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Readers write back: Buy new or used RV?

By Russ and Tiña De Maris
When we fired up the RVtravel.com consumer support section, it didn’t take long for us to get plenty of mail. Plenty of disgruntled readers who gave definite recommendations to steer clear of buying new RVs. At the end of October we ran a story about some of their thinking. At the time we asked for feedback. When RV shopping, buy new or used? We got a mix of responses – and a plethora of reasons.

RV industry takes a dressing-down

Doug F. presented his clear case for buying used. “How is it the automotive industry can churn out millions of vehicles every year that just work, are high quality, clean, and come with three-year warranties minimum, but the RV industry can’t?” he asks. “There is no excuse for the RV industry’s abysmal quality, other than sheer greed and the consumers not demanding better. Until consumers demand a finished product equal in quality to what they already expect and demand in their cars and trucks, the RV industry will continue to foist junkers upon us.”

Attitude over inconvenience

Photo from Tim W.

On the other hand, Tim W. seems quite pleased with his new Dynamax that he picked up last August. “Did we have problems? Sure. But I think the fact we were prepared for the worst and the actual experience was better than that, helped.” Attitude over inconvenience seemed to be a theme for Tim. “We went on a 5,000 mile, eight state, five week trip. We had some problems, as expected. But no show stoppers.” What about those “problems”? “For every problem we had, there are a dozen things we love about the rig. When we got back we scheduled to take it to a local authorized service shop to get the four or five fixes done. It’s a six week wait, but, hey, we expected that.”

Tim chalks up his “success despite inconvenience” to buying his rig from a trusted dealer – Performance RV in Ohio. “They are almost obsessive about the PDI they perform. Overall, sure I wish we didn’t have any problems. On the other hand, we are glad we bought it, we had a great trip and are looking forward to many more.”

More patience than most of us have

Another reader, Lee Ann B., says she’ll stand up for a new RV. But after hearing her experience, we’re not sure everyone would have the patience she manifested with her new Luxe, bought back in 2017. Never having touched the RV lifestyle, she made a big jump and became a fulltimer right off the bat. And that new RV for the new lifestyle? “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,” Lee Ann recalls. “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.”

Many of us, I’m sure, would count this all as a nightmare. But here’s her take: “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.” Nice to hear of an outfit that does stand behind their product. What else? “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!”

Bought it “back then”

But then there were those who bought new – “back when” RV manufacturers had a different reputation. Sandra N. recounts, “We purchased new in 2004, still have the rig, never had a single issue after we left the lot.” Does she recommend buying new? Draw your own conclusions from the rest of her story. “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 are RV knowledgeable, then used seems to be a good way to go.”

In the “buy new or used” response field, we heard several comments that seem to uphold the “older was better, even new” thought. Here are some of Michael W.’s thoughts: “Our last motorhome was a 2003 that we loved. But it was starting to need some larger dollars to look and feel like we wanted. We looked at the negative experiences the buyers of ‘new’ were having and decided to purchase a coach that was a couple of years old from a respected builder.”

Photo from Michael W.

Wanting to downsize, Michael shopped the market and finally found what the family wanted. “A 2017 Tiffin Allegro Breeze was near perfect. It still had factory warranty with only 3,000 miles.” Acting with discretion that we recommend to others – “We paid for two separate tech inspections plus the one from the dealer and our own. We pretty much knew what we were getting into.” Seems like it paid off. Except for a couple of house batteries that gave up the ghost on their first trip, things went well. The evil DEF head issue also cropped up, but the manufacturer took care of it.

Michael’s only complaints? “The residential refrigerator does not last long enough on the large battery bank, forcing us to use the generator when boondocking. And the undercounter convection oven. Works great – but what a bonehead place to put an oven/microwave that you need to see the controls to operate.” Tired of crawling on his knees to view the controls, Michael says he’ll soon be doing a bit of remodeling to get the cooker at eye-level. And that pesky power-sapping residential fridge? Michael’s shopping for a conventional RV refrigerator, or maybe a 12-volt compressor job.

“Experienced” oldy

To be sure, we heard plenty from readers on the question of buy new or used. We’ll close it out with John T.’s experience. Back in 2009, John bought a Catalina travel trailer. It’s definitely an experienced rig, having bounced back and forth to Alaska, and spending some pretty cold days and nights up north.

Photo from John T.

Reflecting on his rig, John writes, “The only warranty item was the bathroom sink faucet leak. They sent the part to me in North Pole, Alaska, for free. We have had no other problems.” We jokingly asked if that was the hot or the cold faucet. No matter, John sums his view up: “We paid less than $17,000 for the new RV in 2009. So, after looking at the problems new RVs have, we are keeping our old one.”

Buy new or used? You choose. Whatever choice you make, happy trails, and keep the shiny side up. Unless of course, your rig – like John’s – makes the trip to Alaska. It appears there just isn’t any “shiny side” after a few miles up there.

More stories from Russ and Tiña De Maris

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Gregg
24 days ago

After shopping for over 2 years we bought our inTech Sol Horizon new as DW didn’t want to buy “someone else’s problems” (used). Fit and finish were top notch and we’ve had zero warranty or other issues; this seems to be the norm for inTech. Very happy with our TT!

Mitzi Agnew Giles and Ed Giles
25 days ago

Lurked at RVTravel website for 12 years; my retirement plans changed year by year (remember the RVTravel forum boards?) Became VERY well educated on RVs. Restorations were out- I just can’t do them. I retired at 2014, my plans changed in the following order: Motorcycle + popup motorcycle camper, camper van, Teardrop trailer, RPod. My decision for the Rpod didn’t hold up past an actual “sit and lie down” inside it. Later I remembered the Scamp molded fiberglass trailers I had seen occasionally in campgrounds over the years. I googled Scamp, whick took me to Fiberglassrv.com and I discovered Scamp had a bakers dozen friends made of molded fiberglass out there. 12/01/2016 2016 I received my LilSnoozy 17 ft molded fiberglass. Now known as Snoozy2 offers more choices to consumer than LilSnoozy did. I love mine!

CeeCee
25 days ago

We’ve always bought used, from experienced owners who kept meticulous maintenance records, after careful inspection. Our units have been “better than new”. Whether new or used, there will always be things to fix. We like that the “new unit” issues (and recalls) were already dealt with.

Joe Allen
25 days ago

Having sold some RV’s in the past, I would always recommend used. The older RV’s were put together well and the parts are still available. Not an issue! We have had fithwheels, pull behinds and 2 diesel coaches. I will take the diesel coaches every-time. When we started looking, I knew I wanted a higher end coach, but just could not afford it. So we looked at the used market in high end and ended up with our latest, a Foretravel. Love these rigs and they can be bought right if you know what to look for. Our other coaches we considered were Bluebirds, Prevost’s and Newell’s. I am also very handy and can do lots of repairs and upgrades, so the best of both worlds when buying used. One handy tip; if you can’t fix easy stuff, you need to have deep pockets!

Ruben
25 days ago

What I have learned with our RV…
New or used…
One needs to be handy with your hands, or handy with your wallet!!!

Rebecca
25 days ago

We’re low-budget RVers. Our first was a 1976 Itasca, bought in 2011 for $4500; had 7 mostly trouble-free years until the transmssion went. We gave it to the young mechnic for$150 (enough to rent a pick-up to get us & our stuff home; thank you Enterprise) The mechanic fixed it at cost and still camps in it. We “upgraded” to a 2005 Trail-lite trailer, $6800 and love it. No problems in 3 years. When I look at the prices of new RVs it blows my mind!

Bob P
25 days ago

We had a 2002 Mountain Aire by Newmar, we bought it in 2017 and everything still worked except for the front a/c, it was locked up. We replaced that, installed a washer and dryer, replaced the uncomfortable jack knife sofa with a set of loveseat recliners fro RecPro. We basically had it fixed just like we wanted, it was built on the Chevy Workhorse chassis so it rode and drove like a dream. Then for some unknown reason we sold it, now we have downsized to a 23’ TT that is a two years old. So far it’s been a good trailer with no problems, today I’m replacing the semi comfortable jackknife sofa across the back wall with some new RecPro recliner loveseats, I hope we keep this for awhile.

Robin Pack
25 days ago

I’m about a week away from becoming a full time, newbie RVer buying new! After 30 years maintaining aircraft, motorcycles and family vehicles…all with problems, an rv isn’t any different. They share common issues: electrical, a/c, plumbing, fuel, body panels/skin, structural …so stop tapping away on your tech for service(WALL-E) and yes, that’s a lazy reference to this current society! Learn to do things yourself.

Donald N Wright
25 days ago

Bought the Coleman popup used, the Aliner popup used, the Airstream Trailer used. All had problems. I know folks that bought their RV’s brand new, and they had problems too. That’s life, learn to accept it and how to fix it. Maybe these folks should take up Backpacking next.

SteveM
25 days ago

As opposed to Michael with his 2017 Tiffin Breeze, ours must have been built on Friday the 13th. The Powerglide chassis that ours was on had a leaking radiator. leaking trans oil cooler, also a unlubricated ball joint. This was all covered under warranty, but some items were not off the shelf so part availability, especially the trans cooler, took over 2 weeks. It had to be fabricated. Also numerous other, lesser issues. We bought it, in 2019, with 7500 mi on the clock. Our 1st trip was interrupted with clogged fuel filters, not because of Cummins or Tiffin. Delayed our arrival by 2 days.
Had the DEF header issue(06/21). Modern diesel engines will be subject to this, and not just once. Took 5 days to receive the replacement Overnight. Latest trip intermittently threw a code for fuel injectors. Belt tensioner and tensioner also replaced under warranty by Cummins.

Micheal Whelan
25 days ago
Reply to  SteveM

Wow, sorry to hear of all the issues. We must have been lucky and got one built mid-week. On our rig my largest concern is the DEF. Cummins mechanic doesn’t think it is as big of a chance of a problem as I do…. but of course he is not the one on the road in the middle of desert city … I am thinking of picking up a DEF bypass for such an occasion but maybe the Feds will wake up and let the techs re-flash the firmware even if you are running OK. Buying the bypass is kind of like insurance, I hope to never need it. My belt tensioner was caught in the initial inspection and taken care of before we even signed the papers. Good luck with yours and hope travel life improves for you.

TexasScout
25 days ago

We bought our first (and only) RV (towable) right after Hurricane Harvey wrecked our 110 year old farm house. It was a 2009 JAYCO Jayflight 29bhs. We were total green horns when it came to RVs, but we needed a place to live fast. Turns out the entire frame work over the bedroom had rotted out. Leaks were a big problem (thank you Flex Seal!). So, a word of caution, check an older RV out carefully! We did end up living in it for two and a half years until our new house was finished. We still have fond memories of that RV. We ended up giving it away ($600) to a man that needed a place to stay.