From an expert: The biggest mistakes new RV owners make
The RV industry is booming. More people than ever are ready to camp up and down the coast, or cross national parks off their bucket list.
So, Dave Ross talked with Alan Warren, known on Texas radio as The RV Wingman. Warren wants to steer RV owners both new and seasoned in the right direction. Here’s his list of the biggest mistakes “newbies” make when purchasing an RV.
Thinking your RV is a car
It seems obvious, but you might be taking certain things for granted under that “vehicle” label. With a car or truck, you can expect your warranty to work at any dealer in the country. Not true for RVs.
“There are no franchise agreements between the manufacturers in the RV industry and their dealers,” Warren said. “Which means if you have a problem with your RV, you can’t go to the same kind of a dealer in a different city and expect them to fix your RV. They don’t have to do that.”
These days, Warren points out, damage often happens before your RV even leaves the lot, while its being transported from the manufacturer to the dealer. Dealers then offer a warranty to fix anything that comes up in the first few months.
But again, that warranty won’t work if you hit the road and drive up to the same dealer in another state.
“To think that you could get a trouble-free RV and just go and have a good time and never have to worry about it, that is a fantasy,” Warren said.
“One of the biggest problems that RV owners have is they don’t maintain their RV, and that’s just the ugly truth,” Warren said.
Cracks and weathered plastic from sun exposure on the roof of your RV can result in serious water damage. Warren recommends climbing up on top of your RV to check for damage and seal places where water could enter.
You also have to keep in mind that your RV will have heating, air conditioning, and plumbing that all need to be maintained.
“They’re rolling homes, and to expect them to hold together going down the highway and going through all kinds of different terrain, it’s an unrealistic expectation,” Warren said.
Luckily, Warren says that 80 percent of the problems you’re likely to encounter with your RV, you can fix on your own. You just have to be proactive.
“It’s best if you’re sort of a do-it-yourself kind of person,” Warren said.
Splurging When You Could Be Saving
“I tell people to put away a couple of hundred dollars per month in a fund, sort of like a savings account, for future repairs,” Warren said. “And don’t touch it.”
“Just because you may go a year without having to use it, don’t go and spend it on a cruise or something. Save that money because eventually — if you use your RV enough — you are going to have some issues. And if you don’t have the money set aside, it can put you in a bind.”
Assuming This Will Cost Less Than a Home
“It’s not as inexpensive as people think. You can spend a little bit or you can spend an awful lot,” Warren said. “If you’ve got homeowner association fees and a big mortgage payment and you’re an empty nester and you don’t need those kinds of things in your life, you can probably save some money while RVing.”
But campgrounds cost money and that can add up quickly. So do repairs. You also need to consider the size and amenities of the RV you really want. Are you picturing a small camper on the back of your truck, or a big rig tour bus?
“It can work for some people, but not all people.”
Knowing What You’re Getting Into
“Can you live with the person — your significant other — without killing each other, in a little 400 or 200 square foot crate on skates? A lot of people can’t do that,” Warren said. “You gotta figure out whose gonna go get in the dog house, and where is the dog house, anyway?”