Top Tips for First-Time RV Owners

Expert Advice

RVers Share Their Top Tips For Buying An RV

Advice from fellow RVers is invaluable to first-timers — these current RVers share their tips and tricks for newbies when buying your first rig.

The list of things new RV owners need to know is seemingly endless: Deciding on what type of RV to buy for your lifestyle, budgeting for the extra expenses, emptying the gray water tank, and learning how to back into a campsite space… just to name a few. While it might appear daunting at first, it’s achievable when you consider the millions of happy new RV owners traveling the roads this year.

RELATED: The RV Atlas' Guide To Buying A New RV 

Like others in 2020, I had to figure out new ways of working and traveling. Since globetrotting wasn’t an option, my husband and I bought a small travel trailer and began learning everything we could about the RV world. 

Getting advice from fellow first-timers before buying an RV is invaluable, so we’re here to share our knowledge, along with a few of our RVing friends: Midwesterners Kimberly and Scott Hamilton who own a 2019 Winnebago Minnie; Tiffany Bonner owns a 2019 Winnebago Travato (Class B); and Crystal Tuttle and her husband own a 23-foot Wildwood travel trailer. 

Here are some of their best tips for buying an RV for the first time.

What To Do Before You Buy Your First RV

Crowdsource: “Spend a lot of time in specific Facebook group forums for the type of RV you want to buy,” says Kim Hamilton. “There’s an enormous amount of information that will help you navigate the ins and outs of RVs and RV life in general. These forums are worth every minute you spend there. Also, search YouTube. You’ll find reviews, instructional and troubleshooting videos that have saved many owners a lot of time and costly mistakes.”

RELATED: The RV Purchase Process 

Research: “Learn as much as you can about the type of RV you want before making that investment,” says Tiffany Bonner. “There are so many options to choose from, so it helps to be really knowledgeable about the different RVs on the market before you head to the dealership. The research helped boost my confidence, especially as a woman. When I walked into a dealership, I knew the right questions to ask and I felt like I was taken more seriously when the salespersons noticed I knew more than they did.”

Woman smiling in front of a campervan
Tiffany Bonner bought her 2019 Winnebago Travato 59G, Class B motorhome from a dealership close to home.

Refine your search: “Know what you’re going to tow with and how much weight it’s rated for towing (if you’re going with a trailer option). Once you know that, you can start to streamline your shopping options. How comfortable are you with parking and maneuvering long trailers/vehicles?” adds Crystal Tuttle. “If you’re not used to it, then you may want to look for shorter options. These two things helped me pare down the numerous possibilities and start really looking at the differences between units. It’s easy to become overwhelmed by all the choices out there."

Picking Up Your Rig: Advice For The RV Dealership Process

Film your dealer walkthrough: “During the walk-through at the dealership, they explained how everything worked, but it’s impossible to remember it all,” says Tiffany. “Videotape your walkthrough, so you have a quick reference tool available when you don’t have Wi-Fi at a campground to research for an answer."

A Class B motorhome with an open door
Your RV walkthrough at the dealership will be overwhelming, so film it in sections so you can easily go back and reference important information.

Spend time online: “We did most of our shopping and discussion online and via text or phone with our sales rep. By the time we actually went to see the unit in person, we were ready to start the purchasing paperwork. All in all, I think we only had to visit the dealer two times, bringing it home on the second visit. Shopping online was a great experience. It allowed us to broaden our search and do most of the research before we settled on a unit that was a perfect fit for us,” says Crystal.

RELATED: Picking A New RV Dealership 

Lessons Learned: Advice That You Would Tell Yourself As A Beginner RVer

Know basic maintenance and system operations: “I wish I knew more about the specifics around the electrical components before I drove it off the dealership parking lot, like the heating system, for example,” says Tiffany. “After I bought my van, I camped in it for a week before returning home. I almost froze the first night because I didn’t quite know how the heating system worked. It was a cold lesson learned.”

RELATED: First RV Trip: Tips For Success

Kimberly and Scott wished they knew how to stabilize their trailer and how to reduce the rocking motion. They also wish they knew more about the weekly, ongoing care and maintenance of the gray and black water tanks and realized the limitations of your water capacity when not hooked up to sewer. 

Advice For Stocking Your First RV

It takes time (and money): “We bought things like leveling blocks, chemicals, water pressure regulators, and sewage hoses,” says Crystal. “I was aware of these products, but not how huge the selection or the range of prices. It involved a lot more research to choose the right tools for us. A big tip: If your trailer doesn’t come with a spare tire or mount, get one.”

RELATED: RV Packing Checklist: Stocking A New RV

 A travel trailer set up with camp at an RV park, set up includes items like a picnic table, grill, and hammock
Stocking your RV is time-consuming and can become costly — make a list of the necessities and particulars for your lifestyle and then add on items.

The Hamiltons purchased a new grill, outdoor shades for the awning, bedding, command hooks, unbreakable dishes, a lock box for keys, extra wheel chocks, wasp vent covers, a hand-held vacuum, an RV tool kit, a foldable wagon, camping chairs, an outdoor rug, lots of bug spray, water tank chemicals and treatment, a backup propane tank, picnic table covers, and hoses for water hookups. Scour YouTube for videos on packing up your RV and ask fellow RVers what they bring.

Final Thoughts For First-Time RVers

“Plan for the unexpected, put a budget together, and ask a lot of questions," says Kimberly. “Be kind to your RV neighbors, take advantage of the great outdoors, and enjoy!”

Tiffany adds, “Ask lots of questions, and don’t be afraid to ask even more questions. Then ask a few more… knowledge is key. If you’re a single female out there wanting to purchase an RV: Do it, there are a ton of us out here traveling solo in motorhomes and trailers.”

Crystal says, “Make sure you get contact numbers and business cards from those folks if you do buy; more than likely some little question you’d want to ask will pop up once you get your new RV home.”

My advice? Go camping first. Rent an RV or a cabin at a campground and ask your neighbors what they like about their motorhome or trailer. You’ll see every kind of RV out there being used, which is a very different experience from the dealership.

Deciding on what type of RV to buy for your lifestyle, budgeting for the extra expenses, emptying the grey water tank (if you even know what that is!), learning how to back into a campsite space – the list of things RV owners need to know is seemingly endless. While it might appear daunting at first, it’s clearly achievable when you consider the millions of happy new RV owners traveling the roads this year!

Kim Mackinnon

Escape with Kim

Kim Foley MacKinnon is a Boston-based food and travel writer. Her work has appeared in the Boston Globe, AAA Horizons, Forbes Travel Guide, Travel + Leisure, U.S. News & World Report and USA Today, among others. She has also written and contributed to several guidebooks. Find her at or @escapewithkim on Twitter and Instagram.