Buying a motorhome

By Joanne Lemna  | 
Feb 9, 2016 7:26:06 AM

Class_A_Motorhome.jpgAnnoyed with increasingly expensive  air travel with its long waits and uncomfortable seats? Tired of endless security lines and restrictions on what you can pack? Not the type to spend the night in a tent? Want to travel in comfort at your own pace? A motorhome might be the vacation option for you.

Already, more than eight million households in North America enjoy the RVing lifestyle, but with so many different models and types of motorhomes on the market, where should you start your search? Here’s a cheat sheet to help you with buying a motorhome that fits you, your family, and your lifestyle.  

#1 Decide What You Want

The first thing you need to do is decide what you'll be using this motorhome for. Weekend getaways? Summer holidays? Snowbirding? Long term living? From there, you can figure out the features and size you want. Consider how many people you will need to sleep in your motorhome and how you plan to travel. This list catalogues all the features available in RVs and here's an excellent guide to the different classes and types of RVs.You also have to consider the practical aspect of your purchase: budget.

Keep in mind entry-level motorhomes are relatively expensive when compared to other types of RVs. But consider what you’re buying: a motorhome is both a vehicle—complete with chassis, transmission and engine—and a home. Everyday your motorhome is on the road it must withstand earthquake-type forces. Exposed to storms and extreme weather, your motorhome is expected to stay dry and function properly, even after months of storage. When viewed from this perspective, it's not surprising that even entry-level motorhome prices can cost alot. If the price is just too high for you, consider a travel trailer

#2 Do Your Research

Whether you're buying new or used, or planning to purchase from a dealer or a private seller, it's important to do your research on the manufacturers and models that fit what you want. Go online to find reviews of the company, model, and sellers. You can also stop by dealers to take a tour of the newest makes of that model. They should be able to answer any questions you might have. 

You'll want to pay special attention to regular maintenance costs. Like a regular vehicle, a motorhome is going to need oil changes and tune ups. 

#3 Start the Search and Arrange Viewings

Now it's time to start trying to find your motorhome. New or used, you have lots of options. Both dealers and private sellers will list their motorhomes on websites like kijiji and AutoTrader. Most dealers will also have their own websites, where you can view their current new and used stock. However, it's important to remember that there's a time delay between when dealers get new inventory and when it gets put on the website, so you may get lucky and find the perfect motorhome that isn't even listed yet!

Once you contact sellers and arrange viewings, or plan a day to visit your local RV dealerships, it's time to test out your potential motorhome. You'll need to bring a notebook, pen, flashlight, tire pressure gauge, and tape measure for your appointments.

#4 General Inspection

Make sure you have the following information about the RV you're interested in:

  • Owner's name and phone number
  • Manufacturer
  • Model
  • Year
  • Type/Class of RV
  • VIN
  • License Plate
  • Service records (if available)
  • Mileage
  • Price

The first thing you'll want to do is take an overall look at the RV. If it fits your wishlist, meets the practical requirements, and you're happy with its appearance and layout, it's time to give it a full inspection, inside and out. You're looking for any potential problems such as damage, pests, mould, leaks, and cracks and ensure that everything is fully functional. This includes appliances, fold-downs or pull-outs, extensions or slide-outs, lights, water, et cetera.Here's a comprehensive inspection checklist to use for every individual item to inspect in the motorhome. You also want to double check the dimensions, capacities, and weights of everything to make sure they meet your needs. This includes:

  • length
  • width
  • top clearance
  • wheelbase width
  • fuel tank (s)
  • propane tank (s)
  • water tanks - fresh, grey, and black
  • overall weight (from the manual, and when it is fully loaded)
  • engine condition

If the seller doesn't know these numbers, ask to see the motorhome's owner's manual, as they should be listed there. In fact, it's a good thing to ask to see this manual to ensure the numbers you're being told are accurate and that you'll be able to have a copy if you make the purchase. If you're happy with the results of your inspection, head on to the next step.

Don't forget to ask for a maintenance record if the motorhome is used. A good RV owner will ensure that it receives proper maintenance. If this hasn't been done, there is a good chance the motorhome will require work or be less reliable down the road.

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#5 The Test Drive

Before you go on the test drive, ensure everything is in working order, particularly the lights and brakes. 

Here's what you should be paying attention to during your test drive:

  • turning
  • acceleration
  • braking

Here's a comprehensive list of what you should look for during the road test. 

#6 Professional Inspection

If you were happy with the test drive, it's time to get the motorhome inspected by a professional. While this is an additional cost, $500 is worth it in the long run. The professional inspector will be able to find any issues that you missed and prevent you from spending your hard-earned money on a defective vehicle. This is especially important with motorhomes!

#7 Buying a Motorhome

While you can make an offer below the seller's listed price, make sure it's around the fair market value. This prevents unnecessary drawn-out haggling, and ensure you don't lose the motorhome if someone else is bidding. That being said, be sure to stick to your budget. Know your top price for that specific vehicle, taking into account its suitability and condition, and be fully prepared to walk away. 

Once your offer is accepted, make sure that a bill of sale is signed. Don't forget to get any keys or additional equipment included in the sale. You'll also need to register the motorhome and get a license.

#8 RV Insurance

Now that you’ve bought your motorhome you can hit the road, right? Not yet. Many new RV owners assume their motorhome is covered under their home or car insurance policy and don’t bother inquiring about stand-alone motorhome insurance. But just imagine finding out that the brand new, top-of-the-line motorhome you bought was suddenly reduced to a selection of pieces scattered along Pine Lake? In the summer of 2000, a tornado tore through the Green Acres Campground, a popular spot for trailers just 25 kilometres south of Red Deer, Alberta. When the storm finally blew over 12 people were dead and more than 100 were injured.  The storm also destroyed many motorhomes parked in the area.

Motorhome insurance is precisely the type of coverage that will help prevent out-of-pocket losses. As a stand-alone policy, motorhome insurance is full-time coverage that provides liability protection that’s similar to a homeowner’s policy—covering the loss and damage to the vehicle and its contents. To make sure you and your RV are properly protected, call your independent insurance broker to talk about the best motorhome insurance coverage for your needs.

#9 Enjoy!

Welcome to your new vacation home!  

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