So You Want to Buy an RV
Buying an RV for the First Time
Before you sign on the dotted line, there are a few questions you need to ask yourself. Your insights will determine what kind of RV may be a good fit for you:
- How much am I willing to spend? We’ll get into how much RVs can cost in a minute. But it’s a good idea to put a figure on your price tag threshold.
- How many people will I need to fit? This may seem like an obvious question, but RVs are designed to comfortably fit and sleep a certain number of people. Think of who you plan to include on your travels, and don’t forget any four-legged friends, too.
- How often will I use my RV? Take a look at your lifestyle and figure out how frequently you plan to hit the road in your RV. Will you camp seasonally or would you like the option of going year-round? Will you take it out for a few days or would you like to go on weeklong (or even monthlong) adventures?
- Where do I want to camp? Do you plan to kick back at private campgrounds or do you see yourself escaping to more scenic destinations like public campgrounds in state and national parks? Do your research and find out which environments appeal to you and your family. If you prefer more remote locations, a smaller RV may be a better option due to size restrictions.
- What will I bring along and how much storage will I need? Are you planning to tow a vehicle with your RV? What about bringing bicycles or folding picnic tables? Do you have an ATV that you’ll want to load up, too? Consider the cargo you will want to haul, along with your fellow voyagers.
- What amenities do I want? When it comes to RV interiors, the sky really is the limit. Some are very basic, with no toilets or cooktops. Others are outfitted with full-sized refrigerators, bathrooms with showers, flat-screen TVs, and king-size beds. Of course, all these extra features come at a price. Jot down your sticking points and keep them in mind as you shop.
- Do I want to drive or tow my RV? RVs fall into two camps (pun intended): motorized and towable. There are benefits to each, and we’ll get into the specific types below. If you already have a truck or an SUV with the necessary towing capacity, a towable RV could be a financially smart move.
What Type of RV Should I Buy?
Motorized RVs are ones where you sit behind the wheel and drive. They’re categorized into three classes:
- Class A: These RVs tend to look like buses, typically have six wheels, and can range from 21 to 43 feet long. Able to sleep between six and eight people, they’re usually outfitted with top-of-the-line features like private bedrooms, separate living areas, kitchens, and more. While they rank at the top of the list for amenities, they also can be the most expensive.
- Class B: At first glance, these “camper vans” may look like they belong on the roadway rather than in a campground. But they offer nearly all the amenities of a typical motor home in a vehicle that may be easier to drive for those who are used to a minivan or an SUV. They’re smaller than a Class A at about 16 to 21 feet long, and they can sleep up to four people.
- Class C: Class Cs are recognized by their classic design with a distinct overhang above the roof of the driver’s cab. They come equipped with a wide range of amenities and are available in multiple configurations to sleep up to eight people. They’re usually between 25 and 35 feet long.
These RVs can be hitched to the back of your vehicle. Some are lightweight while others are heavy-duty, so you’ll need to consider whether your vehicle can haul it across the open road.
- Travel trailers: Available in a seemingly infinite range of sizes, configurations, and prices (with amenities to boot), travel trailers are a versatile and popular option among novice and seasoned RVers alike.
- Fifth-wheel trailers: With a fifth wheel, it feels like you’re hauling a small apartment behind your truck (and yes, you will need a truck with a specialized fifth-wheel hitch). The added room offers more homelike amenities and additional interior space.
- Pop-up campers: These compact, lightweight trailers fold open and closed. And sleeping in them can feel more like sleeping in a tent. Depending on the model, they may actually look like a tent! These typically offer fewer amenities than other trailers, but they come in at a lower price point and you don’t need a heavy-duty vehicle to tow one. You can even fit between four and eight people in these campers.
- Sport utility haulers: When you want to bring along your “toys,” a sport utility hauler could be a nice fit. They offer storage for ATVs, golf carts, and more while also providing the amenities of a travel trailer, including a full kitchen, bathroom, and living areas.
- Other towable options: There is a multitude of RVs to fit every traveler: truck campers, expandable and teardrop trailers, and park model RVs. Do your research to find out which is best for you.
How Much Does an RV Cost?
This is a question that involves more than a few variables, including:
- The type of RV
- Whether the RV is new or used
- Condition of the RV
- Number of miles (if it’s motorized)
- Included amenities, and the condition of those features if it’s used
You could go onto Craigslist or other online classified sites and find an older, used RV at a bargain. Or you could spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on a new motorized RV that has top-of-the-line features (some of these can even break the million-dollar mark).
For a general guideline on how much new RVs can cost, the RV Industry Association reports the following prices:
- Folding camping trailers: $6,000 to $22,000
- Conventional travel trailers: $8,000 to $95,000
- Fifth wheel trailers: $18,000 to $160,000 for fifth wheel trailers
- Class B and C motor homes: $60,000 to $150,000
- Class A motor homes: $60,000 to $500,000
New or Used RV?
There are pros and cons to either option. It depends on your comfort level and a few other factors, including:
- Price: Used RVs tend to cost less than their new counterparts, as new RVs can be quite expensive.
- Features and amenities: New RVs will be outfitted with the latest bells and whistles.
- Condition: Not that issues can’t occur with a new RV, but at least you know exactly what you’re getting. Used RVs are “lived in,” so they can have a few more knicks and dings. This may not bother you. Just bear in mind that any undetected damage could be expensive to fix.
Do You Need a Special License to Drive an RV?
According to Go RVing, a state-issued driver’s license is typically all you need. However, laws differ from state to state. Do your due diligence and learn about the requirements in your state. Your Department of Motor Vehicles is a great place to start.
Other Considerations for Buying an RV
Unlike purchasing a new car, when you buy an RV, there are a host of other factors to bear in mind:
- Unexpected costs: Fees for maintenance and repairs, insurance and registration, fuel and propane, campsites, and food are all standard expenses when you start RVing. You should factor these in when looking at the overall cost of RV ownership and budget accordingly.
- New skills: Do you understand the inner workings of an RV septic system, including the difference between a blackwater tank and a gray water tank? Have you ever backed up a travel trailer? Are you comfortable boondocking? (And do you even know what that means?) With RV ownership comes the need to acquire new knowledge and skills so you can camp safely and successfully.
- Storage: Unless you plan on being a full-time RVer, you will need a safe place to store your rig when it’s not in use. If you store it somewhere other than your own property, there will be fees and other logistics to consider, like winterizing and ease of accessibility.
Is RV Insurance Required? (And What Does It Cover?)
If you own a motorized RV, you will need to purchase separate liability coverage for that vehicle. Learn how our RV insurance can protect your motorized RV with the same coverages as the vehicles on your auto insurance policy.
For towable RVs covered by Erie Insurance, the liability coverage on the insured vehicle pulling the trailer extends to the towable RV itself.1
With both motorized and towable RVs, you’ll most likely want to purchase comprehensive and collision coverage; it may even be required by your lienholder. This can protect you when your RV is parked or when it’s in storage.
Other coverages to consider are Emergency Roadside Service, Rental Car Expense Coverage, and an umbrella policy, all of which give you added layers of protection.
Get a Quote for RV Insurance
Camping is a fun and socially distant way to connect with nature and your loved ones. See how RV insurance from ERIE can help ensure your camping fun continues by protecting your investment and keeping you safe.
Plus, if you add your RV or travel trailer to your ERIE auto policy, you get the convenience of using one insurance company and dealing with just one bill. You may even be eligible for extra discounts. To make sure you get the coverage you need, talk to your local ERIE agent for details.2
1 ERIE only provides coverage for temporarily located recreational camping vehicles with a valid and current motor vehicle registration at the time of loss. Motor homes can be insured on an ERIE personal lines auto policy, except in North Carolina where they must be written on a commercial auto policy.
2 Coverage is not available in all states. See individual policies for specific coverage details. Certain terms and limitations may apply. Refer to our disclaimer for additional information.
If you’ve been wrestling with wanderlust during the COVID-19 pandemic, you’re not alone.
As social distancing guidelines and restrictions were put into place in 2020, many Americans sought a safer way to travel and vacation.
Enter the RV.
The RV Industry Association, predicts that 2021 will see a nearly 20% increase in these shipments. And this figure doesn’t even include the sale of used RVs.
There’s certainly an appeal to this type of travel: the freedom, the flexibility, the slower pace. There’s also the fact that it doesn’t require hopping on a plane or sleeping in a hotel to reach your destination.
If the aspects of this kind of travel appeal to you, or if you want a new way to get outdoors and make family memories, perhaps an RV is in your future. But first-time buyers need to do their homework. And we’re here to help. Below, we break down what new RV owners should know before driving (or towing) their new “toy” off the lot. (And if you need RV insurance, we can help with that, too.)