Dear RV Shrink:
We have been shopping for a new motorhome. I would like to find a nice used unit, but my husband is insisting on a brand-new one. He thinks coming straight from the factory we will have fewer problems. He says buying used we will end up with someone else’s problems.
I just find RV salespeople as shady as used car salesmen. We have been shopping for awhile and I can already catch them trying to pull the wool over our eyes about the few things I understand. I am interested in your thoughts on buying new or used. I am afraid if I talk him into a used motorhome, and we have issues, it will be all my fault. —Anxious in Austin
I have always suggested that people in the market for an RV, especially the first time around, talk to other RVers. That is where you will get the best information. I see so many people going to a mega RV lot and buying a $150,000 hot dog. I don’t mean a lemon, although that is often the case too. What I mean is a “hot dog.” For some odd reason free hot dogs seem to attract people to RV dealers. They get so excited about the hot dog they forget to ask the right questions about the expensive motorhome they came to buy. Before you go to a dealer, stop and buy your own hot dog so you can concentrate on the buying decision when you get there.
I have to say, I am more inclined to advise people to buy used. But just like buying new, you don’t want the first unit you step into. This is a very large investment in a quickly depreciating product. Buying used can save you thousands of those depreciated dollars. To buy used you have to do your due diligence. You have to know what to look for, take your time, compare apples to apples, and gauge how a unit has been cared for.
You should also consider how you will use the unit. So many manufacturers are now pushing RVs with residential refrigerators and convection ovens. This is a huge drawback if you plan to spend time boondocking. Know the capability of every appliance you are going to be buying in a new rig.
It seems like a seller’s market lately. So many people are buying RVs. I think most manufacturers are just pushing them out the door and build extra warranty claims into the price. They may even consider the fact that most people won’t use a new unit enough to find the defects until after the warranty period has been exhausted.
So many people end up spending travel and adventure time sitting at a dealer waiting for service. You will find that the friendly salesperson all of a sudden doesn’t even know your name. They have made their commission and are on to the next hot dog. Your new friend is now the mechanic who doesn’t find you all that special.
Buying new you assume everything is going to be in working order. That thought couldn’t be further from the truth. If I were buying a brand-new RV, I would spend more time checking out the manufacturer and the dealer than the rig itself. Online forums and rating sites will give you a good insight into how others have been treated, what problems they’ve experienced and how efficiently service issues were resolved.
Buying used is no different. You should expect a seller to prove to you that everything is working. Not verbally, but by firing everything up. One appliance problem will set you back hundreds, even thousands of dollars. If you have little mechanical background, hire a qualified person to check it out for you. A couple hundred dollar opinion could save you thousands, not to mention time and headaches.
You seem to be afraid your husband will blame you if a used unit becomes a problem. I think he should have the same worry with a newly minted rig.
Today’s vehicles are rolling computers. You may need to take a computer tech course just to figure out how to turn the heater on. Sometimes an older unit is less complicated, easier to fix, already debugged, and not loaded with so many bells and whistles. Every specialized automatic contraption on a new RV will eventually fail. Those will be future dollars you will have to budget into your buying decision. Maybe you will want to choose to pull your own drapes shut instead of having a motor do it.
Buying an extended warranty might be an option, but consider the fact that warranty will not entertain you while you camp in dealer service centers more than campgrounds.
The reality of the decisions you are about to make come with no guarantees. Knowledge is key. The more information you arm yourself with will be the insulation that hopefully keeps you from falling into a sales trap decision based on excitement over a two dollar hot dog. —Keep Smilin’, Richard Mallery a.k.a. Dr. R.V. Shrink
Can’t get enough of the Shrink? Read his e-books, including Book 2 in his two-book series: Dr. R.V. Shrink: Everything you ever wanted to know about the RV Lifestyle but were afraid to ask or check out his other e-books.