Buying an RV is not a simple process. The used market for these vehicles is quite deep, but depending on the format you want to own, you can find an affordable RV only to find that no RV parks will allow you to stay because your rig is too old. When you buy, keep in mind where you want to travel and where you plan to park your rig.
Not sure where to start? Not a problem. We’ll help you find and finance the RV you’ve been wanting.
Choose a Class
RV class refers to size. In order from smallest to largest, you have:
- Class B, about the size of a passenger van
- Class C, about the size of a small moving truck
- Class A, about the size of a Greyhound bus
There are also towable rigs, from a luxurious 5th wheel to a smaller bumper pull camper and down to canvas sided pop-up trailer. These towable rigs will need a particular vehicle to manage the weight of the towable RV.
Depending on where you want to park your RV, you may need to haul a "toad" (or small car) for errands. If you're in a Class B camper van and you need milk, for example, a trip to the store won't be difficult. If you're in a Class A and run out of eggs, though, a toad will be a blessing.
Also note the size of your rig when studying your travel plans. There are national parks that allow RV camping, but some roads into these campgrounds are not easy to manage in a Class A. After all, a big rig can be luxurious, but if you can't get where you want to go, your Class A isn't exactly recreational.
However, you can take classes to learn to drive your RV with confidence. At the least, you will want to take your rig into an empty parking lot and learn to manage the length and width of the RV.
Brands & Pricing
Now that you know the sizes, it’s time to settle on a brand that fits your vision and budget.
Mercedes, Dodge, and Ford are common names for Class B camper vans. The safety features of these brands are similar to minivans; for instance, you will be protected by a lap and shoulder belt combination as well as an airbag. Depending on where you want to take your Class B, remember that finding a dealership to work on a Ford Transit or a Dodge Ram Promaster will be easier than finding a mechanic to work on your Mercedes Sprinter. If you can maintain your own vehicle, this won't be a concern.
Expect to spend anywhere from $85,000 to $150,000 for a new Class B, depending on the finish. These units hold their value better than most RVs. Roadtrek and Airstream are well-known class B manufacturers.
Class C RVs are nearly always built on a Ford E-Series cutaway chassis. The front end looks and handles like a large pickup truck. A Class C is a great option for someone getting started in motorhome living, as you can get these at under 30 feet long, which makes driving them easier. If you're buying new, a Class C can be less costly than a new Class B and give you more room. Best of all, Class C's come in a variety of lengths and with a variety of finishes.
For a basic Class C, you can spend $70,000 on a new one. A bigger unit with slides and a more luxurious finish can cost you up to $200,000. Winnebago is a popular brand of Class C RV.
Many Class A RVs are built on a Ford Chassis, though you can find custom units from Newell and Prevost on a Cummins or Volvo frame.
Depending on the interior finish, the number of slides and whether or not you want a diesel pusher, you can spend from $90,000 to a million bucks on a Class A. It's not hard to find these used, but if the manufacturer is out of business, grabbing parts can be a challenge. Also, people tend to purchase these items and sell them quickly because the owners are skittish to drive them.
Our advice? Take the driving class or buy something smaller.
A dealership may be happy to finance your new RV, although you may get a better deal from another lender. If you find a used one you're interested in, for example, study the Kelly Blue Book to make sure you're not spending too much.
Good Sam Club
Once you have your used RV checked out by a mechanic, or you select your new RV and know what you want to spend, check out the financing options offered by the Good Sam Club. This organization offers a variety of services for RVers and has a detailed blog about RV life in general.
A popular RV designer and manufacturer, Lazy Days, also has many financing options for new and used RVs. They can also help you with a trade in if you're interested in moving into a bigger or smaller rig.
RV financing offers longer terms than vehicle financing. A bad credit score won't block you from getting an RV, but the interest rate may be high. Fortunately, RV insurance is not too challenging.
If you are planning to turn a Ford Transit into a camper van on your own, you'll likely need to finance the vehicle as a vehicle. If this is your intention, make sure you
- contact your insurance company,
- confirm they will cover the vehicle once you convert it, and
- consider changing your state residency if you'll be on the road permanently.
You can buy a vehicle more quickly, but insurance can be tough if your state doesn't allow you to change it from a registered vehicle to an RV. Some states allow this easily, though. Be sure to check out these rules where you live before finalizing your purchase!