Buying Recreational Vehicles: New vs. Used
Cost is one of the main factors when it comes to new versus used RVs, but there are other factors to consider as well. If you are only going to use the RV two weeks a year, a used RV might be your best decision. On the other hand, if you plan to work full-time or travel cross-country, a new RV with a full warranty would be a better option.
Speaking of warranty, if you decide a used RV is your best option, check to see if there is any type of warranty available. If you buy a used RV from a private owner, it is typically AS IS with no warranty. This is also true with many RV dealers. Replacing an RV refrigerator or other major appliance can be very expensive. Most RV dealers will offer an extended service plan or contract if the used RV meets the service plan criteria. You can also purchase these plans from reputable RV clubs and websites on the Internet. The age of the unit will factor into the cost of the plan, but you should be able to negotiate with the dealer about a service plan. Be sure to read all the fine print and understand exactly what is covered and what is not covered in any type of service plan or contract you purchase. Many times service plans offer different levels of coverage depending on the cost of the plan. You also want to be sure that other RV dealers and repair facilities will honor the service plan you purchase. It won’t do you any good if you need repairs while traveling and no one will stick to the plan.
Another factor to consider between buying a new or a used one is how long you plan to keep the RV. What I mean by this is that if you buy an RV with the idea that as soon as you get your next pay raise you will upgrade to a larger RV, you might be better off considering buying a used one. Recreational vehicles depreciate, not appreciate. If you buy a new RV and trade it in or sell it within the first few years, you will lose a substantial amount of money. In many cases, a used RV has already suffered the brunt of depreciation and you can’t lose as much if you get rid of it sooner. This, of course, will depend on how much you pay for the used RV. Most RV dealers use the NADA RV Guide to price used RVs, http://www.nada.com.
Used RV prices are based on the unit’s age, condition, options and mileage, if it is a motorized RV. The NADA guide has wholesale and retail prices for used RVs, and all NADA prices assume the RV is in good condition and working properly. Ask to see the NADA price of the unit you are considering purchasing or look it up online. To get accurate numbers, you’ll need to know the make, model, year, options and, for gasoline RVs, the chassis manufacturer and mileage. You wouldn’t pay full MSRP for a new RV, so you shouldn’t pay NADA full retail price for a used RV either. Some used RVs are more in demand than others, but if the used RV is in good condition and everything works properly, a fair price would be somewhere between NADA’s wholesale and retail price.
Another consideration when thinking about buying a used RV is financing terms and interest rates. Because the RV is used, banks offer shorter financing terms and higher interest rates compared to new RV financing. See the finances section of this chapter for more information.
If you decide to buy a used RV, make sure all systems and appliances are in working order and there’s no hidden damage that can’t be easily seen. Damage from water leaks can be difficult to detect and extremely expensive to repair. If you are new to RVs, you should bring someone who is to inspect the unit you are considering purchasing. You may want to hire someone to thoroughly inspect the unit before you buy it. Most RV dealers will give you a tour of the RV orientation and show you that everything is working properly. I recommend that you purchase an RV training video on the type of RV you are purchasing and view it prior to your scheduled tour. You will have a much better understanding of how everything works and you will be able to ask more specific questions.
Be sure to consider the cost, how you plan to use the RV, the warranty, and how long you plan to keep the RV when deciding whether to buy new or used.
Copyright 2006 by Mark J. Polk, owner of RV Education 101