New vs. Used RVs: Which One Should You Buy?

by | Mar 22, 2016 | Tips & Tricks | 10 comments

Deciding whether to buy a new or used Recreational Vehicle or Travel Trailer may be a matter of wallet and wear over warranty and innovation.

Making the decision on new versus used takes into account more than just math. Consider all the variables while shopping for your next travel trailer or motorized RV. Sticker price — and how much you can afford to pay each month — is certainly a key factor, but there’s so much more to factor into the buying equation.

Appreciating Depreciation

While the starting line for decision-making is the purchase price, the first factor to understand is depreciation.

Within the first turn out of the dealership, a new RV will depreciate 30 percent from the Manufacturer’s Suggested Retail Price (MSRP) and another 10 percent by the end of the first year. Few people actually pay the MSRP, as incentives and discounts on most RVs will lower the prices by 15 to 25 percent. But, according to Bob Gummersall, Chief Technical Editor for RVers Online, owners of a factory-fresh RV can expect a depreciation of 18 percent in the first year and 10 percent in the second year of ownership. By the sixth year of ownership, the new RV will have a value of half its purchase price.

Factoring in the total cost of ownership, including financing, insurance, maintenance and licensing, Gummersall’s calculations conclude that the total ownership cost of a used three-year-old RV is about half the cost of driving off the lot with a new RV.

If your top priority in an RV purchase is ownership cost, then consider the value of a previously loved, well cared for RV.

The Value of Used 1_197_1855074_39924202.jpg;maxwidth=653;maxheight=490;mode=pad

Beyond the purchase price, there are several other reasons to consider a used RV.

For those shopping for their first RV, buying used makes a lot of sense. Buying used enables those new to RVing to start adventuring at a more modest price than taking on a pricier new model.

There’s a saying among RV owners that the first RV is never the right RV. The decked out fifth wheel that looked just perfect on the lot may soon turn out to be too much to tow. The little travel trailer that looked efficient in the showroom starts to feel cramped a month into summer, or the motor coach that seemed perfect on the test drive, turns out to be impossible to park.

A used RV allows new adventurers to sort out floor plans and get a feel for towing and life on the road, without taking the big financial plunge on a new unit.

When debating whether a new or used RV is right for you, also consider the nature of your travel plans. If your plans include weekends at nearby campsites and a few week-long trips for family vacations, maybe a used RV is the right level of investment. and Gummersall make the case that buying the right used motorhome makes better mechanical sense. A lightly used RV is broken in, the small factory problems found and fixed, and it now provides a smoother ride. “The 4-year-old motorhome is probably more operable than it was new,” Gummersall says.

With most RVers driving just 3,000 to 5,000 miles a year, it’s possible to find low mileage RVs on the market, but act fast if you find a well-maintained, low-mileage, gently broken in RV – they do go fast.

When New Matters1_1490_1859735_39967582.jpg;maxwidth=653;maxheight=490;mode=pad

Used is not the answer for all RVers. For seasoned and seasonal RVers, new may make the best sense.

For veteran RVers who have owned RVs in the past and are now looking for long-term ownership, a new RV may be the best choice. With years of experience on the road and in parks and campgrounds, the free reign to choose all the details of a new travel trailer or motor coach may be worth the purchase price.

Peace of mind has a price: the sticker price of a new RV. A factory-fresh RV comes to its owners without a history of fender benders, hidden water leaks, creaky chassis, faulty brakes, balky slide outs and glitchy electronics. If you’re uncomfortable about a used RV’s possible checkered history, then consider a new RV.

How you roll in your RV should also be a factor in deciding if a new or used RV is right for you. The comfort of a bumper-to-bumper warranty on a new unit may well be worth the purchase price for full-timers, cross-country journeyers, snowbirds and seasonal campers. For those counting on long-term ownership and long-term travel, extended warranties will also be available for new units.

Each model year heralds innovation in design and efficiency for RVs. If you want the latest, fuel-efficient engine, lightest construction, most modern entertainment system and up-to-date interiors and furnishings, then only a new RV can fit the bill.

Making the Choice

Whether you opt for a new or used RV, you’ll be buying the best value in vacationing, according to a Recreational Vehicle Industry Association Study, which says that family RV vacations, even factoring in the cost of ownership, remain significantly better values than any other type of vacation.

Find a local, trusted RV dealer using our easy search tool on and compare the value of previously-loved RVs with worry-free option of a fully-warrantied new RV to begin your next RV adventure.


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  1. Tobias Armstrong

    I really like the idea of a used RV, because it allows for much of the same freedom, but without the same price tag. It makes sense that if you’re positive as to what you’re looking for and are willing to spend a little more, then a new RV is the way to go. Overall I think you had some great tips, and I definitely have a lot to think about now. Thanks for sharing!

    • admin

      Thanks for your comments Tobias! Glad you enjoyed the article and found it helpful!

  2. Simon Brooks

    I really like some of the advice you give here about buying a used RV, especially about getting a chance to try things out. The article makes a great point in stating that a used RV is a great chance to get to know what you like before you take the financial plunge of buying a new one. There are hundreds of different kinds of RVs out there with different floor plans and different designs, so it’s important to know what you want before you make the commitment of buying a brand new one.

  3. Luke Smith

    Thanks so much for pointing out that used is not the answer for all RVers. I can definitely see how a used RV could be a good place to start, but your point about veteran RVers who have owned RVs in the past and are looking for long-term ownership being better served by a brand new vehicle made a lot of sense. I am sure that buying new vs. used would be a very different experience, so I would imagine that working with a dealer directly would be helpful to ensure that you get the features you want.

    • admin

      Happy to help, Luke!

  4. Jim W

    I had been searching Kijiji for 2 years casually looking at used class C RV’s up here in Canada. I was looking at 20+ year units with average mileage in the 200KM, 120Miles range. This summer I saw a 1993 Fleetwood Montara on kijiji for 15k Canadian, the unit while old had only 43,000KM or 30,000 miles on it. The sellers were a younger couple, they told me that they got the unit off the original owners who couldn’t use it anymore and that they had barely been able to use it since. The unit was in great shape for it’s age, the engine ran great, the generator worked, the only thing that didn’t work was the fridge, I looked at the roof and saw that it was at the end of it’s life, the roof had just developed a small leak and that was probably the main reason the were selling, I offered him 12k to take the unit and I got it. I noticed that the guy didn’t put his phone number on the ad, when I asked him about it he told me he thought his number was still on the ad, I had to email him to get him to call me, if his number was on that ad this unit would not have lasted. I did some temporary work to the roof to get it through the summer and in September I rented some scaffolding and replaced the Dicor roof myself. I am a handyman so im not afraid to work on this rig and get pleasure out of it. When I took it to the mechanic to get it certified for the road I was blow away to find out that it didn’t need anything to get on the road. I have never bought anything used before that didn’t need some upfront work to get on the road. These units are very rugged and can last and last if taken care off. What we like about our used unit is the low upfront costs, we can use the unit a lot. The kids are so excited about it, there are lot’s of old motorhomes up here so we don’t feel out of place docked next to brand new units.

    • admin

      Thanks for sharing Jim! Best of luck to you and enjoy your travels!

  5. Penelope Smith

    My father has been thinking about getting an RV this summer. So, I liked that you pointed out that he should consider how the price of a certain RV will drop once he buys it and uses it. That does seem like a good thing for him to consider since he is getting older and might need to the money later on.

  6. Rosie Beckett

    My husband and I recently became empty nesters and we are thinking about buying an RV and going on a road trip because we don’t have any kids at home to worry about. You make a great point that a used RV will save us a lot of money that we can use for other parts of our trip. Also, I think that it would make our insurance cheaper to get a used model and that would be very cost-effective for us. I will definitely talk to my husband about these benefits.

  7. Aaron Brabec

    What a wonderful article, and thanks a TON! Very educational, and I will take every single word of it to heart when shopping for a travel trailer, thanks again.


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