Purchasing an RV is a major decision—for many, it’s like buying a car and a home at the same time. There are also additional expenses to consider, like storage, maintenance, taxes, registration, insurance, campground reservations, and fuel. You need to give a lot of thought to how, where, and when you plan to use the RV to help ensure you find the right RV for your lifestyle.
Once you have narrowed down your preferred type of RV, the next step is to decide if you want to buy a new or used rig.
Pros and Cons
While you may think buying an RV is similar to buying a car or truck, the process is much different. To help you decide if a new or used RV is better for you, let’s look at some of the pros and cons of each.
Buying a New RV
- You know the history of the RV.
- You can choose your colors and add-on options.
- The factory warranty is included.
- It’s generally easier to get financing.
- It’s easier to compare similar units.
- The purchase price will be higher.
- There will be more severe depreciation.
- New RVs often need more repairs than a well-maintained, used RV.
- Extra repairs cost time and money.
- Taxes, registration fees, and upgrades add up quickly.
Buying a Used RV
- The purchase price is generally lower, so you could find a used, higher-end RV for a lower price.
- If the previous owner maintained it well, it won’t have a break-in period.
- You can still buy an extended warranty for many pre-owned RVs.
- There’s a greater selection to choose from.
- It may come with additional accessories or add-ons from the previous owner.
- If poorly maintained, you could be buying somebody else’s problems.
- There could be possible hidden damage, allergens, or smells.
- Older RVs might be more difficult to find parts for.
- Some campgrounds don’t allow older RVs.
- It can be harder to get financing.
- Beware of scams if buying from a private party.
Tips for Buying an RV
Regardless of whether you choose a new or used RV, make sure you get a pre-delivery inspection, preferably by a professional, third-party inspector. Also, unless you are very handy, consider investing in an RV extended warranty. We recommend you do your homework and get a quote from a broker, like Wholesale Warranties, before you buy so you can factor it into your purchase cost. Warranty costs are a good measure of how much repairs might cost on your RV over time, because RVs with a reputation for significant repairs will generally have more expensive warranties.
Where to Buy and Negotiate Your RV Purchase
Most RV dealerships carry new and used units from multiple brands on their lots. Historically, there is room for price negotiations when you buy an RV, sometimes as much as 30 percent off MSRP. But during times with high demand for both new and used RVs, the lower supply means dealers are less flexible with price.
Keep in mind that some RV brands are only available for purchase directly from the manufacturer, and not through a dealership. These are typically smaller brands that produce RVs in smaller volumes. Do your research to decide if there is better value in buying directly from the brand versus a dealership. When buying directly from a manufacturer, you’ll also need to factor in the cost of travel to the manufacturer (or pay extra to have it delivered). When there’s high demand for RVs, expect wait times of 6 to 9 months to receive a custom-ordered, new RV.
There are also thousands of used RVs for sale from private parties, which you’ll find in newspaper ads, on Craigslist, or dedicated platforms like RVTrader or RVT. While most of these are legitimate sellers, beware of private party scammers by doing your research and verifying all information.
Lastly, it’s common to find motorized RVs with lower mileage than you would find in used cars. Be mindful that if an RV’s miles are too low, it means that the RV wasn’t used often. And motorized RVs, like cars, should be driven and exercised for best reliability.
Buying an RV is a complex and costly decision. The more money you spend, and the more time you plan to spend in your RV, the more research you’ll want to do. Research will help you make the right purchasing decision and avoid expensive mistakes.
You’ll experience the best sides of the RV lifestyle regardless of whether you choose a new or used RV, so make your RV purchasing decision based on your budget and intended purpose to ensure many miles (and years) of enjoyment in your RV.