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Consumers speak: Would you buy a new RV? Maybe not a good idea

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
While it seems like the RV manufacturing industry is having a bang-up sales year, not everyone is cheering. There’s an undercurrent of folks who aren’t always happy with the quality of their new, spendy purchases. Would you buy a new RV? A couple of comments from readers speak volumes.

“They tell it like it is”

First, Bill G. tells us about his recent experience on an RV dealer’s lot. Bill took his travel trailer in for recall work (there’s a whole ‘nother story!) and had time for looking around, and a little gab. “I had heard about empty dealer lots, but that was not the case at this dealership. Units were packed and stacked,” writes Bill in an e-mail.

Since the service work Bill needed was not time-consuming, Bill stuck around as the RV technician did the job. “Gotta love those service techs,” he recalls. “They tell it like it is. Without prompting, he started complaining about how bad the new units are.” Interestingly, the complaint didn’t focus on specific “build” issues. “He [the technician] said that they spend an hour just cleaning them up on the inside, as the manufacturers don’t bother to pick up excess wire, wood, or vacuum out wood shavings and other debris.”

Remember grandad’s admonition

What was it your grandpappy told you? You can tell a lot about the quality of the work by the pride the workman takes in his product. If the manufacturer, much less the individual line workers, aren’t interested enough in making their finished product look presentable, what about things that you don’t see? Wiring, plumbing, framing? Maybe Bill has the same viewpoint. Buy a new RV, Bill? He closes his writing to us with this observation: “No way am I buying a new camper right now.”

$140,000 unit – dash electronics ripped out

So what if your current RV no longer meets your needs? Are you stuck in a situation where you must buy a new RV now? Major H. and his wife have “been in the market” for an RV for two years. “As a first-time buyer it was important to us that whatever we got into, that it would have very few issues,” Major wrote. He didn’t want the experience of some he knew. “We had a few friends that bought brand-new over the last couple years and have watched them wait for parts that aren’t coming or recalls that can’t be fixed due to supply line issues, or manufacturers just not caring.”

A visit to a Camping World dealership was pretty revealing for the couple. Major recalls, “They tried to sell us a rig for $140,000 with all the electronics in the dash ripped out. They said they probably needed it for another rig. That made zero sense. Even the salesperson had a hard time accepting that they would take perfectly working electronics from one RV for another.” Was their disillusionment solely with Camping World? “Almost all of the dealerships we went to were trying to sell garbage because the market was hot.”

Shopped hard and found what they needed

Major’s motorhome interior

For Major, buying a new RV just simply wasn’t in the cards. Still, they wanted into the RV lifestyle, so they shopped hard for a used RV. In the end, they found a 2006 Holiday Rambler motorhome. Of course, a used rig is just that. “We had to put a little into our used rig,” Major tells us. “New tires and new house batteries were first on the list. Cleaning the tanks and sensors and lubricating slide outs and seals came next. Beyond that, little things, like repairing a couple of blinds and making sure the chassis was good to go was all we needed to do.”

If you have to fix it anyway, why buy new?

Major’s Holiday Rambler

Is that too much work? Major answers: “Overall the reason we chose used was because if I’m going to have to fix some things then why would I buy new? New should mean everything working and quality control checks should be done prior to leaving the factory. I understand that perfection is a lot to ask for but at $100,000 or more, I expect a much smoother and worry-free unit.”

The same is true for our family. When we determined we’d move full-time into an RV, we scoured our part of the planet. We, too, subscribed to an axiom that Major had heard: “Anything made prior to 2009 was of much better quality than anything newer.” We ended up, too, with a Holiday Rambler – a travel trailer. Yes, we had to put some sweat equity into the rig, and a financial investment as well. But we know where the “bugs” are in our rig and, all in all, I think we’re a lot happier than if we bought into the pitch of “Buy a new RV.” What’s more, we don’t have an RV payment hanging over our heads.

We’d love to hear your thoughts. Use the form below, and please put “Buy new or used” on the subject line.

Click or drag a file to this area to upload.

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Del W
1 month ago

We just bought a new 2022 Rockwood 2109S. No issues at all with the unit. Got the normal 35% off MSRP to boot. As an exercise I checked with 2 dealers about selling it. Both dealers responded in writing offering more than I paid. One of the dealers offered to come pick up. We have bought all but one of our trailers new. None of them had any issues to talk about. The used one we bought became a money pit after only 6 months.

Bob P
1 month ago

We bought our 2020 used trailer from a local wholesale dealer in 2021. The story we got was the original owners bought the trailer and then the wife had a stroke and was unable to use it so they sold it. They must’ve had all the manufacturers defects fixed because we haven’t had any problems yet. Thankfully!

LER
1 month ago

A couple of themes seem to run through these kind of stories: “All new RVs are garbage” – no they aren’t. “My used RV is better than any new RV” – maybe. My Dad told me many years ago that you only buy quality once. Our first two RVs were used, and last year we purchased a brand new RV. They have all been quality RVs and we have been satisfied with their performance. We must always compare apples to apples.

Lee Ann B
1 month ago

We purchased a fifth wheel new direct from a small manufacturer (now known as Luxe) in 2017. Jumped into full-timing without having ever rv’d. Every stop required a mobile tech for some issue from air conditioner breaking down to losing all electric to transfer switch giving up and so on. By the time we went back to factory for one year warranty work we had a list of over 40 issues in addition to those already fixed. Took a month for tech to repair, rebuild, and replace. The manufacturer took care of every issue, covered the cost, and covered mileage for mobile techs when none were local. Hubby takes care of routine maintenance on the road. Once a year we return to manufacturer, who now have their own service center for owners next door, for a regular checkup. This year was the first year where my interior updates outnumbered the few maintenance/replacement needs. We are very happy with our purchase despite the shake down issues and would not trade her. She’s in great shape!!!

Drew
1 month ago

Probably used if we were to do it again. Besides, I can’t stand the decor of new ones- at any price range.

Sandra Neary
1 month ago

we purchased new in 2004, still have the rig, never had a single issue after we left the lot. Our kids purchased new in 2018 and spent months getting the defects fixed. Our friend did some research and found what older brands were considered high quality at the time they were made, purchased that way and had no problems. Seems like a lot of the new stuff isn’t worth the money (or time) and the used market is limited to those rigs that did well from the get-go. If you are handy and rv knowledgeable then used seems to be a good way to go.

Bud
1 month ago

Buy new in a second! I don’t want to purchase a unit from someone who did not take care of it. Or had leaks and then decided to unload it (you can read about this on numerous forums).
We purchased a new Montana 5th wheel in April 2021 and it came with a broken recliner, dents in residential fridge door and scratched tv where the factory folks didn’t know the retaining buckle goes to the OUTSIDE of the strap, not against the screen. All were fixed under warranty, in 1 week! I could tell you the secret but then everyone would do it!
Yup, buy new, you know what you are getting. Lose 25% driving off? You lose the same when you purchase a car, a boat or plane! We didn’t buy this for a monetary investment. We bought this as a peace of mind, enjoy traveling, dislike smokey hotel rooms, poor road restaurant food investment! We don’t intend to sell and the unit will be paid off in record time! I’m good!

Jeff
1 month ago

The only problem with buying used is some campgrounds won’t except an rv over 10 years old.

Jesse Crouse
1 month ago
Reply to  Jeff

What I have heard is that they want a picture with the reservation. If it looks in good shape they will generally waive the rule. In real estate it’s location, location. In RV’s it’s condition, condition. People who care about and maintain their RV usually make good guests.

Donald N Wright
1 month ago

Buy new ? Yes I would. Smaller too, built with parts designed for RV’s, not houses.

G13
1 month ago

I’m with you on this topic! Might be small but still your home away from home. Plus you have more space in your campsite, haha!

Jesse Crouse
1 month ago

Be prepared to give away 25 % as you drive off the lot.