If you are or will be buying (or have already bought) an RV, you will run into the great dilemma – Do I buy a new or used RV?
I’ve seen this question come up on YouTube, in Facebook groups, and in general discussions with others. As with every other thing in this world, there are pros and cons to buying a new or used RV. Here we will go over some of those and invite you to join the debate along with our friend The Wandering Gants, 1st Class RV Adventures, and Wandering Porcupine!
Buying a Used RV
They cost less – All vehicles depreciate, RVs depreciate at a high rate – a new RV loses between 25 and 40 percent of its value as soon as a buyer takes it home.*
After five years, you can buy that $60k RV for about $30k! What a bargain. This can be great for those that are new to RVing or that want to buy an RV cash and don’t have $60k in the bank.
Potentially Upgraded – There is a good chance that a good, used RV has already been upgraded by the former owner. Those pesky blinds, faulty fridge, and lousy faucet are gone and have been replaced by higher quality, functioning counterparts. Not to mention upgraded tires!! This can be a huge savings and peace of mind for a potential buyer.
Buying Options – Buying used will allow buyers to avoid dealerships. No dealerships means, no pushy sales team, etc. You can buy directly from the owner.
Wear and Tear – If you are buying used, you might not find one of those upgraded models. You might instead just find an OLD RV that needs lots of work. Great for the handy folks that want to rebuild a unit – you can save up and build as you go. This is not an option for those of us that have never replaced an appliance, cabinetry, etc.
RV Park Limitations – Some RV parks ask what year RV you have. Some will allow renovated RVs others don’t. Some don’t care. It depends on the park. We haven’t been asked anything yet. We have stayed in parks with mostly full-time RVers and many have older RVs.
Financing – If you are looking to finance an older RV, you must have a higher down payment.
When we were first looking, we were going to buy a used RV. We planned on saving up and paying cash. The opportunity to go RVing full time came before we had much money saved up, but decided to go for it anyway. We could not get financing for what we wanted, so we bought a new RV.
Warranties – You might not be able to get a warranty, especially if buying directly from the owner. You might not know the condition of the RV, there may be hidden troubles. Always do an inspection before buying. Here’s a great guide and checklist for anyone considering a used RV.
Buying a New RV
Everything is new – It is brand spanking new so, in theory, you shouldn’t have to worry about damaged items and anything that comes up should be covered by a warranty. You also have the option of purchasing an extended warranty. If anything is slightly damaged (a drawer that doesn’t close right, loose trim, etc.) can be fixed quickly before you make your purchase.
Latest Technology – A new RV should have the latest upgrades and technological advances. Ours came with LED lighting and was solar ready (we buy the panels and plugin). I think we are all waiting on more USB plugs, electrical outlets in more useful places, etc.
“Easy” Financing – While financing an RV is not as easy as financing a regular vehicle, it is much easier to finance a new one. The down payment can be as low 10% and they will work with buyers to get you in the “right payment”. Just keep in mind that you can spread out payments greatly, which might seem great, but with depreciation and interest rates, you will be paying much more than the sticker price.
Expense – New RVs can get very pricey, some can cost as much as a small home and up. Remember, they also depreciate quickly (see Pros section in the Buying Used section).
Dealerships – The only place to buy new is through a dealer. Our buying experience was fantastic and we did not have a pushy salesman (of course we were a pretty easy sale).
Although salesmen tend to stick with your while you explore (or keep the RVs locked), if you ask (or go on a cold rainy day), you can explore the lot on your own. This can be good for discussions with your family or whoever you take along.
Watch for Poor Quality – More often than not, RV interiors won’t stand up to full-timing wear and tear and will quickly fray. Bear in mind that RV’s are made with weight savings in mind, and for occasional use only.
RV furniture and appliances are made by a handful of manufacturers and you might be surprised to find the same RV fridge in the $20K and $100K RV.
Keep in mind, things break, especially with a lot of use. If you are using it only on weekends, in the spring, or in the summer, it may not be as much of an issue.
What Other RVers Have to Say
After personally buying a used fifth wheel we quickly learned that it was the best way not only to save money but to not lose a lot on the value of our RV right off the bat. The price we paid was almost half off a new one and the previous owners barely used it. While we didn’t have the bells and whistles of the warranty that comes with a new RV we had the option of adding an extended warranty if we wanted to. To date, we haven’t needed any warranty work and have been very pleased with buying used and it makes us happy to know that we are not upside down with our purchase.
You can read more here!
Before buying our motorhome (a 2003 Newmar Dutch Star) we spent more than a year RV shopping. If we had it to do over again we’d do what eventually paid off for us:
Buy used. Do it carefully.
Emotional buying decisions are easy, but the absolute worst. It sounds funny until you see one Facebook post after another from people who “fell in love” with a floorplan, a kitchen, etc., but missed a hundred other red flags.
We got attached to a couple of rigs earlier in our hunt. It helped to have each other to talk through the pros and cons, and avoid potentially big mistakes.
More lessons learned:
- There are brands with better and worse reputations for quality. The more you read about RVs, the more you’ll know what to avoid.
- Except for very high-end rigs, newer RVs seemed inferior to older rigs made by quality manufacturers.
- Looking at luxury rigs with crazy price tags kept us from getting starry-eyed about any rig, and helped us easily spot inferior workmanship in more ordinary rigs.
- Asking prices for almost all RVs (new, used, private seller, or dealer) are far above (30-40% is common) what most actually sell for.
For more information about RV buying, click here!
Getting an RV is the first step to adventure and the most important. When buying an RV, there is a lot to think about. Start with answers to these questions.
- What Type of RV should you buy?
- Are you buying new or used?
- Where will I be RVing? Locally? Regionally? Parks? Mountains? Beaches?
- How long will I be RVing? Will it be weekends? Seasonally? Full Time?
- Who will be with me? Just me? As a couple? As a family? With pets?
Purchasing an RV can be daunting. It is buying a car and a house at the same time. The first thing you should do is research, and I mean RESEARCH. Google should be a large part of your life on so many levels of buying.
Regardless of new or used, hire an RV inspector. Know what you are getting and you’ll save thousands later. This is much more so of importance to a used RV, but there are benefits for a new RV as well.
Join some RV communities. Groups such as The Road Life Project, Escapees/Xscapers, FMCA, and many others can be incredible resources for helping you understand the choice of RV within the context of how you want to spend your time RVing.
Remember to do your research, whether you are looking at a new or used RV.
Keep a list of must-haves.
Don’t feel pressured by those around you, they will not have to live with your purchase decision, you, however, will, and time is on your side. Even if time isn’t with you and you’re pressed for time, don’t let the sales team or the owner know!
And lastly, if working with a dealership, deciding on a purchase price is not the last negotiation you will have. You will have to face the finance guy for another entirely different round of negotiations on rate, pay schedule, warranties, memberships, and services.
Be prepared to walk away. This is your last and most potent negotiation tool.
Need a little extra help? Well, check out our post Don’t Buy The RV – Knowing When to Walk Away
Let us know what you think. New or used RV?