destroy the transmission in that $35,000 SUV you just bought. As a Sales Manager the first question I required my sales people to ask was what type of vehicle will you be towing with. This is a critical factor and too often over looked. We had a book at the dealership and we would look the vehicle up to determine the tow capacity. There are numerous footnotes that must be considered. What size engine does it have, is it two wheel drive or four wheel drive, and the most important factor, what is the rear axle ratio. My advice is, if you talk to a sales person and they don't ask about your vehicle, or determine the tow capacity ask to speak to somebody else.
If you don't have the tow vehicle yet itís a good idea to pick out the travel trailer you want first and then purchase the tow vehicle that can pull it. I've dealt with many disappointed customers that just bought a new vehicle and found out later that they can't pull the camper they really want. A bit more advice at the risk of upsetting some people, don't ask the person selling you the vehicle how much it can tow. They don't have readily available information on that and may tell you whatever you want to hear, letís face it they just want to sell you the truck. I would call a reputable RV dealer in the area and ask them.
I don't want to bore you with all of this talk about weights, but bear with me for just a minute. Letís use an example. You bought a truck that can safely tow 7000 pounds. You want the 26í travel trailer with the bunk beds.
Don't get confused with the gross vehicle weight-rating (GVWR) label that you found on the outside of the camper. GVWR is the total amount of weight the trailers axles, brakes and tires can support. Look inside the camper, usually on the back of one of the cabinet doors youíll find another weight label. Look for the dry or unloaded vehicle weight (UVW) of the
trailer. This is the most accurate figure on the trailers weight when it left the manufacturer. The brochure can even be a bit deceiving about the weight because it doesn't take into consideration any dealer installed options like the air conditioner etc.
So for the sake of our example we'll say the trailer you want has a dry weight of 4,490 pounds. The tow vehicle capacity, 7,000 pounds minus the trailers dry weight 4,490 leaves us 2,510 pounds. We should be okay, right.
Letís see, you will probably carry about 300 pounds of cargo inside the trailer. Then with your toolbox and other cargo in the tow vehicle, plus you, your wife and two children, letís say another 650 pounds to be safe. That leaves us with 1,560 pounds to spare. In this example we would be okay.
Some people use what is referred to as the 75% rule. The tow capacity times 75% should be the total amount of weight you're towing when everything is loaded. If we use the 75% rule in our example it would be 7000 pounds times 75% equals 5,250 pounds. This leaves us 1,750 pounds to spare, and would be even better.
Now that we've conquered the weight issue what other issues should we be concerned with. We said earlier that this is a major investment and you will probably have it, and be paying on it for quite some time. My advice is to do you're homework on the RV dealership you plan to do business with. Find a reputable dealer, talk to people that has dealt with them in the past. Then do your homework on the products they sell. There is a wealth of information on the Internet. Find out how the unit is constructed, how long the warranty is for, how long has the manufacturer been in business. RVís are similar to cars. You get what you pay for. Decide if you want a Chevrolet, Buick or Cadillac.
Armed with this information go to the dealership and find a salesperson you feel comfortable with. Don't be afraid to help the salesperson help you. The more information that you can offer will help. Tell your salesperson who, what, when, where, why and how. Who will be using the camper? What floor plan would work best based on your needs? When do you want to purchase it? Where will you be going, the mountains, the beach, or do you plan to leave it set up somewhere? Why should you buy this brand? How much do you plan on spending? In our society it is natural to be cautious when dealing with sales people. You may have had a bad experience in the past, but a reputable dealer will have a well-trained, professional sales staff that can help make the right decision.
Be sure that itís not too big , or too small for the way you plan on using it. Don't be afraid to lie down on the bed, stand in the shower, or sit on the toilet. Look at the storage space and closet space. Study the floor plan. I once sold a camper to a family because they liked the interior colors. It had a front bedroom with a queen bed, the kitchen was in the middle and the bathroom and bunk beds were in the back. After they used it the first time they told me they had made a big mistake. They based their decision on color verses floor plan. She said every time she was in the kitchen trying to do something the children would come in and want to run back and forth to the bathroom or the bunk beds. Remember, this is going to be your home away from home. Take the time too be sure that it has all of the features that
are important to you and your family.
Your RV dealer will or should give you an RV walk thru orientation when you buy an RV.
Hopefully some of this information will help you make an informed decision when you go shopping for your camper. I can't really advise you on negotiating the price, but remember you get what you pay for.
Mark J. Polk
Copyright 2006 by Mark J. Polk owner of RV Education 101
RV Expert Mark Polk, seen on TV, is the producer & host of America's most highly regarded series of DVD's, videos, books, and e-books. http://www.rveducation101.com/
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