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

by | Mar 22, 2016 | Tips & Tricks

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

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 Matters

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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