View Full Version : Advice for my newbie trailer buyer

08-15-2013, 06:42 PM
A long lost high school friend of mine is out having fun looking at travel trailers, with the intent of buying. We've not been in touch in nearly 40 years except for Facebook so I don't know her level of experience with RV's. Let's assume she's a total greenhorn and offer our collective advice, experience and plain ol' opinion that might save her some grief and get her off to a good start.

By all means jump in and add your :2cents:

A few things I learned about buying a trailer. Mostly opinion, but some fact.

In no particular order.

1.There are plenty of EVIL RV dealers out there.

a.Any dealer who has been in business in the same place (or at least the same town) for 20 years or so is likely OK.
b.Any dealer associated with Camping World is probably OK, too.

2.The actual sale price of a new trailer is about 60% of MSRP. (Sticker price) Always. No exceptions. I paid $7700 under MSRP for mine. $22,500 out the door.

3.There are many “brands” of RV, but only a few manufacturers. For example, my “Rockwood” was built by a company called “Forrest River” who also sells the exact same model as a “Flagstaff” only the interior colors/fabrics are different. Some makers have as many 30 names they sell under.

The three makers I recommend are:
a.Forrest River (affordable)
b.Keystone (a little more)
c.Jayco (just out of my reach) (Google all of these for info)
and of course there are plenty of others. But these are in my opinion as stated.

4.Self propelled RVs depreciate like crazy. Trailers depreciate less. Trailers also tolerate long term storage better as they have no gas, oil, etc.

5.Your RV will require maintenance. About like owning a boat. Nothing you can’t do yourself. But budget for it.

6.Don’t buy anything for quite awhile. You’ll fall in and out of love with every one you see at first. RV shows are worth the price of admission. You get to see a lot of models without a lot of time and gas.

7.On line forums are a source of good (and bad) advice/opinion. I know. I own one! You might also try:
a.http://www.forestriverforums.com/forums/ for owners of Forest River built RVs. Other manufactures have their followers, too.
b.http://www.rv.net/ is owned by Camping World/Good Sam both of which are reputable outfits despite what some say. The forum has a lot of good info, and a lot of trolls.
c.And then my favorite (since I own it) http://openroadsradio.net/ if you don’t mind all the ham radio stuff mixed in.

8.If you get a travel trailer, get an Equalizer hitching system. http://www.equalizerhitch.com/

9.Size matters. Really. Your car truck must be able to tow and stop your trailer. DO NOT ask the RV dealer how much trailer your vehicle can tow. As far as he’s concerned, your VW Golf can tow the State of Ohio. Instead ask your car dealer service manager about total towing weight (the fully loaded weight of the trailer) and hitch weight (the downward weight on the hitch of the vehicle) And then go ask 2 other dealers the same question because the first answer might not be right. Remember the weight of the trailer on the sticker on the side is EMPTY weight, you have to allow for your stuff inside, too.

10.Whatever the tow vehicle, the transmission is the weak link, and heat is what kills it. Have extra transmission cooling capacity installed inline with what’s already there.

11.After you know what you want, you may find a used one. Bad things happen to people and they have to let them go. And some folks jump right in, take 1 or 2 trips and find they hate RVing.

12.Something we did that was a lot of fun was to visit some state parks and walk through the RV camping area and talk to people. Right after they’ve eaten in the evening is a good time. (Or anytime they are sitting around outside) Tell them you are thinking of buying a camper and do they have advice for the beginner. You’ll get an earful.

13.I don’t think anyone still makes a trailer with walls made of sheet aluminum and wood studs anymore. If you find one don’t buy it. Modern trailers have a composite wall system made from a fiberglass outer skin, an aluminum frame filled with hard foam insulation and a plywood inner wall. All bonded together as one piece. Much lighter and way more durable.

14.RV’s are made of modular systems. Air conditioners, heaters, refrigerators, water heaters, toilets, all these are made by just a few companies. So the water heater in my Rockwood is the same as half of the trailers out there. Really. The quality of systems (like air conditioners) remains constant across all brands. So the way a manufacturer controls the cost of a trailer is by
a.Taking out or adding “frills” or features, or…
b.Quality of construction. I think my trailer is well made, but not fancy.

15.Dealer options: I had my dealer install some things I think are worth it.
a.Slide out room “awning” if your trailer has a slide out room, this keeps the trailer cooler in the sun, quieter in the rain, and trash like leaves off the slide out.
b.Extra 12 volt battery.
c.Roof vent covers. Keeps out rain. Let’s you tow with vents open.
d.If your trailer didn’t come with a high volume vent fan, have the dealer put one in.

16.Make sure the dealer demonstrates ALL of the trailers systems before you sign the papers. Make sure you understand how to operate all the systems. The trailer will come with all the system manuals, and your camping neighbors will be happy to help if you have trouble. Like I said, all RV systems are very much alike.

17.I keep my RV equipped with everything I need except food and clothes. I can get the itch to go and be out the driveway in under 3 hours. And that includes buying gas and food. The RV has it’s own coffee pot, alarm clock, toothbrush, pillows, towels, dishes, cookware, lawn chairs BBQ grill, you get the picture. I only pack and unpack food and clothes. I bought stuff at yard sales, dollar stores, found it around the house, etc. Kathy’s mom passed away and we had some of her stuff. Gathering up all this stuff is fun to do while you are trailer shopping.

18.Weather Radio. A camper offers no protection during a storm. A weather radio with SAME is a great idea. In heavy lightning many folk unplug the camper from the power pedestal. One of those stays in my camper.

19.If you are buying a conventional travel trailer, an electric tongue jack is a must have dealer installed accessory.

20.My camper had no 12 volt outlet (as in cigarette lighter style like in your car) I had to put one in myself. The dealer can do that for you, too.

21.Insurance. If in an accident the tow vehicles insurance covers liability. But a trailer needs its own insurance for theft, break in, storm damage and all that. I’ve got good coverage for about $40 a month.

That's all I can think of for now. What say ye of the forum?

08-15-2013, 09:21 PM
I say any new buyer should also compare the work it takes to set up a trailer at a campsite with the work it takes to set up a motor home at the same campsite.

I see people pull in next to me and spend literally hours outside in the heat unhooking the thing from the tow vehicle (especially if it's a 5th wheel) and getting it level. Before I bought, I was warned of this by my old friend WI5G, who was a Foretravel service manager and knows more about RVs than I know about everything I know about.

I spend about five minutes (maximum) outside unhooking the toad, then another five minutes in the air-conditioned driver seat of the MH, leveling up. Then I hook up the shore power, but wait for the cool of the evening to hook up anything else. Departure is even easier.

At my age, with some physical infirmities, I don't think I could set up some of the towables I watch arriving and departing. Just last week, in 95 degree heat, the guy who arrived next to me spent more than two hours outside, running back and forth between his corners, adjusting jacks, putting stuff under the jacks, digging out tools to adjust the jacks, etc. He looked tired and dirty.

That's not to say that everyone should decide as I did -- but it is to say that it ought to be high on the list of things newbies are told about before deciding what to buy. Only then should they decide.

08-16-2013, 06:50 AM
I would never buy new again. You can buy like new for half the price and all the bugs have already been worked out. I've owned all types of RV's. Pull trailers, 5th wheels and motor homes. Pull trailers are a real PITA to pull down the road, even with equalizers, and set up and take down are another pain. Fivers are much better, but still require quite a bit of set up and take down. I've owned half a dozen motor homes and ,for me, it's the only way to go. Folks that own fivers and pull trailers tend to feel the same way about their rigs. When I pull into a campground, I plug in my power cord, deploy the slides and sit back and watch everyone else trying to get level, hook up and sweat. Takes me at most 5 minutes. In Houston, there is a consignment place called PPL. They have every type of RV made. I always advise folks that are looking to go there first and find what they like. It gives them the chance to kick the tires with no sales pressure. They can buy anywhere but with that variety, they get a chance to see all the different models in one place and at very good prices. It's worth the trip to Texas.

08-16-2013, 08:43 AM
My only comment is water damage in any used trailer to me that is an instant deal breaker. Look for tell tail signs streaks on the walls soft spots in the floor etc.

08-16-2013, 08:45 AM
I would never buy new again.

That is utterly sound advice!

One must learn how to inspect a used unit, too. Water damage, as mentioned, is very important; and one of the most important things is to know how to recognize delamination in the outer skin, which usually is rather cheap pseudo-fiberglass. Delamination is easy to spot when you know what to look for, is tremendously expensive to repair, and usually can't really be repaired completely.

I was lucky to have a friend who was truly expert, and to be able to learn about 1% of what he knows when he helped me shop. Before buying used, pay for a really expert inspection, which is worth every penny.

08-16-2013, 10:58 AM
My wife and I work as a team. From picking out the site to lunch being served is about 30 - 45 minutes. We are in good health. We have our checklist down cold.

And we really like our 5th wheel, for the money we spent. (or rather did not spend).

I just wish I could back up better, but all I need is pratice. :rabbit:

08-16-2013, 04:20 PM
Well guys she done pulled the trigger and got a Flagstaff Micro Lite 25DS. (Forest River) Brand spankin new, and I think she did pretty good for herself.

08-16-2013, 06:55 PM
Oh good deal she will be much better off not having to worry about any thing other then having a good time camping.

08-16-2013, 09:17 PM
Well, too ate to try and steer her the right direction now.

But a much better RV form is www.irv2.com


08-17-2013, 08:57 AM
But a much better RV form is www.irv2.com

You're right. I never go there (don't know why, I just don') but that is a way better forum for the beginning RVer.