5 Must-Do's Before Buying an Accessible RV
RVing is an awesome way to explore and see all of the amazing national and state parks, as well as other attractions, your country has to offer... ESPECIALLY if you are mobility limited or use a
wheelchair! After traveling for many years and staying in hotels - packing/ unpacking suitcases, supplies, medical equipment, bath chairs, etc. - we realized that traveling with special needs is hard work! We longed to try the RV lifestyle, but had trouble finding an accessible RV to rent. And, we thought purchasing and owning an accessible RV was outside of our financial means. After a few years of exploring options, we "took the leap" and have fallen in love with the freedom of the RV lifestyle!
1. DO YOUR RESEARCH
Before you dive into the world of accessible RVing, we recommend exploring every option out there. Wheelchair accessible RV's come in ALL shapes and sizes - from small trailers, to camper vans, horse trailers (yes, you read that right), toy haulers, 5th wheels, buses, or even Class B, C or A motor-homes! Do plenty of research to figure out what type of RV best suits your needs (and budget). Below are a few resources to check out to get an idea of the possibilities:
RVProperty (https://www.rvproperty.com/handicapped-rvs-for-sale/ ) This site is dedicated to people selling (and looking for) Accessible RVs. Note: My experience with this site is many of the listings are outdated and already sold, however it gives you a really good idea of all of the options out there as well as an idea of the range of prices for used RV's. My personal opinion is most of the RVs on this site are listed for more than they are worth, so don't get discouraged.
RVTrader (https://www.rvtrader.com/rvs-for-sale?keyword=wheelchair ) RV Trader is an amazing resource for searching new and used RV's around the US and Canada. Use the keyword "wheelchair", "ADA" or "lift" to find accessible RV's. You can sort by price, distance, and several other options.
Marketplace/Social Media (https://www.facebook.com/groups/accessiblerv_ Facebook, Youtube, and other social media sites. Again these are good resources to discover what options are out there and even find RV's for sale!
2. FIND A "RV MENTOR"
Buying, maintaining, towing, and/or driving your first RV can be overwhelming.... especially if you are going BIG!! We recommend finding a neighbor, co-worker, family member or friend who has been living the RV lifestyle to guide you - and, continue to follow our blog!! Having the advice of someone who has owned one (or several) RVs can help you avoid many of the RV buying pitfalls. We would have never had the courage to purchase our first (20+ year old) Class A Diesel Pusher, if not for the help and advice of our neighbor and RV mentor who has owned 4 motor-coaches! There are just so many systems and maintenance items to learn and understand. Having someone to walk you through the learning process is invaluable. And now with our experience, we have had the pleasure of helping a few others in their journey!
3. SEARCH, SEARCH, SEARCH
We are constantly on the search for our "next accessible RV" (even though Kate rolls her eyes every time I talk about it!). Websites, Craigslist and Facebook Marketplace are great resources and you never know when or where you will find the perfect fit! However, be cautious as there are some scammers out there, but they are pretty easy to spot (i.e. ads with only 1 picture, listed for an insanely low price). Attending RV trade shows and the Abilities Expo (https://www.abilities.com/) is a great way to see many options! Just don't give up and keep searching because the right one will come along!
4. GET YOUR FINANCES IN ORDER
Once you figure out how much you are wanting to spend, talk to your bank or other lending institutions (some specialize in RV financing) to see how much RV you can afford.
Depending on the cost of your RV, there are financing options available for 10 or 15 years - which may make payments more affordable. A good credit score will help immensely with the interest rate. It is also important to consider other costs of RV ownership- maintenance, tow vehicle, fuel, storage, insurance - and be sure to build that into you budget. Lastly, if you are able to save, and find the right used RV, often times cash is the best and easiest option.
5. INVEST IN A PROFESSIONAL RV INSPECTION
Hiring an independent, professional RV inspector is very important if you are purchasing your first RV, or if buying a used RV. National RV Inspectors Association (NRVIA) (https://nrvia.org/locate/) has a great network of professional RV inspectors all over the U.S.
We have hired professional RV inspectors for two RV purchases and they have been invaluable. First, you will get a detailed report with color photos (and sometimes video) of all of the issues with the RV (similar to a home inspection). This is very helpful in negotiation, as well as acting as a "punch-list" of items to fix before (for the seller) and after (for you) the purchase. In the second instance (we were purchasing from a long distance) we split the cost of the inspector with the seller, and it helped us avoid making a huge mistake. The RV looked amazing from the online photos, however the inspector discovered some serious issues that the seller either didn't know about or didn't disclose. This saved us thousands of dollars in travel, etc. prior to purchasing what we thought would be the "perfect" RV for our situation. Lastly, don't forget to use the inspection report to negotiate with the seller, the seller may even be willing to repair safety items.
We hope this was helpful and we will also follow up with a post on the first "shake down" after you have purchased your RV! Happy hunting and good luck - patience will find you exactly what you're looking for!!