Buying a Used vs New RV: 8 Facts to Settle the Debate

Used vs new RV? It’s a debate as old as time. When you are ready to buy an RV, should you go new or used? There are strong opinions on both sides of the aisle with different reasons for each.

Your personal preferences and situation should ultimately determine whether you opt to buy new or used. There are pros and cons to each side of the argument. Here are eight facts to help you decide which route to take.

Picture of a piggy bank and book with  a pen and calculator laying on them

Price Difference

One of the single largest considerations you have when buying a new RV or travel trailer is the purchase price. Most buyers have a budget that they must stay below, and they want to get the most for their money. Because of this, going with a used unit is very popular.

A used RV will almost always have a lower price for a comparable setup. New RVs tend to depreciate by the thousands and in some cases, tens of thousands of dollars during the first year or two of ownership. Buying used saves you from losing money on that depreciation.

Often you can find people willing to make a great deal on a used RV simply because they are very ready to sell. You can sometimes find used RVs priced well below their value because the owner no longer wants the obligation of ownership. While a higher price tag is one of the cons of buying a new rig, there are some pluses to buying new.

Warranty

If you have decided to buy a new unit, the warranty provides peace of mind if problems arise with the RV. The manufacturer’s warranty generally covers the RV for 1-2 years in case anything goes wrong during that period. Buying new also allows you the option of purchasing an extended warranty to cover any issues that arise after the original warranty expires.

Except in rare cases, a used RV is not covered by any warranty. You may find some larger dealerships who sell used RVs and provide a short 30-60 day warranty, but most of the time, you are on your own. If you purchase a used RV and something breaks a week later, you would be stuck with a large repair bill. Aftermarket extended warranties are also available for used RVs with an extra inspection.

Winnebago Brave from the 1980's

Manufacturer Support

One thing you should consider is how easily you can find parts or make repairs to the RV. In some cases, it can be challenging to find parts for older, used RVs. The manufacturer of the unit may be no longer around. This can make it very difficult to repair things that go wrong.

If you are considering a used RV, make sure that it is a reputable brand that is around to stay. Staying away from smaller, startup manufacturers could save you a lot of headache down the road. You can also talk to the previous owner to ask about his or her experience with the manufacturer. This could provide useful insight into how easily you could get support from them in the future.

Availability of Options

When you get ready to make your RV purchase, you likely have in mind what kind of floor plan and layout you need. Purchasing new will afford you the greatest number of options and choices. Go to your local dealer or RV show, and you’ll find hundreds of choices available to select. Each has slightly different floor plans or color schemes, and you can even custom order a new unit made precisely the way you want it.

However, your choices are more limited if you decide to go the used route. You are limited to what is for sale at the time you are looking. If you are dead set on a specific brand or floor plan, it may take some time to find what you are looking for…if you can find it at all! You may have to be a little more flexible when it comes to buying a used RV.

Financing

If you plan to get a loan to purchase your RV, there are some things you should be aware of. Buying a new RV will typically allow you to secure better terms for your loan. You can usually get a lower interest rate, lower down payment requirement, and multiple-term length options when purchasing new.

On the flip side, interest rates are generally a little higher for a used RV. You usually have to make a larger down payment, as well. Due to the age of the unit, most banks will not allow very long term lengths on a used purchase.

Whether you purchase new or used, you should always shop around for the best financing options. Doing a little bit of research can save you thousands of dollars over the life of your loan. Be sure to check out banks, credit unions, and online lenders to determine who can offer you the best choice.

Before and After images of Drivin and Vibin's Airstream Argosy renovation
Drivin & Vibin’s Renovation

Renovation

Some people prefer to take older units and renovate them to brand new condition. If this is you, then used is the way to go. This is becoming increasingly popular among RV enthusiasts and hobbyists. Many are even living a full-time RV lifestyle in these older, renovated units. You can often find these older units in good condition at reasonable prices.

If you have bought a new RV, you likely don’t want to start ripping things out and customizing the space. Most people who purchase new do it because they don’t want to worry about changing or fixing anything for several years. They prefer the “new RV” smell and had rather spend their time on road trips instead of with a hammer and wrench.

Length of Ownership

The period you plan to own the RV can affect whether you should buy used vs new. If you plan to keep the RV for the long term, then you may want to go ahead and buy a brand new one. In that case, you may not be concerned with the depreciation because you have no intention of selling it any time soon.

If, however, you like to get a different trailer every few years, you should probably consider shopping for a used one. This prevents you from taking a big hit on depreciation, and the overall purchase price is generally lower.

Different types of RVs in a campground.

Where You Will Be Camping

This one may not seem evident at first, but here is the explanation. Do you have a favorite campground or certain places in mind that you’d like to visit? You need to check on their policies for the types of RVs that are allowed in their campground.

Some campgrounds have restrictions on the age of the campers that are allowed to stay at their campsites, commonly called the 10-year rule. This is an attempt to keep the campground more upscale and looking great. However, if you decide to purchase an older, used RV, this could prevent you from being allowed to camp in some places.

Buying new should prevent you from encountering any issues like this when exploring new campgrounds. If you do shop used, you can likely avoid these issues by selecting an RV that is not more than a few years old. Of course, you can always check the policy at specific campgrounds to be sure your potential purchase would comply with their rules.

Used vs New RV

In many cases, personal preference ends up being the deciding factor in whether someone buys used or new. Some people prefer a new RV because they know that they are the only one who has ever owned the camper. Others would never dream of paying a premium for a brand-new unit and always prefer to shop on the used market.

People have different reasons for making their choices, and it is often just personal preference as to which they prefer. Many times, you cannot convince them otherwise once they’ve decided.

Regardless of your choice, these facts should arm you with the information you need to make an informed decision. It doesn’t matter what type of RV you select; you can find great options on both the new and used market. Decide which factors are most important to you, and then start looking! The more you shop around, the better choices you will have. Keep searching until you find the perfect fit. As long as you are happy with your purchase, then that’s what matters!

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2 comments
  1. Hi Jason,

    I just bought your check off lists, maybe twice but I will confirm before getting back to you, as they appear to be the most comprehensive out there. My wife and I are considering full-time RVing and are look at the Grand Design 367BHS. We currently live in Simi Valley, CA, and have been working with Mike Thompson RV during this process. Being from LA, did you guys use the same dealership or do you have a recommendation for another?

    My wife and I enjoy your show and look forward to you and Rae having a safe and enjoyable 2020, that include more videos on your adventures and experiences.

    Sincerely,
    Jos Ferguson

    1. Hey Jos, Rae and I actually went to Simi High! Thank you so much for the kind words. We purchased our RV from Mike Thompsons but didn’t love them. We felt like we were on our own after we signed the financing. I would personally recommend considering driving to Lazydays in Tucson where you get to stay in the campground attached to the dealership and perform your PDI on-site (a big plus) or Blue Dog RV in Las Vegas (we called them for maintenance work our first 3 months on the road and although we didn’t get it done there they were VERY helpful over the phone explaining the whole process and how it all works. Other dealerships we contacted including Mike Thompsons were less than helpful to us newbies). We have never purchased an RV from these dealerships but in our interactions with them, they both gave us good feelings. Because you are thinking of going full-time, the benefit of purchasing close to home for a better dealer relationship and convenience for maintenance work doesn’t matter.

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