Everyone makes mistakes. Everyone makes mistakes when planning their transition to the RV lifestyle. There is just too much misinformation out there and, like many things in life, there is more than one right answer. What works for my wife and I might not work for you. Even if you make all perfect choices starting out, your wants and needs are a moving target. Your desires change the longer you’re on the road.
All the same, the “wish I’d knowns” for the RV lifestyle tend to fall into several broad categories.
RV Sales People Live In Houses
They manage an inventory of hundreds of units probably from more than one manufacturer. Maybe they go camping on the weekends, maybe they’re usually busy working on the weekends. The job of your RV sales person is to sell you a camper. They probably don’t know the finer details of RV living because they live in an apartment or house. With the pace of RV sales today, they probably don’t know the product, inventory or manufacturing processes as well as you might think.
Not Understanding Safe Towing
This is a big one. There is probably more misinformation on the internet about towing than any other topic. Safe towing weights, tongue weight, gross vehicle weight, it’s a maze of terms and confusing definitions. Terrain is also a factor. Towing on flat ground is one thing, towing in the mountains is a whole different animal. How you connect to the trailer makes a difference as well. Bumper pull is very different than a 5th wheel. So many variables. If it wasn’t confusing enough salesman tend to toss around terms like half-ton and three quarter-ton, like they mean something. Take a look at the towing guide for Ford F-150s. You’ll find a wide variation of towing capacities with trucks carrying the same model name.
You can go one of two ways and I say pick one and stick to it. You can start with the truck and shop for campers you can safely tow. The other option is start with the camper, then go truck shopping. And just because your truck is rated for a certain weight doesn’t mean it’ll be any fun to drive dragging that much weight. I set a personal limit of 80% of our trucks rated capacity.
Not Getting The Difference Between Layout and Size
The length of your camper is meaningless if it has a poorly designed floor plan. I’ve been in 38 foot toy haulers that felt cramped. Yet, I feel like our 25 foot bread loaf is very roomy. The floorplan makes a HUGE difference in whether your camper feels comfortable or cramped.
Not Understanding Depreciation
We bought a new camper for a specific reason. Otherwise, we would have bought one used, especially since we were paying cash. When we drove out of the lot I joked with my wife that the bump at the road was the $5,000 curb. We lost five large on that bump. You can do a lot of fixing on a camper for that kind of money.
Not Understanding RV Repair Options
How big of a problem is delamination on the side of a camper? How much does it cost to get a new roof? When you’re buying a used camper and you’re new to the lifestyle, it’s hard to know what’s a big problem and what’s fixable. For the record, delamination is a big problem. A new membrane type roof is manageable. Water damage is bad but campers are pretty easy to repair. Refrigerators and A/C units are expensive. A water heater runs $300-$500 installed, depending on the size.
If you’re not sure about an RV roof, then invest in something like RV Armor (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7vJb528pRNY). It comes with a lifetime warranty. That’s a lot of peace of mind for around $130 a foot.