Freedom and flexibility are driving the growing popularity of recreational vehicles. Nearly 8 million Americans, one in every 12 vehicle-owning households, own a RV. Independent American travelers like to go where they want, when they want and, fortunately, there are RVs for every taste and budget. Prices for new vehicles run from $4,000 to $13,000 for pop-up campers to $58,000 to $400,000 for luxury motorhomes, with the used RV market offering great bargains.

In choosing a RV, consider how you plan to use it. If you want full access to the interior while you’re on the road, shop for a motorized motorhome. These fully-contained units have a driver’s cockpit in the front, followed by a kitchen/sitting area, bathroom and bedroom. Motorhomes come in three classes: Type A luxury motorhomes are the largest, Type B van campers are the smallest, and Type Cs cover everything in between.

Towables are the other popular RV style. Towed behind the family car or pickup, towables include folding camping trailers (pop ups), truck campers, travel trailers and fifth-wheel trailers. The advantage of towables is the ability to unhook the RV and use your vehicle to get around your destination. In considering towable RVs, make sure the tow vehicle has the muscle to handle the job. The certified weight of the RV – total weight with standard equipment, including full water and propane tanks – must match the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating of the tow vehicle. Remember to include the weight of optional equipment and stored gear and check hitch requirements.

Buying a RV is a cross between buying a house and a car. Inspect the exterior and interior condition, make sure all systems (electric, plumbing, water filtration, waste disposal, heating and cooling, generator) are operational, gauge the comfort of living space, and check the functionality of appliances, fixtures and hook ups. Make sure it’s comfortable to drive and that the motor is in good condition. You may want to have a mechanic check anything you’re not sure about.

Do your financing homework before you shop and check insurance rates. Search online RV listings and the free NADA RV pricing guide to get an idea of the retail and sales prices. Before you take delivery, thoroughly inspect and test drive the RV. Get a complete safety and operations orientation and collect the bill of sale, title, instruction manuals, and any maintenance records.

Buying a RV is an investment in lifestyle. Before you buy, consider renting a RV to see if the RV lifestyle is for you.