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The Best and Worst Points of Buying Used RVs

Updated on August 18, 2016
TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

I am an avid RV enthusiast who has traveled, lived, workcamped and volunteered nationwide for more than 50 years and am still going strong!

If you are thinking about buying a previously owned recreational vehicle, there is a great deal you need to research both the pros and cons of doing so before you make your purchase..

Owning such units can be very beneficial, but you have to be careful because they can have many hidden problems.

A statement like this might make you want to buy new, but you should be aware of the fact that new coaches actually can have more problems than older ones!

Choosing which type of RV to purchase is a tough decision, but hopefully the information in this article will help you to decide.

There are many reasons why buying a used RV might be a good idea.
There are many reasons why buying a used RV might be a good idea. | Source

Learn the Facts About Used RVs Before You Buy

Preconceived notions and prejudices towards used travel units can bring many problems your way. You can avoid them simply by doing some basic research.

For example, How Much Does It Really Cost to Own an RV? provides an honest overview of what you face financially when you decide to make a purchase of a coach.

It points out that the newer and bigger a travel unit, the more costly it will be, not only to purchase but also to store and maintain. There is no guarantee that any coach, no matter how nice it looks, will be trouble free.

Unfortunately, people sometimes put themselves in bad positions when they insist on ignoring previously owned coaches in favor of buying new ones.

They sometimes pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for new units only to learn too late that they had flaws that could not be repaired. At least in an older coach, whatever has gone wrong in the past has most likely been repaired, and buyers can check this simply by reading their maintenance records.

Learning the facts means finding the answers to questions such as:

  • how many people have owned a unit,
  • where was the unit located for most of its life,
  • has it been in any accidents,
  • how old are the tires,
  • and how has it been used.

This used diesel pusher is more than 20 years old.  New, it cost $300,000.  We bought it used for $39,000 including tax. Would you buy it?
This used diesel pusher is more than 20 years old. New, it cost $300,000. We bought it used for $39,000 including tax. Would you buy it? | Source

Why These Questions Matter

The questions I listed above are important for these reasons:

  1. If many people have owned an RV, it most likely is because it has hidden problems or design flaws.
  2. If a unit was located where there was a lot of salt or bad weather, or was stored outside, the undercarriage has probably been compromised.
  3. If a coach as been in an accident (and depending on the type of accident), the frame may be bent or the slides may not work properly.

Even if the tires don't have many miles on them, if the sidewall ratings show them to be more than 5 years old, they are not safe. The Best Ways to Buy, Maintain and Safely Use RV Tires has a section that shows you how to read those ratings.

How the coach has been used is important because if it has been allowed to sit for long periods of time, engine and generator parts can dry up and damage the equipment. People should drive a coach at least 10,000 miles per year, mostly on interstate highways, in order for major mechanical parts to function properly.

Few people think to get the answers to important questions, but they are the very things that can make the difference between buying a winner or having to deal with a loser.

All RVs Have Problems

All motor homes, travel trailers and campers will have issues sooner or later. Every one of them causes emotional upset, can waste time and can also be expensive to fix.

I have met numerous owners who discovered during their first vacations that their unit's

  • slide rooms did not function properly
  • windows fell out
  • refrigerators didn't work
  • and ceiling vent fans did not function.

However, if you inspect carefully when you shop, you can significantly reduce your risks for having these types ofproblems.

Inspecting means much more than simply walking around the exterior and interior. Inspection Lists That Will Help You to Evaluate RVs provides very specific details that show you what you need to do to make sure a used coach is in good shape.

Using the information in that article could save you hundreds, if not thousand, of dollars.

Used recreational vehicles can offer all the benefits of new ones and at great savings.  This one cost $19,500 including taxes and fees.
Used recreational vehicles can offer all the benefits of new ones and at great savings. This one cost $19,500 including taxes and fees. | Source

How Much Do Used RVs Cost?

The average person only uses his RV seasonally, so paying a lot of money for one is not a smart move. Prices can vary widely, so even a used unit can cost upwards of $100,000. However, you can often find nice older coaches ones for much less.

For example:

a small clean pull trailer can be had for $5,000 to $7500.
a good, older diesel pusher motor home costs around $40,000 and
a decent gas powered motor home will run between $20,000 to $25,000.

However, getting the right deal generally requires a lot of looking and a great deal of research.

Previously Owned RVS Can Have Many Benefits

There are a number of great points about owning older coaches. For example:

  • A well maintained unit already has had many of its glitches worked out,
  • If some minor problems do still exist, the former owner can tell you about them ahead of time and often will help you to deal with them.
  • You also can see how well the unit has held up over time, which is something you cannot know when you get a new unit.
  • Owners often add nice amenities such as water filtration systems, doorbells, upgraded TVs and satellite systems that they include in the sales price .
  • Many times previously owned units come with extras such as special hoses and connections. Sometimes you can even buy them completely furnished with dishes, linens, paper goods and cleaning items.
  • Because thee vehicles are older, they have already lost a good deal of depreciation, so they lose value more slowly than new ones.
  • Buyers get all of the luxury and pleasure of new coaches without having to pay their high costs.

The bottom line here is that if you pay attention to what you are doing you buy get a good coach that will be a much better investment for you than a new one.

Finding the Right Unit Takes Time

RVs of all types are luxury items that offer great travel experiences, regardless of their age or price.This is why formerly owned motor homes, trailers and campers are worth owning.

They offer great benefits and many comforts at reasonable prices to those who take the time to research them carefully before they buy.

Buyers who feel they do not want to sleep in the same bed or use the same toilet that other people had do not realize that

  • toilets can be sanitized,
  • mattresses can be replaced
  • and upholstery and carpeting can be steam cleaned.

Doing these things costs very little and yields great benefits.

It takes time to find a good, well maintained used unit, but once you do you will find one, you will realize that it will be every bit as good as owning a new one, and possibly better.

Good luck!

Buying An RV: New Or Used?

Which is better to buy: A new or a used RV?

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  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    TIMETRAVELER2 4 years ago

    I once took a three week camping trip in a van with my husband and three good sized dogs. We only took clothes that were blue or white...that cut way back on packing and it worked out great. This might be something you want to do. At least it's worth a thought. Thanks for stopping by.

  • divajz profile image

    divajz 4 years ago from Southern California

    Yeah, I bet it is expensive.........just something we're considering - we have a Toyota Matrix, and it's fairly roomy (room for 2 dogs and luggage)...........we may just car drive and then stay in hotels; or maybe we have room for camping stuff if I can be persuaded not to take so much clothes!!! Maybe a little of both.........lots of pet friendly hotels out there..........and just so you know, I'm not sure that I will spend too much time here at HP; we shall see - I've been trying to wean myself away from the whole page view/pimp yourself type stuff. We shall see, but indeed thank you so much for reaching out a hand!

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    TIMETRAVELER2 4 years ago

    divajz: Renting is extremely expensive, but if you are OK with the prices, it certainly is a possibility. However, long trip rentals would not be economical. Call around for prices and see what you think, and good luck. Thanks for the read and again, welcome to HP.

  • divajz profile image

    divajz 4 years ago from Southern California

    What about renting RV's?? We would probably only travel during the summer months; it might be cheaper to rent..........

  • TIMETRAVELER2 profile image

    TIMETRAVELER2 5 years ago

    Shilander: decisions are always a good thing, but especially when buying an RV. Thanks for the read!

  • Shilander profile image

    Bruce Shilander 5 years ago from United States

    good read, rv owners make a sizable investment so it makes sense to make smart decisions in caring for the rv...

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