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With RVing more popular than ever before, many people are in the market for a home-on-wheels that suits their traveling style. But, should you buy a new or a used RV, and why? What are the pros and cons of each, and what should you consider as you shop for a new or a used RV?

In today’s post, we’ll answer all those questions and more!

What Are the Advantages of Buying a New RV?

When you buy a new RV, everything in and on the rig is brand new. With that newness comes a factory warranty and dealer support. This offers a peace of mind that if anything goes wrong – especially anything major – you’ve got a warranty and your dealer support to fall back on, so you know you won’t have to shell out big money for major repairs in the near future (because you shelled out the big money buying a brand new rig).

A huge advantage to buying a brand new RV is the fact that there’s no unknown history to contend with, and that’s no small consideration.

With a brand new RV, you also know that you’ll be accepted at any campground or RV park which can be an issue for older RVs.

Also, when you buy a brand new RV, you can usually choose the options you want – the layout, the colors, possibly even some customizations. You’re buying the home-on-wheels that really works best for you and your family.

Young couple looking at a new RV
There are a number of advantages to buying a new RV – including the fact that you’re the very first owner! This privilege, however, can also have its cons.

There’s also something special about having anything you own be yours first. There’s no “old” smells from other people. Nothing is worn out. You get to be the first to use it.

And finally, with a brand new RV it’s often easier to get financing.

What Are the Disadvantages of Buying a New RV?

Well, first up is cost. Brand new RVs are very expensive. Not only is the rig itself expensive, but taxes, registration, and insurance are all more costly on a brand new rig. And among the greatest disadvantages of buying a brand new RV is the depreciation, which can be very significant.

It’s also commonly understood that brand new RVs tend to have some kinks that need to be worked out. This can sometimes mean many repairs at the beginning of the RV’s life, and that can be a real pain, especially if you have to drive a fair distance to get repairs at a dealer (which you will, because they’re the ones who honor the warranty). The first 6-12 months of an RV’s life is typically spent dealing with manufacturing flaws and other items – similar to new home construction. There’s always a punch-list to go through.

What Are the Advantages of Buying a Used RV?

Among the advantages of buying a used RV are lower costs, including purchase price, taxes, registration, and insurance. There’s also significantly less depreciation on a used RV. It’s often possible to purchase an extended warranty offering you protection from certain major repairs.

Photo of a used RV
Buying a used RV also has many advantages – and a few potential drawbacks as well.

Also, contrary to a new RV, with a used rig the kinks have already been worked out and the RV has been broken in. Meanwhile, previous owners of the rig may have upgraded many amenities.

Currently, new RVs are harder to come by due to manufacturing and shipping issues, so there’s a greater market for used RVs.

What Are the Disadvantages of Buying a Used RV?

The biggest disadvantage of buying a used RV is that in some cases you’re buying an unknown history. There could be hidden issues that don’t rear their ugly heads until you’re the new owner. Issues such as leaks, mold, rust, or other things that can be hard to find when initially looking at the RV can end up requiring very expensive and time-consuming repairs.

If you buy a rig that’s more than 10 years old, you could have issues getting into some RV parks thanks to the infamous “10-year-rule” unless your rig looks like it’s in tip top condition.

And finally, you’ll be missing out on a factory warranty (unless you’re able to get an affordable extended warranty). When buying a used RV on the general market, you could fall victim to a scam. That includes unknowingly buying an RV that was involved in a flood, sold at auction and shipped far away from the flood state, dried out, cleaned, and sold to you. Water damage and mold could be hiding behind the walls.

What Are Some Things to Consider When Buying a New RV?

There are a number of things we need to consider when buying a new RV. Let’s take a look at some of the most important considerations demanding our attention as we shop.

Conduct Research Regarding the Quality of RVs from Various RV Manufacturers and Ownership Experiences

It’s important to consider the manufacturer’s history and reputation when planning to buy a new RV. Some RV manufacturers, (Newmar for example), have a longstanding history of producing high quality RVs over many years, and of improving their product with time and changing client needs. Our 2005 Newmar Mountain Aire has served us well since we bought it (new)!

Our 2005 Newmar Mountain Aire - Used but like new!
We bought our 2005 Mountain Aire brand new. Newmar’s longstanding reputation for quality, attention to detail, and customer service have been stellar.

On the other hand, there are other RV manufacturers whose longstanding history is one involving a reputation for using low-quality materials that result in numerous customer complaints year after year.

Knowing which RV manufacturers are more likely to produce an RV that will last and won’t leave you constantly chasing issues and repairs is very important from the outset. Remember – this isn’t just a vehicle and it isn’t just a home. It’s both!

Your new home-on-wheels needs to be able to withstand the rigors of driving down long stretches of roads in various conditions. It needs to be filled with high-quality materials and attention to detail to keep you safe and able to enjoy the rig for all the reasons you’ve purchased it.

Comfort Level Driving the RV

Another important consideration when buying any RV is your comfort level in driving it. If you’re white-knuckling down every highway and sweating bullets every time you have to back the rig into a campsite, you’re probably driving the wrong rig.

Test driving any RV you’re considering is incredibly important. These aren’t cars. They’re taller, wider, longer, and well – let’s face it – you’re driving some semblance of a house down the road. You need to be able to safely maneuver it in windy conditions and on wet road surfaces. You need to be able to navigate curves, when backing up, and through both left- and right-hand turns onto every type of roadway. This is no small consideration. It’s huge.

Getting out on the road and enjoying your RV
It’s very important to take the time to assess how comfortable you’ll be driving the RV along the highway, around curves, in windy conditions, backing up, etc. If you’re not comfortable driving an RV, you shouldn’t buy it, new or used.

So, be absolutely sure to take the time to fully assess your comfort level in driving any RV you’re considering purchasing. (This goes for used RVs as well, of course.) This is a travel vehicle. And if you hate traveling in it, or if you don’t feel safe doing so, there’s no point in buying that particular rig. There are plenty of other types of rigs from which to choose, so move along if you test drive an RV that stresses you out!

Obtain Detailed Warranty Information

When you’re shopping for a new RV, you’ll want to clearly understand the warranty that will be provided to you. Understanding the warranty BEFORE you buy is far and away a better option than needing an expensive repair once you’re the owner and THEN finding out that your warranty doesn’t cover it.

Obtain detailed warranty information and ask for clarifications (in writing is always best) if there are any parts of the warranty that are unclear to you.

Learn Costs in Advance of Insurance, Registration and Sales Tax

There’s more to the cost of a new RV than the price tag on the rig. Depending on your state of residence, you’ll need to also factor in any sales tax and the costs of annual registrations and inspections, as well as your monthly insurance premiums.

These costs can be checked before you buy an RV, and it’s a good idea to be prepared in advance, so that you can factor in ALL costs associated with this major purchase ahead of time rather than being surprised.

Find Out Where You Can Have the RV Repaired Under Warranty While on the Road

One of the things you need to be cognizant of when buying a new RV that’s under warranty is where you’ll need to go for warranty repairs. This is important particularly for those who plan to travel widely.

An RV tech repairing an RV under warranty
The ability to have your RV repaired under warranty is great. But, be sure to read and understand the fine print, including where you might have to go to have the rig repaired.

If you’re buying an RV to camp close to home, then this isn’t as much of a concern as if you’re planning to travel across the country or even a few states away. But with the sometimes-cumbersome break-in period of new RVs, you’ll want to know if you’re going to have to backtrack 700 miles every time you need a warranty repair.

Look into this before you set your heart on a particular RV – or even a particular RV manufacturer.

What Are Some Things to Consider When Buying a Used RV?

There are lots of considerations to be made when shopping for a used RV as well. Many of these you can investigate for yourself. Even so, once you’ve found an RV you’re truly interested in buying, we strongly recommend a thorough, professional pre-purchase inspection before you lay down your cash.

Let’s take a look at some of the things you should be looking for when shopping for a used RV.

Check Tires

As we noted in our post on buying a fixer upper RV, it’s important to not only check the condition of tires but to also check the manufacturing date of each tire. This will alert you quickly to whether or not you’ll soon be shelling out a substantial amount of money to replace tires.

The manufacture date of a tire is embossed right on the sidewall. Look at the tire’s sidewall near the edge of the rim for a series of characters beginning with the letters “DOT”. This is the Department of Transportation date code. You should see “DOT” and a string of characters. The last four digits will tell you the month and year the tire was manufactured. We showed this in more detail in our video about tire age, care and replacement.

Note: You may need to look at the INSIDE sidewall if you’re not seeing the DOT code on the outside sidewall, and the date is only stamped on one side of the tire. Don’t be afraid to crawl under the rig! Knowing when those tires were manufactured – despite how good they may look – is important. Unfortunately, if the DOT date on a rear dual tire is facing the adjacent tire, there’s no way to see it without removing the wheel and tire from the RV.

Condition of Roof and Rooftop Sealants

You may have seen our post on RV roof leaks and the serious damage that can occur as a result. This is why understanding the condition of the roof of any used RV you may be interested in buying is so important.

Cracked dicor on an RV roof
Checking sealants on the rooftop is a good way to assess how carefully the RV has been maintained, and how likely you are to have leaks to navigate.

When shopping for a used RV, don’t be afraid to ask for a ladder to have a good, long look at the roof of the rig. If you can, get an up-close and personal look at the sealants around all of the openings such as roof vent fans, antennae, vents, seams, AC units, skylights, and even the entry points for wiring from solar panels. If you’re seeing sealants that are cracked, damaged, and neglected, you can bet that water has probably seeped into the ceiling and/or walls of the rig at some point, to some degree. We’d either demand a closer look or walk away.

Demonstration of All Appliances and Plumbing

When you’re looking at a used RV, whether on a dealer’s lot or in someone’s private driveway, you are entitled to ask for demonstrations of all components of the RV including plumbing, appliances, and electrical systems.

If a seller is hesitant to allow you to run the water in sinks, showers, and the toilet, or to run fans, light the stove, etc. etc. – then you’ve got reason to wonder if there are issues that you’d rather not buy.

Run all of the plumbing sources – and then go outside and look under the rig for leaks. Listen for the water pump to turn on and off appropriately. When you open a faucet to see if the water runs properly and you hear the water pump, listen when you turn off that faucet to make sure the pump stops running. If the water pump runs constantly, there’s probably a leak somewhere in the system (or at the very least, the fresh tank is almost empty, which is easy to check).

You can (and should!) also ask for a demonstration of all appliances onboard the RV. You want to know if the fridge and freezer are cooling appropriately because that’s an expensive item to replace. How about the water heater, the furnace, and the air conditioner(s)?

If you ask for demonstrations and you’re told that everything works but they can’t demonstrate because the tank is out of propane or the fresh water tank is dry or (insert other excuses here), you either want to give them a chance to get the propane tank filled, fill the fresh water tank, cool down the fridge, etc., and then come back for a thorough demonstration, or you may want to walk away unless you don’t mind taking a risk that you may have lots of repairs on your hands if you buy the rig.

Keep in mind that an RV is a large assortment of components, and each one needs to work.

Check Age of House Batteries and Test Using a Multimeter

Batteries are expensive, and not only do you need them to be in good condition, but you have no idea how well the seller has maintained them. For this reason, we suggest carefully checking the batteries for age (should be marked right on the battery), and testing them with a multimeter.

Checking batteries with a multimeter
Take a few minutes to check the condition of all of the RV batteries, so that you’ll know in advance how much money you’re likely to have to spend if the batteries are in poor condition.

A multimeter is an inexpensive tool that allows you to measure electric current and voltage, and while it’s hardly the perfect tool for determining the condition of the battery, it will give you some information in conjunction with knowing the age of the battery. You should be seeing around 12.7 to 12.8 volts from a healthy fully charged battery.

Sale
AstroAI Multimeter 2000 Counts Digital Multimeter with DC AC Voltmeter and Ohm Volt Amp Tester ; Measures Voltage, Current, Resistance; Tests Live Wire, Continuity
  • VERSATILE DIGITAL MULTIMETER - Accurately measures AC/DC Voltage, DC Current, Resistance, and Diode. This Multimeter is a really useful tool for...
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You could also use a clamp meter like this one, which measures both AC and DC current up to 400 amps:

Uni-T UT204 Auto-Ranging AC DC Ture RMS Auto/Manual Range Digital Handheld Clamp Meter Multimeter Test Tool
  • Measures both ac & dc current up to 400 amps, ideal for vehicles, rvs, marine boats & etc
  • Ac/dc voltage, current, resistance, frequency, continuity, duty cycle & diode check

Alternatively, you could use a battery load tester/voltmeter. This is a tool that applies a load across the battery being tested and measures the voltage.

Sale
Schumacher BT-100 Battery Load Tester and Voltmeter - 100 Amp
  • TRUSTED TESTING: Test load, battery condition, and starter motor draw; 50 Amp load test for 6V batteries and 100 Amp for 12V batteries; tests up to...
  • COMPLETE DIAGNOSIS: Delivers a complete charging system diagnosis for batteries in cars, small trucks, RVs, motorcycles, ATVs, boats, and lawn...

With all of that said, however, for decent testing, a battery should be fully charged and then allowed to rest for 3-5 hours among other things. So, testing batteries when you’re shopping for a used RV is not really as simple a matter as we’re suggesting here, but what these methods could help you to do is identify an obviously bad battery.

Comfort Level Driving the RV

We won’t go into depth on this one because we ran through the reasons why this is important in the section related to buying a new RV. But it’s even more important that you test drive a used RV thoroughly, including on the highway. Also, drive it to an area (like a parking lot that isn’t full) and see how you feel about backing it up, turning sharp corners, etc.

Your comfort level while driving the RV you’re thinking of buying may not seem like a big deal when you’re taking a relatively short test drive, but your comfort level will become a very big deal when you’re driving for hours.

Professional Pre-Purchase Inspection

Once you have done all of the above and you’ve found a used RV that you really love and interested in buying, it’s highly advisable to pay for a pre-purchase inspection by a professional. Not only will this hopefully bring to light any issues you may not have found on your own, but it can also help you with your price negotiations.

While a good pre-purchase inspection may cost a fair amount (possibly a few hundred dollars), it’s well worth the investment. You’ll get it back in spades if it identifies an issue that allows you to negotiate the price down. And if it saves you from buying a rig that might bring you a load of grief and cost you a lot of money in the end, that might just be priceless.

An RV technician performing a pre-purchase inspection
Once you’ve identified an RV that you’d like to buy, and you’ve investigated it as closely as you can, having a professional pre-purchase inspection is well worth the investment.

Price Negotiations

You can conduct respectful price negotiations with a seller based on such items as aging tires, wear & tear, age, old batteries, non-working appliances, and even the number of used RVs on the market.

As we write this, however, it’s a seller’s market as the demand for new and used RVs is at an all-time high. So, if you find a rig that’s perfect for you and your family, and the pre-purchase inspection has revealed that it’s in good condition, you may need to act fast as the seller may have eager buyers waiting in the wings.

Share Your Experiences Regarding New vs. Used RV Experiences

We’re interested in hearing about your experiences buying new and/or used RVs, and we’d also be interested in hearing your perspective selling a used rig if you’ve had that experience. As a seller, for example, would you allow a prospective buyer to thoroughly investigate the RV in all of the ways we’ve noted throughout this article? Leave a comment below and let us know!

We’ll leave you with a video we made a few years ago about you should buy a new or used RV:

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Sometimes we receive products for evaluation at no cost and may use affiliate links to the products and services from which we earn commissions. For example, as an Amazon Associate, we earn from qualifying purchases. That said, it's important to us to let you know that our opinions are our own. We only recommend products we believe deliver real value and that we can confidently recommend without reservation. You also won’t pay an extra penny by using our links. Thanks so much for supporting RVgeeks as we work to create helpful RVing-related content that we hope enhances your RVing life!

Even though we're handy RVers, we're not professional technicians. So although we're happy with the techniques and products we use, you should be sure to confirm that all methods and materials are compatible with your equipment and abilities. Regardless of what we recommend, consult a professional if you're unsure about working on your RV. Any task you perform or product you purchase based on any information we provide is strictly at your own risk.

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