RV FAQ's & Tips: Buying an RV

This section of the web site is a collection of Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ's) and Tips about RV's and the RVing lifestyle.

Where can I find RV ratings?

The most comprehensive list of RV ratings have been compiled by the RV Consumer Group (RVCG). This information is available in the form of ratings CD's. The CD's include software for searching the ratings database with various criteria. Links to these resources can be found in the Must Read section of the RV Books & Resources page.

Another invaluable source of "ratings" are the RV discussion groups. Here you can solicit feedback from those who have first-hand experience with the models you are considering.

How do I determine the fair price of an RV?

The best way to determine the fair price of new or used RV's is to look at the actual selling price of similar units. This information can be gleaned from other RV owners, online auction sites, and RV dealers who make their selling prices public. As an additional tool, consult the depreciation tables provided on the RV Consumer Group ratings CD. For a detailed explanation of these concepts, please read Determining an RV's Fair Market Value.

What is the best RV to buy?

There is no such thing as the "best RV". One individual's best RV may be completely unsuitable for another. To answer this question for yourself, you must decide how you plan to use the RV, where you would like to take it, how many people will be traveling with you, how much you would like to spend, and various other questions. Our Getting Started checklist guides you through the decision making process to find your best RV.

How do I inspect an RV before buying?

An RV inspection consists of looking over all areas thoroughly for signs of problems. Most components of an RV can be competently inspected by the average person possessing good observation skills. Complex components such as engines, transmission, suspension, and brakes should be inspected by a professional. To gain experience and confidence in what to look for, go through the RV Inspection Checklist with several new RV's first, so that you will be able to recognize problems on used units.

What are the best web sites for buying a used RV?

We have found the following three web sites to offer the largest number of used recreational vehicle listings:

  1. RVT.com
  2. eBay Motors
  3. RV Trader Online
  4. RVSearch.com

For additional buying resources, please see our Buy an RV page.

What is a wide-body RV?

A wide-body RV is one with an external body width greater than 96 inches (8 feet). The most common wide-body widths are 100" and 102". On some models, equipment such as mirrors, lights, and awning mechanisms may extend farther than the body width.

Most large motor homes, fifth wheels, and travels trailers being manufactured today are 102" wide. The wider body permits a more spacious floor plan for snowbirds, fulltimers, and others with longer travel plans.

Before buying a wide-body RV, be sure to check the maximum widths allowed on the roads in the jurisdictions you plan to travel.

Are wide-body RV's legal on all roads?

Though rarely enforced, a vehicle wider than 96" is not legal on all U.S. public roads. Interstates are regulated by the federal government and allow vehicles up to 102" wide. The 102" maximum is often exceeded by awning mechanisms attached to the side of wide-body RV's, making them illegal in most jurisdictions.

We have noticed a recent trend by some states to allow awning mechanisms to exceed the maximum width. One such state is Maryland. See the following excerpt from page 77 of the Maryland Motor Carrier Handbook, dated 10/1/2005:

MAXIMUM VEHICLE WIDTH - HEIGHT - LENGTH - COVERING LOADS The width of a motor home or travel trailer shall be exclusive of retractable awnings installed by the vehicle manufacturer or dealer provided that the awnings do no extend more than six inches from each side of the vehicle.

The above is an illustration of a recent trend by a small number of states—we are by no means implying that legalization of over-the-limit awnings are imminent on all roads. You, as the operator of a wide-body RV, are taking a risk of being ticketed when driving a recreational vehicle wider than 96".

Older RV's may not be permitted in some parks

Before buying an older recreational vehicle, be aware that some private parks have an age cutoff for the RV's they allow. When you call to make a reservation, park staff often ask what year model is your RV. For many private parks, the cutoff is 10 to 15 years old.

The reason for the age limit is to maintain park aesthetics. Because of this, park managers may be willing to make exceptions for older RV's kept in good condition. The inverse is also true—a newer RV that looks shabby may be unwelcome.

Enforcement of the age limit varies by park and season. Better maintained parks are more selective about the rigs they allow. On the other hand, parks tend to be more lenient during the slow season.

To our knowledge, public parks have no RV age restrictions.