How NOT To Buy An RV

by Rachel Gertz

A story of triumph. A story about gas.

Walter’s gone now. I guess I can be honest.

If you ever up and decide to sell your house to live in a matchbox, this post’s for you. As you may know, in 2010 we took this very action.

And where did it lead us? Well, around the wild horseshoe of the United States, totalling 31 States, through the bewitching maritimes, too. The trip also left us with a 2 tonne pile of steel named Walter that sat on various paved lots for over a year before recoiling to the clutches of another happy-go-lucky family.

I’m here to tell you how NOT to buy an RV.

Disclaimer: In no way am I recanting our trip. It was the best damn thing that could have happened to us, and if we had to unicycle across the country balancing silky, top-hat-wearing felines in either hand, we couldn’t have had more fun. Walter will be missed. His kind just won’t ever be bought by this wised up bunch of assholes again.

Walter in the Redwoods.
Walter hiding out in the Redwood Forest, CA.

Tip #1: Don’t Buy An RV Before A Recession.

Now, take this as a mild suggestion, but it is not advisable for you to buy a vehicle worth a small fortune right before the economy collapses and your vehicle responds by assessing its value with a kick to your groin, and flip to your pockets.

In the fall of 2010, after we decided to be risky poker players and lay down our royal flush (I mean this in terms of the fact that we were plumb out of ideas), we were pushed into a sale for a vehicle that may or may not have cost us our weight in gold. Try $86 000. Yeah, I’m heavy. So what. It’s gold.

Well, $86 000 was the lot price. Woody’s RV (those sneaky sons of bitches) dropped that price $15 000 without even batting an eyelash. That’s just how RV lots roll, folks. Be prepared for this and a whole lot of other greasy wheeling and dealing, too.

If you decide to buy a recreational vehicle at all, this is a warning: you will probably get stuck with it for the rest of your pathetic, natural life, because nobody wants your shitty 1993 Rambler with the awful purple faded trim and rusted out muffler. Not now, not ever. Check Kijiji. There’s over 5000 RV’s listed right now in Calgary alone. Trust me.

A Look At Walter's Guts
A crisp look at Walter’s insides.

Tip #2: Never Trust A Salesman

Someone recently told me that used car salesmen make fun of RV salesmen, which only proves the fact that all salesmen are idiots and old farts with a dime to make off your bad decisions. I hope I haven’t offended your grandfather. You know he’s an old fart, anyway.

The lesson is, never trust a snake oil salesman (they’re all snake oil), especially not ones named Herb or Dick who call you up and tell you that another couple is prepared to make an offer on your RV. He’s lying through his greasy teeth. There is no other couple, and when you rush down there like a moron ready to put an offer on the table, you’ve just become that couple and your own worst enemy. The RV world has won.

Never trust a salesman who looks you point blank in the face when you ask if the vehicle is a rental and says, “not to my knowledge.” Another lie for good measure. Even though he knows that you know that there’s over 100 000km on this, here, two year old vehicle, and common sense dictates it’s a rental, ya doofus. It’s ‘not’.

If you’re purchasing your hot little number in Canada, I’d especially avoid Woody’s RV World. Their salesman are cutthroat, they’ll lie to your face, and when it comes time for you to try to sell your unit back, they’ll offer you dirt for your costly tears. Jerks.

Tip #3: Don’t Buy Local

Right, I mentioned the recession. So, did you happen to know that right now it’s cheaper for Canadians (and Americans by default) to drive to Montana, one of the largest suppliers of RVs to Canada, buy a brand-spanking-new RV and then drive it home, than it is to buy a slightly used RV in Calgary from a personal seller or RV dealer?

That’s right folks. Step on up and spend a weekend in Big Sky country so you can be a wink away from your RV dream. Just skip Great Falls. Yech.

Just don’t forget that if you buy new, you’re an idiot.

Tip #4: Don’t Buy A Gas Guzzler. Don’t Buy An RV.

RVs suck gas. They suck a lot of things and dump out your excrement like it was yesterday’s trash. That is just what they do. Do not expect to get more than 11 miles to the gallon. Do not expect to drive further than two and a half hours before the tank runs dry. Do not expect to drive faster than 100km/hr (62mph) to catch up to the hot blonde in the convertible. Do not expect to find parking in any city, unless you happen to drive into the creepy world of Walmart parking. They are your beacons in the night. You will buy litres of cola, and rash creams as a result of sitting on your ass all day. You will spend your life savings at Walmart.

Dos

Do do your research. Do it till your eyeballs fall off your face; it’s that stage where you’re so satiated, you want to buy something, but you’re not so far gone that you don’t care what kind of box you buy. You’ll be fine.

Do test-drive. Even if you have no intention of buying anything. Have you ever jumped behind the wheel of a 31 foot rig? It’s an electrifying experience. And the lot covers the insurance in case you bump a few pedestrians on the way out. 

Do buy used. You can buy brand new if you want to, but I’ll call you an idiot. Unless it’s an Airstream. Otherwise, that vehicle will depreciate by almost half as soon as you drive it off the lot. And you’ll never, ever in a million years get your money back. Don’t be fooled by ‘shiny’. Buy something new enough to get you around without maintenance, but old enough to level out on the losses. Two to three years old, max.

Do pay a reasonable down payment. This is one of those things where if you don’t, you’ll be laughed right out of the RV business office, but also: you’ll never see that money again, so be sure you have aunty Doreen’s trust fund and tragic gerbil incident lined up. I did NOT just tell you to murder your aunt, you sick degenerate.

Do NOT tell the bank that you’re living in your RV. If you do, they’ll never finance your vehicle since they cannot repossess your house if you don’t own other property. Tricked you; that was a ‘do not’. But a smart one and one you should heed.

Do watch for extra polishing on the front of the vehicle. RV dealers likely tried to buff out the vinyl sticker residue that boasted Road Bear RV Rentals—a surefire way to make them a dime and lose you a dollar (a couple thousand). Ours showed up about a month into the trip after thousands of miles and sick feeling in our guts. Not that rentals are bad, but they’re totally horrible and cost you a mint in strange maintenance fees. Sorry, how much does a sewage hose lever cost again? Yep, $75 buckaroos.

Do replace your RV mattress. Do not, however, think of the cum and urine stains on it (especially if it’s a rental) as you lift it in your brawny arms to get rid of it. Most RV owners are 50+ empty nesters… they like sex. And if they’re living in Florida for half the year, they’re sweating like oysters in a bucket of mayonnaise. Yep, you got that visual, didn’t you.

Do check Kijiji listings. If you can do a personal sale and inspection and have the dough to put up front, you’ll save yourself a costly sell-your first-born-child loan. Plus you won’t have to deal with those kumquat salesmen trying to rip you a new hole in your, umm, pocket. And your asshole. Sorry, had to say it.

Loans. If you do have to have one, make sure you ask to pay down the principle first. Otherwise, expect that the first 10 years of your payments will simply be put toward interest. That’s a lot of money that is simply pocket change for the greedy slime sucking banks. If you can pay down your principle, you’ll end up paying less interest in that first decade while you’re still making those RV conjugal visits to San Quentin. You know, before you decide to pack ‘er in, change your sex, and become a prisoner’s mistress. Oh, and sell your RV.

Do your own research on bank lenders. Don’t let the dealer just plunk you down with whatever lender they have on file. They’ll throw your own shit at you as if you were a chimpanzee. Then they’ll make it all tricky to nullify your loan if you do sell.

Do your homework on insurance. We paid a yearly fee up front. Since the majority of RV owners do not use their RV year round, the shitty insurance dealers profit off you because they don’t let you cancel or reduce your insurance for half the year. Although you can expect to pay about $800-1500 a year for insurance, your $500 deductible won’t even cover a single tire if you damage it.

If you do end up selling your noble steed but don’t quite make back the money your loan is worth, be prepared. You’ll be expected to fork over the remainder all at once. Note to self: A line of credit will protect you from imminent bankruptcy.

Anyway, now that I’ve gone and scared you silly, you should consider it. A cross country RV trip is always a ton of fun. If you have a little home equity to spare and you’re feeling reckless, there is no better way to lighten your pockets and get cross-country cultured. Be warned though, you’ll probably develop a strange appreciation for a foot pedal on your tiny toilet that makes your problems disappear until they resurface on the other side. And you’ll be depressingly broke.

Oh, and there’s a concept car out there. It’s an electric VW van. And it’s sexy. I would say: save up your money, convince this designer to make it happen, and nickname yourself a genius. That, my friends, is how you should buy an RV.

This Is Your Domicile. Do Not Forget.
Walter’s toilet. The place we went to get away from it all.

Random Facts

  • RVs are expensive.
  • Gas at current prices: $250 to fill your tank
  • Don’t forget… oil changes, maintenance costs, parts and labour, winter storage that will cost so much it’ll make you pimp out your children
  • You can rent an RV for a week or two, but it’ll cost you more than a classy escort, and you won’t get much lovin’ either. Expect to pay around $200 per night. 
  • And don’t even tease yourself with the thought of renting your unit out. It’s tricky, insurance is a pain, and your friends and other renters will throw up in your rig and have a ton of disgusting sex in it.

Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

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