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Buying an RV is not like buying a car. You are buying a mobile version of an apartment on wheels, so you are dealing with a lot more than just a chassis, wheels, and an engine.
Depending on your budget, the cost goes up for luxury items, such as the finish of countertops, cabinetry, and electronics. For the first-time buyer, these may be exciting features, but is it worth it? Stay within your budget.
Remember, most people purchase an RV and drive it less in its lifetime than their car. On average, for the non-fulltimer, an RV will be driven 30-60 thousand miles - in its lifetime. So, make sure you stay in budget and ask yourself what are your needs, not wants.
Before buying, do your homework. Stop by an RV Park and talk to the owners of both newer looking units and those that are 10-15 years old. RVers are some of the most engaging people because they have to have, at some level, the adventurous spirit, and let's face it, people love to talk about themselves and their toys.
You can also visit RV shows, and get a feel for what the dealer is wanting you to look at compared with what the RVers are saying to look at. This will help you get a feel for how to work with the dealer (read this as knowing whether you're being fed a line or not).
Look online at various RV classifieds sites. This will give you an indication of average pricing and will allow you to form a picture in your mind of accessories, pricing, luxury, etc. as a package. For example, if you are looking for a RV in the under $30k budget, then you know you will be looking at the year 2002 and below category, for the most part. You can get slides, but not as many as current RV's. The upholstery patterns will be dated, and you might have to add a comfort gel pad to the bed. The appliances will be dated. However, with all these things, remember, the miles driven will tell more of a story, since, if sitting more than driving was the owners habit, your problems may be due to no use... clogged gas valves on refrigerators, rodents nesting, mechanisms needing lubrication, etc.
So, while there are many other areas to consider, the most important is to make sure you investigate before buying. Make sure all components work as they should, and to look for those components to consider, take a trip to your local RV park in high season and talk to those already in the lifestyle (altho' beware of the really chatty, opinionated ones, as they can steer you down a path that doesn't accomplish your goal).
Check the RV Manufacturer Ratings on this website to see how others feel. This list has been gathered for over 20 years, and doesn't allow for more than one submission. It is a gauge, intended to supplement your research, and gives a visual story of a RV manufacturers strengths and weaknesses from the RV or motorhome users standpoint. Go to http://www.rv-coach.com/motorhome/buyer/rate_your_rv_results.html and check the manufacturer you are most interested in.
Oh, one more tip: If you can, rent an RV similar to the one you are wanting to buy. Yes, it's an investment, but you'll have a great time, and not make a mistake because you realized you really needed that outside shower, or that extra slide-out. Try to find rentals from private owners, since they will tend not to upkeep the RV as a professional rental company would. This will give you a great perspective!
Now, get out there and investigate!