I’m not sure if this is your field or not but maybe you can steer me in the right direction. We’re looking to purchase our first RV and we plan to go full-time. I have read that it would be better to buy a used one versus a new one and get an extended warranty. Is this true? Thanks for your advice. —Brenda
This is not an easy question to answer as there are so many variables and unit conditions. I conduct an RV Buyer’s Seminar at various shows around the country and this is always a hot topic with much discussion.
First, let’s take a look at the advantages of purchasing new.
Buying a new RV
You have so many more choices in not only the make and model, but the floor plans, options, weight ratings, and more. You can literally customize it the way it fits your RV lifestyle.
Nobody has slept in the rig, used the bathroom, or laid on the couch. So from a sanitary point of view, it’s a safe option. Then there are all the warranties that come with a new coach: the manufacturer’s warranty, appliances typically have a two-year warranty, and some manufacturers have a lifetime warranty. However, you do need to take the unit in every year and have some maintenance done such as checking/cleaning appliance mechanicals and checking all the sealants such as roof to sidewall joint, caulking around anything mounted to the roof, and resealing where necessary. It can run several hundred dollars, but that is much better than a surprise a few years down the road. Another advantage is typically better financing available on new units from some of the financial institutions.
And there are the newer materials that become available such as advanced technologies in roofing material, sidewall, appliances and electronics. Roof coatings have seen a huge leap in technology from EPDM rubber membranes to the new PVC that requires no maintenance. And Azdel composite materials used in the sidewall are half the weight, moisture resistant, and provide better insulation value (R factor) than wood.
Price. This seems to be the number one factor, especially with today’s robust RV market. Most manufacturers can’t make them fast enough and some are even sold out for 2-3 years. So there isn’t much negotiating taking place these days. However, I have also witnessed used prices going for more than book value due to the same conditions.
Another factor when looking at a used unit is someone bought the unit and took the shakedown cruise and took care of everything that shook loose! Something that is common in the RV industry is there will be adjustments that will need to be made. I point this out in my seminars as I ask who has ever built a house and when I see hands up I ask: “So, when you got done building the house you had no ‘punch list’ for anything? Nothing for the drywaller, painter, landscaping company?” And they all roll their eyes as we expect a list of adjustments with a home build, but not with an RV—as we expect it to be just like a car or truck. Wrong!
We have the same issues with materials such as wood, fabrics, carpet, seals around just about everything. And then we drive down the road or, even worse, let it sit in 100 degrees and let it bake… or in below-zero temperatures. With temperature changes, materials expand and contract, which means they pull away from sealants and structures.
I do think that today’s RVs are being built at record speeds. Quality has taken a downturn, and supply issues are not helping. That is why it is imperative to spend time doing a thorough inspection and working with a trusted dealer that will do a proper pre-delivery inspection (PDI).
Possible disadvantages of buying used RV
One of the disadvantages of used units is you do not know how the previous owner took care of the unit. If the absorption refrigerator is run out of level, the liquid coolant cannot zig-zag down the cooling unit by gravity as designed and will “pool” to one side. It will start to flake and not run efficiently, or eventually not cool at all. Some rubber membranes must be cleaned and conditioned once a year.
The biggest issue I tell people to look for in a used RV is moisture leaks. Open the interior cabinets and look at the roof to sidewall, the front cap, floors, and run the slides out and check the floor. The problem with moisture leaks is once you see them, it’s usually too late.
My recommendation is to have it inspected by an RVIA-certified technician who has been trained to know what to look for. And have someone with a Sealtech machine check for leaks.
This is the most effective method of checking for leaks as it draws in air and pressurizes the rig. Then spraying a soap and water solution on the outside will show bubbles at any moisture penetrating areas. Locate a testing facility here.
RV totaled due to roof leak
Last year we had a member of the RV Repair Club contact us about working on a 23’ Jayco he had purchased and was experiencing a roof sag. We brought the unit down to the shop and once we removed the roof air conditioner we found the entire roof had extreme moisture damage and was completely shot. A new roof was $8,000 from Jayco and it was FOB Elkhart, IN! And that did not cover labor. He sold the unit for scrap and lost most of his investment.
The air conditioner is “sandwiched” to the roof with spring-loaded bolts and a gasket between. These bolts need to be tightened to a specific torque setting every year as the gasket will compress. The owner was never told this and the results were pooling and eventually a major issue.
Everyone has their pros and cons when it comes to buying new versus used. There are more advantages on both sides, so I’ll open it up to our readers in the comments below for discussion.
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Dave Solberg is a leading expert in the RV industry and the author of the “RV Handbook.”
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