Planning On Buying A New Travel Trailer?
Posted On 05/23/2019
Considering buying a travel trailer for the first time, or even just upgrading to something larger? Have you been on the internet searching for all the things to consider before making the first purchase?
I have been searching for information that someone new to buying a travel trailer may be looking for. There are some good informative websites, too. However, I also noticed a couple of topics that I believe to be important are not listed and one topic stands out to me as being just as important on the actual purchase of the travel trailer.
I work full time in a service department of one of the largest single owned dealerships in the country. I see and speak to a lot of travel trailer owner’s, both seasoned owner’s and 1st time owners. I have been asked nearly every question imaginable and I have also been told the things 1st times owners wished they would have known before the final signature of the purchase.
Just today, I was speaking to a gentleman picking up a small travel trailer from our service department, when he began questioning me on trading it in on a new 5th wheel. He asked me questions like: What was different? What was the same? When I asked why he wanted to go to a 5th wheel, the response I received was “because all of my friends have them.” To me, the isn’t necessarily the worst reason I have ever heard, but it isn’t the best reason either. As I am sure we have all been told, “just because someone else is doing it, does not mean it is right for us!” This Is true with owning a travel trailer. Anyway, the questions he was asking got me thinking of all the things that I have been told/asked primarily from new travel trailer owners.
Getting back to my initial response to the gentleman’s questions, I think I said: A Large Enough Place To Keep It and How to Tow and Park It. I have learned, there is not much more disheartening the hearing from someone who has just spend thousands of dollars on a “camper that is too much for them. The fact is: 5th wheel’s are huge and travel trailers seem to be getting larger/longer by the day too. They are so beautiful that sometimes it is easier to get in over our heads than we think.
Some RV people may think I am crazy, but I think the following question needs to be answered before the purchase decision:
Where Is The Camper Going To Be Stored When Not In Use?
I think this is probably the most important question to begin with. Most camper owner’s do not travel full time. If we do not have a convient, safe & affordable place to keep our new investment, then what?
I ran into someone the other day that realized the 5th wheel they had purchased was too big for the storage facility they rented. They purchased this beautiful brand new 5th wheel and when they took it to the storage unit, they realized the 5th wheel was too big! Now what? They called us to see if they could store it at our dealership, and I am not sure if any dealership’s out there do offer storage, but, ours does not. The closest available storage facility they could find was about 100 miles away. Here they had intentions of packing up and using most weekends, that is difficult when access to the new camper is so far away. Unfortunately, this storage unit did not work out the way they had anticipated. Here’s their story: This wonderful family knew about what type of 5th wheel they were looking for. They did not pay any attention to the size for storage purposes or get the actual size of where the 5th wheel would be parked during storage. In this case, the 1 foot mattered!
I even had someone who purchased their 1st travel trailer, which was only 17 feet long, and, what they did not realize was the camper was wider than the truck they had to pull it. The camper they purchased needed to fit down a driveway that their truck barely fit down. Here was a family, new to owning a travel trailer, who thought they had everything covered, but realized after purchasing, it wasn’t going to fit down their driveway. Not only did they not have a place to store it they also didn’t have the extra money to rent a storage facility, so they had no place to store it.
My suggestion here is: do your research! Figure out where the storage is going to be and what size campers will fit easily and comfortably. It does us no good, if the storage facility we are using is not big enough to store or maneuver the travel trailer to get it in and out to use. RV storage facilities do not come in, “one size fits all.” If keeping the travel trailer at home, make sure there are no restrictions, and there is more than enough room to get it in and out of the driveway comfortably. If the road isn’t wide enough, there are too many cars on the road, and trees are overhanging, damage to the camper will likely occur. And, if parking down a driveway behind a fence, it may be a good idea to make sure the camper will fit and isn’t going to hit the roof of the house. ((yep, have seen this one too – damage to the house and to the brand new 5th wheel—not a fun day for anyone))
Now that we know what we are looking for to store it, it is time to see if:
We Can Truly Afford The Travel Trailer And Everything That Goes With It!
Financing for most of us is necessary if we want to purchase anything that costs thousands of dollars. Chances arewe have some experience in how financing works. The finance company is going to pull our credit report, get our income, monthly debt, and then tell us how much they say we can afford. If we do finance the travel trailer, they will tell us if we have to have Gap Insurance and what minimum insurance our state and the finance company requires us to have. So, more or less, all financing works the same.
I had someone tell me one day the: a salesman will always sell you what is good for them, not what is necessarily good for us”. It took me a little while to really understand this, but I do now. In all fairness, how is a salesman truly supposed to know what is “good for us” Only we know that! So, unless we do all the research and go in “telling them exactly what we want” we will almost always come out buying something a little more different and a lot more expensive than what we went in expecting to. ((That happened to me when I bought the computer I am typing on. LOL))
Buying anything for the first time can be tremendously overwhelming. Any good salesman can tell when we are not 100 % set on what we want. It is not their fault, it is their lively hood to sell, and if we walked into the store, than we must be ready to buy, right?
Please, keep in mind: a travel trailer looks more like a really nice apartment on wheels. The possibilities are endless of what we can get in them, from the floor plan to the furniture and the amenities. Even washer, dryers, and dishwashers are available in some. And, working at a dealership, I see firsthand how much prettier they get by the day! It definitely becomes easy to understand how people are so fast to upgrade what they originally went in to purchase! The more we look, the more possibilities there are to fall in love with. With that being said, it can be really easy to understand how we can find ourselves sitting down with the salesman before we or our finances are quite ready to. Unless you bring all the cash to purchase with you or have an endless supply of money to make the purchase, I think it is a great idea to get plenty of more questions answered & out of the way before making the final decision.
What Do You Need VS What Do You Want In The New Travel Trailer?
If we have 2 kids and we want a travel trailer, we obviously need one with a bunk room! A pull out sofa bed or a dinette the fold’s into a bed is great temporarily, but not necessarily for long term use. Kids grow FAST! A one bed trailer isn’t going to do us much good if we have children or want other people with us. ((Like in laws)) Believe it or not, there are some beautiful 5th wheels that only have a king-size bed and a sofa bed!
A great idea is to get a notebook, or computer, and make a list: prioritize! Let the wants come after the needs. Here are some great questions to ask yourself and they all come from information I have leaned working in a service department:
–Why are you buying an RV? (only you have to know the answer to this)
–Who/how many people do you plan on camping with mostly?
–How often do you plan on using it?
–What kind of use? Traveling the U. S or weekend trips with the kids?
–What are our needs of the travel trailer (Full size stove? Bunk for the kids? Rack on the back for bikes or generator? Will we be living out of it full time or using it every few months? )
–Amenities: the list here can be endless
My best suggestion is to bring the notebook with you to shop. Do not let the salesman veer away from it, unless you decide otherwise. Use the camper! (pretend of course) Cook in it, get the kids to bed, change the sheets on the bed, imagine opening the fridge with kids sitting at the dinette, what ever the case may be. Don’t forget the bathroom and what to do with the dirty clothes. (no secret here that I have kids)
I went into a brand new, straight from the factory, 5th wheel the other day. Absolutely gorgeous!! I pretended to be cooking hot dogs in it – something the everyday and simple was NOT going to be convenient in this 5th wheel. For some, this kitchen would be perfect, for me, it just wasn’t going to work.
Keep focused — This Travel Trailer Is For You, you will be the one paying for it, cleaning it, doing the maintenance on it and taking care of it!
Do not be shy! This is your hard-earned money. If the salesman seems to be to “pushy” for you, than ask for a different salesman!
How much Green Stuff Does It Really Take to Own and Enjoy A Travel Trailer?
For most of us, we must know how much we can afford per month for the big toy we want so badly. Unfortunately, the financed monthly payment is NOT the only expense with owning a travel trailer.
I promise, I am not trying to scare you or talk you out of buying a new travel trailer, I am however, trying to help you stay focused and be realistic. Dealing with people that have “buyer’s remorse” is not fun for anyone. Having someone call our service department and say they have never used the camper and have owned it for an entire year saddens me. Usually, the reason is, it ended up being too expensive to use. What a shame!
I never want to see anyone waste money. I want to see families use and enjoy their travel trailer, after all, isn’t the why we purchased it? I cannot say I know anyone who wants to buy anything that they know will not be used, and a travel trailer is no different.
Here is a list of things that I believe need to be looked at honestly, before signing the final papers. We each have different needs, wants, & dreams so I know I will not cover everything.
Get your notebook:
• Insurance & Gap Coverage
• Maintenance & repair costs ((sealant is only covered under warranty for 90 days))
• Gas mileage in truck when pulling travel trailer is going to decrease, which means, it will cost more in gas, no matter where you are going
• Camp site charges
• Electricity to keep travel trailer plugged in at home if the is what you want/increase electric bill
• Cable/satellite & internet
• Additional food: if your anything like me, my grocery list changes drastically when I am going away for the weekend, which means, higher grocery bill.
• Essentials to use the travel trailer; sheets, pillows, toiletries, cooking/eating utensils and the list here can go on for a long time depending on what the family likes/wants
• Accessories! Who doesn’t love accessories like chairs, tables, maybe an outside grill, etc.……?
• Outdoor adventure’s: fishing, hiking, bike riding, etc
• Food both during travel & at campsite
And, some helpful tips when you are on the lot with the salesman:
- Bring the notebook//please do not be “shy” with the salesman when looking for the first time, do stay kind
- know what you need and still try to be a little flexible
- keep an eye out on finance rates
- incentives do come along! Ask about them.
- Kindness & Gratitude Go A Long Way, even with the sales and finance department’s
Trucks Are Not All Created Equal:
Imagine spending hours on end deciding on the perfect travel trailer, negotiating for a great price and even putting down the deposit on the storage facility and the finding out the truck you have to pull the brand new camper — is not nearly strong enough.
I really did not believe this happened, until, one day, I answered the phone with a scared lady on the other end of the line. She began telling me the they are on the interstate and the truck will not pick up speed. Thank fully, they weren’t the far away from the dealership, they were able turn around and come back. That is when it became very clear, the the travel trailer ((bumper pull in this case)) was too heavy for their truck.
In this one case, the dealership did make some other arrangements, and this wonderful couple did decide to purchase a smaller travel trailer. However, there is nothing written in law the states the dealership HAD to swap them out of the trailer that was too big, it was a decision a lot of people had to be in on.
Once those papers are signed on the travel trailer it is yours!
Most people do not have the resources to purchase what ever new truck the want/need to pull a brand new travel trailer the they purchased on a whim. Again, do your research:
Knowing how much weight the truck you own is not the RV dealership’s responsibity. Besides, what if you were buying a used trailer from an individual? Would you expect them to know or be responsible to inform you how much weight your truck can handle? Of course not! So, don’t put the on the RV Dealership either.
Finding out & knowing how much weight your truck can handle is your responsibility and only yours.
Do not worry: There are a few ways to figure this out. In the owner’s manusel, it states it. There may be a sticker in the door jamb of the truck the shows it. If you still are not quite sure, you can call the dealership the truck was purchased from or call straight to the manufacture. They will need the Vin # off of the truck to look up the towing capacity of the truck, so make sure it is in front of you when you call.
Now than we know what the truck can handle, we need know how much the travel trailer weighs.
There are 2 figures here usually, empty and loaded. ALWAYS go by the Loaded weight. Brand new travel trailers have a sticker ((usually orange or yellow)) that has this information. Get brochures to make sure it is the same. ((make sure it is a brochure from the factory of the camper, not the dealership of the camper)) Once we have the loaded weight of the travel trailer and the towing capacity of the truck we can we can seriously consider signing the papers and makeing the camper ours.
Whew! We Can Finally Take Our New Camper Home!
Everything I have listed above in the post is not in any real order. I think, from experience, all of it needs to be done before signing the final papers when buying a new travel trailer. I know, there is a lot that needs to go into those final decisions, and this is why I wrote this.
Working in a service department, I see a lot of things I wished someone would have explained to the new buyer first. In fact, doing the research on this blog, I wish I had seen some information in other blogs.
Some of best times I have at work are when I see a new family so incredibly excited to be pulling their camper home for the first time. The smiles, laughter, excitement & anticipation can be a happy feeling like no other. And that is the reason for me writing this. It is my hope, that the purchase of your 1st travel trailer is a great experience for you which can lead to years of wonderful memories.
If you have previous experience of purchasing travel trailers and see that maybe I forgot to mention something important, please feel free to let me know. I can be reached by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or leave me a comment/question below.
As always, I greatly appreciate you stopping in and I hope you have enjoyed reading and visiting my blog.