- As more new RVers hit the road, Insider asked those who've been doing it for years to share their advice.
- When it comes to purchasing a vehicle, experienced RVers say you should buy a used RV, purchase a smaller model, and remember to keep an open mind.
- While on the road, you need to book your parking reservations well in advance, bring a toolbox with you, and be prepared for your RV to break down.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
This summer people hit the road in RVs, camper vans, and other vehicles in record numbers. Many of these people were newcomers hitting the road in recreational vehicles for the first time.
Meanwhile, more experienced RVers have been living on the road for years. To help bridge the knowledge gap, Insider spoke with RVers who have been at it for some time and asked what advice they would give to first-timers.
If you're a newcomer, here are the top 10 pieces of advice the experienced RVers want you to know.
First, you should consider renting an RV before committing to buying one.
From camper vans to traditional RVs, there are a ton of models to choose from. For first-timers, it can be overwhelming and difficult to choose the right one. Jennifer Preston, who's been RVing for three years, said newcomers should consider renting RVs before making the commitment.
"For people where this is a big expenditure and you feel like you need to test out multiple models, renting would be a good way to start," Preston said.
If you do decide to buy an RV, you should buy a used one.
Cortni Armstrong, who has lived in an RV since 2014 and renovates them regularly with her mother, said newcomers should buy used because new RVs that come straight from the factory can have strange quirks that lived-in vehicles do not. She also said you are likely to trade the RV out in a year or two and if you have a used vehicle, you can avoid a depreciation hit.
"You can get a [used] rig that is much, much cheaper, and it's quirk free," Armstrong said.
You should consider a smaller RV instead of a larger one because it's easier to maneuver.
RVs can stretch anywhere from 29 to 45 feet long, but the longer they get, the more difficult they are to maneuver. In fact, some national parks limit the length of some RVs because of hairpin turns and dangerous roads.
Beverly Wallace Anderson, who owns a 24-foot Navion and has been traveling for most of her life, said her RV can easily fit anywhere, including most national parks.
"Bigger is not better when it comes to RVs," Wallace Anderson said.
Armstrong agrees. She said people typically buy the largest RV because they think it'll be the easiest transition from a traditional house.
"People think they need this grandiose, huge rig and then they buy it and now they're all dressed up with no place to go because they can't fit," Armstrong said.
Before purchasing, you need to know what kind of camper you want to be: Will you be off-roading and boondocking or will you be parking at RV parks?
Different RVs are built for different things. Some are equipped with solar panels, great insulation, and off-road tires so that you can completely disconnect and go off-grid. Other RVs require hookups to work, forcing you to stay at campgrounds and parks.
Preston said it's important to know what experience you're envisioning and then to match the model to it.
"People have expectations about what camping is going to be like," Preston said. "If the rig you buy isn't aligned with those expectations, then it won't be a good experience."
You need to consider the RV's insulation before purchasing because temperature control is difficult.
Becky Peirson has owned a 2015 Palomino Solaire for three years, and she said she struggles to regulate the temperature inside.
"It's very hard to get this one to a decent temp and keep it that way," Peirson said. "The AC or the heat just goes right out. I keep the AC on 80 during the day, and if it's 90 or above, the AC runs constantly."
She recommends to "be patient" during the buying process to find the perfect temperature-controlled vehicle.
With that said, your first RV is rarely your forever RV, so keep an open mind.
It's very common for RVers to upgrade and trade models throughout their time on the road. As you get more experienced, you will learn more about what you want and need in your RV.
"Your first RV is rarely your forever RV, so don't get too hung up on the buying process," Armstrong said. "You don't need to search for that perfect rig that checks every box because it won't be with you forever."
Before heading out on the road, you need to make parking reservations early because campsites fill up fast.
"Make your reservations early," Wallace Anderson said, "especially in COVID times, camping is more popular than ever."
In fact, some campgrounds and RV parks, like California State Parks, have reported an increase in demand: In 2019, California's park service had 54,825 reservations between February 1 and March 11. This year, there was an increase in reservations, jumping to 97,417.
Be prepared for mechanical and other issues while on the road.
Since RVs are constantly on the move, you should expect some issues along the way. Make sure you know the name and number of several mechanics along your route so that you have a plan when these incidences occur.
"These rigs will have issues," Armstrong said. "They go through a magnitude 10 earthquake every time you're on the road. When something is shaking around that much, you're going to have little things happen."
You should always travel with a toolbox.
Some issues that you encounter may be easily fixed with the help of some tools.
"Keep a toolbox and a sense of humor," Armstrong said. "People underestimate this part of the lifestyle and then get frustrated. Sometimes it can take the fun out of it, but that's the price you pay for this beautiful lifestyle."
Remember you're not in this alone, so don't be afraid to ask local mechanics, shops, and other RVers about any questions you have while on the road.
Even if you don't have a mechanical issue and just need to inquire about something related to your vehicle, give a local RV shop or a mechanic a ring. They are likely to help you out, according to Peirson.
"The salesmen and parts people have answered questions I have had," she said, explaining that she often turns to them to ask if certain parts would work with her RV.
If all else fails, she said newcomers should turn to RV lifestyle Facebook groups to get quick answers.
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