RV Buying Tips

We’re always surprised at how many people purchase a new motorhome without even driving it. When you think about it, many of us will spend more on a new motorhome than we did on our first or even second home, so it makes sense to carefully consider your first purchase. This is a very big investment that you’ll be living with for some time to come, so it’s important to take your time and not be rushed into a decision. We’ve met many customers who thought they had purchased the RV of their dreams, only to find out it was a nightmare to drive.

The first thing to take into consideration is the floorplan. When RVs are displayed on a dealer lot, they usually have the slideouts open to show off how roomy and luxurious the interior is. Take a look at what is placed in those slideouts, and how well balanced the floorplan appears. For example, if it has one large slideout on the kitchen side and all of the appliances are in it, it could be heavier on that side if the manufacturer didn’t plan things carefully. We’ve seen coaches that are 2,000 pounds heavier on one side than the other. If everything looks okay, ask the dealer to bring all of the slideouts in. Remember, you’ll spend probably half of your time on the road, and you want to make sure that at least the most important parts of the interior (like the bathroom and kitchen) are easily accessible during travel. And if you’re going to be with family, you’ll undoubtedly want to be able to see and interact with your loved ones—not just hear their voices from behind a retracted slideout.
Even some of the best motorhomes on the market miss out on this important detail. For example, we recently were in a million-dollar diesel pusher that was equipped with a motion satellite system, but the TV was hidden behind the forward slide out in travel mode.Once you’ve decided on the coach and floorplan you like, arrange for a test drive. Not just a drive around the block, but ask for a drive that encompasses some country roads, maybe some railroad crossings, hills and the like if possible. Most motorhomes ride well and are quiet on a stretch of highway, but their true character is revealed in a “real world” driving situation.

That’s why we created the Road Performance Assessment, and it’s how we decide what needs to be addressed in a motorhome’s suspension and steering systems. A narrow road will show you how easy it is to keep the coach in its lane, while a railroad crossing will give you a good indication of how well (orhow poorly) the motorhome will cope with rough roads. Make sure you go through some turns as well, and apply full throttle a few times (where it is safe and appropriate to do so, like a freeway on ramp) so you can see how well it accelerates and how noisy the engine is. Drive it in and out of a couple of driveways to see how much it rocks and rolls. And remember, if the coach feels loose, sloppy and bouncy on a test drive, it will be worse once it’s filled with water and all of your supplies. If the dealer has two of the same coach/floorplan, ask to drive the other one as well. If they don’t, find a dealership that does—we’ve found that no two motorhomes drive the same due to production tolerances. Don’t buy into myths and lies like, “They all drive like that” or “You’re the first person that’s ever complained about this.”Take a good look around the motorhome and make sure that it looks good and that it isn’t sagging on one side or the other. Diesel pushers have air suspension and many only have three ride height valves (two front, one rear for example), so even with auto leveling, there might be one corner that’s low.

Last, but most important, is weight considerations. The Recreational Vehicle Industry Association (RVIA) mandates a weight sticker that tells you the Gross Vehicle Weight Rating (GVWR; the maximum the coach can weigh) and Unloaded Vehicle Weight (UVW; the weight of the coach full of fuel and engine fluids but no water or LP-gas). Subtract the UVW from the GVWR, minus the water weight (number of gallons x 8.3 pounds) and LP-gas (number of gallons x 4.5 pounds) and the Sleeping Capacity Weight Rating (number of people the coach can sleep times 154 pounds) and you have the Cargo Carrying Capacity, or CCC of the coach. It’s a good guideline, but it doesn’t tell you the whole story. Consider that the UVW is likely for the base coach without any factory or dealer installed options, and that will eat into your CCC. Also, the weight sticker doesn’t tell you if the coach is properly balanced (front to rear or side to side) and that can make a huge difference on how the coach rides and handles.

This is why you should ask the dealer or seller if you can have the coach weighed. A public scale will work well enough for this, particularly one where you can weigh either side as well as front to back to determine the actual weight of the coach you plan to buy. Ideally, you’ll want to find a shop like Henderson’s Line-Up  that has wheel scales and can weigh each corner of the motorhome. If the dealer balks at this, take your business elsewhere—this is too big of an investment to take chances. You might consider finding a scale nearby that you can suggest in case the dealer doesn’t know of one.

Making a careful purchase will ensure that you’ve gotten the best driving motorhome you can afford, but that doesn’t mean it can’t be improved upon. SuperSteer offers a variety of parts designed to improve the ride and stability of motorhomes, and we also work with a variety of other reputable companies like Roadmaster, SuperSprings and Safe-T-Plus to develop products for Safer and Happier Driving.

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