Buying an RV is overwhelming to everyone. As you look over an RV, your eyes are drawn to bright colors, pretty wallpaper, and the shine of a freshly washed and waxed exterior. None of those items are important when you live in an RV. This is your money and you don’t want to regret your choice in an RV.

Come prepared to see either a new or used RV with a list. Don’t be embarrassed to make a full check and ask questions. Remember, a new RV may come with a warranty but that means time in the shop. Plus, a poor layout can’t be fixed by any warranty.

Note: I am not including the truck components in motorized RV, mechanical inspections, or questions about warranties. These are separate topics.

1. Layout

Picture your time in an RV. Can someone get up early while the other wants to sleep? Do you have to crawl over your partner? Are there curtains to give privacy? Can someone watch TV while someone else reads? Picture getting ready in the bathroom and taking a shower. Is there space for your hobbies?

Consider travel time and parking lot boondocking when you can’t move your slides out. Can you access the bathroom? Can you still get to the refrigerator and beds?

Is there enough indoor storage for your clothes and other items?

Is it easy to get in and out the RV? Does the outside layout make sense for how you camp (do you need an outdoor TV, etc.)?

2. Kitchen

Prep area: Is there separate space with a cutting board? Can you add something to make it more useable?

Really look at the stove, oven, and microwave. Personally, I like a combination oven that microwaves, bakes, and broils.

Storage: Where can you put your dishes, silverware, utensils, and pots and pans?

Food storage: Picture the food you use. Where can you put cereal, rice, and other boxed items? Bread? Where do canned goods fit? Is there space for spices?

3. Bed, couches and chairs

Try them out! Manufacturers make them look good but that doesn’t mean they are comfortable. This means opening out the bed if the couch converts to a bed.

Convert the table into the bed and try it. Lay in the bed over the cab. How tall of a person can sleep in these beds? Do you need to add a cushion to be able to sleep on it? In particular, make sure the main bed is comfortable or be ready to replace the mattress with something better.

Look at the couch and chair material: Will it last over time? Can it be cleaned? How difficult is it to reupholster if it something happens? Especially watch for fake leathers that peel quickly.

Convenience: Can you watch TV without twisting your neck? Can you get to a seat easily? Do they turn so they can be used multiple ways? Is there a place to put your drink? Is there a table or an easy way to use a computer? Is there a plug nearby?

Turns out the table didn’t drop into place correctly and the cushions were uncomfortable. The outlet for computers was inconveniently placed under the table. When boondocking, the TV had to be plugged into another outlet that was connected to an inverter.

4. Windows

Open and close a few windows. Do they seal well? Are the screens in good condition?

Check out the blinds. How much do they block light and stop heat loss? Do they look sturdy?

Is there emergency egress near the bedroom? At least one window should open in case a fire blocks the main door.

5. Surfaces

Floors: Is it flat or is there any buckling or bumps in the floor? What material is it? Carpet is warm but much more difficult to keep clean in an RV.

Ceiling: Look for signs of leaks and bubbles, including inside of cabinets.

Walls: Again, looks for signs of leaks. Check the cabinet materials. Many are made of particle board with fake wood paper instead of a veneer. This is done to reduce weight (and cost).

6. Electrical and electronics

Try the TV. How good are the speakers? Can you hear the TV if it were to rain?

Ask about how the TV, DVD, and antennae work. Is there an amplifier for the signal? Where is it located? Make sure you understand the steps to search for TV stations. How do you switch inputs for the DVD player? Are the plugs for these systems connected to the inverter so you can watch TV off-the-grid? Do you need to raise the antennae from the roof? If there is a satellite system, ask to try it out.

Yes, we have awning over our slides and good vent covers. However, the satellite system never worked.

Where are the speakers and the controls? Do they make sense? Can you play the radio outside without going inside the RV?

Switch lights on and off. This is to test if they work but also if lighting is where you want it and if the switches are convenient.

Are there batteries so you can boondock? How many? In reality, you need at least two batteries to boondock easily.

Is the fuse panel easily accessible? Can you reach it if the slides are in?

Run the generator. These can be hard to start if not run periodically.

7. Outside

Really look at the tires. Is there a spare (many new RVs don’t have them)? Is there extensive wear or any cracks in the tires? Any uneven wear? How do you check air pressure on the inside tires?

Climb on the roof. How difficult is it to make the climb? Are there good vent covers that won’t leak? Which areas have roof fans? For instance, it is nice to have a fan in the bedroom when the A/C isn’t running.

Picture the things you need to store (camp chairs, tables, grills, cleaning materials, tools, hoses and connections, sewer pipes, extension cords, etc.) Is there convenient room for them? Is there any sign of leakage in these compartments?

Room for a ladder and bicycles on back and the awning is powered. However, an outdoor compartment leaked and damaged cabinets.

What do you want to carry? Bicycles, a car, kayaks, or scooters? Many people also bring a step ladder so they can clean the RV. Is there space for everything?

Move the slides in and out. Do they stick? Do the slide seals look in good condition? Are the slide controls handy? Are there awnings above the slides to prevent water pooling on the top? Ask how to close the slides if there is no power in the RV.

Open the awning. How difficult is it to open it? Does the awning material look clean and without bubbles? Can you easily slope the awning to the side to drain water in the rain? Are the locks working well to make sure it won’t come off when driving the RV?

Check if all the lights work outside the RV (brake, turn signals, etc.).

No RV is perfect but if you do a good inspection, you will know what you are getting before you make your purchase. What did I forget? What checks or special thing do you want when you buy an RV? What mistakes have you made when buying?