Newbees- buy new or used first RV?


In “My House has Wheels” blog with by Chris Poindexter, he has a recent post suggesting that newbees buy a new RV the first time out rather than used. In our book, Retire to an RV: The Roadmap to Affordable Retirement, the late Alice Zyetz and I recommend the opposite: start with an inexpensive used unit.

Our reasoning includes:

  • Most RVers end up purchasing another RV down the road so use this first one to find out what you like and don’t like so you can make a better choice the next time.
  • RVs depreciate 20-30 percent the minute you sign the contract and drive it off the lot. You can get a lot more for you money by buying used.
  • For some people, purchasing used is the only way to get on the road.

The arguments that Chris uses are valid too.

  • It’s a hassle to sort through all the possibilities of used RVs and find a good one, especially if you have no experience with RVing.
    My first RV- a used 1989 Pace Arrow.

    My first RV- a used 1989 Pace Arrow.


  • After the initial break-in period, you have some trouble-free time to learn routine maintenance.

If you take your time to research and look for RVs (whether you are a newbee or seasoned RVer), you can find a good used RV. We always recommend joining the RV Consumer Group. Considering what you’ll spend on an RV, the membership fee is a bargain and includes excellent information on how to buy a new or used RV plus ratings for hundreds of models. Choose a brand and model that is designed for the use you intend to give it. For example, there are only a handful of RVs designed for four-season use. If you’ll be a full-time RVer and/or staying in cold weather, you want to consider one of these. Someone purchasing an RV for only occasional use can get a lot of mileage out of a unit that is much less expensive.

Another key is to have both the exterior/interior and the engine (if a motorhome) inspected by a knowledgeable person. An RV technician knows what to look for in terms of leaks or cheap construction that could shorten the life of your RV. Check the maintenance records. If the previous owner does not have records, it may not be well-cared for and have more problems.

If you do purchase from a dealer, you can purchase an extended warranty on a used unit, which does afford some protection.

An RV is a big-ticket item. No matter what your budget, take the time to do research on RVs and what type/brand/model is best for you. If you have never done any RVing, renting a unit is a good idea and testing them out. Just remember a rental will not be as comfortable as your own, but it can give you a feel for what it is like and whether you are up to dumping and all the other little chores RVing takes.

Hope to see you out there! Jaimie Hall Bruzenak

August 17, 2013
Categories : Saving money
Technorati Tags: buy an rv full-time rvers rv consumer group rv travels used rv


  1. Oof. I’m with you. Let that first guy take the hit on depreciation, and let him do the initial shake-down.

    New rigs have warranties, sure, and then you’re stuck driving across the country to get the work done in their one (or two) and only authorized repair center.

    We bought an old class A for 10% of the price it would command new. We wanted to boondock, and there’s no way we would have taken even a low-end, new, $100,000 rig into the places we went.

    • Jaimie Bruzenak says:

      Thanks for your comment! You can find some great deals plus avoid all the fixes that have to be done to a new RV. It’s much easier to take an older RV out on back country roads than a brand new, expensive one. You’d worry too much!


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