Woohoo! You’ve taken the plunge and purchased an RV. All you have to do now is drive it home, right? Not so fast. Unfortunately, the process of taking home a new (or new-to-you) RV is a little more complicated than the process of buying a car.
Whether you buy your rig at an RV show or a dealership, there will be a few steps in between the purchase and the time you hit the highway with your new home in tow. The following tips will help you enter this process with your eyes wide open:
Understand the Behind-the-Scenes Process
Before you can take your new rig home, the dealership wants to ensure the RV is ready for you…and ensure you are ready for the RV.
- The dealership must ready the RV for transfer. First, the dealer must do a PDI (Pre-Delivery Inspection) to confirm the physical condition of the RV has been checked and all systems are operational. Next, the dealer may need to install any options you requested or any items that generally are not on/in the rig while it sits on a lot (such as televisions, propane tanks, and upgraded air conditioners).
- In order to ensure you are ready for the RV, your dealership should schedule a complete walk through. And when we say complete, we mean complete. Since the walk through can take several hours, your dealership will have to schedule it at a convenient time for both parties. The tips in the final section of this post will help you make the most of your walk through.
Consider your Gear and Equipment
When RV owners think about gear and equipment, we are sometimes tempted to focus on the fun stuff…like patio lights, camp chairs, and colorful décor. However, there are many more important items necessary for the safety and security of the amazing rig you just purchased.
- Make sure your tow vehicle is properly outfitted for towing. This can be confusing, so you’ll want to double check all of your specs. Tow capacity, hitch weight, payload, and more all come into play. Some vehicles don’t come equipped with trailer brake controls or proper towing hitches. Figuring this out before you arrive to pick up your rig will save you the embarrassment, time, and extra expense of finding out too late.
- You may need a weight distribution and sway set up. You may scoff when the dealership offers to add these on at an additional cost, thinking it’s an unnecessary upsell, but in this case, the dealer is right (if you have a longer/heavier rig). If you don’t bring in your own safety equipment, you’ll need to buy it before you can roll off the lot. The good thing is that these additional expenses can sometimes be added to your loan if you are financing the RV. Research your options and reasonable cost estimates before you go.
- Purchase the necessities. Honestly, there is some non-glamorous gear you need to safely and efficiently set up camp. Brace yourself for the additional costs, so you won’t feel shell-shocked on pick-up day. Before your first outing, you’ll minimally need a good sewer hose and proper connectors, a water pressure regulator, a good surge protector or EMS (electrical management system), and power converters (to allow you to move between 50 amp, 30 amp, and 20 amp setups, as appropriate). All the other fun gear is the icing on the cake.
Make the Most of your RV Walk Through
We cannot emphasize enough how important this step is. A proper RV walk through will lead to many happy trips ahead…a rushed or incomplete walk through will lead to tons of frustration. Most importantly, you don’t want to get your RV all the way home and then discover several reasons why you need to take it back!
- Record everything on your smart phone in individual files you can label for later reference. Don’t record the whole walk through in one swoop—you’ll be left searching through an hours-long video. Instead, make a short video of the hitching process, one for tank maintenance, one for fridge operations, and so on. Don’t be embarrassed. You will be thankful for these videos in the months and years ahead. If there are two of you, one person can focus more on doing the recording while the other focuses more on actually listening to the technician.
- Force the service technician to show you everything, and we mean everything. Don’t be afraid to ask lots of questions. If the technician points at something, feel free to ask them to explain how exactly it works. Trust us, it’s much better to try to figure out the propane heating system with the help of a technician instead of wrangling with it on a freezing cold night with no backup! This is also a good time to ask about maintenance for all these systems, as well.
- Put the RV through the paces. The dealership may have your rig set up when you arrive, but you still need to learn how to do all that set up for yourself. Ask the tech to allow you to open and close the awning, the slides, the stairs, etc. If the air conditioner and refrigerator are already on, turn them off and start again. Also, if your rig comes with electric awnings, stabilizers, etc., learn how to manually operate each, in case of a power outage or other problem.
- Inspect everything. Inspect every nook and cranny of the exterior and interior. The manufacturer may have missed small items or others may have come loose during transportation. Inspect all the systems. Attach a water hose, and run the sinks, toilet, and shower. Look underneath for leaks. The most common complaint we hear is from people who discover a leak on a trip and have to schedule a time to take the RV back for repairs. Even if the rig is winterized, don’t skip this step! The dealership may be able to fix several items right away.
- Prepare for towing. Don’t focus your entire walk through on your new rig. You should also bring your tow vehicle over and practice setting up and using the weight distribution, sway system, and trailer brakes before pulling away.
- Plan a shake down trip. Don’t haul your rig across the country without doing a shake down trip first. Camp close to home or in the driveway (but don’t run the AC unless you have 30 amp) and play with all of the systems to see if you can operate everything independently.
This is a lot to take in all at once, but trust us, it is better to go slowly on pick-up day in order to go faster later. Take the time to become familiar with your new RV before you hit the road. Before long, you’ll be operating your new RV like a pro! Our next blog post will help you have a great first trip.