When it comes to RVing, we don’t just travel to other states to vacation. Sometimes, the RV we’ve been searching for is for sale in a state other than our home state. The internet has opened up the possibilities as to where to find an RV that meets our wish list. However, there are several considerations to make before embarking on this route.
Know what you’re looking for. This seems like a no-brainer, but before you go shopping around the country for an RV, you need to know what it is you’re looking for. To gain a better understanding and home in on your list of features, it’s best to start searching for an RV close to home. The benefits are two-fold: One, you don’t have travel great distances to examine an RV unit that you may or may not end up buying, which saves time and travel costs. Two, you can see a lot more RVs up close to inspect them and speak with knowledgeable people who can explain advantages, disadvantages, and perhaps better direct you to a other models or RV types that could suit you better. Do the research and the ground work near your home base, then broaden your search from there. Some dealerships have multiple locations, even in other states, so it is worth asking your local dealer if the RV you’re looking for is in inventory at a sister store.
Know where to compromise. You may not get everything on your wish list. You will likely need to make concessions. The unit in your state may have many features that you love. Another RV in another state may have more or less of these features. You may be willing to go without something if the price is right, or you may want to pay that extra amount on another model if it has the specific feature you’re looking for. Price, timing, and features all come into play when you’re making your final determination.
Identify a good deal. The price for the type of RV you want to buy may be better in another state, and it might be worth the travel costs to retrieve it. This can be the case whether it’s through a dealership or a private buyer. When it comes to vehicles, some people, for instance, look for used trucks and cars that have resided in warmer climates and drive them back to Michigan. The wear on the vehicle has been less in those areas, so a used car from those locations might be a good option. And if a deal seems too good to be true, it probably is. Never purchase an RV sight-unseen. If you can manage to take a look at an RV that’s out of state and be able to walk away if it’s not the right one, then go on a trip to see it and ensure it’s in good condition.
Understand financial implications. The purchase of an RV is already a big investment, and you want to ensure that investment is made with full knowledge, including the financial responsibilities upon purchase and ongoing through ownership. It might sound appealing to get a big Class A with all the bells and whistles, but when you start looking at the cost of gas, general maintenance, and accessories, it might be unsustainable. So, get a good idea of a monthly budget, what you expect to put down, what you intend to finance, etc. When it comes time to purchase the RV, if you happen to purchase an RV out of state, there may be tax implications.
Think about insurance. If you already own an RV, then you already have it insured with an entity, whether it’s through your typically AAA or an RV-specific insurance outfit. If you have never owned an RV, you’ll need to do your research regarding where you want to insure your RV. Vehicle insurance companies may not be a good fit for the unique nature of recreation vehicles and may not provide adequate coverage for potential RV-specific problems; then again, you might be just fine with using your car insurance company to keep everything under one umbrella. Think about all of this ahead of time so that you can get your RV insured quickly and ready to drive home after purchase. The insurance company will require to have the new RV’s VIN and a copy of the dealer report of sale to activate the coverage.
Register and title your RV. If you purchase an RV out of state, you need to register your RV in your home state when you return. In Michigan, you’ll need to visit the Secretary of State. You’ll also most likely need to transfer the title – if your trailer is under 2500 pounds a title isn’t necessary, just a bill of sale. According to the Michigan Secretary of State: “Fundamentally, a trailer does not have a motor and it is towed behind another vehicle. A trailer coach is defined as a vehicle designed and used as temporary living quarters for recreational, camping, or travel purposes that is drawn by another vehicle. This classification includes vehicles such as a pop-up campers, fifth-wheels, and travel trailers. Trailer coaches and trailers must be registered with a permanent trailer plate.” There is a registration fee based on the empty weight of the trailer that ranges from $50-$300. Titles should be transferred to your name within 15 days of taking ownership. Dealerships assist with this process and may incorporate some of these fees into the sale. As for sales tax, only title transfers between relatives aren’t subject to sales tax. When you go to transfer the title, if you bought from an unrelated private owner for instance, you will pay the difference in sales tax when you transfer the title to your name if you already paid sales tax in another state and it was lower. States with higher sales tax, however, you’ll just end up paying that higher sales tax amount; there are no refunds even if your home state has a lower sales tax rate. This all has to be done in-person. Appointments can be scheduled online, so if you know you are going to be purchasing an RV out of state and driving it back at a certain date, get onto the SOS website as soon as this is known to set up the appointment. If you purchase your RV from a dealership, the dealership will be able to help you understand and manage this process.