RV shopping? Think used!


By Russ and Tiña De Maris

Thinking about buying a new RV? We don’t mean “new to you,” but rather, brand-new, fresh from the factory new. There are advantages, sure enough, but there are also drawbacks, which we’ve heard a lot about lately.

David Prasad on flickr.com

A few years back, in the dark corners of the “Great Recession,” buying a new RV was kind of a crapshoot. A lot of RV manufacturers went down the drain and shuttered their factories. This left folks with a seemingly-new RV, and an in-force warranty in a pickle. If nobody stepped up to the plate and assumed the warranty, well, they were just up the creek. Happily, it seems we’re past the days of “building today, bankrupt tomorrow,” so the warranty is probably worth a bit more than the price of the paper it’s printed on.

Still, even with a new rig and a warranty, life isn’t always a bed of roses. Tap in on the conversations on RV forums and you’ll find a common denominator among ‘brand new’ RV buyers: Repeated returns to the dealers to fix things that should never have had to be fixed in the first place. Sad to say, industry-wide, quality control is just NOT a big thing. Buy new, expect that your rig will spend time back at the dealer getting things fixed. If you bought from a “local” dealer, then you’ll likely find it a lot easier to live with this situation.

If you bought on price-point and, say, drove 1,000 miles or even more to buy from a dealer to save big bucks, you may find a problem. If you bought from Sam 1,000 miles away, don’t bet that Fred the Dealer in your hometown is going to bend over backwards to get your rig into the shop to fix it – warranty or not. You may find you’ll be standing in line a long time, waiting, while your precious vacation time fritters away.

Putting the warranty issue aside, then there’s that little thing called “depreciation.” Face it, when you buy an RV, you will NEVER get anything close to what you paid for the rig back when you sell it or trade it, even if it’s just a few months down the road. It’s like buying a car – drive it off the lot, drop the value in a hurry.

So what’s the alternative? Buying a gently used, older RV may be the trick. Let the original owner waste his time waiting for his rig to come back from the dealer “getting the bugs worked out.” Let some other poor schlep be the guy who paid dearly for the status of having a “brand-new RV” watch his interest payments balloon, paying for depreciation.

Of course, you buy used, you’ve likely bought without warranty. That means, set a little money aside to have that “older but wiser” RV properly inspected. Top to bottom, side to side, and all appliances in safe, working condition. No water leakage. Good rubber on the road. Wheel bearings packed and brakes in good condition. No, it may not have that “factory fresh formaldehyde” essence but, hey, you may have saved yourself thousands of dollars, and months of frustration.


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Bill Tucker

Good article, but you didn’t mention the fact that used RV’s, even when buying from a dealer, generally are in poor condition for cleanliness, body rust and damaged and with mouldy appliances and fixtures. When my wife and I were looking to upgrade our fifth wheel to a motorhome, we looked at several dealer and private sellers and found 2 &3 year old rigs on RV dealer lots in horrible and disgusting shape, not to mention private sellers who are trying to recoup depreciation losses by selling at ridiculously high prices. We bought new because it was clean and had the features and lay out we wanted. Let’s face it, when you plan to spend big bucks for an RV, having a $20000 difference between new an used is not that big of a stretch. I believe if your primary concern, when purchasing RV’s is depreciation and gas mileage, perhaps buying an RV is not for you. Warranty issues with new RV’s, like buying a new car, comes with the territory. Doing a good PDI inspection when you pick up your new rig, to have issues corrected, at the time of delivery, helps prevent unnecessary trips back to the dealer. Safe travels everyone.