New RV vs Used RV; Which One Should You Buy? (Pros and Cons)

One of the biggest decisions people need to make when shopping for an RV is whether to buy new or used. This is somewhat similar to the new versus used debate you face when shopping for a replacement vehicle, except that there are many other factors to consider.

We’ll share the pros and cons of buying both new and used RVs so that you can determine which type is right for you. 

What to Know before Buying a New RV?

It's an important frequently asked question that "What should I know before buying a new RV?". First, you need to understand the various pros and cons of your options. Do you want a cheap little van you can sleep in? Or do you want a class C motor home that’s as spacious as a small apartment but can be driven from point A to point B?

It is your responsibility to determine what you must have in the RV and what is nice to have, because many sales people will push you to the biggest, boldest and most expensive models that still fit within your budget. 

The Pros of Buying a New RV 

01. Less Maintenance 

RVs need more maintenance than cars. One of the biggest benefits of buying a new RV is that everything inside the RV is new. You don’t have to worry about the generator spark plugs wearing out, the house batteries having died from repeated cycles or hoses getting clogged. 

The only way they can fail is if you fail to take care of them while you’re learning how to maintain your RV. If you do make mistakes, new equipment is more forgiving than used equipment. 

A new RV typically comes with a maintenance agreement. You’ll be the one to fill the water tanks and empty the black water tanks, but you will probably be able to come by the dealership to get help troubleshooting a generator that won’t start.

If they find that the issue is due to a manufacturing defect, they’ll replace it. If the RV is used, they’ll be able to blame you and the prior owners. You almost certainly won’t be able to lean on the warranty with a used RV.

02. Customization Options 

One of the greatest points in favor of buying a new RV is the ability to customize it. For example, you can order a new RV that’s ready-made for solar panels on the roof. You can request specific appliances be installed and they’ll take care of infrastructure matters like the electrical connections. 

This is invaluable if you want to be able to last for a week off the grid. If you want a washer and dryer so that the RV can function as your vacation home on the road, ask for it.

03. Known Operating Life 

An RV is an asset, though it goes down in value. If you buy a new RV, you’re almost guaranteed to get years of life out of it as long as you maintain it. If you buy a used RV, its operational life is affected by both its actual age and how well maintained it is.

Furthermore, you don’t always know how well things were maintained. 

04. Broad Selection 

New RVs offer the broadest possible selection. If you like a particular manufacturer’s line, you can choose between their fifth wheel trailers, class A trailers, class B trailers and class C trailers. You can work with the dealer to find an RV that has a floorplan you like. 

If they know of something similar that isn’t on the lot, they may be able to arrange for it to be delivered there so you can check it out. 

The Cons of Buying a New RV 

01. The Steep Price Tag 

The new RV is the more expensive choice. Depending on the size and features, a new RV will range anywhere from $40,000 to $100,000. A fully equipped, large, brand-new RV could cost even more. 

Given the hefty price tag of the new RV, you’ll pay more to insure the motor home or RV than you would if it was used. 

02. Worse Depreciation 

RVs like cars go down in value. A new RV like a new car loses ten to twenty percent of its value as soon as it is officially owned by someone and driven away from the dealership.

If you only take a few weekend campouts in it and try to sell it, you’ll lose thousands of dollars. 

03. Uncertain Reliability

The make and model of the RV sometimes doesn’t have a track record. It is like buying the first year model of a car. There’s no history regarding its reliability.

This is an element of risk many new RV buyers fail to appreciate. 

What to Know before Buying a Used RV?

Used RVs have their own pros and cons. The greater concern for RV shoppers is the fact that there is so much variation between used RVs, since they vary in age, operating conditions and level of care.

You must have any used RV you’re considering thoroughly inspected. If it was driven in the north, it should be inspected for salt damage, rust and frozen pipes. If it was driven in the south, look for mold damage and check the quality of the air conditioning system.

A vehicle history report should be seen as an investment, because you don’t want to buy a used RV that was flooded or previously wrecked. You should ask the seller to give you a thorough tour of the RV, too, demonstrating how to use the septic tanks, water pump and slide-outs.

If anything looks too hard for you to do yourself, that particular RV isn’t the right one for you. But what are the pros and cons of buying a used RV?

The Pros of Buying a Used RV 

01. The Cost Savings 

One of the greatest benefits of buying a used RV is the cost savings. Gently RVs offer the best overall value the same way cars that have only been driven to and from the grocery store are a bargain compared to new cars.

If you own the used RV and sell it a few years later, you won’t lose as much in depreciation because it has already lost most of its value. Furthermore, because the RV is worth less, you’ll pay less to insure it. Registration and licensing are typically cheaper, too. 

02. The Deep Well of Knowledge about It

A side benefit of buying a used RV is that you can tap into someone else’s wisdom on how to maintain it. What kind of problems do they have with the generator? What issues come up when you extend the side panel?

You’ll be able to ask the former owner these questions, and you’ll find tons of advice online written by experienced owners who have that very model. 

03. Affordable Upgrades When You Find It

You may be able to find a used RV that has specific upgrades or enhancements you wouldn’t want to make yourself. Examples include buses converted into livable trailers, RVs already made suitable for someone with limited mobility, and mobile homes that have features that allow you to live as sustainably as possible. 

The Cons of Buying a Used RV 

01. The Risk of Needing Major Repairs 

Used RVs are used, though wear and tear varies. When you buy a used RV, it will break down in many more ways than a new vehicle that’s being driven a few thousand miles. You could have anything in the RV malfunction at any time.

If you can’t stand the thought of being broken down on the side of the road, stay away from used RVs.

02. The Lower Efficiency 

One of the downsides of used RVs is that they tend to be less efficient. They won’t be as fuel efficient as the newest models. This really adds up if you’re driving thousands of miles a year.

The appliances in them will use more fuel and electricity than those in new RVs, too. 

03. The Lack of Modern Features 

New RVs tend to have all the bells and whistles that modern drivers expect. An older RV isn’t likely to have built-in GPS navigation systems and backup cameras. Then you’re left finding and installing that equipment in the used RV. 

Conversely, it may have older, grainy backup cameras you need to upgrade. However, all of this adds to the cost and hassle of getting a used RV up to your standards before you hit the road. 

04. Limited Selection 

One of the major problems RV shoppers face when shopping for used RVs is limited selection. You’ll only be able to select from the used models others have traded in or have repossessed if you’re shopping at a dealership

You may love a particular make and model, but they only have a single five year old version of it. You can’t find a newer, more gently used version to drive away.

Your only options are what is on sale that weekend in your area. 

05. Challenges Financing It 

You are going to have a hard time finding affordable financing for a used RV. And if you pay cash, it may be difficult to pursue the person who sold it to you for damages if the RV turns out to be a lemon.

You have no recourse if the unit is sold “as-is”. 

Final Words

We recommend buying a new RV is you don’t want to have to worry about breakdowns or repairs for the first few years you own the RV. A mid-market new RV is the best choice for a new recreational vehicle owner.

A used RV is a good choice for bargain hunters who are already experienced at maintaining RVs and can make any needed upgrades to the vehicle themselves. 

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John S.

Hello guys! I'm a 37-years-old author, traveler, writer, blogger, and a camper. I enjoy life as much as I can and love to visit beautiful places in my RV. That's why while traveling I have decided to dedicate some time to share my experiences with everyone that might be interested in traveling, camping, and RVs.