Recreational vehicle sales are soaring, and the RV industry expects 2021 to be a record-breaking year. As any RV owner will tell you, though, buying a motor home, camper or trailer is a complex process that requires a ton of decisions. If you are considering your first RV, these are some of the errors to avoid.
Mistake 1: Assuming you will save a lot of travel money. If you want to make a motorhome owner laugh, say something silly like, "I bet you save a ton of money on hotels!"
Well, maybe. But new motor homes typically cost $60,000 to $500,000, according to the RV Industry Association. Add in the cost of gas plus insurance, maintenance and the inevitable repairs. Campground fees typically run $25 to $80 a night. You may need to pay for storage if you can't park the rig at your house, since many cities limit the time that RVs can be parked on the street. Storage can cost $30 to $450 a month, depending on whether it's outdoors or indoors, heated or unheated, near a major city or out in the boonies.
Campers and trailers can be more economical — as long as you already own the truck or SUV you need to haul them. Pop-up trailers and truck campers start at around $6,000, according to the RVIA. Travel trailers usually range from $6,000 to $55,000.
If you need a loan, you may wind up paying a lot of interest over time. Add it all up, you could spend a lot of time in some pretty nice hotels for what you will pay camping in an RV.
Mistake 2: Buying new.
As with cars, RVs lose a considerable amount of value the second they are driven off the dealership lot. For example, RV Trader — one of the biggest RV marketplaces — recently advertised a 2021 Winnebago Navion 24D for sale in California with a list price close to $160,000. The 2019 version, with just 5,200 miles, was listed for $120,000.
You may worry that a used RV will be a money pit, and that could be true. But unlike cars, RVs often aren't trouble-free even when they are new. There may be leaks, rattles and manufacturing defects. The first owner may spot and fix the worst problems before passing the RV on to you.
Mistake 3: Rushing your purchase. You could really regret joining the stampede to buy an RV. Normally, you can negotiate a discount of 20% or more off a new RV's sticker price. But the pandemic slowed production at factories just as demand surged over travel safety concerns. The result is a seller's market. That means a lot less wiggle room on prices for new and used rigs. A year or two of high demand is often followed by a lull, though, so consider renting an RV now and buying after things calm down.
Liz Weston is a columnist at NerdWallet. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org. Twitter: @lizweston.