So you have chosen a class C motorhome. Fine! You've gone through the hardest part of buying a recreational vehicle, which is deciding the type of model you want to buy. However, you are still a long way from reaching your goal.
Before you head down to the dealership to pick up your Class C RV, take a moment to go through some helpful tips that will help you prepare for the adventure ahead.
1. Should I buy my camper new or used?
This is the most debated question faced by RV buyers. Both have their advantages and disadvantages, and ultimately there is no universal answer to this question that is asked again and again.
A brand new Class C has the latest luxuries and isn't used by anyone else, making for an extra clean interior! The biggest pitfall: money. Expect to spend it, and lots of it.
New advantages :
You will receive a brand new motorhome with fresh new lines, hoses and tanks
The latest technology is available
New models have a modern look that is aesthetically pleasing both inside and out
The manufacturer's warranty begins the day you write the check
New cons :
Can be very expensive
New motorhomes are not yet broken in and can have problems immediately
Insurance is much more expensive
If money is tighter, a used Class C may be the way to go. Even if you buy a used RV from a dealer, you should conduct a thorough inspection yourself or hire someone to do the inspection for you. Many people would assume that the dealer is doing this for the buyer to uncover any problems, but it is naïve to think that this is 100% the case.
used advantages :
Problems that occur with new motorhomes are already fixed
Approval, registration and insurance cost less
- Higher risk of hidden problems not disclosed by the seller
- Older vehicles may not be as fuel efficient as a new model
- Fewer options and floor plans to choose from
- Usually no manufacturer warranty available
2. Rent before you buy
There are plenty of Class C manufacturers with even more models under their umbrella of RVs they sell. Although renting isn't always a cheap option, once you've settled on a particular make and model, you should rent that first if possible.
Seeing your 30-foot dream, Thor Motor Coach Chateau, in the dealership lot with the drawers extended is very different than driving, parking, and living in your new Class C. After a few days of touring, you might realize that driving a 30-foot giant isn't your forte. Or maybe five TVs is an unnecessary amenity and keeps the kids too busy. Or wait, petrol costs 165 USD? Didn't we just fill up?
Owning an RV is expensive.
Renting an RV is also expensive, but it can also save you thousands of dollars. Class C's cost an average of around 50,000 USD when buying new. Renting costs about 150 USD per day. Renting a motorhome for a week might set you back USD 750, but if that helps you decide and you find you don't like that particular make or model, you'll save yourself a lot of money.
Let's do some math! Let's say you financed your mobile home for 50,000 USD.
Your monthly payments are probably around 500 usd.
Then there are the insurance premiums, about 500 usd per year.
Added to this is the maintenance (oil change, maintenance of the generator and replacement of filters): 1,000 usd.
And don't forget the gas! Let's assume that you don't only use your investment in the summer months. That's around $1,000 for the petrol alone, depending on how far you drive.
If you store your motorhome in a warehouse, you add another 100 usd per month, so a total of 1,200 usd per year in storage fees.
Our benchmark is 4,200 usd per year. If you enjoy taking your camper with you, going on adventures, using it as a guest house for visitors and really making use of your Class C, then this number might not be daunting and it's totally worth it! Yay!
However, when your new RV is just a paperweight in your driveway, that's a significant amount of money every year.
Let's go back to renting for a week, which costs about 750 usd. If your family goes on vacation three times a year, your rental costs will total 2,250 usd. That is a saving of 1,950 usd per year. In order to recoup your investment of 50,000 usd compared to renting, you would have to make 67 trips with your motorhome. If you average three trips a year, that would take 22 years. I can't even calculate how much money that would mean in 22 years for maintenance, fuel, tires, repairs and parts.
Of course, when you rent a car you are not responsible for spending money on costly repairs and maintenance.
This is not to discourage you from buying a Class C, but rather to encourage you to try and research before you buy. There are cases when it makes more sense to buy than to rent. For example, if your goal is to drive full-time, then of course it makes sense to buy, but still do a test run before you write the check.
The bottom line is that you should get to know your home before you buy it and if renting can help you in your decision then spend the extra few hundred bucks to solidify your judgement.
3. What do you want to put in the caravan?
Depending on the size of your caravan, you'll want to make sure the cab is able to offer the appropriate stability for the amount of weight you plan to have up there. Will you be using it for storage or for extra sleeping space? The average weight capacity is 120 kg, which is enough for two adults weighing 62 kg each.
However, if you intend to use the RV as a full-time vehicle, storage capacity may be more important. You will be surprised how much material objects weigh!
Depending on what you're hauling, it's a good idea to pack most of the weight as close to the engine as possible. Just like packing dirt in a wheelbarrow; it's much easier to push with all of your weight on top of the wheel, as that's the muscle-demanding part of the machine. Placing heavier items closer to the cab will help your gas mileage because the weight is on top of the engine. Contrasted with 6 plus meters away, trailing behind.
4. Check for leaks!
This is especially true for a used camper, but it is important that the roof holds up in the rain. If you're camping and it starts to pour, you'll want to take shelter inside your house.
Well, what happens when it rains and the RV roof leaks and the bed gets soaked. Then you have no more sleeping space. If possible, you should inspect the vehicle during a heavy rain to avoid potentially buying a leaky home.
Unfortunately, water and moisture are insidious things. Even if there isn't a noticeable leak, any moisture that gets in will quickly ruin the interior of the house. You will develop mold on the walls, on the furniture, in the carpet, on your personal belongings and everywhere else.
Mold creates a very unsafe living environment for you and your fellow travelers. Prolonged inhalation of mold is dangerous, especially for children and the elderly. The best way to avoid having a science experiment in your house is prevention!
A dehumidifier sucks excess moisture from the air and keeps the air fresh. Wiping down the walls in the shower and bathroom with a towel after use will help get rid of the early stages of mold growth.
In addition, when you cook in the camper, you can generate steam, which is secretly water in gaseous form. Drying the walls near the stove and the bottom of the cabinets will help keep mold at bay in the kitchen.
5. Low mileage on an older RV isn't always a good thing
When you're buying a used RV, low mileage can mean a variety of things.
If you're buying direct from the previous owner, don't be afraid to ask questions about the history of the RV. If it's low on miles, ask, "Why haven't you driven it more?" You might get a response like, "It's parked most of the year." Why is this a bad thing? An unused RV is prone to rust, cracks, and other unforeseen problems.
As a kid, I remember sitting on the sofa without a seat belt (that was so cool) and peering out the cabover window with my brother to watch other drivers while we were stuck in traffic. So illegal.
But I also remember a family reunion that took place at my grandparents' house. For nostalgic reasons, my uncle wanted to see the old RV that had been parked in the back drive for 20 years. He went outside with my mum and grandfather to check it out and all three returned to the party pretty quickly with disappointed faces. Was it covered in mold and impossible to breathe? Was it covered in creepy crawlies? Or was it inhabited by a family of raccoons? Oh well. All of the above.
Needless to say, owning an RV just because it has relatively low mileage is not desirable.
The same question can apply to a vehicle that is only a few years old. Why would anyone sell their RV that they bought brand new just a few years ago? Ask this question. It could mean it's hard to drive and the owners have only used it a couple of times. Perhaps the fuel consumption is absolutely miserable.
You don't want to inherit someone else's scrap heap, so be diligent, do your research, and ask questions.
6. Choose the right tires for your RV
Choosing the right tires or making sure your RV is fitted with good tires will help you get on the road and stay on the road. The load capacity of the tires is indicated on the sidewall of the tire and tells you exactly what you need to know. Most class C motorhomes use load class E tires. To find out the exact values for your vehicle, check the tire label on the inside of the driver's door. Pounds per square inch (PSI) is an important factor in tire selection.
To get a rough estimate of the load capacity for each tire, find your Class C dry weight and then add the weight of your passengers and the weight of any material and liquids you load into the vehicle, including water, propane and gas. Once you have the sum of the dry weight and the other weights, divide by four.
Time for math! Let's say your class C weighs 5000 kg and we add about 600 kg of other weight. We are at 5600 kg; divided by four that is 1400 kg. This means that each tire must have a load capacity of at least 1400 kg.
There are horror stories and videos of people who have had their tires blow out on the internet. Don't be one of those people and pay close attention when buying and inspecting your tires. Too much weight can damage tires prematurely and cause big, time-consuming and expensive problems.
The worst thing about tire problems is that they typically occur while driving, which can be extremely dangerous. Again, if you are diligent and take precautions to ensure your tires are in good condition, you will protect yourself, your passengers and other drivers on the road.
7. Invest in roadside assistance
Purchasing insurance that specializes in RVs will save you money in the long run. One of the best known RV insurance agencies is Good Sam Club. You have special insurance cover for motorhome beginners and also for full travelers. They also offer you the option of opting out of your insurance coverage for periods when your Class C is not in use.
If you cover yourself by taking out quality insurance, your vacation will be even more enjoyable.
After our last section on tires I know that you are aware of the dangers of not maintaining your tires and you will be relentless in tire safety – but some accidents are inevitable. With roadside assistance, you can count on professional help to safely repair or replace roadside tires.
Be mindful of the tow distance to ensure you never end up in a stranded situation.
Locking yourself out while camping could completely ruin your trip and cause huge dinner delays! However, with a lockout aid, you'll be back cooking dinner to satisfy your growling tummies in no time!
Accidents and emergencies are inevitable, so be well prepared and insured!
8. Diesel or petrol?
Class C's have the option of burning regular gasoline or diesel. Diesel models tend to be more expensive than regular petrol vehicles as they tend to be higher quality and the engine is built differently to handle diesel fuel.
Diesel has a higher energy level than gasoline, giving you a 10% or more higher MPG. Benefits also include more towing capabilities, better acceleration on inclines, and more torque. On the other hand, diesel models are around 30% more expensive than petrol ones, which can mean the difference between 190,000 usd and 133,000 usd. That's a difference of 57,000 usd!
With their extra torque, diesel engines are ideal for climbing steep passes. If you already know beforehand that you For example, if you're going to be driving through the mountains, this model will help you get up those passes while using a lot less fuel and putting less strain on the driver.
Gas models, on the other hand, are significantly cheaper than diesel. You can fill up at any gas station and the maintenance costs are also cheaper. However, gas models work harder when going uphill, use more fuel and require more maintenance.
The most important consideration when deciding between the two is how you will be using and driving your RV. If you only want to take the family on vacation a few times a year, then a petrol model makes sense and is a cheaper alternative.
If you want to use your motorhome all day, then a diesel vehicle is the ideal choice. You'll spend less time on repairs and more time on the road.
9. Sit in the driver's seat
The nice thing about class C is that they are built on a van or truck chassis and have a similar driving style. Sit in the driver's seat to make sure you're not only comfortable in the seat, but that you're comfortable with the pedals and gears.
If this is your first motorhome, you should choose a model that you are already used to driving in order to avoid stress and anxiety during the first trips.
Many newer models come with rear view cameras and cameras on the side mirrors (another plus for a new model), which can be very reassuring for a novice motorhome driver. The cameras on the side mirrors turn on when you use the turn signal (so be sure to turn the signal!). Make sure the screen showing the cameras is placed in a good viewing position while you are in the driver's seat.
10. Choose the right RV length
Class C motorhomes come in many lengths, from 6m to 12m. The length of your Class C will determine where you can park your vehicle when not in use and what type of campsites you will be admitted to.
If you're planning to visit national parks, it's a good idea to find out about length requirements beforehand to ensure you stay within the regulations. Longer vehicles offer more space and amenities, but may limit your ability to visit certain national parks.
Make sure you have a plan of where you will park your RV when not in use. The 10m Class C might look great in the dealership parking lot, but will it fit in your 6m driveway? It is very important that you have a plan for where to store your RV when not in use.
11. Have a plan for RV storage
There are storage facilities specifically for RVs that come in covered and uncovered types. The price of the storage unit depends on the length (this is also an important thing to consider!) and whether you are willing to pay a little more for covered storage.
Your RV is an investment and if you leave it to rot in your front yard under the sun's damaging rays or the damaging effects of rain, you will quickly notice the adverse effects of the weather on your vehicle. Also, a storage unit saves space on your home lot and potentially frees up street parking for your neighbors.
By taking your C-Class off the road and into a storage unit, you also prevent accidents that can be caused by other motorists or pedestrians passing by.
A storage unit lets you keep your Class C safe until you're ready to hit the road. Many storage facilities also offer amenities such as unloading stations and laundry services.
When choosing your storage space, try to find something with a concrete floor. Parking your RV on a grass or dirt surface will retain moisture and damage your vehicle's underbody, which can lead to premature rusting.
By storing your RV in a covered area and protecting it from the elements, you are actively extending its lifespan and also avoiding costly repairs that could have been avoided with proper storage.
12. Or use an RV cover
A less expensive alternative to physically storing your Class C is with an RV cover. These come in many shapes, lengths and sizes to suit your Class C's profile. You can find these online or at stores like Camping World. Of course, the higher the quality of the covers, the higher the price, but they also protect your motorhome better.
Consider the conditions your Class C will face. Do you live in a humid, rainy environment or in a dry, desolate area? Are the conditions moderate or difficult? All of these questions should be answered when looking for covers that will best protect and preserve your RV.
Some of the specs you want to make sure your coverage has to offer include:
- Ventilation openings to improve air circulation and prevent mold growth
- Zippered panels for easy access to storage areas
- Elastic panels and adjustable straps for a secure fit
- Durable fabric with UV protection
- When measuring your Class C coverage, start at the front bumper and go to the extreme edge of the RV. Be sure to include bumpers, ladders, and spare tires. If your measurements are between sizes, always buy the largest size. The elastic panels and adjustable straps allow you to customize the fit.
13. Consider slide outs
When it comes to the interior, slide-outs are the way to go. The extra 1m width makes a huge difference when it comes to making your home less cramped. Slide outs are the total game changer. The interior transforms from small and cramped to open and breathable.
The additional living space makes the boundary between living and living disappear. No more awkward maneuvering around family members and standing exactly where someone else is. With the extra space, you can comfortably stride through your home without bumping into the counter or squeezing into the bathroom.
The downside of slide outs is when your slide outs don't work. Maybe they won't open, or worse, they won't close when you need to get back on the road. Most RVs have a manual crank to retract unruly slide-outs.
Unfortunately, even if you buy a brand new Class C, it doesn't stay new. That simple push of a button that transforms your home from a cramped quarters into a mansion can fail, or the slide-out can go off track. Whatever the reason, it's a hassle to repair and fix.
Coming back to moisture ingress, the only thing keeping water out when the drawers are fully extended is a rubber strip. Over time, this strip can dry out, crack, and split open, allowing water to get in and causing an even bigger problem.
When considering slide-outs, avoid RVs where the kitchen is a moving part. The kitchen has a lot of mechanical parts and an area that is moved frequently is not the best idea. Hoses and electrical wiring can be damaged prematurely simply from the stresses of using the slide out.
You can never do enough research and shopping. Ultimately, by considering these tips, you can make an informed decision on one of the most expensive purchases you can make. Good luck, have fun, and remember, adventure awaits!