Let me preface this article with a reminder that this is just my opinion on buying a motor home. Your experience may need to differ from mine. Still, you can use this as a guide when you are doing your own shopping.
Do you Need a Motor Home?
Would you be just as happy with something else? A motor home purchase isn’t something to be taken lightly. You may be able to spend a lot less money up front and year to year if you buy a camper or trailer.
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I’m a happy motor home owner now, so this isn’t an attempt to talk you out of buying one. But you should go into the purchase as informed as you can be. Motor homes provide a fantastic way to see the country in comfort and style, but they are expensive.
Choose Manufacturers First
Before you talk to a salesperson, you’ll need to narrow down your options. There are a lot of manufacturers and models, and it can be overwhelming.
How Much Can You Spend?
Know which manufacturers you can afford by figuring out the funding you have to work with. If you do not want to finance your motor home, be realistic about what you can afford. The purchasing doesn’t stop once you buy it, because it’s a lot like buying a second home. You’ll need funds to buy a lot of other things, and you can get an idea of the spend by reading through the checklist I’ve put together.
Once you know how much money to reserve, see what you have left. If you don’t have enough, consider financing. A motor home with a bathroom and kitchen is treated as a second home for tax purposes, and loans reflect that. You can get a 20-year loan with a relatively low annual percentage rate, and payments will be very small compared to an auto loan. Prepare to put at least 10% down on your new motor home if you are financing.
Call a bank or other financial institution to see what their rates are and where the breaks are in motor home ages. When I was shopping in 2017, a motor home older than 2015 would mean a higher interest rate. That meant I wanted to get something made in 2015 or later.
Find a List of Manufacturers Sorted by Quality
I used the list on RVT.com to start, and cross-referenced it with other lists. Of course, everyone wants to get the best they can when purchasing a home. I started at the top of the list (Monaco) and went to their site and RVTrader.com to see what I could afford. I couldn’t afford anything from Monaco that I liked, so I moved down the list. Tiffins were closer to my price range, but still too expensive.
Next was Fleetwood, and I liked what I found. Not only are they consistently ranked high in quality and customer satisfaction, the price points I was finding were where I could afford a lower-end Fleetwood model. I also liked Holiday Rambler and Winnebago, the next two on the list. I found my short list of manufacturers, and it was time to head out into the wild.
Shopping in Person
I looked for a dealership that featured Fleetwood models, and then headed off to LazyDays RV. I purchased my popup through Camping World and didn’t have a very good experience, so I would be looking for a different way to buy the motor home. The LazyDays showroom was amazing, and I was able to see quite a few Fleetwood models. I wasn’t sure what I wanted other than Fleetwood.
Types of Motor Homes
The first decision will be between Class A, Class B, or Class C. Class B motor homes are the smallest, and designed for touring more than camping. I knew I wanted to tow and have slideouts for more room, so it was easy for me to cross Class B motor homes off of my list.
A Class C can have almost as much room as a Class A, and it’s a bit easier to drive. I gave them both a lot of thought, and eventually crossed the Class C off of my list. A Class A usually has the driver’s and passenger’s seats on the same level as the rest of the coach, so you can flip them around to have more seating. There is usually more head room, and the front window is huge in a Class A. They can also usually tow more, so I chose the Class A.
You would think that choosing a manufacturer and type of motor home would bring you close to the final decision, but then you start looking at floor plans. If you are looking at multiple manufacturing years, you’ll have still more floor plans to consider. This is often the most difficult part of the decision-making process. Things to consider:
- How many people will usually be sleeping in the motor home, and how tall are they? You may need a bunkhouse floor plan (with bunk beds) or just a king-sized bed for two.
- Will you do a lot of cooking in the motor home? Think about appliances (refrigerator, three-burner stove, oven, dishwasher), the sink (size, material, faucet), and counter space.
- Do you need a big shower? Larger and taller people may have a hard time with the smaller showers (don’t be afraid to get inside showers in the showroom, shut the doors, and pretend to wash your hair).
- Is a queen-sized bed enough, or do you want a king-sized bed in the master bedroom?
- Do you want a couch and a dinette or would one of those be enough?
- How many pounds will you be towing?
- Do you want extras like a washer and dryer, fireplace, or outdoor grill?
Once you have your short list of models, search for them on YouTube.com. There are lengthy walk-throughs of almost all models, put together by dealerships and vendors. If you watch multiple videos of the same model you can get a very good idea of what to expect from it.
For me, I wanted a shower that was a decent size and a main TV that was directly across from the couch. I also liked the floor plans with doors in the middle of the coach instead of in the front, which really cut down the number of options I had.
Getting the Most for Your Money
Don’t assume you have to buy locally. It may seem easier to have your dealership within driving distance when there are problems with your new motor home, but in many cases you will pay a lot more for that option. You don’t have to get your motor home serviced where you purchased it.
Start by looking online for the models you have in mind. RVTrader.com is an amazing resource because it features new and used coaches, and almost all dealerships use it. It will give you a good idea of how much your dream RVs will cost. You can also pick out individual coaches with the right prices.
Once you have one or two you like, call the dealership to talk about it. In some cases, their price is negotiable. Many salespeople will help you find the right coach if they can’t meet your requirements.
I ended up flying from Denver to Dallas to pick my motor home up from Motor Home Specialists. I worked with Jimmy on the phone, who was very helpful and patient with all of my questions. Then I put $1,000 down and went to go pick it up. They got me from the airport to the dealership, fed me lunch in their restaurant, and I signed the paperwork by noon. They have hookups and places to camp at their dealership, so I was able to really make sure I was ready before I drove away. I was even able to drive around their lot and practice parking before ever leaving the dealership. Even with the drive home from Dallas, I paid less than I would have if I bought it locally.
With some careful planning, you can find your dream RV.