Does buying a travel trailer seem overwhelming? I know it can be. When you first begin looking at trailers, there are so many things to consider! Where do you even start?
To answer this question, I asked 9 RV experts for their top three tips for buying a travel trailer.
I emailed top RV travel bloggers, and asked RV.net forum members, this one question:
“If you could give 3 tips to someone buying an RV or travel trailer, what would they be?”
The Top Answers
The tips I received varied greatly, but there were three that stood out, coming from multiple experts.
Spend time in the trailer before you buy it.
Make sure your vehicle can tow your trailer easily; don’t buy too heavy a trailer.
Buy the best quality trailer you can afford
Read on to discover all three of each expert’s tips.
Ray Burr – Love Your RV
“Make sure the trailer and truck match up well. You want to ideally have about a 15-20% margin of safety in the towing and weight capacities of your truck. If you get too close to the max weights or overload the truck’s capabilities not only is it dangerous it’s not a very pleasant towing experience. Don’t let an RV salesman tell you it will be OK for your truck to handle the trailer, they usually have no clue. Check with the truck manufacture or a trusted mechanic.”
Spend time in the trailer before buying
“Once you have narrowed down your choices to a few trailers go and spend some time in them. Pretend to do things you would repetitively do while living it. For instance, make a meal, watch TV, do the dishes, use the bathroom, have a shower, etc. You’d be surprised when you physically pretend to do these things that annoyances pop-up. Better to know that before the purchase.”
Buy from a reputable dealer
“Buy from a reputable dealer. I would rather spend a little more money and have a good dealer that will answer questions and serve my needs after the sale than get a so-called deal. RVs are very complex items and almost always even new ones will need something tweaked or fixed. Getting a deal from a shoddy dealership can turn into a nightmare if things go wrong. You’ll also find that a good dealer will have more sway with the manufacture and can help you out if there is a dispute.”
Chris and Cherie – Technomadia
See how they age
“Whether you’re buying new or used, try to find one of the same brand/model about 5-10 years older than you’re considering to see how they hold up over time.”
Spend time in the trailer before buying
“Spend a lot of time inside each potential RV to feel how it will be like to live in. Check things out like using the shower, sitting on the toilet, getting dressed and moving about with other people in the RV with you.”
Spend extra for quality
“Spend extra for quality, not necessarily whiz-band features that you probably won’t use anyway.”
Marianne Edwards – Frugal RV Travel
“Be patient. Don’t buy until you’ve devoted a good amount of time to research – compare prices on web sites listing used RVs and invest $139.00 to join the RV consumer group, http://rv.org/ – a non-profit web site providing independent ratings on all manner of RVs including travel trailers.”
“If you want the best price, avoid dealerships. They generally have made it look pretty (cleaned it up, touched up paint, etc) but don’t offer a warranty on used trailers (or, if they do it’s very limited) so, although you’ve paid more, you’re no better off than in a private deal.”
Learn about the trailer and seller
“With a private sale, learn the seller’s profile. Look for a one-owner trailer and get as many details as you can about how they used it, why they’re selling, what parts have been replaced. If anything doesn’t sound right, be extra cautious or walk away. If the price seems too good to be true, it probably is. Copy down the serial number personally and check police records to be sure it’s not stolen.”
Jason Wynn – Gone With the Wynns
Spend time in the trailer before buying
“Tell the salesperson to leave you alone! You need to sit in the RV for a couple of hours and hash out your daily routine. Pretend cook, wash dishes, put away dishes, sit down to eat, sleep, watch TV, take a shower, all the daily stuff you do should be acted out to see if that RV will work for your individual needs.”
Don’t pay MSRP
“Don’t ever pay MSRP. The salesperson might try and offer you a 5% immediate discount but you should demand more. With motorized RV’s the discount can be up to 30% off MSRP, not sure about trailers but I know there’s some major wiggle room. Also if there is an incentive you know about (for example with our first RV purchase there was a $500 off discount if you are a member of a credit union) try to negotiate your price first, then bring up the incentive.”
Set it up properly
“After you purchase pay very close attention to the walk-through and PDI! If your dealer has electric plugs and a dump station plan on staying at their property overnight as a ‘shakedown’ night to see what all might need to be fixed in your new RV. Once you get the first round of things repaired you should plan on taking a long weekend camping trip but don’t go too far away, you never know what may malfunction in a new RV, and you don’t want to be too far away from home should something crazy happen.”
User “bike dan” – via RV.net forums
- “Check for water damage”
- “Make sure you have a tow vehicle capable of safely towing the loaded trailer, along with the vehicle being loaded.”
- “Buy your second trailer, first!”
User “wannavolunteerFT” – via RV.net forums
“Spend some time in the trailer. can you reach the cabinets/storage or do you need a stool or to get down on the floor? can you sit in the bathroom with the door shut? Can you dress in the bathroom or is there an easy to manage alternative? any of these questions can be answered by spending some time in a TT and going through how you will do everything you do in a day and night.”
User “Crowley” – via RV.net forums
- “Buy the best quality you can. If you need to, go used for better quality”
- “Spend a lot of time in the trailer evaluating the floor plan. Is the bed long enough? Can you sit comfortably and watch the TV? Can you walk around easily? Can you cook easily? Can you make the bed? Can you access the sink? Etc.”
- “Make sure your tow vehicle can not only handle the weight but you have a buffer. DO not be at near max weight with the trailer loaded for a trip.”
User “Halmfamily” – via RV.net forums
- “Hit as many dealers and RV shows as you can before you make a decision. With so many floor plans and different qualities, you’ll want to see as many as you can. Our dealer said over 50% of first-time buyers come back within two years to buy a different floor plan.”
- “Make sure your tow vehicle is capable of handling the trailer not just pulling it. We made that mistake.”
- “Negotiate for the best price and research the price thoroughly before buying. Get several offers from outside dealers and take these to your local dealer. Ours came within $500 of our lowest quote and saved us a 500-mile trip.”
- “RV’ing is not cheap, so if your getting an RV to save money on vacations you might want to rethink your decision. The factor is the cost of RV, tow vehicle, hitch, brake controller, extra fuel, insurance, accessories, and campground fees.”
User “loulou57” – via RV.net forums
“Really “listen” to the salesman/dealer owner and “hear” what he isn’t telling you!
Make sure that the new unit he is selling you is new. If he tells you it has never been registered…Ask him if it has ever been slept in!
Long story but a unit was sold as new but it had been either loaned or rented out. Evidence found after-sale complete and money exchanged.”
User “myredracer” – via RV.net forums
- “Rent one first. You can find some campgrounds that have rental units on them. That’s how we got our first introduction and we learned a few good things from that experience. It’s also what got us hooked.”
- “Don’t go out spending a bundle of cash on your first TT and don’t spend another bundle of cash on mods and upgrades to it. BTDT. There’s a good probability that it will not be your last and you may not have it that long. The value of new TTs plummets from new and you could lose a lot of that bundle of cash if you go and sell it down the road. Once you get into RV-ing and see other units and go to RV shows, there’s gonna be way nicer than what you have. Again, BTDT too…”
- “Learn what to look for in TTs when you go around and look at them in person. Look under the trailers and see how the frames differ. Some are awful and some are good. Frames don’t usually get looked at much, especially by first-time buyers.
See if floors feel soft. Look inside cabinets and see what the fit and finish is like and look for things out of plumb, level & square. Some cabinetry can be poorly put together. When narrowing down, spend some time inside a unit. Sit down and picture yourself doing various activities and think about functionality.
Where would you hang coats when you come and go in rainy or cold weather? TVs can be in difficult to see locations. Storage can be inadequate and poorly laid out. Is there enough kitchen counter area? Pass-through doors can be too small while some are generous in size. Some pass-through spaces can be much larger than others even though they are located similarly under the forward-facing queen bed. Look at the cargo carrying capacity between makes and models. Sometimes the CCC is almost nothing after you have the TT all loaded up for camping while some manufacturers are realistic and generous on CCC. Download one of the pre-purchase checklists from the internet for ideas of some things to look for.”
TIP #4: “Bonus item. Get a pair of walkie-talkies for backing into a site. This may just save a marriage one day. (Another BTDT )
Oh yeah, and as said alluded to above, never believe what a salesman tells you. All they want to do is sell you something, anything, that puts cash in their jeans….”
Buying a travel trailer doesn’t have to be overwhelming. In this roundup, we’ve shared the advice of 9 experts on how to simplify the process of buying a trailer. Hopefully buying that new trailer doesn’t seem as complicated as it once did!
Once again, here are the top three tips:
- Spend time in the trailer before you buy it.
- Make sure your vehicle can tow your trailer easily; don’t buy too heavy a trailer.
- Buy the best quality trailer you can afford.
That first tip – about spending time in the trailer before buying – was mentioned by 5 out of the 9 experts. That surprised me – it’s certainly a good tip!
Also – a big THANK YOU to all the experts who generously shared their wisdom, for the benefit of all of us!
One more thing – if you haven’t yet, consider joining the Best Travel Trailers Newsletter. You’ll get access to free material, as well as emails when we post new guides.
I hope you enjoyed these expert tips, and that they will aid you in finding the right trailer for you!