How to Buy an RV to Live in: The Ultimate Guide


I can think of a lot of reasons why people love the idea of buying an RV to live in year-round. But not every type of camper is really cut out for that, so I am going to walk you through everything you need to know about how to buy an RV to live in.

Here’s what I’ve learned in owning and renting RVs:

To buy an RV for full-time living, consider a Class A for traveling and a fifth-wheel for longer stays at one campground. Plan to purchase in January for the best price on a new RV, but the best scenario is to buy a late model used RV that is 1-2 years old with mileage between 3,000 and 7,000.

In this article, we will start off with the best RV to live in all year.

We will also mention why we chose that class of RV. For the rest of this article, we are going to give you everything you need to know about how to buy an RV to live in.

So, for everything that you need to know, I recommend that you keep reading.

What is the best type of RV to live in year-round?

The best type of RV to live in all year will be either a Class A RV for those that prefer to change locations frequently or a Fifth Wheel camper for those that plan to stay put in one place longer.

In this section, I’m going to give you a specific answer that is broken down into two sections.

We will start off by listing the best RV to live in year-round. Then, we need to look at why the best class of motorhome to live in year-round is a class A RV.

It is important that you read both sections if you are seriously considering buying an RV to live in permanently.

Why class A RVs are the best motorhome to live in year-round

The best class of motorhomes to live in year-round is a class A RV.

This is generally because of the size and all the comforts that a class A RV offers. Class A RVs are also built to withstand a lot of the elements that nature throws at them. Class A RVs are generally built with high quality and strong materials.

If you are staying in an RV full time, the weather is something that you need to be prepared for.

This is especially true in the United States. As beautiful as some states are, they have to deal with some seriously harsh weather conditions at least once or twice a year.

It isn’t all just about comforts and conveniences. You also need to consider the necessities, and a class A RV generally has better plumbing, better electrical hookups, and much more.

Because a class A RV is built to withstand harsh conditions, this type of RV will be a good place to be during winter due to its good insulation and adequate ventilation.

Best Class A for year-round living: 2021 Newmar Ventana: Starts at $305,000

The Newmar Ventana starts at about $305,000 and can go up in price depending on how you upgrade it. That may seem like a hefty base price to pay for an RV. However, you need to consider that you are buying a home, and if you look at the Newmar Ventana, it is easy to see that it offers luxury living while on the road.

In the front of this diesel coach, you have comfortable chairs that can be power adjusted to suit your needs.

The passenger side has a workstation that can be stowed away when it is not being used. The driver has a fully digital display with an additional two monitors for navigation and cameras.

With 13 floor plans to choose from, it would be almost impossible to accurately describe the living room. With that being said, the furniture is stylish, comfortable and you can choose from what you want from their range of options.

As you would expect in a premium class A RV, the kitchen is fitted with soft close drawers. This extends the life of the draws and also makes them quiet.

The draws are finished with chrome handles. The maple wood cabinets are the perfect combination to make the kitchen look stylish and modern.

The master bedroom is large enough so that it feels spacious. There is enough cupboard space for couples. The layout of your bathroom will depend on the floorplan that you choose. However, even the base floorplan feels and looks premium.

The 2021 Ventana comes with a 4k retractable Samsung TV and a Bose soundbar in the living room. You also have a Samsung 4k TV in the master bedroom.

Why Fifth-Wheel RVs are the best non-motorized camper to live in year-round

I love 5th-wheels. In fact, my wife and I almost bought one shortly before deciding to buy our Newmar Bay Star instead.

We panicked both at the size of the 5th wheel being towed behind a truck, but also because we didn’t own a truck and would have to buy one of those also.

But the fifth wheel offers so much room!

It’s much more like a small house than a typical camper. The one we looked at had multiple bedrooms and bathrooms, and a full outdoor kitchen and living area. Then for the inside kitchen, it had a full-sized refrigerator and kitchen island with all granite countertops.

The living area had a fireplace and sectional recliner seating around an enormous TV.

In short, if you’re in this thing 24/7, you’re going to want to stretch out, give everyone their own space, and be able to truly relax; it’s not the same as weekend warriors who have a house to return to.

The 5th wheel just gives you more space and more options.

Best Fifth-Wheel for year-round living: 2021 Jayco North Point : Starts at $88,000

Jayco makes some great RVs off all kinds and their North Point fifth wheel is no exception.

7 floorplans to choose from and standard features include:

  • Zero-degree tested weather protection
  • 40,000 BTU output furnace
  • Dual exterior-mounted 15,000 BTU “Whisper Quiet” A/C units
  • Dual 30 lb. propane tanks
  • Digital TV antenna with Wi-Fi extender
  • Outside propane connector for grills
  • Ceiling fans (in select floorplans)
  • LED lighting
  • Multiple USB charging ports throughout
  • Butcher block bar top (select models)
  • JBL® home entertainment system
  • LED fireplace with 5,000 BTU electric space heater

It’s a great option for those looking for fifth wheel full-time RV living.

Should I buy a new or used RV to live in?

The best option for any RV purchase is to buy a 1-2-year-old RV with 3,000-7,000 miles on it, rather than a brand new one. RVs lose 20% of their value in their 1st year and often have a few warranty repair issues needed. Buying a late model RV avoids those issues.

Just avoid buying a used RV with super-low mileage.

That means it likely hasn’t been driven enough and has just been sitting. And in many cases, that could have been sitting in a driveway uncovered and exposed to the elements.

And the flip side is that used RVs with super high mileage probably mean they have been ridden hard and used extensively and many things may be on the verge of needing to be repaired.

But either way, a late model used RV is going to be a better option than a brand new RV.

As I mentioned, a brand new RV will go down in value 20% almost the moment you drive it off the lot. But they often have small kinks to work out when they first get driven. And while those will be covered under warranty, those are headaches you don’t need.

When you take an RV in for repairs, it can sometimes take 2 months or more before you’ll get it back.

What is the most reliable RV to buy?

Newmar is one of the most reliable brands of RVs on the market. They manufacture Class A and Super C motorhomes. For fifth-wheel RVs, the best brand is Jayco, and for travel trailers, the best one is the Winnebago Minnie Winnie.

But, the way you use your RV can determine how important some aspects of reliability are. When you live in the RV permanently, EVERYTHING matters.

We chose the Newmar RV as the most reliable because it ticks all the boxes. When you think of reliability, you need to consider everything that goes into an RV as well as the framework.

Let’s take a look at what we considered when determining that the Newmar RV is my top pick.

  • The vehicle: We need to consider how reliable the RV is mechanically in terms of the vehicle. Newmar uses a top of the range engine.
  • The framework: When we mention the quality of the framework, we are talking about the outside of the entire RV. Newmar strikes an outstanding balance between strength and the lightness of the body.
  • The quality of the interior: The interior could mean a lot of things. For example, what are the walls, cabinets, drawers, and floors made out of? Also, what is the quality of all the materials used in the interior of the RV? Newmar uses a combination of high-quality materials.
  • The reliability of the electrical components: On a cold winter night, the last thing that you want to happen is for the electrical components within the RV to fail. It is rare for a Newmar to have electrical problems. You still need to have the RV serviced within reasonable times.
  • The reliability of the plumbing. Newmar has perfected their plumbing systems. Obviously, the system used in your RV will depend on which model you choose. Again, do not forget to maintain your plumbing.

Newmar RVs also have a great resale value.

This is because they are known to be some of the best quality RVs available, and if you buy one new, you can be sure that you are not going to lose a lot of money if you want to resell it.

At the same time, if you are buying one used, it might not be the cheapest, but at least you know you are most likely getting a good RV.

Is it cheaper to buy an RV from the manufacturer?

Buying an RV directly from the manufacturer often allows savings of up to 28% off the MSRP retail price. By comparison, RV dealers rarely discount beyond 20% and negotiate less when supply is low and/or demand is high.

Now that being said, there are some drawbacks to buying direct.

For starters, you have to know exactly what brand you want. That manufacturer won’t have multiple brands to look at. For another, since many manufacturing facilities are in places like Ohio, you’ll likely have to fly there and then rent a car to get to the factory.

Lastly, once you’re back home you’ll have to find a dealer and establish a relationship for the eventual warranty service you’ll need. And since you didn’t buy from them, they may be a little less eager to help you.

So to get the best deal, here’s what you should do:

Find the RV that you like and shop around for the best deal. The first place you want to start is by phoning the manufacturer directly or even getting in contact with them via email.

Once you have established the price and maybe even negotiated it down a little bit if possible, you can then start shopping around at RV dealers to see if they have a better deal.

Perhaps you can find a deal on an older model from the same manufacturer.

If you are willing to shop around and do your research, great. Doing that means you are always going to buy the cheapest RV. It is as simple as that.

Which state is the cheapest to buy an RV?

Oregon is the cheapest state to buy an RV in, whether new or used as they have no sales tax. However, supply and demand is also a big factor in RV pricing, and the time of year can also impact pricing.

But there is more to this section than just Oregon.

The cheapest state to buy an RV in would be the state that has the lowest sales tax. In the United States of America, there are currently five states that have no sales tax. All you need is to be a resident of one of those states.

These five states are:

  • Alaska
  • Oregon
  • New Hampshire
  • Delaware
  • Montana

If you do not live in Alaska, then I see no reason why you would want to go there to buy your RV so we can rule that state out.

Other than that, the other four states will be your cheapest options. The reason why I chose Oregon is not just because of the sales tax. It is also a beautiful state that will give you the best first experience you can have in an RV.

Obviously, this is subjective, and so, whichever state you choose to buy your RV in, try and make sure that it is one of those.

You can end up saving a significant amount of money.

What can I negotiate when buying a new RV?

You can usually negotiate up to 20% off the MSRP on a new RV from a dealer. How much they will discount will depend heavily on supply vs. demand. The best deals would typically be in January when they are preparing to receive the next year’s models and wanting to make space available.

An RV is considered a “big-ticket item”.

This means that not many of them get sold, so a dealer needs to make as much money off of every RV they sell to keep themselves afloat throughout the year. However, if they feel like they could lose the sale, they will almost always budge.

The last thing you want to do is to buy an RV and not negotiate.

In most cases, you could get up to 20% off of the asking price. With that being said, you need to make sure that you do your research first. A good salesperson can sense when someone does not know much about what they are looking for.

Have an idea of the type of RV you want, the brands you like, and the MSRP of those models.

That way, you’ll know going in what you can expect to pay. Also, it’s worth taking the time to get financing at a local credit union or your bank. They will almost always be cheaper than using the finance person at the dealer.

But it does make the process a little more complicated since the dealer’s finance person is right there under the same roof.

So it’s worth doing some homework upfront rather than rushing in impulsively. In a low supply/high demand situation, you should at least expect a few extras to get thrown in such as accessories you would end up buying anyway.

When is the best month to buy an RV?

The best month to buy an RV would be January. Towards the end of the year, RV sales will start to become slow. But unlike the auto industry, the dealer won’t start to get in the next year’s models until March. So they will want to free up space from the existing inventory to make way for the new RVs. 

The sales of RVs are at their slowest during January and February. But, the thing is, towards the end of February, they start picking up again slowly.

So, you want to catch the best deals before they start disappearing.

Because sales are so slow during January, you can often pick up a few bargains on used RVs if you are buying from a dealer.

Ultimately you get the best price (usually) buying a late model RV direct from an individual.

But they will be less apt to budge on price if it’s priced well to begin with. And buying from an individual can be riskier and you’ll need to coordinate getting an RV mechanic to evaluate it before you buy.

But that will still get you the best price.

When do new RV models come out?

New RV models are delivered to dealers in late February and March. This is different from the automotive industry which typically releases new models during the end of the year.

An RV is a niche product; it is not like a car where they announce the launch of a new model every year. There are three easy ways to know what is going on in the world of RVs.

The first method is to bookmark the manufacturer’s website.

One of the easiest ways to find out when the new models are releasing is to keep up-to-date with what the manufacturer is doing. You can do this through their website.

The best way to know what RV models are coming out and when they’re coming out is to go to RV shows. These shows happen all across America. To find out where the closest show to you is at any given time, you would need to check online.

At an RV show, you will not just learn about the new models.

Most manufacturers will have them on display for you to check out. It is the perfect place for you to walk around and discover the different types of RVs and what they do.

In fact, this could be the best way for you to figure out which RV suits you and your needs the most.

Can you buy an RV through Costco?

If you are a member of Costco, you can use their Costco Auto network to buy an RV. However, Costco is not an RV dealer, and they do not sell the RVs listed on Costco auto. The RVs are sold by dealers who pay Costco to use their network.

It is a win-win-win! The dealer has access to the Costco network, you get special Costco privileges, and Costco makes money. Check it out here (not a paid endorsement): https://www.costcoauto.com/

The Costco auto site also does not belong to Costco; it is just a website that has partnered with the company to use its name and its network. The website is run by a completely different organization.

Is buying an RV through Costco worth it?

One of the most appealing aspects of buying an RV through Costco is that you can often get a better discount. You just have to be a Costco member. Perhaps, this is one reason why Costco auto has been so successful and why it sells hundreds of thousands of cars and RVs every year.

Another benefit of buying an RV through Costco is that every single dealer on their network has to be vetted thoroughly.

A brand as big as Costco cannot allow its reputation to be in the hands of someone who they cannot trust. So, if Costco trusts them, you should probably trust them too.

Finally, another major reason why buying an RV through Costco is worth it is the fact that they make the process as simple as possible.

A lot of research goes into buying an RV. All of this is done on your part; you can spend weeks, months, or even an entire year trying to figure out which RV you should buy.

So, when the time comes for you to actually buy the RV that you want, you kind of want the process to be as simple as possible, and Costco delivers on that.

What credit score do you need to buy an RV?

The minimum requirement for a credit score in order to buy an RV would be approximately 650. In the United States, a fair credit score is anywhere between 580 and 669.

To get financing for your RV, you need to have a fair credit score on the upper end of that bracket.

You might be able to get financing from some financial institutions with a lower credit score. We will discuss that further down in this section. For now, here are a few things that you need to remember.

Your credit score can significantly impact the interest rate that you will pay when financing an RV.

The lower your score, the higher the interest rate. Depending on the term of the loan, even the smallest adjustment in your interest rate can mean you can pay significantly more for the RV than what it is worth.

If you get rejected from reputable financial institutions because of your credit score and decide to go to a less reputable one with fewer restrictions, you need to consider something. There may be a few hidden clauses within your contract, and there could be an interest rate that is significantly higher than what you should pay.

It’s also worth pointing out that my credit score is over 800 and I still wasn’t able to get a better rate than 5.5%.

RVs are somewhere in between car loans and mortgages. So don’t ever expect the interest rate to be close to the current mortgage rates. But they often will be better than car loan rates.

Is buying an old RV a good idea if I’m living in it?

Buying an old RV that has been well-maintained is perfectly fine for full-time living. This is especially true of motorhomes that will not be driven and just parked at an RV park year-round. But RVs significantly older than 10 years will often have many mechanical issues both with driving, as well as electrical.

If you are buying an old RV, make sure to get it checked out by an RV service center or mobile mechanic. You want them to check that the vehicle is working mechanically.

You also want to inspect the RV inside and out, top to bottom.

Look around the RV to see what furniture and what appliances need replacing or at least what appliances and furniture you want to have replaced. What you are looking for is to make sure that these are easy to replace.

If you can afford to buy a newer model but still a used RV, I would highly recommend it.

Remember, you are purchasing a home. Think about it; if you are buying a home and take a look at it and it is dilapidated, you probably aren’t going to buy it. You should have that same logic when buying an RV.

And if you’re planning to retire and live in this RV, think about whether or not you’re prepared for extra upkeep, maintenance, and repairs.

Conclusion

That was a lot to get through.

We covered new and used RVs, the best time of year to get the best deals, and whether it’s cheaper to buy direct from the manufacturer. But we also looked at the best types of RVs and even a few specific models that I think are the best of the best.

Oh, and we looked at interest rates, credit scores, and financing too.

Now you should be fully prepared to make the best decision for yourself on what to buy when to buy, and how to get the lowest price. Happy camping!

Jeff Campbell

Jeff Campbell travels on and off with his 3 daughters in a Newmar Baystar Class A Motorhome. He writes extensively on both RVs, campgrounds, parenting on the road tips, remote learning & schooling, and much more!

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