Key takeaways

  • When gauging approval, RV lenders consider credit score, income and debt-to-income ratio (DTI).
  • If the RV is your primary residence, you may have a harder time getting approved. Many lenders only finance RV's for leisure.
  • Every lender is different, so prequalify with as many as possible and compare potential offers before applying.
  • To help narrow your search, look into the benefits each lender offers. Some offer exclusive perks such as grace period extensions, interest rate deductions or payment flexibility.

Driving a shiny RV with that classic ‘new-vehicle’ smell right off of the dealership lot is arguably much more exciting than researching loan options. However, if you’re like most buyers, you can’t have one without the other and must prioritize finding the best lender for your financial situation.

Although there is no single ‘best RV lender’ out there, there are companies that will better fit your needs and finances. Finding the best single best option among multiple lenders can seem intimidating, but the process can be fairly painless if you know exactly what you’re looking for. When comparing companies, prequalify with as many as possible and pay attention to the lender’s usage restrictions, the eligibility criteria and the loan details.

What to consider before choosing an RV lender

There are specific factors to be mindful of when looking for the best RV lender. Just as you would with a personal or auto loan, take your time and conduct thorough research to find both the most competitive rates and the lender that best meets your needs.

Also, keep in mind that RV loans are often much larger than other loan types (depending on your vehicle and down payment amount) and will likely be part of your monthly budget for years to come. That being said, pay specific attention to the long-term costs – including hidden fees – and make sure the predicted payments are doable in the long-run.

Loan approval requirements

Each lender that offers RV loans carries its own qualifications for loan approval. While they differ by company, each will likely take your credit score and history, income and debt-to-income (DTI) ratio into consideration for approval. These factors also impact your loan terms and the rates you’re offered. The better your credit score, the lower your interest rate.

While some lenders may extend approval to individuals with a lower FICO credit score – 600 and below – the loans are more likely to come with inflexible payment terms and high interest rates.

Bankrate tip
Due to the large borrowing amounts, some lenders don’t extend loans to those who plan to use the RV as a primary residence. While some may approve loans for those who choose to live this nomadic lifestyle, it’s generally only if they have a low DTI, a stellar credit score and an established credit history. Unless you fall into this category, getting approved for an RV loan may be difficult.

Available interest rates

The rates that are disclosed on the lender’s website aren’t always guaranteed. Before setting your sites on a lender because of a particularly low APR, prequalify (if the lender offers the tool) to see your predicted rate. If prequalification isn’t offered, keep in mind that the APR minimum is reserved for the most creditworthy borrowers.

Also, ensure that the interest ranges disclosed aren’t promotional or for a set amount of time. To better understand the rate you could be offered, read the lender’s terms and conditions page or call a customer service representative.

As you’re looking through the interest details, make sure you’re familiar with every cost associated with the loan. These fees often add up and can greatly increase the monthly cost of your loan, so look out for additional costs like origination fees, late fees and prepayment penalties.  Lenders all have different fee structures, and they’ll often be based on credit. For example, the better your credit, the lower your origination fee could be.

Loan amounts

Before setting out to compare the best RV lenders, it is important to know how much money you will need to purchase your RV. Recreational vehicles can range widely in cost, anywhere from $10,000 to $1 million. This is especially important as some lenders restrict the amount you can borrow.

Make sure you account for every cost you could incur with an RV. This includes maintenance costs, marina fees, future upgrades and insurance. However, it’s important that you don’t borrow and pay interest or fees on more than you need, so calculate the amount to the last cent before applying.

Repayment options

The repayment terms you sign off on will impact how long you will pay off your loan and your monthly payment. Longer repayment terms will mean a lower monthly cost, whereas a shorter repayment term will likely be more expensive each month. However, a shorter term does mean that you’ll pay less interest over the life of the loan and allows you to own the RV sooner.

Customer experience

Depending on your comfort with technology, you might prefer to work with a brick-and-mortar lender where you can benefit from in-person support. Whereas if you like to handle your finances online, focus on online loan options. Customer reviews on third-party websites may also be useful, but keep in mind that people are more likely to leave negative reviews than positive.

Perks and special features

When evaluating two similar lenders look out for unique features that may be offered. A few questions to ponder include:

  • Does the lender impose usage restrictions?
  • Are there discounts, special programs or other forms of assistance available to borrowers?
  • Do the benefits outweigh the borrowing costs or vice-versa?

Ultimately, you know how much loan you can afford and what financing options work for you. Be sure to compare loan quotes and run the numbers to confirm loan perks aren’t being offered at the expense of a good price.

How to secure the best RV loan

There is no perfect RV loan for borrowers, but there is the right one for your needs. When it comes to securing the best RV loan possible, take the following steps to figure out exactly what you need.

Budget. Use your budget as your guiding light when securing your loan. Keep in mind how fees might impact your upfront and long-term costs.

  • Understand your credit score. Take the time to check your credit score. This way can search for and apply to lenders that best match your credit background.
  • Apply for prequalification. By prequalifying with a lender you will have a firm grasp on expected rates and terms — all without damaging your credit.
  • Compare loan options. Consider borrowing from banks, credit unions and online lenders before settling on one. By exploring each you are more likely to find the right RV loan for you.
  • Prequalify then apply. After setting your sights on the right lender, prequalify if the lender offers the tool. If you’re happy with your potential offer, the lender will guide you through the application process. Come prepared with personal, financial and tax documents to make the application process as smooth as possible.

Next steps

Choosing the right lender is just one step in the exciting process of getting out on the open road. To ensure you can enjoy your RV for years to come, pay close attention to approval requirements, interest rates, loan amounts, terms repayment options, customer service and special features.

To confidently select the best RV lender for you, understand your payment obligations and total loan costs. To do this, shop around, get prequalified with multiple lenders and then compare the loan quotes.