5 Tips for Purchasing an RV on a Tight Budget

Shelley DennisJanuary 10, 2023

5 Tips for Purchasing an RV on a Tight Budget

You’ve already decided that you are going to welcome a new addition to your family: an RV! You don’t have to be talked into the benefits of family camping and vacations in the great outdoors. You may have even decided that renting out your new purchase on those dates when you can’t enjoy using it would be a terrific financial decision. Now you just need to figure out how you’re going to purchase an RV on a tight budget.

One way of narrowing it down is by renting an RV to test out different styles of affordable RVs you might like.

Try an affordable RV rental near you

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New motorhomes, trailers, and vans can be as expensive as small homes these days, and even used vehicles can send your budget into a tailspin. But don’t be dismayed! There are so many ways to buy that perfect RV and not break the bank in the process. In this article, we’ll break down five tips for purchasing an RV on a tight budget:

  1. Saving and budgeting for the purchase
  2. Looking at used RVs
  3. Searching online for deals
  4. Considering your financing options
  5. Limiting unnecessary add-ons

For most people, the decision to buy an RV is not an impulsive one, and it can take a while to pick out the right rig and make the purchase. Here’s how to have the best experience.

Tip #1: Start Saving to Purchase an RV

First and foremost, it’s always a great idea to put away as much money toward your purchase as you can. Start saving now! And if you don’t have anything extra to throw into the RV account, think again. Here are a few easy ways to create more savings:

  • Make some small adjustments like not spending your change each day. Instead, put it in a piggy bank or savings account, away from spending temptation. That can easily add up to $40 to $50 per month.
  • Assess the number of channels you really watch on your satellite television plan. Consider cutting your package back or cut the cord entirely. (I saved $75 a month toward a motorhome purchase this way – that’s $900 a year.)
  • Cook more at home rather than eating out. That alone can save anywhere from $100 to $500 per month, depending on how often you’ve been dining at restaurants.
Photo Tripping America Purchase An RV - Piggy Bank - Outdoorsy

Photo Credit: Shelley Dennis

Tip #2: Look at Used RVs

Unless you are dead set on purchasing a brand new RV, make it your goal to find a well-cared-for used vehicle. Since RVs generally depreciate, you can save quite a bit by purchasing a model that has seen some use already. And no, this doesn’t mean that you have to be driving around an old clunker. You’d be surprised what kind of discounts you’ll find on models that are only a few years old.

Not only will used RVs be cheaper to begin with, but you’ll also find yourself in a better negotiating position at the dealership. If you play your cards right, you may walk away with a few extra perks thrown into your purchase. You can find out more about the pros and cons of buying used in this video below from RV Masters.

Keep in mind that you can do some updating with very little cost once you find that perfect recreation vehicle. There are tons of ideas floating around out there for upgrading and renovating trailers and motorhomes. You can even accomplish large projects— like finding new RV furniture— relatively cheaply!

Tip #3: Look Online for RVs

Don’t be afraid to look beyond the dealership. Start looking for your RV on Facebook Marketplace, Craig’s List, LetGo and other apps that have local connections. Just like cars, you can usually get a better price from private owners. Plus, they can give you the complete history of the vehicle.

You can even expand your search beyond local offerings online. You might find the perfect rig listed a few states down. Bringing it home can be the first trial run road trip.

Try Before You Buy: RVs For Rent Near You

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Tip #4: Consider Financing Options

If the stars all align and you’ve done your due diligence saving for your dream RV, you might be in the position to purchase it with cash. But if that perfect camper appears and you haven’t quite reached your goal, there are several financing options available to make sure you don’t miss out on the opportunity.

Here are a few things to keep in mind when financing:

Credit Unions Often Have Good Rates

Consider opening up a checking or savings account with a credit union in advance of your purchase. They tend to offer better terms and rates for loans. Then, if the amount you need to complete your purchase is not huge, you may be able to get a “Signature Loan,” which doesn’t require the credit union to hold the title on your RV.

You May Have to Purchase a Newer RV

There are some really nice older motorhomes out there that still have a lot of life left in them. I should know – I have one that rocks! But if you cannot pay cash outright for a rig that is over 10 years old, you will find yourself in a financing conundrum. Very few lending institutions will offer loans on older vehicles, but if they do, the terms are horrendous! So set your sights on something a little newer if you don’t have the full purchase price saved up.

Consider Buying the RV with Other People

Do you have good friends that are also interested in purchasing an RV and renting it out for income? Why not consider a partnership? Each of you puts up half of the cost to buy the vehicle, schedules separate usage times for family vacations, etc., and splits half of the income when you rent it out. It might be a great way to get started in the RV rental market!

Check Out Financing Options Other Than Financial Institutions

Is there a family member that might make you a short-term loan to cover the remaining amount you need to purchase that RV? Make the terms appealing to them. For instance, if they have money in a savings account or CD, offer a better rate of return with your monthly payments to them.

You may even find a seller who is willing to finance your purchase from them. Be prepared with a large down payment, and chances are that the length of the loan will be quite short (possibly a year or two). Make sure to have official documents written up, with a schedule of payments and terms agreed to by all.

Photo Tripping America - Purchase An RV - Money Exchange - Outdoorsy

Photo Credit: Shelley Dennis

Tip #5: Limit Unnecessary Options

Getting an RV with all of the bells and whistles may be your dream. But keep in mind, if you will be renting it out, your renters probably aren’t going to utilize those heated towel bars very often.

But they would see an immediate benefit in a tankless water heater. They may be longing for a family outing in a rig that has a convenient outdoor kitchen. They probably also want to take along their bikes or have ample space to play board games on a rainy day.

Do some research to see what amenities RVers use most. (Here’s a great checklist.)  Then find the motorhome or trailer that best fits your needs AND theirs. You will be happier with your purchase and you’ll see your income increase as renters realize that you offer the perfect “escape” vehicle!

You CAN build an RV rental business on a budget!

As you can see, your budget might be tight, but there are a variety of ways to get the RV you’ve been dreaming of and put it to work for you. Be sure to look at all of the options Outdoorsy has to help you turn your dream of business ownership into reality!

Test out an affordable RV for rent near you

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I'm a mountain gal who gave it all up to hit the road full-time with my Golden Retriever, Sully. Together we explore the back roads of America, documenting the beauty of our country and the people that make her great!

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