RVing Basics – Avoid Costly Mistakes

Familiarize Yourself with RV Terminology

RVing basics requires the assimilation of its own unique vocabulary. When you’re new to RVing the language may seem daunting and unfamiliar but you will quickly realize it’s not that foreign. If you’re curious, willing to engage in conversations, and read online content, you’ll easily pick up the vocabulary.  And understanding the language will make the whole process of buying an RV easier and more enjoyable. Here is a short list of a few important RV terms:

  • Class A, B, C, fifth wheels and travel trailers
  • AC, DC power, power inverters (alternating current, direct current)
  • LP system (liquid propane)
  • fresh water, gray water, black water system
  • jacks, leveling system, slide outs
  • coach, house batteries
  • generator, solar panels
  • towing vs towed vehicle, toad, toy hauler
  • tongue, pin weight
  • flat towing

There’s more going on than meets the eye. This is the extended chassis of a travel trailer. There are two propane tanks with a protective cover mounted on the chassis extension, plus an automatic leveling device behind the hitch. The hitch has an anti-theft lock installed to precent the theft of the travel trailer.

Understand Basic RV Systems

As you learn the vocabulary, you’ll also begin to understand the basic system in an RV and how these systems support various RVing functions and the more you know about these systems the less likely you will be to purchase the wrong RV. One of the saddest things we have encountered, in our 20+ years of RVing, are the people who purchase an RV that doesn’t meet their RVing needs.  Buying the wrong RV is a sad and costly mistake.

If you don’t know the language and don’t understand RV systems, it’s easy to assume that every RV will meet your basic needs, and the only real differences are cosmetic. Nothing could be further from reality.  Many unhappy RVers complain that their RV is too large or too small, or it doesn’t have the basic systems needed for their camping style. Some of these deficiencies include a bed that won’t even support the weight of two people, a sink too small to wash a dog bowl, inadequate tank capacity, no shower in the bathroom, or it only has LP, but no generator.

Why, you ask, would this be a problem? If the RV only has LP, you’ll have heat in the RV but no air conditioning.  Air conditioners require AC power (alternating current). Therefore, if the RV isn’t connected to shore power (AC supplied by a power outlet) or it can’t get AC power from some other source the air conditioner won’t function. The sources of AC power are:

  • shore power
  • a generator
  • or a battery system with an inverter to convert DC power to AC power

Now you are beginning to see why understanding the language and systems is important.

Take Your Time and Know Where to Access More Info

Now you can see why it’s important to go beyond the rhetoric of an RV salesman who will try to focus your attention on the cosmetic differences of RVs, not the substantive differences.  To be informed, you’ll need better sources of information. You also need to realize that there are vast differences in both equipment and quality, even within one manufacturer’s line-up, so do your research.

Join The Community

If you are new to RVing, try to spend time in the RV community.  The more you hang out with RVers the more you’ll learn. Ask questions. People love to talk about their RVs.  If you can’t directly interface with RVers you can access this same community via online forums like iRV2.com or read about RVing in blogs like this one, or the magazine on RV LIFE’s website. Read what people are saying about their RVs. Read about extended warranties, different manufacturers, purchasing challenges, and about RVer’s real-life camping experiences. Don’t just focus on the fun and adventure of RVing.  You’ll get to write your own chapter later on.

In the beginning, try to learn as much as possible about RVing.  Learning the language and how things work before you start shopping, will help you avoid costly mistakes.  If you do this work up-front you will not be one of the regretful campers lamenting that you bought the wrong RV.  Don’t rush or truncate the learning process.

When the time is right you can find the perfect RV for your RV adventure in National Vehicle’s huge database of For-Sale-By-Owner RVs. Additionally, National Vehicle will even help you find financing and help you hire a local RV inspector, to make sure all the systems are working and the components you need are available in the RV, so you avoid costly problems and get the right RV with your first purchase.