When choosing an RV, there’s a lot to consider.
Where do you plan to camp? What are your travel plans? Are you a weekend warrior, snowbird, or full-timer RVer? What size RV fits your family? Do you prefer a motorized RV or a towable? What is your budget? Space and storage requirements? The list goes on.
A major difference between driving RVs and cars is that they don’t handle the same, especially when cornering. Test-driving will help to determine what kind of RV is manageable for you. The last thing you want to do is purchase an RV that you can’t drive safely.
But once you get to the test drive phase, there are six things you absolutely must do:
1. Try the bed
Is it comfortable? Large enough? If you plan on sharing it with another person, bring them along to ensure it’s comfortable for two. Mattresses can be too thin, too firm, or too soft. They can be made with uncomfortable seams, creases, or thin spots. Try making the bed with the type of bedding you prefer. Is there space for fitted sheets to tuck in.
If the bed is convertible, be sure to test the complete conversion process, both setup and stowage. How difficult and time consuming is the change-over process? How long and how many people does it take to convert the bed? Finally, test the noise levels for sleeping. Run the fan, air conditioning, heat pump, and furnace.
2. Evaluate the bathroom layout
To make sure you’ll fit, sit on the toilet and stand in the shower. Try the shower arm if there is one. How difficult will it be to clean up after using the shower and sink? Is the sink usable? Is there room to brush your teeth, wash, and shave? Flush the toilet. How much water does it use? Is there adequate space for soap, shampoo, and personal items? Check the lighting and the mirrors. Are they adequate?
3. Examine the storage space
Does the RV have adequate space for all essentials? Determine space availability for the toys you plan to tote along, such as bikes or golf clubs. Longer items like golf clubs or skis can present problems. Is there adequate space for clothes, towels, cleaning products, vacuum cleaner. Where will you store miscellaneous items? Will you have to move things around in order to make the bed and go to sleep, or can they stay in their place night and day?
4. Operate ALL appliances
Furnace, A/C, heat pump, microwave, refrigerator, stove top and oven, fan, lights, inverter, batteries, leveling jacks, water heater, and water pump.
Extend and retract the slides.
5. Check the water systems
Go through the process of filling the freshwater tank and dumping the grey and black water tanks. Are the hoses easy to access and store? Are valve actuators handy? Is there lighting that would enable you to complete the process at night?
6. Drive it
Test drive at highway speeds and on rough roads and up and down hills. Figure on a 20-30 minute test drive in as many traffic and road surface conditions as you can. 0-65mph on the test drive, cornering, braking, shifting.
How quiet is the drive? Any rattles? Do the cupboards stay latched? How is visibility? Does the back-up camera provide an adequate view?
Is the cockpit seating comfortable? Are controls conveniently located?
With any RV you test drive, there will be compromises. You may test all of these factors, find some that aren’t ideal, and decide to purchase anyway. The important thing is to avoid surprises after you sign on the dotted line.
As long as you keep your expectations in line with reality, you can still have a ton of fun and freedom in your new RV.
Recently I ran across a few lines by Pierre de Ronsard, a 16th-century poet: “Live now, believe me, wait not till tomorrow. Gather the roses of life today.” Maybe it’s time to stop dreaming about buying the RV of your dreams—and just do it!