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What to consider before buying an RV or trailer

There are many things to think about including where you'll store it, whether you plan on off-roading and more.

If you’re considering investing in an RV or trailer, there are a several factors to consider before taking the plunge. And once you get your new set of wheels, you’ll also have to think about all of the work that goes into maintaining it before and after you hit the road.

What’s the difference?

RVs (recreational vehicles) and campers are generic terms. RVs usually refer to motorhomes (think a proper house on wheels that you can drive, a smaller version of it being a campervan). Campers usually refer to trailers which can be towed or ride on the back of trucks like caravans and popup trailers.

RV vs. trailers: Which should I pick?

Motorhomes tend to be the most expensive option as they can be a lot bigger than trailers because of all their home-like amenities, making them a great option for someone who plans to take to the roads full time.

Trailers, on the other hand, tend to be less expensive, making them more accessible for people on a budget. But they can also be harder to drive, and you’ll need to have a vehicle capable of towing the model you want.

Five questions to ask when choosing an RV or trailer

Asking yourself a few simple questions can help you find the RV or trailer that best fits your needs.

Where will I store it?

You’ll need to choose a model that fits your chosen storage location, whether you plan to use a driveway or a secure parking site.

Check the dimensions of your parking space, and don’t forget to ensure you have sufficient overhead clearance if you plan to park your RV under a carport or in a shed. Also, make sure you allow for the swing of the RV or trailer’s body as you turn, since the back edge will travel in a wide arc.

If you’re planning on renting a storage space, measure it and find out how much it’ll cost each month before shopping around for an RV or trailer

How much space do I need?

For a couple, a 15-foot camper may be plenty. But a family of 4 with 2 younger children might want to consider a 20-foot model that comes with bunk beds. If you plan on doing a lot of touring, you might want to go for an option with a permanent bed, as the act of having to make a bed up every night can get wearisome.

Longer RVs will also typically feature an enclosed bedroom, providing an amount of privacy. And if you want space, an awning nearly doubles the living space available by creating a covered outdoor seating and cooking area.

Once you’ve nailed down the size of the RV body you can work with, you need to visit a dealer and look at as many interiors as you can. This way, you’ll get a really good idea of the interior layout that will work best for you and your family. You may find you prefer one manufacturer over another simply because of how they position and develop their RVs and trailers.

Do I plan on camping a lot?

If you intend on doing a lot of camping around the country, you’ll need an RV or camper that is self-sufficient. Look for a model that has solar panels for electrical power, a large gas tank and large onboard water tanks.

What about off-roading?

Deciding whether to go for an off-road RV is a necessity. While you may really like the look of the off-road RVs, if you’re unlikely to ever venture over the rough stuff, you could save money by sticking to a more road-based RV.

What is the manufacturer known for?

Choosing a manufacturer known for building strong, solid RVs and trailers is key to making this investment worth it. Generally speaking, a body with fewer joints between panels will mean there’s less likelihood of leaks forming. You should also pay attention to the owner’s manual and keep the interior ventilated to reduce humidity and moisture levels.

Other plus points to look for include independent suspension, especially on off-road models, for improved handling. Make sure the chassis underneath has no corrosion and that the welds are sound.

Other things to consider

Towing capacity

To find out your car’s towing capacity, check your owner’s manual. Bear in mind that this is the maximum weight your vehicle can haul — if you choose a trailer that weighs the maximum amount your car can tow, you won’t be able to tow it with anything in it, like food, water and luggage.

7 towing terms you should know

When researching what RV or trailer you want to buy, here are a few terms and abbreviations you may come across:

Weigh limits

If you’re buying an RV or trailer, or you’re loading one up to go on a trip, it’s a good idea to weigh it. For trailers, this is important to make sure your car is able to tow it while fully loaded up with your gear. For towable or drivable campers, knowing the weight will help you comply with any local or provincial laws. For example, some roads will have maximum weight limits.

To weigh your RV or trailer, bring it to the nearest commercial scale after loading it up with any food, water, gear and passengers you plan to take on your trip. You can look up local commercial scales online or contact your provincial service centre for entry and exit scales you can use.

Ready to take the plunge? Compare RV financing options

Name Product Min. Loan Amount Interest Rate Loan Term Min. Credit Score Requirements Table description
Loans Canada Car Loans
0% to 29.99%
3-96 months
Min. income of $1,800 /month, 3+ months employed
Get access to financing from multiple lenders across Canada through a single application with Loans Canada. Bad credit, CERB and EI borrowers are considered.
Canadian Auto News
3.99% to 29.95%
12-84 months
Min. income of $2,000 /month, 3+ months employed
Answer a few simple questions to get matched with affordable financing options. Auto loans are also available to those with bad credit, consumer proposals and bankruptcies to help rebuild credit.
Car Loans Canada
3.99% to 29.95%
12-84 months
Min. income of $2,000 /month, 3+ months employed
Search thousands of vehicles online, including $0 down options, from dealers across the country and get matched with affordable financing options. Auto loans are also available to those with bad credit, consumer proposals and bankruptcies to help rebuild credit.
LoanConnect Car Loans
9.90% to 46.96%
3-120 months
No min. income requirement
Get access to 25+ lenders through LoanConnect's brokerage. Receive pre-approval in as fast as 60 seconds and get your funds in as little as 24 hours.
Canada Auto Finance
3-96 months
Min. income of $1,500 /month, 3+ months employed
Canada Auto Finance is a broker that connects borrowers with partnered local lenders. Financing for a new or used car is available for borrowers with bad credit, no credit, CERB, EI or bankruptcy.
Carloans411 Car Loans
1.90% to 19.99%
Up to 72 months
Min. income of $1,600 /month, 3+ months employed
Get connected with suitable lenders through CarLoans411. Finance your next car, van or truck with loans available in amounts from $500 to $50,000. Check eligibility for this loan through LoanConnect.
Fairstone Secured Personal Loan
19.99% to 23.99%
36-120 months
Established credit history and own your home
Fairstone offers secured personal loans up to $50,000.

Compare up to 4 providers

Representative example: Nadya buys an RV

Nadia, who lives in Alberta, has always wanted to tour the country to see the sites and visit some of Canada’s best parks and conservation areas. She figures an RV is just what she needs, so she heads to a local dealership to check out her options. Nadia looks at a 2019 Sunset Park Sunray 169 travel trailer and decides it has everything she’s looking for. The purchase price is $22,000.00, so Nadya pays a 20% deposit of $4,400.00 and applies for an auto loan from her bank to cover the rest.

Because Nadya has a solid credit history, she is approved for a loan to cover the outstanding amount on the RV plus 5% GST ($17,600.00 + $1,100.00). Along with the cost of her loan, Nadya also pays a little over $100.00 to register her RV with the provincial government.

Cost of new RV travel trailer$22,000.00
Loan typeAuto loan (term loan)
Loan amount$18,700.00
Interest rate (APR)5.90%
Loan term5 year
Additional fees4.00% origination fee ($748.00)
$0.00 application fee (waived by dealership)
Payment $360.65 monthly or $166.27 biweekly
Total loan cost$21,639.00 with monthly payments or $21,615.10 with biweekly payments

*The information in this example, including rates, fees and terms, is provided as a representative transaction. The actual cost of the product may vary depending on the retailer, the product specs and other factors.

Bottom line

Before buying a new RV or trailer, there are a few questions you can ask yourself to ensure you’re choosing the right option for you. And you’ll also want to look into how you’ll store, maintain, and drive or tow your new camper before taking the plunge.

Know what you want? Compare RV loans to find a lender that can help you get behind the wheel of your dream motorhome.

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