Interest in the RV lifestyle has increased dramatically over the last few years, with over 11 million* American households and 2.1 million* Canadian households owning an RV—a 62% increase from twenty years ago. RVing provides freedom, flexibility, and is an accessible option for many people looking to vacation in North America. A “home on wheels” allows you to take in the sites at your own pace. You can even explore off-grid, if the challenge of boondocking appeals to you. Units are available to fit almost every lifestyle and budget. With so many options out there, RVT has compiled a guide of key things to look for when you’re ready to shop for a new or used RV.  

Top 15 Tips for Buying an RV

  1. Ask Yourself How You Want to Use an RV
    Knowing what you are going to use the RV for is the best place to start. Are you mainly going on day trips? Or are you more of a weekend warrior? Do you intend to live in your RV full time, or travel extensively? Are you taking family with you? Do you want to drive the vehicle, or tow it? Do you have a tow vehicle already, or is that something you need to factor into your decision? Your answers will help you decide which RV class will suit you best.
  2. Select Your RV Type
    Based on how you want to use your RV, now you can consider which RV type can make your dream come true. Motorized RVs include Class A RVs, Class C RVs, Class B+ and Camper Vans. Towable RV classes are Pop Ups and Folding Trailers, Fifth Wheel Trailers, Travel Trailers, and Toy Haulers. For more information about RV classes, see our in-depth breakdown below.
  3. Inspect the Interior and Exterior Condition of the RV
    Even in new units, watch for signs of water leakage, mold, and floor damage. Everything in the RV should feel sound. Too much give in walls and floors could indicate rot underneath. Watch for corrosion and rust in exterior panels. Look for cracked or crumbling caulking. Check the windows. Use the VIN number to see if it’s ever been damaged, stolen or rebuilt.
  4. Do a System Check
    Make sure all the systems, including electrical, plumbing, waste disposal, heating and cooling are all fully operational. 
  5. Check the Appliances
    Turn on the appliances to make sure they’re in good working order. If there’s a microwave, put a glass of water in it and run it. Is the fridge large enough to handle your family’s needs? Is there only a convection microwave but no oven? If so, does that work for your family?
  6. Gauge the Comfort of the Living Area
    Is the size appropriate? Does it have all the features you’re looking for? What about bunk beds? Bunkhouse models are great for taking kids or grandkids along. Does the unit match your lifestyle? Is it comfortable to drive?
  7. Inspect the Engine
    If your RV is motorized, check the belts and hoses for signs of wear. Look at the overall engine for cleanliness. Splatters of oil could indicate an issue you want to have checked out. Check the battery terminals for corrosion. Corroded terminals could prevent the battery from charging properly. If you aren’t comfortable with inspecting the engine, or if you notice anything of concern, have a mechanic inspect it before you buy.
  8. Check into Financing and Insurance Rates
    Work with your dealer to find out what they offer for financing. If it’s a private sale, check with your bank for the latest interest rates and finance options. Your insurance company will also be able to let you know how much insurance you need for your RV and what it will cost.
  9. Consider the Gas Mileage
    Fuel can be expensive, so take a look at the typical gas mileage for your unit or tow vehicle. A Class A may get 7-13 mpg, whereas Class C is typically around 14-18 mpg. Class B camper vans have the best gas mileage at between 18-25 mpg.
  10. Look at Online Listings
    Look for units that are the same or similar to units you are considering. This will give you an idea of unit costs. You can also consult an RV pricing guide for prices and values.
  11. Consider the Type of Storage Required
    Can you store your unit in your garage, or in a dedicated space in your yard? Do you need specialized storage for larger units? Keep in mind that many cities don’t allow driveway parking for longer than 24 hours. Camper vans are typically the exception.
  12. Great Deals May Be Too Good To Be True.
    Older RVs may require a lot more maintenance and repairs than a newer model.
  13. Read Up on the RV Lifestyle
    The RV lifestyle isn’t a fit for everyone, and there are many things to consider. Proper RV maintenance is not an option, it’s necessary. Do you want to put in the time and money into maintaining your RV? Close quarters could wear on your relationships. Can you handle having less privacy for days or weeks at a time? Are you flexible? Issues like weather, engine trouble, detours can come up. Do you like change? The open road offers the option for regular changes of scenery and new adventures anytime you want one. There are many online resources that will give you some insight into RVing life. Renting an RV is a good way to see if you enjoy it.
  14.  Take Your Time RV Shopping
    You don’t have to buy the first unit you see. This is a big lifestyle investment. Make sure it’s right for you.
  15. Buy During Off-Peak Times
    Buying at the end of the month or the end of the season may save you some money. December and January often have a lull in the market.

What Are the Different RV Classes?

There are many RV types available, and not all of them will suit your lifestyle or pocketbook. Let’s explore the options available:

Towable RVs

Towable RVs are recreational vehicles that are attached to a tow vehicle with a hitch.

Towable RVs must be pulled by a tow vehicle, such as a truck, or in some cases a van or SUV. Always make sure your tow vehicle can handle the weight of your fully loaded trailer. Check your owner’s manual or with your dealer to find out your maximum towing capacity.

Pop Up or Folding Trailers

Tent trailers and other folding hybrids are popular, family-friendly and wallet-friendly. If you’re looking for a tent-like feel, folding trailers and pop-ups will fit the bill while offering better protection from the elements. Folding trailers are lightweight and can be towed by a variety of vehicles.

Fifth Wheels
A fifth wheel is a large, heavy trailer which attaches to a fifth-wheel hitch in the bed of a three-quarter or one-ton truck. These spacious trailers typically range from 25 ft to 45 ft long. They have many features of larger motorhomes, including slideouts. 

Travel Trailers
Travel trailers are also called bumper-pull trailers. They attach to a hitch on the bumper of a tow vehicle. Most models are pulled by a truck, although some lightweight travel trailers may be pulled by an SUV, depending on towing capabilities. Many have slide outs which expand your living space. They typically range in size from 12 ft. up to 35 ft. long. When you get to your campsite, you can easily unhitch the trailer and use your tow vehicle to get around.

Toy Haulers
Toy haulers can be either fifth wheels or travel trailers. While not a specific class, they are a very popular type of RV. Toy haulers are trailers that have a garage for storing gear and ‘toys’ like bikes or four-wheelers. A large ramp at the back makes bringing your adventure gear in and out simple. The garage space can be used for more than just hauling toys. Some people use it as a porch area, an office, a workshop, or a guest bedroom. Many manufacturers offer fold away sleeping options that lower from the ceiling, entertainment systems for the garage area, and more.  

Motorized RVs 

Image of motorized RVs at a campground
Motorized RVs are any recreational vehicle that has an engine. These include Classes A, B, B+ and C.

Class A Motorhomes
Class A motorhomes are the priciest and most luxurious of the motorized RVs. They are recognizable by their bus-like appearance and flat front. Like the other motorized motorhome classes, they are self-contained. Class A motorhomes typically fall in the 29 ft. to 45 ft. range. They often have multiple slideouts and home-style features, including porcelain tile floors, residential-sized appliances, raised-panel cabinetry and more. They come in gas and diesel models, and can cost upwards of $400,000.

Class B Motorhomes
Also known as camper vans, these compact, versatile, self-contained vehicles can go anywhere a van can. At around 20 ft. long, they are smaller than the other motorized RVs, ideally suited for solo travelers or couples. They typically have a bed, bathroom, galley kitchen, and can be utilized for more than camping. They are often used for tailgating, as a spare guest room on the driveway, or even as a daily driver.

Class B+ Motorhomes
Looking for something a little larger than a Class B, but smaller than Class C? The B+ motorhome may be just what you’re looking for. These motorhomes are like a hybrid between Class B and Class C, offering a longer length (typically between 23 and 25 ft.) while keeping the compact feel of a Class B. The extra space can accommodate more people and allows for more storage and room to move around.

Class C Motorhomes
Class C motorhomes are distinguished by their cabover design and truck-style front. They typically range from 21 ft. to 45 ft. long and offer many of the luxury appointments available in Class A motorhomes, including slideouts. They are entirely self-contained and are available in diesel or gas models.

 We hope these tips will help you as you search for your new or used RV. Check out to view available units. Simple search features on the RVT sidebar will help you narrow down your search by type, manufacturer, model, even weight. To read RV owner reviews, take a look at

Enjoy your search for the RV that suits your lifestyle! 

Share this article: