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RV Shopping Tips from a Local

BECU chatted with Will Rogers, Operations Manager for Poulsbo RV. Offering 12 years in the business, Rogers has met with thousands of RV shoppers, and offers helpful tips to know before you go.

BECU: Who is your typical RV buyer?
WR: It's really a wide range; the demographics are kind of widespread from small families to retired people.

BECU: Not just retirees, then?
WR: The retired people myth is truly not the case; it's more of a mix.

BECU: Are RVs expensive – how do they afford them?
WR: We sell vehicles from $10,000 to $400,000. It depends on what you want – RV dealers often have  starter trailers and little 16' travel trailers; those buyers are typically first-time buyers, young families or even the single guy who wants a hunting trailer.

BECU: Can an average car pull the small trailers?
WR: Oh, sure. We have vehicles weighing 1500 lbs. that you can pull with a smaller car, like a Subaru. Some of the retro looking vehicles, a tear-drop, can even be pulled with a normal SUV. 

BECU: What size trailer do most people buy?
WR: It really varies. If someone already has a vehicle to tow it with, they usually match something that fits their towing capabilities. Just ask the dealer to help you pick based on your vehicle.

BECU: How about the RVs: Are they difficult to drive?
WR: There are typically three different classes: The Class B is like driving a car. The Class C is a bigger unit, but it's still fairly easy to drive. Some may feel intimated to drive a big Class A, but people get used to it.

Sometimes our guys will have the buyers get acclimated to driving – take them to an open parking lot, that sort of thing. Don't be afraid to ask the dealer to take a test drive.

BECU: Do you need a special license?
WR: Nope; anyone can drive one.

BECU: How bad is the gas mileage?
WR: It can be bad! But you might be surprised – some of them can be in the 18 miles-per-gallon range. Of course, some of the big ones, sure, are 7 – 8 miles a gallon. Don't let that stop you right away, though: It's not like a car where you're driving 15,000 miles a year – you might be going 5,000 miles a year. Be sure to consider your actual annual mileage.

There's also the diesel option. For example, if you want to pull a car behind your RV, you would get a little bit more power in a diesel. There's usually – especially along the freeway – many gas stations with diesel available.

BECU: What about parking: Is it tough to find?
WR: It can be. The smaller ones are easy to pull into any spot. If you're in a 40' Class A model, you kind of need to plan your route ahead of time; you can't just pop into a parking space. A little research goes a long way. A lot of places, such as Wal-Mart, will accommodate RVers.

BECU: New or used?
WR: Just like buying a car, there are advantages to both. When you buy new, then it's just that – brand new. The difference between RVs and cars is that people spend time in these things – kitchen, bathroom, beds – so if you want something where no one has stayed before, there's that advantage. Plus you can get a warranty; all the things that are helpful when buying new.

Of course, you can also get a nice price on a late-model used. Plus, people usually don't put a lot of miles on them as they're not driven very much. You can get a warranty on a used one as well – check with the dealer. 

BECU: Is a warranty recommended?
WR: You can get an extended service contract just like a car. The nice thing about an RV warranty is you can cover everything from your stove and refrigerator to the air conditioner.

BECU: No. 1 advice for an RV shopper?
WR: First of all, make sure you understand your budget. There are so many different kinds of RVs and trailers that you really need to know what you desire: How many people you want to sleep; do you want to pull it or drive it; what is your ideal floor plan, etc. With each model type there's such a huge selection and variety.

BECU: What about renting vs. buying?
WR: There are some companies that rent RVs. The RVs tend to be pretty basic – things can break as they're used pretty often. But it's not a bad idea if you want to see your comfort level driving it.

I would recommend going to an RV dealer's website and look at all the different models, price ranges and how they're appointed.