Part of my research involved joining various RV Forums. And I can't tell you the stories of regret I have heard because they didn't bother to do their homework prior to purchase!
As I discussed earlier, the main thing for you to settle is what kind of camping do you want to do. Part-time, full time, parks, or boondocking, or both parks and some boondocking?
You need to know that to determine the best kind of RV for you.
If you want to do a lot of boondocking than you won't want a large Class A as you wouldn't be able to get into those remote sites. You would want something smaller and easy to maneuver.
Once you determine your "style" of camping, you can then move on to deciding the model and brand.
Sites like http://www.irv2.com/ and http://www.rv.net/ cover a wide range of topics. In addition, http://www.escapees.com/, a huge national RV club has a Forum also.
Another good source of information is http://www.rv.org/
A RV Consumer group that rates products
Magazines like TrailerLife and Motorhome are good sources of information for the beginner.
Moreover, you can attend RV Conferences. I attended a Life on Wheels Conference http://rvlifeonwheels.com/, "offers present and prospective RVers the opportunity to learn the most up-to-date information about RVs and the RV lifestyle."
I also attended an Escapees Escapades, "week-long seminars on RV living with such a variety of lectures and workshops that even an experienced RVer will come away with new ideas. Although the days are filled with classes, there is ample time to socialize with others who are already living full-time in their RVs."
What is great about these conferences, is that you are meeting not only experienced campers but beginners like yourselve.
However once you start researching you will notice that certain brands stand out as quality and desirable to RVers. And certain companies that stand out for good service.
To name a few, 5th wheels, New Horizons and Excel
Trailers, Bigfoot, Artic Fox, and smaller TTs, Scamp, Casitas
Class C, LazyDaze, Bigfoot and Born Free
Class A, Newmar, Monaco and for ultimate luxury, Prevost
Please don't be insulted if I didn't list your rig. Leave a comment as to why your rig SHOULD be listed!
RV are like cars, there are levels, entry, mid, high end.
Think Cavalier to Cadillac
One rule of thumb that I stick to is don't purchase the entry level product! Go mid-level at least.
Because high quality rigs are of course more expensive, I highly suggest considering purchasing a used rig. Remember that rigs, like cars are a depreciating item. So I believe its a smart move when your just starting out. If you like RVing, chances are that the first rig you purchase won't be your last!
One of the best places to find a good used rig in a brand that you have chosen after doing your research is on owners forums and groups.
Just Google your chosen brand and "owners" or "owners forums", "groups"
And most brands do have owner, Forums or Yahoo groups.
For example, owners of the excellent Class C LazyDaze have a very active and highly informative Yahoo group. Don't be afraid to ask questions!
Most RVers are more than happy to answer a newbies questions especially when its about their chosen brand!
So more later.......about check lists for new and used rigs