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Should You Buy a New or Used RV?

Should You Buy a New or Used RV?

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.

AstroAI Multimeter Tester 2000 Counts Digital Multimeter with DC AC Voltmeter and Ohm Volt Amp Meter ; 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...
  • TROUBLESHOOTING WITH ACCURACY - This Multimeter has a sampling speed of 2 times per second; Built-in a backlight LCD display with 3 ½ digits (1999...

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.

Schumacher BT-100 Battery Load Tester and Voltmeter - 100 Amp, Black
  • 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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Thursday 16th of February 2023

We have found an almost new 2021 class A, 36 ft RV with less than 10,000 miles. It’s super clean and nice. It’s also 20,000 cheaper than the 2023 we are looking at. Wondering if it’s worth going that route.


Friday 17th of February 2023

Sounds like a great find, Joe. Generally speaking, a late-model, lightly-used (one owner?) rig like that can be a great alternative to new... especially if the new one doesn't have any features/upgrades that you just have to have. Since new RVs depreciate the most in the first 2 or 3 years, a good used one can save you money in the long run. And, if the original owner took care of things and had all the punch list items a new RV inevitably has, you can be spared all that heartache, too.

Plus, when buying used, you can often get a better, higher-end RV for the same money you'd spend on new.

Do your homework... make sure there's nothing out of whack with the used RV (i.e. all 10,000 miles in the first year and its been sitting still ever since, which will damage the tires, shorten battery lifespan, etc).


Friday 9th of September 2022

Hello, I live in Washington state and I’m buying a new camper van next year out of state and I think I may have some options on reducing the sales tax. Do you know of any resources for evaluating sales tax options for out of state RV purchases? Thanks! Tom

Gay Camping Enthusiast

Sunday 6th of February 2022

All good things to consider when buying an RV. Understandably, no one likes paying money to fix up a used RV, but at the same time, no one likes having to deal with problems associated with buying something new. So what the hell to do?


Sunday 6th of February 2022

In the long run, the "items needing fixing" on a new RV takes the win over a used one, especially an older used one. There are just fewer of them. Older rigs not only have the usual share of periodic fixed needed, but age-related problems add to that list considerably. Having a now 18-year-old rig, we can definitely see that keeping up with the niggling details is needed more than when it was newer. Mostly age-related. Of course, a brand new rig is a poor choice from an investment/economic standpoint. That's why in our video we came around to what we feel is the best scenario - a lightly used 1-owner rig. No age-related problems yet, with the kinks from the factory worked out, and the sudden depreciation of a new rig the moment it's driven off the lot already behind it.


Saturday 5th of February 2022

I haven't read all the responses so I don't know if it's been mentioned yet. In the current market I'd be inclined to think that a seller wouldn't be waiting for you to perform an inspection that might take a few days....when he can probably get an offer from someone ready to buy it immediately.


Sunday 6th of February 2022

That situation is surely the case, Drew. It is indeed a seller's market right now. But personally, we'd risk losing a rig we wanted over risking it having major hidden problems. We have friends who are currently hunting for just the right used rig, and it is a jungle out there. But they're not willing to buy a rig without an inspection. Of course, not everyone feels that way, and we understand both sides on this, what with used rigs going like hotcakes, and "the competition" (other potential buyers) sometimes willing to forego an inspection to speed the sale to avoid losing the deal. But some sellers are willing to work with a dedicated buyer who seems serious (cash doesn't hurt either) and wants to take the time for an inspection. I'd suggest that offering a non-refundable cash deposit (maybe a few hundred dollars?) to hold the rig, with the promise of an expedited inspection appointment, might convince a seller to put others buyers on a waitlist for a few days.

Mike Smith

Saturday 5th of February 2022

In 2015 we first bought a 1996 Itasca Suncruiser without slides to "Try things out" before buying a new(er) rig. We did as you stated above with our dealer and most things worked out fine. A few little DIY repairs in the first year were not bad. However, a few years later we ran into problems as both the coach and drive train had problems with obsolete parts. Four years later we upgraded to a 2013 Tiffin Open Road and did the same as before with our dealer; one small issues easily fixed. Before buying the Tiffin we sold the Suncruiser ourselves. We told the new buyer everything that was needed and provided 4 years of receipts for what we had done. They did not care about everything working and just wanted a test drive. They knew if it drove fine that was the big thing and any coach items could be easily fixed. We did not get extended warranties with either. Loved the Suncruiser with it's quality build but hated the driving the P32 chassis. Love the storage on the Tiffin and the ride is great; now I love to go places!


Sunday 6th of February 2022

Great to hear you've wisely zeroed in on the perfect rig for your needs, Mike! Safe travels!

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