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Why You Should Never Buy An RV Brand New

New travel trailer. Photo via Jason Mrachina

Why You Should Never Buy An RV Brand New

So you have made the decision to buy an RV and now the search is on for the perfect rig, but are you going to go for a new or used RV?

There are many things to consider like your personal preference, style, brand, reviews, ratings, floor plan, color, amount of people in your family, length, slides or no slides, Class C Class A, fifth wheel, or trailer… it’s enough to make your head spin. And then there is the biggest factor of all: MONEY.

For most people money usually rules the roost when buying an RV, so the decision of how much to spend will likely be a big part in the deciding factor on which rig you’ll be driving and traveling in.

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The amount that some of these Class A and fifth wheels are going for can be enough to have you running off the dealer’s lot, but lucky for you there is another option that is much less expensive and in our opinion results in a much better overall RVing experience… buying a used RV.

We have been living full-time in an RV for four years now and have never owned a brand new RV or a brand new anything for that matter. When it came time to buy our first RV there was never a thought about where or how we were going to buy it.

It was going to be a used RV and bought directly from the owner. The amount of used RVs out in the market for sale is probably the same or even more as the amount of new RVs for sale, so finding the right rig wasn’t a problem for us and shouldn’t be a problem for you.

We understand that there are some people who just love to buy new things that are modern and shiny and come with a warranty, and if that’s your thing then good for you! Go for it! But if you are looking for the best deal on a dependable rig (or are just curious because you can’t imagine why anyone would WANT to buy a used RV over a new RV) then read on and we’ll share with you our used RV wisdom.

Our first RV was a 13-year-old Class A. We bought it off Craigslist from the first owner who had recorded all maintenance done on it.

They’re not built like they used to be

I have personally said and heard this phrase so many times in the past few years. I have worked my fair share of jobs over the years and one of them was working as a self-employed RV repairman. The work was interesting and always there. I didn’t have to travel far to get to the job site since a lot of our time was spent in RV parks and people were more than happy to have you come to them to fix their RV rather than drive it into a repair shop.

I have learned a lot from working on RVs and also by just simply living the lifestyle and experiencing breakdowns or failures like anyone else would have.

Working on RVs had me repairing new and old rigs, but more and more I found that I was working more on new rigs than older ones. The issues that I would encounter on the newer rigs were also the type of repairs that I felt should not be happening to newer rigs. These issues would be water leaks, craftsmanship, appliances, and mechanicals.

And then there were just simple things that should not have made it past quality control before leaving the factory floor. Some of the best ones that I came across were missing heating ductwork and the best was a missing P-trap on a bathroom sink.

The old RVs are still on the road for a reason… they were built to last. They used materials that in my opinion were of better quality and have a much longer lifespan than newer materials. I personally feel like the rigs of today won’t last ten or fifteen years on the road. After all, we live in a consumer society where things are built to be replaced.

Our 1991 Toyota Motorhome is still running strong and has taken us all over the country with hardly any problems.

Used RVs have been used

This is obvious, but true and if you think about it it makes sense. They have been used on vacations, weekend getaways, driven from one end of the country to the other, and they have been lived in. So in a sense, the previous owner has done all the work of driving all the bugs and kinks out of it before selling it to you.

Engines, transmissions, drive trains, and suspensions new or old will all have issues at some point or another, but the older ones typically have already had the issue and it was dealt with and repaired. With a new RV, you are going to be the first person to encounter these issues and will have to be the one to repair them.

Warranties on new RVs is a big selling point for many people, but with warranty repair work you need to bring it back to the dealership or to an affiliate which can be a big inconvenience to many people. Another problem with warranty work is that unless you have connections, it is usually first come first-served, so you may be waiting awhile to have it repaired. I personally don’t like to be at the mercy of someone else when it comes to having my rig up and running and livable.

Price and value

A new RV loses value as soon as you drive it off the lot, so you will never get all the money back that you paid for it. A used RV will also lose value as it gets older and you put more miles on it, but the depreciation isn’t nearly as drastic as with a new RV.

We put a lot of miles on our first 13-year old used RV, but because we had done some basic and inexpensive DIY projects on it and kept up with maintenance we were able to sell it 2 years later for the same price we bought it for.

With most used RVs you can do your homework and check Kelley Blue Book or other websites to see what the general price of the rig should be. You can also check out reviews of that year and model that other owners have been posting for years. This will help you get a good feel for the value of the rig you are looking at and give you more power to negotiate with the seller.

With a new RV, the only people you have reviewing it are the manufacturers, dealers, and maybe a handful of consumers that were handpicked to try it out and write about it. This means you have to trust the dealer when they tell you the value of the rig. You can take that for what it is, but personally, that is not our style!

used RV
Our used RVs have taken us to some of the most beautiful places in this country without breaking the bank!

A community of used owners

Having a community on the road is something to appreciate. When driving our 1991 Toyota Dolphin into a campground or a boondocking spot, we always spot other Toyota motorhomes or even just cool older rigs and we know that we immediately have something in common with those folks.

Many times people have approached us to share their stories about a Toyota Motorhome they owned at some point and the adventures they had in it. Majority of times they start that conversation with the comment, “I had one of those. Man, I couldn’t kill that thing!” And we usually reply with, “Neither can we!”

Having something that gets you talking with fellow travelers helps you find future travel partners, friends, and information about the area. Plus you get to hear great stories and get to tour some pretty cool remodeled older rigs.

Starting to RV is one of the greatest things that we have ever done and we have never regretted it. Doing it in a used RV that didn’t bust our budget while bringing us around the country only made it that much more rewarding.

Whether buying new or used, you won’t regret the freedom and fun that RVing brings to your life.  After all, life is an adventure and it’s all about living and learning, so get out there and explore.

 See also: Should You Buy A New Or Used RV?

14 thoughts on “Why You Should Never Buy An RV Brand New”

  1. Well it really depends on your taste, your needs and how well the camper has been taken care of. If you’re looking for reliability and dependability, I wouldn’t go too old as this might make it harder to find parts for maintenance or repair. If you can find something that has been well taken care of along with having equipment that can still be replaced or repaired using readily available parts and materials that might be the right balance. Also keep in mind that typically the older you go the heavier they get because of the materials they were made of. Good luck!

  2. Hi Patti. Toyotas are extremely popular so we’ve never had a problem finding parts or a mechanic to fix it (even though we’ve only had to go to a mechanic once since it’s been so reliable!). The truck that is on our Toyota motorhome became the Tacoma in 1993 so it’s basically the same engine and transmission and majority of the time we can walk into an Autozone and find anything we need on the shelves. We highly recommend them!

  3. I’m looking at buying a bumper pull camper. When you talk about buying used how old are you talking about? Thanks

  4. This may not be the right forum to ask. I am retiring in the fall and heading from Canada to the USA for 3-4 months in a 1997 Four Winds Majestic 29 foot motorhome. This will be a first for us, but we have rented a trailer on a campsite in Vermont each summer to visit granddaughters.
    # 1 We want to get GPS collars for our two cats so if they wander we can locate them.
    # 2 We need suggestions for a good reasonable tablet which would allow us to track them.
    # 3 -We need a reasonable cellular phone and plan for including free long distance to Canada and North America.
    # 4 Is it expensive to get wireless on the motorhome? Our buses in Eastern Canada now have this.

  5. Would really like to know the value of2007 Fleetwood Southwind, 35,000 miles class A, 32 ft. Excellent condition.

  6. I am an RV dealer and some of what I’ve read here is certainly true but much of it is more case by case. I can tell you that where I agree that a used RV owned by someone who really kept up on all the needed repair and maintenance may be a great opportunity but I have had more customers come to me and tell me how unhappy they are that they purchased used because of all the work that was needed before they could actually use it. in addition they did not get a walk-thru to see how everything worked if purchased privately. If purchasing a used RV, buy it thru a dealer who provides a pre-delivery inspection and a walk thru. If they don’t….find another dealer. most also provide some warranty. Whether you purchase new or used there is always maintenance…it’s a home on wheels so plan for this and make sure you have a reputable maintenance repair facility that can handle this for you. Again, as a dealer, it’s case by case. Either way new or used, do your homework.

  7. An article about why you should buy used… from an RV repair expert. That perspective is not one size fits all, and nothing ever is. I offer this as proof:

    We bought a brand new Bigfoot Camper in 2008. It was during the big economic downturn, and both the dealership and the manufacturer were out of business. It had been repossesed by the bank – again BRAND NEW. Well, we used it 200 nights, had a blast, and then sold it for more than we had paid. Uncommon situation, I know, but never say “never”. Not ever….

  8. I am on my third RV, one class C, and two class A’s. All were purchased used. You can believe me when I say I did my home work when purchasing the first two from private sellers. The units fitted my needs based on a growing family of three kids. And with those first two units, being used, all the bugs were previously worked out, which allowed trouble free miles of driving from across the US, (shore to shore), from Seattle to Panama City, Florida twice. From Alabama to Ohio, Chicago and NY.
    Oh boy! the third RV also purchased used, (presumately the last), was purchased off the internet from a dealership in California. Buying it was mainly based on pic’s of it. It was what I wanted and the price was very reasonable. Its a Monaco Knight 40′ diesel pusher with only 58K miles. After driving it home, I realized, I would have to due some up grading, cleaning and get this to a service center for inspection.
    It turns out, the chassis and drive train was as if it left the factory, no issues, just had to replace the house batteries and at a later date replace the unmatched tires. The interior is well made, solid oak. I am very happy with it.

  9. I dream only to have my thoughts shot down from family and friends but I know if there’s a shop or store out there I could build the RV of my dreams

  10. Everything you say about new and used RVs has got me thinking I might need an old flat bed truck really cheap so I can spend $$$$ on an aluminum bed 25 feet long if not longer so that I can carry my 13feet 6in 2017 Nissan maxima

  11. We’ve owned four rvs, three new and one used. We just traded in our used RV. It was a 2004 Fleetwood Southwind that we bought in 2006 with only 1000 miles on it! Not only did we get a great deal, but it was the perfect size for our needs at the time. She served us very well, and we were sorry to let her go, but at almost 34 feet she was too long for some of the places we want to visit. We replaced her with a 2018 Thor Siesta on a sprinter chassis and the jury is out on whether it will match the reliability of our Southwind. It’s not off to a good start; it’s alread been back to a dealer for water pump and water heater issues, and we’ve only spent 3 nights in it. We have a 7 night test upcoming with no hookups . This will put the house features to a real life test.

  12. I have a question about your Toyota. I am looking at class c’s to go back to full timing and my concern about the Toyota is how easy is it to find someone to work on them. I have had Fords, Chevys, and Dodges and you can always find a mechanic that can fix them, is it as easy with a Toyota? Because there are a couple of nice Toyotas that I have been watching on the sales sites.

  13. I’d love to read some recommendations as to year, brand, model, class of older RVs to look for in the used market. Contemplating buying new is difficult enough. Please post ideas so I can work the ads and for sale lists. Thanks.

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