RV/Camper 101 for first timers – before you buy get the checklist
8 things you need to know before you buy an RV or Camper which will probably save you a lot of money.
Last year we bought our first camper ever. We have rented RV’s a couple of times for summer vacations, but we have never owned one ourselves.
Now we thought is the right time to buy one to get on the road whenever we want to. Just to be flexible and to be able to hit the road with our dog.
What do you actually need to know?
After some research what to buy, calculation and checking if RV or Camper, we decided on a 18 ft. small camper trailer, 10 years old and pretty reasonable in price.
And because the camper we picked wasn’t very inviting inside, I remodeled it easy and cheap.
Here you can see the outside (we named her ‘Happy’).
I am sure you are going to love her now, when you see the inside: How to Remodel a Camper Trailer Easy and Cheap
Do you know what you want to buy?
Before we bought ‘Happy’ we were searching around, trying to find some information what to be careful of, what to know about and so on, because we didn’t really know anything about buying a camper. Unfortunately we couldn’t find any good resources.
This is why I collected some important points for you.
RV/Camper 101 for first timers:
1.Know your towing capacity
If you choose buying a camper, make sure you know the towing capacity of your car. 2/3 of the recommended towing capacity is o.k. but try not to go over this amount. You are going to fill up that camper anyhow and you don’t want to drive your car on the limit.
More information about towing capacity in this post: Easy to tow Travel Trailer with weight indicator
Get on a ladder and check the roof. Is it patched? Does it look pretty good? Leaks are the worst thing that can happen to you and if you don’t know how to fix it, it can be pretty expensive. And finding a leak can take a long time. So check the roof and the windows if you see any signs of water damage. If you see patches on the roof, this could indicate that there were leaks and you might have rotten walls. So check the inside walls very thoroughly.
Look at the tires. Are they older than 7 years you are looking to replace them for your safety. You can find the age of the tires (month and year) on the tires.
Check the walls inside. Are there any soft spots? Open the cabinets and check for water damage on the walls. Check the bathroom really good. Also does it smell bad in the camper? This could be a sign that you have mould in the walls or on the floor.
Do all the appliances work? Fridge, Stove, AC/Heater? Water pump? Turn them on. Replacing a fridge can be pretty costly, because you need a specific size to fit in the space.
How does the floor look like? Check for water damage everywhere. Replacing old carpet is doable, just be sure the floor underneath the carpet doesn’t need to be replaced. This is a lot of work and not an easy task.
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If possible check the electrical lines, check if all the sensors show the tanks filling. Do you have a generator? Check if it works. Do you have slide-outs? Check them if they run in and out smoothly. If they don’t run it could be as simple as a fuse is out, but it could also be that the wiring isn’t up to date.
If you buy a used RV, which is normally the smarter thing to do because a new one devaluates around 20 % the minute you drive from the dealers parking lot, check if the previous owner has done a yearly RV maintenance. Did he do oil change on a regular term, did he had the brakes checked regularly, how good is the camper taken care of?
Make sure your Camper/RV is covered. Things can go wrong unfortunately.
If you have no navigation system in your RV, try out Waze or RV Trip Wizard
RV/Camper 101 for first timers
This is the first thing you should do after you purchased your dream RV/Camper:
After you bought your first Camper/RV go to a fairly empty parking lot and practice, practice, practice.
The hardest thing for me is backing it up. Knowing how fast (respectively slow) to turn the steering wheel and in which direction takes some time and practice.
So practice backing up, taking turns, brake to learn the distance it takes to come to a stop. Drive around until you feel comfortable to go on a journey.
If you need more detailed information, get this 40-page E-book with everything you need to know before you buy an RV/Travel Trailer and after you bought one.
Combined information, easy to read and good to have.
8 Facts you should know before you go on your first trip:
- Know the height/width of your RV/Camper. Because you will need to know this as soon as you drive underneath your first bridge.
2. The bigger your RV is, the less you will have a chance to get a site on a Campground or State Park. Try to plan in advance and make reservations.
3. Never run your slide-out before your Camper is leveled. Level Camper before deploying slides. Should a slide not work, check voltage switch, fuses and hydraulic fluid.
4. Don’t leave your black water valve open until it is time to dump. Afterwards dump the gray water to wash out pipe.
5. Don’t leave your awning out and go on an excursion. Winds will destroy or bend the rack and you won’t be able to roll it up or use the awning anymore.
6. Your fridge will run on propane or electric. If you set it on auto it will flip over to propane usage.
7. Before you turn the water heater on each season, be sure it has water flowing through it by opening the relief valve. Be sure the bypass valve is closed so water is going through the heater tank.
8. Use Dicor for all seams in case you have a small leak. If you have a small hole in the roofing material, use Eternabond Tape.
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Yes it seems as there is a lot to know and to remember, but you will learn it fast. Especially if you have downloaded my checklist, you won’t forget a thing.
Check through the Must-have list and make sure you have everything you need before you go on your first trip:
I also have a packing- and tool list in my Resource Library
This list helps us not to forget anything important to pack. I don’t like to go shopping for things I could have brought from my home because I forgot to pack it.
Summary of RV/Camper 101 for first timers
Don’t rush into buying a camper without checking it out really good. It will be no fun buying a camper with a lot of hidden damages. So please check it through thoroughly.
Download the checklist and bring it with you when you go shopping for one.
Want to remember what you just read? Print out the Checklist so you won’t forget a thing.
It is important to know what you are doing because buying an RV/Travel Trailer/Motorhome is an expensive decision to make.
It is definitely not an easy decision but a good one. We are so happy taking out TT out for short weekend trips or long cross country travels. See your country and make memories being on the road.
Get access to my Resource Library and to all my free printables to decorate your camper. Just subscribe to my Newsletter and get decorating and travel tips for your home and camper.