How to Buy Motorhomes

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How to Buy Motorhomes

Motorhome on a beach at sunset.


How to buy motorhomes: If your idea of a second home or retirement home isn’t on a quiet beach in a warm tropical clime. Or if it isn’t beneath a breathtaking mountain with salmon and trout laden streams nearby.

Or if it isn’t off a back country road by a peaceful lake with star filled night skies falling to sleep with the gentle sounds of crickets, and bullfrogs.

But rather, your idea is to be in all of these places, then you may be like the thousands of others that prefer living life on your own terms in your own motorhome.

Learning how to buy motorhomes is knowledge that can benefit you in many ways.

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Motorhomes, also known as RV’s, recreational vehicles, caravan, camper van, and motorcoaches, have been around almost as long as there have been automobiles.

1910 is when the first built for commercial sale, auto related camping vehicles were made.  Known back then as auto-campers, or camping trailers, they have since evolved into what is today’s RV.

This life style continued to grow until the depression in 1929, slowed through the World War ll years, and then picked up steam in the late 40’s after World War ll, when returning vets and their families were looking for inexpensive means of travel.

In 1967, Winnebago started mass producing motor homes, and had 5 different models that cost around $5,000.  Refrigeration had then become a fixture of RV’s, which helped fuel it’s growth and popularity.

According to the RVIA, Recreational Vehicles Industry Association, as many as 8.2 million households now own RV’s.  It is estimated that approximately 450,000 are permanent, full time Motorhomers.

RV’s, recreational vehicle types are: motorhome – Class A, B, B+. C, toy hauler, pop up trailer, fifth wheel trailer, and slide in camper or truck camper-that fits in the pick up truck bed.

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How Much Do Motorhomes Cost?

The first consideration in buying anything, including how to buy motorhomes is cost.  There are many sizes, and shapes, colors, manufacturers, amenities, and ages of motorhomes.

You should ask yourself how much travel do you intend to do, and how much time will you be spending in your motorhome.   Price ranges run the gamut for RV’s.

The low end being an older, smaller model with few amenities,or a pop up trailer,  up to a current model year Class A type, that is large, and has all of the modern bells and whistles.

The cost of insurance, gasoline, other fuel like propane, upkeep, RV park expenses, food, and entertainment expenses should all be considered.

Pop up trailer at campsite.

Starting at the low end, a new pop up trailer, that can sleep as many as 6. It is the lightest, smallest, and most affordable. Their small size makes them relatively easy to tow, and park.  Amenities available include a toilet, shower, and small kitchen.  Pop up trailer prices start at around $4,000.

Fifth wheel trailer.

The 5th Wheel Trailer is so named due to it’s attachment in the bed of a heavy duty pick up truck with a special mount.  They can be anywhere from 18 feet to 40 feet long, and can also be quite heavy, requiring plenty of power to tow them long distances.   Prices start in the $6,000 range, and can go as high as about $60,000.

Travel trailer at campsite.

Travel Trailers can be as short as 13 feet, and as long as 33 feet.  They are sturdy, yet lightweight, which makes them towable by most basic pick ups, SUV’s, and some minivans. Travel trailers can sleep up to 6, and come with all of the basic amenities, like kitchens, bathrooms, and sleeping areas.

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They can also be left at the camping site, so you can explore the area with just your pull vehicle.  Prices start forTravel trailers at $7,000 and can increase to about $70,000 based on size, and of course various amenities.

Class C motorhome by lake.

Class C Motorhomes are considered the smaller self contained motorhomes, or mini motor homes, ranging in size from about 20 feet long to about 40 feet long.

The class C’s popularity stems from the fact that it provides a more natural driving feel than the larger Class A’s.  Class C’s can accommodate up to 7 people, but are easier to drive and park. A typical Class C will have a bedroom with room for a queen size bed. A bathroom with shower, toilet and sink. A kitchen with a sink, refrigerator, and a small stove.A sitting area, television, and sleeping accommodations for 7 people.

Prices range from about $35,000 to over $100,000 for a deluxe model.

Class B motorhome at campsite.

Class B Motorhomes

Also known as camper vans, the Class B motorhome is built on a full size van chassis, and has many of the comforts, and amenities of the larger Class A motorhome, but in a considerably smaller, and more manageable size.

The Class B  can have a compact bathroom, a small kitchen, a living room, a sleeping area,  a television, and the inside is also tall enough for standing room.  It is ideal for 2 to 3 travelers, and for short or long trips.  It is similar to driving a large pickup, or SUV.

Most Class B motorhomes do not have  slideouts. As far as cost, the Class B is usually the least expensive of the Class A, Class B, and Class C motorhomes.

The Class B’s big advantage over the others is their maneuverability, which makes parking easier, and, as a result of it’s smaller size,  it’s fuel economy.  The down side is, there is little room for storage, and it’s smaller size can feel cramped at times.

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There are many variations of the Class B, but prices normally range from about $30,000 to about $100,00.

Class A motorhome at campsite.

Class A Motorhomes

When most of us think of an RV, a motorhome, or a motorcoach, we are thinking of the Class A motorhome.  They are built using heavy duty frames, that are very strong, and sturdy.

These frames are normally built on a commercial truck chassis, or on a commercial bus chassis. The big 22 1/2 inch wheels support the heavy load of the Class A. They range in size from about 28 feet long to about 45 feet long.

Since Class A’s are the largest motorhome, there is room on the inside for more and larger amenities. You will normally find a complete kitchen with dual sink, large refrigerator, stove, oven, microwave, and even a dishwasher.

There is a large living room with couches that fold out into beds, and there is a dinette or dining table. The back area houses a bedroom with enough space for a queen size bed, and good storage.

There is also a bathroom with a good sized real shower,a flushing toilet, and a sink. Even a stackable washer/dryer is available in many units.

Class A’s can come equipped with as many as 5 slide outs.  Slide outs are rooms that extend from the walls electronically to create extra room for you on the inside.

There are also large storage spaces below the living area, often called the basement, to house all of your extra gear for those long trips or vacations. If you are looking for luxury, lots of space for living, and storage, and all the comforts of home, then the Class A is right for you.

A Class A motorhome will start at a price of $60,000 and can go up to well over $1 million dollars for a deluxe model. You could easily spend more than the price of a typical American home on a brand new, top of the line motorcoach.

The advantages of the Class A are it’s ample size, and home like amenities which provides comfort, and ideal relaxation while on the road.  The disadvantages are the difficulty in maneuvering and parking the larger RV. The fuel costs are quite a bit more than in the other models, and maintenance costs are also usually higher.

Another negative factor to consider with larger RV’s is that many municipalities prohibit parking them on your lot.  You will then have to arrange to park and store your RV elsewhere, which could mean more expense, and inconvenience.

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How Large of a Motorhome Should I Buy?

The key to knowing how big of an RV to buy, should be based on a few factors.  How many people will be using the motorhome?  Is it more important to have a bigger bathroom, or a bigger kitchen?

Will I need extra space in the bedroom for storage, or to comfortably walk around. How large of beds do I need? Yes, bed sizes can vary in RV’s. Do I want the extra weight, and expense of a slider that can make the home bigger?

Do I feel comfortable driving, maneuvering, and parking a vehicle as big as a bus, or an 18-wheeler? Is luxury more important, or is economy more important? Will I be taking long trips, or shorter ones? If longer trips, can I get by with less storage space?

I strongly suggest you write down everything that you think is important to you in a motorhome.  You should talk to as many people as possible that already own motorhomes.

Find out what they like and don’t like about owning a motorhome. Go online, and find out what you can. Go to RV shows.  Consider renting a motorhome before you buy. Go into RV dealerships and talk to the salespeople. Test drive the motorhomes that appeal to you. Ask them questions, but take your time. Do not rush the process. All of these factors can teach you how to buy motorhomes.

There are other factors to consider when buying a motorhome, such as:

Power. If you plan on towing a vehicle behind your RV, and when you have the motorhome loaded down with people and gear, will you have enough power to get up and over large hills?

  • Camping Costs
  • Insurance
  • Wi Fi  Connectivity
  • Satellite Connectivity
  • Breakdowns on the road

You should now have at least a general idea of how to buy motorhomes, and trailers.

You are on the road to finding the perfect motorhome or trailer. I hope this information proves useful for you. Feel free to leave a comment or question.  Good luck, and safe travels.

Click here to visit Frugal Shunpikers Guides to RV Boondocking.

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4 thoughts on “How to Buy Motorhomes”

  1. My husband and I own a 2001 GM extended van that has 150,000 miles on it. Would it be practical to turn it into a RV?
    We are the original owners and have kept it pretty well maintained mechanically but it really has had a lot of internal wear due to us having hauled many children. Any suggestions would be greatly appreciated.

    1. Hi Mary, thank you for your question. You certainly could turn your extended van into an RV. How practical this would be is the issue. The high mileage of your vehicle, despite it’s well maintained condition would preclude me from spending the money, investing the time, and adding the weight to the van. If the mileage was 100,000 or less, I would say go for it. Would be a ahame, however, to go to all the trouble and expense of converting, and only realize a short time to be able to enjoy it. I would suggest selling this van, and buying a used RV with lower miles, if possible based on your circumstances.

  2. It seams that all motor homes have a Cummings Diesel engines, Allison transmission on a freightliner chassis. So what IS the difference in manufacturers ? Is it just the furniture?

    1. Hi Tina, thanks for your comment/question. Yes, it’s true. A lot of the larger motorhomes are set up this way. Primarily the Class A motorhomes. The differences are in the amenities, and the quality of the interiors mostly. There are different configurations of the topsides. Some will have slideouts, for instance. If you look at the smaller motorhomes, you will see more gas engines, and different transmissions, and chassis.

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