8 Tips for 1st Time RV Buyers

Thinking about buying your first RV? It’s a lot of pressure to get it right before you fork over a bunch of the money you’ve worked hard for! Even if you’ve owned an RV but want to try another type, you still have a lot to consider before you make the leap. 

We’ve learned a few things as we’ve helped thousands of RVers buy their first or a different type of RV. We don’t want you to regret buying your RV! Here are 8 tips from Josh the RV Nerd that can help you be prepared and confident that your RV is the right choice.

Family at lakeside walking toward RV

What to Consider Before You Buy an RV

This kind of information isn’t always 100% beneficial to Bish’s bottom line as a dealership – but we care that you have a positive experience buying and owning your RV. We believe that you deserve to have the truth so you can do whatever is best for you.

This is why we’ve compiled tips that are true whether you’re buying from a nationwide dealership or from Jim and Denise down the road. 

Here are our 8 tips to prevent the pitfalls some first-time buyers fall into. 

1 – Don’t Buy an RV

Huh? Aren’t we here to talk buying RVs? Well, maybe. 

While we certainly want to sell RVs, we also certainly don’t want you to sink thousands of dollars into something that is a terrible fit for your lifestyle. 

One way to know if you like RVing? Try it first! If you can rent or borrow a camper first – even if it’s just for a weekend – you can have a better idea if RVing is a lifestyle you could enjoy or if it’s a big no thank you. 

Here’s how we see it, if you purchase first and then hate it . . .uh oh. It’s no easy task to get out of RVing once you’ve made the leap to purchase an RV. It’s much less risky to borrow or rent before you dive right in. 

2 – Speak with Real Humans 

We’ve seen plenty of RV shoppers who only want to use text or email through the buying process. 

I get it! I picked my doctor, dentist, and daughter’s gymnastics teacher solely based on which places allowed me to set everything up without speaking to a human being. 

Yep, there can be comfort in getting things done click by click without real time interactions, but before you fork over tens to hundreds of thousands of dollars for an RV you should talk to a human who can really walk you through the process. 

Someone with more knowledge about RVing can provide answers to questions you don’t know you have yet. If you never talk one to one, it’s hard for your RV seller to get down to what you know and don’t know. 

Talking to a salesperson when you’re buying a towable camper, like a travel trailer or fifth wheel, for example, could be the difference between buying an RV your vehicle should tow and one that’s not a safe choice. 

You may say to salesperson Bill, “Hey Bill, my man, I want to buy this here Jayco Pinnacle.” 

Bill, at this point, is very excited to sell you that fifth wheel. But, in conversation, you also mention your half-ton truck named Sweet Peaches. Bill will have the knowledge to tell you it’s not safe for Sweet Peaches to tow a Pinnacle. 

This is way more common than you might think!

**Crazy stat alert!** According to a Go RVing study more than 50% of towable RV owners exceed their vehicle’s tow rating with their RV’s gross vehicle weight rating (GVWR). This means that over half of people are not towing safely! Yikes! 

Avoid being on the scary side of that statistic by interacting and being open with a salesperson. Your safety is the most important thing a salesperson should care about. (And if they don’t make it priority #1…run). 

Towing is just one area where a salesperson can have insight. Having personal interactions can mean getting the help you don’t always know you need before you put down money. 

3 – Start with a Used RV

Buying a used RV can be a less expensive way to try out RVing. There are, however, advantages and drawbacks to buying a used RV. Consider this when you make your decision. 

Benefits of Buying a Used RV

Lower price

A used RV has already been through a depreciation cycle, so you don’t have to eat the value the RV lost when it left the lot.

Easier to Buy, Easier to Sell

The lower price makes it easier to get into a used RV. The lower price tag also means it’s easier to sell the RV if it’s not the lifestyle for you. The easier entry/exit strategy helps you decide how committed you are to RVing.

Most RV owners do find they love RVing and want to keep going. These RVers may eventually trade up to a new RV. If this is you, you can use the used RV as a trade in or sell it yourself for money toward your new RV. 

If you don’t love RVing, less upfront investment = less you lose when you sell the RV. 

Disadvantages of Buying a Used RV

No Warranty

New RVs come with a manufacturer warranty. The warranty usually won’t transfer to a second owner, even if it’s still under warranty when you buy it. Some manufacturers will allow a transfer for an added fee, though most don’t choose to add it. 

The loss of warranty protection is part of the depreciation of a new RV when it becomes used.  

Limited Inventory

Remember going to the gas station as a kid to get a 25¢ grab bag of candy? Sometimes you got a winner, like a bag of Cabbage Patch Kids. Sometimes it was the rock-hard black licorice and filmy, old Werther’s butterscotches they couldn’t offload to Grandma. 

When you took a dollar into 7-11 you got to choose anything you wanted from the candy aisle – Snickers, Twix, Reese’s – it was all there, and you could pick. But the 25¢ grab bag gave you sugar without choices. You didn’t get to be choosy for a quarter. 

When you look for a used RV, you may find a grab bag selection. 

Used buyers pay less but can’t be as choosy as those buying new. Rare gems will show up. If you find that one, grab it! It may be the option you like best for a while. Otherwise, you may have to wait around or settle for something different than you had in mind. 

It’s usually easier to find a used RV with a popular floor plan. If this is what you’re looking for, you may not be as bothered by the limited selection. If you want something less common, buying used could be a challenge. 

Financing Problems

Banks may give more favorable rates and/or terms to new RVs. Some lenders have a same as new policy for used RVs . . . but with caveats. 

            -The RV usually needs to be less than 5 years old

            -You’ll have to meet certain qualifying criteria with your credit

Usually, the price for the used RV is low enough to make up for less favorable financing conditions, so investigate before you decide financing means buying used isn’t an option for you. 

In some situations, the bank may be completely unwilling to finance an RV sale. For example, if an RV is too old, the bank may say no way. RVs must get pretty darn old before this happens.


You buy it, you own it. A used RV comes as-is. A used RV can have issues you aren’t prepared for. Check out this video from Josh the RV Nerd so you know what to look out for when you buy a used RV. 

4 – Hire an RV Inspector

A bank will require an inspection before you can use a bank to finance a home purchase. They need to know your house is worth the investment. An RV is also a big-ticket purchaseWhy wouldn’t you do an inspection before putting your money into an RV?

Whether you buy used or new/from a dealer or from somewhere like Facebook Marketplace, you should really consider hiring an RV inspector.

You might sink money into an inspector to find you don’t want the RV you thought you wanted. But, this way, you’re sinking a lot fewer dollars into finding out it’s not worth buying than you would if you actually bought the RV and thenlearned it wasn’t worth your money. 

How do you hire an RV inspector? Simply search “RV Inspector near me” to find local options or use this RV Inspector locator from NRVI

You will need to ask a dealership what their policy is on having an inspector come check out the RV. If they won’t allow it, that can be a red flag that something shady is going on. That isn’t always the case, but keep it in mind. 

Some dealers may require one of their own techs to accompany the inspector. In this case you’ll likely be required to pay for that tech’s time as well. 

Again, this expense is a relatively cheap insurance policy compared to buying something with a problem you didn’t know about.

5 – Ask What You’re Actually Getting for Your Money

Find out exactly what is included with your money. Get it in writing. Don’t make any assumptions! 

You may think the RV comes with the battery, the hoses, the cables, and everything else. Not necessarily! Every dealership/private individual will be different and provide something different. 

Find out the following:

6 – Put Money Down!

70-75% of Bish’s RV customers finance their RV. When you finance your RV, it is wise to put whatever money down that you comfortably and reasonably can. 

It really benefits you to put money down. Doing so can even get you a better interest rate from the bank. The interest rate you’re given is an assessment of the risk the bank takes by lending you money. Making your purchase less risky by putting money down may make the bank more inclined to soften your interest rate. 

Putting money down may even be the factor that makes a bank willing to work with you at all! 

Imagine you’re a banker and someone comes to you and asks for $25,000 to buy a camper. They want you to give them the whole amount while they proooomise to pay it back slowly. Sound good to you? 

Now imagine the same person comes and says I want to buy this camper, but here’s $2,500 of it. You now know the person you’re lending money to is invested in making this purchase work and they’re not just going to disappear with the money without paying it back. You also know they have some money and will likely have more in the future. 

Plain and simple, your money down makes you more appealing to the bank. 

Money down also reduces your risk. You’ll be able to more easily trade up or get out of your camper if the need comes up. 

Say you love your camper, but you have a medical emergency and need to offload it – money down puts you in a position to sell it without losing money. 

We also recommend covering the cost of accessories and taxes out of pocket. If you finance your hitch, it quickly becomes the most expensive hitch you’ll ever own. And it gives me the chills just thinking of paying interest on . . . taxes. That’s gonna be a no from me.

Money down will also affect your monthly payment. Check out our payment calculator to see how money down can impact you.

7 – Make Sure Someone Will Teach You to Use the RV

Before you buy your camper verify that someone will show you how the RV works. And then, most importantly, record the walkthrough or orientation. 

Point your camera at whatever they’re telling you about. Zoom in on each part and get a good look at the item. As soon as you get home, rewatch the walkthrough to retain more of what you learned. 

Emotions and excitement are high when you pick up your RV, but when you get home, you’ll realize you were given a lot of information to remember on your own. Recording the walkthrough will relieve that pressure. 

You may still need help after you have your walkthrough. Ask the dealer you’re buying from what services they offer after you buy your RV. Bish’s offers technical assistance to all our RV buyers for the first year as part of our Diamond Club Membership.

8 – Ask Questions. A Lot of Them. 

It may seem like common sense to remind you to ask questions, but surprisingly a lot of buyers just . . . don’t. Not asking enough can cause RVers a lot of frustration down the road. 

The salesman, dealership, or Jim and Denise just don’t know what you do or don’t know so they can’t fill every knowledge gap if you don’t ask. 

Pro-tip: Sneak in one or two questions you already know the answer to.

You’re giving this company or person a lot of money. When you buy an RV, you can use your questions to interview the seller. 

You may ask, for example, if the camper has an enclosed belly. If you know the answer and they give you the wrong one, you may decide this isn’t someone you trust and want to give thousands of your hard-earned dollars.

Now You’re Ready!

With this information you’re ready to buy your first RV or try a different type! Again, this advice isn’t always 100% beneficial to us, but we’ve seen the RV buyers who have quality information, and we want you to be that empowered RV buyer – no matter where you buy. 

If you are ready to look around, check out our inventory at Bish’s RV to see if we have the used or new RV you’re looking for. 

Our no-pressure sales outfitters would also love to answer any of your questions or help you find your first RV – new or used. Contact us anytime, we’re here to help!

Curious what an RV will cost before you buy? Learn more about what a new RV costs.

Learn more from Josh the RV Nerd

becki johnson at bish's rv

Becki Johnson

Bish’s RV Content Editor & Writer

20 years in the RV industry and a lifetime around RVs have convinced me that nature is a lot better with a comfortable bed and working bathroom.

I love to use what I’ve learned to help RVers find the best RV for the best possible price.