Is it time? Are you finally looking into buying an RV? If you are, you’re exactly where we were 4 years ago at this time when we purchased our first RV. Like buying a car, an RV is a big investment and a lot of consideration should be taken when it comes to figuring out what RV to buy. Before you even start to look at RV’s you need to know whether you’re looking to buy a new or used RV. So let’s look into which RV is right for you.
Research & Planning
When we purchased our RV we did a lot of research before we even started going to RV dealers to look at RVs. We spent endless hours on the computer looking at various RVs and studying their layouts and features. Both Kate and I put together a list of wants and needs for our future RV. You should sit down and start with this as well. Doing this will likely point you in the direction you want to go when it comes to buying either a new or used RV.
Now that you’ve done some research and planning lets take a further look into some key points to think about when purchasing either a new or used RV.
Cost & Depreciation
In a perfect world where we all have endless amounts of money, we’d all likely purchase a brand spanking new sparkly RV with all of the latest tech & gadgets and sweet floor plans. Unfortunately, most of us don’t live in that world and we have a budget when it comes to purchasing an RV. Setting a rough budget before you start looking at RVs will also help you decide between a new or used RV.
When Kate & I were looking at purchasing our RV, after our research and planning phase, we quickly realized we would have to purchase used. New RVs, while absolutely stunning and filled with lots of modern amenities, are very expensive. To buy a brand new fifth wheel in a similar size and layout would have cost use at least double if not triple or more than the amount we paid for.
Now, maybe you have a larger budget than we did when buying your RV – great, but something you also have to know about when buying a new RV is how much that RV will depreciate in value as soon as you take it off the lot. Year after year, your RV will lose value but it loses a substantially higher percentage of value in the first few years of ownership. It’s estimated that in the first year of ownership your RV will depreciate between 20-30%. The RV we purchased was 8 years old when we bought it and it had lost roughly $40,000 from the time the first owners took it away from the dealership. 4 years after purchasing our RV, while not as valuable as when we bought it, we could still get a pretty decent value for our RV compared to the drop in value the first owners experienced when selling or trading in the RV. Check out this guide to RV depreciation done by camperguide.org
Advantage: Used RV
Floorplans & Features
What you’re looking for in an RV will depend on how you’re going to use it. If you’re just a weekend warrior you will have significantly different needs from your RV than full-time RVers like Kate and I. Knowing that we were going to be full-timers, we had very specific needs for our RV. Storage and living space were the two big ones. With this in mind, looking for specific layouts and features in a used RV is very, very difficult. We had a very difficult time finding an RV perfect for us that had the right layout and features and was also in our budget. Part of this had to do with where we were looking for RVs. At the time, we were living in New Brunswick which is one of the smaller provinces and didn’t have a large collection of RV dealers. We looked through RVtrader.com throughout the entire Maritimes and still had a difficult time finding the perfect RV for us.
Buying a new RV makes it so much easier for you to get what you want in an RV. It’s also a lot easier to find the perfect new RV – either at a dealership or RV show – than a used RV. There’s just a much better choice out there for a new RV. There are some RV manufacturers that even allow you to customize certain features of a unit allowing you to get exactly what you want out of your RV.
The one massive difference when it comes to buying a new or used RV is the interior design. RV interior design seems to become dated very quickly, although a lot of the new RVs do look much snazzier than they did 10 years ago. The wallpaper and fixtures in our RV when we bought it at 8 years old were very, very dated. The bonus, however, with buying used is that you can update the interior with some of the money you saved from buying used. Just for fun, go to RV Trader and look at pre-2000’s RVs for a few seconds. You’ll wonder, “what the heck were they thinking?” when it came to the interior design.
Wear & Tear
When you purchase a used RV you go in knowing that someone else has owned and used this RV before. How much they used it and how they took care of it are left to the imagination. When we looked at some used RVs you could definitely tell how they were used. Some of the RVs were very rough looking inside while others looked really nice. The RV we ended up purchasing looked good to us inside and out when we bought it. That being said, we bought in the middle of a frigid New Brunswick winter which did not make us want to spend a lot of time looking through the RV. When we finally had our RV delivered to us months later at the RV park, someone immediately pointed out to us delamination along the sidewalls. My heart sank. We just spent a lot of money and here sat an RV that could have had water damage. It turns out that we did have water damage in the slides which had to be completely replaced. This is our fault for not being super thorough when purchasing our RV but also being new to the RV world, knowing everything to look for when buying a used RV can be very overwhelming.
A new RV should be built like a castle – strong & sturdy – with no issues, right? Not so fast. There are plenty of stories online about people buying a brand new RV and quickly discovering massive issues with the RV. A friend of mine purchased a new RV this year and after they spent their first weekend in it they found a leak. So while you think you’re getting an RV that doesn’t have any issues that’s not always the case. Remember, most RVs are built on an assembly line. The one thing that’s good about buying a new RV is that you get a manufacturer’s warranty with purchase which will likely cover most of these little kinks that need to be worked out. The downside to that is that if you do have issues that have to be fixed by the dealership, your brand new RV could end up spending a lot of time getting serviced instead of being parked by the lake. The plus of buying a used RV is that a lot of the times the first owner already worked all of these kinks out for you. If you bought a well-maintained RV you’re likely getting very good deal.
So…Should I Buy A New or Used RV?
As you’ve read, both new and used RV’s have various pros/cons associated with them. Having read all of the above, do you think you’d rather purchase a new or used RV? If Kate and I purchase another RV in the future I’m fairly certain we would again buy used but try to buy something a little newer than what we did this time around. I think ideally purchasing a used RV in the 3 to 5 years range is a good sweet spot. At this point, a lot of the depreciation has already been taken care of by the first owner. They’ve also broken in the RV and likely took care of some repairs and maintenance that you then don’t have to take care of. A used RV in this year range should also allow you to get something that’s not too dated inside and still has plenty of good features and amenities included.