Dear RV Shrink:
We are in the market for our first RV. My husband thinks we should buy a used rental Class C motorhome. I am in favor of buying used, and have studied used rental websites, but they seem to want the high dollar for the motorhomes they are culling from their fleets. Are these units a good deal? Am I missing something? I want to enjoy traveling and not have to constantly worry about repair problems. Should we be considering new instead of buying a rental RV? —Confused in Cleveland
Everyone has their own comfort level, so one answer does not fit all. With that said, I will give you my personal opinion and you can use whatever feels good to you.
I personally would never buy a rental unit. They are usually bare-bones units as far as options. RV rental companies do not want a lot of convenience options that create additional maintenance issues. For instance, most do not have a ladder to access the roof. One of the reasons rental companies leave the ladders off is to eliminate renters from using the roof as a patio. If you do find a unit with a roof ladder, check carefully for leaks.
The salespeople will try to convince you that these units have been serviced after every use, therefore they are in much better shape than private owner RVs. This could not be further from the truth. Renters have had no ownership respect for these units. Many do not even know how to use them properly. Pull up to a dump station and watch a family of RV renters trying to figure out how to dump the grey and black water tanks, and fill the fresh water. This will give you a great perspective on how much training goes on before a rental leaves the lot.
Mileage is important, but not as important as how those miles were applied. In cowboy terms I would say most rental units have been “rode hard and put away wet.”
It always seems like a good idea to be the first owner and start out with something brand-new, but owning a brand-new RV has its downsides. We have several friends who have purchased new RVs in the past year. Since all their experiences have been identical, I have to assume it is the norm. Every one of them has spent weeks, not days, in warranty service facilities trying to get all the systems working properly. If you buy new, plan on spending quality time with service employees.
If I were buying new I would plan my purchase around a convenient time schedule to make sure I could get two or three service appointments at the factory level before the warranty expired. That means constant shakedown cruises for the first year. To buy an RV and let it sit, while the clock is running on the warranty, is a huge mistake. The old saying “Use it or lose it” should have been coined for an RV warranty.
So, that leaves us with buying a used unit from a private seller. That would be my choice. It takes a lot more leg work, thought and logistics, but if you shop hard enough and smart enough you will find exactly what you want for a whole lot less money and hassle. You’re not just buying an RV, you want to be buying good habits from past owners.
You will often find that private sellers have added many amenities that now have no value to them. This value is passed on to the buyer at no upcharge in many cases. Meeting a seller and inspecting a rig can give you a lot of insight into how a unit has been cared for. This is an important piece of information you are never going to glean from a sales lot.
The last two motorhomes I purchased both came with extensive maintenance documentation that assured me precautionary service had been performed and an indication of what systems had been repaired or replaced. The seller had spent his time sitting in a service facility getting the unit functioning properly – so I didn’t have to.
With all this said, life has no guarantees. You could still have issues no matter how careful you are during the buying process. Knowing what to ask, what to look for, and what to expect will be your first line of defense.
Beauty is only skin deep. Falling in love with a floor plan and decor is a good way to get skinned.
Next week I will discuss this issue from the renter’s perspective, as RV rental use has actually spiked this year. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
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